Monday- the countdown begins…

February 26th, 2007

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Sunday – a day of rest – for some maybe!

February 25th, 2007

Sunday saw us back at church, where as well as speaking Simon got pulled into leading some of the worship – getting a couple of his favourite songs in! Clare and the kids went off to run the Kids Zone work again, with great success, while Simon did his ever longest preach – 1 hour and five minutes – you’d be lynched in the UK if you did that – but here it is about average! He spoke on the idea of calling, and basically challenged the church with the idea that our calling is mostly about living our daily lives as Jesus would, and getting stuck in. There is a big divide here between those who go to church and those who don’t, so his encouragement to get out there and start mixing with the world was a real taboo breaker. He ended sharing six ways to hear God, all starting with the letter ‘P’ – prayer, prophecy, people, pushing doors, peace, and ummm, the Pible (well, they laughed anyway).

We were called up the front at the end of the service as a family while Patrick, the church leader, and Herbert, who we are staying with, shared how much our visit has blessed them and challenged them, and encouraged us to return soon!

While Clare and the kids went home for lunch Simon stayed to spend the afternoon with the youth (16-25ish) from the church, about 45 came to the meeting. They were given lunch and a soda  (the best way to any young person’s heart!). He then ran a workshop with them for a couple of hours around the topic of setting goals and making the most of your time. It was incredibly well received, and very satisfying, helping these lovely young people to really take a look at what they want to achieve with their lives. They all left having started the process of writing down their lifetime goals, and practicing the process of breaking them down into manageable chunks with deadlines.

Simon stayed at Wellspring to finish some UK work and get this blog online, while Clare and the children went with Herbert and Eve to drop off their oldest son, Marvin, back to school – and then attend a traditional african dance evening. While Simon is looking forward, after hours of speaking, to having to set up a new small business server for the office this evening (actually I’d planned a night off!).

Love to you all, we can’t believe we fly back in just three days!

Saturday – family recovery time

February 25th, 2007

We had a fabulous ‘family day’ today. This morning we took the children to the house we lived in when we were here to meet our dog, Bozi! We rescued him when he was a small puppy and he has just stayed with the house! He is just eth same – crazy and excitable and jumped up at us all the time- he managed to knock Roo into a bush! We had brought him a bone as a present which the children were really excited about giving him.

The four of us headed off into Kampala to the Sheraton hotel and spent a lovely day by the pool! We used to spend the day there ‘to get away from it all’ and relax and it is just the same!! We sat under an umbrella and spent time in and out of the water- lovely! I even ordered an iced coffee- all very civilised!

The weather was cooler today as it finally rained this morning and again this evening so there was a lovely cool breeze which made it all really enjoyable.

At 6 the rain clouds came over again and we raced to get changed and into the car to go to Sam’s restaurant. This was where we spent Simon’s birthday while we were here and where we went after my 20 week scan with Reuben and finalised his name before emailing the UK with the news! Roo had heard this story and was really looking forward to eating there – he had heard that that was where we ate crocodile and antelope and this evening he enjoyed a mixed grill of three different types of antelope and some of my croc!!!

Friday – umm, still crazy!

February 25th, 2007

We all got up and out early today to go to the assembly at school. The children performed a play and did some singing (ahh, if English children had rhythm like that we could get rid of all the badly tuned pianos in school halls!!!) and then they put on the dressing up clothes we had brought the nursery to show us. We then went into Primary two (Morgan’s class) for a lesson. It was a new experience for me as usually I have been asked to take the lesson but this time I sat and ‘experienced it’. It was a very different style to the UK and would take some getting used to! It is very focused on exams and succeeding in the tests they have so is very ‘teacher-led’. All pupils face the front and it is rote learning. She singled Reuben out a lot and got him to do things on his own- he coped well – he just enjoyed being with Morgan! Next we went into Primary 1 (Tabby’s class) for a social studies class- it was hot by now and my children were sleepy so to save embarrassment of them yawning and falling asleep we left after 40 minutes or so! It was awkward too- should I tell the teacher about her spelling and grammatical errors in the sentences the children were to copy from the chalkboard?!! Again though they got the children to stand up and sing and dance for us! They do this regularly to keep the children energised – they are in school from 8 until 1 – a long morning. In the afternoon the children and I visited a local home for sodas and then played at home.

Simon held the second of his business development / marketing workshops in the afternoon, this time the focus was on specific tactics that could be used to get new customers, keep them, and to increase their value to the business. It was very well received, with feedback collected at the end including comments such as, ‘This workshop has really opened up a whole new world of ideas.’ And, ‘It has helped me so much, I know from what I have learnt I will be able to put it in action and I know I can make it.”

Once again, Simon went to speak to the Business Club at the nearby House of Blessing church (one of the largest churches in the area). This time he was speaking more specifically about how we can apply promises and instructions from the Bible to our work, and looked at characters from the Old and New Testament that were really good examples to follow. After running the two and a half hour workshop earlier, speaking for over an hour to this second group was a tiring but rewarding experience – a speech of thanks at the end said that this kind of teach had been very liberating and new to them, and that they were very grateful – when could Simon come back?!

In the evening the children stayed with Herbert and Eve and we took a carload of people into Kampala for an Indian meal. It was great fun and we laughed a lot. There were lots of toasts and jokes and we really enjoyed being ‘child-free’ and just able to go with the flow!! Most of the people we took were young and single and delightedly acted the part of the kids for me which they thought was hysterical!!!! It was a late night – getting back around 12.30 but a delicious meal that most of them would never afford for themselves and a great time together.

Thursday – hectic!

February 25th, 2007

Today was a really busy day for Simon- he spent the morning preparing materials for the two talks he was giving later in the day. The afternoon saw the first of two seminars at Wellspring for local businesses, teaching marketing strategy ideas that Simon uses with his clients in t her UK. It was very well received. We had the 21 attendees that we had planned for – they ranged from tailors and bakers, salon owners and wholesalers, to business and marketing graduates wanting to start their own businesses. Although there was a lot of material to cover in a short time, the feedback was that it has really brought a new way of thinking for those who attended. In an economy where innovation is rare and almost all businesses are copies of their neighbours the idea of setting your business apart and giving customers a compelling reason to buy from you instead of your competitors was particularly powerful.

In the evening (just one and a half hours later) Simon met with the business club of a local church in a packed meeting room where he gave a very similar talk to the one he gave at Wellspring church last Sunday, emphasising the validity of work, that it can be seen as just important as ‘full time Christian work’ – in fact, if you believe that you are doing what God has called and gifted you to do, whether you are a teacher, an office worker, a mother at home, a pastor, a taxi driver or a civil servant, then you ARE a full time Christian worker. There is here, as to some degree in the UK, a sense of two classes of citizenship in the church, the first class citizens being those ‘in the ministry’ pastors, teachers, evangelists, and then there are the rest of us. Well the Bible doesn’t make any such distinction between sacred and secular, but encourages all of us that ‘Whatever we do, work at it will all of our hearts, as working for the Lord, not for men’. Simon was told the next day the his talk had had a profound effect on members of the business club, who had a nagging feeling that what the were doing wasn’t ‘the best’, but now felt they could legitimately pursue excellence in the work they were already doing, instead of dreaming about being a pastor (goodness knows we already have too many of them out here).

The children and Clare had a much easier day! It was paddling again at the nursery so the children joined in with water play and building sandcastles but it is incredibly hot at the moment and hasn’t rained since we arrived so we hid in the shade after a relatively short time this week. We took in a book when they finished and read to the youngest group- it was a story that my children knew so they helped with the reading! In the afternoon Abby sat for hours and had part of her hair braided! She wanted it all over like Tabby but had to compromise to keep everyone happy!

In the evening, after Simon had returned from his talk we all went out for supper at a family from the church. It was lovely to be together again with them and to meet the two children they have had since we left. The children all played together happily and despite Abby having a huge skin flair up after the suntan lotion from this morning we had a good time and the children fell asleep within a minute of their heads hitting the pillow!

Some photos from the safari

February 25th, 2007

Simon’s picked out a few of his favourites:

Elephants at Queen Elizabeth Park - having a drink and a bath

A lone bull elephant, who wasn’t very pleased to see us!

We managed to get just ten feet from this leopard!

And at the end we just managed to spot these lions playing!

Crossing to the other side of the world

Wednesday – a long drive back to work

February 22nd, 2007

Breakfast with the monkeys- not a bad way to start a day!! It was great fun – eating our pawpaw and bananas and throwing the left over’s to the family of monkeys who come to the hotel every morning in the search of suckers like us to feed them!! Big ones and baby ones- it was fun to chase them and watch them swing through the branches and then to watch them pounce on anything we threw- I even lost some of my breakfast before I have eaten it – thrown to the baby by an overenthusiastic child!! The journey back was long but so interesting – the children played and we talked about what we saw and appointed out tea plantations and waved at the children as they all came home from school. The children were brilliant – air con really helped and we were so glad we hired the pajero from wellspring just for that (they even got cold when it got dark and snuggled in their jumpers!!) We got home around 4 and they played hide and seek and reunited themselves with the kitten and all the toys. I stayed to write this and deal with the children and Simon has gone to speak at the church mid week meeting. He is tired after all the driving but has his busiest few days ahead so please do pray for him.

Tuesday – Real safari!

February 22nd, 2007

We love safari! We headed off at 6.30am to Queen Elizabeth National Park- it is the flat area of the rift valley between two mountain ranges and has some fabulous lakes. It took far longer than the ‘African’ “about an hour” prediction- nearer to three so we missed the early morning game drive that we had hoped for. We were booked on the launch trip though and so spent two hours on the channel which joins two of the huge lakes- we saw hippo, buffalo, crocodiles, all sorts of birds and most impressively a group of 10 bull elephants followed by a large. Lone bull elephant standing right at the edge of the water. We passed a fishing village (still allowed within the national park) and watched the fishermen checking their nets and one boat bringing back its catch. It was lovely to watch the black and white kingfishers and the hippos surfacing and diving.

After lunch during which we watched a warthog and her two babies eating grass nearby, we collected Harriet our guide and started out on the game drive. It was still too early really for the animals- they would still be hiding in the shade but we thought it better to have a go rather than keep the children going in the heat. We wound down the windows and the children loved the novel freedom of being allowed to not wear seat belts and to stand at the windows! Both the children fell asleep but woke for the ‘main events’. We saw antelope and then……a herd of elephants appeared from where they had been drinking at the lake over about 10 minutes about 20 of them passed right in front of the cars. There was a tiny baby about 2 months old as well as many other young. The adrenalin rushed a little as the bull stood nearby eying us up, clearly unhappy. But the moment passed and a little further up the road we found more of the group and a young bull had a go at charging around (Simon was told to charge back at him if he had gone for us!!) but it was all bluff and that moment passed too.!!!

With the children awake we passed over the main road and into the more savannah part of the park- here we are so fortunate that Harriet noticed a resting leopard under the shade of a tree. We watched and photographed him for ages and then moved on exhilarated! We knew that seeing lions too was unlikely at that time but it had got cloudy and it was cooler so we had our fingers crossed and our eyes peeled!! Abby and Roo were great at pointing out wart hogs and antelope (water buck) and were very proud of themselves- Harriet only had eyes for lions! Then SUCCESS! Over to the right a long way from the path were a group of resting lions- they pop their heads up above the grass to see who is coming and she spotted them! She told us to ‘break the rules’ and drive off track so we could get nearer- it was really exhilarating and great fun!!! All in all a really successful safari!!! We were delighted and the children loved it. They coped so well with so long in the car – but we were all fed up of driving when we finally got home around 9.30 and woke the children to try and feed them at the hotel in order to give them their malaria tablets (not a huge success admittedly – all 4 children ate little and were keen to got o bed!)

Sim promises photos very soon!

Monday – Monkey’s and many meals

February 22nd, 2007

We woke the children and were at breakfast at 7.30. We headed out to Kibale National Park and up to the rangers lodge. Here we all got out of the cars and dressed in our long sleeves and trousers and tucking our trouser legs into our socks, (I had to ignore all my nerves and just go for it!) we followed our guide into the jungle!!

We had a fabulous two hour trek in the jungle – the guide was great and speaking at the children’s level and pointed out plants and butterflies and trees and the smell and sound of the monkeys! We heard the wild chimps but they were a kilometre or so away. The walk was really interesting and the children stayed focused and asked intelligent questions! The most exciting part was tracking the monkeys in the trees and spotting them as they leapt from branch to branch. The paths were well marked and clear and it is a popular track so no snakes etc – just a walk in beautiful African forest and a really knowledgeable guide. All the way there the boys sang ‘Hakuna Matata’ very loudly and all the way back we sang the chorus to ‘In the Jungle’- (the one who made me and all I see WAS walking in the jungle with me, in the jungle ooh ooh, was walking in the jungle with me”!!!!!!- VERY COOL!!

On route into town we stopped off at the school run by Eve’s sister Elizabeth. It was HUGE! Year one had over 200 pupils in one class. They were outside under a tree when I arrived and sang me a song in greeting, it was incredible. I marvelled at the numbers and how ON EARTH the one teacher managed them – the answer is that they have no choice – if they didn’t take the children they would be just out in the villages. Something was better than nothing. The primary school had over 1,000 pupils and seemed really ordered and calm. There were classes under trees and other in basic rooms. It was quite a revelation to me.

In the afternoon we went to a hotel in the town for lunch- it was in typical ‘African experience’- we asked to see the menu- they looked blank and asked what we wanted, we asked what they had, they asked what we would like, etc Eventually got the choices of steak, chicken or fish and chips. Simon asked how much they were and he got a shrug, then he asked if they were all the same price and the chef said – they would work it out so that they were. He took the order and Simon asked if they had all that – yes…..well an hour later when the food still hadn’t arrived and we were the only customers it became clear that they didn’t in fact have any of it and have had to defrost it all from the freezer. The hotel was beautiful with fabulous gardens and the children had a lovely hour playing. The only problem and we tried to see this as part of the adventure, (!), Simon had noticed that the insurance certificate on our car had run out. EEK. We only had duplicate documents and the others were 8 hours away in Kampala. NIGHTMARE. Simon was very clear he was not going to be driving around uninsured in Ugand! We may have to get someone to get the insurance back in Kampala and then get a bus to bring it all the way over. Time was ticking as we waited for lunch!

Lots of prayers were answered when the insurance company accepted the duplicate documents and we were back on the road again!!! We drove out to some caves and a waterfall. The sign as we went in asked us not to break off the ‘stalacites’ and ‘stalagites’!!!! The guide walked with us telling us the folk tale about the caves (a bizarre and gory story involving kings and daughters! We climbed through the woods and reached the caves (well, an overhang!) and a really gorgeous waterfall. Well worth the walk and listening to the strange story!!!

On the way back to the hotel for supper we stopped at Eve’s mum’s house – where she had grown up. Unfortunately her mum doesn’t speak English but a smile and a greeting seems to work in any language and we had a soda together and hugged a lot! I found out later that she had a goat for us as a gift but Eve had explained that we couldn’t take it on the plane! We went on to Elizabeth’s home and arrived with the plan to just stay for 10 minutes and NOT eat as we were heading back to the hotel for supper. Elizabeth had agreed to all that so we were filled with dread as not just sodas and nibbles came out but sausages, roasted meat, vegetables etc – served with ‘it’s not food it is just a snack”.Eek!

Supper at the hotel was outside and not so well received by the 8 of us who were feeling rather full!! There was roast beef and roasted pork and roast potatoes as well and veg and millet bread and sweet potatoes etc. After the food they lit a fire and Herbert announced it was traditional to sit and tell stories around the fire. We spent a lovely time with each of the 8 of us telling a relevant story about animals we had seen in the jungle etc. It was great!

Sunday sermon then safari!

February 22nd, 2007

Sunday morning was spent in another marathon church service- although even with Simon preaching for the longest ever (45 minutes!) it finished unusually early (less than three hours). Clare led KidsZone for the children up to 11. It was just a bit daunting as I was being filmed- apparently to let the other leaders get some ideas!!! Eek!!  We did the story of Noah with pictures and actions and sign language!! We sang ‘In the Jungle’ and Abby and Reuben proudly came to the front and helped them with the actions. I was delighted to see one of my best friends here, Charity who no longer lives nearby, had received by letter saying we were coming and she had made the rip to see us!! Hoorah!

After lunch we were off on safari!! We packed and drove across Uganda to Kibale National Park and to our hotel. On the journey we bought supper –bbq beef on sticks and roasted bananas- delicious. It was so much fun waving at all the children and watching the Africans going about their daily life- as the villages became more rural- they were collecting water or sitting by their stalls by the side of the road with produce ranging from one jack fruit to a huge variety of fruit and veg or bags of charcoal. There were men with bicycles laden with matoki or sacks of goods. There were women with babies strapped to their backs and children walking to and from- well, who knows where!

It took a  long time – 8 hours, but it flew by – the children slept for less than an hour but played beautifully in the back – the Pajero had air con so was comfortable and cool. Herbert and family took their car – two cars is a definite advantage. We had just driven to the other side of Kampala when Herbert announced he had already lost a radiator cap! – Never mind – soon replaced and we were off again. One mystery to us was a strange man in Herbert’s car- we had picked him up in Kampala but were no clearer on who he was until we stopped for supper – 5 hours into the journey….apparently Simon had suggested it was worth taking a simple tool kit…Herbert didn’t have one so asked a mechanic if we could borrow his- he wouldn’t let us but said he would some and get a bus back from Fort Portal (the closest town to our hotel) the following day. This is a bizarre country – where men have so little to do they just hop in a car and get driven across the country in case they are needed only to drive back the following day. Sim only suggested we take an adjustable spanner and a screwdriver!!!

Most people have a mental picture of Africa’s landscape being baron and dusty but boy this isn’t true for Uganda! Apart from the often red dusty road (which in fairness was surpassed most of the way by a great tarmac one), stretching out as far as the eye can see was lush green woods and fields. It is stunning. As we got closer to the West and to the Rwenzori Mountain range the scenery changes again and the most stunning mountainous backdrop appears. We drove past fields of bananas and tea bushes. Darkness falls very quickly here so arriving at the hotel happened several hours after total darkness. Unfortunately the hotel ‘usually’ had power but due to a fault not only was there no electricity but also no generator!! One positive thing about this is that the absolute inky blackness really allows the stars to SHINE!!!

 We made our way (rather nervously in my case – “are you SURE there aren’t any snakes??!!!) Across the field car park and down a flight of concrete steps to our room by the light of a couple of torches! The accommodation was basic but good (as far as we could tell with no lights for three days!) – Our own bathroom (with cold shower as it is heated by electricity!) and a double bed with mossie net and a single one (with the children top to toe) again with mossie net. No power for three days just added to the adventure as we did everything by candlelight – including getting the children up twice over the next two days before sunrise!!  When we arrived a cup of tea and a cold beer helped the journey recovery and as we had arrived in the pitch black we were promised a fabulous view of the mountains and the Crater Lake when we woke up!!

Normally nights are pretty uneventful and not worth a mention in the blog but this night was different! – An earthquake at 5.30!!! We found out later that it had measured 5.2 on the Richter scale- so not huge but significant enough to wake me and have me wake Sim to ask why the windows were shaking!! Wish I hadn’t just watched Dante’s Peak though as I had a few seconds of picturing the hotel sliding into Crater Lake as it bubbled and frothed!!!! Nothing happened though and it is a fairly common occurrence in a rift valley. So we went back to sleep! Apparently the worse earthquake Eve can remember (she grew up in the area) was in 1994 when the earthquake latest for 2 days continuously.