Monday, June 28, 2010

Ready, Set, Enjoy!

A couple of weeks ago we were told at school that we had to work at the annual Fun Day!
Now, any event with the word 'fun' in it leaves me a bit dubious. Yes, between the hours of 12-7pm, I was supposed to have 'fun'. Set times for fun never seems to work; it's like an over-planned night out that never gets started!

Never the less, I had heard the stories of the previous year's event and it did sound fun! It basically is, yet another excuse, for the owner of the school to hold an event in the impressive school grounds and spend huge amounts of money on the teachers and parents at the school, reminding them (us) why they either work their or send their beloved children to the school. He does this by feeding them very well and by getting them all rather tipsy on free booze!

So, when we were told that we would have to 'work'  you can imagine that a few eyebrows were raised in the staffroom. As the event approached were were asked to sign-up for activities; we then realised that an 'adults only' team game would count as 'work'.

I spent Saturday in a 6 legged race, spinning around a pole (copius amounts of beer was also consumed), getting an egg repeatedly thrown at me...until it cracked...and then taking part in relay races in the pool.

And you know what...the clue was in the was a Fun Day!
I have a great job!

In the Making!

I go through phases where I have to get creative! I have the urge to listen to my music and make something. I am not artistic, so my creativity has it limits...I may just make a batch of oatmeal and raisin cookies until the feeling passes!
For example, I have just this second finished painting my shelving unit blue!

Why? Well, my tiny flat is full of my photos or batiks I have stretched and framed. The walls have already been painted and stenciled...the shelves were the only thing left untouched!

During my non-contact periods at school (when I should be writing reports!) I often surf the Martha Stewart website. I love it! Who knew framed handkerchiefs looked so good on a kitchen wall!!?? Or that wellingtons made such great plant pots!!??

This is not such a new thing. In Kuwait I was into scrap booking for a while, then photography etc. I once made an entire photo frame our of sharpened coloured pencils. Buying all the resources, sharpening all the pencils to the same short length, gluing them all onto the heavy card;  it took hours...and was a piece of crap! It looking much better in the magazine (!)..but I enjoyed the process.
I think, "oh, I can do that, I can make that oilcloth lunch bag tote, Martha says it's easy, you's Simple, yet effective...!!!!???? "
As I said, my artistic flare has its limits. An artist friend recently asked me if I would like to take up and internship at one of the local art galleries on the weekend!!HAAAA!!! I think I'll stick to painting shelving units...and writing this blog!

Friday, June 25, 2010

On hold...

Procrastinating...a subject for many, this time of year. In the time that I should be writing reports I have manged to tidy my desk (the first time I can see a bit of the table in quite some time!) and caught up with friends all over the world. I haven't written so many e-mails/cards/ read so many blogs, for months! I have also gone for 3 runs this week and watched quite a lot of sport...even the F1 on Sunday...fallen on hard times for sure! 
We teachers just want to be enjoying our do the pupils!
My African Adventures are on hold until June 10th...when we break up from school.
So...I have stolen this idea from my friend, she won't she can then read it and procrastinate some more!!!
A waste of time...a bit of fun!

What experience has most shaped you and why?

I am sure when I am 92 years old I may be able to answer this question a bit better. I don't necessarily think that moving around or travelling the world shapes people, but the people you meet, do.  Friends, family and acquaintances who share experiences, stories and knowledge that you then carry on with you -passing on to others; stories, knowledge and experiences. The people around shape us, this is why we need to pick those people close to us so carefully.
If you had a whole day with no commitments what would you do?

Probably nothing and I would hate it-I like commitments. I have always been like that, even when I was younger I would need to know EXACTLY what time I would have to leave the swimming pool...before I got there! I need a running buddy to get me out in the morning or a lunch date with friends. I guess it depends where in the world I am, what I would love to do. A wonder round shops with Jo after a glass of wine at Ricks, where I will inevitably buy a VERY expensive pair of sunglasses from Harvey Nichols, is always a favourite!

What food or drink could you never give up?

Wine and pasta. I could be more detailed; jumbo prawns with ginger, or fresh basil and tomato. Honestly though-it would just be because I think I would starve-pasta and pesto is my staple....the wine goes without saying! My favourite would be a glass of Rioja from Cockburn street on a cold afternoon in Edinburgh!
If you could travel anywhere, where would that be and why?
I would love to be in the position where jetting home all the time is not a thought or an extravagant holiday. I have times where  I pine for Europe; my holiday last year to Italy set a benchmark...long lunches, art galleries, wine tours, cycling and lots of public affection... perfection! At the moment though I also have a massive urge to go to Alaska and BC, Canada. They may seem strange choices, but I think I am ready for Western civilization once more!

Who do you have a crush on?

Crushes are so important in life.  Most of my crushes are on my gorgeous friends who make perfect partners with my other gorgeous friends. I have met a couple of people recently who are perfect 'crush' material; handsome, smart, talented, funny, charming... don't live in Uganda! I also have a few celebrity crushes; Anderson Cooper being high on the list! I go to watch CNN at the gym especially!

When was the last time you cried?

Actually, last night. I am not sure why. I read a great article recently about tears being love and every time you cry you should think, 'this is because of love' . It could be love for a boy or a girl, yourself,'s love. Oh, I cried because I was ready a true story about how a circus elephant was executed by Jefferson in America for not performing her tricks. That made me very sad!
What recent event has made you sad?

Apart from the elephant!!???A couple of things both involving friendships. One; realising that I had upset a good friend of mine. She cried, we hugged, I made tea and hopefully she will understand my stupidity and run again with me soon.
The other was realising that the more chances I give a friend they will continue to disappoint me. This person should only be on the peripheral of my life; that has made me sad.

What recent event has made you angry?

This probably is not angry, but disgusted; that people will stand in-line for 36 hours for a new gadget that will be 'old' in a couple of months. Do they not have better things to do with their lives!!??They could go and try and clean up the oil spill for one.

What are you looking forward to?
At the moment, so much. Spending time with friends, relaxing on holiday and catching up with a friend that left Uganda,  family and friends in Scotland, upcoming wedding, visitors to Uganda next year, the next step in my career, tennis on Sunday, starting a new book tomorrow in bed...

I have now procrastinated for long enough...and made you do the same!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Out of Kampala

I am no Karen Blixon and it is not 1914. I am not, it will be of no surprise to you, the only 'white woman' in Africa. There are few moments here that I feel this is the case. This is mainly due to the fact that I don't live in 'Africa', I live in Kampala.

Kampala, for the most part, is a dusty, dirty, busy, polluted city. There are few moments I forget this; playing tennis at the private club or when I'm in downward-facing-dog at yoga! Once I am out of the city, even as close as Monyonyo, then I'm in Africa!

On a recent trip to the crater lakes I could not help continually quoting Blixon as I looked over the vast areas of lush plantations that surrounded me. There in Fort Portal, you really feel like you are in Africa!(Just avoid the expat bar, the Glue Pot, and the golf club, that keeps stocked by donations from St.Andrews).

We were staying at Ndali, a truly a special place. The farm of 1000 acres was set up three generations ago by a Scot. After being exiled in the Amin years, the grandson reopened the farm and set up a lodge around the old family home. His cousin now runs the vanilla plantation that has the 'fair trade' stamp of approval and stocks Waitrose and other high-end UK stores.(I think I have those details right...)

My friend and I went for a run one morning during our stay at the lodge. Two of their African hunting dogs ran with us the whole way like life-long friends; protecting and guiding us around the estate and surrounding areas. The dogs trotted beside us like we were checking the progress of the farm; we felt rather privileged that we had this "Out of Africa" experience!

There are often moments of this immense passion for Africa, when you think,  "Here I am, where I am ought to be."

Africans are passionate about their football and it is hard not to get caught up(even a little) in the building world-cup fever. When the stereos blare out the Waka-Waka song (an old African school tune) and you hear"because this is Africa", you can't help sway your hips and hope "This time is (really) for Africa!"

Africa really is a place that gets hold of you and never lets you go.

                                                           Having a Blixon moment!

Tomatoes aren't round in Uganda

What we think of as 'perfection' in the West is different to that here in Uganda.

Take the ladies bottom, most people in the Western World are still striving for the size 8, non visible butt (although Beyonce has changed this a little!)- the pert and fat bottomed girls are loved here by more than just Freddie Mercury! The big "kabina' is what everyone wants!

Cars that are 'perfect' here in Uganda, are ones that run for the best part of the year. Or, like mine, has the sense to break down withing the city boundaries!!We also coo over cars where the rust stays at bay on a small patch on the roof; a losing battle here!!

Fruit and vegetables are another important example. My tasty tomatoes are not round, but an oval shape. If I do find round ones, (sometimes in the South African shop Shoprite) I  wonder how they got like that! My avos look like they have been pumped with steroids (they are so big they can be used to help those smalled bottomed ladies!) but they are naturally so. I know this because I often try to nab them off neighbouring trees!
My clothes have holes all over them from hand washing, but I don't fret...everyone elses do too! They all look great!
My hair is never perfect (this is no breaking news!) because of dust, pollution, dodgy water, lack of hairdryer and through laziness.
The 'perfet' partner in Uganda is one that is single...well for at least 3 nights a week! My friends and I often joke that the longer we are here the cheese will taste better and the men will become attractive!

The wine selection in Uganda has a lot to answer for. Wine is still something newly available here, so we basically get the unwanted bottles from South Africa's wine cellar. However, when it is chilled and opened for sundowners on safari, the wine could not taste any better.

The local insects try to ruin these moments of perfection or just want to get-in on some action.(This is when you can spot how long your drinking buddies have been on the continent).I once read that there are three type of  ways to dealing with an insect landing in your beer. The first is to order a new drink; this person obviously has just landed in Africa. The second is to remove the said beast and continue to drink the beer; this person has been here for a substantial amount of time. The third type of person will notice the insect in the drink, but drinks it anyway. They are in Africa for the long-haul.
(I always watch for this. My friend recently took hers out and drank, but as it was a moth the size of her mouth I let her off!)

Lots of things here in Uganda may not be 'perfect',my tomatoes are not round, but somethings  are in a whole level of its own -potholes is one and the other is sundowners underneath the African sky. Blink and you'll miss the sunset, but the blanket of stars that surround you will more than make up for it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Plan B

Car all packed, i-pod at the ready, happy campers seated and belted -ROAD TRIP! Two minutes down the road and my pride and joy, the prada of Kampala, decided to die on me, dang and blast! I had only just picked it up from the garage yesterday after a routine service and had paid the equivalent of $150 for men in overalls to tickle its tummy. What could it be? Well, many hours later in a garage eating sandwiches in a 'dead' mice infested slum, myself nor the mechanic were any the wiser of its problems!
Our camping trip to Lake Albert would have to be rescheduled;other smaller cars couldn't possibly fit in my 4 pairs of essential footwear! 

There was nothing for it but to have a boozy lunch (after a good old scrub!) at a 'beach' bar and re-think the long weekend plans. It only took one sip of a mojito for the words "Ndali Lodge" to slip out. We had originally planned to stay at this lodge for one night, at the end of our camping trip, but...aren't we worth it!! I don't think I had finished speaking when my friends quickly agreed, Plan B sounded like a fabulous idea!

Another morning, another car..and less bags and shoes...and we were on the road again! Destination Ndali Lodge.

Once we drove through the slums of Bukoto and past the 30km of roadworks and potholes (which need a posting all of themselves!), our shoulders started to relax and we sighed a sigh of contentment -we were finally out of Kampala!

Fort Portal and the crater lakes around them is one of my favourite areas of Uganda, if not my top spot; its luscious farming areas and tea plantations, all overlooked by the towering Rwenzori Mountains. On the agenda for the weekend...not very much at all! Bliss!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jogging in Jinja

Race day arrived. My first half-marathon, after weeks of training ...maybe as many as five(!)..I could finally put into action what I had trained for, read about and chatted about.

After all my nervous energy in the weeks before-hand, I was surprisingly settled; I possibly secretly hoped that the torrential downpours would cancel the run! Nevertheless, getting ready in the dark and rain in a tent for the half marathon didn't put us of. The rain eventually died down and the weather was kind to us.

We knew that the Source of the Nile Marathon would not be in the same league as some of the 'big races'; Boston, Chicago, New York, Paris...but there were lots of things in common with our race, I'm sure!

A starting line - We had one of these..and we even had a compere at the microphone... after all the runners sang the Ugandan National Anthem he went on to give us some relaxation tips and techniques.. "Breathe in..aannndd breathe out, Breathe in...and breathe out" -most useful advice!!

Timing chips and bibs - Yes, we had these too. We still do not know if they worked and there was a mix up with some numbers so my friend is know Iqbal!

Marshals - Again, we had a few of these,strategically placed on the long straight roads, funnily enough none were at the roundabouts!! I hope they did end-up catching the runner that jumped on the boda!

Spectators- Lots in Jinja town cheering on the elite 10km athletes, but for the lonely long distance runners they were few and far between! I did my best at encouraging them to clap and cheer for us but most of the locals looked at the two white females in bewilderment. Some did cheer, mostly in the form of, " Muzungus, you are too slow!" and other similar words of encouragement!

Medals- Sadly none of these-but I will remember my first half-marathon nonetheless.

Scenic route - We did have a great route (for the most part) and my buddy and I could forget the pain in our knees for a few seconds at a time when we admired the views of the Nile.
We chatted and ran the whole way, negative thoughts were not shared and quickly pushed out of our mind, but oh how the knees ached at the end! We were very pleased with our 2 hour 28minute finish time and even more pleased when we opened the champagne at the end!

My thoughts as I crossed the finish line..."a full marathon...not very likely!!!"

My RW magazine arrived in the mail today and I am now hunting around for my next half! But, for now my training is over, I now have to find other things to write about on my blog.
This week I am off on a long weekend camping, in search of adventures in Africa. Let's hope there are many!