Back to School...

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
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Trip End Apr 14, 2006


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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Here's another week- I'll try to keep it as short as possible!

On Friday, Stephen was driving us to the British High Commision so we could register as British citizens and let them know we're in the country (what with the elections coming up and all, it could all go a bit crazy). So we walked to school to get a lift, and then drove into town... the traffic was really bad and we went via the bank so we didnt get there for a while. We stopped off at 'garden city' on the way too- a bit shopping mall with coffee shops and everything- definitely catering for muzungus- I think I saw more white people there than the whole time I've been here! It'd be nice to go and have a look around soon though. When we arrived at the High Commision, at 1pm, we were told that on a Friday they close at 12 for the weekend. Huh. Alright for some! We did manage to pick up the photos of us white water rafting though, because their offices are nearby. They're really good! Theres one of us all in the boat, which is vertical, surrounded by great white water. Fab.

By that time, Stephen had driven off, so we got a taxi down into town (its about a 15min walk) Went to Steers again- burger and chips this time which was good! We met up with Phiona, and everyone else went to the cinema, this time to really see Narnia. I didnt want to have to go back into town tomorrow so I went to the internet instead. I think they all enjoyed it though- it was Phiona's first time at the cinema! I spent the next 3 hours in the internet cafe, expecting the others to come back or at least let me know when they were heading home. Unfortunately I got a text at 7pm, saying they're already in the taxi home. Wouldnt be a problem, but I had the keys!

So I quickly signed off at marched my way down to the taxi rank- it was just getting dark, but there were hundreds of people. At times I had to literally squeeze my way through the crowd- and everyone was bustling to get to wherever they were going. Kind of wished I had put my money belt containing my passport and tickets on rather than just leaving it in my bag now. But all was fine- I didnt 'lose' anything, and just about remembered where to go. Very glad of my height too- it meant I could actually see where I was going. I weaved my way through the many taxis to get to the area where the taxis to Nansana left- by this time it was definitely dark, but couldnt see taxis in the right place, just a crowd of people. So I went to the nearest taxi and asked them where I had to go, and he pointed me over to a bus. Unusual, but i thought I'd check. The bus driver said no- and pointed me to the huge mass of people... I checked twice and apparently all the taxis to Nansana were in use and its very popular at this time of night!

Unsure of quite how long I was going to have to wait there, but at least assured that this was the right place, I stood alone for about 5 or 10 minutes until people started to look towards an approaching bus. Following suit, I walked briskly towards the bus, and when it stopped, jostled and pushed my way through to the door. I've never been in such a big crowd of people so desperate to get anywhere- and I'm glad the bus was there otherwise I'm sure I would have fallen over! I was almost at the door (all the seats were already taken) when a- for want of a better word- fat lady stuck her arm out in front of me and basically levered herself onto the bus, pushing me back in the process. Fortunately I wriggled and squirmed my way through, and I made it on.

In the isles there were single seats that folded down, to pack as many people on as possible- I shared one with another man. A bit of a squeeze, but I felt sorry for the man in front of me, who was sandwiched between the aforementioned fat lady and another one on the other side. As we set off, there were cries of 'muzungu blah blah blah'- I dont understand Lugandan, but everyone found it very amusing. I think they were a bit surprised to see me using public transport on my own.

Anyway half way back to Nansana, someone behind me had to get off- so we had to get off to make space. As I worked my way back on, I to my horror saw that the stakes had changed- I was now the one sharing with the 2 fat ladies. I sat down, and looked miserably from the few inches of seat left next to me, and the few feet of this large lady that had to fit in it. I wasnt prepared for her solution though! She literally sat on me and then wriggled until I had been shunted over enough for her to fit. I found it quite amusing though, and as one of the men said, 'this is one of those things you tell people back in England!' Before too long though, more people get off and I end up with my own seat. I called out 'stage' (meaning stop the bus) because last time, I tried the Lugandan word, got it totally wrong, and got more than one strange look at coming out with this strange word. So this time they understood, and let me off, to get straight on a boda boda home. Never been on one in the dark before- it was quite fun- you never knew when you were going to hit a pothole/car/other boda boda driver although I was very grateful they had a good headlight. It was nice sitting on the back, zooming along, gazing up at the stars... until I looked down and saw a lone headlight coming straight at us! A couple of swerves later we were out of harms way.

When I arrived home, the kids living opposite us came and waved, saying 'Welcome home, teacher Sarah', as they do everytime we get back home, now that they know our names. The others had got home an hour ago and were waiting at church for me- I felt a bit bad and they were rather quiet but I think (hope) it was because they were tired not because they were mad at me. I didnt eat anything for dinner because I wasnt really hungry and it was already 9:30 before we sat down- you're not meant to eat after 8pm you know.

On Saturday everyone else went to town, so I had a looong lie in, made scrambled eggs for breakfastand did some washing. Nice lazy morning! Everyone else got back around 2 or 3, and then we went out to Beatrice's house again. I didnt take my book (nooo) so instead of just sitting there for 4 hours, Esther and I made up a story. Dont think we ever finished it, but the beginning was good! After goat for dinner, we watched another pirate film- Jackie Chan 'Who am I?' It was good but on about 5 occasions the words 'this is a promotional copy only. If you have rented or purchased this film, please dial this number' scrolled across the screen. So unless Beatrice is an undercover film critic, I think it was a pirate copy. A lot cheaper though I guess!

We woke up late on Sunday- I was quite tired, despite having done nothing the day before. But off we went to church. After much argument, we kicked the builders out of the house- we wanted to lock the gates, but mainly because they keep taking our water, which we have to pay to refil, for their cement. They keep saying they'll pay us for it, but never do, so we locked them out, and went to church, ignoring their pleas for the keys. The sermon was about manipulation, but then he went on to hint at who people should vote for :D I did tune out a bit again, but I opened my bible (I couldnt just sit there) and the first verse I read was about not tuning out, but listening all the time. So I took heed and listened. It wasnt that bad really.

When we got back home, the builders were back in, taking our water! They had climbed over the wall and then unlocked the gate, wheeled in their barrows, and proceeded to help themselves to water. We were not happy bunnies and refused to give them any more- emily and karen sat by the water tank guarding it so they didnt take a sneaky jerry can. Liz and I did baked potatoes, tuna and beans for lunch which was really good. We were all exhasted, and couldnt really be bothered to do anything this afternoon, but Stephen wanted us to go this childrens party in Kasubi, one of the slums. So 15 minutes after lunch he honks the horn, and we go and tell the builders to get out (again). They refuse (to be fair I dont think they speak much English) so we go and get Stephen to sort them out. He has this HUGE argument with the head builder in Lugandan, and walks away fuming (and shaking) calling them fools, and proceeds to phone the landlord to tell him to fire his builders. They're still here though.

The party was at the Family Believers Church, (the one in the video for those of you who've seen it) in the slums of Kasubi. When we got there, (40 minutes late) there were about 3 children, but by the end there were about 45 so that was good. We sang songs, and introduced ourselves. Some of the children went up and sang songs on there own which was nice. We were going to watch a film, but just then, the power cut out, so we took them outside and played games until we got the electricity back. Christof, the main guy at the church was great with the children, and you could tell how much he enjoyed being with them. We sat down to watch the mask (also pirated) and were given a bag of (cooked) rice- but then Stephen said we had to go, to get back to set up the film for our church. We gave our rice back because I dont think all the children got some, and left them to it. They were all really happy to see us, and we werent too tired. When we got home, Liz and I cooked "stir fry" (without a wok, so therefore not more like a 'stir') in the dark (another powercut). I read in the paper that there were meant to be 12 hour powercuts from 6am-6pm due to low water levels in Lake Victoria (all their electricity is from the dam pretty much) but so far it hasnt seem to have happened- we still get power in the day occasionally, and regularly have powercuts at night. Emily and I washed our hair under the stars (it a lot easier if you have someone else pour the bucket over your head) and then went to bed.

Monday: Back to school! We started school today- which is the actual reason why we're out here, so it was good. Basically our day goes like this: up at 7, school by 8, to watch the roll call (where all the children line up and sing their school anthem), then lessons start about 8:30. There'll be about 2 lessons before break at 10:30, but they're very laid back here- the teachers will write stuff on the board, talk for about 15 mins maybe, then write up an exercise and leave the room to teach another class! I stay in there marking- the children bring up their books when they've finished, but some will finish after 5 minutes, others will take 15. And even after they've all finished they'll just sit around with nothing to do. I often play hangman with them just to keep them entertained, but the rest of the time (when I'm not marking) I'm just sitting reading my book or doing a puzzle. No different from home really, except the chair is really uncomfortable. Break is from 10:30 to 11am, and we'll be given some kind of snack- usually bananas and bread, but then also either samosas, chappatis or some other kind of fatty food. We're basically eating twice what we were in the holidays! There's another lesson after break- the main lessons they have every day are Maths, English, SST (social studies) and Science. Lunch is at 1pm (ish) and we sit on the stage at the top of the dining room, with the teachers (but at a seperate table from them), and are given a really good meal- normally pototoes, matokee, meat, gravy, rice... etc etc and then pineapple or watermelon afterwards! Its very filling but its so hot at that time of the day you dont really feel like eating. At 2pm lessons start again until about 4:30- this is even more informal than the morning, and they dont seem to have all that much structure, but I make do, help out where I can and read my book when I cant. Then at 5pm theres another roll call, but we normally go home by then.

Anyway on Monday morning, not many of the children were there yet- they've been arriving in dribs and drabs all week, while they're going back to the hostel where the sponsered kids live. The ones who come seperately (and their parents are paying the school fees) were mostly there, but we still only had about 25 (up to 45 at the end of the week) out of about 65 in my class. We sat around most of the morning, while the children came and registered- they were all meant to bring their own exercise books and pens, as well as 2 brooms and toilet paper, but not all of them could afford it. They did the roll call, and we introduced ourselves (teacher Sarah, teacher Emily etc etc). I played with Miriam, Gadwin and Kirabo (Stephen's children, and teacher Ruth's daughter) for a while, and then Kirabo dragged me towards the broken trampoline- theres a big rip in the canvas. I didnt really want any of them on it, so I stuck my hand down the hole and tried to catch them, and eventually more and more children wandered over until there were about 20 of them, all swarming over the trampoline, getting me to chase them, try and catch them, lift them up onto the trampoline and then help them jump off. I got quite tired but it was a nice introduction to school life! I did wonder if they should be in lessons though, so I walked back to have a look- and they all instantly stopped and followed me! I felt like the pied piper, I tell you.

Not sure where they went, but I spend the rest of the morning pottering about, introducing myself to my class, and meeting Florence, the maths teacher who I'm helping out. We went in and the children did a maths revision class. Worryingly most of them thought that a triangle had 4 sides- I guess I've got my work cut out over the next 6 weeks! They're mostly aged 8 and 9, but a couple have been held back over the years so they range up to 12. I feel a bit bad for the oldest- he must get so sick of doing everything again and again, and apparently the main reason why they fail the exams is because they're all in English- and they dont always understand the question. By P3 though, all the teaching is done in English, so you have to check with them that they understand. Today we went home early (but went back for lunch at 3pm) and it was really nice not having to be there the whole day- most of the time its like a 9-5 job (or 8-5) so its quite hard work having had what is effectively a holiday for the last 3 months!

Tuesday: Karen Chris and Liz went to the visa office this morning (trip number 12 now) while the rest of us went to school. Got there a bit late, but were greeted by a host of children hanging around outside the school gates- they werent allowed in because they'd forgotten to bring their plate and bowl. I had to ask about the science answers though this morning as I wasnt really sure what they want the children to say- that happens quite a lot. I think I mark wrong answers correct because it is right, just not what they're meant to write, you know? We went home after lunch today, but even that wasnt til 3pm- its still quite a long day!

Wednesday: I was sitting around without a teacher in my class today, so I played hangman with them, which they really enjoyed. I like to think its teaching them English too... I gave them the chalk to make their own words but it got a bit out of control, so from then on I didnt give them the chalk! Sometimes they'll get a bit disruptive, playing with a football, play fighting (or in some cases, actually 'beating' each other, as they call it, and making each other cry) but I normally can keep it under control- and if I actually give them something to do, they'll happily sit down and get on with it. This afternoon though, I didnt really have anything to give them to do so I just followed suit and left the classroom- they good thing is, they'll stay there until the bell, even if theres no-one in there with them! They can keep themselves entertained- its not really my responsibility yet! Helen, who we'd met a Beatrice's house, had come to school to pray with Karen, so we spent half an hour finding a quiet classroom, and then prayed for a bit, before watching the 5pm roll call and going home. Phiona tried to teach us a Ugandan dance (Chiganda?) where you walk about shaking your booty, with what looks like pom poms wrapped around your waist. Needless to say we all made fools of ourselves. We had homemade guacamole with our dinner though- making use of all those avocadoes the children gave us!

Thursday: As is becoming the norm, I wake up at 7:15, convinced its earlier and that I have at least another 45 mins in bed. I then check my watch, groan, and drag my sorry self to school. Its like being back in sixth form! I made a map of Uganda in the lesson today for Florence -it keeps me busy and she's very appreciative. She's quite quiet but we had a long talk while the children were working about life in England (someone told her in the winter, we dont go to school but learn everything from TV?!) and she told me that even once you've got your degree in Uganda, you can spend the next 6 years looking for a job. Incredible. Theres just not enough work to go round. One girl, Regina, who is a bit cheeky in class, but is always trying to get my attention (and give her an extra tick on her work), was playing about, so teacher Paul (kind of like the deputy head) 'disciplined her' and demoted her to P2 for 5 minutes! She came back in floods of tears, though relieved that she wasnt actually being moved down a class. He also picked up the football the boys were playing with yesterday and just deflated it! I'm a nicer teacher than him.

Paul asked me to teach a writing lesson today on my own- and told me to get them to write 'AAA Aunt Ant An Antelope is a wild animal aaaaaaa'- which was meant to take up 2 1/2 hours... its not like they're not good writer to start with! So that took half an hour, and then I progressed onto letter bingo- I got them to write their names in their books, (and for the 2nd game their fave animals) and then I called out letters, and they would cross them off if they could. It took a while to get them to understand, and of course some wrote 'hen' and others had 'elephant' but they really enjoyed it and now whenever I ask what they want to play,. they always chorus 'bingo!!' At their request, I attempted a quiz, but its really hard to think of questions they'll know the answers to off the top of their heads. In the end the boys won- and the girls looked very dejected.

We went home and found the builders' bike inside, having jumped the wall, but apparently gone on a break... so we locked the gate, with their big flash motorbike inside! They returned an hour later, and we let them bang for 10 minutes, and only let them in when we saw them getting their ladder out! I tried to apprehend the head builder but failed miserably due to the need of a translator. He just ignored me. (Giving him the benefit of the doubt here). I cleaned up (the house is getting kinda dirty- couple of cockroaches here and there) and made fish cakes for tea. I got a lot of compliments on my cooking and was quite proud seeing as I've never even had homemade fish cakes before let alone made them!

Friday: Regina came into class today with a big stick, and said something about beating with it- I dont know if she meant drums (later) or people, so I took it off her until break time. She got very upset, and when I was playing hangman, proceeded to take it off my desk, walk around the back of the class and leave the room. I couldnt really chase after her though, so I let it go. I wasnt impressed! After break we went to nursery. On Friday everyone has 'prayers'- basically some singing, a mini talk and some prayers. So first on the list was nursery prayers- ages 3-6. We all sat on the tiny chairs in their classroom, and Pastor Eric (who isnt actually a pastor...?) came and taught them 2 songs, which they enjoyed, once they got over their shyness! He got them all to say 'Jesus loves me' a lot and then finished by about 12pm. After lunch was the P1-P3 (6-12) prayers, where 7 of the girls lead all the songs, and sung a couple alone. Teacher Paul taught them a couple of songs too- such as the chant 'J is for Jesus, O is for others, Y yiyiyiyi is for you and you and you and you and you'. 3 of the boys were playing the African drums too. We then had the 'testimonies' time- where literally 10 children came up to say 'I thank God because I/the teachers/all of us am alive'. They do that a lot here- even in church all the adults come up to thank God they're alive, and Phionah always starts her prayers like that. Its not really something we think of doing back in England. Paul then taught the creation story (should've got Emily in here), then prayed with them, and finished with a quiz. Esther and I then joined the others who had been at the P4-P7 prayers at the teachers prayers, which thankfully only went on half an hour, with Pastor Eric again.

Then there was a staff meeting because it was the end of term- we thought 15, 30 minutes max but no- we should know better by now- an hour and a half later, after much discussions about pay and rats in the cupboard (which apparently ruined the text books over the holidays), we finally finish- 10 to 6. Not sure we needed to be there, and we were all very tired after our first week at school, but what can you do? We went home, and relaxed for a bit. Emily and Becca had temper tantrums, water fights, screaming and pretending to cry when we tried to make them start on the dinner. I wouldnt ask, if I were you. When it was finally ready though(poached eggs- cant remember if I've ever had them before!) it was very nice.
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