Autumn Return

Autumn Return

Autumn, a non-existent season in tropical zones, tricky to explain I remember:

“So Mr Mark, leaves die and fall off, like ours do in the dry season. But that in the West dying leaves are so beautiful people look at them? You travel to look at dead leaves?

Autumn Return

Autumn Return

And the sun you say, it is up far later than six and is dark by the afternoon?”

Polite smiles of disbelief; outlandish information that was never quite believed. Seasonal change is hardwired, hard to dislodge and now we are back to our own again. The placements are finished, we are back in the UK and have that uncertain, Monday after the weekend party feeling.

Autumn Return

Autumn Return

It would be difficult to go back to our old life in the South East of England, we need somewhere else to live and somewhere completely different to the last three years too; Dartmoor it is then. At the end of the month we move there for a pilot programme (I don’t think development vocabulary will ever leave us).

Autumn Return: London

Autumn Return: London

Other returnees have said much the same thing: that (unsurprisingly) your interest in your adventures lasts far longer than the attention span of those at home. Once the returnee answers some fundamental questions and establishes that they didn’t live in a mud hut, that it was very hot, that they had seen some of the wild life also seen on TV, interest quickly fades and its back to Bake Off, Jeremy Corbyn or the price of housing. Which is as it should be, a shared communal conversation, few in Gulu would sustain discussion about countries far away either.

Autumn Return

Autumn Return

Main question (after the mud hut etc): What is it like being back? Impossible to answer, there are no real points of comparison

Points about being back that stand out (in random order and probably of no real significance)

Autumn Return: Kirombe Skies

Autumn Return: Kirombe Skies

Aeroplanes: apart from the bi-weekly plane from Entebbe and the training jet that went round and round clockwise like a child learning to ride a bicycle, there were no other planes to see or hear (despite being the noisiest place I have ever lived). In the South East the sky is full of trails and planes, and small clouds. Gulu skies were either empty or dominated by vast cloud dramas bringing intense tropical storms.

Autumn Return: Skies above Kirombe

Autumn Return: Skies above Kirombe

The dim light and the cold, obviously, but really it’s the damp: arthritis and rheumatism waving to say hello.

Autumn Return: Kampala Traffic

Autumn Return: Kampala Traffic

So much traffic: so few people in each new car; so little carried; no motorbikes; no broken down charcoal trucks.

Autumn Return: Charcoal Truck Loading

Autumn Return: Charcoal Truck Loading

Every Ugandan vehicle was always full beyond its limits, now we see shiny vehicles with a single occupant in well behaved queues.

Autumn Return: Loading a Matatu

Autumn Return: Loading a Matatu

Roadworks: an international feature approached with national characteristics, no one in Uganda would dream of doing anything but driving straight through it all.

Autumn Return: Roadworks on the Gulu to Kampala Road

Autumn Return: Roadworks on the Gulu to Kampala Road

In the UK we wait fretting slightly, moaning that no one is actually working, but we wait nonetheless.

Autumn Return: Waiting at the Roadworks

Autumn Return: Waiting at the Roadworks

Conversations in shops: we have learnt to ask people how they are before starting any transaction, to ask how the night had gone, about the health of the family and so on. Try that in Tescos and you would be arrested.

Houses are full of digital machines that harass you with alarms.

Worrying whether the (enormous piles of) laundry you seem to have brought home will ever dry on the washing line, realising that you will have to go back to doing your own washing again, hoping your Gulu washerwoman (and all the other people you ended up employing without really trying) will have found new clients, hoping that she/ they will have spent the money you gave her/ them for school fees on her/ their children.

Autumn Return: another Gulu lizard waving goodbye

Autumn Return: another Gulu lizard waving goodbye

Cheese eaten in the last three years: Parmesan (or so the label said)/ Gouda (ditto)/ something vaguely cheesy from the dairy at my placement college.

Cheese eaten in the last fortnight: Cheddar (Scottish and English and of various ages)/ Brie/ Cotherstone/ Feta/ Goat (hard and soft)/ Roquefort/ Swaledale (sheep)/ Wensleydale.

Autumn Return: Wild Life like on the TV, a Tree Climbing Lioness In Queen Elizabeth National Park

Autumn Return: Wild Life like on the TV, a Tree Climbing Lioness In Queen Elizabeth National Park

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Goodbye to Gulu: a last monitoring visit

Goodbye to Gulu: a last monitoring visit

Still packing, getting ready to leave Gulu after two years and eight months on our volunteer placement.
“Will I really need these light coloured trousers again? Probably not.”
Saying goodbye seems a feature of volunteer life, you are always bidding farewell. Saying good bye to good friends at VSO and good colleagues in the colleges, well it doesn’t get any easier.

Goodbye to Gulu: feeling like a beetle on it's back

Goodbye to Gulu: feeling like a beetle on it’s back

A last minute hiccup. My passport was ‘mislaid’ by immigration services. Sudden panics and setting up of consular appointments for emergency travel documents, planning how to make the instant eight hour journey to Kampala and eight hours back to carry on packing.
“Can we get all this Congolese fabric in our bags? What’s the weight limit again?”

Goodbye to Gulu: Chameleon in the greens

Goodbye to Gulu: Chameleon in the greens

Intervention by senior management and lo – a document that had been ‘completely lost never to be found’ is miraculously found again, and for free. A bit last minute, but somehow I am ‘used’ as they say here.

Goodbye to Gulu: because you can never have enough photos of Giraffes

Goodbye to Gulu: because you can never have enough photos of Giraffes

We return to cold wet England, “Will I want to wear these broken sandals on our return?” Our askari (gatekeeper) leaves each morning staggering under the weight of unwanted summer gear.
A last all day workshop to remind me of some things I won’t miss. After the usual list of problems we are more positive and there is much to be positive about. Fifteen thousand four hundred students trained, (an equal number of male and female too which is unusual in this context). Thirty seven colleges involved across Northern Uganda, many, many students in employment, so many new businesses started. We talked about what we had learned: how much good teaching depends on good leadership; how psycho-social support was probably just as important as skills training; the role of literacy, numeracy and business lessons; the importance of raising student self esteem, hence all the graduations, cultural events and open days.

Goodbye to Gulu: the metalwork exam at GDPU

Goodbye to Gulu: the metalwork exam at GDPU

“I want to give this to someone, can we get a three foot mirror on the back of a bike?”

Goodbye to Gulu: a last sunset

Goodbye to Gulu: a last sunset

We empty the house tomorrow and, really difficult this one, give back the motorbikes. After nearly eleven thousand kilometres, like the policemen in Flann O’Brien’s book who become part of their machines through a combination of Einstein’s theory of relativity and very bumpy roads, I think my bike and I are also going to find parting very hard to do.

Goodbye to Gulu and the bike

Goodbye to Gulu and the bike

My last graduation. Over the last two years and eight months of my VSO volunteer placement in Gulu, Northern Uganda I have attended many many graduations, open days and cultural events. This last was with a college we have become very close to: Gulu Disabled Persons Union.

I might just have mentioned before that volunteers are warned to expect the unexpected. Working with the disabled is certainly not something either of us has done before, but is certainly something we both want to continue on our return. GDPU was one of the most inspiring institutions on the Youth Development Programme and the instructors amongst the most inspiring for their students. This graduation was a typically warm family celebration with a lively presentation of another great student song; ‘Stand for Hope, (Disability is not Inability) performed by its writer, a welding and metal fabrication student, one BSG Labongo. He is already working with a group of fellow students and their instructor in a new workshop in town, very busy they are too.

I hope this short film captures some of the spirit of the occasion.

 

This is a short, rather abstract film I have put together about life in Gulu. Opinions welcome.

 

Africa's 2nd best town

Africa’s 2nd best town

I spent the last week in Arua ( Africa’s second best town ) delivering training on Performance Management : how to use Excel; working a management information system; helping Arua Technical Institute start developing their strategic plan.

Elephants Crossing the Road

Elephants Crossing the Road

Our drive there was made more enjoyable by seeing 2 elephants crossing the road in front of us on the main Kampala – Arua road. Where else in the world do you regularly see elephants crossing by the side of the road as you are going past?

The Bongo Traders minibus at 7am on its way to Gulu

The Bongo Traders minibus at 7am on its way to Gulu

The training was all quite intensive especially the session on data management, some of the participants don’t have access to computers, their Excel skills were rusty and everybody had different versions on their computer.

New mechanical engineering block - funded by S Korean Govt

New mechanical engineering block – funded by S Korean Govt

As ever the Principals and instructors in West Nile enjoy detailed discussions and we veered off at one point into a discussion on why there were more student strikes in secondary schools than technical colleges. Strikes are a common feature in Uganda and can be very violent, attacking teachers ‘chasing them away’ and damaging property (usually the student dormitories or administration blocks ). One theory was that, in technical colleges there was a closer connection between staff and students, but we could have gone on all day!

The new crèche at Arua TI a legacy of YDP

The new crèche at Arua TI a legacy of YDP

On our programme there have been, to my knowledge, several strikes about food /lack of and poor quality, there is always the worry that if food is not produced the students will riot.

As ever the feedback from the training was that participants wanted more time, that more people should get the training. This is tricky, our programme is coming to an end, but the wider point is that staff in technical institutes (these are from public schools where it is a requirement to be teacher trained) do need a lot of capacity building and our intervention has only scratched the surface .

Pool at White Castle Hotel

Pool at White Castle Hotel

It wasn’t all work . Winnie and I managed to get to the pool at a local hotel for a couple of hours on our last day and she enjoyed practicing her swimming.

Christopher and me at the pork joint

Christopher and me at the pork joint

We also went out to a pork joint with our colleagues. Arua is noted for its pork and it’s a tradition that when we go there we have to visit at least one.

The swimming hole on the golf course

The swimming hole on the golf course

I enjoyed some early morning walks around the old golf course which is now used as a green space for football games in the evening and a swimming place for the local kids.

Morning rush hour in Arua

Morning rush hour in Arua

Arua is really developing there has been a lot of work on the roads in the two years I have been coming, buildings going up all over the place although a number of older buildings remain, I presume from the colonial era. The hotel we stay at, Desert Breeze, is a large 4 storey building always full during the week with people from NGOs, missionaries and government departments visiting for work . We arrive on a Monday and then depart back to Kampala or Gulu on a Friday.

Desert Breeze hotel - there's no desert

Desert Breeze hotel – there’s no desert

A lizard watches us packing up

A lizard watches us packing up

Some people can travel light, metaphorically and practically, carry on luggage and no more. We have never found this easy, always right up to our luggage limit. We leave here in six weeks, sadly, and are trying to work out what we can fit in our two allowed bags to take home. 2 x 23 kg each, but how heavy are memories? And do they have to be linked to things?

The new two storey house going up

The new two storey house going up

Gulu has changed greatly in the last two and a half years; new building everywhere, especially around us in Kirombe, a sub county headquarters being built behind us, a two storey home (one of very few, but no doubt there will be more) in front. There are even traffic jams.

The Kampala Road, Gulu

The Kampala Road, Gulu

When we arrived nearly all four wheeled vehicles belonged to NGOs, they have gone, mostly, and the place is full of every type of vehicles, new roads are being laid down everywhere too, this is what development looks like.

Musical Chairs?

Musical Chairs?

Mary is planning an afternoon tea party to say goodbye to colleagues and their children. We held one about a year ago, lots of baffled children dutifully playing musical chairs. This time there will be no jelly, met with complete incomprehension last time and we were left with armfuls of sticky deliquescent goo. More cake instead, Mary’s cakes go down very well indeed.

The untouched jelly

The untouched jelly

What to take back? When we were packing up our house to come out to Uganda we had the problem of the stones: pebbles and so on that we had collected over the years, touchstones you might say. I remember back in the UK, a friend with small children saying that the problem with family walks was the pockets full of stones his children gave him to collect; it is an age old habit.

Touchstones

Touchstones

We have collected many more here, including obsidian from Kenya, rounded quartz from Lake Victoria, innumerable interesting seed pods, a bent two handled silver plated mug with a Uganda crest found on the shores of the Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls National Park, an ugly object but redolent of…something anyway. So, a good couple of kilograms of stuff that will only gather dust on a mantelpiece, as we do the same in cold wet England.

Our compound two years ago

Our compound two years ago

Maybe carting this collection back will halt our decline, or maybe in a few years time I will look at a lump of forgotten rock and think: why? Difficult decisions ahead. But we have to leave anyway, down to our last pot of Marmite, some forms of memory are impossible to shift, as will I hope, be our memories of time spent here.

Our Compound now

Our compound now

 

 

The Big Trip: towards Kilimanjaro

The Big Trip: towards Kilimanjaro

We’re back from an international trip. We drove from Uganda through Kenya to Tanzania.

The Big Trip: Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania

The Big Trip: Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania

That meant:

2 x new front springs

1 x front shock absorber mountings

5 x rear shock absorbers (2 Japanese replacements fitted in Gulu some months ago/ 1 x hybrid bodged up by the mechanic to a medical advisory NGO in the centre of the Serengeti (some frightening welding action).

The Big Trip: Welding Action in the Serenegeti

The Big Trip: Welding Action in the Serengeti

He joined our own shock absorber onto one he happened to have lying around somewhere, sadly neither worked and led to an alarming 130 kilometre crawl across the Serengeti plain/ 2 x Chinese shock absorbers fitted in a camp just outside the Serengeti.

The Big Trip: Replacing the Replacement outside the Serengeti

The Big Trip: Replacing the Replacement outside the Serengeti

Plus the 2 new Japanese ones and two new front wheel bearings and various new oil seals fitted on our return to Kampala.

Plus sundry other visits to roadside mechanics to stop the vehicle misfiring/ leaking/ dying.

The Big Trip: oil seals in Kericho

The Big Trip: oil seals in Kericho

Really, the Cherangani Hills (North Western Kenya), The Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti (Tanzania) are not suitable for little cars. You need the Landcruisers and Safari vehicles we saw everywhere once past Arusha. A big tourist industry, so unlike the smaller, quieter Uganda that we are used to. Uganda is small, on this trip we just began to get a glimpse of the size of this continent.

The Big Trip: the Ngorongoro Crater

The Big Trip: the Ngorongoro Crater

Plus the opportunity to meet many, many policemen:

“Good morning Madame, you have committed an offence. You are overloaded”

Pause for laughter as we all watched a matatu stagger past weighed down by a three piece suite, bags of maize, goats etc.

“But Madame, it is because we love you that we do not want you to become injured. You have committed an offence and you must pay me”

Plus many opportunities whilst camping to include the mandatory photographs of cooking tomato sauce in front of extraordinary views.

The Big Trip: tomato sauce at Lake Naivasha

The Big Trip: tomato sauce at Lake Naivasha

Elephants in camp,

The Big Trip: Elephant in the camp above Ngorongoro Crater

The Big Trip: Elephant in the camp above Ngorongoro Crater

Hornbills attacking their reflections in the car mirrors at Lake Baringo etc.

The Big Trip: Hornbills at Lake Boringo

The Big Trip: Hornbills at Lake Baringo

Plus game drives of course. Flamingos and hot springs at Lake Bogoria,

The Big Trip: Flamingos at Lake Bogoria

The Big Trip: Flamingos at Lake Bogoria

one of many lakes that has risen noticeably in the last couple of years

The Big Trip: Flamingos at Lake Bogoria 2

The Big Trip: Flamingos at Lake Bogoria 2

dead trees in the water became familiar.

The Big Trip: drowned shore at Lake Boringo

The Big Trip: drowned shore at Lake Baringo

The most spectacular game setting was the Ngorongoro Crater,

The Big Trip: above the Ngorongoro Crater

The Big Trip: above the Ngorongoro Crater

ostriches for the first time, a pride of lions resting – do they do anything else?

The Big Trip: a pride at Ngorongoro Crater

The Big Trip: a pride at Ngorongoro Crater

Wildebeest being menaced by Hyenas.

The Big Trip: Wildebeest, Hyena and Ostrich in the Ngorongoro Crater

The Big Trip: Wildebeest, Hyena and Ostrich in the Ngorongoro Crater

In the Serengeti the Wildebeest were massing for the Great Migration, huge herds hanging around, tapping their hooves, wanting to know how much longer they had to wait “But I want to go now”.

The Big Trip: Wildebeest

The Big Trip: Wildebeest

Plus, as we travelled up the Great Rift Valley, a chance to visit Oldupai, where mankind began.

The Big Trip: Oldupai Gorge 1

The Big Trip: Oldupai Gorge 1

The Gorge where Mary Leakey found the first evidence of early hominids.

The Big Trip: Oldupai Gorge 2 Archaeologists at work

The Big Trip: Oldupai Gorge 2 Archaeologists at work

Plus a chance to see some genuine approaches to climate change in Kenya, from an innovative use of plastic bottles as fencing,

The Big Trip: bottle fence in Kenya

The Big Trip: bottle fence in Kenya

through to a Bio Mass power station that is using invasive foreign trees (Prosopsis), or the by products of the huge polytunnels that you’re your cut flowers, through to Geo Thermal power stations in Hells Gate National Park that use hot springs and natural pressure.

The Big Trip: Geo Thermal plant in Hells Gate National Park

The Big Trip: Geo Thermal plant in Hells Gate National Park

Not surprisingly, partly because of terrorism threats (the Al Shabab effect has decimated the Kenyan tourist industry) you cannot photograph these innovative means to generate power.

The Big Trip: a Pair of Kori Bustards in the Ngorongoro Crater

The Big Trip: a Pair of Kori Bustards in the Ngorongoro Crater

Plus a chance to do some walking ourselves, in the Cherangani Hills,

The Big Trip: Walking in the Cherangani Hills

The Big Trip: Walking in the Cherangani Hills

across the hot and flat plain at Lake Baringo with a real bird twitcher who summoned birds through an app on his phone.

The Big Trip: summoning the birds at Lake Boringo

The Big Trip: summoning the birds at Lake Baringo

Then down the Gorge in Hells Gate National Park (the scene apparently of films like ‘Tomb Raider’.

The Big Trip: the Gorge at Hells Gate National Park

The Big Trip: the Gorge at Hells Gate National Park

We all nodded knowledgeably, but were none the wiser.) And to discover how unfit we have become, Gulu is very flat with few opportunities for walking much, Kenya is mountainous,

The Big Trip: walking in the Cherangani Hills

The Big Trip: walking in the Cherangani Hills

fantastic walking country for the properly fit; maybe another time.

The Big Trip: new springs in Nakuru

The Big Trip: new springs in Nakuru

 

The instruction part of our vocational training programme, here in Gulu Northern Uganda, begins to wind down. We have started to follow up those who have been trained, those who have started their own businesses, become independent, earning their own living for the first time.

I have been filming those interviews an excerpt from them is here (Warning it is 16 minutes long)

Expect the Unexpected 2: Saturday Morning in Kirombe

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

The Youth Development Programme on which we work is coming to a series of conclusions. Vocational skills training will finish in the next few months, Post Training Support and helping students into employment, lasts until the end of the year. Yes that means lots of ceremonials, many, many hours on a plastic chair in front of speeches dances and songs, some very good, some less so; all very long.

Acholi Students Dancing

Acholi Students Dancing

Up here in Northern Uganda, the rains have come in the early afternoon for the past couple of weeks, the mangoes are thriving, especially the small fibrous ones whose bits stick in your teeth.

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

Mary’s flowers, planted from seeds she has found, are beautiful, the grass has been slashed for the first time this year; everything in the garden is lovely.

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

The bug salesman is somewhere near, he cycles the area with a bucket of fried insects and plays battery door chimes as self-advertisement. The tune is infuriatingly difficult to pick out or to forget. Today I think it is probably “we want some figgy pudding/ we want some figgy pudding” ad infinitum if not nauseam.

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

There is a 500 guest wedding starting up at Comboni Samaritans, a local clinic/ hospital. So far we have had an hour of Country and Western: ‘Coward of the County’, ‘Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town’; ‘Harper Valley PTA’; that era. It is not just the American evangelist influence, Country and Western is popular but I expect it will be back to ubiquitous rap soon.

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

Meanwhile the music stops and it’s time for” Testing, Testing, One Two/ One Two” which takes me back a bit, not what I expected to hear this morning. Much like the sound men from the 1970’s and 80’s that I remember, these ones love booming bass too. Kevin Harvey, sound engineer for the Gang of Four for example, had a particular fondness for about 120HZ. The levels booming round this morning have that nostalgic frequency, aah those sticky floored, black painted clubs of our youth, perhaps that is why I am so deaf now.

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

Living abroad brings up these curious contradictions: I am reading the Saturday Guardian on my Kindle (who but a member of the 1% would vote Tory? Who would willingly destroy their own society through choosing to vote for the lying, divisive, ideologically driven and economically inept?) listening to American songs about family dysfunction whilst watching swallows dive through the garden (shouldn’t they be half way to Europe by now?). A long howl of feedback (more nostalgia) starts the lunchtime call to prayer from the local mosque.

Kirombe Garden

Kirombe Garden

I have just come back from a quick trip to Kampala to collect my renewed passport, an astonishingly efficient process. Several sights reinforced that sense of oddity and enjoyment of the unlikely that you get from ‘elsewhere’:

  1. I came out of the house early to get my lift south and saw a chicken chasing a large dog along the road

    Across Kampala from Tank Hill, Muyenga

    Across Kampala from Tank Hill, Muyenga

  2. In a cafe in the Lugogo Mall, an upmarket Kampala shopping centre, I watched a white man: late thirties at a guess; long evidently dyed black hair under a black beret; white singlet vest; white combat camouflage trousers; big military belt and shiny high boots; black leather fingerless gloves; dark glasses; the proverbial brown condom full of walnuts figure; the total Hollywood mercenary look. He was a cross between Citizen Smith, from the Tooting Popular Front, (a 70’s/80’s TV programme I am old enough to remember) and those elderly American actors that run around shooting black extras in exotic destinations during films I have never watched. Like voting Tory, the obvious question is why? (Why the dressed up dude and the self-defeating democratic decision, not the film choice, obviously) Surrounded and ignored by elegant wealthyKampalans, what did this man think he was doing?

    Across Kampala from Tank Hill, Muyenga

    Across Kampala from Tank Hill, Muyenga

  3. In a cafe inMuyenga waiting for my lift north, I watched a big BMW sports car drive carefully in, polished black with vivid pink trim and wing mirrors, the car vibrates with bass (again the 55-110 HZ range I’d reckon). The owner: Ugandan; dark glasses; closely shaved head; quarter beard, is also wearing jewellery which is unusual and draws the attention: a huge amber necklace, big silver earrings. He is also modelling what looks like badly cut and sagging pyjamas, tie dyed pale brown on stained white and creased cotton, particularly baggy around the crutch and drooping well below the bottom.

    Across Kampala from Tank Hill, Muyenga

    Across Kampala from Tank Hill, Muyenga

 

PS this afternoon in Kirombe, rather than the usual heavy rain we get a violent hailstorm, not had one of those before, and the power only went off for ten minutes; really unexpected.

The Narus Valley from the Nagusokopire camp site, Kidepo Valley National Park

The Narus Valley from the Nagusokopire camp site, Kidepo Valley National Park

I have cooked pasta with tomato sauce so many times – as have we all – a variant on ‘alla putanesca’ since you ask. But never have I cooked and watched elephants walking down to their watering hole.

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking North East

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking North East

We were back to Kidepo National Park in the North East of Uganda, to camp this time on a group of rocks looking down towards buffalo and many, many elephants.

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking North East

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking North East

The next evening, (Dal and Cabbage Curry cooked by an Indian volunteer and much better than my pasta) the buffalo moved up that hill. Thousands in a line moving slowly towards us, although the dominant noise that night was not the buffalo but the sound of elephants farting; astonishingly loud, all that muddy water I suppose.

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking North West

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking North West

When you camp at a UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) site in the parks, you get a ranger with a gun and a small pink tent. He organizes the water, tends the fire to keep the lions away and patiently answers your endless questions. Daniel even coped with eating curry, the Ugandan diet is usually bland and carbohydrate heavy. Most of his answers related to the rains that are supposed to be coming very soon.

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking South East

From the Nagusokopire camp site looking South East

The stars were as close and as bright as you might expect in the middle of a huge and people free landscape, touchable almost. Constellations and naming stars didn’t seem to feature for the Karamajong (Kidepo is in Karamoja) Daniel was more interested in the Milky Way, for example, as a weather forecaster; it was so bright at the moment because the rains were coming. The wind was so strong because….and of course so many animals were visible because the waters were so low, but the buffalo were on the move because…

In the Narus Valley

In the Narus Valley

Back in Gulu a week later and still no rain, clouds build up in the afternoon, but drift away by nightfall. Water is running out in town, the dust is thick over everything blown everywhere by strong hot wind, and the heat is so intense even the locals are complaining.

The clouds build up over Gulu, but no rain

The clouds build up over Gulu, but no rain

By the way, Sunday 22 March is World Water Day as you move to your favourite watering hole, or even as you cook pasta with tomato sauce, think of those who have to make do with muddy water, often carried huge distances on foot. Unlike the elephant, the effect of that water is far worse than theatrically loud trumping noises in the night.

In the Narus Valley

In the Narus Valley

Some Background

We were in Gulu, Northern Uganda for two years nine months, working with a huge DFID funded vocational training programme.

Gulu is on the road to South Sudan, it was the centre of the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan Government. Many of the Internally Displaced Peoples camps were here. The northern region has been peaceful since about 2007-8 and the context has moved from emergency humanitarian aid to development work.

The Vocational Training Institutes provide opportunities for the youth(male and female aged 14-35). Most of them lived in the camps or were abducted by the LRA. They have had very little education, leaving them with few skills. Our purpose was to help these Vocational Training Institutes build up their capacity to equip the youth with what they need to earn a living and live as decent a life as possible.

By the Way
Mark's old art/ history of art website is still active should you want to read more by him or look at his work

Whitemarkarts

From There to Here

Our Old Life, Packed Away in one Twenty Foot Container

Here

A Vocational Training Institute, Assembly under the Mango Tree

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