June 2014 - Linnet Griffith-Jones continues her journal about life in Kaabong, five months into her internship with AWARE Uganda - Safe World Field Partner in Karamoja, north-east Uganda.
This is a special entry dedicated to my cousin Freddie, who asked that I give more detail; therefore, I am providing you all with a thrilling blow-by-blow account of my day.
Wake up. As usual despite it being what I would call jolly early, I am the last one up. I took my malaria and vitamin pills and chucked on some clothes. Then I go out plug my phone into my solar charger and brush my teeth.
Maria, a Mobiliser for AWARE Uganda, is here already and I regret to say already seems drunk as she is blowing a very shrill whistle loudly. Maria is good person but she only comes to AWARE when she wants something: money, school books etc. She made me take her picture a million times when I got here and now always asks where the money from the pictures is, despite the fact that I've told her that a picture is just a picture. She is camped out on the veranda waiting for Timothy so she can make her demands.
Otherwise Lydia is washing up and jerry cans are being filled and brought across the compound.
Outside the fence people are sweeping outside their homes and generally being busy.
Bathing. I chucked off my clothes and bunged on a kanga and follow Lydia to the bathing area as she really doesn't trust me to manage carrying my water across the compound without tripping and/or sloshing the water all over the place.
Not sure if I've mentioned before, but bathing consists of me crouched down in a walled but uncovered space next to the latrine using a basin and cup to wash myself and, this early, involves a lot of shivering.
I get dressed properly. I finished off my getting ready routine by covering myself in my factor 50 sunscreen and high DEET content insect repellent plus a bit of make-up (I am still vain even in the middle of nowhere!)
I am being especially liberal with the insect repellent as I've realised that I left my sting relief in Kampala and don't want to spend every minute of my life trying not to scratch incredibly itchy mosquito bites.
I get to the office - it's only across the compound so I just mosey over with my bag.
Today I have my fingers crossed that my laptop battery will last until the solar power here has enough of a chance to warm up sufficiently to charge it.
Yesterday was a rainy cloudy day, so I used my laptop to charge my phone which seemed like a good idea then - especially as my wind-up torch broke and I am reduced to use my phone to make my way around the compound after sunset to brush my teeth and use the latrine. But the idea seems like less ingenious when I realise that I only have an hour of battery for the next few hours! I am able to charge my kindle in the office though, which is a relief.
I turn on my music: I get a bit of a kick out of starting my morning listening to Macklemore's "Same Love" first thing, as technically I could be arrested for playing it - especially near children!
Lydia calls me for breakfast. This always has to be done discreetly when there are other people in the office as we can't feed everyone who comes to pop in, but they will expect food if they have an inkling that any has been prepared!
Today for breakfast I had a break from the usual omelette and potatoes/omelette and posho/omelette and whatever combination, and had a chapatti and bananas - which was a little surprising, but definitely in a good way. I also have a cup of tea, no milk here but I am getting used to that. There are no tea pots or tea bags so loose tea is just spooned into the mug followed by sugar and water and I have to remember to drink it before it stews!
Having eaten, I wander back to the office and continue with the blogging.
Yesterday I saw Josephine who was very interested in my soap so will try to wait for her to arrive before playing with my lye-leeching barrel. The soft wood ashes mean that I am going have to boil up the liquid to concentrate it but that will have to wait until she arrives.
Martin still hasn't turned up and I am running out of things to blog about, which is a bit of a bore so am updating my document about my soap and hoping for something to do to happen soon.
Rose, the head of my bead-making group arrived, explaining that they couldn't come on Saturday so had re-arranged to come today instead. I was really glad to see how organised they are being about it.
I spent a while chatting to Rose about the project - the things they need and the things they will make for me to buy as souvenirs - which they wanted to give as gifts but I insisted on payment because I know how much the cash will mean to them.
Also got distracted watching the children on the ECDC playing. It is weird how blindly happy the children here are; maybe it takes a few years for them to realise how difficult life is and will be for them.
Back to blogging and trying to find photos to go with each entry; sad to say but as I have become more used to life here I take fewer pictures. I know that everyone at home will be interested to see what I have been doing, but having been here five months things become more everyday and I forget how different it is from the life I'm used to having.
That isn't to say that I have forgotten all the luxuries at home. Last night I got a bit homesick and started to think about all the things I was looking forward to do - like getting into my own bed with an actual book, rather than the kindle I use here (absolute First World Problem I know); fighting with my brother to get space over the basin to brush our teeth and not having to wear flip flops to bathe were at the top of the list. Probably a good time to check my privilege and get back to some actual work!
The battery of my laptop ran out and Martin turned up at the office with one of the Peer Educators who work counselling HIV positive people in the community.
The monthly reports are now overdue (they were meant to be sent to PACE in Lira on the 28th) but this is Africa so timeliness isn't really that big a deal. The problem with the reports is that the Peer Educators usually bring hand written notes with information that isn't quite right for the official forms, so it takes a while to break it down and get it right.
My kindle was nearly charged, so I've swapped it over with my phone - as the solar in the office is much better than my tiddly thing. Also means I can check my emails in the office.
More bead women have turned up, including Martin's wife.
She came in to say hello, but when I asked how her weekend was she just laughed. Martin explained that all the English she knows is "How are you?" and to answer with "Fine" - because her mother wouldn't let her go to school.
Apparently, the one time she tried to go to school her mother had an open grave dug for her by the time she returned and it scared her enough not to go back.
Here, I am told, women are married for cows so have no need to read and write; education for women is seen as leading to prostitution!! Martin wisely left me to lose the will to live in peace and came back when I had recovered.
Had a missed call from Grace - I rarely ever pick up my phone here because it is on the veranda charging on silent while I am in the office. So I called her back, she told me that she would be arriving on Wednesday and would be taking me to Kidepo National Park, which is brilliant as apparently I will get to see a lot of giraffes and zebras.
Still dickering so decided to take to take some pictures of the women making jewellery and then pottered off to get some soda and airtime.
Got back just in time to meet the new volunteer who will be taking over the position of Gender Officer here. She seems really nice and is also interested in land issues which is good.
My laptop decided to charge so back to being able to work and blog which makes me feel better. I've already spent a lot of my time here organising etc., so now when I run out of things to do I end up a bit stuck
Showed Martin the spreadsheet I'd made, tracking the human rights abuse reports that we send off to some big NGO or other, and he suggested that I add a few things so got to work on that. It is just a simple thing designed to put an emphasis on statistics rather than description. Hopefully having set it up, it will be easy for everyone to carry on and prove useful.
Finished the changes and one of the Peer Educators came into the office to make his report. Lydia stuck her head in to say she was off to the market and to see if I wanted anything; couldn't think of anything so back to blogging.
Transferred a load of pictures onto my computer and organised which ones I will put up on Facebook when I get back to Kampala.
There is some internet here, enough to do some Facebook, e-mail and Whatsapp but not enough for uploading things or sending attachments.
The peer educator is a chatty bloke so end up talking to him about a load of different things. He also reminded me that tomorrow is Uganda Martyrs Day, I only have a vague understanding about it so will have to ask someone about it.
Lydia came back from the market and brought me an orange, which I am now munching on in the office.
You're not really meant to eat, drink or exchange money in front of other people here for two reasons: firstly, it will make them feel bad if they haven't had anything that day and secondly, they think that you have a lot and this encourages them to beg from you.
According to Martin who worked for MSF [Medecin Sans Frontieres], this is standard practice for most NGOs out here but something I always forget - but then again I always have been a bit careless.
The jewellery making group has gone home now - probably off to their gardens and I am back to dickering for now: think I will do some filing this time.
The Peer Educator Joseph has asked me to type up his report for him - so now just waiting for him to finish writing it up so I can get on with it. The only problem is that he is incredibly thorough - which of course is brilliant, many of them aren't - but it does mean I having to wait a while to get on with it. We decided in the end to do the report bit by bit so I can type up sections as they are finished.
Finished typing up Joseph's report and tried to get out of going to church tomorrow - not sure if I will escape this time, but time will tell. Joseph is hanging around trying to get something but I have developed a rude but effective strategy of typing furiously and not moving my eyes from the screen, when I know that the only purpose someone has is to get something out of me. Callous I know, but really, if you gave everyone what they asked for they would never be satisfied and you'd drive yourself potty.
Then I had a chance to talk to Timothy about Martyrs Day. It is a public holiday to commemorate 28 Catholic missionaries, murdered by a King of Buganda who had been converted to Islam in the early days of Christianity in Africa. They were some of the first martyrs on the African continent and Christians in Uganda head to church for prayers every year to remember their sacrifice.
Was called to lunch by Stella. Today I had the standard: omelette, posho, beans and potatoes, which are boiled and then mixed with fried shallots and tomato, with the very welcome addition of some avocado, which ranks very highly on my list of favourite foods!
Back in the office looking for things to do and failing, so going to play with my lye instead of just sitting here. What I have to do is: drain off all the lye I have into old soda bottles and then hope there is space on the energy saving stove to boil it up until concentrated enough to use. Not sure whether to leave that stage until I see Josephine though, but can decide that when I get to it.
With the help of two of the little ones who live at the compound, I drew off my weak lye into two soda bottles. As the lye isn't that strong we just dipped the lids of the bottles into the liquid and poured it into the bottles. What is really encouraging is that after washing my hands with water, it felt like I had cleaned them with soap.
Then I put my lye on to boil (to concentrate it) - not sure how long I should leave it but will check after half an hour I think, to see if it has reduced and got darker. Went to the office to distract myself as watched pots never boil, got an email from Andrew at Safeworld to say that the AWARE Uganda website had been hacked, so emailed Grace and Sam in Kampala to let them know. Then went back to my lye.
Started bucketing it down, which I love, except that my jeans are too long and therefore get dirty, so I helped Lydia put the buckets and containers in place for where the guttering leaks and headed over to the office.
It's a full blown tropical storm with thunder and the metal shutters banging shut.
Can't tell how long the rain will last so have to leave my laptop in the office and will periodically check on my lye.
I want to go check on my lye but am stuck in the office, as the rain has intensified and the noise of it hitting the corrugated iron roofs is near deafing. Not really much I can do - also my hands are drying out because of the lye: I understand now why you mix it with fat!
Rain slackened so went to check on my lye. It has reduced but I am not sure it is concentrated enough. I will try adding only a little fat and having a high lye content. If it doesn't work then I think I can suggest using the weak lye to wash hands.
Took my lye off the boil; now just have to wait for it to cool down so I can pour it back into a bottle for when I get the fat. Changed my shirt as I got soaked through.
Lydia told me off because she had warned me that I would get cold and possibly get ill wandering around in the rain. I really do have to listen to her more often. She is generally always right. Decided I am too cold to sit in the office; head back to my room to warm up.
After relaxing, I went to see Agnes at Nancy's bar; found her outside preparing chips to sell. I gave Akello, a small girl who lives at Agnes' home which is behind the bar, the small skirt that matches my Karimojong one and sat chatting for a bit.
Agnes is going to help me buy some gold here to take back as a present for Mummy.
Was horrified to discover that a very drunk man greeting us from the street had a high up position in the district, but was told that that's how it goes here.
Head home as it will be getting dark soon, and with recent events and the rain it is best for me to get back before it gets too dark to see where I am going. No one was in when I got back so sit down; wrote some of this blog and will maybe watch a film.
My film finished. I was reminded by a buzzing in my ear to get under my net. The others came back while I was watching Bridget Jones (I really should have thought about it and downloaded a lot more watching material before I left home, but a friend in Kampala let me briefly raid his hard drive and I will be doing that again when I get back). They are chilling in the guys' bedroom. listening to music and playing cards while I read: 'War of the Worlds' at the moment.
Lydia has brought me my supper, which I will eat by the light of my kindle. So glad I shelled out for the one with a back light. Tonight I am having omelette, beans, potatoes and posho - which is a jolly good example of most days.
Having finished my meal and put my plate in the hall, I went out, brushed my teeth and then got ready for bed. I won't sleep yet, but curl up with my kindle before I drop off at about 11pm or midnight.
So this is the thrilling life I lead. Hope it satisfies all curiosity. I promise more brevity from now on!
Linnet Griffith-Jones is a graduate in Politics from Lancaster University and has an MSc in International Politics from Trinity College, Dublin.
From January to July 2014, Linnet was interning with AWARE Uganda, based in Kaabong.