Friday, December 17, 2010

Ciao Asmara by Justin Hill

Reading 'Emperor' by Ryszard Kapuscinski not only opened my eyes to some of the contrasting reports on the reign of His Imperial Highness, Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, but also made me realise how little I knew about the tiny nation of Eritrea.

Indeed, I have many students who have some Eritrean descent and so I sought a book that would provide me with an outsiders view. After rummaging around Amazon I found 'Ciao Asmara'.

'Ciao Asmara' is an account of a stay by Justin Hill who went to Eritrea a fews years after independence from Ethiopia in order to teach at a school in a town called Keren.

Hill charts his eyes being slowly opened to many of the issues existing within the country in the late 1990s: Eritrea's fixation with the glory of independence, the government's neglect of people who were not involved in fighting "in the field", a lack of forward thinking by the government in terms of economic development and the deeper scars of the bloody conflict with Ethiopia.

The story starts with the same level of romanticism that any mzungu in Africa feels when they first arrive - everything seems simpler and more beautiful. The real art of this text is that you really sense Hill's growing disillusionment with Eritrea by the time of its conclusion.

A genuinely emotional and thought-provoking read.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Asmara: The Frozen City by Stefan Boness

Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, is a city that has captured my imagination to great extent, this is in spite of never having been there.

The city itself was once the jewel in the colonial Italian crown and as a result has acquired many aspects of Italian culture into its everyday being. This ranges from the café culture on the wide boulevards to the splendid examples of Italian Art Deco architecture.

The years have not been kind since the time of the Italian occupation. His Imperial Highness Haile Selassie and later the military dergue that ruled Eritrea as a province of Ethiopia neglected and repressed the region and years of revolutionary conflict against Ethiopian rule resulted in time, and architectural fashion, passing Asmara by.

This book documents the remnants of that Italian Art Deco foray into East Africa in photographic for, with some contextualising words, in order to highlight just how frozen in time many aspects of architecture in Asmara continue to be to this day.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński

Having read Ryszard Kapuściński's book on the early days of Angolan independence, I saw fit to indulge myself by purchasing his journalistic testimony on the last days of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I, the last Emperor of Ethiopia.

What little I knew I Haile Selassie focused around the Rastafarian movement's reverence of him and their collective perspective on him being a living deity, and also the idea that he was a direct descendant of the biblical King Solomon.

Suffice to say, this does not prepare you for the true complexities of life in the Royal Court of Ethiopia: the division of time between various ministries such as the Hour of the Assignments; the feeding of the pet Lions and Flamingos whilst receiving informants' reports; the deep annoyance at Jonathan Dimbleby's reports on hunger in the north of the country; the infighting and corruption between ministers.

A lot of the tale is told by former workers at the palace and fittingly ends with the the Emperor's personal valet, 'L.M', who was the last man in the palace with him as the monarchy finally ended. As a result, the storytellers hold a lot of bias in favour of the Emperor, such as proclaiming, inferentially at least, that it was partially Dimbleby's fault that the monarchy collapsed.

You know how the tale is going to end, and, if it wasn't for Kapuściński filling in gaps in the narrative detailing Haile Selassie's flaws, you would be left feeling entirely sad that this ancient dynesty came to the end that it did.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 18.02 06/04/2010

The end of the first school day seemed to beckon the sunshine for brief super-hot cameo following an afternoon of intermittent heavy showers.

Although there is always the option of a lovely walk home from KHS, I opted for the services of a boda-boda - Uganda's answer to both a taxi and a rollercoaster.

With the ground drying rapidly and the air full of steam, a group of mechanical buzzing hornets appeared in the distance, at first only audibly, before coming into view coughing there way up the hill in a cloud of very toxic-looking smoke.

I have taken boda-bodas before, and many of the students had used on to get up the hill from the nursery school to Green Hills yesterday after the ice-breaking activities, but this doesn't come near to the thrill of going down a long, winding, bumpy and well-populated road from school into town.

After the noise of their ascent, the chilling silence of the coasting boda-bodas, punctuated only by the rattles of the frame during the descent is unnerving.

I would love to capture the journey on video, and if it was my dad at the controls I probably would, but here I simply hang on for dear life to the grip handles and/or my cowboy hat.

The hairpin bend halfway down the hill, with its high vantage point and slight banking, commands beautiful views over the lush green valley towards Green Hills, but there is barely time to notice it!

Tonight, Grace and Ruth are coming to dinner at Green Hills and I'll try calling Jeannie, in London, from Uganda, with my Rwandan SIM card.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Outside the Staffroom, Kigezi High School, Kabale, Uganda - 13.40 06/04/2010

For most of the morning I have been in contact with my various Ugandan people, none more so than Charlotte Ainomugisha. She is a chronic textoholic. Along with Ruth and Grace, she has been plotting a return to Kabale, in her case from Mbarara, and this lunchtime she arrived, although I hadn't realised.

Making the same mistake I had with Grace, I was looking for the trademark short-clipped hair of most KHS girls. Only after doing a double-take did I see Charlotte in the staffroom talking to her Aunty Anne, who is a teacher at KHS.

As with Grace, the long braided hair was in and the change in fashion deceptive. A further notable absence were the distinctive darkened glasses of the year before.

As we chatted, and right on cue, the heavens opened and bodies ran for cover, clustering under the multitudinous verandahs. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Staffroom, Kigezi High School, Kabale, Uganda - 10.15 06/04/2010

View through window of the boys' dorm.
This morning, of any year, is always the time of great exploration. After some initial, tentative contact with our Ugandan counterparts yesterday, today is all about getting your bearings and getting used to the day to day workings of Kigezi High School (KHS).

This morning, thus far, has been taken up with the Grand Tour of the KHS site - that time when you realise just how much space there is here in the compound with its sweeping views of the south-west Ugandan countryside. 

Despite being a regular feature at the school, when walking around, it is still surprising just how often we still get 'mzungued' - mainly in the form of people just stopping and staring.

The obligatory tour of Robert's chicken farm also took place this morning and yielded some surprises. In the year since our last visit, another chicken hut has appeared and, by all accounts, business is booming. Robert is  now not only selling his eggs around Kabale district, but is also now selling in neighbouring Kisoro district and is now exporting to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; although he confesses he doesn't drive them into the DRC himself.

Okay, so life isn't easy having to run a farm to supplement your income as a teacher, but I always see a lot of positives in this situation - a great view of slow moving mist in the mornings and the hyperactive dawn chorus unbroken by the chugging of ancient diesel engines. I always think that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would be a tad jealous if he were to see this farm.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Photo from UNHCR: Refugee Girl

From Carly, a refugee's story, originally uploaded by UNHCR.

This picture was one that I found when looking at the UN's Flickr stream, the main focus of which is refugees. I found that there was something very moving about the distant look in her eyes. Unfortunately, there is little text on the UN site to explain who she is or what the exact nature of her situation is, but perhaps this makes it all the more upsetting. 

On the same Flickr photostream page there is a link to a cartoon about a Refugee called Carly - perhaps this is meant to reflect the girl's situation in life. The video can be found on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hammersmith Sunset



Sunset in Hammersmith can be a thing of beauty. The above picture was taken on my iPhone from the roof of my workplace last week. Most of the day there had been a thick blanket of fog, but around 3pm it suddenly lifted to reveal the sun. This is the view from my workplace, looking towards the River Thames and Hammersmith Bridge.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 20.30 05/04/2010

I am amazed that after spending the entire day wearing black, outside in the heat, I have returned to Green Hills with only mildly sunburnt hands and nothing else.

We've spent the day, or afternoon at least, getting to know the Kigezi students. Led by Stefan, Yusuf and myself, we did some team-buliding/ice-breaker activities that, with me involved, included some cricket.

Trying to explain the rules of kwik-cricket to people who find cricket itself an oddity, was a challenge and a half. First of all there was the concept that you could bowl underarm, but couldn't roll it along the floor. Secondly there was the bat flat face forward. Thirdly was the idea that you had to concentrate if you were fielding.

It was exhausting, but luckily we got there in the end. Dinner nice. Need sleep.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 14.01 05/04/2010

After the Muslim students had returned from prayer, we left the area near the mosque, bound for Green Hills. Shortly after starting the ascent up the hill I heard 'Tommy' being shouted out.

I proceeded to look around me, realising that it wasn't Grace's voice or any of our group members' voice. I then noticed that the in the distance Ruth, another former Kigezi student, was running up the hill in a mad fit of excitement.

Since returning to her village, she has been very hard to contact, but I was able to get the number for her dad via Grace. With no real means to contact her upon her arrival in Kabale, it was a minor miracle that she had managed to time finding us when she just happened to be nearby.

I asked her how she new it was and the answer, simply put, was that she saw a mzungu in a cowboy hat - I suppose I do stand out somewhat.

It was great to see her. She looks exactly the same as she did last year and has kept the short hair. She has relatives to stay with in town so we'll be seeing a lot more of her - she is keen to see Grigorios and help out in the Art Centre.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Nr. Mosque, Main Street, Kabale, Uganda - 13.15 05/04/2010

It's just gone midday on our first full day in Kabale and as I write the sun is hideously hot. I am in full omzungu mode now: hat on, linen trousers, white shirts, etc.

We've just conducted our first expedition into the town and, compared to the previous year, I should be spending more time here than I have in the past. We took the time to look at the area near the mosque in more detail and we found a very small Islamic school called Tafiq Isalmic School.

I went in to have a look around as the kids were outside getting ready for lunchtime prayers. Amazingly the small riad-like building houses not only classrooms and the teacher's office, but also a kitchen and boarding facilities. Inside I met teacher Bright and we exchanged numbers with a view to visiting again later in the week.

Having signed the guest book on behalf of William Morris, I proceeded to peer through the back windows into the boarding quarters. As I sit here, the word squalid comes to mind, but seems a bit harsh as whoever owns/runs the school is evidently trying hard with minimal facilities.

Outside again, I encouraged my Muslim students to go to prayer for the experience, and, of course, to give praise to Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. Whilst they went in, we exchanged a plethora of 'salaams' with the schoolchildren as they made their way to prayer.

This visit to Kabale seems to be creating new missions and contacts. Next year's trip could be a very one - I may need two months not two weeks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 20.45 (EAT) 04/04/2010

And so it's the evening and we've finally reached Kabale after an agonising border crossing. The weather all of the way from Kigali to Gatuna/Katuna has been atrocious. The rain has bean so heavy that the bus was forced to roll along at a very slow speed, dodging the landslips as we went.

Road to Uganda: Peter and Liz.
The main factor in 'The Day of Great Delays' was the rather sweet decision of the Kigezi High School staff to come and meet us in the Rwandese capital. They all turned up in their Sunday best and were overjoyed to be out on a day trip.

Throughout the day I had been in regular contact with Grace, Charlotte and Sister Evangelista.

It was to my great astonishment that after months of email contact that, in a text message, Sr. Eva made a point of saying, "you must be very tired so I will stop for just two minutes."

I thought to myself, "only two minutes?" She may as well wait until tomorrow.

Upon walking down from my hotel room, running late for the 7pm rendezvous that, I was greeted by the sight of two Sisters sitting in a car. The strangeness of the sight was amplified by the dark shroud of the African night.

When I had located Sister Eva, she was talking to Peter about my whereabouts. She had with her a giant cake and presented it to me as her two fellow sisters popped out of the car and flanked her. The cake itself was iced with 'Happy Birthday Thomas' and was an exceptionally sweet gesture. This wasn't bad considering I had only met Eva for all of ten minutes the year before.

Around thirty minutes prior to Eva's arrival, Grace Kamusiime has arrived at Green Hills. She has changed a lot since leaving Kigezi. The most notable difference is definitely that the gone is the uniformly short-clipped hair of the female students and in is the more fashionable braids.

It was lovely to see her because she had been saving for months just to be able to come to Kabale and see the William Morris crew. She had also brought along with her a birthday gift of a picture frame with 'I Love You' written on it. I must admit I was concerned for a moment before she said that it was to put a picture of myself and Jeannie in.

Another birthday in Uganda, but the last for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Youth for Christ Hostel, Kigali, Rwanda - 10.58 04/04/2010

Cricket in Rwanda. Photo Matt J.
Still my birthday; still waiting for the bus.

Having become restless beyond belief, Matt, Mayur and myself walked to flat area of land on the hillside. On this land we set up our cricket pitch - primarily for the purpose of some 'arty' photos.

The wicket was a combination of very green and very dry. Half of the track was covered by thick wet grass, with the other half composed of drying red clay.

After taking a few pictures, we stopped due to rain and to assess the transport situation.

Having concluded that we had a real wait on our hands, we decided to play some more cricket. Matt fielded, whilst me an Mayur took an over each with bat and ball. I accumulated five runs, but lost them all by getting clean-bowled with the final ball of the over - Mayur racked up a steady three and won!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Youth for Christ Hostel, Kigali, Rwanda - 09.24 04/04/2010

It's my birthday and yet again I am in a foreign country - what keeps Jeannie sane is the fact that I will definitely be in the UK next year. The weather was miserable over night with an epic storm waking me up around 2am!

Having woken up early to ensure that we were ready in time for the arrival of the bus to take us to Uganda, it is now greatly apparent that we have a wait on our hands. So, having enjoyed the god punctuality of Rwanda, we are now running well and truly on 'Uganda Time'.

Regardless, you cannot beat morning in this part of Africa. The mist in the valleys. The small lines of smoke floating lazily up into the sky and bodies pouring forth from buildings in anticipation of a day of tilling the land. Rush hour for the subsistence farmer, though their job isn't enviable, seems a lot more relaxed than what I am altogether more used to.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

Cover image © Vintage.
I've travelled to Rwanda twice in the past two years and the events of April 1994 are obviously inescapable. People who I now count as my friends survived the Genocide and so I have become not just well-informed about the Genocide, but also quite protective over how the story is treated by the West.

The Genocide started two days after my 10th birthday, although, being born and raised in the UK, I didn't know anything about it at the time except a few new reports showing long lines of people leaving a city.

It was with some scepticism that I approached A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali (2003), especially having read an extract from the first chapter that made excessive references to ‘asses’. My initial worry was that this would be another westernised narrative that unduly sexualised the suffering of people of colour. I put this to one side and tried to read on.

It is not long into the novel that you realise that Gil Courtemanche is in fact not just another westerner debasing Africa. Also you find that he is not just another westerner “consuming the ‘other'" or trying to extrapolate the West’s guilt for doing nothing to stop the massacres.

The storyline, following the love between Canadian journalist Bernard Valcourt and a bargirl Gentille, gives warmth to the heart, then devastates the heart, before leaving the reader numb.

Without giving too much away, this is a powerful read and deserving of the attention of anyone who cares, provided they remember that there are Valcourts and Gentilles in the world today who are still being ignored by the West.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Gower in May


A very windy day on the Gower, in Wales, in May. I had been there for a camping trip. It was very cold as you may expect and my ears were freezing after a coastal walk to the pub in Rhossili. After a meal there the drinking continued into the night before a drunken stumble home.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: One Love Bar, Kigali, Rwanda - 20.01 03/04/2010

Another thought provoking day, as every moment in Rwanda seems to end up being. To avoid clichés about devastation, horror and disbelief is impossible. To use the word 'another' in front of 'thought provoking' seems unfair and seems to debase the point - this isn't my intention at all.
The coaster at Nymata.

We have visited two different Genocide memorial sites today. Both of these are a long stretch from the sanitised environment if the main Genocide museum, in all its government- and internationally-sponsored glory overlooking the the dust and murk of L'Avenue de la Gendarmerie. These were time capsules.

The first site that we came to was Ntarama Church, about an hour outside of Kigali. The building, upon first glance, looks intact, but it is upon closer observation that one sees the hallmarks of war; a grenade hole in the wall, missing windows, bloodstained shirts and, finally, a glimpse of row upon row of human remains.

Inside, there is a strange smell, sweeter than the musky smell of an English church. This smell, you soon realise, is the smell of death. Death on clothes, on bones, on the floor. Death in the very molecules of clay that constitute this building that has long since ceased to be holy. The students are startled. One runs from the main building, covering his eyes, shouting. There is silence.

One of my students meets some locals.
A few rumbles of thunder roll in from the distance and the wind picks up. Some raggedly dressed kids come begging The heavens open in a great act of pathetic fallacy. Its time to leave. The rain continues all the way Nymata.

In Nymata, leafs are still heavy from the rain but life is starting to return to the muddy streets as Chris, a friend of Peter's, introduces us to Charles Mugabe - suddenly the Genocide's victims have a face and voice.

With Chris' soft tones translating Charles' even softer Kinyarwandan words, we are taken around the church building. Every scratch, shrapnel scar, row of stained clothes, broken door, cut on a leg, has a strong and shocking story.

Home of a sister murdered by Interahamwe.
Charles recounts how, as the Interahamwe Genocidaires systematically toyed with and killed all of those taking refuge in this House of God, he eventually had to hide, covered in the blood of his family members and the limbs of dead strangers, playing 'dead', in order to survive. He eventually escaped, but not before 2,000 other Tutsis and moderate Hutus had died immediately around him. How did that little boy recover from that? The tours must only be a mild form of catharsis as an adult. He eventually found a grandparent to care for him.

In the darkness and back in Kigali having procured an MTN sim card, I'll call Jeannie. The night is destined to take us to the One Love Bar - a Marley-esque evening of dancing and music with a slightly tipsy guide will help to take the edge of the afternoon for all of us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Genocide Museum, Kigali, Rwanda - 11.37 03/04/2010

So we had a microscopic lie-in today before piling into a 'coaster' bound for the town centre. The weather is so un-British here that it is hard to imagine how cold it was before we left for Africa.

This is my second visit to the Genocide museum, but this time we are closer to the 6th April anniversary of the Genocide's commencement. Everywhere around us there are people wearing the purple ribbon that is symbolic of those who lost someone during the Genocide.

From over the brow of a hill, in amongst the memorial gardens, there is the sound of music. As I peer over the edge I can see around ten women wearing identical pastel-blue dresses. They are stood facing one of the mass-tombs with an immediate crowd of around them of around three hundred people, all wearing purple. Many more, people removed from the sorrow such as us, people busy working such as the Rwandan policewoman with her rifle stood next me, and gardeners tending to the plants are all stock-still listening to the music.

The songs they are singing I cannot understand, but it doesn't make them any less moving. Everyone is silent whilst watching. All silent.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Youth for Christ Hostel, Kigali, Rwanda - 21.13 02/04/2010

I have remembered that strange feature of African evenings; the sun setting so early. It was at 6.30pm that the light quite suddenly gave up on us and left us - students and staff - playing football whilst shrouded in darkness.

The pitch could not have been more beautifully situated. Half-way down the hill from the common room and students' dormitories, there is a flat mini-plateau on which there are two goals. It was here that a kick-about with a Ugandan teacher working at Youth for Christ, Judith, and a local boy, Ghenghe, evolved in an all-out footballing tussle between two throngs of WMSF students and teachers.

Who knows what the score was. Many goal-scoring opportunities were squandered, many knees grazed and many arguments started over who had scored what and how.

When the night finally came, it was time to head off back up the hill for another African buffet and a few games of table tennis.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Youth for Christ Hostel, Kigali, Rwanda - 16.10 (CAT) 02/04/2010

I am now beyond tired. The journey and the four stops and starts that the flight entailed was a little too much for my body and mind to take - i have been in four different time zones in 14 hours!

A very rapid unpacking job in Kigali.
We've arrived at the Youth for Christ Hostel in Kigali and our rooms are somewhat basic. I must admit that I kind of like it - shabby chic it would be called in London. The fatigued iron of the beds, the carpet-less floor of the room and the distinct lack of light seems strangely reminiscent of HMP Long Kesh, or at least what I expect it would be like.

Another feature of the endless flying has been the steady succession of meals... rounded of with our first African buffet of the trip. It seems the same in Rwanda as in Uganda and consists of rice, matoki, chicken ground nut sauce. Terribly monotonous, but strangely comforting. So with the weather hot I am preparing for the next challenge - eating another African buffet at 9pm.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: In the Plane, On the Tarmac, Entebbe, Uganda - 13.15 (EAT) 02/04/2010

This has come as something of a surprise! Upon arriving at Addis Ababa, Liz announced that our connecting flight actually stops off at Entebbe in Uganda. We therefore have a rather unique and epic journey unfolding: London, Rome, Addis Ababa, Entebbe, Kigali, Kabale.

Addis Ababa we only had the chance to witness from within the Bole International Airport terminal. The terminal was nice, but the slight sleep deprivation from the flight - they keep waking us up to feed us - was creeping up on me so I just took the opportunity to sleep. I hope to experience more of Ethiopia on the return trip.

Back in Entebbe, whilst waiting on the tarmac for the wild hoards of Ugandans waiting to go to Kigali, who turned out to be just one guy, we were permitted to stretch our legs on the steps to the plane overlooking Lake Victoria.

There was an immediately familiar dampness to the air which felt as comforting as a Sunday roast in Warwick. Added to this is the unrelenting heat of the near-equatorial sunshine. It feels good to be back.

Now for the 35-minute flight to Kigali.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Swinging Googlies Almanack 2010

A project that I've been working on for frankly too long has finally been completed today with the uploading of the Swinging Googlies Almanack 2010 - a book for my cricket club that documents our 2009 season in black and white.

For anyone who is interested, the cost of the paperback edition is a very inexpensive £5.99 with all profits going to the Kigezi High School Partnership and other Kabale-based charitable causes

If there is enough interest then it will be just a short matter of time before the 2011 edition is started upon. For now, a preview can be seen below.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: In The Sky, nearing Rome - 23.00 01/04/2010

So we've been in the air for what  doesn't seem like a long time at all, but now we're descending for our short 'bounce' into Rome. 

The flight is exceptionally peaceful compared the thunder, lightning and heavy rain that was pouring on the journey to Heathrow Airport. Having left Starbuck's in Earls Court, I caught the District Line to Barons Court and waited on the platform for the Piccadilly Line train with Jeff and Tash on it. The rain was such that however far under the canopy one retreated, getting damp was an inevitability.

Back on the plane, at first glance there is something decidedly retro about the Ethiopian Airways plane we are on. It lacks the very modern features of air-travel, such as multi-channel entertainment screens mounted in the seat in front of you... but who cares?

We were all actually engaging in conversation with each other and being sociable. What's more, unlike British Airways, they actually had a 100% wheat-, barley-, rye- and lactose-free meal. Thank the Lord!

After Rome, and with the aid of a small glass of red, I will hopefully fall asleep. Thankfully, I have Carrie next to me so this shouldn't be a real problem.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: Starbucks, Earls Court, London - 16.26 01/04/2010

Everything has move on one year: my relationship with Jeannie, my coeliac disease having seemingly evolved into a lactose intolerance, my love of Africa and my position on this year's trip to Uganda - it now appears that I am an unofficial Second in Command.

With a soya latte on the table in front of me, and rain falling heavily outside, it's time to pick up my pen and start to write again.

Our trip to Africa has evolved and moved on - many lessons have been learned. British Airways is being avoided. A slightly altered cast of characters from William Morris are participate - with some old favourites such as Grigorios and Jeff.

Our physical journey too has become somewhat more serpentine too. This year we are headed one more to Kabale in Uganda, but we are doing so by way of Rome (where we stop to pick up passengers), Addis Ababa in Ethiopia (where we get off and transfer planes) and Kigali, Rwanda (where we will, for the first time, be staying for two nights).

Another difference comes to mind; this year I will have something of a welcoming committee. One of this party is a nun from Kisoro and the others are former students of Kigezi High School who featured regularly in my Uganda Diaries last year.

Anyway, this year, due to the extended nature of our trip I will afford my diary a more grandiose name, Les Journaux Africains. Its name being French to honour the Rwandan aspect of the journey.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Il y a un bidonville...

Il y a un bidonville
dans un petit quartier
de mon esprit.

Ici,
je cherche un petit
fragment
de ma mémoire.

I search and I remember.
It comes easily to me.
Time has passed:
Hope is lost...
Hope is at hand...

Je ne vais pas vous oublier,
Haïti.

______________________________
Accept my apologies if my French is poor. I am trying hard to improve it with the help of a Rwandan friend in Kigali. The word 'bidonville' (shantytown - literally 'tin-town') was first taught to me by my mother shortly before I visited Rwanda this year. The poem is really me taking a short walk and expressing, in a veiled way, the frustrating fact that we seldom hear any updates from Haiti following the earthquake there earlier this year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Now Down to Work Please

David Cameron, being at the head of the party that won the largest amount of seats in the election, has been allowed to form a government. Having made a deal between his Conservative Party and Nick Clegg's Lib Dems, the pressure is now on.

I believe that the focus of this pressure should not be, as the media would have you think it, upon the stability of the coalition, but should be on getting the country moving in the right direction following the troubles of the past couple of years.

I have high hopes for the new government. I am not expecting to find more money in my pocket, a house fit for a king at a low price, or a great reduction in the price of everyday living, but I do sincerely hope that they will work hard towards making life for the average Briton more livable.

In an ideal world, Cameron and Clegg would stop by my blog and have a look at what I really wanted from this election; a discussion about the Robin Hood Tax would be a good place to start gentlemen.

I will give them a chance, but I am fully prepared to turn future votes against them if and when Labour bring a more attractive offer back to the table - whether this is in May 2015 or before hand at local or European elections.

Down to work gentlemen. I am watching you like a hawk, in spite of my severe political news fatigue.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brown Resigns

There is something quite sad about the events that have just unfolded. Gordon Brown, having realised surely that any hopes of a Rainbow Coalition have failed, announced his intention to tender his resignation with a quite distinct lump in his throat.

The manner in which his departure had happened, after Nick Clegg's 'whoring' of himself over the last few days, is made especially difficult by the fact that he had quite clearly put every last effort into forming a Labour-Lib Dem government.

Gordon Brown was undoubtedly a great Chancellor. He took the helm of the already sinking New Labour ship as it headed straight for the icebergs of the 10p tax rule, the credit crunch, the expenses scandal and 'Duffygate'. He tried, has mild success, he left.

'Rainbow Coalition' Simply Makes No Sense

On paper a Rainbow Coalition of almost every party that isn't Conservative may seem like a great one. It means that you have a wider scope for consensus politics to come to the fore and for partisan politics to be reserved for the would-be Tory opposition. Furthermore, the idea of the Greens and the SDLP being in government would be refreshing in its own right.

The biggest argument in favour of the Rainbow Coalition seems to be that if you add together the Labour, Liberal, Green, SDLP, Alliance and Independents (perhaps the Plaid Cymru and SNP votes too) that it commands the higher proportion of the public's mandate, estimated at 55% by a colleague, compared to the Tories 36% share of the vote. 

The problem with this argument is that 55% of the voting public did not vote for a coalition of all the parties that aren't Tories - they voted 29% for Labour, 23% for the Lib Dems and 1% for Greens.

It is worth noting that it is indeed very pragmatic of the Labour Party to try and get themselves into government by any means, I would probably try and do the same myself in their shoes, but don't try to con the public into thinking that it is fair, just and what the public actually asked for.

As a final comment, one a Burnley Fan maybe could appreciate, imagine that, in one final attempt to avoid relegation that Burnley and Portsmouth joined into a team - Burnmouth. They would have ended the year on 49 points condemning, West Ham and Wigan to relegation in the process, in spite of losing 48 games between them!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Underground, Overground.


A picture taken whilst I was fooling around with a camera loaned from my workplace's Art Department. I was playing with the zoom on my way home from work on Friday. The picture was taken out of the window of a moving Underground train en route to Wimbledon. The reason that I have seen fit to post it is because I liked the colours and the contrasts between nature, old buildings and ugly more modern buildings.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Unlocking Some Passion

It was refreshing to today see demonstrations in London. The subject of the protest was electoral reform and it was believed to consist of around 1,000 demonstrators at its peak.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of this was that of late it has become a real rarity to see a fully peaceful demonstration in London about anything at all. Over the years since the poll tax riots, it has seemed that the British have become apathetic to things that they feel are directly out of their control - it is, after all, easier to moan and be cynical than to actually act.

I always feel that the British just don't care enough when a particular issue riles them. In countries like Niger, when something really gets their goat, people get off their backsides and do something about it. In the case of Niger, the President had outstayed his mandate and the army, representing the interests of the constitution, took decisive action. I have been warned by my boss though that under military rule, following a coup d'état, teachers are always the first to get it. 

I'm not suggesting that every time someone disagrees with the government we should have a coup but some more passion would be nice.

So, getting back to my point, today's demonstration, whereby Unlock Democracy arrived outside the Lib Dem meeting, has been a breath of fresh air. It was well organised, peaceful, they arrived with a copy of their demands and a petition and successfully got Nick Clegg to leave the meeting and address the crowd.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Peculiar Hush

It seems that, BBC News and Sky News excepted, there is a peculiar hush that has descended upon London. It is as if the public mood is somehow reflecting the political staticity that currently afflicts us as a result of the hung parliament situation.

The staffroom at work, the station platform, the tube train home; they all seemed as confused as perhaps Lord Mandelson was when Jeremy Paxman accused him of twittering whilst live on air.

Now that we are all aware of the situation, I can't help but think that the result of the election was the best result for the United Kingdom. I don't think that any of the parties deserve to govern outright. I also believe, in spite of my own personal political beliefs, that the Conservatives should not be given the free reign that an outright majority in parliament would afford them.

Granted, the lack of a majority in parliament means that things will take longer to happen, and granted, the markets supposedly don't like any form of political motionlessness, but what is the rush? The rolling news channels seem to be forcing the issue of who will join with who and when, but, again, why should such a thing be rushed.

We should allow the parties to agree terms and to take their time doing so because this will ultimately allow for a greater degree of stability in the long-term and surely the markets would like that.

Labour Holding Ground

So having just woken up and looked at what's happening on BBC's Election 2010 programme, it appears that Labour have done a good job of holding their ground against not just the Conservatives, but the Lib Dems too. It has been confirmed that then that Andy Slaughter has won the Hammersmith seat - Hammersmith being where I work - and that Siobhan McDonagh has held her seat in Mitcham and Morden - where I live.

In reality, this doesn't surprise me too much. In spite of his hard campaigning Shaun Bailey, in Hammersmith, just couldn't deliver the result that the Conservatives wanted. The more I have spoken to people about him, the more cynicism I hear levied against him.

People, it would appear, seem skeptical of him not just because the ethnic minority-political party paradox, but also because of his demeanour being somewhat arrogant - although this arrogance did not make an appearance in our conversation. I still think that, given a safer seat to contest, he could still find himself further up the Conservative Party's food chain in a couple of year.

Regardless, the general pattern sees us moving towards confirmation of a hung parliament.

Just Hanging Around

An interesting night so far. I am about ready to put the MacBook down for the night so that I can rest and, maybe, get some sleep. I will try and stay awake for as long as physically possible, but I am more than likely to be asleep within an hour.

So, themes of the evening/night/early hours seem to be:

  • Issues involving ill-equipped polling stations, not least in Nick Clegg's constituency.
  • DUP leader loses 'very safe' seat to the Alliance Party.
  • Cameron unlikely to get an overall majority.
  • Conservatives yet to win a seat, but the swing is favourable.
  • Lib Dems maybe not as potent as we all thought or perhaps hoped.
  • The best party in town involves a boat, a camera, booze and Joan Collins.

I think that, having listened to all of this talk of uniformed swingers and Jeremy Vine wandering through a CGI wilderness, my dreams are going to very warped.

It'll be interesting to see what happens by the time I wake up - whatever time that may be.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Exit Polls

The exit polls have come up with an interesting situation for us all. They are currently predicting the following:
  • Conservatives 307 seats
  • Labour 255
  • Lib Dems 59
  • Others 29
This comes across as a little crazy. I find it hard to fathom that following the first of the election debates, where Nick Clegg came out as the peoples' favourite, that taking into account 'uniform national swing', the Lib Dems actually would see a loss of seats.

It seems that either the Clegg-factor was the most short lived of politcal fads, or that the exit polls are wildly inaccurate. Still, it provides election-watchers with something interesting to keep an eye on and seems to be squarely pointing to a hung parliament.

Meeting Shaun Bailey

I was walking home from work today, accompanied by three workmates, and we were discussion today's poll. The focus of our conversation was quite obviously based on the reports of the Conservative Party's decision to make some major cuts in the public sector; does this mean redundancies?

It was just our luck that stood outside of Baron's Court underground station was Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for the new Hammersmith constituency. As my work mates moved ahead a few paces I decided to hang back and challenge Bailey with the rumours and to see whether teachers were for the chop.

His response seemed positive. So it is that with three of my colleagues as witnesses, he said the following which I will personally hold to account for should he be elected:

  • Conservatives will not be making teachers redundant as they are in high demand and are not considered as being part of the financial 'problem'.
  • Town Hall staff and 'some nursing staff' may find themselves at the mercy of efficiency measures.
  • Those in managerial positions in public sector roles may find themselves at the mercy of cuts.

Curiously, he also mentioned that it is likely that the Fox-Hunting ban would be repealed.

Regardless, Shaun Bailey, in spite of some of the criticism levied at him by my not so Tory-friendly workmates, he managed to come across as a very personable human being. I think that many may see his selection for the Conservatives as being a bit of a gimmick, a black man placed as a candidate in an area with a high percentage of ethnic minority groups, but I feel that, should he be elected, he could have a very long a fruitful political career ahead of him.

I do hope, for his sake, that he was not only right about teachers' jobs being protected, but that he stays true to his roots regardless of his selection for a very 'un-black' political party.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Match of the Season

This weekend saw the first match of the new season for the Swinging Googlies Cricket Club and, as ever, I was looking forward to it. Breaking with Googlies tradition, I had been practicing through the week to try and improve my bowling. The type of bowling I attempt is wrist-spin and I tend to send them down with a fair bit of flight.

From a personal perspective, although not taking myself too seriously on the cricket field, I do want to better myself and so it was my ambition to actually be allowed to bowl this season.

It was around over 25 that Chris Judd, our captain, called on me to take over the bowling. I was naturally a tad nervous as one doesn't want to make an eejit out of one's self. I'll let Ron Googly's official match report take over from here:
And then, just for a short moment, time stopped still and a hush fell upon the park as Chris called up Tommo to send down a few.  Well, the words ‘revelation’ and ‘blimey guv’ come to mind as Tom transfixed all and sundry with his loopy spinners that he sent high into the sky and beguiled the poor batsmen who were distracted by having to wipe bits of volcanic ash out of their eyes.
Now, I know Tom was determined to find a bit of rough to pitch the ball into, but we did think he might be looking at something a little closer to home. One ball actually disappeared for a few minutes, which gave enough time for a quick drinks break before it came down again and apparently the local police received a record number of calls from people who thought they had spotted a UFO in the late afternoon Surbiton sky. But it was a devastating spell, which brought young Tom three wickets and tantalisingly leaves him on a hatrick ball. Marvellous. And so it was, finished off by Tommo’s deadly spell, the Wanderers were all out for a paltry 137.
I couldn't quite believe it myself. I didn't know whether to celebrate or just laugh myself to an early grave. Ron Googly sums up with:
Champagne moment was a toss up between three very good catches, but Chris gets the nod for his fine effort off Tommo’s Bowling. And of course a special mention to Tom for his virtuoso display of bowling that on another day might have netted him MOTM himself.
So, even though we lost the match - that top order and middle order and tail order collapse again - I can be glad of being the Googlies current leading wicket-taker and for getting an assist in the man of the match award. Nice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Election According to Ó Ceallaigh: Wish List

With the UK General Election date set for the 6th May, and all of the parties jostling for every last vote, the time is right for a bit of pre-Election dreaming. This dreaming takes the form of a list of demands directly addressed to the major political parties. Obviously, this is done on a ‘best fit’ principle and the party that best fits my demands wins my vote. Simple.
  1. The introduction of a Robin Hood tax. This would see the levying of a tax of around 0.05% on hedge funds, banks and other finance institutions that could be taken from profits et cetera, and redistributed to tackle poverty in the UK and abroad. Money could be spent on allowing many people from impoverished backgrounds in the UK receive free transportation or access to internet services.
  2. Government-sponsored scheme to allow teachers, medics and business/enterprise professionals to take a year’s sabbatical, with living costs subsidised, in order to assist in training programmes in the developing world. What many areas of the developing world needs is not aid or arms, but practical assistance that is often deprived of them by their governments.
  3. Extending the first time buyer and key worker benefits when buying houses in order to make the schemes more accessible. This could include schemes with houses being sold with 0% deposits and with the total cost of supposedly affordable housing capped to allow true affordability. It is only with a bold step that people can avoid their money evaporating through paying rent their whole lives.
  4. Encourage any foreign skilled workers to take up a position in the UK that makes the most of their training. It is an outrage that people that have trained as doctors, or who have a strong university education, are reduced to working as cleaners and traffic wardens. If there is a necessity for middle-skilled jobs to be filled, then the appropriate people should be prioritised by the Home Office.
  5. Too much of our food is being sourced from abroad at present. The UK should ensure that all British farmland is being used to the appropriate extent, regardless of EU quotas on such practices. Furthermore, trade with EU countries should not be prioritised over trade with non-EU countries. It is the responsibility of the UK to foster international links with Commonwealth countries to allow economic growth and to move away from EU protectionism.
It is worth noting that this is not necessarily what I think the future government of the UK should prioritise over any other issues, but rather is a representation of what I would personally like to see pushed forward.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"If—" by Rudyard Kipling


There's no particular reason for me posting this poem, but I often find the opening lines resonating in my mind. I think that often, at work, or perhaps when I am in places like Uganda, or even when the Underground unexpectedly terminates at Parson's Green en route to Wimbledon, those two lines, and the rest of the poem too, can be applied to aspects of my character.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man my son!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Another Day of Life' by Ryszard Kapuśiński

It was by chance that I found Ryszard Kapuśiński when looking through Amazon. With football’s African Cup of Nations (CAN) being in Angola, I was intrigued to find out more about the history of the country, especially in light of the Togolese football team being ambushed – my only previous interaction with anything Angolan was a Beyoncé wannabe, rapping in Portugese, on Nigerian TV being broadcast in Uganda.

I’ll spare you all of the details of the conflict itself, but understand that it was set against the backdrop of the cold war with three different rebel groups, the MPLA, the FNLA and UNITA, all vying to capture the capital, Luanda, by the time the Portugese officially withdrew on midnight of November 11th 1975.

Kapuśiński starts this short text from his hotel in Luanda and it is his focus on how everyday life is affected by the conflict that makes the text endearing. He describes how, in the absence of TV or radio, he uses the ships moored in the bay to tell him the likelihood of an FNLA attack as “when the bay emptied, [he] began preparing for the worst. [He] listened, trying to hear if the sound of artillery barrages were approaching”.

Again, instead of focussing on the war as a whole, he plays the role of a truer foreign correspondent, one with a heart, unlike the parodies seen in BBC’s Taking the Flak. In addition, the conflict and the fighting at the front, and the characters it involves, absorb him – one such example being Carlotta “who came with an automatic on her shoulder”. Carlotta, he goes on to say, “seemed beautiful. Why? Because that was the kind of mood we were in, because we needed it”.

The narrative was not what I expected. I was assuming that it would just be a collection of his reports from the front that he had sent back to
the offices of the Polish Press Agency; this is not the case. The text actually reads more like a very personal diary – travel writing with grit – that concentrates its energy on the humans caught up in war, rather than those making the war.

Not only is the text a useful narrative to hear from within the grander narrative of the Angolan conflict, with its Cubans, South Africans, Americans, CIA, Soviets and Portuguese, it is an essential guide to people’s lives, normal people’s lives, caught up in a struggle for daily existence.

By the end of his harrowing, and hungry, excursion to Angola, Kapuśiński simply says goodbye, brushes off his “mildewed suit” and puts on a tie, bound for Europe. A truly great text.

Welcome to Cape Town

Those inventive little rascals on my childhood estate in Warwick have been trying hard to forge an identity for the area of late. Although part of the Packmore Estate, the area around my parents' house often gets labelled as part of the 'Cape'.

The name relates to the estate built near to a part of the Grand Union Canal in Warwick that resembles the shape of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Well, in an effort to bring a little bit of African exoticism to Warwick, the local gifted and talented students, armed with a tin of blue spray paint have been hard at work. In addition to writing the postcode 'CV34' everywhere, they have sprayed 'Cape Town' on the Packmore side of the Priory Park tunnel.

I look forward to July's Warwick Folk Festival perhaps having more of an African influence this year; Ladysmith Black Mambazo could do a number or two?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Down and Out at the Victoria and Albert Pub


Station concourses are, to my generation of semi-nomadic Londoners, an integral part of the fabric of life. We don’t necessarily have cars in London, we have family outside of London and we still pop home regularly to see our mates and families – again, outside of London. We also most likely live in shared houses, listen to iPods and drink and have sex too much.

We are at an inter-stage between actually having settled into an ‘adult life’ and lingering in a ‘student life’. I can check one thing off the list – having found the ideal woman – but the house and car will have to wait.

Back to the station concourses: I seem to spend half of my life on them. When caught at a station with time to waste and a few quid in the pocket one tends to gravitate towards a bar. I have done this now – as I write I am sat in the majestically named Victoria and Albert at Marylebone Station.

In spite of the fact that this place should be alive with tales of travelling bounding from wall to wall and should have a friendly and jovial host stood pulling pints behind the bar regaling all-comers with anecdotes of his own, it quite simply falls short on both counts.

The barstaff all wear name badges – always a bad sign. One of these barmen doesn’t even yet warrant the right to have a name; he is simply christened ‘Trainee’. The area around the bar is full, but rather than customers seeming relieved to be welcoming in the weekend, it instead resembles the trading floor of the New York commodity exchange.

Unscrupulous ‘banker-types’ wrestle each other to see who can thrust their money the most firmly into the face of good old Trainee who, invariably, gets it wrong and serves the most recent arrival to the hoard incompetently. When, finally, the money reaches the till you are more likely to be greeted with a grunt than a ‘thank you’.

It is this type of personality-void pub that will start to tar all other bars with a bad reputation. Pubs with personality exist in forgotten quarters the whole of London over, yet, to a nomad like me, I seldom get the chance to investigate such places and have to settle for a grunting scrum of relics from the stone age.

On a marginally different tack, one can’t help but feel sad about the fact that, in the right hands, such a pub could be filled with character and not just in the form of A2-sized photocopies of black and white pictures of Great Central steam locomotives, but with a tangible soul that welcomes travellers.

Lets hope that the lasting impression of the Great British pub, for those who pass through the doors of the Victoria and Albert, is not of this.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Watercolour Doodling II: Carbis Bay



This was the second of my doodlings. I actually did this around the end of May and it is an imagined view of St Ives in Cornwall. I had just been there on holiday with Jeannie and the view is one that can be seen from the St Ives Branchline.

The picture is simple and not really a finished article at all and represents me fiddling around with watercolour pencils and trying to blend colours a little bit. I can't remember whether the band of blue at the top is meant to be the sky or whether it was just me trying to find a good sea colour.

I revisited this picture just before painting my imagined view of Saint Lucia and decided to rub-out some of the pencil sketch-lines. Having done this I realised that, although not technically wonderful, the painting wasn't as bad as I had remembered.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saint Lucia Imagined



So, this is my first foray into painting with watercolours. I am still an absolute novice when it comes to painting, but I am, I think, getting slightly better. I have a tendency to use too much pencil when sketching out the basic image with the result being a 'muddy' patch - see the bottom left-hand corner.


That aside, the picture is based primarily on a scene that I imagined, but, when I came to sketching it, I had trouble with getting the sea in perspective. Luckily, Jeannie had been 'home' to Saint Lucia and there was a picture amongst her snaps that I was able to use to get the right colours and perspective.

Voila! Saint Lucia as imagined by me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Serve: Journey to a Partnership


It was on the bus ride back from Kabale, heading north towards Mbarara, that Grigorios made a point of saying that Jeff wanted a chat about a small project. Jeff's idea was record the journey that the 2009 traveling party took to Uganda, through his photographs and my words, as a gift for our Principal, Liz, who was retiring that summer.

Work started in earnest in May with Jeff working hard on creating a template for a book and editing some of his pictures to ensure that they were at their most vibrant when printed - in one particular picture he managed to completely remove a mac-wearing individual.

I chiseled away at my tablet, okay, I typed on my MacBook, and before long the words completed and dropped into place.

I am incredibly proud of the results. Jeff's great design skills really made the most of the book-making software and, as a consequence, there is a real sense of professionalism evident in the finished product.

The book is available for general sale via www.blurb.com website, with the majority of the cost going towards the production and the excess going to the Partnership Fund. It is worth noting that myself and Jeff have not made a penny off this book and neither will we!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Forgive us Father...

Forgive us Father,
For we have sinned.

Today we woke up and saw
Snow.
A sleek layer of pure white, ice cold
Cotton wool…

And we moaned.
And we cussed the heavens.
And we threw up our hands with vexation.

We waited whilst watching the breakfast news
Only to learn of whether
The 131 or the District Line were running.

Meanwhile, all along, you knew of people
Who had spent the night beneath dusty stars
Nursing wounds. Nursing chaos
On an evening spent praying out of doors
Because their tin shacks
Are
No
More.

Shame on us.


If you want to help with relief effort please visit:
www.yele.org.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Uganda Diaries: By Way of Epilogue

So, it is now January 2010. Looking back at my diary of the time I spent in Uganda I can see how abruptly it ends. In my diary my journey finishes high in the sky over Libya. In spite of how strange this may be, I feel that it is in some ways fitting.

It is fitting that the plane never touches down again in London as I feel it was written – maktub – that the moment I got on the underground in Wimbledon, a sizeable amount of my heart would remain in Africa and, more specifically, Kabale for the rest of my life.

A plane touching down so easily can represent the end of a journey, but, as I was writing that last entry, I knew that this was in no way an ending. To revert to cliché, it was just the beginning.

In the months since coming back, a multitude of things have happened. Our party leader, and then principal, Liz, has retired and we have someone new leading us, Raj. Furthermore, I ceased just to be another mzungu heading over to Africa to see what goes on. My relationship with Kigezi High School, Kabale and Uganda has become a lot more purposeful and rewarding.

In some respects everyone wants to go to Africa to help; to help the children; to help the people; to work with aids orphans. There is so much more to it than this – it is not just some fascination with the academic pseudo-theories of ‘the Other’, neither is it a manifestation of the white man’s guilt for the Irish never enslaved anyone (think no Blacks, no dogs, no Irish).

What this trip has represented for me is the opportunity to work with people who are truly appreciative of any help you can provide. To work with people who have a genuine interest in becoming members of a global community and partnership. To immerse yourself in the local customs and ways of being rather than trying to westernise them. To say “no” to the idea of aid being the road to empowerment and “yes” to universal accessibility to education as a means to empowerment.

It would be easy for me if I really wanted to make this partnership about the imposition of Western values upon a developing country. I could go to Kabale with money I have saved, give everyone some food, some clothes and some loose change, but this would achieve nothing. Aid is a form of relief, not a permanent solution. This partnership is about empowerment and creating a level playing field for a small group of people in a community in Uganda. A playing field that is void of the politics imposed by borders that cut across God’s earth dividing us and keeping us apart.

With this in mind I continue to assist in the planning for the trip in April this year. I can reflect on having made some genuine friendships as a result of the partnership and not just with Kigezi staff, but with members of the town’s community and, interestingly, with my colleagues at my college with whom I had never really had contact before.


“Life changing” is a cliché – “soul enhancing” is more fitting.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...