Some years ago I heard of a family who would all write their ‘A-Z’ on the way home at the end of every holiday and trip. The idea is the find one word for each letter which encapsulates some element of the trip. It’s fun to look back on because you include details which you will forget over time! So here is my Uganda A-Z:
Altar. One night we went to a house party which began with a communion service. The service was lovely, and at the end, the altar became the table where the food was served. And then after that, the table was removed and the space became the dance floor! These three things flowed so naturally into eachother and I think we have a great deal to learn about having fun in church!
Bus ride for plastic chairs. We went on a very bumpy bus ride for 3 and a half hours. We went down mud tracks rather than the busy route through the cities to find the source of the Nile. When we got there, it was decidedly too wet for a boat trip so we turned around and went on a hunt for plastic furniture for the nursery classroom instead! The bus shook so rigerously that by the end of the day, my Fitbit thought I’d done 23000 steps!
Carbohydrates. So much rice! And potato! And thick root veg! And bread! It’s not the kind of diet I’m used to, but for people who rarely eat 3 meals a day, it makes sense to have as much heavy stuff as you can!
Decorating. You’ve heard about this already. But it really was a fundamental part of the trip!
Excitement, especially about pencil cases!
French plaits. Keeping your hair out of your face when you’re busy, dirty and very very warm is essential. There were two young teachers on the trip who had this down to a fine art, and one of them did my hair which was lovely. One of the best things about trips like this are the new friendships that are formed.
Grasshoppers were in season. At the party with the altar/table/dance floor, grasshoppers were offered round. For those who were brave enough to try (not me), apparently they were salty and crunchy. It’s a delicacy and a real treat beacuse they are only in season twice a year. On the day we left there were so many jumping about at the Guesthouse that I was quite glad to leave!
Hokey Kokey. The kids loved singing and playing with us, and once one member of the group introduced them to the Hokey Kokey they couldn’t get enough! It was commented upon that the last thing one would expect to hear in a rural Ugandan village was the Hokey Kokey!
Ida. In the A-Z exercise I try not to do too many names otherwise it risks turning into a long glowing list of those on the team. But in the preparations for going to Uganda, we were told about a lady referred to as ‘The Blessed Ida’, and having met her, I can agree that she deserves the title and she definitely deserves a mention! Ida is the head of the women’s project in the village and she is strong, innovative and encouraging. She accompanied us most days and was a real key in getting to know the structures and more detailed workings of the area.
Jackfruit. Anyone who knows me well will know that I rarely eat bananas in the UK. This is because I know how much better they taste when they are ripened on a tree rather than in a dark corner of a cargo boat! The same goes for pineapples. They just taste better. One of my favourite things about Africa is the fruit, and I love trying local fruit wherever I go. This trip I tried jackfruit for the first time. It looks absolutely fascinating and tastes lovely, if a bit strange! It looks a bit like the inside of an alien egg or something!
Knitting. I am not a great knitter, and I didn’t have much to do with the knitting teaching on the trip, but I did love hearing the stories and watching more and more women walking around with knitting needles in hand! Shena taught the ladies to knit. Apparently, some wanted her to do it for them so she left them alone until they tried themselves. Armed with this knowledge, I aimed to teach the kids how to do loom bands but not to do the whole thing for them unless they were very little. Speaking of which…
Loom bands. I will be dreaming about weaving little coloured elastic bands for many days to come.
Mucky. The red, clay-like soil gets very dusty in the heat and very muddy in the rain. We got utterly filthy. Even after a shower, the white towels at the Guesthouse turned red. I think it’s a good sign of how stuck in we got!
Naps. Even in the most unlikely of places and on the bumpiest of transport! We started photographing eachother. Here’s me asleep on the back of the bus when we were trying to find plastic furniture.
And here is Nathan on a bench in Dubai airport.
Ontological Chnage. This may be stretching letter ‘O’ a bit, but as the time went on I think Nathan and I were ever aware that our Priesting was getting closer. It was very useful to have some time away in the run up, to spend some good quality time with God and to do something completely different.
Pit Latrine. Some managed not to use one at all but I was not so lucky. The only loo available in Kalule is a pit latrine, which was an experience and a half. We would go in pairs so that as one went the other could stand guard as there wasn’t a door.
Quick cricket and other sports. The kids really enjoyed being able to play with proper equipment and try new stuff. However, the lesson was learned that it you try to teach kids cricket and rounders in the same day, the next morning they will be a bit confused and want to pass the cricket bat into the next person in their team after they have hit the ball!
Richard. Another person who absolutely needs mentioning. Richard is from Entebbe and took time off work to drive us about in his car. He was a huge blessing, both practically and in terms of his wisdom and knowledge. In a country where many men don’t do much at all and let the women do all the work, he is counter-cultural and a great role model for the young boys in the school.
Sophie the lion. We had a trip to a zoo on one of our days off and I was amazed when a lion ran towards us at the call of her name! She was happy to be stroked through the fence for a couple of minutes before she started growling a bit.
Taxis. As well as Richard’s car, some of us would get taxis to Kalule from Luwero every morning. They’re more like minibuses than taxis, with extra seats added in and people squashed up as much as possible. They were great fun and we got to know eachother well! Sometimes we would get chatting to the locals and on one memorable occasion, one member was thrown up on by a little boy who had just finished a bottle of fanta.
Uganda Waragi. Local hooch! I wasn’t going to drink on the trip, but when a bottle of local spirit was produced for is to try I thought it would be rude not to! It was very strong and tasted a bit like gin. It comes in 100ml plastic sachets and well as bottles, which we brought home for our drinks cabinet.
Very joyful. What makes Africa special for me is the way is the way singing is so joyful. I had a very special encounter on my first ever trip. There is something about the rhythm, volume and joy of African worship that God speaks to me through. He says ‘Use music to worship me’. The joy in the music is so very wonderful, and I would love to just stand there and sing forever.
Welcome. I wrote about this is my first Uganda blog but it needs saying again. The welcomes we received were on a whole new level. The Arrival at the altar/table/dance floor house saw a ribbon cutting and confetti throwing!
Extremely Grateful. (How many words begin in X, really?!) I am so very blessed to have been able to come on this trip. I need to thank my incumbent, Mark, and my churches for giving me the time to be away, and The Educational Trust and Holy Trinity Redgate for their financial contributions.
Your heart. (Ok, I am pushing things with these letters now). In assembly the week we left, I heard the school song for the first time. How I managed to be in Formby for a year without hearing it is a mystery. But I certainly know it now! We spent a lot of time teaching the chorus to various groups of people and it goes like this:
Go with your heart,
open your eyes
Believe you can be,
hold hands and dance with me.
It’s a real earworm and it will be stuck in my head for a long time to come!
Zzzzip. The three teaching staff from Trinity St Peter’s were just excellent and took classes in Uganda with very little notice. They taught phonics (and I joined in!) making it interesting and fun. The word they use to teach the letter ‘Z’ is ‘zip’.
So that’s my Uganda trip in a nutshell.
Back to Priesting retreat now, more to come soon.