About Susan Cook-Jahme: the Happy Scribbler

About Susan Cook-Jahme: the Happy Scribbler.

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From June into July in Uganda

I think Graham wanted to lull me into a zone where I was to be spoilt with hotel accommodation before settling me in to the place his recent employers had supplied for our immediate home in the North of Uganda, Palaro.

My first two nights were spent in the Protea Hotel, Kololo, Kampala.

After 35km hell ride from Entebbe Airport it was a relief to see that I was to be lodged in the luxury of a 4-star hotel. Entering one of the 11 suites, I welcomed the cool air from the air-conditioner and placed my suitcase down, taking my shoes off and enjoying the feel of the cool marble floor beneath my feet. Walking out to the balcony I found it overlooked one of the restaurants where a few people were seated below at tables enjoying midmorning tea and cakes. “Ever so British,” I thought to myself.

Graham had to go into the city, as he had to meet his boss in the Simba head offices and suggested I settle in and relax, promising to take me into Kampala to see some of the sights the following day.

I was tired from my trip from London, via Nairobi, so had a shower in the suite’s well-proportioned shower and then lay on the bed and fell into a deep sleep, only to awake when I heard the key turning in the door. Graham had returned from his meeting. We sat out on the balcony and ate lunch which we had ordered through room-service. Catching up on what had been happening since he had arrived in the country two months prior to my arrival. It sounded as if all the promises of his contract had not yet been forthcoming. Unperturbed, I listened quietly. This was not the first agricultural assignment he had undertaken in our lives when this had happened. Time eventually ironed things out and the situation either worked out, or we moved on, – Graham is highly experienced in his field and does not have difficulty in finding employment.

Push coming to shove, we always have our back-up option and that is our property at the foot of South Africa in Cape Agulhas that we have run as a bijou Bed and Breakfast operation, and can easily do so again at the drop of a hat.

However, the spirit of adventure is in both of us and we enjoy the challenge of a new project and place to live. The love of land entices us into making the quick decision to sign up, pack up and pick up on a new place, discovering the flora, fauna and people of the country we find ourselves living in.

Ugandans, I have discovered are extremely friendly and always happy to stop and while away the time asking you where you come from and why you are in their country. The majority speak fluent English and often favour communicating with each other in this language over their home tongue. As the country has had massive amounts of Western Aid poured into it, it hosts huge numbers of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and even in Gulu, Uganda’s second largest town, one finds established ex-patriot hang-outs in the city-centres.

Early the next day we were collected by a company driver and ferried to the Simba office where I met Graham’s immediate boss, a diminutive young Irish American lady who looked as if she was younger than our daughters, but she obviously had earned her place in the company as I realised she was well informed and capable. After being politely dismissed from her office, I retreated to the grounds surrounding the offices, leaving Graham there to talk business.

I walked around the grounds and enjoyed looking at the tropical palms and plants in the gardens. The peace did not last long, a man staggered through the security gates with a bleeding head, making his way into the offices. Curious, I took a seat in the shade of a large gazebo, waiting for Graham to tell me about the injured man. It did not take long, as he soon joined me. Apparently the man had been sent into Kampala on the back of a boda-taxi to collect cash which was to be given to Graham to pay the driver of the pick-up that had been hired for our use. Unfortunately thieves had been alerted about this from an “inside informer” from the office and attacked him on the moving boda-boda. In order to escape he jumped off, landing on his head and hurting himself whilst hanging onto the money.

“Odd,” I remarked to Graham, “Why on earth send a target like that on the back of a motor-bike, surely he should be in a closed company vehicle for such a job?”
Graham nodded, “I agree, but now we still have to wait for money to pay for the pick-up rental.”

I was once again left on my own whilst Graham went to see what could be done, so ambled over to where the driver had parked the beat up old vehicle that was our mode of transport. He had his wife with him in the four-door cab and invited me to meet her, suggesting I sit in the comfort of the vehicle. Next thing I found he had locked the doors. As there were kiddie-locks on the back doors, I could not get out, short of clambering out the window, which I was not going to do, – well not immediately anyway!

With a jovial laugh, he happily told me that he and his wife were holding me hostage until they had their payment. By this time, I had a slight sense of humour failure and did not join in with what I hoped was their joke. My day out looking around Kampala did not appear that it was going to take place and had gone somewhat awry.

In the end Graham arrived and paid the driver in full, he was happy, we were happy and all I wanted to do was return to my nice, clean, cool hotel room and put my feet up. When I suggested this, my husband looked very relieved, “Good idea Babe,” I thought so too and waited until we were well rested. Over a glass of wine at dinner, I mentioned how I had been kidnapped by a friendly Ugandan and his wife earlier on in the day. We both laughed at my first day in Uganda and initiation of Kampala.

With a bit of luck, I shall be able to visit the craft markets and places of interest during my next trip to the capital city.

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There’s a Lot of Pretty Girls in Mozambique

Tropical storms have done what no man can control. Wrecked communications, determined which power stations may or may not operate and switched off the lights on entire areas in the Zambezia Province of Mozambique.
Fire Beetles arrive with Thunderstorms
As I write the draft on this Blog, the Internet is still not working, it’s stinking hot and there is no air-conditioning keeping me reasonably cool, (and sane) but life continues.
The surrounding village of shanty-houses and open air markets heave with humanity, flies and happy voices. Africans are philosophical and get on with their every-day lives of foraging, digging in their maize fields, swapping stories in the shade of ancient mango trees and zooming about on the main mode of transport in Mozambique, the bicycle.
One positive aspect of a huge voltage shortage is that the four bars in close proximity to my present abode are not beating out loud, conflicting music. I count this as a reprieve, as the music sometimes starts as early as 5am in the morning!
Giant African snails have come out with the rains. I am fascinated to watch them creep up the walls of the house and lodge themselves under the eaves where the little house sparrows angrily dive and swoop at them, possessively guarding their untidy nests in the roofing.
Giant African Snail
The rains have brought with them an array of creepy-crawlies, some of them not so inviting. Big hairy rain spiders as large as a man’s fist scuttle into the house if the door is left ajar. When confronted they raise their front legs and show you they mean business! I normally head off speedily in the opposite direction and leave Graham to deal with the scary beasts.
I was making our bed the other morning, and a scorpion dropped out of the blanket that we had kicked off onto the floor because it is too hot for blankets in this part of the world. Lesson learned, the blanket was folded and stored in a drawer for some insane visitor who may ask to use a blanket.
Our Morrumbala Veggie Patch
To keep myself busy, I have started to develop a garden.
 Illoma the gardener is very confused as he can understand a garden vegetable patch, and is happy to dig and toil over veggies that can be eaten. However, he is still trying to get his head around the fact that I am designing flower beds, planting trees, and striking cuttings. I can see him looking at me side-ways and thinking I am “not very well in my head.”
Graham has offered my landscaping knowledge to the company. His boss, who bases himself in Beira and makes an occasional foray to Morrumbala, said on one of his visits that the OLAM grounds and five staff house yards needed “beautifying”.  So Graham volunteered my expertise.
When I asked him if they were going to give me a budget for the project and if I would be paid for my services, he threw his head back, laughing and said, “Babe, I struggle to get paid monthly, do you honestly believe you would get anything?”
Graham and the accountant-early morning meeting
with OLAM workers
Under these prickly circumstances, I shall keep my council and just get on with the job.
It does give me pleasure and like I said earlier, it keeps me occupied when I am not writing, illustrating or taking photographs.
PS: This Blog was drafted on 16 January, and posted today…there has been no Internet, or mobile phone communications until now!
(All photos on this blog are taken on my morning walk with my cell/mobile phone.)



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