“Uganda – the pearl of Africa. It’s called that because it’s a very unique country. The only country in Africa that has two rainy seasons!” Words of Henry, Robert’s fellow school teacher at Sacred Heart School, Kalungu. I’m currently sat in the staff room of said school taking in the sights of a Ugandan Catholic school. Not unlike St Thomas More, North Shields there is a chaplain’s office, a library, a chapel – they even have a tuck shop here! I have met all of the staff who work here, including sitting down in front of the Director of Studies who is also known as the “Dos”.. maybe things in Uganda aren’t so different to those in the UK at all.
In fact, walking through Masaka town yesterday I noticed a lot of recognisable things. Walking through a park I could easily have been touring Robert through Holyrood Park, or sitting in a café could quite easily have been somewhere down in Whitley Bay.
Even tuning into Uganda’s “favourite TV channel” NTV last night, we watched Uganda’s very own male version of Loose Women entitled simply “MEN.” It was something I wasn’t expecting to see!
There are a lot of differences here though, of course. I took my first ride on a Boda Boda yesterday… an experience I wasn’t too keen on before I mounted the motorbike, but one I will remember when we arrived at Rob’s apartment. There seems to be more motorbikes on the road than there are cars, and we told the driver to take it slow, especially on the bumpy roads! The weather has also been different – although not as hot as some would expect. It has been quite breezy here, and it rained very heavily overnight. But it has still definitely been an improvement on the British weather I left behind.
For those of you reading who don’t know me from home, I am staying with a very good friend of mine who I lived with in my area back in 2010. We lived in community and shared our lives with ten other amazing people for a year (others were from elsewhere in Africa and Asia). And so I have found myself here staying in Robert’s flat – something which never thought would happen. He lives in a small, but comfortable place with a living area, bedroom and an outside shower just outside Masaka Town.
I have been warmly welcomed by every Ugandan I have met… and I have met a lot of people since I have been here. Robert is currently the Student President at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi and seems to know everybody in Masaka in some way. The student president role is different to one working at EUSA. Firstly, it’s a volunteer role and Rob has to fit in his duties and meetings in amongst his lectures (which all take place from 6pm-9pm during term time) as well as his job as a Chemistry teacher at the school I’m currently visiting. He is a busy man – currently signing off exam sheets for next week’s exams and assessments. He earlier showed me the GCSE Chemistry paper he has set, and I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t answer a single question!
I keep feeling so blessed to be experiencing everything that Robert experiences. All thanks to YMT, I am here living like a true Ugandan local – I have eaten rice, local fish and this morning I tried (without much success) Ugandan coffee. Robert knows all the short cuts, and places to point out. I visited a shopping centre which had no power (stopping to chat to more students) as well as slipping up side streets. Robert most definitely is a fountain of knowledge of his local area.
Friendship really knows no bounds – and I feel completely safe being here with Robert, Henry and meeting all of his friends.