Sunday 12th April – Relaxing in Kampala and contemplating our return to the UK

We arrived in Kampala at 6pm on Saturday evening. We checked in once again at the Makerere University Guest House where we had stayed on our first night in Uganda 2-weeks ago. The familiarity of the guesthouse helped to reinforce the extent to which we are slowly, but surely, starting to get to know both Kampala and Uganda. The guesthouse was certainly a lot busier than it had been during our previous stay. There is a party of over 30 secondary school students from Norway who are visiting Uganda to participate in an annual dancing event where students get an opportunity to learn and perform dances that are characteristic of different ethnic groups living in Uganda.

Rosco left us for the evening to return to his home and settle back into life in Kampala. Although Rosco has been to Lira many times before, this was his longest continuous stay there, so I am sure that he was appreciative of the opportunity for some down time. After a brief rest, Katja, Richard and myself met for dinner. There were moments of concern when we realized that the video-camera had been left in the transport that we had been using that day – particularly in light of the fact that there had not yet been an opportunity to save the video-interviews that Katja had shot with members of the research team from the previous day. We immediately contacted Rosco who in turn contacted Julius (our driver). Within an hour the camera had been located and returned to us by Julius. We were greatly relieved, and very appreciative that Julius had managed to return it to us so quickly (even in spite of the traffic jams that clog the arterial road networks in Kampala).

It would be fair to say that we were all exhausted after the travel today and we agreed to turn in for an early night. I did some writing for the blog and then made my way to bed. I was woken by the evocative sound of the early morning prayer call from the nearby mosque. I spent some time drifting in and out of sleep but was aware of some pronounced busyness in my thinking. There is a lot to process about what has happened, and the work that has been conducted, in the previous two weeks. So many personal exchanges and stories shared. So many different languages shared and attempted (Lango, Acholi, Luganda, English, German, Polish and Romanian to name but a few). So many visual images developing like photographs in the darkroom of my mind. So many hands shaken and smiles exchanged…. In Uganda, as with other parts of the world, physical contact during greetings is important. Handshakes tend to be more elaborate than those exchanged in countries such as the UK; a variety of hand-positions can be sequenced together, and the length of time that the handshake lasts tends to be longer. Ugandan people will often grasp their right forearm with their left hand whilst completing the handshake.

I was aware that Richard had arranged to meet with a Ugandan student who is living in Kampala and completing her PhD through the University of Manchester. Bona’s research is focusing on the role that technology can play in the education of children in Uganda. Relative to its neighbours in the Great Lakes Region (Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania), the proportion of people completing secondary school education is comparatively low (i.e. 33% in Uganda compared to 84% in Rwanda). Together we shared some thoughts on how this issue could be addressed. It was a very interesting and enlightening conversation.

Rosco joined us at 1pm and we made our way to a nearby cultural centre where local crafts are sold. After picking up some souvenirs, Rosco took us to a restaurant called The Lawns. It is located in the consular section of the city that tends to be popular with expatriates. It was a decadent end to our trip. We really enjoyed the food and it provided another opportunity to unwind that little bit more. However we were acutely aware of the stark contrast between the comparative affluence of this area of Kampala and the deprivation experienced by many Ugandans. On returning to the guesthouse we had some time to kill before heading off to Entebbe airport. The Man Utd v Man City game was being shown live on the television, but my mind was not on the game.

We left the guesthouse at 7.45pm, Rosco had arranged the transportation to the airport and he accompanied us on the journey. The drive out to Entebbe took over an hour. The initial phase of the drive took us through the busy streets of Kampala. The electricity was down in many parts of the city. Candles and paraffin lamps instead illuminated the sides of the roads where vendors were selling all manner of foods and merchandise from their stalls. We navigated our way across busy roads crammed with bicycles, cars, taxi buses and motorbikes. The traffic in Kampala can feel a bit chaotic at the best of times, but people seem to find a way of negotiating their way through. My mind drifted back to the night of our arrival in Uganda and the journey we made in the opposite direction. I remembered how I had envisioned how our departure from Uganda would feel after the two week stay had been completed. I think it is fair to say that it the deep sense of accomplishment that I felt driving out to the airport far exceeded anything that I could ever have anticipated on our arrival.

As we approached Entebbe we received two welcomed phone calls on Rosco’s phone – one from Dennis (a member of the research team), and then one from Fr Ponsiano. Both wished us well on our travels and again thanked us for coming to Uganda. It was kind of them both to call, and we enjoyed having the chance to chat. And then… it was time to say ‘see you later’ to Rosco in the form of a group hug. As a group Richard, Katja, Rosco and myself have complemented each other really well and we have had good fun along the way. Rosco is due in the UK in May, so we hope to meet up with him then. The flight from Entebbe back to Amsterdam takes 8 hours and is due to leave at 11.30pm. I will get a connecting flight on to Glasgow, and Richard will fly to Manchester. Katja however is flying on to Atlanta and then Tucson in the US to present at a conference over there. That’s an incredible journey to fit in a limited period of time. It won’t be until the 20th April that she finally returns to Glasgow.

The plan for the next few days is to settle back into life in Glasgow, work through some of the research administration tasks and save and catalogue some of the data/media that we collected in Uganda. I will try to get some photographs up onto the blog.

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