Yes, I watched The Castle again last week with my antipodean friends in Kenya; and yes, it has been a week of ups & downs. Monday saw me out for another ride around the tea-fields & factory. As I was starting to get my bearings in the countryside a bit more, I was able to extend the loop to get a bit more of a work out. As I was making my way back to Brackenhurst (where Adrian & Carmen work) I somehow got a bit away from the tea-fields. As I found my way back, I was particularly pleased to be welcomed by a pack of dogs; I don’t think they were too happy to see me either – thankfully, I escaped with a slight scratch on my thigh (NZO Dobies are so fantastically bombproof), which later bruised up nicely, and no bites.
Somehow, that night I got convinced to tag along to an aerobics class in Limuru at a tiny little gym. Not having been to aerobics class before, a Kenyan one was sure to be an introduction – I think I went for the cultural experience & a good laugh. I think there were about seven of us in a tiny basement room sweating it out (I was soaked after ten minutes & I’m not sure how I survived an hour of it). Of course, they only have one tape & the old Aqua songs provided much amusement. But most of my amusement (& probably Carmen’s) came from my total lack of coordination when things got a little too complicated for my simple brain. Somehow winning a half-hearted sit-up challenge before the session started was not looking like such a great idea half way through the hour as we moved to the mats (it smelt decidedly funky on the ground – urgggh) & we proceeded to do a lot of sit-up-esque exercises. I had previously forgotten that I had muscles lying dormant around my stomach – I was reminded time & time again over the following two days. I sure hope I’m a little fitter after my Kenya trip – what with all the extra riding, the aerobics & eating less.
Tuesday I was off to the slums near the airport again with the volunteers. I spent a few hours at a small medical clinic, but it was a quiet day & they didn’t have a lot for me to do. For the first time in years, my hands were covered in lactose after I spent an hour or two packaging drugs from a bulk container. I think that afternoon Adrian & I went for another of our run/rides around the fields; after the exertions the day before, I was slow again up the hills – but enjoyed blasting down the hills of course. As this was the last night that Jeff & Christina (two of the great volunteers) were in town, most of the volunteers arranged transport in to Limuru for a night at the Beehive – a local bar. Once we at the ACTS house had organised ourselves, we finally made it for a few Tuskers. We weren’t sufficiently organised enough to have had dinner before we left, so had to wait for the cook to light the fire & cook what looked like most of the torso of an unspecified animal (never worked out if it was beef, sheep, goat or something else). Anyway, the Nyama Choma (roast meat) was very good, but very salty.
A great night out, even if we were home relatively early (some of us have to work – not me of course). Just been informed it was goat.
After another sleepless night (all the water before bed didn’t exactly help), we were off with the volunteers again to a feeding program. Thankfully, it was local & the drive was short – if somewhat circuitous due to the rain finally starting up & muddying up the dirt roads (apparently it is one of the rainy seasons at the moment – but the weather has been perfect up until this point; thankfully the rain is becoming a little more frequent). Hundreds of people had turned up for the dispersal of flour, grain, matches, fuel, salt, bottles, & other such things. I couldn’t believe how many people there were & how far some had walked; all very sobering really. I handed out salt all morning, so for the second day in a row I was covered in the product of uni summer jobs. That afternoon, we were back to Makeu – the school & boarding for about thirty disabled children that we had visited last week. It was life-skills lessons, so a couple of volunteers tried to teach the kids how to make beds, brush their teeth, clean the classroom & use the long drop properly (“In the hole!”); I’m such a horrible teacher, but thankfully Kimberly has endless enthusiasm & she did a great job while I defaulted to crowd control.
The much anticipated game of Ultimate Frisbee was on Wednesday night & that when my week got a lot worse. It was a fantastic game, exhausting, but a lot of fun & we were winning (there was not a lot experience – me included).
If it wasn’t such a great game, I may have been a little wiser & realised that my right shoulder clicking & popping was a really bad sign. My poor arms obviously aren’t strong enough & all the jumping & reaching (I think it was this rather than the throwing) was too much & I eventually dislocated my shoulder. It went back in once, but the last time I couldn’t get it back in & it frigging hurt. Thankfully there were a few nurses on hand & Carmen is an OT. None of the nurses were too keen to put it back in; but thankfully Carmen was up for it (with a bit of help from the trusty interweb thingy) & a bit of forced movement later we were both stoked to feel it pop right back in to place. My hero – thanks Carmen. Since then, it’s been pretty good – a few days immobilised in various slings, a little discomfort & with a bit more rest, I hope it never happens again (of course, that is not how such dislocations usually go).
Thursday was a bit of a write off with a gammy arm; but Carmen & I did take a couple of kids from Makeu to the doctor in Limuru. One had a horrible scar from a burn sustained in last year’s post-election violence on his upper arm & another had a horribly infected thumb. There wasn’t much to be done for the scar (I sure was fortunate to escape any permanent scarring from my little altercation with Melter 1); poor John screamed blue murder for ten minutes while all the pus was drained from is thumb (just as well Carmen had gone to get lunch, it was heartbreaking listening), hopefully the necrosis under his thumb nail isn’t too extensive. I wasn’t too displeased to have to miss dance aerobics that night.
Uganda & the Nile beckoned on Friday – Adrian had wonderfully organised ten of us to go up Friday night on the bus (arriving Saturday morning), relax at the camp Saturday & spend Sunday rafting down the river. At the last minute, Adrian had to fly to Kampala for work & unfortunately the bus ride was such an experience he is not likely to be forgiven for a while! I think Akamba must have dragged the last & worst bus in their fleet out for us to take the twelve hour trip through the night to Jinja. It didn’t start off too bad (except we had to retrace our steps through Nairobi traffic) & it was stinking hot in there. However, it quickly became apparent to quite a few of our group that the bus was infested with cockroaches & they were none pleased to have them crawling across their faces & all sorts of other places. I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me, but that was quickly filled when Carmen spied the possibility of sleeping against the window. Actually, here is a photo of one of the few times during the whole horrendous trip which Carmen is not actually sleep – just pretending. Being able to sleep while travelling would have been a real bonus – we had three blow outs & associated hour long stops to change tyres – one of the blow outs pushed the border crossing out to an hour and a half over sunrise. I had a week’s worth of Hamish & Andy podcasts to catch up on, so that helped pass the boredom a little. Needless to say, we were all happy to be off the roach-coach at nine on Saturday morning. The Adrift truck picked us up & we spent the rest of Saturday relaxing next to the Nile or next to the pool at the next-door resort.
On first impressions, Uganda is considerably nicer than Kenya – the roads were markedly better, the cars on the road are much nicer & it just looks a lot more orderly. Unfortunately, somewhere on Saturday afternoon I got quite sick & lost my appetite- that only really helped by lessening the blow of being unable to go rafting. That evening we watched the All Blacks beat England with the Nile right next to us – that was a little surreal. I was even quieter than normal that night, so it was with some relief to head off to bed well to early – the bunk room was like being in a submarine with the bunks seeming to be only a foot apart, it made getting in & out of bed difficult with only one good arm.
Five of the group decided to do the bungee on Sunday morning before they headed out rafting. I was keen to give it a go a few days prior, but wasn’t really up for all things considered.
Andree (also sitting out the rafting for medical reasons) & I lazed around the bar while everyone else hit the river. It was a great afternoon reading, chatting, eating & enjoying the view. Later in the afternoon a couple of hundred of the British Army descended on the camp after many weeks in the bush, so we made a hasty exit to meet the rafters at the take-out point thirty kilometres downstream. By all accounts it was a fantastic day & it was really frustrating to hear all the stories; on the upside the food was delicious.
Monday morning, Carmen & Adrian were flying back to Nairobi for work & considering the state of my digestive system & contemplating another hell bus ride, I joined them at 4 am in a taxi to the airport. I managed to get a ticket for the flight & it was very pleasant with great views of Lake Victoria (saw a good sunrise during the taxi ride too); just as well the plane was pretty empty, as the final podcast I had was side-splittingly funny & it would have been even more embarrassing. What is it with small airlines in third world countries leaving before the scheduled departure? Admittedly, this wasn’t as noticeable as Yeti Airlines in Nepal – but it was a little odd.
So home to catch up on sleep & washing; it turns out that the bus ride back was better by orders of magnitude, but I’m still not sure if I would have survived so well. So that was the end of great weekend had by everyone else – I quite enjoyed it, but it was frustrating & disappointing at the same time. But at least my arm hasn’t popped out again.