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treading water & feeling a bit out of the loop..

(First week back in the UK)

overcast 14 °C

We’ve been back in the UK a week

.. and already ticked- off some of the essentials; deep, hot bubble baths, play parks, my sister’s hen do, bridesmaid dress fittings, cheese, wine and nice brown bread consumed. David says that coming back on 'Home Assignment' is like getting a vehicle MOT since there is the dentist to visit, a de-brief planned, doctor's appointments and even physio to get done.

Beautiful Turkey

Beautiful Turkey



Last week on our delightful (!) Turkish holiday en-route to the UK, Amelie learned to swim. Turkey was a great stop-over for a rest after the intensity of Uganda but before the appointments and catch-ups of the UK. There was a pool next to the apartment, which meant we were in the water every day, and one day she saw a 3-year old jump in and swim, that was it… Armbands were off and replaced with a feisty determination. It was a bit daunting to watch as she frantically doggy-paddled through the water, her face mainly under the water, and the visible relief as the felt the security of the wall.

Proud swimmer

Proud swimmer

Coming back to the UK this time round has felt a bit like Amelie’s swimming- I feel and probably look like I’m flailing and drowning, but hope and trust I am slowly getting to the other side.

It’s not that anything is massively different or difficult than what we remember, but it is the seemingly inconsequential things that I need to consciously remember again; like how the ticketing queuing system works to buy kids shoes in a crowded shoe shop just before term starts, or how to drive in a polite British manner, observing the rules not the assertive Ugandan way, not needing to greet people, nor say ‘sorry sorry sorry’ if someone drops something, and realising that I urgently need to get a phone, as phonebooths seem to be a dying a death...

So many things seem to jump out everywhere that just seem so different to the 'normal' we’re now used to…

  • Charity shops- after several months of clearing out and de-cluttering our home in Uganda, and even the tattiest/ broken item being taken and used by someone, poor David was in for an embarrassing shock when he and the kids struggled to the local OXFAM with bags of stuff from me and my almost-married sister.. an old lady grumbled that they didn’t need or want anymore products and he should take it elsewhere. A more sympathetic lady saw David’s face, the over-laden buggy and the whining munchkins and took the bags from him. To David’s mortification, he heard the less sympathetic lady mutter ‘I wish you’d told that man to take his bags, it’s a load of junk, I’ll have to give my hands a good wash now…’
  • Garden Centres- places where plants and tools are for beauty and enjoyment rather than just for survival.
  • Fathers attentively playing and tending to their babies.
  • Middle- aged couples holding hands.
  • Having gluten free’ snack options for kids in the church crèche.
  • Having child protection policies, ratios, training for volunteers, lesson plans even for Sunday school teachers.
  • Not needing mozzie nets nor worrying about a life -threatening illness when the kids have a slight fever. Having the peace of mind of highly trained medical personnel close at hand in case anything goes wrong anyway...
  • Drinking from the tap!
  • Trying to get rid of small change rather than trying to accumulate it.

We are staying with my parents for the next few weeks and we were amazed at the polite letter from the council warning they would be doing roadworks for the next few days and were very sorry for the disruption. After spending the last year with the dirt roads all over Arua being dug up by huge Chinese trucks, mounds of mud being dumped on the road and diggers and rollers steaming towards me with no warnings, it all feels quite neat and organized.

It is good to be back in the UK, and of course so special to reconnect with family and friends over the next few weeks and to be here for all the
‘dynamics’ of the wedding prep, but it is also much more overwhelming than I expected, and so if you see me making awkward Uganglish cultural blunders and looking like I’m drowning, I probably feel like I am, so please help me out xxx



Most of my family together again

Most of my family together again

bake-off Hen soon to be MRS

bake-off Hen soon to be MRS

Posted by africraigs 23:47 Archived in England Tagged home family transition confusion support_network Comments (8)

Cross the river in a crowd & the crocodile won't eat you...

(African Proverb)

sunny 29 °C

‘It was the best of times and the worst of times...’

… okay, slight exaggeration, but to help distract from a recent bout of homesickness I had planned a little afternoon tea-party for my birthday. We’d been busy making our lemon curd, cupcakes, lemonade, rather anemic looking bread, labels, and so on, (not because we were going for an organic, homespun effect, but because it’s the only way to have these things here…)


It was all going well and I was thrilled at the rare opportunity to use my cake-stand and spotty teapot, but poor Asher was pretty miserable, and hot, and moany, which put a damp-ner on things. He had a nasty bite on his leg and the angry swelling was creeping up and down his leg in a sinister manner.

Sometimes I think one of the best-kept secrets of cross-cultural/mission work is the closeness and support from other ex-pats. It’s a unique situation where you have at least 10 nationalities at a small tea-party all with different characters, ages, and cultures and all with a story and reason to be in Arua: the efficient German, the generous American, the Polish artist, the diplomatic Canadian, the straightforward Dutch, the agricultural South Sudansese, the motherly Irish nurse, the business-minded Kikuyu Kenyan, the polite Brit (obviously not David..!) stereotyping?.. moi?


Within minutes, some friends drove to town to pick up antibiotics for Asher, other friends had washed up from the tea-party, another friend was trying to cheer up Asher by walking with him around the garden, another friend prayed for healing, another friend offered to fly us to Kampala then and there (an AIMAir pilot, not just a magician).

The next few days sort of blurred together in a worried haze of antibiotics, calpol, (thanks for the parcel Tracey) broken nights and an email to Interhealth, who said it sounded like an abscess which would need to be properly drained at a trustworthy, sterile medical centre. (That ruled out Arua then…)
Even the word ‘abscess’ seems to ooze grossness.

Our new friends in town are a missionary pilot family who phoned us to say a flight would be passing Arua in an hour and there was a seat for Asher and me.
And 1 hour and $160 later we were sitting in a taxi on the way to the best clinic in Uganda. Even in the taxi I was wondering whether I was over-reacting and whether it was a waste of time and money, but after the Dr confirmed it was a nasty deep abscess that needed to be drained immediately I knew I was in the right place.

As they prepared for the procedure: dosing up little Asher on Ketamine (which I vaguely remembered is what they put horses to sleep with) and getting all the sterile equipment ready, my eyes glanced on an electric saw in the room. ‘Does an abscess go away on its own?’ I asked quietly. ‘Oh no, it just gets deeper, even going into the bone, and then it’s very dangerous…’ the Dr said quite cheerfully.
The electric saw was placed next to a gleaming white suit labeled ‘ebola’, and some point between then, and the grossness of bursting the abscess I thought I might faint.

Anyway, before I feel lightheaded again, back to sweeter things and my tea-party, it wasn’t how I would have planned it, but seeing Asher deteriorate and the reality of some of the risks here, it made me take stock a bit this week (maybe my old age ;-) ) and realize how in this crazy, unpredictable, sometimes dangerous and sometimes heartwarming place, it is so necessity to have a wonderfully mixed group of friends on the ground who can express something of the ‘Body of `Jesus’ here on earth.

little ones teaparty

little ones teaparty


good recovery, welcome back little guy :-) thanks for all the prayers and concern

good recovery, welcome back little guy :-) thanks for all the prayers and concern


If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African proverb

Posted by africraigs 09:49 Archived in Uganda Tagged children parties sickness expat support_network Comments (6)

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