Sunday, 24 January 2010

One Week In

I am living a cycle of sweat, dust and dehydration. I've now been here nearly a week, still based in Jinja where it looks like I'll continue to be for at least another week.

Just a brief background: Jinja is Uganda's second largest city - though more of a town - on the northern shore of Lake Victoria. It's also the location of the source of the Nile so a bit of tourist hub - rafting, bungee jumping etc. Southern Uganda is fairly prosperous compared to the North though quite a few charities and NGOs work here (including the one I've been volunteering for back home & the reason I am here).

Most of the locals are either friendly or indifferent. You don't really get hassled except by the scooter (boda boda) taxi drivers and the kids who shout 'Mzungu' at you, meaning white person (though I think the literal translation is pink & sweaty).

This week has definitely been about settling in. Highlights in no particular order:

1) Introducing the high-kick to Ugandan dancing with moderate success. Neo-colonialism at it's best.

2) Eating goat intestine thinking it was squid.
3) Lying by the pool of a 5* star hotel, overlooking the Nile getting a textbook Doxycycline rash from sun exposure.
4) Asking a local prostitute if she wants a dance-off (the circumstances of this were less unethical than they sound).
5) Trying to convince a local DJ that I'd be the perfect candidate for Uganda's equivalent to 'Desert Island Discs'. (Still working on that one).

(This computer isn't up to the task of uploading photos. Will do next time when have better connection.)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


I arrived in Jinja (south east Uganda) on Monday and just coming out of my post flight stupor. Ethiopian Airlines surpassed all expectations. It was undoubtedly one of the most uncomfortable flights of my life and was not helped by some Zimbabwean princess* loading all her hand luggage onto my lap and proceeding to spend most the flight with her head in a sick bag.

Before we had even boarded a massive ho ha developed between some militant
Heathrow officials, half a dozen American missionaries and a young African couple. One of the missionaries actually bolted over the seats to come to the couple's aid. I think it had something to do with baby milk. It turned out the Christians were actually occupational heroes. On arrival in Ethiopia they averted a potential catastrophe by rescuing a man who got his shoelaces caught in the escalator. In one swift synchronised movement they came together and hoisted him to safety. They'd obviously done this kind of thing before.

Otherwise it's been a fairly gentle introduction and getting on with the charity work. Just about to head off to a meeting now - haven't said that for a while!

*This was based on a phone conversation I overheard but was later disproven when it materialised she'd been sitting on her video camera for half the journey. If a real princess can feel a pea through a 100 or so mattresses then she was definitely an impostor.

Ethiopia: Dusty and monotonal - that's my kind of landscape.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Travel towel: tick

I am so damn organised. I even managed to find a money belt, never mind it already has a broken zip and the material is so thin it'll evaporate in the sun.

Up until yesterday – blaming a cold and adverse weather conditions – my preparation had almost entirely consisted of reading what I consider to be one of the best books written on Uganda (though having only read half of another I may not be much of an authority). I'm not going to write the title because you will think I got it free in Cosmo. Instead here is the link to a review.

Now, all packed, I am sitting on my bed, wired on sudafed, tissues stuffed up my nose and feeling rather chuffed with myself, as if packing a bag were some kind of noble achievement. 36 hours until take off. That should give me plenty of time to get to London, get drunk and come back home again when I realise I've forgotten my passport.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

I am starting to feel organised. I have put everything in a pile.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I have no interesting opening line but if I don't start this thing now I never will. The plan is to use this to jot down notes and post photos while I'm away. You know, something to show the grandchildren. The departure day is finally in sight, Uganda here I come. To be honest I'm crapping my pants but I've just purchased my travel insurance (backpacker's GOLD, oh yeah) so I'm sure everything will be A-ok.