Thursday, 26 November 2009

Weddings, Caves, Bonfire Night and a Film Premiere

It's been such a long time since we have written a blog, so I thought I should update you on what we've been getting up to.

The university semester has nearly ended - the only thing remaining are the exams which start next week. In just over 2 weeks my parents are coming to visit for a couple of weeks, and we have 2 friends arriving on the day they fly back to we have an action-packed month of travelling to look forward to. We have got permits to go Chimp tracking on Boxing Day, which we are really excited about.

Last month we went to a town called Fort Portal for a wedding. It was Jason's colleague's sister's wedding, and it was the first wedding that we'd been to in Uganda. Lots of Jason's colleagues were also going to the wedding, so we hired the university bus for the trip rather than getting public transport. The drive there was lovely - the road went right through the middle of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and we even saw an elephant, which made my day. Fort Portal is in the mountains, and the scenery was breathtaking.

The wedding began with a church service, followed by a reception at one of the local hotels. The service was lovely, and pretty similar to a wedding in the UK, although the priest did a 45 minute long sermon all in Rutoro (the local language). The bride looked beautiful, as did all her bridesmaids (she had about 8 of them!).

The Church

When we arrived at the reception venue, the heavens opened and it started raining like I've never seen it rain before - we had to shelter in our vehicle for about an hour, waiting for it to die down. We eventually braved the rain, and went into the hotel grounds. There were marquees for us to sit under, but they had no flooring, just squelchy mud - not good for open-toed sandals! The poor bride and groom had to wait in their car, hoping the rain would stop, but they eventually arrived. They had to enter the reception venue through an arch, but they first had to cut a ribbon.

Cutting the Ribbon to get into the Reception

There must have been about 400 people there, and I wondered how they were going to cater for everyone, but they had a Ugandan buffet which went down very well with all of the guests. There was also entertainment in the form of a dance group, a singer and a man dressed up as a Zulu warrior - all very good indeed.

The Entertainment

We didn't stay at the reception as long has we had planned to, because we were cold and wet, and needed to warm up a bit in front of the log fire at our hotel (who would ever have thought you needed fires in Africa?!)


The day after the wedding, we went out into the countryside to see some the Amabere caves and waterfalls. We had to walk through the jungle to get to the caves, and as it had been raining it was very muddy (Jason fell over 3 times!), but it was worth it. The caves have some stalactites and stalagmites in them which are supposed to resemble breasts (!), and the drips from them are apparently meant to represent breastmilk (according to local folklore). There was also an amazing waterfall by the caves.

Jason in the Caves

Behind the Waterfall

Jason and his Colleague, Amos

Group Photo

Our bus-trip back to Mbarara included the usual event of breaking down - luckily it happened when we were in a town, so we wandered off to get lunch while someone made hasty repairs to the brakes on the bus (we found out later that one of the brake pads had completely worn down, and the mechanic didn't have a replacement, so he just disabled the brake!). We made it home in one piece though....

The following weekend, we had a VSO cluster meeting at Shivaun's house - we decided to combine it with a barbecue and 'fireworks' to celebrate Guy Fawkes night. Jason was put in charge of the barbecue, and cooked goat and pork kebabs and some burgers courtesy of Chef Shivaun. We even had marshmallows to toast over the fire later on. We didn't really have proper fireworks; just some giant party popper things, and some big sparklers that are supposed to go on top of wedding cakes, but they are pretty spectacular. It was a really nice evening and good to catch up with the other VSOs to discuss our placements etc.


We went to our first ever Film Premiere a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of the Kina-MUST project at the university. One of my students had sold me tickets, but Jason was pretty reluctant to go, as the dress code was 'red carpet' (i.e. formal). A group of students had made a movie about HIV/AIDS, and it was actually really impressive. It was about a medical student who got a needle-stick injury on the hospital ward, and how he dealt with the possibility that he might have contracted HIV. It was acually better than some low-budget films we've seen in the UK.
There was even an after-show party, where we got to mingle with the stars of the film. Both Jason and I had students involved with the film, and it was nice to see them enjoying themselves away from their studies. It was pretty funny though, because our students kept coming up to us wanting their photo taken with us - I wouldn't have been seen dead with my lecturers at uni! I don't know if there is any way that they can release the film to a wider audience, but I really think it deserves to go further than just Mbarara.

On the Red Carpet

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Can't believe we've been here for 8 months!

We've just realised that we've been here for 8 months already - time is definitely flying by. It's been a pretty busy time for both of us lately, as the university semester is now in full swing - which means writing mid-term exams, marking assignments etc.

We went to Kampala last weekend, which was a nice change to Mbarara. I think we would possibly go there more often if the journey wasn't quite so horrendous - 5 hours in a battered old bus, driving along a road that is being resurfaced, and basically being thrown around the bus (you drive over the non-surfaced parts!). The bus seats are covered in plastic, to allow for easy cleaning (although I have doubts whether cleaning ever takes place), but it also makes the seats very slippy....I nearly ended up on the floor on numerous occasions. When we got to Kampala we stayed at the International Landmark Hotel, in Muyenga, just around the corner from the VSO office. It's not in the centre of Kampala, but it is near some pretty nice restaurants (proper pizzas, yum!) and an Italian supermarket that sells ice-creams, so it was a good place to be.

Hectic Traffic in Kampala

On the Saturday, Jason and I had to go to the Uganda Wildlife Authority office to get an annual pass for the National Parks. If you get a 2 year resident's permit, they will let you get this pass, and it's really good value - only $150 for a couple, so it pays for itself in no time at all. After that, we went to Garden City shopping mall, which is amazing - well, actually it's a bog-standard shopping centre in western terms, but we don't have anything like it in Mbarara so we are always quite impressed.
Shivaun and I went to have our hair cut by a Serbian lady nearby (too chicken to brave the salons of Mbarara!), and she did a pretty good job. After that we met up with some other VSOs in Centenery Park, and had lunch. The afternoon involved a big supermarket shop, with me scouring the shelves for things to use in my extemporaneous dispensing practicals (making creams and ointments etc). The lab at the university has hardly any equipment, and I really wanted the students to be able to make something, so I decided to buy all the stuff myself.
The journey back to Mbarara on the Sunday wasn't going too badly, which meant something had to go wrong....and it did! The bus broke down quite far away from town, but luckily the driver managed to start it up again. It then broke down again about 2 miles from Mbarara, so Jason and I decided to walk up the road and get a boda boda to take us home.

Things in the pharmacy department are going quite well, and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in my role here. The fourth year students have to do a research project next semester, so we gave them a research workshop a couple of weeks ago. I did a presentation on plagiarism, which it seems that they have not heard of before, and didn't realise it was a bad idea (which is maybe quite worrying).

I did a practical with the third years this week. I'm teaching them Pharmaceutical Technology - so lots of theory about the manufacture of different dosage forms (like creams, ointments, suspensions) but very little opportunity to put it into practice. Anyway, the practical was quite successful - they made Calamine Ointment, and Lassar's Paste. We didn't necessarily use the right tools, as I couldn't get hold of them - instead of a porcelain ointment slab, we used plastic chopping boards, and instead of spatulas/palette knives we used decorator's scrapers! But the principle was the same, and it seemed to work quite well (despite me having to put them in groups of 5 to do it, which is less than ideal). Sometimes I really feel sorry for the students here, they pay lab fees, but I don't know where those fees go (cos it's almost certainly not spent on lab facilities). Hopefully things will get better soon, as the pharmacy and pharmacology departments have won a $1.2 grant from the Millennium Science Initiative, to improve facilities and develop the course etc.

Students doing their extemp. dispensing practical in the Lab

Calamine Ointment - note the non-scientific implements used!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

To the loony bin and back again...

Lovely Lariam

To try to prevent the onset of Malaria, both of us have been taking the delightful drug Lariam since arriving in Uganda. Having used it in Ghana I always poo pooed the stories of people going a little mad, however I think maybe my opinion on the subject has changed.

Five months in we were going great guns, until we had get a new supply of Lariam, unfortunately all we could get our hands on was the Swiss version of the product Mephaquin, which is theoretically the same.

Of course I am fully aware how annoying and dim I am, but shortly after changing drugs, it became apparent that I was a very horrible person as after being home at about 5.10 instead of 5 on a number of occasion, I got into big trouble from Anna. Other things upset her too and she was in tears over very simple things like the washing was not done or she lost a Scrabble.

To further her anxieties she woke me up one evening to dress me down as I had just flown through the window and she try to sleep! This of course follows an episode of asking me why I had decided to grow vegetables in the bed…

Of course we concluded that the drug was having an adverse reaction and we decided request that she could change to another drug. Following a consultation, with a Doctor and after VSO’s permission she changed drugs to Malarone.

Thankfully now I am only annoying some of the time and she no longer cries when I am delayed or do not do the washing up. I have even stopped flying through windows as well.

Those of you who have worked with me, know I sometimes get angry when somebody incompetent has ensured that I have to do more work because they have caused havoc, however most of the time I am quite a placid creature. My effects on the drug were not as drastic as Anna’s however the new first years took a bit of abuse from me on a number of occasions as they cannot queue up when waiting for my class to leave lectures. However after changing to another drug myself, the first years still cannot queue up but at least I don’t shout at them as harshly as before.

Now I shall leave it up to you to decide whether the stories I have heard before are true!


A few weeks ago our VSO cluster arranged a goodbye cluster meeting for Danny a departing VSO and his wife Annie.

We decided to spend a night at Lake Mburo, to say farewell, we provided the drink, Shivaun made a fantastic cake and Sofie one of our VSO colleagues arranged a bespoke calendar with many photographic memories of their time here. A lot of beer was consumed, good food eaten and amazing wildlife seen at close hand.

A highlight was our trip on quad bikes around the park (I am sure some have already seen the delightful photos on Facebook). In Ugandan terms the trip was expensive (£35) but to be honest with you well worth it! 2 Hours of driving through the Safari tracks, including some of the harder to reach places was outstanding. We saw so much wildlife at close hand, and it felt a lot more exhilarating not being closed inside a vehicle.

Jason dons his quadding gear

Our trip was guided and very professional indeed, especially as en-route to the Quad bike centre, myself and Peter another VSO colleague had been talking about go-karting and how much I liked it going fast. Standing on the back of the pick up alongside our ranger, he joined in the conversation and also seemed to like the idea of going speed.

Not much of a fashion statement!
Matatu’s, “Outstanding” Driving and a Beautiful Lake
September is the time for change here in Uganda, and one of our other friends Meg was leaving Mbarara. Although she has been here on and off for seven years, she had never been to Lake Bunyoni before. We agreed to have a little weekend trip to see the sights and sounds of the place translated into English called “Place of the Little Birds”.

In the interest of saving cash (having spent a fortune on quads the week before), we opted to get to Bunyoni by mini bus taxi (Matatu).

Of course you always have an adventure on a Matatu as they are usually battered and bruised, fit 20 people into the vehicle instead of 14 and drive like absolute lunatics.

We knew we were however going to have an adventure, as when waiting in the taxi park a young student, spent 20 minutes haggling with the conductor over a fare and proceeded to haggle for another 20 minutes over his immense luggage. Then just as we were setting off he decided to get out and delay us even further getting all of his stuff back. Let’s just say in England, I would have told him he was an prat an hour ago. The people in the taxi park though so too in the end and told him so, of course there was a little scuffle but nothing too serious and it soon settled down. Now I do not advocate any form of violence but I do sympathise a little with the Taxi Parks staff who were patient enough with the petulant gentleman.

Our trip from then on was uneventful except the driver drove as though he was 10 hours late. Imagine a scary driver (Bex, “other people I have been censored from writing”) but at 90 miles an hour on potholed roads, then times it by 10 and you have the quality of driving from this man. The smell of brakes and clutch did not help either, and the final death knoll was his pothole overtaking attempt on the wrong side of the road with a truck approaching. A lock up of the wheels later and the truck screeching to a halt, a) we were definitely not impressed and b) not too surprised that in the next town we stopped and then told we had to change vehicles. Now I was wary as I was told first and being careful wanted confirmation that everybody was getting out and we were not part of a scam. Thankfully we were not and we were even bundled into a very nice well kept “share taxi” (a car which they normally squeeze 8 people into). The rest of the trip was paid for by the Matatu driver, which I was very surprised about and our driver was very nice and careful indeed. Now being a businessman himself he opted to take us as he knew he could continue and take us to Lake Bunyoni. All in all we were thankful as the drive was far better.

After an eventful journey we were ready to get to our island. After a short boat trip, we arrived at our island and were given lovely furnished tents. The food for Ugandan standards was very good indeed and we relaxed and drank in a lovely setting.

As Bunyoni is a crater lake it is free from Bilharzia so we swam, dived off the pontoon and generally had a top time. This place is great for relaxing without any doubt.

After relaxing it was very sad we were only staying a single night, and therefore we were gutted to have to try and get a Matatu home again. After being lucky last time we called a Special driver who had found us a good Matatu last time, and we were very happy when he arrived in a Matatu himself in very good condition, announcing that if he could fill it he would himself take us some.

Unfortunately we were not as lucky as we had imagined as soon as we arrived in Kabale the main town near Bunyoni, the heavens opened and we knew our luck was out. After discussions with another Matatu we agreed to join a new vehicle, which proceeded to tout for business by driving around town looking for people sheltering but wanting to travel. Maybe an hour later we finally set off, and we were hoping with a better driver. This was the case until we realised that as the boot was partially open due to loads of mattresses being stuffed into the back, and being at the back we were going to become asphyxiated.

The drive until half way was uneventful, but afterwards insane, partly as we were high on fumes but also as most people left at the halfway point and the driver decided he had to race another Matatu to ensure he got business, therefore his driving became erratic too. This included overtaking at stupid places and driving into a petrol station at speed, and skidding to a halt 30cms from a pump!

Thankfully we arrived home in one piece, although Meg was sick all night from the fumes and Anna took three hours to sow some trousers she had ripped. I have vowed to try to avoid Matatus at all costs from now on!

NB: This was posted by Jason.

Friday, 18 September 2009

We have New Curtains!!

Now, I know that this is not a very exciting blog-post, but we have finally got rid of our nasty old curtains, and got new ones (that actually cover the windows, close properly and do everything that they should!).

A local lady who makes curtains was recommended to us by a colleague at the university. After coming to see our flat and measure the windows etc, our curtains were ready in less than 10 days, for a very reasonable price.
She sent three men to put the curtains up for us - I was a bit surprised when they arrived without a ladder, but they assured me it would be fine, despite the fact that our ceilings are 9 feet high! They had to replace the rails, and couldn't get to them by standing on the dining table (it wasn't high enough), so they proceeded to climb up the bars on the windows and do it that way. One of them also had the bright idea of putting one of the coffee tables on top of the dining table, and using that as a ladder..I was terrified they would fall off and hurt themselves, or the windows would come crashing down, but it was all okay in the end. They don't really go in for health and safety much over here!

Here are the before and after pictures:

Monday, 31 August 2009

A Luxury Weekend at Jacana Lodge

Jason and I had our first experience of proper Ugandan luxury the other weekend, as we went to a safari lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, to celebrate my 30th birthday (I am now officially 'old'!).

Swimming Pool overlooking the Crater Lake

Jacana Lodge is a couple of hour's drive from Mbarara, in the Maramagambo Forest, which is in the southern sector of the park. The lodge is built on the shores of a crater lake, and each of the log cabins has a fantastic view. Everything about Jacana was fantastic: the accommodation, peaceful setting, staff, food, was so different to the hustle and bustle of Mbarara. The first morning we were there, we got woken up by chimpanzees calling to each other, which was an amazing sound. We also saw vervet monkeys in the trees as we were eating our breakfast, very cute indeed.

Our Chalet on Stilts!

Celebrating with a glass of pink fizz

Amazing view from our window

After lounging by the pool all morning, we wandered down to the park's visitors centre in the afternoon to go on a walk with a ranger. Jason wanted to go on a walk to see a bat cave (complete with resident python!), but it was out of bounds due to the possibility of contracting Ebola and Marburg virus from the bats - I have to say I was quite relieved we couldn't go, as I think I would have been slightly freaked out! It was also very unnerving that the visitor's centre was full of American researchers in full 'Outbreak suits', whereas we were just dressed in ordinary clothing with no protection from Ebola whatsoever.

In the end, we opted for a forest walk. We walked all the way around a small crater lake, and managed to see some wildlife, even though it had been raining heavily. We saw red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys (which can jump 30 metres between trees!), fish eagles and cormorants. Apparently there is a hippo who lives in the lake, but fortunately we did not run into him (hippos kill more people than crocodiles do). The walk was very pleasant, and took a couple of hours to do. Because it was so damp and dark in the forest, I kept forgetting that I was in Africa - it was very like walking in the Lake District or something (but with monkeys in the trees).

View of the Crater Lakes

Jason had arranged a birthday treat for me when we got back to the lodge - dinner on the 'Captain's Table'. This is a motorised raft that the lodge will hire out to you for cruises, drinks or dinner. Our personal waiter, Lawrence, drove us into the middle of the lake, put down an anchor, and then proceeded to serve us a wonderful three course, candle-lit dinner. It was quite surreal being in the middle of a lake, in the dark, eating dinner - but it was an experience I would definitely recommend.

Beautiful Sunset over the Lake

Dinner on the Captain's Table


Our waiter Lawrence was lovely, although we felt a bit sorry for him at first - it must be really awward being stuck on a raft with 2 tourists! We started talking to him, and had some very interesting conversations about Ugandan traditions.
We told him that my parents are coming to visit over Christmas, and he said that it is not allowed for the bride's family to stay at the son-in-law's house (so, Mum and Dad, I'm afraid you'll have to camp in the garden!). He also said that Jason cannot eat at the same table as my Mum, and cannot really have anything to do with her. On the other hand, whenever I meet Jason's parents I am supposed to kneel down in front of his Dad to show my respect. I am also apparently allowed to sleep in the same bed as Jason's Mum! How bizzarre.... When we got married, Jason's Dad should have really given my Dad anything between 10 and 15 cows as a bride price - if Jason ever wanted to divorce me, he would have to return me to my parents' house along with the cows. Some urban families don't keep cows any more, but they still decide the bride price in 'cows' and then convert it into Ugandan shillings using the current market value for a Friesian cow (apparently they are more valuable than Ankole cows).

Jason and I celebrating my Birthday
with a cake made for us by the chef at Jacana

We were sad to leave Jacana the following day, as it was so peaceful there, and it felt like we were on holiday. We've decided that weekends away are definitely a good idea, and we have a couple of trips planned for the next few weeks. We are going to Lake Mburo this weekend for a VSO cluster meeting, and then we're off to Lake Bunyonyi the following weekend for a relaxing break.

Vervet Monkey in the tree

Amazing multi-coloured Lizard

So peaceful!!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Plants, Puppies, Golf and a Michelin 2 Star Restaurant

Weeks have gone by since our trip home to the delights of Blighty. It seems that our visit in the brilliant heat wave was followed by weeks of rain, rain and more rain.

Here it is still dry season, although we have been assured that on the 15th August at 4pm it will rain and keep raining. It seems as if the rains have already come to most places apart from our region, and many are thankful as a few people were beginning to struggle.

We have been busy at work, but no Blog-worthy events have really occurred, unless people really are interested in the fact that we re-organised our Server room and Anna has been on the timetable committee for her faculty. She is hoping that the third and final meeting is going to get them somewhere, especially as the promise of “break tea” will kick her colleagues in action (the term starts in a weeks time too).

Out of the office we have been busy, we planted some of our seeds, pictures enclosed of planting and progress. This event kept us happy for a few hours as it was like making mud pies as a child. Unfortunately I don’t think either of us will have careers as garden experts when we finally return home as progress has been quite slow.

You will all be interested to know that our compound nearly turned into a war zone a few weeks ago. This is due to the birth of 8 puppies to a stray dog who was befriended by one of the other people who lives on our compound.

Now as a bit of background, Ugandans do not really keep pets and typically dogs are guard dogs and that is all. Many are scared of dogs, and of course 99% of dogs are not domesticated.

The dog gave birth to her puppies in a storm drain next to one of the Ugandan Doctors houses and proceeded to bark at every Ugandan walking past, day or night. This of course caused a little bit of annoyance and it was threatened that they would get her put down.

As the lady who had befriended the dog was leaving and due to the proximity of the dogs to the compound’s road and other houses, we decided to help in the construction of a little dog kennel near our flats, as two of the other English doctors had taken to the dog as well.

This solution worked for a while, however any Ugandan visiting others in our block of flats was barked at and hassled again and again, we had to rescue people from the stairwell at least twice, which of course was not a nice experience for the recipient of the barking.

Once again this understandably has caused threats of putting the dog down, therefore our neighbours have now tied the dog up so that she can tend to her puppies but does not harass anybody else. Once the puppies are old enough to fend for themselves she will be released and her future is unfortunately in her own hands.

As Mbarara does not have a bowling alley, cinema or theme park, we are typically restricted to swimming, eating at acceptable (?) restaurants and drinking beer.

For a change this weekend we decided a game of golf was in order. Surprisingly Mbarara has a 9 hole golf course, which although some holes are flagless is actually quite good.

Myself (left handed), Anna (a novice golfer), Sofie (another novice golfer) and Meg (having last played 7 years ago) visited the club house to negotiate fees etc. This in itself was an adventure as on arrival we were surrounded by children offering to be our caddies who of course were helpful but we could have had 4 caddies each.

The clubhouse itself was being managed by a lady who did not seem to bothered whether or not we (paying customers) wanted to play golf of not. After a little persuasion and we were informed that the cost would be 5000 Ugandan shillings (UGX) each, however we would have to pay for the bag hire and a caddy, which was fine.

I asked many times if they had any left handed clubs but as this lady only seemed to have enough energy to maybe even fill out a receipt in the next hour or so, we thought it best for us to accept just the right handed clubs offered to us, which we had to hire for 20000 UGX between the four of us, which is not bad seen as we negotiated that we would only pay for two rounds of golf as we would play in pairs due to them only have two golf balls anyway.

After our initial harassment form 1000 “caddies” the young boy who we took as a caddy, was very good and patient, he knew his stuff and told the girls how to swing and hold a club etc. My golf at home is acceptable and I can definitely hit a ball quite nicely, however playing right handed was a struggle, therefore lets just say we were all very evenly matched. It was a pleasant enough round of golf and even though we played a lot of shots and only 5 of the holes as we were all being burnt to a crisp it is something we will do again. Anna and I even won 3 holes to 2.

We were even invited by a Ugandan to the tournament the next day, and offered free beer and goat. He even assured me that they had left handed clubs and we would always be welcome on the course.

Following our round, again I pressed the women on left handed clubs but after taking 30 minutes to calculate the bill for 3 Coca Colas and 2 waters I gave up.

Michelin 2 star restaurant

After our high brow game of golf, we had been invited for tea at Shivauns (another VSO’s house). Of course we know she can cook, but I can categorically say she is the best chef in Uganda by far.

The setting helped the occasion, as her compound overlooks the river and has an outside terrace with a Pizza oven (minus the grill bit to actually make pizzas), so instead I made a fire, which of course is a job no man can refuse.

Home made, Bruschetta with plum tomatoes, aubergine cannelloni stuffed with tomatoes, feta, black olives and garlic followed by home-made coconut ice cream with pineapple and sparklers, you can’t complain about such cuisine in England, never mind in Mbarara.

Good red wine and a laugh, of course finished off the evening especially as our normal special (mini cab driver) was unavailable, so we had to take another guy who is noted for being what the Ugandans call shy, his love of Mariah Carey and the “Arsenal”. This was funny because I don’t think he knows he is shy and proceeds to call all women “sister” in a high pitched voice.

I am sure we will have some more to write next week as I shall be going to Lake Bunyoni on a curriculum workshop with my department and Anna is going to Jinja for a VSO meeting on the Health Project area Plan.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Back in Uganda after a flying visit to the UK

There's been no new blogging for a while, as we were on holiday(!) in the UK for a couple of weeks. The reason for our trip back was that Jason's sister Amanda was getting married to Martin, and there's no way we would have missed seeing their special day. So while we were back, we thought we'd do a crazy trip around the country visiting nearly everyone we know.

Jason and I at the Equator, on our way to Entebbe Airport

We had a fantastic couple of weeks back in the UK, especially as we were able to catch up with nearly all of our friends and family. A couple of my best friends (Joanne and Sarah) have recently had babies, so I was really pleased that we could finally meet the new arrivals Charlotte Burke and Leo Bloor - both are very cute indeed. It also gave me an excuse to drag Jason around Hamleys in London looking for baby toys!

Amanda and Martin's wedding in Edinburgh was amazing. It was in the Mansion House at Edinburgh Zoo, which was a beautiful setting for a wedding. Jason loved being appointed official Chauffeur for the day, and driving his parents' Saab convertible around!

We celebrated Jason's birthday in Liverpool, which was lovely as we went out for dinner with a big group of our friends. I felt a bit sad afterwards, as we won't see most of our friends again until June next year, and we will miss some really important events like weddings and new babies arriving.

We got back to Uganda last Wednesday, and travelled straight back to Mbarara as we had loads of luggage and didn't want to lug it around Kampala. I didn't know how I would feel about being back here, but it's actually really good to be back. We thought we might get culture shock again, but that hasn't happened at all. We're settling back into the more relaxed pace of life very easily indeed.

We met up with a fellow VSO volunteer for lunch on Saturday, at a place we call the 'Hobbit Hole' - It's a bar/restaurant where the owner decided to build an upstairs and balcony area, but maybe didn't take into account the ceiling height....even I have to bend down to avoid banging my head on the ceiling....I just feel sorry for the waiters who have to carry the food without dropping it!

Sunday was spent planting some of the seeds my parents had kindly sent us when we first arrived in Uganda (March)....they didn't arrive until May! So hopefully we will soon have fresh mint, basil, chives, chillies, red peppers and cress (the cress has already started growing). When the rainy season starts we're going to try and take over the vegetable patch in our compound and grow tomatoes, courgettes, lettuce and stuff like that. Neither of us have much recent experience of gardening, so we're looking forward to seeing if anything actually grows.

We brought a couple of tennis racquets back from England with us, as there is a clay tennis court on our compound. We had a game yesterday evening, and I did actually manage to hit the ball quite a few times which was an unexpected out Wimbledon!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Long time, no blog-post!

I've realised it's been quite a long time since I've written anything on this blog. We're still enjoying our time in Mbarara, and feel like we've really settled in.

You'll be pleased to know that Jason has now fully recovered from his accident on the boda-boda - it was just a few cuts and grazes - but it was enough to put us off using that particular mode of transport for a few weeks (until we finally gave in yesterday).

All the exams are over at the university now, but I have actually been pretty busy. I had to go to a curriculum development workshop last week for a few days in a nearby town called Kabale. It didn't exactly get off to a great start, as we set off 2 hours late - I was not impressed as I had got up extra early because we were meant to be setting off in the bus at 7, but they had to get a different bus due to faulty brakes so we didn't leave til 9. Then the roads going to Kabale were terrible - it felt like being on a rickety rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure beach or something.

When we got to Kabale, we were 3 hours behind schedule and didn't even have time for our evening meal after all the lengthy presentations in the afternoon. The hotel we were staying in was pretty good, but the shower wasn't powerful enough to wake me up properly the following morning, so I wasn't in the best of moods again. Then we had to sit through more hours of discussions about the entire Faculty of Medicine's curriculum, before we split into groups to discuss possible changes. I don't know why the groups were split up like they were, but Pharmacy was put with Nursing, and it's not like they're even similar courses! Who am I to give advice on what the nursing course should contain?! After a particularly unproductive morning, I was feeling really annoyed and didn't think we would achieve anything from the workshop. However, after lunch, the Pharmacy Department decided to discuss its curriculum on its own, which was a lot more productive. Our main issue is that Pharmacy is part of the Faculty of Medicine, and for the first 2 years our students study more or less the same things as the medical students - ie a lot of anatomy and pathology, including disection of cadavres, which is not (in my opinion) necessary knowledge you need to become a good pharmacist.

We want to introduce more pharmacy-specific modules into our BPharm course, and have decided to add a Pharmacy Practice element into each year of the course (currently this is covered in one semester out of 4 years!). We are trying to negotiate with the other departments about cutting the amount of 'medical subjects' our students do, or at least tailoring them to be more useful to future pharmacists, but it's a case of 'watch this space'. We're looking into getting some funding from the British Council so we can develop the curriculum properly, and hopefully we will be able to form some partnerships with Higher Education Institutions overseas to help us do this.

When I got back to Mbarara I was relieved to see that Jason had survived without me. One of my (male) colleagues was very concerned about how Jason would manage to cook for 3 days all by himself, despite my assurances that Jason is probably a better cook than I am.

We had a farewell dinner on Sunday for Unni, who has been working in Mbarara as a VSO neonatologist for the past year. He did a lot of good work here, I just hope that it will be continued by the colleagues he's left behind. We were sad to say goodbye to him - in the few months that we've been in Mbarara, he has been a good friend. He lived on the same compound on us, and we'd often have dinner together - he is a fantastic chef. I never thought I liked Indian food, but he has well and truly converted me.

Yesterday was another Public Holiday (Heroes Day), so we headed up to the Lakeview Hotel with our fellow volunteer Shivaun for a swim in the pool and's a hard life! The weather was hot and sunny, but quite breezy -I managed to catch the sun a bit, but will have reverted back to being fluorescent white again by tomorrow. I am at a loss to understand how, after nearly 4 months of living in Africa, I am still the same shade of white that I was when I arrived! I have a few more freckles, which brings me onto another point...

People in this country are shocked by freckles - I think they think I have a disease or something. People will touch my arms in the street and in shops, and people have asked me why I have these 'spots'. I try to explain that it's caused by the sun and is not painful or anything like that. Then their next question is whether the spots will go when I return to England. When I tell them that freckles are permanent, they start saying they're really sorry - like they're giving me condolensces or freaked me out a bit at first, but now I am used to it.

I have also been asked if Jason is my brother, as apparently we look exactly the same (!). When I probed this statement further, apparently we look like we're related because we are the same size - I don't think it was meant to be offensive!

We're coming back to England on the 19th June, and I can't wait to see everyone again. Just to travel on smooth roads again will be very nice....

Monday, 25 May 2009

Boda Boda's!!!! Grrrr

Well, its a long time since I wrote on the blog, I always seem to wait for a proper story or Anna beats me to it. Anna was only saying yesterday that I had not written on the blog for ages, so something had to happen didn't it?

We have had quite a good week actually, Unni the Neonatologist is leaving very soon so we had a party in his honour on Thursday night. It was very nice and even though I had offered to organise he insisted on cooking, Danny went and got the beer for us as Sofies back wheel on her bike had gone funny and thus all I was left to do was make Pitta breads and supervise... Cant complain really.

We also went to the leaving party for Anna's Cuban and Indian colleagues which was very nice, especially as the University provided food and drink.

My news of course is different (for the purpose of VSO readers, as usual this story of course is completely made up and didn't happen, honest). Yesterday we decided that it was a nice day therefore we fancied a swim at Lake View (the local posh hotel), Shivaun one of the other VSO's who has just moved to Mbarara was coming and we were meeting Sofie as well. All was well and we decided to gets Bodas, I flagged a few down and let Anna and Shivaun choose their bikes.

I jumped on my bike, and thought maybe the driver was a bit young, this of course was proven when he wobbled over the first speed hump. At that point I should of course have told him to stop but didnt, we then went over the next speed hump and I saw him getting closer and closer to this mountain bike to the left. I do not know whether the Boda driver was drunk or just dumb but he did not react and carried on ploughing into the back wheel of the mountain bike, taking of course the mountain bike and of course the boda with me on it over.

It was not bad, as the bike rider jumped off, however I now have grazes on my arm and leg. I said a few choice words to the Boda driver who was at this time being shouted at by a crowd. To be honest I dont know what happened to him after that as I realised I was bleeding and therefore we decided to go back to the house and sort out the cuts. So much for our trip to Lake View. Thankfully it was not the bad even though Anna put pure Alchohol and Iodine on my cuts and I now have some random Gauze and plaster on my arm and leg.

We did manage to get to Lake View in the end too, although of course I could not swim :-( maybe next time.

I suppose I have now learnt a lesson that if you get a Boda make sure they can actually ballence a bike properly...

Anyway.... Thats all for now will write more when there is other news, hopefully not another Boda incident.