Monday, 29 September 2008

Weekend in Kinkiisi

This has been my first free weekend in Kinkiisi. Hamlet and Kellen have returned to Kampala; but I am not entirely alone in the house. Besides their own four children, who are all away at school or College, they have semi-adopted three girls in straitened circumstances, all in their late teens or early twenties. One, Eilen, has gone with them to Kampala but the other two are here. Justine teaches at Kirima School but is still studying for better qualifications and Novias, a relation of Kellen's, is a student at the College. They earn their college fees and keep by doing jobs around the house, laundry, caring for the hens and so on. It is nice to have their company and they are gradually becoming less shy, even making hesitant attempts at conversation from time to time. I am gradually learning more about them: Justine's father died when she was young, leaving her mother to raise their four children; and not long after Justine's mother was herself was bitten by a snake whilst working in the fields and had to have her leg amputated. Justine left school to look after the family but her determination to be a teacher eventually led her, when circumstances allowed, to walk the many miles from her home to Kinkiisi to beg Hamlet for a place at the College. She is clearly an excellent teacher and has more than fulfilled the faith that was put in her. She and I share the English teaching in P1 and P2 so a good deal of lesson-planning takes place over the tea-table…

On Saturday I decide that I must maintain the habit of a lifetime - and go shopping. Kinkiisi itself does not have a shop as such but, walking around the village this week, I have gradually realized that several of the humble corrugated-iron-roofed houses that front the street have a small stall just inside their doorway selling items of produce. One house has a neat line of tomatoes displayed; another a few bunches of bananas; a third some potatoes. There are one or two more ambitious projects, probably funded by a micro-finance company such as the one that CHIFCOD operates. One man works away at a sewing machine; and I promise myself that, before I leave here, I will knock on the door of the shabby house that bears a small painted board saying 'Fine Times Hair Design Salon' in uneven blue letters and see what they can do for me. But the enterprise that has already won me as a regular customer is the internet – well, not 'cafĂ©' exactly, but 'place'. The face of the young lady who runs it lights up when she sees me: I suspect that she thinks that her business success is assured now that I have arrived in the village and spend long periods using her one, ancient computer. "I have air-time today!" she assures me enthusiastically "And power too!". Neither of these is guaranteed and to have both simultaneously is nothing short of miraculous. The power goes off for hours, sometimes the entire day, quite regularly; and the internet 'air-time' has to be purchased in the nearest town, Kanungu, in the form of scratch-card vouchers with numbers that are fed into the computer modem's sim card via a mobile phone. Broadband exists only in some far-distant parallel universe. The internet lady also has an unusual retail sideline – in sanitary towels, stacks of which line the shelves above the computer. Sadly, my feeble attempts at jokes about her'high tech pad' seem only to cause puzzlement….

Novias insists on coming to Kanungu with me on Saturday morning as she is convinced that the shopkeepers will overcharge me if I go on my own. Normally she spends Saturdays working on the Student Agricultural Scheme – a CHIFCOD project to enable students to raise the money for their college fees by growing and selling produce; but she has a day off today. It is a steep 45 minute walk to the town in growing heat but I am looking forward to seeing the market which takes place every Saturday here.

Kanungu was briefly famous, or infamous, as the headquarters of an extreme doomsday cult called The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God who on 17 March 2000 sealed themselves in their chapel and set themselves alight with sulphuric acid – or were set alight, for the jury is still out as to whether this was a mass suicide or a mass murder by the cult's insane leaders. Five hundred people died in the ensuing explosion but forest graves containing other bodies were found elsewhere in the area casting suspicion on the theory that this was in fact suicide. Still scarred by the event, Kanungu is now a subdued little town whose redeeming feature is that it boasts the sole petrol pump for miles around - and a hand-cranked one at that. It regularly runs out of fuel when the tanker is due and the town then fills up with stranded motorists who have no alternative but to wait for the next delivery – bad for them but no doubt good for business in this otherwise unremarkable place.

The shops in Kanungu bear no resemblance to ours, of course. They have no electric power so I have to peer about in semi-darkness to make out what is on the chaotically arranged shelves of the tiny food shop we enter. Besides the sacks of flour and dried beans there are a few luxury items –some lurid cans of jam, two jars (only) of peanut butter (which is rapidly becoming a staple source of protein for me so I buy them both), longlife milk, and, I note with interest – a dusty bottle labelled 'Communion Wine'. I shall know where to come if I get desperate…

There is a shoemaker, a hardware shop selling everyday essentials like cooking pots and kerosene, a stationery shop full of school exercise books (parents have to provide these) and a shop selling fruit and vegetables – or rather bananas, pineapples and tomatoes. I cannot stomach buying anything from the butcher's shop despite Novias' entreaties to look at an unidentifiable half-animal lying on the floor at the back of this hot fly-ridden place, which she tells me is 'very special good meat'. We go on to the tiny market, where there are a few stalls selling mostly – yes! pineapples, bananas and tomatoes…though also small onions, some cassava and sweet potatoes. There is also a clothes market on a grassy site adjoining the site where a huge array of second-hand clothes and shoes are set out by different stall-holders. Many of these are European or American clothes which have arrived here via charity shops and sell for the equivalent of about 50p an item. People dress quite formally in Uganda and it is not uncommon to see men in suits even in the most remote villages – and almost always in a smart shirt and trousers. Women too dress in a colourful and creative mix of their traditional dress with western-style clothes – though never trousers, which are regarded as 'not quite proper' for women, particularly in the more traditional rural areas. I wish I had brought more skirts with me now!

On Sunday I am woken by a knock on the door at 7.00am. Jenna, the school bursar, has come to collect me for Church, an arrangement entirely of her own devising but one that, once over the surprise and her overzealous punctuality, I am more than happy to go along with. I want to see the local church, which everyone refers to as 'the cathedral' though I am unsure whether this is an official title or a deferential one. The English service is at 8.30am and is followed by the local-language one at 10.00am: church-going is almost universal here and people dress up to the nines for what is clearly regarded as a very important occasion. The church is full of local school children in uniform and their families, and the service, as expected, is a lively affair. Familiar Anglican hymns are delivered, effortlessly syncopated, to the accompaniment only of drumming and clapping, often with three or four complex rhythms going on at once and instinctive harmonies. The singing is wonderfully uplifting and joyful. The priest, however, no doubt mindful of his church's elevated status, clutches to his mouth an ancient microphone for the spoken parts of the service which distorts his diction so much that it is impossible to hear what language he is speaking let alone his words. It is only when he is in the pulpit that I can finally make out anything he is saying. He has chosen as his text Psalm 23 and, addressing the rows of children fervently tells them, several times over, that if they are worried they MUST NOT COMMIT SUICIDE! Perhaps the dreadful happenings just up the road in Kanungu a few years ago have left an indelible impression on him….

In the afternoon Novias, who has been feeling increasingly poorly, decides that she needs a malaria test so I manage to organize a lift to Kanungu where while-you-wait malaria tests are carried out in a pharmacy for 1,000 Ugandan shillings – about 30p. The technician tries to persuade her that she needs a typhoid and brucellosis test too but Novias is having none of it – he just wants her money, she confides in me; she knows she hasn't got brucellosis because she always boils her milk, and has had typhoid fever and knows the symptoms. A few minutes later, triumphant at the accuracy of her own diagnosis and at having got one up on the technician, she leaves the shop clutching her malaria treatment, telling me that she may have to have a day off college tomorrow but will wait and see how she is. Illness is an expensive inconvenience here - but nothing to make a fuss about. I, selfishly, have enjoyed being a proxy mum to the invalid – in an environment where so much is new, it is something of a relief to have a familiar and easy role to slip into…


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

School Life

It's exam time at Kirima Primary School. Although the children only came back last week, they began three solid days of exams on Monday, as they do at the start, middle and end of each term. And I mean proper exams: done in silence and formally invigilated, with the children well spaced - which means only half the school at a time sitting their papers in the hall and classrooms while the other half wait outside. Amazed, I watch as the children waiting sit chatting quietly, unsupervised, unoccupied, for over two hours, as the others work in the classrooms. There is no running about, horseplay or misbehaviour. Even the little Nursery children busy themselves collecting bundles of twigs quietly and contentedly, their teacher busy with exam supervision.

In the exam rooms all the year groups are today doing Agriculture papers at different levels. Even Nursery 2 (Reception) does exams in the four core subjects! From P(Primary)1 to P6 (Year 1 to Year 6 in National Curriculum terms) the children do papers in six subjects, each lasting from 1 ¼ hours in Year 1 to 2 ½ hours in Year 7. P1 do all their papers apart from English in their own language but from P2 (after only a year of English lessons) they are all done in English. The range and number of questions (fifty-five seems standard) is impressive and the children get on with them in compliant silence. The sound of wood being chopped outside the hall to cook the school lunch punctuates the quiet; and a family of hens peck their way across the floor as the children work, mercifully oblivious to question 43 about 'three reasons for keeping chickens'. ...

The big advantage of the system, the Headmaster explains, is that the children quickly become accustomed to taking exams and they hold no fear for them so that by the time they take their important final Primary Certificate papers they are mostly very confident. The teachers start marking the flimsy banda-duplicated papers immediately the first group has finished; this will be a long, long job. I am given a pile of P6 papers to mark. The children seem to know a huge amount about crop rotation, irrigation, pests and manure but one pupil at least falls down badly on the question "What is castration?" to which he has answered " The removal of an animal's breasts"!

The results are recorded on huge class record sheets where I scan the fascinating range of names : Fortunate, Hosannah, Memory, Precious and Sufficient are amongst the many charming 'missionary' names while, curiously, Chromosome seems to be particularly popular at the moment... Pupils are listed in exam order with no concessions made for relative age within the class, special needs or any other mitigating factors. Parents receive a termly report sheet where their child's results and class position in each subject are shown, the days of absence, a brief comment by the class teacher ("work harder"; "very good") and the start date of the next term. Do they need more? I think back to the lengthy, detailed reports we are used to writing and wonder if they were any more useful than these rather bald but admirably straightforward documents...

The school has its own clinic with two nurses who look after sick children and dispense medicines free of charge to them: this is another of CHIFCOD's many initiatives. Malaria occurs regularly and is regarded as part of the way of life here. Everyone gets it every so often, much in the same way as we in the UK get colds and 'flu, but people take the view that as long as it is treated it doesn't much matter. However, the young are very vulnerable and one in five children's deaths in Africa is from the disease (one in ten worldwide). The children have no nets in their dormitories; how good it would be if they could be provided for every child in the school!

School starts early here and many of the teachers have been at work since 6.00am. At break time a snack of dry bread rolls and posho, a thin maize porridge the consistency of semolina and drunk from a mug, is served for the staff. In other schools they drink weak tea made with copious amounts of well-boiled hot milk; I am still working at acquiring a taste for either, I'm afraid! Uganda is a strongly Christian country and prayers are said often – including grace before every meal and even before eating a snack such as this. Food is precious and no-one takes it for granted.

The school day ends at 5.00pm after a final end-of-day assembly. Older children take it in turns to sweep the classrooms, wash the floors and tidy up outside. Fortunately, today's afternoon rain was not too heavy and the muddy puddles are already drying up. The day pupils leave, joining the stream of children from other schools in the area who are all walking home, cheerfully barefooted, along the stony red road. 'How-are-you-I'm-fine' they call to me. 'Agandi!' I reply – at least I can manage 'hello' in Ruchiga, the local language – and soon, I hope, will manage a lot more.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

First Impressions

Wednesday 17th September

Today I visited the two CHIFCOD schools in the village: the Primary School and the College. CHIFCOD (Child to Family Community Development Organisation) is an organisation founded in 1993 by four local men, one of them Hamlet Mbabaze, who decided that the village needed better provision for its families and young people. The Primary School was opened in 1994 and has grown year by year and now has several hundred pupils aged 3 to 13 (although there are some older students those who have repeated a year or started late ).

To anyone used to English schools it is easy to be shocked and judgemental about the physical circumstances under which the school functions. There is a blackboard at the front of each quite small classroom; the pupils, between forty and seventy in a class sit crammed onto wooden benches behind narrow table-shelves. They work for solid one-hour periods (apart from Nursery 1 and 2 who work for half-hour sessions), with teachers rotating around the classes, so the children stay put but the teachers move round. They have core subjects of maths, English, Science and Social studies and also do RE, agriculture and cultural (own language) studies. They start the day at 7.30 with an assembly and this morning I woke to the sound of their gloriously harmonious singing, accompanied by drumming, wafting across the valley. Two hour-long periods before break, and two after, take the children to lunchtime. Lunch is cooked at the school in huge pots over wood fires, usually beans and maize porridge. At 2pm they have another two hours of lessons then break again. Although school officially ends at 4.30pm the boarders, which is most of the children over 7, then do prep, and the older children have another prep period from 7.30 until 9.30. At 5.30 they wash their clothes and themselves and have tea. The dormitories have three-tiered bunks crammed together so that thirty or forty children are in one room, for which the children have to bring their own foam mattresses. Washing lines hang above the bunks for the children's clothes to dry on after they have washed them. On each bed is a small tin trunk in which they keep their few possessions. Two matrons look after the separate boys' and girls' quarters and several member of staff live at the school and look after the boarders, after teaching six one-hour periods during the day first! The boarders have lessons all day on Saturday then on Sunday go to Church – and do more prep. 'Don't they get very tired?' I ask. 'They are used to it' is the reply. Indeed, this is the reply to most of my questions about the children's lives. The teachers, too, work incredibly hard; their days are long and relentless. They too, it seems, are used to it. They plan their work for the next day each evening in longhand using carbon duplicating paper for their planning sheets and write each hour's lesson on the board to be copied down by the children; the only way to manage teaching such large numbers of pupils.

The conditions in which the children live and work could hardly be poorer. Even the young children seem to have no play materials or equipment ; the walls are bare, and everything very shabby by our standards. Yet the children are very well-behaved, extremely courteous and perform very well in the national grading tests that take place at the end of Primary 7 when the children are 13: this is a high-achieving school. Their dormitories are bare, bleak and crowded yet for most these are better conditions than they would have at home and they are certainly better fed than they would be there. Most that I see walking along the road or in school have no shoes. I pass tiny children balancing huge plastic water carriers on their heads. A huge number are orphans. Many suffer from malnutrition. Childhood in rural Uganda is very, very hard.

In the afternoon we visit the Great Lakes College ,also in Kinkiisi. A newer, more spacious establishment also built by CHIFCOD, this caters for students from sixteen upwards who want to do diploma, access or degree courses. Some courses are vocational, such as agriculture or office skills whilst others are academic. Students have to finance themselves – there are no student loans – so courses run at weekends, at night and during the holidays for those who have jobs, as well as during the day. There is a two-year teacher training course and the Principal, when I meet him, seems very keen for me to help on the Early Years Teaching Course, both in college and supervising students on teaching practice. He suggests two days a week there but will wait until I have finished all my school visits before committing myself.

Thursday 18th September

A clear, sunny day after the misty 'wet-season' humidity of the previous two. Today we are to visit another CHIFCOD primary school some distance away in the Rift Valley, close to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, and also the Great Lakes High School which is being built with money raised by Highgate School in 2007 and although still under construction already has pupils. The two hour drive takes us through ravishing countryside of rolling, lushly-vegetated hills and widening valleys. The ubiquitous banana plantations give way to termite-mound covered fields and sparser vegetation: here it is hotter and drier than Kinkiisi and the people are much poorer still since they can grow little to sell. We arrive at Nyamirama School as the Nursery 1 and 2 (Reception) children are doing PE. The school is on a lovely big flat area of grassland and the fifty or sixty children are in an enormous circle playing games and singing – a delightful sight. Once again I am taken from class to class where, in unison, the children chant a word-perfect welcome in each one. I am then invited to make short speech of introduction to which the children listen in an absolute silence that signifies either total incomprehension or extreme courtesy – in the younger classes, certainly the former since they don't learn English until Primary 2 (year 3). The children are beautifully behaved and obedient, the teaching very formal, and the classroom environment spartan in the extreme. This school has smaller numbers in each class – a more manageable 35 -45 – and feels a lot less depressing than the one I visited yesterday – or perhaps I am just adjusting to this new way of school life? Boarding has just been introduced and I am shown the girls' dormitory where 47 mattresses, with no space between, fill the room – they have no money for bunks at present. Many if not most of the boarders have a sponsor through CHIFCOD – the only way they will get an education.

As we leave I see in the playground one of the 'improving' notices nailed to the trees which reads "Remember your responsibilities as children" - little chance to forget them when most have to go home and fetch water, gather firewood and carry out other household tasks....

Then on to the Great Lakes High School, about an hour's drive back along the red, dusty track. We stop to give a lift to two women who are walking to see a relative in hospital, each carrying a baby and a suitcase. They have already been walking for some time in this fierce heat and without the lift would be walking for many hours yet – and back again. When they have got out of the car Kellen tells me that one baby has clear signs of malnutrition, and the mother has already lost three of her six children this way. Sadly, unbelievably, parents have to pay for their children to go to school here, and have to buy their uniform too. Although a very small sum to us, the fees are crippling to such impoverished people and they will sell the food they grow in order to send a child to school, rather than feed the family with it. In government schools they are not fed; but CHIFCOD provides a midday meal for day pupils and three meals for boarders.

Great Lakes High School is set on a hillside with magnificent views across a wide valley. The new buildings gleam impressively in the sunlight; the campus has already been planted with flower beds and trees and looks most attractive. Not all classrooms have been equipped yet and the forty or so students have to carry their all-in-one desk and chair from one place to another for lessons. The fields surrounding the school have already, with the help of students from the College, been planted with maize and vegetables so that they can be self-sufficient, and they have two school pigs who will soon be breeding. The staff are delightful and very welcoming; the students courteous and hard at work. I look down 'Highgate Road' as the drive to the school has been named, and feel sure that everyone who contributed to the building of the school would be pleased and proud with the result of their fund-raising efforts: it is a fantastic achievement and will give the chance of a really good secondary education to so many children in the coming years. There is much still to be done before the school has its official opening in July but all the signs are good!

The Head Teacher is keen for me to come and teach some English at the school; something else to factor into my timetable when I put it together at the end of the week!

Today, Friday, has been the last day of school visits for me – proper work starts on Monday. We went to two even more remote schools up in the cloud-capped hills towards Kibale where the steep slopes are covered with tea bushes. We pass a building called 'Maternity Services and Placenta Pit' before reaching a tiny school built into the hillside where I am introduced solemnly to the staff. Ugandans tend to have either traditional English names such as Edna, Hilda, Eileen or Arthur, or biblical ones like Moses, Amos and(even) Herod. I thought I had encountered most possibilities for unusual names after so many years of teaching; however today I was momentarily thrown to be introduced to a teacher called 'Happy Christmas'....!

NB I apologise for the length of these entries. Once I'm at work I shall probably only update the blog once a week, at weekends. Email is very unreliable out here which is why so much is arriving in one big chunk!

Journey to Kinkiisi


We left Kampala for Kinkiisi at about 9.30am on Tuesday . Kinkiisi is, I have disovered, the village in which Kirima Primary School is found, Kirima being the name of the sub-district in Kanunga province from where it draws its pupils. Kinkiisi is pronounced 'Chincheesy' as a 'k' followed by an 'i' is always pronounced 'ch' – but not if followed by any other vowel! The village is right in the south-west of Uganda, very near the borders with Rwanda and Congo, close to what is mysteriously called on the map 'Bwindi Impenetrable National Park', home of the famed mountain gorillas.

The road out of Kampala takes us south, parallel with (though inland from) Lake Victoria. About 65km out of Kampala we cross the equator though with so little sign or ceremony that I only realise it has happened retrospectively. The landscape is flat, very green, and largely planted with fields of banana trees. By now w and e are turning west the further we get from Kampala the worse the road gets. The pot holes get bigger, necessitating the driver to zig-zag across the road – fortunately there is little traffic. Eventually the pot-holes merge into each other at each side of the road leaving narrow band of tarmac in the centre with red dust tracks on either side. We stop to buy a snack of matoke, cooked plantains which you eat skins and all – they taste like a cross between a parsnip and a banana. Hamlet has stayed behind in Kampala to sort out the water supply at the High School in Kinkiisi which has failed, so I am travelling with his wife Kellen, a teenage girl who lodges with them, and an old man who has been taking his disabled daughter to University in Kampala – and a driver. The 4X4 vehicle is a new (though second-hand) purchase and although very comfortable begins to show its age as we bounce over the potholes. Six hours into the journey a sudden screech and a dramatic judder announce that a tyre has ripped, the hardened rubber unable to cope with the constant impact with the rough road. Out come the tool kit and the spare tyre but the jack doesn't work and the spare tyre, though inflated, has a nail in it surrounded by a large hole in the tyre. The driver decides that we will drive slowly back to the last garage we passed so we limp back noisily, to the great amusement of the children and villagers we encounter. Some hours later we are off again having purchased a second-hand tyre for which, the driver says unhappily, we have been hugely overcharged, especially as (he can tell from the tread) it has obviously been stolen from a government vehicle. Never mind, we are on the road again which now perversely, improves steadily until, as darkness falls, we reach the end of it at Rukungiri. From now on the road is unmade but unabashed by earlier experiences the driver hurls us along at high speed, the road closely flanked by dense leafy vegetation and woodland. We pass the occasional village, most in total darkness despite the fact that it is only 7.30pm – few have electricity. On we drive for an hour and then a second hour and it feels increasingly remote and far from civilisation. Imagine the most remote place you have ever been to and then keep going – in the pitch darkness, especially, it feels like a journey into the deepest unknown. But at last we arrive at Kinkiisi and Hamlet and Kellen's house. I can see nothing of the village in the darkness but am deeply thankful to find that my room has a comfortable bed – and a hot shower, newly installed last week!

Sunday, 14 September 2008


I arrived in Kampala on Friday, or rather at Entebbe, which is more than just an airport; much more, in fact, as it was once the capital of Uganda so is a city in its own right. I can recommend Kenya Airways, not least for the fact that they allow two suitcases of 23kg rather than the usual one! Great was my relief when I discovered this last week and I had no trouble at all in filling both; in fact, still had to leave behind some books and a few other things for the school which I will have to bring next time.
I was met by Rev Hamlet Mbabazi who is in charge of CHIFCOD's work in Uganda. Typically for someone who achieves a huge amount he is a very busy man: chaplain to Parliament in Kampala, chaplain to the Cathedral, priest at All Saints Church in Kampala, as well as Director of CHIFCOD and also a company which organises micro-financing and work co-operatives around Uganda. He was an MP for five years but gave that up as he found he had too many political/moral conflicts to be able to do either job to the satisfaction of his own conscience whilst trying to do both. He is a charming, charismatic, energetic and visionary man who clearly has huge influence and is greatly loved and respected. He and his wife Kellen divide their time between Kampala and Kirima and I shall be staying with them, initially at least, in the guest room of their house when we go to the village tomorrow.
Here, I am staying in the Namirembe Guest House which is a friendly, unpretentious Church guest house on one of the hills which surround central Kampala. Like Rome, Kampala was built on and within seven hills although now other hills have been built on beyond and between the original number. Kampala is a typical African capital city, although greener than most, I imagine (it has a lot of rain both in and out of the rainy season) : shabby, delapitated shacks and shops and dusty fume-filled, traffic-choked roads side by side with the lush gardens and fine buildings of embassies and multi-national corporate life. Crowded, noisy, humid, the city is nevertheless miraculously civilised and orderly given its traumatic post-independence history especially during the Amin years. The people are wonderfully courteous and friendly and greet you with the widest of smiles. The official statistics, however, are depressing: average life expectancy is about 39 years and only 16% of the population have access to secondary education. The great majority of the people live in extreme poverty.

Yesterday Hamlet and Kellen drove me to Jinja, about 60km east of Kampala, where the source of the Nile (or one of them at least) can be found, where it flows out of Lake Victoria. Having spent my early childhood at the one end of the Nile in Cairo it seemed rather fitting to be standing at the other end of it at retirement age!
A quiet day in Kampala today before setting off tomorrow for the long drive to Kirima. Hamlet clearly has some ambitious ideas about what he hopes I can do and achieve - I only hope I can fulfill his expectations!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A week to go

In a week's time I will be on my way to Uganda. At the moment I feel totally unprepared: all I have done is to get out the suitcase I am planning to use and decided that it will never hold all that I need to take. Enough clothes, toothpaste, face cream, shampoo, insect repellent, books, teaching materials, medical supplies, sheets, towels and goodness knows what else to last until December. And money! I will be miles from a bank and while I shan't have many shopping opportunities I will certainly need a regular supply of cash to pay for food and, more especially, petrol as I shall be driving round to different schools and villages and will be expected to pay for fuel as it is so expensive.
People ask if I am nervous about going and I can honestly say 'no'. It feels very much like starting any new job: there is an uncertainty about exactly what the work will involve, what my colleagues and the pupils will be like and whether I will be able to do the job expected of me; but because I will not have the ultimate responsibility of running a school this feels a much less worrying option than starting my previous job! I am eager for the new experiences that lie ahead, even in the knowledge that there will be a certain amount of physical hardship (cold showers!), loneliness and probably some illness. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to do something completely new and challenging, to live with a different group of people in a culture and country about whiach I know very little.
Tomorrow I go up to London to get my visa at the Ugandan High Commission. A step in the right direction!