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Showing posts from January, 2011

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 07:02 09/04/2010

Amazingly, we have reached Friday and suddenly the sense that time has escaped me trickles through my veins. I am sure that Greg and Jeff are feeling this too as today is the last full day of decorating that they have open to them before we head off to Lake Bunyonyi tomorrow afternoon.
With that said, I was the first down to breakfast again. In front of me I have a couple of 'Spanish' omelettes, stumpy bananas and a cup of black tea. I have been sticking faithfully to excluding any lactose - as well as the usual gluten - from my diet and, to be honest, I am gagging for some proper milk. 
Regardless, with my breakfast in front of me, I feel at home here. The view from the verandah of the Green Hills Hotel, with its high vantage point over Kabale, is a view that will forever be visible in my mind's eye. At this time of day, with the low-lying mist blanketing the valley, it is beautiful - truly beautiful.

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 19:15 08/04/2010

The darkness has crept along the tops of the valleys once more, like black ink seeping through blotting paper, and I'm settling down to a cold Fanta after a busy day.
Just when I feel that everything is slowing down, Carrie presents me with the entries for the poetry contest. So much for an early night!
There are roughly thirty poems for me to go through and, having cast a cursory glance through them, some are of a really high quality. Perhaps I can arrange with Sebi to make an anthology of their work to go into the KHS library.
Now to dinner - what a short entry - I'm guessing it will be another 'African Buffet'.

Cobra Verde by Werner Herzog

Having recently read and reviewed the novel 'The Viceroy of Ouidah' by Bruce Chatwin, I sought out a film adaptation on LoveFilm. What I found was a German-language film called 'Cobra Verde' directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski as Don Francisco Manoel da Silva.
The film, as with the novel, starts in Brazil. We see a dusty and desolate land ravaged by drought. The near silence during those opening scenes followed by the snarling expression on Kinski's face serves well to set the scene for what is, for all intents and purposes, a very dark tale. The sense of foreboding in Kinski's face, though, does not then prepare you for how two-dimensional the film's characters  and story line become.
Chatwin's novel, as I have discussed previously, does remarkably well to weave such a rich tapestry of characters into such a small number of words. Herzog's film falls short of this. Rather than seeing the complexities of da Silva's character and…

Les Journaux Africains: Edirisa, Kabale, Uganda - 16.10 08/04/2010 - Part Two

As Grace walked off into the dust of the main road, my dinner date arrived. By way of saying thank you for the lovely birthday cake, I offered to buy lunch at the Little Ritz for Sister Eva, a hardworking and open-minded nun with Caritas Internationalis. We both went for the option of grilled chicken, chips, salad and Fanta.
After lunch, we headed off to the Catholic convent school on the edge of town. As we bounced down the dusty backstreets in Sr Eva's Nissan car I thought to myself how liberating it was to be away from the main group of staff and students for a while and to be doing some exploring alone.
The convent school, named after a local bishop whose name escapes me already, was of great contrast to the Islamic primary school that I had visited earlier in the week. There was secure compound with a guard, neat, uniformly build buildings with a house for the nuns and dorms for some of the children. The gardens were well tendered and the buildings had windows.
I was given a tou…

Les Journaux Africains: Edirisa, Kabale, Uganda - 16.10 08/04/2010 - Part One

Being that my last entry into this journal was made at nine o'clock this morning, you might get a hint at how busy I have been.
The day started with a misty stroll down into the town. The air was particularly heavy this morning, pregnant with the threat of heavy rain, but this gently subsided by the time things got going at Restore Lost Hope - a centre for street children opposite the Little Ritz in the town.
Before getting into our activities, we were invited to introduce ourselves to children. After each of us had said our names, the children would beat out a rhythm on a drum and clap their hands. The children then, accompanied by the adult helpers, danced and sang a song of introduction, native to the local Abanyakigezi people.
My activity focused on storytelling and I had Grace Kamie helping out, along with Thomas and Tugce - two of my students from the UK. Many of the children at the centre could only speak the local Rukiga language and so, thinking on my feet, I devised a plan …

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 09:00 08/04/2010

The expression 'Street Children' conjures up some interesting mental images and, indeed, some very sad mental images - ragged clothes, dirty faces, et cetera.
After one of his solo visits to Uganda, Greg found a small centre called Restore Lost Hope (RLH), just opposite the Little Ritz, in Kabale town centre. The purpose of RLH is to provide some sort of learning space for children whose parents, if they have any, can't afford to pay for education and so would otherwise be left to roam the streets of Kabale until they were old enough to get a job.
This morning, we - a group of teachers, students and Grace, who will be acting as my interpreter - are heading down to the centre, not really knowing what to expect, or how things will work out.
Myself, Tash and Hanka did some preliminary planning a few weekends back, involving a carousel of different activities. I'll be dealing with Storytelling and who knows what will happen.

Les Journaux Africains: Edirisa, Town Centre, Kabale, Uganda - 18.50 07/04/2010

I spent a decent amount of time this afternoon setting up a creative writing competition for the Senior 6 class with their teacher, Sebi, and Stefan, one of the WMSF group. Stef and myself had come up with a plan earlier in the week whereby we would share a double lesson with Sebi's group and look at creative writing around the themes of 'Freedom', 'Celebration', 'Noise' and 'Singing' - we had been looking at the poem 'This Room' by Imtiaz Dharker.
The students had seemed a bit skeptical about creative writing at first as the Ugandan Literature curriculum doesn't allow for much creativity - it is worth noting that the Literature curriculum in the UK was similar until quite recently. With Sebi on board, an amateur poet and at times a lone voice in the school, we know that by Thursday evening's deadline for entries that there will be plenty to judge.
The lesson had to finish early as a whole-school assembly had been called following the …

Haiti: Do you remember?

Eske ou sonje Ayiti?

It was a year ago that I woke up, looked out of my bedroom window, and immediately started to moan about the snow that had fallen overnight. I busied myself worrying about how I was to get to work through the mounds of white stuff that had fallen. By the time I had gotten to work, the snow was the last thing on my mind.
A devastating earthquake had hit Haiti and a country, already on its knees, found itself beaten down further. My only response at the time was to donate money to the Yéle Foundation and to write a poem, rebuking myself for my preoccupation with the weather. As the pictures came in I became upset, frustrated and angry. I wanted to be there. I wanted to help more than I was able to.
My immediate frustration was taken out on the prattling of my liberal friends using their usual litany of '-isms' rather than worrying about assisting with the humanitarian suffering in some way. I have learnt; liberals can be as conservative, or stubborn, as the neo…

Les Journaux Africains: Green Hills Hotel, Kabale, Uganda - 10.31 07/04/2010

Our students are starting to get into the swing of things now, and the tiredness of being on the trip is manifesting itself two ways: firstly that the dark rings are showing around their eyes and, secondly, that one by one the students are taking it in turns to be ill. 
Regardless, no visit to Kabale is complete without dragging a band of students along to the Wisdom Day Nursery in the town. Feeling a little bit weary myself, we headed down the hill towards, what I referred to last year as, the 'Poor Quarter' of town. This route takes you past the imaginatively titled 'Pork and Beer' bar with its pig carcass hanging outside beneath the veranda, along a dusty red road inhabited by confused chickens, feral pigs, people going about their daily business and numerous staring eyes.
As we arrive at the nursery, the kids are having a whole-nursery play and learn session outside. As they see us arrive though the corrugated iron gates, silly things start to happen. Looking fixated…

The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin

When you pick up this book it is hard to believe that such a thin text will, simply speaking, have such a gripping storyline full of genuine intrigue for the reader. In a mere 100 pages the novel goes full circle in a space of time that some novels take just to get going.
The story centres around Francisco Manuel da Silva, a Brazilian, who, after having come from relative poverty in his native land, finds wealth in the Kingdom of Dahomey - modern day Bénin - as a slaver.
The story is not a straightforward rags-to-riches tale, instead it highlights the ugliness of the protagonist's character and trade as he goes about befriending the eccentric King of Dahomey, before things begin to fall apart for him. 
By the end of the text you are left unsure as to whether one should feel pity or feel relieved that da Silva's sordid existence has come to an end.
Some might argue that the novel does not do enough to highlight the dark manner in which da Silva makes his fortune, but I think the su…