Namaganda, 14. 11. 2019 (Deutsch) It is still our first day in Uganda. We have been awake for about 30 hours without interruption, and the impressions are still coming back to us. After the turnoff from the main road the path becomes very narrow and bad. To the right and left of the path we see small houses and huts from time to time. A cow grazes at the roadside. The small huts actually look like they were drawn in my ancient children's book, with mud walls and pointed thatched roofs. For me it is a bit like travelling back to a story from my childhood.
And then suddenly we are there, at the Visionary Learning Centre. We might have known what was coming. After all, we are not the first visitors there, and we have even seen videos of earlier greetings. But our thinking doesn't really work right now. All the children and teachers are already waiting for us and greeting us singing and dancing - we are completely overwhelmed. Tears of emotion shoot into our eyes, and we are about to cry out unrestrainedly. Several children and teachers give us a warm welcome. We don't know what to say, we stand around exhausted and a bit drippy and stammer a few words that don't express at all what we are feeling.
Among the children there are some who are quite sceptical about the newcomers. Some of the youngest ones are even really afraid of the mysterious strangers and do not want to come closer at all. One of them is our godchild Habiba. For us this is completely fine, the little one should first get used to us. She will come by herself, if she wants to. And if not, that's okay too. But the other children have no understanding and try (also in the next days again and again) to bring about the "family reunion" despite our protests.
Without a break we now go to the school office, where each of us is supposed to immortalize ourselves in the official visit book. In the library, which is open to all children at all times, Raphaela finds the wonderful bee book that she gave to the school at the beginning of the year.
As soon as we are outside again, the big children of this year's senior class welcome us with another song. Tears are running down our faces again. What beautiful voices. We feel the warmth and cordiality that the children bring to us.
But now we have to stow away our things and if we want to freshen up a bit. Not a bad idea. Eddy and the children have built three traditional huts especially for us (and hopefully other guests who will follow us). We had already seen them on photos, but we have no idea what they look like in real life. We are curious.
At the lower end of the school grounds there is a fenced area behind the shed. There are three small huts. Just like in my children's book. The huts have a low door and no windows or other ventilation. When the door to our hut is opened, a hot, humid air streams out. Inside we have the feeling that we cannot breathe, so stickg it is there. We are supposed to live here for the next two weeks - that is not possible!
Of course we know that the people here have made a lot of effort to prepare a good home for us for the time being and to look after us with much love. Our huts look bigger and more healed than most of the ones we have seen on the way there at the roadside. We have a large brick bed with a brand new mattress. Our accommodation is certainly better than many of the homes of the locals here. We have to stay there for at least one night. Then we can tell Eddy tomorrow that we can't cope with the accommodation and have to move to a hotel in Kamuli, even though we are not very happy with this decision.
The "washrooms" are great for that. As old camping fans we are completely satisfied with a bowl and a canister of water. In contrast to the rickety corrugated iron construction, which the children have to be content with, our washing facilities are comparatively luxurious.
Instead of washing and changing my clothes properly (for which there are certainly good reasons), I prefer to tinker our mosquito net around our bed. Knowing full well that I might not have the strength for it later.
Then we get some food. Sweet potatoes and plantains. With tea, with or without milk, and water. I already knew about the plantains, but I don't know what they taste like. I don't really like boiled bananas. Only one cannot criticize the food here. I'm sure we get better food than the kids usually get. Surprisingly, the bananas taste more like potatoes. A simple and tasty meal.
Freshly strengthened the next official part follows. We visit each class of the school, introduce and briefly introduce ourselves, find out which class it is and are led to the next one. Hopefully nobody will ask us questions afterwards. We already don't know how many classes there are at the Visionary Learning Centre.
What time is it, anyway? It should be late afternoon, we think, but it's only noon. We'll sit outside on chairs. The children come up to us curiously and besiege us. They want to touch us and shake our hands. We are happy to join them. Afterwards we all have a lot of fun together taking pictures of the children and showing them.
Then Eddy gets the idea to test Raphaela's sparse knowledge of Luganda. Together with the children she counts from 1 to 10, in Luganda, English and German. After a few repetitions it works out great.
Perhaps inspired by the spontaneous success with counting, Eddy gathers the children in a classroom for a big question time. We have to answer all possible questions. From our favourite dishes (I chose spaghetti - not without consequences...), about Germany and Europe, our political system, who is president, what are the differences in the school system between Germany and Uganda, to extremely challenging questions about the differences in lifestyle and the different developments in Europe and Africa. The children have really great questions, and we sweat a lot in our skin when answering them. A lot of things are not as clear as one might think at first. This is actually a great and interesting action. Only that we had to get along without sleep for more than 34 hours up to now, and that we were already full of new impressions this morning.
After a good hour Eddy has mercy and releases us for a break in our huts. The air in there is not better yet. As there are not many mosquitoes active outside, we leave the door open. We arrange our things a little. There is not much space in the round building, and there is no furniture or other storage facilities.
After a while, a delegation of the children stands in front of the door. Five girls between 10 and 12 have collected further questions. The ladies take a seat on our bed and poke us with tricky detailed questions. I am happy to explain all the complexes of topics in detail. The little ones are not to be broken. Finally, I have to explain the creation of the seasons. Good thing there's an inflatable globe in the office. That'll be enough.
Somehow, word has gotten around that the tall, old, white man likes to talk. A little later we find ourselves in one of the many classrooms. Children play and frolic around us. One boy has grabbed the big bee book from the library and has questions about illustrations he doesn't understand. So I explain to the interested group the differences between the workers, the drones and the queen. And that in bees the girls decide whether an egg develops into a worker, a drone and even into a queen. This is a good opportunity to distribute our souvenir from Germany.
Raphaela is a beekeeper and has brought a dash of honey from the bees in our garden. So that all can try it once, everyone gets a stain on his hand. That sounds easy, but with 200 children it is a very lively affair.
Towards the end of the day I discuss with Eddy and his father about the program for the next days. The originally planned schedule doesn't work out, because more dates have been added for us and the year-end party has been moved. Instead of heading west in four days to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park and some smaller, locally managed projects in the region, this part of our trip has to be shortened and put at the end of our time in Uganda. At least this has the advantage that I don't have to negotiate with the different car rental companies immediately tomorrow, and I also have more time to learn about the special traffic requirements on site.
For dinner we have potatoes, rice and Matoke. And the only time until the big closing party a dark sauce with some less beef. Also very tasty. After that, the oven is finally off. I can't believe it's still day one. We've been on our feet for 36 hours, and today's experiences won't be the skin of our teeth.. This was the most intense day of our lives!
We say goodbye for bed rest at about 6 pm, although it is still light. The short wash with cold water refreshes briefly, just enough to make our hut reasonably mosquito-proof and to slip under the mosquito net. The air is still unbearably hot, humid and stuffy, but we are much too tired to think about it...