We awoke this morning at an ungodly hour to yet another day of heat, DEET and smelly feet. However, thoughts of breakfast quickly stirred our spirits and the trusty, treasured ‘Passion Juice’ once more invigorated our bones and topped up our hearts with strength to face the coming day.
We departed briskly from the hotel, which borders closely to locals’ homes, easily viewable from the majority of our windows, the reality of which is one that is still difficult for many to come to terms with. The blueprint for the day saw us travel to extremely isolated communities to engage with them and their routine activities.
En route to our destination, each of the three vans was asked for a single volunteer. I leapt at the opportunity…and then pursued to ask what it was that I had volunteered for. The answer came when we arrived at one of the markets in Soroti. We ambled through the dense, dim and dappled pathways encompassed by shaky rooves of corrugated metal, turning heads to the same effect of Hayley bottom-boogieing around small African children. We scouted through the many ranks of market stallsuntil we reached a plethora (yes, I too can use sophisticated vocabulary) of shambled, dingy chicken coops. It was the volunteers’ prized task to buy a chicken and take it under our wing. In other words, to carry it by the feet back to the van and deliver it to the families we were meeting as a gift. We thought our new comrade had died of shock before we reached it, but surprised us all by coming back to life, (exposing the fact that Tim isn’t the only master of deception on this trip) and so earned the worthy nickname, Lazarus. The other three purchased chickens went by the esteemed titles of Phoebe, Nugget and Ginger Spice.
And so we continued our journey, consisting of more than one cheeky attempt from Lazarus to escape his warranted, unbending sentence of execution. We plunged into what could safely be coined as ‘rural Uganda’, crossing red-dust roads, exotic grasslands and astounding skyscapes, an undeniably textbook location for a wild wee. Another poignant moment of the journey was Tim being separated from John (the best driver in Uganda) for the first time, a bromance that Luke and Josh could only dream of boasting.
We drove on what seemed virgin road for the last two-hundred yards or so, until encountering the Ugandan champions of hide and seek – utter isolation. Warm welcomes are all that we have received this week, and a warm welcome was an understatement of what we were greeted withthis morning. For four hours, we adopted the life of a large family of fourteen children, becoming immersed in a plethora (yes, I know I’m milking it) of household jobs such as grinding flour, harvesting maize and fetching water. More than once, I had to remind myself that I was not watching a Channel 4 documentary or an episode of Ray Mears Extreme Survival.
However, our hearts sank like the Titanic at the sight of Lazarus, plucked, beheaded and sitting a pot. Something told us that he wasn’t coming back this time. Throughout the rest of our stay, we were able to mingle with the family and engage with the children. It was humbling to recognise that our mere presence of hours was most likely to be remembered by that family for years.
Our time to depart had arrived, and heavy-hearted we trawled back the way we came, and paid a visit to one of the local churches, supported by the PAG organisation. There we discussed more cultural topics, concerning community financing especially and the way in which residents manage their money in such secluded areas of Uganda.
We drove back home quite silent with the wish that we could stay, as the sun began to set to end another perfect day.
P.S. Hi mum and dad, I would just like to take this opportunity to reassure you that I have not died or been abducted yet.