01.12.2013 29 °C
I knew I was back in Africa when I was in the shower washing my curly locks and looking down, saw that the water draining away was reddy-brown from the dust that must have been accumulating…
The last 2 nights, however, I have not been able to have a shower because the water has run out, the last dribbles dripping out the shower head as I watch on forlornly. This is the first time since being in this house that we have had real water issues and it isn’t even the dry season yet. I find that water problems cause me a lot of stress, so I am not sure how I will cope. Likely I will be having to raid my UK winegum stash sooner than I would have.
We have also been having more power outages these days. I find that having no electrical power causes me less annoyance as long as you have planned beforehand to charge the solar lamps in the sun during the daylight and keeping the computer battery topped up when the electricity is available. I am working out how to cope with the inconsistent power by planning another solar panel on the roof and a combo electric/kerosene fridge! (Who has ever heard of a kerosene fridge unless you live in Africa?) Living here demands extra creativity and ingenuity in how to survive. Our mission agency is called “Pioneers”, which is an apt description of the attitude and character that is often needed to live day-to-day. Unfortunately, I don’t really fit that label, which is why I enjoy hot showers and being able to charge the laptop anytime in the UK… Sorting your life out here with solar panels etc means it is also often more costly than the UK. I get frustrated when I hear people say how cheap it must be to live in Africa. In fact, evidence shows that some of the most expensive places to live in the world as an ex-pat are in Africa, places such as Angola and Juba in South Sudan where most things need to be imported.
I often here myself saying that Africa is “bonkers” because of the knotty issues that we regularly deal with which are mind-bogglingly different to what we would deal with in the UK. My Aunt Barbara has been staying with us since we arrived back on the BA flight almost 3 weeks ago and her first time in Africa has been a real eye-opening experience. For example, taking her round the market in Arua is fascinating because of the colourful sights and the cacophony of sounds such that Karl Pilkington in the TV series “An Idiot Abroad” would remark “My eyes have never been so busy”. Obviously, Aunt Barbara wanted to take photos and I was carrying the camera as discreetly as possible to take pictures for her. Not discreetly enough, it seems, as an officious-looking man (officious usually means large in Africa…) directs us to an office to sign a notebook and hand over money for the privilege of taking pictures in the marketplace. For this, we were then lucky enough to be escorted by the said burly man, now carrying a long stick ready to use to keep the market women in order in case they weren’t keen on being snapped by the camera.
Right now, we have a situation where the lady who helps us, Lilian, has been bringing a 6-year old girl she doesn’t know to help her look after her own 2-month old baby, Norban (no idea what it means, neither does she, the father named him…). It has caused various issues of boundaries in the home and stresses which we weren’t prepared to cope with. The girl is not at school and it seems as though her family are in no hurry to send her. Lilian says that has something to do with her being Muslim? We have also had our share of people coming to the gate wanting work and others coming in to take our oranges.
These and other situations (like the nest of cockroaches Aunt Barbara bravely helped us get rid of in our drawers) make living and working in Africa a unique experience, something only understood first-hand (right, Aunt B?).
However, the best thing we have experienced since returning is the welcome that we have received from Ugandans and ex-pats that we know. Amelie has re-connected with her little friends and had a international mix of friends at her wee tea-party for her 3rd birthday celebration. Around town, people we may or may not recognize wave cheerily showing huge smiles and white teeth shouting out “Welcome back” greetings. People are happy to see Asher and call him “our baby”.
The UK already seems a long way away.