on Um Zayd wa Atheer (Uganda), 29/May/2012 17:32, 34 days ago
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Bring me Son ShineAtheer and Liz flew home to the UK last Friday and I returned to Gulu. The visit, planned last December, turned out to be exactly at the right time. My spirits were flagging just as Atheer and Liz were full of buzz, enthusiasm and joy following their recent engagement. For 12 days we travelled east to west and back again by all means possible; bus, private hire, public taxi, motorcycle and boat. We slept in 7 different beds and were disturbed by bed bugs, weaverbirds, possible wart hogs, cockerels, cats, too much loud music, too many storms and too much heat. We began to crave for a good night's sleep but remained enthusiastic for each day. This was not so much a holiday but more of an adventure and an African experience. Atheer had been out before but for Liz this was her first visit to Sub Saharan Africa. Every day she was shocked, amazed and delighted. Through her eyes and the eye of her camera we all saw so much. The initial drive from the airport is always the first challenge, even with blurry eyes after a 9-hour night flight. As Liz stared at the open all hours shacks she quietly said, 'They could even sell a leaf with optimism'.Busy lives in London deserve some rest. First of all we went up to a small resort on the Nile at Jinja. Time to enjoy a few leisurely days of sunshine, swimming, snoozing and supping some Nile beers. Time to take in the unexpected delights of kingfishers diving onto the water to snatch up flying ants; of watching a mother colobus monkey protect her young family from the evil eye and beak of a marauding eagle and his gang; of seeing the bobbing fairy lights of the fishermen set out in regular rows in the darkness on the evening lake.Too soon we were heading for Kampala. A few days of disruption for a meeting and an allergic reaction to a bee sting but compensated for by a Goan and a French supper and the company of good friends. In planning the visit Atheer really wanted to take Liz to Masindi, to visit some of the villages that had made him so welcome during his first visit in 2009 and to show Liz the real Africa, off the tourist trail.On Sunday we were greeted like royalty into the half finished church of Kibale Kitonde. After singing, swaying and clapping we came out laden with sugar cane, mangoes and avocados. Sunday Fred took us on to his family home, just to take tea. His wife Jessica laid out matoke, rice, bananas, eggs, greens and nuts. What an honour. Fred's beautiful 8-year-old daughter is called Bridget. Free of her Sunday best and in her home clothes she latched onto Liz. They went off to take photos. Bridget soon became the photographer, Liz happy to let the camera go into the hands of this young African child.The following day we set off for the village of Bisheyni, home of Mohammed, his 2 toothless wives and a scruffy huddle of huts and children. This very poor community also gave us a very warm welcome. Gifts of reading glasses and children's shoes were gratefully received and the headmaster came to encourage to go and visit his school.  He wanted us to see his attempts at good sanitation with Tippy Taps and SODIS water. Working with another volunteer we drove across the bush to visit his Primary School in Pakanyi. Atheer and Liz spent the afternoon answering the questions of P6, children aged 10/11 and above. It took them a while to warm up, the children and the panel but nearly 2 hours later it had to brought to an end. It was a huge success. As a thank you the children then sang to us. No words can describe their performance with actions and passion. Simon Cowell missed a treat.No visit to Uganda is complete without a game drive. One elephant or one giraffe looks pretty much like another but you have to see your first one. Liz was enthralled and we did see some amazing things including a pair of young male lions who had recently killed a water buffalo. They were licking their blood stained lips with satisfaction and greed, all this just a few yards away from us. It sounds gruesome but in the real there is a great sense of the wonder of nature and our human smallness in it all.At 9am on Thursday morning Atheer and Liz got to the Masindi bus bound for Kampala. It left at 10am but did not fail to entertain for the next 3 hours; life in the raw. As I headed back to Gulu they made a quick dash down to the Equator, to put a put a foot in each hemisphere.What a good time we had together, with fresh eyes encouraging me to look at things differently. Atheer and Liz felt sad to leave Uganda but were eager to see their own feline friend Chloe awaiting their return in Chiswick. The son and his fiancĂ©e had shone.