Friday, 5 February 2010

From Town to The Village

The Village

The roadside butcher in Bugembe

Deep breath: this weekend I'm off to Kampala, Uganda's capital. Jinja has offered a fairly gentle introduction to Uganda. You only have have to wonder ten minutes down the road and you find yourself by the Nile. It takes less than a minute to cross a road and more than likely if you hop on a boda (scooter taxi) you'll get off the other end in one piece.

It's not all palm trees and bananas though, Jinja has some grotty parts and I am starting to learn that a certain level of chaos underpins most life in Uganda. For the past couple of weeks I've been going back and forth to Bugembe, a large village that is part of Jinja's urban sprawl. Village may be misleading, there isn't really an ounce of rural life here. The cows graze on the rubbish dump and an average night apparently consists of gunshots and your dog being locked in the latrine by thieves.

On Sunday a few of us travelled out to Harriet's (Harriet had been working on the Ugandan side of the charity but has just left for Finland to live with her husband) village, two hours east of here. Mud huts, no electricity, woman carrying water on their head - on the surface this was such cliche of what you expect from an African village it felt like it had been set up for tourists. The reality was white visitors were so rare the children hadn't even learnt to shout 'muzungu bye bye' (exceptionally rare in Uganda), instead they just followed you around wherever you went like a scene from the Pied Piper.

Harriet was able to provide the insider's tour and within a few hours we'd been introduced to half the population. The immediate impression of rural idyll was deceptive and on meeting various groups it became apparent a certain amount of boredom prevailed: Men sat around drinking; children were lucky if they'd got through the first few years of primary school; girls married extremely young (age ten was the earliest noted); and the woman seemed desperate to have outsiders come in and - amongst other things - teach farming techniques to improve on their subsistence lifestyle. You hear alot of people talking about how educating women in Africa could be the key to development and here, this seemed more evident than anywhere.

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