Stuart Taylor recently returned from Uganda after a trip to the Diocese of Northern Ugandawith Kate Welham from Red Maid's School in Bristol. Red Maids are exploring the possibility of a link with Gulu High School.
It was after 8.00 p.m., a dark wet night. We had experienced the great pleasure of having supper in Gulu with Bishop Nelson (former Bishop of Northern Uganda) and his wife Brenda. I had first met them 11 years ago when Northern Uganda was going through difficult times with constant fear of conflict with the Lords Resistance Army, children being abducted, and 1.8 million in displacement camps. An added fear at that particular time was Ebola, a dreaded contagious disease which meant that shaking hands and close contact was discouraged. Since those days until he retired Bishop Nelson guided his diocese through many difficult and sad times with much faith and good humour.
Before supper we inspected his 495 chickens which were going to be a source of retirement income. The meal was, as we expected, accompanied by good humoured and lively conversation. Towards the end it began to rain; heavy equatorial rain, and it was suggested that we leave before long as the rain looked like lasting the night.
The road to Nelsons house is a fairly typical African track, Red murram earth with little sign of maintenance.
We travelled into the dark wet night. An as we started a thought came into my mind. Nothing unexpected has happened today. Bad move! Within a minute Willy our driver was struggling to keep the car going on a straight course. We slipped into a deep pothole. The wheels turned but the car would not move. Either side of us seemed to be bush with little sign of life. Kate my companion on the trip and I got out to push. Nothing moved except the mud which, when the wheels turned in a skid covered us from head to toe in deep red African earth.
Then it became really African. As if from nowhere a dark shadow emerged from the bush. All we could see were two eyes A boy from a nearby village had heard the noise and was intrigued to see the action. It was worth fetching his friends to watch. One of them was accompanied by his mother who took charge and ordered a jerry can of water to help clean us up. By now a group had gathered in the dark. We were almost invisible because we were the same colour as the road. The Jerry can arrived and water was thrown over us to wash away the mud! Still mud coloured, very, very wet and helped by our new friends we had another try at getting the car to move. Little by little it slid into the middle of the track. We were in business!
Carefully Willy drove us away as we waved goodbye to our unexpected friends
Arriving at the Bishops house were we were staying we took off anything we could while still remaining decent, and washes and washed our clothes. The stain of the mud remains.
I learned that night never to say to myself. Nothing unexpected has happened today
10 days in Uganda in June had given Kate Welham and I the opportunity to make preparations for a school link with Red Maids School Bristol, and Gulu High School, and Gulu Junior School, both of which provide inspiring teaching for blind children. We also met some of the 50 or so children whose education is supported by Bristol West Deanery. It was such a pleasure to meet young people who were achieving well and so grateful for what they otherwise could not afford.
As ever we were warmly welcomed wherever we went, and on one occasion were looked after at a meal by the two teenage boys in the family. They saw to washing our hands and serving the food, a job traditionally done by women. Two very modern young men!
Stuart Taylor July 2011