Archive for the ‘uganda’ Category

For Mothers on Mother’s Day
May 12, 2013

Upon waking this morning my friend Doug sent me a text message on his cell phone:

“Good Morning Sue – and what you think about joining us, – Me ‘n Shaz at Seagulls restaurant for a Mother’s Day lunch? Cath is treating Shaz, so I’ll treat you, seeing as your children aren’t here?”

To fill you in, Cath is Doug and Shaz’ daughter, and Seagulls is a restaurant situated in the tiny holiday village, L’Agulhas which is the last inhabited place at the southernmost tip of Africa.

I do not think my friends know how much it means to me to have received that message today – it brought a lump to my throat and made me feel terribly emotional. You see, I am here on my own trying to wrap up the sale of our home in Cape Agulhas, Graham, (my hubby) is working under gruelling conditions in Uganda on an agricultural project and my daughters, son-in-law and grandsons are all in England. My Mom is eight hours drive from me up the east coast of South Africa. As I’ve visited her recently, I cannot afford to visit her again until our house transaction is through.

With my friend’s kind gesture, it brought me to think of the many mother’s, (including my beloved mother) step-mothers and adoptive mothers who are spending this day on their own.

It’s for them that I write this Blog today:

We, as mothers, have all had mothers and grandmothers, an aunt or god-mother who has been an important part of our life. Someone who kissed a grazed knee or stroked a fevered brow, made us packed lunches and drove us back-wards and forwards on school runs.

A woman who cheered us on at school sport’s day and ran in the mother’s race, and even if she came in last, she was our heroine.

A woman who told us it didn’t matter that our report card was not brilliant, Einstein was dyslexic and look how he turned out!

A woman who kept all our drawings and little notes from when we first knew how to put pencil to paper.

A woman who taught us that fairies and angels really did exist and that the world was full of beautiful things.

A woman who cried with us over our first heartbreak and wrapped us in her arms and made everything feel OK.

A woman who saw us out into the big wide world and kept a lighted candle burning in the window if we ever needed to return.

A woman who saw the wonderment when we ourselves became a mother and we could only understand the burning protectiveness and unconditional love a mother has over her own child.

I think of all the mothers who have to face the death of their own mothers, or the loss of a beloved child. The empty feeling they must have to face each year when Mother’s Day is celebrated. They cannot make a phone call to say “I love you dearly”, but what I do know is Mother’s Day is for remembering our mothers because their spirit remains within us and our children and our children’s children.

The whole world’s most celebrated day of the year is Mother’s Day as everyone has a mother. It does not matter what religion, creed or colour you are, Mother’s Day is important to all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day, – especially to Mothers who are on their own and feel sadness at loved ones who are not with them.

Love and Light to: My Mom, Debi, Kerry, Taryn, Johnno, Lochlan & Mason.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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Looking "Inward"
July 22, 2012

Sometimes a Gal just has to do what a Gal has to do!

When I need to get “my head around things”, put life into order and talk to my inner-self, I sweep.

Yes, I grab the broom and start on the farthest room, slowly making my way through the house to the front door.

I move furniture so I can gather all the dust-bunnies who are hiding from sight and manoeuvre them into a neat little pile. All the time making big sweeping statements with the broom, swish, tension and bad thoughts are released from my body.
Getting into a rhythm, my thoughts turn passive and I am able to negate the broom deftly like an abstract artist brandishing my brush onto a large, blank canvas.

Swish, the dust-bunnies are relegated to the dust-pan and I throw them into the bin. I am now calm.

In the routine of this domestic chore, I find I have re-connected with a fundamental simplicity.
Having done homage to people who have“passed-over” and smiled at the good things I remember about them, – my Father’s shy smile that reached his twinkling blue eyes.
Come to terms with the recent death of my favourite uncle who was one of the most eccentric and funny men I have ever had the privilege to know.
Smoothed over old conflicts and seen the reality of where things went wrong and how they were put right, or should be.
Thought of my three daughters with love and affection and turned them all into successful millionaires and bottled my grandson’s contagious laughter, giving it away to sad people to make them happy.
Remembered times when as a child, my brother, sister and I went on long, rambling walks with our Mother through the African bush, the smell of the tall yellow grass sweet after the first rain.
Our dogs rushing and sniffing out small animals and shadows in the late afternoon sunshine.

It doesn’t have to be a new broom to sweep clean, just a broom that helps me face another day.

“Resting where no shadows fall
In peaceful sleep he awaits us all
God will link the broken chain
When one by one we meet again.”

(Love you, Uncle Ian oxo)

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Little Palaro Girl, Uganda
July 14, 2012

When you capture children on film it is always such a blessing as they pose with inhibition.
This photo was taken with my little “point and shoot” Lumix camera in Palaro, the northern part of Uganda, close to the southern Sudan and Congo borders.
I think it is the only clothing she has.

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From June into July in Uganda
July 10, 2012

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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From London to Gulu, Uganda
July 3, 2012

I am heading into being resident in Gulu, Uganda for four weeks and feel like I have signed on to some sort of reality show where the bush survival guru Ray Mears suddenly arrives on my doorstep to tell me that I have qualified as a fully-fledged Girl Scout and to add to that, the winner of the £ Million and a relaxing trip to a fancy spa for a well-earned massage and foot rub!

Boarding Kenya Airways from London Heathrow on 6th June, I flew via Nairobi, Kenya, transferring flights to get to Entebbe. The plane descended and flew low over Lake Victoria which brought thoughts of British Imperial Airways, and the days of the grand voyagers, (the S23-Empire Class Airplanes, giant Sunderland’s) carrying the post and passengers from the United Kingdom to South Africa.

Flying Boats that my grandfather had told me flew on a main route from Southampton in England on to Augusta Italy, stopping and progressing on to Cairo Egypt, then Khartoum, Port Bell Uganda, Victoria falls Rhodesia and then Vaal Dam in South Africa.

Grandpa also told me about other routes via Africa’s Great Rift Valley where the majestic old converted WW2 planes landed on the waters of the Nile, progressing to the massive lakes; Victoria Uganda, Naivasha Kenya, Tanganyika Tanzania, Nyasa Nyasaland, Victoria Falls Rhodesia and on to the Harbour in Durban, where my grandfather was employed as  Imperial’s Port Harbour Master.

As I descended the stairs from my ‘plane to the apron at Entebbe, more memories of the “Entebbe Raid” that took place 4th July, 1976, – a counter terrorist raid carried out by the Israeli commandos came rushing in to my head, here I was standing where an Air France plane with 246 passengers was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells and flown to Entebbe.

Clearing customs and immigration took a long time, as twenty Iranian businessmen were in the queue before me and they were obviously important, so had to be hustled through whilst the rest of the passengers waited their turn.

Graham was there to meet me and it was so good to see him after being apart for four months. He had a chauffeur with him, which surprised me as he is a good driver. I sat in the back seat and off we went along the road to Kampala, Uganda’s capital where we were to spend three days in the Protea Hotel before heading to the north and the Gulu Provence.

Oh my word, I have driven in many African countries before, but never experienced such scary driving! There are simply no road rules, everyone to their own! I shut my eyes and opened them and caught Graham looking at me from the front passenger seat with amusement, “You OK Babe?” He asked, “Now you see why I have a Ugandan to drive me in Kampala!”

“That’s for bloody sure!” I retorted, shutting my eyes again whilst I reminisced:
Many years ago, as a teenager living in Malawi, I found myself listening with morbid interest to the tales told to my parents by people who had previously worked in the British Foreign Office in Uganda. These were ex-patriots who had fled the wrath of Idi Amin and the atrocities committed against foreigners living and working in that country. My mother would look my way and see that I was avidly taking in the horror stories of abuse, rape and even murder and slip into murmuring whispers so that I could no longer hear.

I remember a portrait artist telling a florid story about how in the early days of Idi Amin’s rule, she was summoned into his state office and commissioned to do his portrait. At first she said, she thought of him as this delightful “teddy-bear” of a man. But as the weeks went by and time progressed, she saw that he was unpredictable and cruel. She and her husband, (who was a high court judge) had to escape the country or risk death. How they ended up living and working in Malawi did not interest me, but I did wonder if she ever completed the portrait before the teddy-bear turned into a grizzly-bear!

From all the stories I stored in the back-burners of my memory, Uganda always seemed to be a place of tropical jungle, gorillas, heavy thunder-storms, the vast Rift Valley Lake Victoria, unpredictable tribes and the Entebbe Raid. It has always been a place I thought of as “far away and inaccessible “, and likely one of the last places I would ever visit.

Yet, here I am in Gulu, Northern Uganda, about two hundred miles north of the capital, Kampala. In the old days as a British Protectorate, there was a metre gauge railway between the nearby villages of Tororo and Pakwach, but sadly it no longer operates and the only way to get here is by road or by air into the local airport.

There are two main tribes in the area, the Acholi, (who make up about eighty percent of the population) and the Luo. Since the rule of Idi Amin, through to Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army, these tribes have been targeted and attacked.

Later entered Alice Lakwena, heading yet another rebel group, which became the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army, – who, along with the government’s army, Uganda’s People’s Defence Force, carried out brutal genocide against these poor people. In the late 1990’s, government forced them into “Internally Displaced Person” camps. Thinly veiled, they were nothing other than concentration camps, where it was reported held in the region of two million people.

International campaigns known as “Stop the Genocide in Northern Uganda,” became prominent and in 2007 these camps were shut down and the survivors released. International pressure on the Ugandan government induced closure of these awful places, and there has been relative peace between the government and the rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony.

The other day I spoke to a man who had been working with the International Red Cross at that time. He told me how approximately 15,000 orphan children, known as “Night Commuters” fled into Gulu’s town vicinities for safety under the cover of darkness every night, fearing abduction and conscription as child soldiers.

Since the peace talks between the government and the rebel LRA, the violence has greatly reduced and seen to economic revitalisation in the district of Gulu. There is a university, district administration centre, a stadium, three hospitals, a management institute, teachers training and agriculture colleges, the airport is second largest in the country, (after Entebbe) thirteen banks, several radio stations, three main hotels, an army base, churches, eating and coffee houses, Rotary Round Table and many, many Voluntary Overseas Organisations from around the world. In fact, I believe at one time there were more than 180 Aid Donor Organisations, some of which had operations closed by government, due to the fact that the young volunteers sent to work here were having too good a time relaxing near the hotel swimming pools, soaking up the Ugandan sunshine and not doing much in the field!

Regardless, there are always foreigners to be seen in the Internet cafés, shopping in Gulu’s markets and driving along in vehicles with various logos emblazoned on the doors advertising a vast variety of Aid Donor organisations. The most interesting of these, in my opinion, is “Invisible Children.” A film has been made on what they are doing to help the crisis in Uganda and it can be watched on the Internet.

After living in the OLAM compound in Morrembala, Mozambique, I find this new place (where Graham is contracted by Patrick Bitature, Simba Group to develop 3000 hectares of virgin land in an area called Palaro into farmland for maize production) more agreeable. At least here I can safely go for a walk, the locals friendly and the village a hive of activity, colour and interest.

It is a far cry from London, but it appears to me that the people here are the same as anywhere, – all working, running errands, shopping and doing what they can to improve their lives.

If you enjoy my writing, purchase my books and EBooks:

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Old Gulu Man
June 28, 2012

This old man approached me in Gulu yesterday and had a very long chat in a local tribal dialect that sounded like Arabic. It was stange to hear and nothing like other languages I have heard spoken in other countries I have travelled to in Africa.
I believe that around the 1500’s, the Bito dynasties of Buganda, (now known as Uganda), Bunyoro and Ankole founded by Nilotic-speaking immigrants from present-day southeastern Sudan.
So I guess that’s why he spoke what he did. However, I did not understand a word, other than comprehend he thought I was worth “chewing the cud” with to pass the time of day!

The "Boda" Taxi
June 22, 2012

Asking the Cost for a Ride.

Local Transport in Gulu, Uganda

In Mozambique they have taxi bicycles and here in Uganda there is a slight upgrade, – the motorbike.
The “Boda” taxi, as it is called, will carry up to four people, including all their luggage, even the family goat.
Sometimes they are hired by one individual with supplies, such as a window frame, a bed or even a wheel-barrow!
How they manage to balance is a mystery, but they do.
The owners of the boda’s are often found  in groups at street corners, chatting and waiting for a customer to approach and hitch a ride.

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