AROUND SOROTI

Wednesday, 14th November

We left Ngora after breakfast to drive to Soroti. We stopped briefly in Kapir trading centre as Robert needed to see someone. Adipa Mike and Okello Charles were nearby and both recognised me and quickly came over to the car. It’s the first time I’ve seen them since I was excluded from TESS and the new trustees rejected the plans five years ago for building Shalom School in Kapir – I have always avoided Kapir because of a deep sense of embarrassment and failure . Even the first teaching block, which was completed five years ago, has never been used and the tailoring and carpentry equipment is still locked up in the container (I hope, although things tend to ‘disappear’). Of course they wanted to know what was going on and why nothing had happened – no-one has ever told them although, as community leaders, they were very much involved in the plans. By now the school should have been functioning and the first students taking national exams. Mike and Charles were two of the team I took on a fact-finding tour around Uganda years ago to learn from the few other innovative teaching institutions and educationalists that were pioneering change. So I told them the truth – and that I did not think Shalom School would ever be built now, at least not in Kapir…..

We did some bird-watching along the road crossing Awoja swamp, which is now very wet because of several months of rain. Robert was very excited to see a flock of White-faced Whistling-Ducks – he has never seen them there before in spite of travelling along that road twice a day every day for many years. It is one of my favourite places in Teso.

 

We turned off the road in Awoja trading centre and drove towards the lake to meet Joseph Asutai who is setting up a demonstration and training farm, Awoja Riverside Farm, along with guest accommodation and conference facilities. Although we spent nearly an hour with him, we agreed to meeting another time as he was very much taken up with planning the funeral of an aunt who had died a few hours before, as well as a meeting between community members and representatives from the Ministry of Water and Environment who are funding developments for a year. It is a beautiful location and Joseph, who has a wealth of experience of international NGOs and educational projects, has a big vision.

 

We went shopping in Soroti Market, which has been moved temporarily to the bus park area while they build a new storeyed market and shopping area. I’m not sure where the funds are coming from, but China is investing heavily in Uganda, bringing in their own engineers and developers and using Ugandan engineers as labourers, much to the consternation of many people – where will the involvement end? Although it means long-awaited development for Teso, many are very concerned about it. They are laying water pipes and pumps etc to take water from the lake at Agu to Kumi and surrounding areas. They are also building  a tarmac road from Soroti to Moroto through Katakwi. A possible side effect of Chinese involvement, especially in the oil fields recently discovered around Murchison Falls National Park, is likely to be greatly increased poaching of elephants, which hasn’t been a significant problem in Uganda until now. China is successfully pushing out European and American involvement in Africa and taking over. 

We continued through Soroti and out on the Arapai road to Robert’s village in Tubur, about an hour’s drive. He has developed his homestead, next to his parents’ home, since I was last there 18 months ago. He now has four grass-thatched houses – one for Betty and Arakit, one for himself, one for his boys (Sam helped build their hut) and one for cooking etc. He has also built a very nice shelter for Becky’s goats.

Becky (my eldest granddaughter) was with me in Soroti for her 20th birthday in 2015. She has always loved goats and wanted to keep them, so I asked Robert if he would keep a goat for her in the village if I gave her one for her birthday. Becky was thrilled with the lovely brown and black goat Robert bought for us. He also gave her a chicken – which was intended for cooking for her birthday dinner. But Becky asked him to keep it in the village as well. It turned out to be a very good layer and mother and has produced so many offspring, some of which Robert sold to buy her another goat. From her original birthday presents three and a half years ago, she now has 13 goats and more on the way! There should have been 14, but seven males, led by a white one he calls the “stubborn one” (the Ugandan word for naughty or bad) turned on the one he bought with the chickens, his favourite, soon after she had produced twins, and killed her. He is exchanging all these for other goats, apart from the “stubborn one” as it is such a big, sturdy billy goat.

As soon as we arrived, Robert was very busy sorting things out and even helping cook the evening meal. The compound was immaculate and the two newest houses had been beautifully prepared, with recently smeared cow dung floors which had hardened, almost like cement. I gave Arakit the model house made out of cardboard boxes which the students had made at Nyero as part of their building training. She was very shy and hesitant at first. I made a little person out of grass for which she enjoyed putting in and out of the house. She and her little friend also had fun playing with the balloons we had brought and she put on the pink dress I gave her.

 

We enjoyed sitting outside in the soft light of a half moon to eat our supper and, later, bathing in warm water in a small open enclosure while a hen was sitting in the corner with her chicks tweeting quietly under her puffed up feathers. I had the best night’s sleep since we arrived in Uganda. It rained in the night so we woke early to a lovely fresh, sunny morning. Robert took us on a walk around the family land and showed us the four acres his father has passed on to him and some of the 1,000 pine trees he planted a few years ago as an investment to pay for his children’s university education. Early morning is the best time to see birds – we were thrilled to see several beautiful green and yellow Grey-headed Bush-Shrikes, a first for all of us.

The goats were still resting in their overnight shelter when we got back and had breakfast in the boys’ house. Later, Robert and a friend milked his beautiful cow which had produced a bull calf less than a week ago. As the heat builds up towards midday, everything (except “mad dogs and Englishmen”) goes quiet as birds and animals look for shade and rest, the only sensible thing to do!

 

We left after lunch, taking Robert’s mother to join his father who is staying in Ben’s house in Soroti for a bit. We came to stay with Naphtali and Gaudesia on the edge of Soroti and spent the evening catching up……..

This is as far as I got on Friday 16th before the internet and computer completely packed up. I got it sorted on Monday, but haven’t had power since then until today (Friday 22nd). Because it is so slow adding to the Blog, I will post this now and then try and catch up on the last week!

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