A Travellerspoint blog

African Nights

Why earplugs are a great invention

sunny 31 °C

I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.
*

*

It’s 3am and still a sultry 24 degrees. The stars look incredible out there as there is no night pollution or cloud cover tonight. I am not a fan of the hot and dry season we’re in (Come to think of it, though, a fan would be a good idea). No getting snug under the covers, there are no need for any covers. Juno, our dog has woken me up with some earnest barking outside. It is a concern, as our night-guard, John, told me that there was an attempted burglary the night before at our neighbour’s place. Thieves were chased off the compound, but not before they had cut open the wire mesh fence to get in. These days, there seems to be far too many stories around here of robberies for my liking.

Thankfully, we now have our solar-powered security lights meaning that even when the town power goes out unexpectedly, there are lights to deter any potential robber somewhat. This early morning, as I walk around the house checking everything at, I relax when I see John patrolling around outside and vow to give him a bonus when I see him before he leaves shift. Most night-guards are fast asleep at this time. They will likely be busy during the day-time as well, like our other night-guard, Rashid, who rides a bicycle taxi during the day, with its large padded seat for passengers.

Getting back to sleep is a problem under the cloak of the tropical heat. The air is punctuated with countless dog voices, giving vent to their excitement. People say that 3-4am is the ‘witching hour’ and it’s easy to believe that when there seems to be a lot going on outside in the blackness.

In the distance, I hear a club playing popular African pop. Though I usually enjoy the tunes, I detest any music at this time of night. I want to be in a deep sleep before 5am when the mosques wake up and their eerie chanting begins around us. It is difficult to tell where these ghostly voices are coming from. Seriously, Islam doesn’t seem to consider a community’s need for rest.

Each day, morning comes too early for me as Amelie wakes with the light between 6:30 and 7am. Ironically, it is the best time for sleeping as it’s cool and quiet.

Posted by africraigs 03:13 Archived in Uganda Comments (4)

I knew I was back in Africa when...

sunny 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.
Tea anyone? When the water did come out

Tea anyone? When the water did come out


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.
Sneaky market photo

Sneaky market photo

Aunt Barbara and Amelie washing by hand

Aunt Barbara and Amelie washing by hand


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?).
A fallen enemy

A fallen enemy

Fighting the cockroach infestation

Fighting the cockroach infestation


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”.
Amelie's 3rd birthday cake

Amelie's 3rd birthday cake

Amelie's teddy bear picnic on the front lawn

Amelie's teddy bear picnic on the front lawn

The UK already seems a long way away.

Posted by africraigs 11:20 Archived in Uganda Comments (5)

teddy bear cakes and fabric conditioner

(12 things to enjoy in our last few days in the UK and a reason to go back to Uganda)

With less than a week before our flight, life is a jumble of lists and lasts…

this week amidst packing and goodbyes and stocking up and shopping for resources, we are desperately enjoying the little things of the UK before we plunge back into a completely different culture… Someone recently mentioned that when children (or any of us) go through transition, it is helpful to write a ‘list of lasts’ to prepare to leave, so this week I will deliberately enjoy and delight in…

hot and clean water for washing up

ovens which bake beautiful cakes

beautiful sisters to bake with

cute cafes to catch up with friends over a cuppa and discreetly feed Asher

blending in - and having children who blend in (especially now her strange Uganglish accent has gone)

well maintained playparks

wrapping up in coats and going for a walk and looking in on the cosy houses in the neighbourhood

fast, cheap and reliable internet

a church where children have pompoms and flags to help them feel included, and Sunday school teachers who are committed and trained and enthusiastic to share truth with little ones

getting dark and gloomy at 4pm

immunisations which are in date and not fake

the smell of fabric conditioner and the result of machine washed clothes

Someone said last week ‘oh, but presumably Asher and Amelie can be vaccinated against malaria and typhoid?’ hmm. unfortunately not…
and maybe it goes without saying that returning to East Africa with our precious little ones is not a decision we make lightly.

The focus at church yesterday was on adoption and orphans, and encouraging the church to consider their role in adoption and fostering. It was good (and timely) to remember the passion for some of the roles we hope to be involved in when we are back, and the need for people to encourage children that their future is (or can be) brighter than their past.

http://www.oranewzealand.org/where-we-work/uganda/

So much as I hate goodbyes and the thought of leaving loved ones, we push on with the thought of our home in Arua and hopefully our purpose there…

Snapshot of life in Arua...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OaTGE0wH9E

teddy bear picnic

teddy bear picnic

pic 1

pic 1

marathon viewers!

marathon viewers!

DSC_0003

DSC_0003

bye lizzie

bye lizzie

swimming

swimming

soft play

soft play

marathon runner!

marathon runner!

Posted by africraigs 11:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

Welcome Asher Iain Zawadi!

baby Asher Iain Zawadi

baby Asher Iain Zawadi

I’m writing this through the bleary- eyed, emotional newborn haze of exhaustion, elation, love, soreness, relief and shellshock…
we were (and still are!) == thrilled== to welcome our lovely son,== ==Asher Iain Zawadi==== into the world at 4.08am on Friday 30th August weighing 6.7lbs.
Asher is Hebrew/ Biblical for happy, Iain is a tribute to my late brother and means God is gracious, and Zawadi is Swahili for 'gift'...

Asher Iain

Asher Iain


DSC_0097.jpg

Of course, we can’t help comparing the experience of giving birth in Kenya nearly 3 years ago, and with Uganda’s infant and mother high mortality rate and hearing first-hand too many personal stories, we feel relieved to have been able to have benefited from the amazing NHS system and caring medical staff here in the UK…

Claire the wonderful midwife

Claire the wonderful midwife

Some of the more striking differences was…
pain relief- gas and air- during labour…(thank you Lord), though really I didn't know how to use gas and air seeing as it was my first time, instead I used it as somewhere to clench my teeth. Later on during a minor op by the senior midwife, I did feel the benefits of gas and air when I sucked properly on it and David told me I looked like I was cross-eyed and high.

…the paperwork and accountability when we were moved from the delivery ward on one floor to the recovery ward to ensure that the baby we had brought to the ward was the right one. In Kenya we had heard stories about baby swapping, either from people who couldn’t have children and would pay a nurse to steal a new baby, or from a mother who had a stillborn baby and would pay a nurse to swap it for a live baby on the ward. Thankfully, it would have been pretty obvious if someone had tried to swap Amelie when she was amongst her newborn Kenyan peers…

…Then there was the car-seat ordeal when we were leaving the hospital, a baby can’t leave the hospital unless safely strapped into a car-seat, which meant my sweet friend who had come to pick me up and has a phobia of lifts had to run up and down the 5 storeys to fetch the seat… a far cry from bundling into an old banged-up car and holding the new bundle on my lap whilst bumping down the dust road…

Life in Uganda seems far away at the moment, and hard to comprehend life there in a few months with the 2 little ones. I received an email today with a picture of the girl who helps us, Lilian, who is also due any day, and I can't help wondering and worrying for her delivery and circumstances...

There seems to be so much to squash into the remaining few months in the UK, and the last 7 weeks here have felt like a whirlwind of highs with special times with special people, and the challenges of constant packing and repacking and moving... we are so relieved that Asher waited to arrive when we had at least unpacked in Reading rather than arrive on the M6 (or in Doncaster...)

Amelie has coped well with so many changes in the last few weeks- over 10 different beds, a different culture and now a little brother. She has almost lost her strange Ugan-glish accent and loves all the playparks dotted around and stimulating places and things to do... (and we are enjoying the novelty of cbeebies)...
Lovely big sis

Lovely big sis

Legoland!

Legoland!


growing Burnell clan

growing Burnell clan

Posted by africraigs 12:29 Archived in England Comments (7)

Best (and quirks) of the Brits

oompa loompas, the royal baby, hotpants and strawberries....

sunny 30 °C

There were many things we were looking forward to in our few months in the UK, one was escaping the heat for a bit (especially with the pregnancy), but it seemed the heat followed us back to the UK, and literally as we travelled north in my parents small over-packed fiesta, so did the 30C + heat (combined with standstill traffic and a bored toddler making it a wonderful 7 hour journey up the M6…)

9 of the funny the things that you notice after being out of the country for a while...

1. At the many service stations we visited on the awful journey, we were both struck with how many family units there were, dads spending time with their kids, couples together, dads helping with childcare, dads pushing buggies…

2. After not seeing knees (male or female) for a while, it is strange to see so much white flesh wobbling about- hot pants, mini skirts, playsuits, people are loving the summer sun! It is also strange to realize how much pressure people (especially young girls) feel to have the right ‘look.’ The media isn’t coy about what they believe is the sexiest, cutest look...

3. Adverts on the TV to save abandoned dogs, with the dogs having a voice-over and telling a sob story seems so surreal after being in a place where there is no pet culture and animals are purely functional and often mistreated- text ‘PAWS to 81145 and send a pound a week to save more neglected dogs’ is a world away from the flea and worm infested dogs in our neighbourhod in Arua…! It also seems a bit weird when it seems animals are considered as important as people…

4. Having to explain to Amelie what an ambulance, fire engine, police car and radiator are, and why dogs here look so glossy and are on a lead.

5. How delicious summer berries are, especially with cream

6. All the news about Kate and Wills and the baby prince reminds us about how obsessed the UK media can get about something

7. How strict health and safety rules are (I got barked at today by a man in a high-vis yellow vest for amelie's buggy obstructing an aisle...), and how many people wear helmets when cycling. We also have to explain to Amelie why we can’t hold her at the front of the car when she is tired.

8. How many old people are around- yesterday we saw an old lady whizz past on an electric scooter with a fluffy dog sitting happily in the basket, and it made us do a double take. There is definitely a lot of white hair bobbing around.

9. How refreshing it is to be able to go on a walk as a family and not get hassled...
catbells

catbells

windswept

windswept

I didn’t expect to find so many small, daily things strange, and I’m sure in a few days it will all be boringly normal again, but I wonder how Amelie finds this new culture and all the things which are so different. The other day we were visiting a village carnival with various floats and all sorts of people in fancy dress, including a bunch of orange-faced, green haired oompa lompas, and I watched Amelie’s face of utter bewilderment as she was wondering ===‘is this normal here?’…===

oompaloompa.jpg

Seeing friends and family...
baking with auntie zed

baking with auntie zed


auntie lizzie

auntie lizzie

Posted by africraigs 13:32 Archived in England Tagged lakes people Comments (1)

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