Reflecting & remembering

We’re home. It’s hugely surreal and slightly overwhelming.

Yesterday, I arrived back at my flat around 5pm having left Soroti 36 hours previously. In the intervening time, we had driven to Kampala via Jinja and the (disputed) source of the Nile; we’d shopped for souvenirs in Kampala; we’d bidden farewell to our amazing PAG team; waited for what seemed an eternity at Entebbe for our flight; spent 9 hours on a plane; and done a full day at Vicar School. (People thought I was mad, but it was the best thing I could have done – the excitement of catching up with people and an interesting day of endless activity kept me awake and invigorated.)

The team at JinjaOdiira & Shane, Katie from Tearfund and the #tfbloggers at the source of the Nile. To quote the tweet that accompanied this yesterday:Less than 24hrs ago, the #tfbloggers were at the source of the Nile. Now I’m in a pneumotology lecture. *Mind blown*”

It’s now time to reflect and remember the amazing week that was the #tfbloggers trip. As a start, what follows is something of a more light-hearted look at the trip – that shouldn’t undermine what I’ve written thus far, but is more a collection of ‘notes to self’ I made while away…

  • Uganda roads (particularly in rural areas) require bras that have the support level of a high-impact sports bra. (When I posted this on Facebook I was accused of a TMI, but I insist that this is helpful info for anyone travelling there.)
  • Don’t be alarmed if you are offered a plate of “boiled Irish” – this does not refer to a cannibalistic activity, but is instead the Ugandan way of referring to potato. “Mashed Irish” was also a daily option at our guest house. I hope the Irish are proud.
  • Background music can add a high degree of surrealness to situations. Two example of this from last week came courtesy of the music choices of one of our drivers (there was never any in music in the other van). Firstly, the moment when we pulled onto a tiny dirt track en route to Ogongora for the first, when a muzak version of My Heart Will Go On came on. Secondly, the following morning when part of our journey along the dusty road was accompanied by Back for Good – all of a sudden I was back at Wembley watching them live, while conscious that I was 1000’s of miles away. (Other soundtracks included some much more culturally appropriate Rwandan music and a bizarre collection of Country & Western gospel tracks.)

The everlasting dust roadThis + Take That = Weird.

  • See enough “Enjoy an Ice Cold Coke” signs and you will start to crave the stuff with a passion. As virtually every school sign in Uganda is sponsored by Coke, this is a very common sighting. Combined with the distinct lack of ice cold beverages of any variety in the field, this was a painful craving in 37C heat. I don’t even like Coke generally – but the Diet version is not to be found in Uganda.
  • It seems we Brits have under-estimated the usefulness of umbrellas. We think they’re just for keeping our heads dry – how foolish! Didn’t you know they could also function as a sunshade? In fact, Odiira was shocked that we hadn’t thought of bringing them with us – I had to explain that I’d assumed the lack of rain would render one surplus to requirements.

Umbrellas as sunshades

  • Many MTN adverts (a national mobile network) informed me that MTN was the “biggest supporter of the Ugandan cranes”. For some time I wondered why construction equipment or even a breed of bird required such support, then I twigged that the cranes are the national football team. Obviously.
  • Being accompanied on a trip like this by a 6 month old baby is an utter joy. Especially when the baby in question is super cute, placid and exceptionally happy. Shane, Odiira’s daughter, was a joy and it was very sad saying goodbye to her at the airport.

Lunch with ShaneLunch with Shane at Jinja.

  • It’s perfectly acceptable to interrupt a sermon with a request that a member of the congregation lead everyone in an a cappella chorus. I plan to introduce this into my next sermon at St George’s. (Consider this a warning!)
  • Maxi skirts really are the most useful of articles. Not only do they meet the modest dress code needed when travelling, they also have myriad uses: sunshade for legs & feet; plentiful towel for drying hands on; protector of legs from vicious plants & insects; and often colourful enough to be an identifying marker from a distance. Top tip: I love a good maxi skirt and already have one that is my go-to “modest skirt for hot climate” skirt (bought 6 years ago and served me well). A second such skirt was purchased on eBay for 99p last month, meaning that I cared not a jot that it’s returned home with a small hole in it.

In John Julius' homeMy eBay maxi skirt in action. (And the French braids – see below.) [Credit: Bex]

  • My decision to spend an evening learning how to French plait my hair three weeks ago was an excellent use of time. (Even though it was blatant sermon writing procrastination in the moment.) Long hair is a pain in hot weather, and two French braids worked well at keeping it under control and looking good. A single French braid with a bandana was also a good choice for long drives and flights. For years I’ve believed I just couldn’t do it – turned out all I needed was this YouTube tutorial.

French braid at the source of the NileThe French plait at the source of the Nile. (A bit had escaped during the long car journey…) [Credit: Bex]

  • Chickens are surprisingly good travel companions – more so when travelling in a box, rather than loose in the boot. (The former being how Joseph’s new chicken travelled all day Sunday; the latter how it travelled for an hour on Saturday.) Oh, and it’s good to feed them soda to drink, they need the sugar – apparently.

Hydrating the chickenJoseph rehydrates his chicken while we ate lunch.

There’s still more to write, but don’t worry if you’re getting bored with all of this – I’m fairly sure I’ll be done by the end of the week! Thank you for your patience, your support and your prayers/well wishes. It’s been amazing being on this journey knowing how many people have been sharing in it!


  1. So, when it comes to procrastinating I find your blog is a good way spend the time!

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