Sunday, August 15, 2010

Unlike a Swan Dive, it's more of a Bomb

I've been in country, out country, up country and down country during the last 2 months. I've also not typed a single line here within those 61 windy, rainy, sunny, blazing, dry and humid days. My initial intention was to stop by and have a word with the silent stratosphere on a regular basis - it seemed relatively straightforward. I had bolstered myself into creating a place where I would release my thoughts rgularly into a vacuum that was empty and devoid of confusion.

Instead I've shied away and found lame excuses for not getting my arse into gear, for not sitting in front of my laptop and for not uploading my words onto the screen. I ignored the idea of posting daily thoughts, weekly ramblings and personal feelings - was it the routine, the time it takes, the obligation? I'm not sure, but there have been days when the heaviness of thoughts have moved slowly and dragged me under. They've twisted and turned through the mind like the feet of someone caught in clay. Other thoughts and dreams have lifted me, pulled me and opened me up to the sun, like that of a flower. They've brought joy to my face and love to my heart. Daily living, daily dealings.

To try and wrap up 8 weeks in one post I'm going to go the fast route and throw it all out there. Everything unleashed in one fell swoop - a swoop unlike a swan dive and more like a bomb - it's never going to be pretty.

Chris and I visited a local glass blowing factory, I purchased an enormous vase and several small ones. He became insanely bored as I took photos of different shaped wine glasses, tumblers and candle holders. I said it was research for the lodge, he looked at me and lost his eyes into the top of his head. We received a medical bill for £500.  This was ontop of what we'd already paid for an operation I had at a hospital in Johannesburg in May. Chris was away when I opened the envelope - I had a heart attack and swore like a East End barrow boy and promptly hid the invoice. One night we had dinner with friends at the Chinese restaurant just outside of town, it's located in the forecourt of a petrol station - the ambiance is staggering.

We drew images on graph paper of a campsite shower and toilet block and then roped off an area in the garden to see how it looked - it was enlarged immediately and the original design was thrown into the bin. One of my sisters, her husband and two of their close friends came out to Uganda on safari. We arranged a 14 day itinerary for them all and in the second week turned up unexpectedly at Murchison Falls National Park. She was dozing on a bed and shrieked with delight when she saw us! We spent a mad 36hrs in their company and met up with them a few days later when they arrived in Jinja for some last minute adventures. We went on a jet boat, visited the Source of the Nile in sit-on-top kayaks, ate spicy curry, had a bbq, drank cold beer and swapped stories.

I fell in love with the World Cup vibe and desperately wanted to own a vuvuzela. That was until some guy blew one every night throughout the tournament and I wanted to beat him to death with it. I wore a St George's flag for the last disappointing England game and casually removed it as it became clear team Germany were whipping our arses. It was nothing like the match of 1966.  We received a heartbreaking email from a close girlfriend and her husband, their baby had been diagnosed with a rare and fatal degenerative disorder. Chris and I lurched from pillar to post in the aftermath of her words, our hearts screamed and our tears came as we carefully peeled back the feelings of their nightmare. We lit candles and spoke in whispers and prayed that they would find a strength like no other and a love that knew no bounds.

I've started to run more, especially with Chris away, however to say that I run is a complete joke as I drag myself along listening to Florence & the Machine on our mp3 player. I always wear my sunglasses no matter how early, this way I feel sure people can't see me as I pass lithe and athletic looking Ugandans strolling to work or skipping to school. A great post-wedding party was hosted last week and on another night a friend made an incredible dessert using vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet packed into egg shells displayed in egg boxes. I made an appointment and visited a doctor in Kampala to discuss my fertility options and chatted at length with Chris the possibility of returning to Johannesburg later this month. We've run weekly safaris in our overland truck with volunteers and budget travellers all keen for wildlife and camping experiences under the African sky. It's started to rain heavily and regularly, though it's unseasonal for this time of year and I'm sure our rented house is going to collapse. I've been shocked speechless by an army ant infestation in our toilet and spent 2 full days spraying DOOM and laying out traps.  It's a fact, the walls of our house are held up by colonies of ants.

More recently Chris and I have passed each other like silent ships in the night. He has spent days and then weeks up in Murchison National Park overseeing the development of the campsite and lodge. One weekend the truck was loaded with materials - wood, bricks, blocks, water tank, roof guttering and cement mixer, plus a couple of friends and 6 of the various guys and women that work for us. We arrived in Murchison 9 hrs later to deliver the supplies and Chris greeted us with ice cold beers - he'd rigged up the 12v fridge to the solar system in his tiny office/store room.

The Ugandan guys went on safari and took a boat trip to the base of the falls. They were impressed by the pigs with tails like a radio aerial, the antelope that looked like goats and the tall beasts with long necks. We had dinners sat around a campfire, drew plans, paced out rooms, took more photos, discussed ideas and marvelled at the view over the rive Nile. Prossy, who works for us, told me we had changed her life. It was one trip taken in recent months when it didn't rain, unlike the trip Chris made in the truck last Thursday. He returned with 2 friends who'd gone to visit him on their motorbikes. On the drive out of the national park the heavens opened and having given way to a lorry he found himself sliding off the road and into a ditch....the truck remained in the ditch, they played cards for 7 hours...

A terrorist group bombed Uganda's capital city and killed over 70 civilians causing devastation and destruction. Al Shabaab, an Islamist Somali militist group, carried it out in retaliation of Uganda supporting the African Union Mission to Somalia. Politics and Africa is like dynamite. There's a sense of quiet right now, but whether it's the calm before any up and coming storm is hard to say. A friend and I travelled to Gilgil in Kenya to run a very ad-hoc 6 day pony club camp for a group of boys who wanted to charge around and hurl themselves and their ponies over jumps. It was a laugh, the family we stayed with were incredibly hospitable, we ate like kings and the hire car we used to cross borders and drive through pot holes lasted the distance. A friend shared a wonderful secret that made my heart flutter and my soul ache. Her secret will be out in the open in 7 months time.

I've attempted to resolve a hedge issue by planting a prickly green hedge in place of the sensational bouganvilla plants we've tried time and time again to grow. The jury's out, but I'm convinced this thick and impenetrable hedge will climb and thicken and give us a fence line to be proud of. Neither Chris or I can mention the bougainvillea disaster without breaking out in hives so this has to work. I've watched an incredible vet carry out gelds on two young stallions. It wasn't something any man worth his weight in gold would have wanted to spectate. I crouched to my knees to stop myself from falling sideways and declined the offer of holding the emasculators.

A birthday was celebrated for a friend turning 27 at the Hairy Lemon Island in the middle of the Nile where Chris and I said our vows 7 years ago. I got caught for speeding by a terrifying lady in a white uniform and gold edged cap. She pushed the speed camera through my window and although she couldn't prove it was me speeding onto the Owen Falls Dam I dutifully paid the $50 fine as the thought of debating the point made me want to weep. Recently I spent 3 weeks covering a friend’s job which had me overseeing the running of a medical clinic in one of the nearby villages. I've been involved in drug orders, outreach programmes, family planning, mosquito net sales and the dreaded accounts (this has me crunching my head against a wall on a daily basis as I deal with balancing millions of Ugandan shillings). On average 50 patients are seen daily and one case, involving a baby, reduced me to tears. The toddler had been found by a neighbour after it had fallen into a burning pit of rubbish. The child is now 2 years old with a scarred head, withered arm, damaged leg and a patchwork of scar tissue.

I've done some yoga, caught up with friends via the internet and through email, had my god daughter stay over only to realise she can do mad angry art with a colouring pencil when she's class A knackered. I've posted a copy of a local monthly magazine that I snuck onto the cover of (I was riding a horse) to my grandma, sorted out work accounts and compiled passenger lists, paid wages, planted cosmos seeds around the base of Ella's tree, shed tears for our little girl, and cried tears of joy at the birth of our brand new nephew, Rory Hall. A heart of love was sent to my younger sister and her adorable extending family and we toasted their happiness with a glass of wine as we lay on the grass and looked skywards. We received an email to say that the hospital in SA had made an error with our hospital bill, we owed nothing afterall.  I spent a night out with girlfriends and drank too much, so much booze that I had to be driven home by a friend having been found asleep on the loo. Behaviour that is just too awful at my age to mention - needless to say Chris was away and rolled his eyeballs into the top of his head when he heard.....

I intend to be back, but below are photos that capture the words of the past 2 months:

Glasses from the dreaded glass blowing factory

Ella's tree
Kayaking on Lake Victoria with sister and friends
Magnificent Murchison Falls
Capturing the wildlife along the Nile
A herd of elephants leaving the waterline
Our land in Murchison Falls, the start of the build
Unloading materials
Our god-daughter, Kya, at the Hairy Lemon Island

AND running partner

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