It has been a while since my last blog entry and I feel it is time I filled you in on what I have been doing for the past three weeks.
My workshop at Siansowa school was a great success I think.About 30 people from the school committee and others from the village attended and were keen to learn about financial record keeping. We had devised a lesson plan with lots of interactive games where I asked volunteers to come up and pretend to be buying seeds and selling cabbages at the market. We even brought along props which I think helped to bring the workshop alive. I explained in detail what an expense is and what income is for the school and how to record these on separate sheets. I emphasised the importance of writing down details such as date, name of seller, no. items sold and price and linked this back to the community monitoring every detail of its spending and income so that it knows how much money can be reinvested to keep the school self-sufficient. The workshop lasted almost two hours even though there was minimal material because Stanley had to translate what I was saying into Tonga! I really enjoyed taking the workshop and hope that the committee and other interested parties will retain the knowledge and use the skills they learned to make sure the schools finances are transparent for the whole community.
I left Lake Kariba two weeks ago after having a fantastic last night with a sunset cruise and a braai on Maaze island (fillet steak BBQd is amazing). I was really sad to leave everyone at The School Club. They were so good to me, so enthusiastic about my work with them and such fun people and I feel like I could go back tomorrow. I will miss the idyllic shores of Lake Kariba, especially all my close animal encounters! On one of my last nights on Maaze I awoke at 3am with the noise of animals chomping trees and bushes all around my tent. I was a bit nervous at first because hippos sometimes come all the way up to the tents and 3 elephants were spotted in camp just that morning. But as I laid in bed I could see the shadow of antelope. I got out of bed really slowly and inched my tent zip open so as not to make a noise. I managed to take two photos before the flash frightened them away! There were two huge female Kudu and right outside my tent – amazing!
There have also been plenty of close animal encounters over the past fortnight which I have spent with Mark in Kenya on the most incredible two week holiday.
We made the journey to the Maasai Mara via the Great Rift Valley which runs all the way from the red sea down to Mozambique. Unfortunately the weather was quite misty so we couldn’t see all the way to the other side but you could still get an indication of just how vast the rift is. On out first game drive in the Mara we saw cheetah, elephants, lions and lots of impala, topi and water buck. It was good to see the topi because I think that was a kind of antelope only found in Kenya.
The weather began to turn fierce at around 5.30pm. We had to close the lid of the vehicle and soon the winds were howling, lightning flashing and the rain was sheeting down. There was quite a scary moment when our vehicle got stuck in the mud in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. The Maasai Mara is so vast and remote that you feel like you cannot be reached. We eventually got out and headed back to camp in the dwindling twilight.
The next three days in the Mara and Lake Nakuru we saw both black and white rhinos up close, it was amazing. They are such pre-historic beasts and actually smaller than I had imagined. We also saw hundreds of birds, storks, cormorants, flamingo etc., a majestic male lion very close to our vehicle and buffalo and giraffes. The highlight however was seeing a leopard sitting in a tree! I couldn’t believe that we were seeing such a rare animal that most people who go on numerous safaris are not lucky enough to see! It just sat there on the branch for the whole the whole time we watched and just moved its head from side to side occasionally. Its fur was so perfectly pattered with its spots and such vivid colours that it almost didn’t look real. I could really see the difference between the leopard and the cheetah whose fur is much rougher and duller, has a smaller body and a smaller head with larger ears.
After a few days on safari we spent the rest of our holiday relaxing by the coast, swimming in the crystal clear Indian Ocean and topping up our tans! We stayed for a few days at Mida Eco Camp which is a beautiful elevated camp made out of driftwood, old canoes and coconut trees. There is a roof top bar area where meals and drinks are served and three huts that guests can stay in. We had the Zanzibar hut which was on stilts and we had a bedroom area below and then a fantastic second floor living area with two beds and two sofas so we had the option to sleep up there if we wanted. It offered the most beautiful view of the forest around and the tribal village next door. The Eco-camp is run by members of the Giriama tribe and all profits go back into the community to help with schooling and medical supplies.
It felt like we were it total paradise sitting it the elevated viewing platform of our hut. The food was delicious, we ate fresh fish, coconut rice and spinach vegetable every night with a Tusker beer while the resident guard dog Blaize sat nearby. We made a trip to the Gede ruins by dugout canoe which was an amazing experience! I don’t think any of the other tourists in Watamu saw the ruins this way. The cook, Mateso and the manager of the camp, Eric took us on the canoe which rocked precariously on the waves of the creek, scaring me that we would topple over. But the canoe was actually very sturdy and we were quite safe. We drifted through the sprawling mangroves whose roots were home to many crabs and limpets over to the beautiful ancient Gede ruins.
So after two wonderful relaxing weeks I am looking forward to getting back to work and submerging myself into a new culture. From what I have heard, Uganda is a beautiful country full of friendly people so I can’t wait to meet everyone at Rural Health Care Foundation in Mubende.
I will keep you updated of my new home for the next seven weeks soon!
Love to all my family and friends, I miss you.