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La Serenissima

La Serenissima

Just back from Venice (significant birthday gift, many thanks to family). and the Architectural Biennale: ‘Reporting from the Front’. A huge exhibition with much about poverty, refugees, rapid urbanisation and the developing world, all relevant to our time in Uganda and our time back in the UK.

Venice, Architectural Biennale 2016

Venice, Architectural Biennale 2016

For example Solano Benitez from Paraguay: “Working with two of the most easily available materials – brick and unqualified labour – as a way to transform scarcity into abundance”. All those mud bricks and blue skies took me back to being VSO volunteers on a DFID sponsored vocational training programme in Northern Uganda.

Solano Benitez Brick Construction at Venice Architecture Biennale 1

Solano Benitez Brick Construction at Venice Architecture Biennale 1

There has been a lot in the press recently about foreign aid, the Guardian ran a very good editorial recently showing the benefits of foreign aid. But it is the Daily Mail and their petition for a debate in the Houses of Parliament on 13 June that is more worrying. The debate itself was surprisingly measured and supportive, despite those trying to demonize Palestinians our MPs were, mostly, a long way from the distortion and untruth that characterises what we read every day.

Digging, drying and stacking the bricks on the plot

Digging, drying and stacking the bricks on the plot

Brickmaking was everywhere in Northern Uganda, it is a relatively unskilled process. Bricklaying and Concrete Practice was a standard course in our vocational colleges and heavily subscribed. The resultant buildings were simple and quick to put up but often unsuitable for the climate or their occupants and never innovative.

Earth Construction at Venice Architecture Biennale

Earth Construction at Venice Architecture Biennale

Many exhibits at the Biennale concerned these traditional methods of construction and what could be done with them, along with mud bricks, rammed earth or ‘pisé de terre’ was en vogue throughout, eg the Renzo Piano Paediatric Centre in Entebbe).

Solano Benitez Brick Construction at Venice Architecture Biennale

Solano Benitez Brick Construction at Venice Architecture Biennale

Benitez uses simple formers to pour mortar and place the bricks in sections. Low skilled workers use these modules to make high quality buildings relevant to them, the possibilities seemed endless, that high roof would keep the heat down for example and keep down the need for timber. A flexible building method that can be ‘owned’ and developed by its users, no need for imposed solutions that collapse once the Westerners have gone.

The sustainable simplicity I saw in some (but definitely not all) of the exhibits at the Architecture Biennale, made me think of some of the people we worked with in Gulu, and wonder how they are getting on and what they might have been doing had our programme had not existed.

Margaret Atoke

Margaret Atoke

Perhaps the most impressive was Margaret Atoke from Koch Goma. I made a film with her, showing the impact of our programme. Margaret had not been to school, she was a girl and no one would pay for her. But after our training she was able to set up her own business and employ others, training them herself.

Margaret and staff outside her hoteli

Margaret and staff outside her hoteli

I remember her saying that the day she put on her college T shirt was the proudest of her life, the thought that she Margaret could actually go to school was what inspired her to make her a subsequent life a success.

Margaret Atoke 2

Margaret Atoke 2

This is why UK aid matters. UK aid was leading the way in Uganda, and East Africa, developing aid programmes that delivered tangible results. Previous programmes by others made little substantial change. By contrast, the DFID programme was carefully planned, monitored and evaluated. It not only trained 15,400 students in employable and relevant market relevant skills, but the accompanying psycho-social and life skills programme, the in-depth entrepreneurship, literacy and numeracy training and six month post training support, meant that the training would last; a first for the area.

Margaret's Hoteli

Margaret’s Hoteli

It is not only the 15,400 students directly trained that benefited from the DFID programme, (50% female by the way, unusual for this sector). Their families, their dependents, the local and national economies will all benefit, this was a graphic I saw in Venice pointing that out.

7 - 12 people supported by livelihood at Venice Architecture Biennale

7 – 12 people supported by livelihood at Venice Architecture Biennale

Apart from the great goodwill towards Britain, we benefit too, making people healthy, financially independent and responsible for their own lives will help prevent the sort of violent collapse of order that caused such problems in the first place. Ebola for example was first identified amongst Ugandan soldiers in Gulu, the programme’s centre. Virulent disease, violent systemic disorder, destructive ideologies, mass migration, all these problems can now be quickly exported across the world. But carefully managed, well designed and monitored programmes such as the one delivered by DFID and VSO volunteers in Northern Uganda over the last three years, can make Britain safer and happier too, safe also in the knowledge that we have helped humanity and ourselves.

DFID students and teacher at Daniel Comboni Vocational Institute Gulu, climbing the ladder to success

DFID students and teacher at Daniel Comboni Vocational Institute Gulu, climbing the ladder to success

Please believe me that British aid works, I have seen it doing so and have many films, stories and pictures to prove it. Please support the British Government’s successful, and much envied by the way, aid programme. Try contacting your MP, it’s much easier than you might think. Remember Margaret and many like her, it’s your money (in a way) that helped her, be proud of that. And start shovelling that mud in the garden to make some bricks, who knows what you might build yourself?Burning the bricks

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Youth Development Programme: ex Carpentry and Joinery students working on a roof at Awach

Youth Development Programme: ex Carpentry and Joinery students working on a roof at Awach

It was finding this photo again recently that brought it all back; it shows some of our ex-students working on a roof. The building will be a new classroom for teaching Motor Vehicle Maintenance, the students were all graduates and skilled enough to be employed by their old college. They have kept their college overalls and wear them with pride as they bounce sure footed about the growing roof, notice their flip-flops on the ground by the dancing youth. The colours are strong, new and bright, the shadows sharp and deep; three degrees north of the equator you would expect nothing less.

Goodbye Old Year

Goodbye Old Year

Is this where I write a roundup of the year just gone? Maybe a self-satisfied description of the unbelievable successes of our over-entitled offspring? Their nationally important roles as cupcake sales persons, hand car wash operatives and niche website facilitators? Perhaps I should dwell at length on the overwhelming successes of our semi feral grandchildren and how little Ptolemy’s performance as a carrot at the Nativity ‘literally’ stole the show?

Goodbye Old Year

Goodbye Old Year

Or maybe not, because none of that would be true. In reality Storm Frank is still thumping into the side of our rented barn conversion in a farmyard on the edge of Dartmoor.

Goodbye Old Year

Goodbye Old Year

Even the sheep with fortnight old lambs have been brought in to their barns, so the weather must be awful. In our own warmer and sheep free barn, (unlike the imaginary Ptolemy we have not recreated the nativity ourselves) we can at least reflect on where we were this time last year.

The food spot, Kidepo National Park, Uganda

The food spot, Kidepo National Park, Uganda

As far away as possible, in Kidepo National Park, north-east Uganda looking forward to vegetables and rice for lunch and again for supper.

Waterbuck, Kidepo National Park, Uganda

Waterbuck, Kidepo National Park, Uganda

We have, I suppose, made the change from one continent to another, from one world to another although we miss our colleagues, the warmth, the light and the sense of purpose that comes with volunteering.

Goodbye Old Year

Goodbye Old Year

Down here in Devon, the sun wearily struggles above the horizon, occasionally sighing for a while above the hedgerows before slowly plodding downwards again. All of the tones are muted, edges are soft and one form bleeds into another. All is indistinct and unclear, a range of grey washed out earthy greens that feel old and worn.

St Ives, New Year's Eve

St Ives, New Year’s Eve

A quick trip to St Ives further down into the South West for New Year’s Eve, the town a riot of fancy dress at night.

Gurnards Head from Zennor Head

Gurnards Head from Zennor Head

Then Zennor Head for the New Year’s day walk, storm bound; wet and windy but the wind blew in enough vigour to start the new year we hope.

Goodbye Old Year: driving into a bright future?

Goodbye Old Year: driving into a bright future?

 

The road in front of us: from one continent to another

The road in front of us: from one continent to another

“The road in front of us grew bleaker and wilder over huge russet and olive slopes, sprinkled with giant boulders. Now and then we passed a moorland cottage, walled and roofed with stone, with no creeper to break its harsh outline. Suddenly we looked down into a cuplike depression, patched with stunted oaks and firs which had been twisted and bent by the fury of years of storm. Two high, narrow towers rose over the trees. The driver pointed with his whip.

“Baskerville Hall,” said he.”

From “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published 1901-2

The road in front of us

The road in front of us: bleak and wild?

Probably the most famous story set on Dartmoor, where we now find ourselves,  back to getting the usual skewed view of Africa by watching wildlife programmes on TV (the new Attenborough is very good though, we can jump up and down on the sofa and say: “we have been there”).

The road in front of us: Wildebeest and our own Attenborough moment

The road in front of us: Wildebeest and our own Attenborough moment

Are we staying in a high, narrow tower? Not quite, it’s a barn conversion on a working farm.

The road in front of us: we're in the barn on the left

The road in front of us: we’re in the barn on the left

Ugandan subsistence farming meant hours of digging with a hand hoe. Farming here seems to involve rushing around in big machines through narrow farmyards and much moving of mud from here to there.

The road in front of us: mud waiting to be moved somewhere

The road in front of us: mud waiting to be moved somewhere

I remember, when we came first came back from our two years and nine months in Gulu, my eye kept being drawn to the skyline, Gulu was low rise and flat.

 

The Kitgum Stage

The dramatic height changes of London were mesmerising at first, although like so much of the once so familiar that had then become strange, it quickly became familiar once more.

The road in front of us: London skyline

The road in front of us: London skyline

Our new situation? Yes it is in a bowl, or ‘cuplike depression’, as most farms seem to be; “muddy bottoms” Mary calls them.

The road in front of us: muddy bottoms

The road in front of us: muddy bottoms

It is a world of mists, soft light across undifferentiated fields leading to a clearly differentiated skyline; what appears to be a relatively close horizon. Some sort of metaphor for our quest to find a new life? No, it’s just quite misty.

The road in front of us: what have we missed?

The road in front of us: what have we missed?

Big tractors running through the yard again with dogs snapping at their heels, many dogs, also quite undifferentiated, they never quite seem to get out of the way of the vehicles. Our dog, clearly designated as pet, lies in her basket looking puzzled, as indeed do we (appear puzzled that is).

The road in front of us: play misty for me

The road in front of us: play misty for me

“Through the gateway we passed into the avenue, where the wheels were again hushed amid the leaves, and the old trees shot their branches in a sombre tunnel over our heads. Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end.”

The road in front of us: the avenue up to Castle Drogo

The road in front of us: the avenue up to Castle Drogo

How will the story end?

The road in front of us

The road in front of us

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

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

 

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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