Back to the future

View from a matatu, Kiboga, Uganda

In the summer of 1996 I arrived in Kampala aged 21. I’d spent the three months previous working in Israel on a kibbutz, had then dropped back to the UK for two days to meet up with a university friend, Flora, before we launched off on a year of teaching in Uganda. Last Friday, I returned to Kiboga, on the back of a week of work in Entebbe, and I re-lived as much of my year as a teacher there 20 years ago as I could squeeze into 36 hours…

As Flora and I walked out of Entebbe airport’s arrival terminal for the first time, back in 1996, and breathed in the fragrant dusty wood smoke that was to become a natural home for each of my senses for the year to come, I felt an innocent abandon about what lay ahead.

It was as if all I had known before then disappeared in that moment.

We arrived later in the night in the district of Kiboga, north west of the capital, deposited in an instant out of the side of a battered up matatu taxi, which had miraculously weaved its way unhinged over pot-holed dirt tracks for the previous four hours.

It was pitch black as we stood there on the roadside with Nathan Mayanja, a decorated local leader with whom I was to forge a twenty year friendship, and who had accompanied us from the airport.

I could feel the heat of adrenaline about what was in store next. The wood smoke scent was thicker here, and there was a constant procession of lumpy shadows and bike headlights bobbing past, as a flow of passers-by went about their evening bustle.      Continue reading

Africa calling

I badly sprained my thumb last week playing football, and have since learnt to cut fruit, pick up my kids, and drive my motorbike with just my left hand.

None of these things are proving easy, and so fruit intake is down (alcohol imbibing seems to be fine with just the one hand), Florence and Martha are surviving on a few less rides on Daddy’s shoulders, and my bike has been under wraps given it is just plain nuts trying to ride a bike in one of Asia’s most hectic motorbike cities when you have to throttle with the opposite appendage.

Typing is also rubbish.

I am overdue some updates on this site, and will remedy that soon, one of the main highlights this month being Flo’s birthday, and a second highlight being the daily rain showers in Saigon, which have meant temperatures have chilled and there have been occasions when even the jacket had to come out of the wardrobe.

Right now it is past midnight on Sunday, and am on the eve of yet another hop tomorrow over to Bangkok, and a week of meetings… Continue reading