Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The skies above Libya - 13.53 15/04/2009

Immediately after finishing my breakfast (a meal from the first class area of the plane consisting of steak, mushrooms, grilled tomato and scrambled egg) I decended into a deep sleep watching Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. It was the sleep I would have enjoyed last night!

Slightly re-energised, I have been reading Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith and listening to an Ethiopian dub collective called Dub Collosus and their album In a Town Called Addis.

I have an aisle seat this time and I'm already feeling the benefits - my backside isn't numb. I have Fran sat to my direct left, with Grigorios to her left. Fran has just fallen asleep and is twitching like there's no tomorrow. This twitching seems to alternate between punching me and stroking her arm in an awkward manner against my back - both a tad unpleasant.

My watch is still set to Ugandan time and the time it reads - around four minutes past two in the afternoon - turns my mind towards the Kigezi students and staff for whom the working week is in full swing. They would have started back yesterday, but so distracted was I with the day's travels and the nights trivialities, that I hadn't stopped to think of them.

The likes of Ruth, Sam Smilz, Charlotte, Grace and Penninah will have all been back at work. Teaching in searing heat, or in warm tropical downpours, or sitting in plain cool classrooms waiting for lessons to begin.

It still hasn't escaped my mind that upon my arrival back in the UK - in around three and a half hours - I need to email/text the aforementioned people to announce my safe arrival. Such an action, I believe, is a necessary part of creating a sense of sustainability in the Partnership with both staff and students.

In addition to this I still have the journey home from Heathrow to Wimbledon - how jealous am I of Stefan and Karina for being able to stay for two weeks longer than the rest of the William Morris collective? How jealous am I of Grigorios for being able to afford to come back in August for an entire month?

There is also a new housemate waiting at H--- Drive for me to meet and greet - I am not really in the mood for it to be fair. Right now, I only really want to relax in a decent double bed - it seems like the only compensation for not being back in the red dirt of Kabale, eating matoki and ground nut sauce.

[Here the Diary Ends]

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe International Airport, Entebbe - 06.56 15/04/2009

As is a common theme in these later diary entries - I feel exhausted! There was very little sleep to be had last evening after the same boy that had been calling me 'Lucifer' earlier in the evening decided to come into our dorm room as we slept.

I woke up to the sound of Nick S and Greg talking to him and saw before me a naked arse. The man, still obviously high or drunk or whatever he was, had appeared and was talking about how he had been "burned" and needed morphine.

After the earlier incident, Nick DS suggested I keep a low profile, so I did just that by hiding as far back in the recess of my bottom bunk I could! Just another strange incident at a hostel.

It leaves me reflecting on how much nicer the provincial towns are, despite the fact that foreigners are even more in the minority down there. Entebbe just isn't Kabale.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe - 21.45 14/04/2009

I have just returned to my room having made the ill-fated decision to join the drinkers' and smokers' table outside. Amongst the people at this table was a young Ugandan - an Entebbe local.

With no reason at all this guy took an instant dislike to me after I had been joking around with Frasier.

He persisted to hail me with insults including, "I really hate this guy Tom" and "Tom is as bad as Lucifer." Greg fought my corner well, but due to my tired state and rapidly diminishing temperament I took the decision to leave the table to avoid the possibility of a problem.

The incident has narked me, but Greg insists that he was mentally ill - so why is he smoking drugs and then drinking? Anyway, Greg reported him and it transpires that he is the owner's son and that he has also written me a letter saying "f--- off!" How rude.

Note: This entry is written as it appears in my diary fresh in the moment. Upon reflection I have forgiven the boy. He later caused a royal ruckus when he appeared naked in the teachers' dorm at 4am. Far from being angry, it perhaps highlights the lack of provision for people in need of specialist psychiatric care in Uganda and the general opinion that they are to be hidden away.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe - 20.40 14/04/2009

Having been fed and watered - a dinner of beef stew and chips (not what I had ordered) - I am sitting watching TV. Amazingly it only took the kitchen around an hour and a half to feed everyone tonight.

As I sit here I am reflecting on the fact that this hostel, Entebbe, and Kampala as a whole perhaps, are not the real Uganda. I feel like I have been into the real heart of this country and it does not look or feel like this.

Here people seem edgy and look at you in a different way; something indescribable. In Kabale people stare, indeed many shout "mzungu", but it is all done with a great deal of warmth. It is evident that I am missing Kabale already. I cannot wait to get back.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe - 19.06 14/04/2009

After a journey that seemed to be well up there in the top ten most uncomfortable journeys, I am back in Entebbe and washed and feeling slightly fresher than before.

The journey was perhaps made more uncomfortable by the cloudless sky exposing the full wrath of the sun.

Thankfully, due to some last minute hand-washing using a bar of Jamaican washing soap, I was able to just step out of the shower and into pristine (relatively speaking) clothes. The sun, plus Abbas' bus, allowed for them to dry in double-quick time.

As I sit writing this, I feel exhausted, albeit not as emotionally tired as I was yesterday. I have Cassie sat to my right who, despite saying otherwise, looks physically exhausted too.

The Uganda Diaries: Main Street, Mbarara - 11.14 14/04/2009

Just taking a brief stop in Mbarara for a leg-stretch and snacks. A few days ago this was just a stopping point on the way to Kabale, but now I can say that I know someone from this town; Charlotte.

I'm still a little upset that I didn't get to say goodbye, but I have resolved to email her as soon as possible in the UK.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Room 7, Green Hills Hotel, Kabale - 22.52 13/04/2009

Have just got back from the Little Ritz having said a few final goodbyes to Penninah and some other staff members. Just before my dinner of steak Lyonnais and chips, I was presented with a wooden carving of three men in a dugout boat; one of the nicer gifts to be given out!

So now I will make my final phone call home from Kabale. Tomorrow we leave town at 8am. I am so tired.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Brockwell Park, Herne Hill in Autumn


I went for an Autumnal walk today in Brockwell Park, Herne Hill. Given that it's Autumn, here's a poem by John Clare of that name:

The thistledown's flying, though the winds are all still,On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot. 
The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.
Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,And the rivers we're eying burn to gold as they run;Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Oren Ezuz: Food Squares @ Macondo, Shoreditch

Food Squares by Oren Ezuz. Book Launch.

Autumn is taking a real hold of the air around North London. I have my cardigan buttoned as high as it will go, my keffiyeh is wound tightly around my neck and my trademark grey beanie is pulled down as far as it can go over my head without making me look abnormal.

My journey in the relative cold, accompanied by my friend Jeff Vanderpool, is headed in the direction of a small bar-cum-gallery called Macondo on Hoxton Square. My purpose to attend the launch of Oren Ezuz's photobook Food Squares.

Upon arrival at Macondo, having ascertained the whereabouts of Raj Poonia, from whom I received the invite, I take seat and commence to take in my surroundings. The level of magic is just right.

Ezuz is a man short in stature and who at first seems fused into the gathered crowd, but, upon Raj's beckoning to him, an interesting, entertaining and thoroughly engaging artist emerges.

It is then perhaps appropriate that, like the artist, the book is presented in a brown sandwich bag devoid of pretense, but, when ripped from this fragile shell, in your hands lays a solid block of intrigue drenched in every tantilising colour of the visible spectrum imaginable. For a few moments I am completely lost in the images and, one by one, so are the other assembled invitees.

The photobook is a chronicle of Ezuz's trips to various places around the globe, with a focus on the food of these locations. Each subject presented in a perfect square. Macondo may not be a perfect square, but it creates a perfect atmosphere for this most perfect of books.

The Photo was taken by Oren Ezuz at the launch party: http://www.flickr.com/photos/orenezuz/3974297106/

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale - 18.04 13/04/2009

After a brief boat journey and a bus ride, we're all back in Kabale at the Green Hills Hotel. I am currently sat with Greg, Hanka and Jeffopoulis. We're awaiting the arrival of our coffee prior to our walk into Kabale for a meal at the Little Ritz. It is good to be back in civilisation, but it comes after a very emotional goodbye with all of the Kigezi students and staff.

Things reached a real peak emotionally when Ruth, who had saved saying goodbye to me until last, walked over to me.

She was already crying, and had been crying earlier, and thus she became very upset as we spoke for what would be the last time on Ugandan soil. I honestly believe that we will remain in contact, as is her wish.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Bushara Island, Lake Bunyonyi - 13.52 13/04/2009

I am sat at the top of the hill that forms the highest part of Bushara Island. I have just eaten a measly dinner, feel dehydrated and also feel grumpy. I wish I were teaching in Kigezi High School as I have been in people's pockets for too long and feel that I want to be doing what I like doing for a job.

I can feel myself being snappy, but really I'm trying so hard to fight it.

The surroundings are a lot more developed on this island; the trees bigger, the main building stylish and there are steps to take you to the top of the hill. The place, I believe, sells itself as a bit of an eco-resort.

The vegetation is lush and the sunshine hitting the leaves breaks the light into a million emerald prisms.

The location and the company is great; I just hope that my mood alters quickly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Main Building, Sharp's Island, Lake Bunyonyi - 20.47 12/04/2009

Well, the squally rain seems a million miles away now. Hopefully it will desist from raining tomorrow.

The main building has turned into party central - although, as I write this, the music system seems to have tripped the mains!

Just had another wonderful talk with Ruth. She wanted to thank me for treating her with warmth and affection and always being prepared to discuss anything with her at any time - perhaps this type of interaction, although common in schools and colleges in the UK, may not exist in Ugandan society.

It was really a lovely thing to say, especially as I should be thanking her; if it hadn't been for her organising the very disorganised kitchen we may never have had food! Luckily, we have now been fed breakfast, lunch and supper!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Main Building, Sharp's Island, Lake Bunyonyi - 19.17 12/04/2009

So, the rain has only really just stopped and I'm back in the main building smelling slightly of swamp. I must have spent the best part of two hours by the lake today; an hour and a half of which I was physically in the water.

I really enjoyed this experience. Firstly because the warmth of the water when compared to the tepid temperature of the pool at Green Hills and, secondly, because of the Kigezi students.

None of the Kigezi students are particularly strong swimmers and so those going into the lake were kitted-out with bright yellow lifejackets. Ruth, who had had an awful morning, was the funniest. She, with the aid firstly of Nick De Souza and then myself, actually progressed well with her swimming - after all, we are good teachers! After a while she was splashing around shouting "Tommy-Tom - I am a frog!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Main Building, Sharp's Island, Lake Bunyonyi - 14.33 12/04/2009

From around 10am it has rained incessantly. Luckily, as the tent I am camped in is relatively new, it has hitherto resisted the temptation to leak at all.

As a result of the rain the majority of the day's activities have had to be cancelled; the exception being swimming in the lake.

I have, to occupy myself, been playing draughts against Karina and Greg. The former was easy to beat, although I later found out that I had misunderstood the rules and so had to forfeit the result. The latter absolutely destroyed me; it would appear that Greg is quite the strategist.

So after lunch - another African buffet - I will see off Penninah from the landing and will go for a swim, seeing if I can get any Kigezi students swimming.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Sharp's Island, Lake Bunyonyi - 15.20 11/04/2009

So we have landed, pitched our tents and we are now sitting in the sun. The boat journey from the shore of Lake Bunyonyi nearest to Kabale took about thirty minutes and was one of the most pleasurable journeys one could have on water.

The sun is shining warmly and the scene all around is one of serenity. It is how I imagine Saint Lucia to be; small island, hot sunshine, basic bars and warm bathing water.

I am dangling my feet in the warm water of the lake and I can feel my arms burning under the intensity of the sunlight.

Around me I have Adam, who is currently fashioning a fishing rod from some green wood, Nick De Souza, reading "Dreams from My Father",  and Greg and Jeff who are swimming.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale - 18.37 10/04/2009

The air is cooler tonight;or is it just the time of night? There is a gentle breeze rustling the taller branches of the distant eucalyptus trees. The valley still has some light and is slowly filling with the haze of respiring trees. The haze, at present, fails to block a clear view of the snake in the road on the opposite hill; the same snake upon which myself, Grigorios and Hanka had stood at 9.30am this morning.

The light exposes the details of the emerald landscape opposite; the soft lines of the treetops, the moderately sharper lines of the terraces and the small, but conspicuous, blemishes made by the small dwellings hugging the hillside.

Yet, to spend this time talking of the hills and the light thus is to disregard the spetrum of azure and grey inhabiting the skies above.

Today has been a wonderful day. Owing to it being Good Friday, we went to church for a service of thanks for what we have done in the school over the last week. My little friend Charlotte led a touching prayer to say thanks. She injected a sharp dose of passion into her words! Amen!

She wanted to "talk with me" but I failed in my mission to find her again throughout the remainder of the day - I hope that I find her tomorrow; she is an intelligent girl and want to ensure that this is recognised! I left in something of a rush having been scooped up by Penninah to be shown her house and to be introduced to her children, Enid's children and the rest of the neighbours' kids too.

We drank tea, or rather took tea, upon the arrival of Liz, Cassie, Lucy and Karina. Prior to their arrival I had been teaching them the game "Grandmother's Footsteps" which kept them entertained for a good half an hour.

So, a boda-boda ride later, I am relaxing outside on the balcony, looking out across Kabale. Beautiful.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale - 13.12 09/04/2009

Tonight has been a most joyous of occasions. After the afternoons CPD activites at Kigezi Highs School, we arrived at the Kabale Municipal Stadium to watch the Kigezi boys take on Bunyonyi Vocational College in the final of the district football tournament.

The team had qualified for the final earlier in the day and, as a result, word had gotten around the Kigezi boarders and thus a crowd had of around 2,000 had amassed.

The atmosphere was heightened by the arrival of the mzungus. Having been spotted, Liz Walton was called upon by the student with the megaphone to say a few words. She said "hello". The crowd went wild.

When the first goal was scored, midway through the second half, the crowd got even livelier. Finally, when a second went in and, ten minutes later, the final whistle went, the whole stadium was sent into a frenzy.

The trophy was lifted, and a lap of honour commenced before the players, chased by a crowed of near to 500, ran our onto the main street of Kabale celebrating... still with the trophy held aloft.

With some students on the bus with us, getting out of the vicinity of the stadium because some people were getting a bit wild, we proceeded up the main street. On board many songs were chanted, much to the admiration of the students and civilians on the street and, more importantly, to the mass of boarders that had congregated at the foot of the hill to Kigezi High School.

Upon first sight of the bus, and hearing the songs we were singing, the students came running across the fields, surrounding the bus entirely and cheering.

The atmosphere of love and joy was truly moving. This is a scene that one usually only sees on TV; I was living it.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Kigezi High School, Kabale - 13.12 09/04/2009

So, here I am having taught a Senior 3 class. We used the ideas of creativity, break-out groups and peer-assessment to improve the quality of 'teaching and learning'. The lesson went particularly well if I am to judge by the students' reactions; they found it peculiar that they had to mark their own work though!

After this I went for a wander, in the sunshine, around the school compound. I was taking pictures and got talking to some Senior 4 girls and a couple of Senior 6 boys. What started with me talking about my love for Uganda with a few students soon changed and I had a crowd gathered around me, all listening to my every word and looking at the pictures on my camera. 

It was a lovely experience and an especially funny moment was when I taught the girls how to greet and respond in Irish Gaelic. They were all suitably impressed with my Rukiga greeting of "agandi" to which one responds "nycha"; alhtough it did garner some laughs!

I spoke at great length about how people in Uganda seemed so different to those in London; abou thow in Uganda people were more welcoming to strangers, whereas in London people mind their own business. This came as a great surprise to them as the teachers and students from William Morris seem so warm.

Following on from this discussion, or rather to conclude it, I let them have my best wishes for their up-coming exams. I stole away to find water and to sit in the sun and write.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Perfect Summer Album

Every summer holiday needs its soundtrack and this summer, for me, was absolutely no exception. Things are looking up in my world: I have a lovely girlfriend, I joined a cricket team and my current place of work is ten times better than my last.

This summer, was an Ashes summer. As I write this the England team are preparing to continue playing against Australia in a series of ODIs, following the successful reclamation of the Ashes Urn. So, right on cue, an Irish band, The Duckworth Lewis Method, release their eponymous album - a concept Album based around cricket. The Duckworth Lewis Method are, in fact, Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash.

The album successfully uses the game I love and stories pertaining to it from over the years in order to craft a selection of perfect pop songs. Many of the songs with their hit of history and twist of humour jump along to very Beatlesque melodies and beats.

Particular highlights of the album include "Meeting Mr Miandad" (a irritatingly catchy number with a suitably catchy chorus), "Nightwatchman" (a songs about the pressures of guarding your best batsman towards the end of the days play) and "Mason on the Boundary" (a romantic image of village cricket that includes a monologue from IT Crowd's Matt Berry).

Perhaps to highlight these three songs is to do the rest of the album an injustice. It is, in many respects, the perfect pop record.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks

Cover image © Penguin.
It is a testimony to the enduring legacy of Ian Fleming's character James Bond that our thirst for more adventures is never sated. Fleming wrote twelve novels and two short story collections between 1953 and 1966 from his Jamaican paradise, but this was not enough for us.

For Devil May Care Sebastian Faulks takes up the mantle and assumes the pen of Ian Fleming to bring Bond back to life once more - after all 'You Only Live Twice'.

This new Bond novel is perfect quick-fire reading and Faulks does a reasonably good job of writing in the style of Fleming's originals.

The narrative is full of the cultural reference Bond readers would expect of Ian Fleming, indeed Faulks sets the novel in 1967, the year after the last of Fleming's Bond novels. The caviar, the champagne, the Martinis prepared in the famous fashion and Q's gadgetry are all included in the storyline.

The locations of the action are equally as exotic, with the plot sweeping from Paris to Tehran, taking in the Caspian Sea and the ubiquitous forays into the Soviet Union.

The story follows Bond on a mission to the heart of the operations of an opiate-producer and distributor, Dr Gorner. Gorner has a curious affliction affecting his otherwise perfect body, an affliction that Bond eventually uses to his advantage on his mission, and an intense hatred for anything British.

Further to this, Gorner appears to have the perfect plan to bring Britain and the USSR to the brink of war.

A great read, made all the more entertaining by my choice to read it on Studland Beach, Dorset.

Note 31/10/12: This review has been 'refreshed' recently to bring it in line with other reviews on Ayohcee.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Finding Myself on the Underground

In amongst my summer ramblings and my first visit back to Warwick of the holidays, I had someone take a picture of me next to my name. Okay, it's not quite the English spelling of my name or even the Gaeilge version, but it looks similar enough anyway. 

The picture was taken at Marylebone underground station.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Pirate Man of Wimbledon

The Pirate Man himself.
So it was, that this morning I found myself heading through Wimbledon en route for my place of work when I stumbled upon this gentleman. He perhaps wasn't what one would expect of a pirate, but he was sporting, upon his shoulder, one piece of essential pirate kit - a parrot.

The photo I managed to take isn't wonderful, but if you click on the photo to enlarge it, you should be able to make out the shape of the parrot's yellow and blue wings.

I know not whence this gentleman arrived in Wimbledon, where he was headed, or what his business was, but it brought a smile to the face of everyone that he passed.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Illiterate Window Dressing

Window dressing at Next in Collier's Wood appears to have hit a new low after window-dressers managed to misspell the word 'love' in their display. Seeming as the set of strange metallic ornaments only comes with the letters required to spell 'love', it strikes me as strange that the staff there failed to get them in the right order.
Other than being a German surname, the word 'loev' has no real meaning. A word that can be made from the four letters, that would make sense, is vole - a type of mousy animal.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

At Lord's on a Monday Evening

At one point yesterday evening, when the clouds rolled over and the light faded beneath a mighty rainstorm, it looked as if the playing of any cricket was a distant pipe-dream. Rain streaked across the windows of the space-age media centre above the Edrich Stand at Lord's Cricket Ground and left those that had taken their seats on the upper tier running for cover. All this with only 2 overs on the board.

After a delay of around an hour the halftime entertainment was brought forward and both entertained and amused the crowd until play resumed. Entertainment included Apache Indian, Escala and a fat Asian bloke that looked like Neil Fox.

Rajasthan Royals were first into bat and made reasonably steady progress, but Middlesex seemed to be pinning them back to around six and a half runs an over. Eventually, when they were four wickets down, Dimitri Mascarenhas came in and hit a quick-fire 32 of 16 balls. Rajasthan finished on a respectable 162 for 5.

Middlesex, with some hard work to do, set about ticking the scoreboard over more as if it was a game in the County Championship than a game of Twenty20. Mascarenhas, not content with singlehandedly cranking up the run rate during the Rajasthan innings, set about dismantling the Middlesex attack, finishing with 2-24.

The biggest cheer rattled around Lord's when the Rajasthan captain, Shane Warne, stepped up to bowl his legendary spin. His good efforts did not go unrewarded as he picked up a vital wicket, that of Dawid Malan (34), who despite his slow run rate, was proving stubborn to remove.

Middlesex, as their innings progressed, slipped further and further behind the required run rate - to the extent that the scoreboard was saying at one point they needed 288 per over to win! Rajasthan rode out winners by 46 runs.

Twenty20, especially when done in the style of the IPL, is a great spectacle to attend. I will always be a fan of the longer format of the game, but that does not stop me believing that this form is pleasurable and engaging, especially when enjoyed with a bit of wine and good company.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drunken Zebra Crossing

Walking back from Highgate last Friday I stumbled across this peculiar scene. It is, for those more used to photos taken with 12 megapixel cameras, a photo, taken on my phone, of a zebra crossing light looking worse for wear. If it was any other night of the week I would have presumed it to be a genuine accident, but, as it was Friday, one can only presume that the light had been out drinking.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The Rwandan Genocide Museum, Kigali, Rwanda - 16.30 (Rwandan Time) 08/04/2009

I have just experienced one of the most emotional episodes of my life. Having journeyed to Rwanda with a mix of Kigezi and William Morris students and staff, we arrived in Kigali; Rwanda's capital.

Whilst here, and indeed this was the raison d'être of our visit, we went to the Rwandan Genocide Museum. I was expecting an emotional time, but what got me the most was an area devoted to the deaths of innocent tutsi children.

Upon the wall was the picture of a small, two year old girl who'd been killed by Hutu militia during the genocide of the early-1990s. What affected me the most was my inability to comprehend how youe could harm a child who was only around the age of my beloved Cianan; especially as the death note read "thrown against a wall".

The Rwandan people have thankfully put this behind them; although, as I write, it doesn't help me to understand. My search for answers will no doubt continue.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The Market, Kabale - 09.01 08/04/2009

We're currently sat on a bus, the bus, waiting. We are bound for Rwanda and have sent Wence off into the market to look for some bananas - he is, though, taking an absolute age to find them. I am comfortable in my seat at the front of the bus listening to the song "Toko" by Momo Wandel from the Last King of Scotland soundtrack.

Peter, the link coordinator for Kigezi, is beginning to get restless over the length of time being taken to find bananas given the nature of the complexities of crossing the Uganda-Rwanda border; filling in a form in Katuna for the Ugandan authorities granting exit, walking across no man's land, crossing the physical border, walking across more of no man's land, filling in a form in Gatuna, on the Rwandan side, getting fleeced for US$60 for being Irish, having my passport taken off me and returned, then stamped before finally being allowed into Rwanda properly.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The Art Block, Kigezi High School, Kabale - 16.55 07/04/2009

With ten minutes left to go before our bus back to Green Hills, and an evening meal at the Cephi's Inn, I decided to make my way over to the Art Block to see what Grigorios was up to.

When I got there I was astounded with the hustle and bustle that had been created by Greg's decision to hold an art exhibition. There were so many students involved; a great deal I have already met around the school compound. There, in amongst all the other faces, I found an Aston Villa fan called James, a guitarist called Sam Smilz and the fantastic Ruth Namara.

Ruth has a wonderfully happy character and countenance. We were talking and exchanging pleasantries - she has decided upon calling me 'Tommy Tom' - and also swapped contact details, as is the norm on this trip. She, along with Grace and Charlotte, strike me as being people I would love to stay in touch with for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

My mind is already turning to thoughts of sponsorship. I would love to make some monetary contribution towards these three students' futures. I believe it to be a realistic prospect.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Kigezi High School, Kabale - 16.39 07/04/2009

Having just sat through one of the best lessons I have ever been a part of, I am sat in the Ugandan afternoon sunshine.

During this afternoon's lesson, a history led by Nick De Souza, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with four lovely young girls; Tusiime, Immy, Evas and Charlotte. Another girl that I had worked with, Grace, was equally as delightful a person.

Although the lesson itself is still firm in my memory, the most endearing part of the afternoon was getting to talk to the students. Two students, separately, asked me in a very Ugandan way - perhaps overly polite - "if I may speak with you sometime".

I obliged and talked with both Grace and Charlotte about A Levels in England. We exchanged contact details and I resolved to send them a copy of Obama's "Audacity of Hope" and another A Level text from the English Department stock cupboard. A resolution I will endeavour to keep.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time for Irish Cricket to Stretch Its Legs?

Whenever I look at the Cricinfo website, or flick through the pages of the Wisden Almanack, I find myself wholeheartedly applauding the associate and affiliate structure for the small cricketing nations. You can cast your eyes down the pages and see names such as Jersey, Uganda, The Netherlands, and, of course, Ireland.

Whilst the quality of cricket from the small island of Jersey and the fluorescent-kitted Uganda may seem a million miles away from 'Test' standard, the standard emerging from Ireland is perhaps just the other side of the test-match boundary rope.

Over the past few years, Ireland have consistently performed well, and won, the International Cricket Council's (ICC) leading competition for cricketing minnows in the longer form of the game - the ICC Intercontinental Cup. In addition to this, the team has now qualified for and progressed beyond the group stages of the last two major shorter form competitions - the World Cup in 2007 and the World Twenty20 this year.

It is perhaps inconceivable that Ireland, on the basis of beating other associate nations, should be granted test status, but something should be done to allow them to break through, if momentarily, the glass ceiling that exists between the lower ranked test-playing nations and the top rated associates. Without such a process, we could end up with another disasterous ascent to test-cricket in the vein of Bangladesh's - who lie stone-last in the rankings with zero rating points

My dear friend George Butcher puts it that "I think that if new teams cannot access the higher levels of the game then the game is worse off" and I concur. There needs to be a stepping stone put into place. Warren Deutrom, the Chief Executive of Cricket Ireland writes that "For me, having top Associates playing the bottom-ranked Test teams is pure common sense".

Bangladesh are a team that, on their day, can produce a reasonable match, but that said, so can The Swinging Googlies C.C. Furthermore, Zimbabwe, now under semi-new government, are surely in need of some rehabilitation, so maybe a triangular four- or five-day competition would be the perfect answer to allow Ireland to start to stretch its cricketing legs. 

The unfortunate thing is that, despite a good showing in the World Twenty20, beating Bangladesh and taking Sri Lanka to the wire, the likelihood of Ireland being taken more seriously by the ICC seems somewhat remote.

The Uganda Diaries: Kigezi High School, Kabale - 09.56 07/04/2009

I am writing within the staffroom of Kigezi High School following my first lesson of the day. I taught Senior 3C. The main focus of the lesson was to get the students thinking creatively - a skill seldom toyed with in Ugandan education.

The focus was on free-writing, drama and summary writing. It seemed to go very well - despite the strange resources; a half-brick, a plant, a palm leaf, a pebble and a freshly picked mushroom.

The activity worked well to get their creative juices flowing - some students seemed to struggle when given such free reign in a lesson. They didn't understand that they were allowed to be silly and to "think" for themselves. It is the way of Ugandan education to sit and take notes as a teacher talks, on occasion, endlessly.

Luckily, to assist with the creativity, I had Rebecca and Ruby (a Performing Arts student).

I honestly believe that Penninah could use the model of a lesson designed to stretch her students' higher order skills and thinking skills. Now for tea.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The First Taste of Victory

Swinging Googlies (165 all out) beat The British Library (164 for 7) by 1 run.
Victoria Recreation Ground, Surbiton.

After a run of defeats and a tie, the Swinging Googlies have finally won their first game of the season. 

Rob Punter (34) and Andy Fairburn (27) were the men sent out to open and started notching up the runs pretty sharpish. Fairburn is beginning to look more and more like a demon with bat and ball, both in the nets and on the field of play. This was, according to all records, the highest opening partnership in Googlies history.

Lawrie Homan came in and put 72 on the board in no time at all. Mike Abel (5) was looking comfortable - that is before I gave him out LBW. Sean O'Connell (8), Steve Fenwick (0), Dave Le Vay (7), Myself (0) and Joe Abel (0). All in all, with 165 as the team's total, things looked comfortable - it is thought that 165 is the highest ever total set by the Googlies in their history.

After the tea break, and in spite of some sharp fielding, the Googlies had a bit of a wobble and the British Library's veterans were both exceptionally stoic and resiliant with the bat - the older members of their team being particularly gracefully with their shots, if somewhat overly defensive.

Breakthroughs were happening and wickets being picked up here and there by the likes of Homan, Fenwick and J. Abel. On the whole, the fielding was looking sharp at the outset, O'Connell and Fenwick taking good catches, but the British Library seemed particularly adept at grabbing singles and doubles.

Ron Googly, the Swinging Googlies official reporter, commented:
But the thought of being defeated by one’s own tea was simply too much to contemplate and with some strict marshalling from Rob and gentle banter from Tommo, the fielders gradually started to turn it round. Steve got third time lucky and made up for putting a couple down and Dave L threw himself around with abandon, again going for grass stain of the week award. Tommo laid down some stylish moves and indeed it was good to see sexy cricket back on the field of play. 
I must admit that it was good to see that my 'gentle banter' - which included winding-up one batsman about the cleanliness of his cricket gear - was acknowledged and the use of an expression I coined, 'sexy cricket', also getting a mention.

After coming down to the last ball of the last over, and the British Library needing three from it for the win, some sharp fielding ensured that they scored only a single. Victory was secured.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Main Street, Kabale - 18.35 06/04/2009

Whilst we, that is Kenneth, Teequay, Rebecca and Ruby, were waiting for Adam to pray in the mosque, the most magical of events took place.

We were stood on the street near to where some muslim ladies were selling their wears, men were fixing something and some others were selling hot corn on the cob, when a small Ugandan boy, perhaps only three years of age, came and grabbed me around my legs, hugging me.

I asked him who he was. He didn't respond. I stooped down to his level and tried again and he responded "Nasingal". I then asked him if he was happy - he said "yes". Have you had a good day? "Yes". I then told him to go and find his mummy and daddy - he said "yes" and scurried off. I loved it. He wasn't scared and seemed happy to have met me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Kigezi High School, Kabale - 18.12 06/04/2009

And so I write having spent the day at Kigezi High School and its surrounds. When I arrived at the school, I did so with trepidation and a fearing the thought of being thrust into a classroom full of expectant Ugandans, but soon had this fear allayed.

Karina informed me that Penninah was heading towards the nursery and, with no resistance, I opted to join in. The walk back down the hill from, Kigezi - for Kabale is quite a hilly area - provided me with the opportunity to talk with Penninah and to find out more about her; four children and an artist husband.

The nursery was a delightful little place. The smallest, as in the youngest, class were quite clearly upset by our arrival; a bunch of strange, smiling mzungu faces that were giggling and 'ah-ing' a lot. The older year groups were a little more understanding of our presence and sang us songs; the lyrics of which included:

Your mother can let you down,
Your mother can let you down,
Your mother can let you down,
But Jesus never fails!

Following on from this, we took boda-bodas back up to the High School. Imagine this: eight 125cc motobikes, wailing along the streets of Kabale, the poorest streets of Kabale, each with a cargo of young mzungus - myself, Karina, Adam, Emma, Angela, Louise, Stefan and Fran.

At this point I should reflect upon the 'Poor Quarter' - for I don't want to be seen as a foreigner blinded by awe. The streets, as with many off the beaten track, are just dust and mud. This mud is a vibrant red. The roads here though are even more devastated than those of many other areas. They are pockmarked by potholes. The houses are minute. Many of these homes appear to be bursting at the seams; bulging with children in rags and women caked in red dirt. The people look tired, as though they are scrimping for survival. I am reminded of William Blake's London of the 19th Century:

I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

At the High School we got back to work and me, Melissa, Karina and Stefan headed off to class 1A. In this class I observed Penninah lead the session - an English class of 45 people. At the end, following very little input from myself, I was asked to "say something". I made a rambling speech that included a reference to one of the characters names in the text that they were reading - a certain "Uncle Tom". I informed them that I was a 'Tom' and an uncle too. My Ugandan name, it would now appear therefore, is Uncle Tom.

I taught 'Search for My Tongue' later on to a Senior 5 class - the equivalent to AS Literature. It went very well and one of the class stood up and thanked me on behalf of the class. After this we went to an outdoors assembly where we had to address the crowd with a microphone. Each person, in turn, took the mic and said a few words that were received, in turn, by applause. Weird, but I loved it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

White South Africans Joining the BNP?

Occasionally, when getting on the tube at Wimbledon, I like to vary my early morning reading by picking up a copy of City AM or The South African - both of which are relatively well-written papers, especially when compared to the likes of the Metro.

Today, when I picked up my copy of The South African, I was stunned to see the headline 'UK Saffers Flocking to the BNP?'

The use of the question mark in the headline perhaps indicates that the publication is itself unsure of whether or not this is true, so what is it based around? The article seems based around the Cape Times' assumption that voting the British National Party, a "far-right party", would better "suit [South African ex-pats'] traditional South African values".

The South African goes on to quote from anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, saying that many with a history of hate crimes in South African have joined or contributed to the BNP. Included amongst these is "Arthur Kemp (pictured), a Holocaust denier linked to the murder of ANC [African National Congress - a predominantly black party] leader in 1993, is the most prominent African in the BNP's ranks". Kemp is then alleged to be "running the party's website and [was] spotted last week handling their campaign leaflets" for the upcoming elections for the EU Parliament.

The first thing that gets one's attention here is the irony of the situation. Is the BNP, a party that claims "immigation is not working" seriously using immigrant workers to do its dirty work? This seems a strange development, but it is not unlike the BNP to show inconsistency in its attempt to win votes at the ballot box. It is perhaps testament to the average IQ of their supporters that such an inconsistency in their policy goes unnoticed.

Secondly, this article intimates that, Post-Apartheid, there are still people out there that hold and support the kind racist views that destroyed South Africa's reputation in the first place. I sincerely hope that fools like Kemp are not endemic of modern day white South Africans living in the UK.

I hold great hopes for South Africa, but have some severe reservations about the political culture there. They are, like Zimbabwe, in need of unity in the government, not a collection of dissonant voices echoing through from the past. I am not convinced that Jacob Zuma's 'coronation' as President will help this, especially as he stands idly by as squabbles with the Democratic Alliance rumble on, thus alienating the white voters more so.

Picture taken from: http://kirkunity.blogspot.com/

The Uganda Diaries: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale - 22.24 05/04/2009

So I have been meaning to write all day but many things have conspired against me - none of them quite as serious as that introduction may have implied.

The day started a little fuzzily after the four 100ml whiskey and Stoneys that I had last night. After clearing my head somewhat and, with the aid of four bananas, getting some energy into my system, we made for Kigezi High School for 'chapel'. This was not chapel as we know it. There was singing, dancing, clapping, a thousand "Praise the Lords" and a smattering of "hallelujahs". The atmosphere was a million mils away from the dour normality experienced within the regular Holy Roman Catholic Church in the UK.

After three hours of chapel a desperate phone call came. Raj, and the rest of the group that had decided against attending chapel, were waiting outside and had been since about three minutes into the preacher's one hour and fifteen minute talk. Thermostat or thermometer I ask?

A large buffet was awaiting us back at Green Hills, the majority of which I couldn't really eat. It was splendid though to meet all of the teachers, staff and students - one of those networking occasions that many shier Thomas Kellys wouldn't have coped with!

After a trip to the Little Ritz with Jeff, a phone call home and walk to town and back, a rather packed, but calm, day was over.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale - 20.06 04/04/2009

I feel already as though I have been here for a week. I have perhaps experienced deepest Africa more so today than before. After leaving Entebbe Backpackers we made for the Equator via the outskirts of the capital Kampala.

Kampala is extremely dense when compared, like-for-like, with Entebbe. It seems that no one in Kampala is idle. Everyone moves with purpose. The air is thick with the fumes of mopeds (boda-bodas), the dust from the rapidly drying ground, the dying exhalation of diesel exhausts and, somewhat thankfully, the scent of barbecuing food.

As you pass through Kampala you feel like a very white (mzungu) fish in a very tropical fish shop. This continues as the bus winds its way through the suburbs, still just as industrious, but distinctly less smoggy.

At the Equator, enterprising souls have set up craft shops and attempt, using broad smiles and bucket loads of African charm, to sell you there traditional wares; these range from the ubiquitous hand-carved elephants to hand painted pictures/canvasses going for USh 750,000. Poor old Rebecca nearly keeled over when the happy saleswoman broke the news to her! Poor Cherub.

Anyway, I spent no money this time, but made a solemn promise to one retailer that I would "return to him" - to prove this, I shook his hand and took a picture of him, in front of his shop, by which I could remember him. Excessive I know, but he had a charm to him. Another stall was being run by a girl, who I wouldn't have thought a day over fifteen, that had her five month old baby lying upon a blanket, on the floor, under a shelf. At this point I told her all about Cianan, my nephew.

My writing has currently become quite broken; I have been joined by the fabulous Francessca, rowdy Ruby and amazing Anthony.

Our journey continued on through countless townships and villages inhabited by poor, but happy, harmonious people. Children playing with and selling fruit - would you believe it, USh 4,000 for fifty bananas?  The adults all seem so industrious; everyone has their own business it seems. It makes me angry that in the UK so many poor people just wallow in their own self-pity, as opposed to fighting for survival.

This country is beautiful. I have been meaning to mention it for a while, but, the instant I set eyes upon Uganda, I fell in love. I have already resolved, by hook or by crook, that I shall return.

As our journey continued, stopping in Mbarara briefly, I continued to observe the people - the women with the most beautiful of postures, bent-double, everywhere tending to the land, children tied to their backs, all in the searing heat. The females appear to be the labourers here; men are for 'trades'.

For the final leg of the journey I was sat next to Teequay. She is a girl with a 'head on her shoulders'. We discussed a number of divergent topics. Our conversation lasted until sunset and, as darkness and heavy rain descended, we made Green Hills Hotel, Kabale.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Watercolour Doodling

This is my first attempt at playing with watercolours. If you look closely then hopefully you'll notice that it is the view from the top of a cliff, looking out to sea at sunset. It's not great, but no artist am I. It was done by colouring a pencil sketch with watercolour pencils, a cup of redbush tea and my right index finger.

Click the centre of the image to enlarge.

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe - 08.16 04/04/2009

It has to be said that I was expecting a particularly anonymous birthday, but that was only partly the case. I woke up around 6:30 after having gone to bed around 20:00 - straight after dinner. I checked my phone and there I found a few messages from home.

Anyway, I was the first up and so was fed and watered first and was charged with the duty of waking people up from their collective slumbers. I then returned to the dorm to beautify and clean myself whilst everyone else ate. 

When I was done, I quietly returned to the lounge area, my head firmly in clouds, I was greeted by a loud and rather rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to you!"

I was completely shocked by this as, at the time, the only thing I was thinking about was getting water. It took me at least ten seconds to fathom what was going on! Even the kitchen staff joined in! Lovely!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe - 17.37 03/04/2009

So after a day of various activities, a pause. The rain continued until 3pm and came to a halt whilst I was wandering around the Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

Earlier in the day, during the endless rain, I had bought a Ugandan SIM card with which to contact home, so the Botanical Gardens provided the perfect backdrop from which to make a phone call.

The sun is now shining with the vivacity one expects of an 'African country'. I am sat in the garden of Entebbe Backpackers - I was originally alone, drawing, but a crowd has assembled with the return of Liz from the swimming pool at the Victoria Lake Hotel. I have Hanka, Faye, Jeff, Liz and Karina all in close proximity.

I am told that this beautiful sunshine, in which I now bask, will be gone within an hour - so hard to believe I assure you, but thus is the nature of sunset near the equator. Plans for next week are now being made. It seems there will be a picnic on Sunday to get to know the Kigezi crowd.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe - 10.15 03/04/2009

Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel, Entebbe
10:15 - Friday 3rd April 2009

We're currently at Entebbe Backpackers' Hostel and the heavens have opened in a way that I have never before witnessed. Welsh summers have absolutely nothing on this rain. The velocity! The noise!

Luckily the majority of our bags have been moved into our rooms by Richard, a local 19-year-old boy that works here. Breakfast has been ordered - omelets sans the usual bread accompaniment. The room is basic - a dorm for all eight male members of staff. Jeff is going photo-crazy! Grigorios is talking endlessly of eggs!
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