14 October 2006
Finally, a message from Africa. I have arrived safely and feel completely at ease here. This is what I have wanted for years and finally I am here. After an almost 10 hour flight to Uganda I arrived in the morning at 6 o’clock. There Dominique and Ryon (other volunteers) were waiting for me with a handwritten sign. After getting acquainted, we got into a taxi (car) and then boarded the next taxi bus 10 minutes late. A crowded Volkswagen van that would give you acute thrombosis so little space, but we just stuffed ourselves and headed for Kampala (the capital).
On the way we got off to visit someone and arrange for the school bus to take us to St Paul Kaaso in the afternoon. After that we got on a bodaboda (scooter) that tore between the traffic to bring us Mazoukoes (white people) in the capital. Luckily my legs are still there, the traffic is rather chaotic here, but the driver (probably not yet 16 years old) drove us deftly through all the mini cracks between trucks and I don’t know.
Around 8 o’clock we arrived in Kampala. It all looks very poor, but despite the poverty people are generally happy.
They are cheerful and very helpful. Changed money and had a delicious breakfast, then met a man from the Rotary Club. The Rotary Club of Uganda sponsors KAASO, and that is necessary too. Introducing myself and having a chat, after that it was just waiting….and waiting. By now I am used to African time, it mainly means waiting…….
I bought a phone so I can text you all, because I don’t think calling is possible (the technique stands for nothing). We also had to pick up a moped and get food. To keep a long story short at 9 o’clock in the evening we finally arrived at the school. The children were waiting and were all yelling and screaming. It was great to hear. Unfortunately we had no electricity so I couldn’t see much. It was a very warm welcome and the children were so enthusiastic, really great.
All the stuff was brought to my room (looks neat) and eaten. Dominique is the director of St Paul Kaaso. His wife Rose is the ‘headmistress’. 7 Years ago they started the school, 30 pupils and part of their house as a classroom. Now the school consists of 410 pupils and there are about 8 classrooms. There is a girls’ sleeping area (much too small for all those girls), one for the boys and one for the younger children. Many children sleep at school because they live too far away. A lot of children don’t have parents anymore and also few family members to take care of them. Fortunately, the school exists to give them a good education and to offer them security and joy.
On Thursday I introduced myself in all classes and answered all the questions the children wanted to know. They are all excited when you enter the classroom, and start clapping or laughing. The class schedules are very strict and well organised. The children start school at 7 o’clock (some even start school at 5 o’clock). They get English, Luganda (the language we speak here), Science and Mathematics. The school day lasts until 5 o’clock and the higher classes have lessons until 9 o’clock in the evening. Each class is crowded and the children share benches and chairs, they are very driven to learn and even though the school is not subsidized by the government this is one of the best schools in the region. The teachers are nice and open, and work for a minimal wage which is certainly inferior to the good work they do.
I am very tired in the evening, all those impressions and information. Sleep well under my mosquito net…..
And wake up Friday morning from the heat. I almost get out of bed. The temperature is lovely here and certainly not too hot, but it’s pretty warm in that sleeping bag. Today is the day of the party. It was Ryon’s birthday on Thursday and it has to be celebrated (Ryon is 20, he is from America, I am very happy he is here, he teaches me a lot and is very cosy), and this will be my welcome party. Not so much done in the morning. We get breakfast around 9 o’clock (casave, popcorn, everything except my favourite crusli with yoghurt, but it tastes fine), at 3 o’clock we have lunch (rice, fish, irish potatoos, matoki, spagetti, in short a lot of choice) and at 9 o’clock in the evening we eat warm again (rice, spagetti, matoki, potatoes, chicken etc). Between lunchtime we took a nice nap and then started to decorate the room (classroom).
This feast costs the school a fortune, all teachers have to make a small contribution, with this money they can buy food for about a month. I felt rather burdened, but still they wanted to do this. After decorating the room, huge boxes were brought in, the DJ had arrived. The food was brought and the party could start………..
I have never experienced such a party, it was great. There was singing but of course a lot of dancing. Lovely dancing to reggea music (which you also get tired of after 4 hours). Luckily Ryon took his laptop with him and put on Shakira (my hips don’t lie), the kids went completely crazy. It is their favourite song and we danced all the way to the leplazurus. All children were allowed to be at the party, so you can imagine how busy it was. Nice dancing with the children and enjoying. This was just a party. Around one o’clock or one of my baskets went down and had a lovely sleep.
Next week I will be teaching a bit and help out in the classes. My Luganda is progressing slowly, but I expect to speak it fluently after a few weeks (with my great language lump).
The school is not rich at all. They can use all sorts of things. Pencils, pens, cleaning sponges, balloons, crayons…. mention it. I’ve raised quite a lot of money and with that the school can move forward for a while. The money is mainly used for the new boys’ dormitory, which is bulging out and there is an urgent need for more space. It would be great if you could send some parcels of stuff. Not huge things. Sharpeners, stickers, tea towels, towels. You can’t call it that crazy, but they don’t have anything here…
I love it here and hope it stays that way. Everybody a big kiss and lots of love
Welaba (wee-la-bah) Bye