Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Day in the Life of a RAV4

I’m awakened fairly early, just on dawn, as David the night guard comes as usual on most mornings to help me bathe. The water is cold at this time of day, but I have fairly tough skin so can cope. After bathing I get to just dry naturally under the rising sun.

At about 7:45 am ‘the driver’ comes out and loads my back end with tools before slamming my back door shut. I try to complain by not catching the door properly, but he just keeps at it until I give in and let the thing close fully. Then he puts that sharp pointy thing in my ignition switch for the first time today and twists! Oh the pain. It takes me a couple of minutes for my engine to warm to the task, but then we are away.

The drive is a relatively short one from the village down the road to the new house where thankfully the tools are unloaded and I can stand straight again and rest for a while. Unfortunately its only a short rest as we head back up to the village for more supplies. This time I get pushed and prodded until my back seats are flattened and then the back is loaded with a heap of metal - I hear the word scaffolding” being used. This stuff is so big that they can’t even shut the back door, so I have no opportunity to protest. Out the gate and I get my own back a little as I tip some of this metal out the open back door so ‘the driver’ has to stop and reload. From there its all down hill and he surprisingly takes it very slowly, so I don’t feel all the bumps, not like when he is in a hurry! Again I scrape my bottom on the ground as we enter the new house block. When is ‘the driver’ going to do something about that entry. It hasn’t been nice since the grader came and turned the gutter into a moat. Oh no! Apparently the boss (Robert) likes what the metal can do and tells ‘the driver’ to go back for another load. Seems like he is getting smarter. This time he uses a couple of bags of Lime from the shed in my rear end first to change the angle of the metal, so I can’t tip it out any more. After offloading this second lot of metal, I finally get a rest for an hour or so.

After a nice little snooze in the morning sunshine, I am rudely awakened by ‘the driver’ reefing my door open. NO ... he’s been at it again. Some days he comes out of that house all wet from sweat and then just flops down on my seat and I get covered in it. And with the dust that is always around here, how does he expect me to keep a nice, clean appearance on my lovely cloth seats? Back we go to the village for ‘the driver’s’ lunch break. All very well for him, he kicks all the kids out of his house while he eats. Where do you think they go? Straight to me, thats where. It seemed like a nice idea at the time when my Japanese stylist painted me black, but these kids have trouble differentiating between me and a blackboard, so all they want to do is write all over me. Sometimes this is very hurtful and has left lasting scars! I don’t like it. When ‘the driver’ finishes his lunch its time to become a food transport vehicle and take food to the workers. The posho tin is always a bit hot, but my carpet doesn’t seem to mind. Its when that Mama woman puts the other stuff on my seat that the problems begin. The container is fine, but seems unable to keep all of the stuff inside inside, and it tends to dribble. ‘the driver’ doesn’t seem to mind too much, he just rubs it in and mutters something about “not being his seat, so why worry”.

After the lunch run I finally get a decent bit of exercise as he has to go into town to go to the bank, apparently so that the workers can be paid. I do miss those nice smooth roads back home in Japan though, as some of the places ‘the driver’ takes me here are very rough. More of a “cross country’ event than a “track” event.

We no sooner get back to the house from the bank than that imposter of an engine, the generator, coughs and splutters and uses up its last bit of fuel. How embarrassing! But good old reliable RAV4 to the rescue. A quick trip over those Bugembe bumps to fill up the yellow jerry can and we can get that generator purring again. At least on this trip ‘the driver’ brought one of he little kids along for the ride. I liked giving him my front seat view as he felt that bit special.

Is there anything else that can run out today. Because I provided all of that metal called scaffolding, the workers are making good progress and have run out of nails, so its off I go again to replenish their stocks. Its just the short journey down the hill to Wairaka trading centre, but the journey back is all over the place. No easy way back from there!

Once darkness sets in I usually get to rest - ‘the driver’ doesn’t like being out on the roads here in the dark if he can help it. I think it is something to do with the number of pedestrians and the lack of street lighting that he is used to. But tonight it is a different story. The little boy from next door is really sick and so I become like an ambulance and rush him to hospital The roads around the hospital are filled with potholes and its dark so they are hard for ‘the driver’ to see so I am unable to deliver the “smooth riding experience” that I always aim for. After waiting at the hospital for a while, ‘the driver’ and his friend Luke come out and off we go on a search for supplies that the hospital needs. They don’t really seem to know where they are going, but eventually stumble on a clinic where I get parked and they go inside and then come back after a few minutes with strange looks on their faces and mutterings of “smuggling” and “the nice nurse who helped them” Back to the hospital to deliver the goods and then after another short wait, finally I get to go home and call it a day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peace at Last

A little over 5 weeks of school holiday came to an end yesterday and the children returned to school today. The village is remarkably peaceful when they are not here! The mamas and mzungus don't make a lot of noise between them.

The holiday time has really been a great time to spend time with the children doing all manner of things. Sometimes its what they want to do, more often they want to tag along with what we are doing or at least do what they want to do in our presence. Occasionally that can be useful as they will very happily go and get that tool that you need or move the ladder from here to there as required. On other occasions it can lead to trouble as well, as when I was working with some spouting for the new house, making up the corner pieces, and a group of the boys were taking it in turns to drill and rivet. After a while there came a cry from one boy, "Uncle Ron, look what . . . is doing!" . . . had taken an offcut of the spouting and was "drawing" with it along the side of my car.

Anne spent many an hour in the admin block with children reading, drawing, colouring, doing jigsaw puzzles, drawing on a blackboard, learning words and numbers and letters. Both her and Trudi, our visitor, gave the one sewing machine a good workout, mending clothes and even making a few new items.

The highlight though of the holidays came last week on Monday when we finally opened the newly arrived container. If you haven't been following this saga, the container left Lilydale in September and arrived here in Jinja Customs Bond yard in mid January. Unfortunately it has taken this long to get the official documents from the government here to have the import taxes waived. But a little over a week ago, on Friday 13th May, we finally got approval to collect the container. We then had to wait to open it until Monday so that a customs inspector could check its contents. The arrival and opening provided much excitement for the children, and then the work began of unloading it.

There was a huge range of things in the container, but those that brought most excitement to the children were the bicycles and the slide.

I, on the other hand, have had a lot of fun looking through the boxes of old tools that have come, thinking of all of the times that I could have used that, or that, or how good it is to finally have one of those.

Also in the container was a very very large number of items of clothing of all shapes and sizes. Anne, Jane and Christine, with a few others have almost completed the mammoth task of sorting them. Some are ready for the children, some will be modified to fit the children, and some will be given to various people in the community to bless them.

The container also included building materials from a house that some hard working people demolished back in July in Wandin. Soon they will be put to use in constructing roofs for houses here as well as providing some of the bathroom fittings for the nearly completed guest house.

The children and all associated with the village here want to say a huge "Thank You" to everybody who donated goods and / or time and / or money to get this container here. It is a huge blessing, not just to the village, but the whole community.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Its been a while - sorry

It is quite a while since I have posted anything here - thats not because nothing happens, but more because so much is happening.

We have been a village of 32 children for two and a half months now, and life has certainly changed. The new children have learnt many new things, including "Aunt Anne, may I come in?" when they are standing at the doorway of the admin building wanting to enter to read, draw, do homework, do puzzles, or just hang out. They still have things to learn as well, like "LEAVE MY CAR ALONE" as they draw in the dust or play with the doors and windows and locks.

Seriously, the life of the village is totally different now and we can only imagine what it will be like when we have 6, 8 or 14 houses full of children.

At the moment the children are still on holidays from school for another 2 weeks. Despite this they are getting lessons most days in the admin building, and learning much through being able to write all over the blackboard without fear of messing things up in their books if they get something wrong. For many of the children who have not previously been to school, this holiday has seen them come on in leaps and bounds in things like learning the alphabet. Last week at the Sunday night devotions, there were great celebrations when all of the children, including the 3 year old twins, were able to sing the alphabet song on their own.

During the holidays, the children get to do some of the chores that there is not the opportunity for them to do during term time. For some this is preparing meals, for others it is helping out in small ways with the building project of the time. Last week a group of the older girls spent days in the garden digging and planting a crop of maize and other vegetables.

On the building front, great progress has been made on "Mission House". This is a house being built on another block close to the village that will function as a guest house to raise income for the village. Future teams that come from Australia will stay in this house. It now has a roof, and currently the internal walls are being plastered. In the next few days the plumbing and electrical work will begin, and then windows and doors will have it liveable in plenty of time for the team coming in July.

At the village, house 5 is still awaiting its roof that is in the container that is now only a day or so from being delivered (I really am a man of faith!) A slab for house 6 awaits the July team, and there will also be work on the kitchen slab in the next week or so to make sure that we have plenty for them to do.

On the 'mzungu' front, some personnel changes are afoot. Luke who has been here since June last year, is now in his last month in Africa. To the surprise of many here, he has finally booked a ticket home and will depart in early June. He will be greatly missed both inside and outside of the village. Trudi who has been with us for 10 weeks, departs on Sunday. She also has made a big impact during her time here, not the least of which happened last week when she accompanied a team from YWAM on an outreach to western Uganda. The mothers, the children, and even the dogs will miss Trudi when she goes! In June we have some new visitors coming, then in July we have a team so exciting times lie ahead.

Roof contractors preparing to put the spouting on the roof of Mission House

The finished roof!

Charles working to plaster the walls in the lounge room

Ibra and Sharon in the new clothes brought by their Jadja (grandmother) on their way to church.