Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Students + After Eights = Trouble...

We invited over 4 Leeds medical students for dinner this week who are doing some of their elective at International Hospital Kampala. They introduced us to a new way of eating After Eight mints that involved migrating them from forehead to mouth without the use of hands- well, witout a TV we have to take any entertainment as it comes!

First Day at School

Here are the girls boarding the 'school bus' for their first day at Rainbow School complete with tie-dye uniform. The day seemed to go well for both of them and they made some new friends. The cucumber sandwiches for lunch was the only let-down! The school follows the UK curriculum and has a really friendly feel to it. Bella starts at nursery next week for 3 days per week, which will give Alan a little breather.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Can I blame the altitude?

I dusted down my running gear and braved the Kampala hills this morning….and almost ground to a halt!!! I kept going, although barely(!) and managed to run for 40 minutes! I felt incredibly unfit though so I am now determined to get into a routine of regularly running and I have a few willing companions to accompany me/carry me! I think the Kampala marathon in November is looking unlikely though…!

The training team is launched!

The final ‘training the trainers’ workshop went off without a hitch on Friday. Members of the training team had volunteered to prepare some teaching on subjects such as audit, change management, chairing meetings, and so with some coordination and a few planning meetings the day ran very smoothly amongst flipcharts/role playing/group work/ and homemade flapjacks to incentivise the team! The idea is that members of the training team can now travel around the clinics throughout Uganda supporting the local teams on the ground, teaching and conducting audits and appraisals. The first audit on our list is to check hand washing facilities at every clinic, something that my predecessors had worked very hard at ensuring was in place, so fingers crossed! I have also been conducting mini-audits at the clinics on rational antibiotic prescribing, something that is notoriously problematic in Uganda, with a view to improving and standardising management across the clinics and hopefully coming up with an IMC antibiotic guideline which we will tackle at the doctors’ workshop at the end of September. So we have a busy few months ahead, but all very exciting!

The rainy season has arrived with a vengeance!

It started on the 15th August, as every Ugandan seemed to predictmuch to our amazement, and involves daily downpours like that pictured here. The storms are amazing and really dramatic… almost enjoyable, as long as you are not caught in it on foot, or in a car, attempting to drive!! Both of which we managed today. Alan and the girls chose the wrong moment to walk out for an ice-cream and half way there, the heavens opened. I jumped in the car to rescue them and almost ended up getting stuck on a road that had swiftly become a raging river, complete with rapids!! Thank God for the 4-wheel drive mode! Every day, you see cars that lack the necessary amphibious qualities, abandoned in ditches by the side of the road! The storms don’t last long and then the sun burns through very quickly. For those planning to visit, don’t be put off as apparently the wildlife is amazing in the rainy season and in fact some hippos have been sighted nearby on the shores of Lake Victoria!! We have not seen them yet though, but we can confirm that the birdlife has increased in magnitude! Unfortunately so too have the mosquitoes, much to Zoe’s misfortune as they LOVE her.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Bella's Birthday Bash!

The girls have just collapsed into bed after a day of balloons, face painting, dancing queen, party games and far too much cake and drink!!! Nothing new there then! The build up to Bella’s birthday was onerously big, especially when I cracked the first egg yesterday morning to start baking for today and almost in synchrony, the electricity and consequently the oven, went off!!! We had already tricked the girls into thinking Bella’s birthday was today to allow time to bake, after returning home from a 3 day conference late on Friday and the expectation for birthday cake had to be met. By midday the electricity still had not returned so we headed for the beach to join the rest of the VSO crowd for ultimate frisbee and a barbecue instead and then paid the price later as we were up until 1am this morning baking! Some things never change!! Thankfully it all came together and Bella seemed to have a fantastic time!!! The Snazzaroo face paints were a big hit, especially for the Ugandan kids, so we may have to set up a road-side stall! The rains held off too (the rainy season began yesterday with a vengeance!) so we could be outdoors for most of the day, which was great as our little house struggles to hold too many and we ended up being a fair few! Bella beamed from the beginning to the end of the day…!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Our own personal golf course...

Whilst Alison beavered away with the other VSO health workers at a conference in Seeta, Alan took his caddies along to a golf course in Lugazi sugar plantation. There was not another soul in sight and looking at the visitors' book, the course doesn't get played much. Due to this and the surplus of local labour, the course was in great nick and we made it around 8 very hilly holes in the midday heat, before the 3 caddies pictured wanted to retire to the 19th hole.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Splash it all over!

We spent most of the weekend helping paint the children's malnutrition ward at Kampala's main hospital, Mulago, with the other VSO volunteers. Girls took ownership of some chairs and duly made them their own with some alternative designs.
Worryingly, baby wipes beat white spirit hands down in removing the gloss paint from the participants. Dread to think what the magic ingredients are!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Sunday Treat!

After 4 days without water, bucket washes lost their novelty and so we escaped to the American Club for a long hot shower. The brief swim pictured here, although pleasant on a hot day, simply provided the excuse to use their washing facilities. We have become members of the club for the year, which will provide a welcome haven and no shortage of extra-curricular activities.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Lucky escape!

On our way back from town today, we had our first brush with the Ugandan police force. One of the big hazards of driving in Uganda is being stopped by the police and being fined for various 'offences'. Alan allegedly took an illegal U-turn and this stern copper told him to pull over so he could write out a ticket for the offence. Conveniently thinking he was being waved on by another policeman, Alan saw the opportunity to drive on and leave the policeman on foot in his wake. Further down the road, celebrating our narrow escape, we were surprised to see the policeman pulling up alongside on the back of a taxi motorbike, much to the girls' horror, waving angrily to pull over again.
After a discussion over the finer points of Ugandan road law, with some vociferous contributions from Alison in the backseat, it was decided to revisit the scene of the crime to prove that there were no road signs about illegal U-turns and to show how we were not the only law-breakers there. We gave the policeman a lift back in our car, offering some cold pizza on the way complemented by Zoe turning on the waterworks in sympathy for daddy going to jail! This may have softened him a little, but he was still adamant that we pay the fine or go to court.
Alison got out and took some photos of the crime scene and Alan politely enquired if the policeman was going to arrest all the cars breaking this law, whilst all 3 girls continued to sob in the back! Sensing that we were not going down without a fight, the policeman finally backed down and asked us not to do it again, to which we gratefully agreed. We wheelspun away, enormously relieved not to be spending the night behind bars!

Clarks with a difference!

We went into Kampala to East Africa’s biggest market to get the girls’ school shoes and it was quite an experience. We disappeared into a rabbit warren of covered stalls with row after row of everything you could imagine. In the shoe section, we were collared by a bunch of very eager chaps who had a selection that ranged from second –hand Clarks with the original owners’ names still inscribed (although the shoes had been very well polished!) to the latest fashion, completely impractical high heels in shiny patent leather. Guess which the girls went for?! Schools starts 26th August and they can't wait (neither can Alan!)