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.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Paul Collingwood: Underrated.

I am, deep down, a cricket romanticist. I love, above all else, tense Test match cricket. The thrill of not knowing from one moment to the next whether a slender edge is going to found by a bowler directing the ball to the slips; whether, with split-second decision-making, the batsman decides to leave the ball entirely or play a powerful hook to the boundary.

Recently, having revisited the end of the Cardiff Ashes test from 2009, I couldn’t help but notice that I had completely allowed Paul Collingwood, and his contribution to that match, pass me by.

In that instance, England’s second innings, his stand of 74 laid solid foundation from which the remainder of the tail, most famously Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson, were able to survive until time simply ran out for Australia. Collingwood was able to last for a remarkable 344 minutes facing 245 balls – only Simon Katich lasted longer at the crease.

It is not this innings alone that has endeared Collingwood to me though. More recently, England found themselves once more with their backs to the wall against South Africa in the third test of the series. South Africa had put on 291 to which England responded with 273. South Africa’s second innings was a superb 447/7d and still left one day and a session for England to survive.

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook had done a good job of providing England with a reasonable response, but they were both long gone by the end of the fourth day. With Jonathon Trott out too soon and Kevin Pieterson falling short with the bat again, the baton was passed to Collingwood and his equally as stable partner Ian Bell.

With Collingwood again able to fully control the crease with a calm and sensible 40 from 188 balls, Bell was able to respond in kind and an air of stability came over the England Innings.

It is undoubted that without Collingwood’s contribution in the middle of the order, with his measured approach to shot selection, the rest of the batsmen would have stood little chance in surviving until the end of the fifth day, thus securing the draw.

In this match it may be Graham Onions’ ultra-defensive play at the death and Bell’s 78 runs that grab the headlines, but I think the man who has really shown his mettle since the middle of last year, when it really matters, is Paul Collingwood.
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