Our very own, Programme Development Lead, Rachel Coulson is spending some of her summer training teachers in Uganda. Follow her adventures and experiences here:
The journey and arriving in Uganda
After a 17hour trip, I arrived in Entebbe at 3am local time. David, a driver for the charity, picked me up and drove me the 45minutes to Kampala where I am staying with three other teachers from the UK. Poor Johanna had a rather abrupt wake-up call at 4am when I knocked on the bedroom door!
Johanna and the other ladies had arrived the day before so got up at 6am to go and see the team we are working with. I have been given a bit longer to sleep! I woke up sporadically throughout the morning to the most amazing bird calls, as well as some impressive honking of horns! It sounds crazy busy and I’ve not even stepped foot out of the guest house yet! As you can see, there is a beautiful view which I am enjoying whilst I wait for my lift to join the team! Very excited to get started!
Tuesday 2nd August
At 1:30pm one of the team from CRANE came to pick me up from the guest house and we walked together to the offices – a short 5 minute walk away. She gave me a brief description of what the project is all about. CRANE (Children at Risk Action Network) are 22 ‘creative centres’ or ‘organisations’ who work with VIVA, a religious organisation, to provide as many opportunities as possible for girls in the Kampala region. Girls between the ages 9-16 who are not accessing education spend six months in these centres to get them back on track to achieving an education.
Meeting the team today was an inspiration – their drive and motivation to help so many children and young people is unbelievable. For more information on the project see their website http://www.cranenetwork.org
After eating some lunch, all prepared and cooked at the office for the staff, I set off with two other teachers to visit Mukisa- a SEN centre for children with severe learning difficulties. When we arrived we were met with the biggest smiles I have ever seen and so many hugs I couldn’t keep count! We were shown round and introduced to the headteacher who spoke very proudly about all they do. The centre has 4 therapists, 3 teachers and 2 mentors (they help and support the children and teachers when they return to mainstream education). We spoke about the wonderful things the centre does including group therapy sessions every day for an hour where mothers and their children come for support and training (mainly for the children with physical disabilities). As well as these sessions, the mothers make items to sell; the centre buys all resources and the mothers make jewellery, Christmas decorations and door mats. The centre then helps the mothers to sell these items for money so they can afford for their children to attend school once they leave the SEN centre.
I spoke with two of the teachers who were keen to have support with positive behaviour management strategies, ideas on making literacy and numeracy skills relevant to these children and their culture, developing social and communication skills and support with teaching money in particular. It is these areas I am going to focus on at the training sessions next week.
Sadly, we were not able to take any photos of the children but I have been invited back to a group therapy session Friday morning where I’m allowed to take photos of the mothers and their children. I have attached photos of some of the resources children use when learning to help in my training sessions.
After returning to the office and planning out some ideas for training I am now off for supper, and then to do some research on social stories! A remarkable day and it’s only Day 1!
Wednesday 3rd August
After a rather disjointed nights sleep, I awoke to so many sounds! A cockerel, which literally sounded like it was on our balcony, the most fascinating bird calls, as well as someone singing through a megaphone from the local mosque. In amongst that was the usual honking of horns and traffic noise that seems to never stop here in Kampala! It was definitely a different experience to waking up to a silent house in Steeple Claydon!
We had breakfast at 7am and walked across to the office for an 8:30am start. Every morning the CRANE and VIVA team sit in a circle outside and complete a collective worship. The worship begins with people singing a bible song/hymn accompanied by African drums and a guitar. I was very nervous because the other teachers had mentioned joint praying and I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say but in the end, the worship revolved around a passage from the Bible (John) and an open conversation about what it means to each of us. What shone through during this half an hour worship was the absolute love and dedication these people have for the children they are working so hard to protect and educate. Everything they discussed and talked about revolved around the project and the children in their care; I have genuinely never felt so inspired. The worship finished with a very passionate and emotional prayer from one of the groups which focused on the children’s health and well-being as well as those who work within the organisations. After feeling so nervous it was actually a really wonderful way to start the day and an excellent reminder of why we are here in Kampala.
I was taken to another SEN centre today by our driver, Henry, and a lovely lady called Helen who has worked for CRANE for two and a half years. The centre is called Pasnec and has 35 children attending with special educational needs including autism, Down’s syndrome and physical disabilities. The Creative Learning Centre or Girls Education Challenge (GEC) programme, which is what CRANE and VIVA support, has two classes – Green and Orange – which has approximately 6 children in each. I met the headteacher, Patty, who has worked in Uganda for 25 years after becoming a primary school teacher and then Special Needs specialist. She was an inspiration to talk to. She explained to me the mindset of many of the parents with children with SEN and how they didn’t believe there was any point in their children coming to school because they couldn’t do anything. So ultimately these children remained at home doing nothing; absolutely heartbreaking. What the organisation does is pay for two mentors to find out which families have children with SEN and they literally drive around all villages, knocking on doors and find the children who need their help. This is how all these children have come to be at this centre. The families are supposed to pay for their children’s education but many can’t and Patty made it very clear that they would never turn any child away. They rely solely on British Aid bursaries and well-wishers from the UK who donate money which pays for their education.
After speaking with Paaty, I met both teachers – Sarah and Faridah. I spent an hour with Faridah and her class where she showed me their exercise books and worksheets. She is quite incredible and is so caring towards the children. She tries her hardest to provide an education but these girls can’t read words and are only just beginning to write individual letters – some having to trace over letters Faridah has already written. They spend a great deal of time colouring to develop their fine motor skills and she basis this around a topic which she plans every week. There is a photo of a timetable in the gallery below, so you can see the kinds of things these teachers try to cover but the biggest emphasis is on vocational skills where the girls learn to sew, make candles, garden and look after animals so they are able to function and survive in the ‘real world’. All my ideas of how to make lessons engaging and fun in literacy and maths went out the window and I realised these teachers just need ideas to help their children in school survive. Yep. Pretty heavy going. It was, as you can imagine, a real eye opener. Just to put it into perspective a little bit here is an interesting comparison:
In Kampala, many children walk 5miles or more to get to school. That’s more than 10miles a day, without shoes, on dusty roads with so many dangers there isn’t enough room to list them.
In the UK, many schools have an administrator who is in charge of monitoring attendance. If a child doesn’t come to school, they walk 2mins round the corner to wake them up and drag them to school kicking (with shoes) and screaming.
It may be heart wrenching but I have the absolute privilege of working with children and teachers who understand entirely the importance of education. That in itself is a breath of fresh air and what is spurring me on to support these incredible teachers.
After spending time with Faridah and her class, I visited Sarah’s classroom. The children were completing vocational skills and sewing clothes for dolls they had made out of a banana plant. You can see from the pictures how amazing they are – very focused and working so hard! Sadly, none of the children spoke English but they still showed me their written and maths work, and they particularly enjoyed taking photos on the iPad! Their smiling faces literally made my day! I have no idea if they know what a thumbs up gesture is but I used it a lot when praising their fabulous work and they seemed to be very pleased with themselves!
Sarah showed me what we would describe as a mark book in the UK – she had a page for each child with a list of objectives and then a space for whether they had achieved it or not. She also used a page to mind map her topics each week and to think of ideas which link to their curriculum – our equivalent to a medium-term plan. Both her and Faridah mentioned they would like help teaching money (a life skill these girls would need) and Sarah also mentioned she isn’t sure how to teach sexuality – something I need to do a bit of research on. Being a very Christian community I know I’ll need to seek lots of advice on that one and make sure it is pitched at a KS1 level rather than using a year 5 or 6 ‘Changes’ topic plan!
My morning was up before I knew it so I’m very happy to be going back tomorrow! I already have lots of ideas but I want to make sure I am using the resources these teachers already have and train them to use these in their everyday teaching and activities. I am going to borrow many of their resources for the training sessions and teach them ways of using them to encourage more practical reading, writing and maths. Most importantly, I am going to ask them to bring all the amazing work they already do so they can share it with the other teachers. Just like in the UK, great work should always be shared as we can learn so much from each other.
I now have the afternoon to plan my training sessions and do some research on sex education – a huge contrast to my life affirming morning!
Thursday 4th August
I woke up pretty refreshed this morning after a better night’s sleep which may have had something to do with the eye mask and ear buds I utilised, courtesy of Turkish Airlines!
After a breakfast of watermelon and banana (this features in some way or another in every single meal! My husband, Nick, and colleague, Emma, would be very hungry if they were here!) we all walked over to the office for another day of observing and working in centres.
We started the day at 8:30am with a Devotion where we sang, read the bible (a passage from Peter) and prayed in small groups whilst holding hands. Everyone is so unassuming at CRANE so it didn’t feel awkward at all but I was nervous about having to say something! However, we weren’t expected to lead the prayer so we listened to the team members and reflected quietly. As I said yesterday, it’s a very clear reminder of the passion these people have for their work and incredibly humbling.
After Devotion I was taken back to Pasnec (the SEN centre I visited yesterday) to collect some resources I would be using in the training sessions next week. Although resources are limited, the centre has been provided with some great practical and creative games by CRANE but the teachers don’t know how to use them. A perfect way in for my training!
Sara, one of the other UK teachers, came with me and it was so lovely seeing all the children’s smiling faces! It was amazing because they recognised me from yesterday and looked really excited to see us! We spent some time saying hello and waving madly at each other (I am so happy to meet other people who wave like me!) and then raided the resource cupboard. Before we left I asked the lovely teachers I had met yesterday to bring some of their children’s work to the training sessions and they seemed really pleased – hooray! It isn’t often these professionals are celebrated for the amazing work they do so I’m so glad I have the opportunity to do that with them next week.
Sara and I also bought a lot of the beautiful jewellery, purses and placemats made by the mothers at the centre; they will make great gifts for family back home, but most importantly the money goes straight to the mothers to help them fund their children’s education.
After clearing the Pasnec stock and resource cupboard, Sara and I made our way to another centre called Oasis. This visit gave me a chance to see and observe teaching in a more mainstream setting as the only centres I had visited so far were SEN focused. The minute we arrived the girls were so excited to see us! Lots more ginormous smiles and manic waving which suited me and Sara perfectly! We beamed and waved madly back as we drove in.
We met the director of the centre, Fina, as well as one of the class teachers working within the GEC programme, Stella. They were both really welcoming and happy for us to sit in and observe a lesson. Fina chatted to us and gave us a bit of a background of the centre.
There are 40 girls who attend and there ages range from 6-18 years old. Each group are at the centre for 6 months and receive an intensive teaching timetable before they then go back to maintained schools in Kampala. The group we met today had only just started at the centre in mid-June and so were still relatively new to the programme. What was amazing to hear about were the links the centre has with the local schools; this is to help the girls transition back to ‘mainstream’ education once their six months are complete. To hear about schools working in partnership was really exciting and the director was, quite rightly, very proud of what she had put in place to help the girls after their intensive education.
After meeting with Fina, we were shown to Stella’s classroom where there were about 35 children squashed into a relatively small space, sharing chairs so they were all able to sit down. I’m very lucky in my job that I have the opportunity to visit so many different classrooms and the children are always very welcoming but I have never, EVER been welcomed into a classroom like this! The children sang a welcome visitors song and clapped and cheered like we were footballers running onto a football pitch! I had to blink a fair amount of times and swallow the biggest lump that was lodged in my throat. These children had seen us for seconds and were not only excited to meet us but grateful we were there. We had only stepped into their classroom and they were grateful. I’ve never felt like such a fraud in all my life!
After quite the welcome, and desperately trying to sort my life out so I didn’t embarrass the children or myself, we sat in chairs at the back and observed a maths lesson about shape. The children were desperate to learn and whenever a question was asked they all jumped out of their seats with their hands waving in the air saying ” My teacher, my teacher” so Stella would pick them! They recapped a lot of learning and Stella referred to a maths display to remind the children of previous lessons like we would in the UK. The lesson showed Stella has a clear passion for teaching these children and their relationships are already well established. The children clearly love her and are desperate to please, as well as desperate to learn! During the main activity, the girls all had a challenge about triangles – they had only 10 worksheets (unusual in itself in these centres) and so shared in groups of 4 or 5 and every child, whether they were 6 or 18, completed the same work.
What we have to remember as teachers from the UK is that Stella and her other teacher colleagues have never been trained to teach like we have. Many of us spend 3 or 4 years training to be teachers, with even more of us completing an intensive one-year training programme. The amount we learn in that time is phenomenal and the teachers in Uganda just don’t have any of that as a foundation or even starting point. A big part of my role at TMA ITT is observing trainee teachers and I just couldn’t observe Stella in the same way I would a trainee because she just isn’t at the same point. Yet she has a class of 40 children and six months to get them ‘back on track’ with their education and futures. So I basically am finding it very hard to be judgmental when reflecting on today and the lesson because to be honest this woman totally inspired me. She didn’t have a learning objective, success criteria, planned questions, differentiated activities or challenging work for her high ability. This isn’t because she is lazy or can’t be bothered – it is because she does not know to include these elements of teaching within a lesson. What she does know is the children she is teaching and the lives they lead. She is desperate to learn more to help the girls in the programme and that is amazing in itself. So basically Stella is a legend and she inspired me from the moment I met her. I can’t wait to meet her again next week!
Sara and I rotated around the classroom and worked with the girls and that was absolutely brilliant! It was so lovely to spend some time with individuals and groups of girls and teach them a bit about 2D shapes! You can see from the photographs that the girls were rather excitable and a bit mesmerised by our white faces (!) so I’m not sure how much they’ll have taken in but we tried all the same! The minute Sara and I got our cameras out (an iPhone and an iPad) they were absolutely fascinated! They wanted us to take ‘selfies’ (yep even in Kampala selfies are well known!) with them and couldn’t wait to look at the photos themselves. We very nearly got trampled on!
We had a wonderful time at lunchtime where we took lots of group photos and even more ‘selfies’ (!) before we needed to leave. The girls asked us to come back again and hugged us before leaving – I wish I was coming back to see them.
It was another incredible experience and a really great opportunity to see a more mainstream centre compared to the SEN units I had visited. It made me realise how much we take knowledge for granted; these teachers and children are so desperate for it and we have it at out fingertips the whole time and just don’t appreciate it. Google has never seemed so amazing, to be honest!
On our return to the centre, we had lunch (yep- bananas again!) and then spent the afternoon planning our training sessions for next week. I will hopefully have completed my planning tomorrow (we are being given most of the day to get everything ready for Monday) so I’ll blog about the itinerary and plan of action then. Now I’m off to dinner to eat – you guessed it – steamed bananas!
Friday 5th August
After another great night’s sleep (this time courtesy of Night Nurse) me and the other ladies enjoyed some breakfast (Weetabix – no bananas!!) before heading to the office and joining in with the morning’s Devotion. We had an interesting discussion around the Bible passage from Matthew 13:47 – The Parable of the Net – which talks about separating the wicked from the righteous. One team member commented that, if taken out of context, God could be seen as fearful. There were some fascinating insights from various team members, including one of the U.K. teachers, Johanna, about how sin can be interpreted in many different ways because of cultural differences. For example, some people see women with short hair as sinners, or if someone has a tattoo it is a sin etc. We discussed whether these things were actually important and what we believed was right or wrong. It really got me thinking!
I was looking forward to going back to Mukisa today – the SEN centre I visited on my very first day in Kampala. That feels like such a long time ago now! Laurence drove Annett and I to visit the centre so I could speak to the teachers, as well as observe a group therapy session.
When we arrived there were lots of mothers there with their small children, all with severe physical disabilities. There were lots of tears as the Occupational Therapists (OTs) were moving the children’s bodies into different positions to stretch out their little muscles. It was quite a distressing sight but what was amazing to see was how much the mothers were learning from the specialists. Every week they spend an hour altogether and then complete the same activities at home which hugely benefits their children.
After spending some time observing the sessions, I met with Florence, the director of the centre, and spoke about the need for child protection training. She explained that the therapists who are working with autistic children at the centres were doing such an incredible job that the children were trusting everyone! These children are so innocent and vulnerable so child protection, and managing the risks, are more important than ever. I explained I had already planned child protection training for Monday and discussed my ideas with her which prompted her to ask if she could attend the training, too! Ahhhh! We spent a good 15 minutes discussing the kinds of elements of child protection these teachers, mentors and child care workers need and it was really useful. I made lots of notes so I could adapt my training accordingly once back at the office.
I met the teachers, Angela and Josephine, again very briefly and asked them if they could bring examples of the children’s work so we could share it at Monday training. They seemed really pleased and asked if I could take it with me today! So I was able to see some of the amazing items the children had made including bracelets, necklaces, door mats and scarves! I took them, along with some other resources I spotted which I could use in the training sessions, and headed back out to the car where I saw the most amazing sight! There were so many children, all from the local schools, in a huge circle around the younger children and mothers. They were listening to one of the mentors talking about the work that happens for the children with disabilities and were clapping and cheering! There was a real sense of community and it was so lovely to be a very small part of it all. I took a few pictures and then got in the car and we drove back to the office. I realised that was the last centre I would visit which made me feel a bit sad. I have absolutely loved meeting these children and have learnt so much from them even in the short bursts of time I have spent with them.
Once back at the office, I got my head down and adapted my child protection training based on my discussions with Florence. I completed planning out the full three days and got all the resources ready, too. It’s been organised in the following way:
Monday 9-1pm English training with Emily and Sara
Tuesday 9-1pm Maths training with Johanna
Wednesday 9-1pm English training with Emily and Sara
45 teachers are attending the mainstream training in the mornings, and then 4 teachers are attending the SEN sessions with me (detailed below).
In the afternoon sessions, all the teachers are being put into three groups and will attend a different training session each afternoon from 2-4pm. The afternoon sessions are:
Creative English (Emily and I)
Creative Maths (Johanna)
IT Bus (Nikki and Sara) – see photos. Amazing resource – some of these children have never even seen a real life computer! The bus travels around to the centres so children can learn IT skills. Incredible!
The itinerary for the SEN training I have planned is the following:
9-10am Introductions and sharing good practice
10-1pm Child Protection
9-10am Sex and Relationships Education
10-1pm Maths fun using resources (see photo of all the maths games)
9-11am Pie Corbett style Reading
11-1pm English fun using resources
All of us UK teachers have planned our sessions based on what the teachers have asked for. Johanna has focused on fractions, Sara and Emily on tenses and I have focused on how to make learning practical using the resources they’ve got (as well as child protection and sexuality- ruddy nora!). I’m very pleased the planning and preparation side of the training is done, but quite nervous about the delivery! I just want to make sure the sessions are useful to the teachers and I am desperate to make some sort of difference whilst I am here, however tiny.
After getting everything printed and ready, we headed back to the Guest House for some downtime! I’ve brought my notes back with me to practise over the weekend to make sure I’m very clear on what I am doing on Monday. Fingers crossed I can inspire some of these teachers just like they have inspired me.
Saturday 6th August
I woke up so excited to go and explore some of Uganda! The weekend to ourselves meant a chance to do some touristy stuff and to get out and about and see some of Uganda.
We had breakfast at 8am and then Saison, our driver for the day, picked us up at 9am to take us on a road trip to Jinja to see the source of the River Nile. Before coming out to Uganda my friend’s 11year old daughter asked me if I would see the River Nile or if it even went through Uganda and I, embarrassingly, had no clue whatsoever. Now not only do I know the answer to her question, I actually saw the start of the Nile and paddled in it! Brilliant!
At the start of our journey, Saison suggested we stop en route to explore the Ssezibwa Falls – a bit like a national trust park – which has a waterfall and river in the most beautiful surroundings as you can see from the pictures. We had a tour guide called Francis who was initially a bit horrified at our choice of footwear! None of us had realised we would be climbing up and down stone caves, or across waterfalls and rivers and so were wearing ridiculously inappropriate sandals but we assured him we’d be fine! He said we’d take it ‘Mpola Mpola’ which means ‘slowly, slowly’ in Ugandan, however, we thought it sounded like ‘oompa loompa’ so from then on, every time we walked up and down a steep bit of rock, we sang the Oompa Loompa song. Poor Francis!
It was really amazing to see the incredible landscape and Francis was very patient with our constant selfie-taking and photo stops! It was so lovely to be outside altogether, enjoying one another’s company in these surroundings. We all felt very lucky indeed.
After a wonderful trip to Ssezibwa Falls, Saison (pronounced Tyson with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘t’!) drove us on another hour and a half to Jinja. On the drive, we saw some incredible sights and we even stopped at the side of a tea field which you can see from the photos.
We had a rather eventful last ten minutes of the journey; it involved crossing a bridge which specifically requested for travellers not to take photos – a sign that, helpfully, none of us had noticed. So, there was me in the passenger seat taking photos with my iPad, literally hanging out of the window to get a decent photo of the amazing river either side, before realising that taking photos on this particular bridge is, in fact, illegal. Brilliant.
As we were driving off of the bridge, a man dressed in military camouflage gear waved the car to pull over and stop. A policeman dressed in civilian clothes asked us to wind down the car window and spoke to Saison, who then translated and told me I wasn’t allowed to take photos which is why we’d been pulled over. They asked to see my passport, which I thankfully had on me, and then the photos I’d taken – one of which included a man holding a massive fish because I thought my husband might find it cool (he likes fishing). They asked me why I’d taken the picture of the man walking with a fish before we even got onto the bridge which I then explained. I literally sounded ridiculous! I said I was really sorry and that I’d just delete the photos which they then watched me do! I managed to keep the photo of the man strolling down the street with a huge fish, though – hope you enjoy that one, Nick!
Throughout this whole interrogation, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing because I genuinely thought I was about to be arrested! It turns out they are really strict about people taking photos because of terrorist threats in that particular area as if this bridge was destroyed it would mean Uganda being cut off from everything. Saison then said they needed me to pay them $5000 Ugandan shillings because they had had to follow us over the bridge and now needed to return. How bad is that?! Apparently, this kind of thing happens a lot in certain countries which made me feel slightly indignant but I gave them the $5000 and we headed off with my iPad firmly in my rucksack. It took me a fair amount of time to get over that, to be honest!
Saison drives us straight into Jinja town where we had some lunch (chicken guacamole wrap and not a banana in sight!) and did a very quick spot of shopping along the craft shops and market stalls. At this stage, I was still in a state of shock about the photograph fiasco so I didn’t take any photos of the markets but they were fantastic! Loads of clothes, toys, jewellery and other crafts which are all homemade and have a rather large hint of Africa about them. I bought myself some great trousers with an elephant print as well as some gifts for family members back at home. Poor Saison then had to chase us all out of the markets so we could actually get to the main event – a boat trip to see the source of the Nile.
When we arrived at the Source of the Nile we were introduced to our tour guide, Ronnie, and he walked us to our boat. There was actually a wedding going on so we had a quick stop to look at the lovely bride and her groom; they were having photos by the river with the bride standing rather precariously on a stone by the river! As I was looking (my husband would probably argue that I was, in fact, staring) at the lovely couple, I felt a little hand stroking my hand! I turned around and there were a group of children clambering to touch me and the other ladies! They seemed pretty mesmerised by us and we waved and said hello when their dad asked if they could take a photo. He disappeared to get the wedding photographer (!!!) but we were whisked off to get on our boat tour so had to apologise, waving as we left. Very bizarre! I’ve decided I never want to be famous! The children were gorgeous though and very curious about who we were!
We got on our boat, wearing life jackets and headed off for a 30minute trip to the source of the Nile, a brief ride around lake Victoria and then back to base again. On the way to the source of the Nile, we went around the edge of the river where we saw some amazing birds and a huge snake curled up on a branch hanging over the edge of the water. Amazing! I’m not normally very good with birds, an irrational fear I’ve caught from my cousin, but today I was pretty chilled about seeing them and got some great photos. Some of them have huge beaks and we saw one of the birds (Little Egret) using his beak to gobble down a pretty big fish! It was like the bit out of Finding Nemo where Nigel the seagull is trying to eat Nemo’s dad and he just can’t get him down his throat! Unlike the bit in the film, the Little Egret managed to swallow his dinner!
After a brief tour around the outskirts, we headed to a wooden hut in the middle of the river where the source of the Nile can be found. There are huge ripples from underneath the wooden hut on the water which is where the source is. It was submerged in the early 1950s after the Owen Falls Dam was constructed further up the river. So it is basically a spring that is underneath the water which is where the River Nile starts! So cool to see! As you can see we got loads of photos of us standing at the source itself as well as the point it officially starts at 0km (the photo of the rocks). The River Nile is the longest river at a whopping 6’718km! It travels north from Jinja, up to Sudan and then to Egypt. So the answer to my friend’s daughter’s question is that yes I did see the River Nile and it officially starts at Lake Victoria in Uganda which also borders Tanzania and Kenya, too! Amazing!
Sunday 7th August
After a rather late night on Saturday, we treated ourselves to a mini lie-in this morning! We had breakfast at 9am and then left to walk to the Old Kampala Mosque at 10:15am. It was an interesting walk because there was the most amazing singing coming from different buildings; there were lots of church services going on as it was Sunday and we felt a little bit like we had stepped into the film Sister Act! Absolutely incredible singing!
We arrived at the mosque and paid for a guided tour. The women at reception asked Sara and I to put our ‘veils’ (scarves) over our heads to cover our hair, and another lady dressed Emily in two veils to cover her hair and ankles. It was pretty hot and walking up the steps into the mosque itself was a bit sweaty!
The mosque is absolutely massive! It has the capacity to hold 35,000 people but at festivals, such as Eid, they can hold up to 50,000 in and around the building. We were told to take our shoes off before entering the carpeted room known as the main hall. The tour guide sat with us and gave us a brief history of how it came to be built and where the materials came from. The mosque itself was initiated by Idi Amin in the 1970s but he only managed to commission the foundations to be built before he was overthrown. The building was completed only ten years ago in 2006 by Colonel Gadaffi.
The main hall is where the men from the Islamic community go to pray and it is mandatory for them to attend every Friday. Women can choose to pray either at home or in a separate room in the mosque which overlooks the main hall. The interior has lots of European influences with the most beautiful stained glass windows from Italy, timber from Uganda and Moroccan designs and patterns on the walls. There are incredible chandeliers hanging from the huge ceilings,too. Our tour guide also showed us where the ‘call’ happens five times a day which is what we can hear at 5:40 in the morning! A microphone is synced into huge speakers at the top of the mosque which then booms out the call for all to hear in Kampala.
After we explored inside the mosque we walked up 306 spiral steps to the top of the minaret – basically a huge tower – which gave us a pretty impressive 360-degree view of the city. It was pretty high so I stayed close to the wall! My legs just turned to jelly! Our guide showed us a Catholic Church in the distance, an Anglican cathedral and a Hindu temple – all pretty impressive even from a distance. I was very relieved to head back down to ground level, though!
We spent the rest of the day with some of the organisers of the CRANE project and enjoyed some lunch and shopped in the local markets. I think the market sellers saw us a mile off as they buzzed around us like bees! It was great fun though and we enjoyed spending some of our money on souvenirs and gifts for family.
We headed back to the guest house to prepare for our first training day tomorrow – we are all pretty nervous!
Monday 8th August
We all woke up very early today to get ourselves organised and ready for our first day training the teachers from the Creative Learning Centres (CLCs). All our observations and work had led us up to this point so we were all nervous and a bit anxious about how the training would go!
We had an early breakfast and got to the office for 7:30am so we could load up all the gear and drive it down to the training centre. Sadly, the drivers were on ‘Uganda time’, as it is called in the CRANE office, and we didn’t end up leaving until 8:20am! We were all a bit fidgety but once we got to the training centre we flew into action. Some teachers had already arrived so we set out our resources and worked around them to make sure we were ready to go.
My SEN training is taking place in a much smaller room to the side of the training centre which is called the ‘sitting room’. It’s very cosy and actually worked quite well! Because there are only two SEN CLCs, there were only a handful of teachers I am working with as opposed to nearly 40 in the main hall.
Whilst the teachers were arriving, Nikki asked one of them to lead prayer and song and it was a pretty amazing sight! Every single teacher stood up, sang their hearts out and danced – what a way to start a training day! Hopefully, you are able to see the video as I’m just not doing it justice in my description!
Nikki then introduced all four of us UK teachers to the whole group in the main hall before we separated up to do our respective training sessions. Emily and Sara led the English session in the main hall, I led the SEN child protection training in the sitting room and Johanna had some planning time before her Maths session in the afternoon.
My session today was about Child protection which I always knew was going to be heavy going. I started the session by introducing myself and gave them a very brief background of my teaching career to date. We then shared the amazing work I’d seen in and around the centres and the teachers got some great ideas from one another straight away! It was a lovely way of encouraging them to speak and present to each other, too. I then explained the itinerary for the next few days and asked them to write three things they’d like to get from the sessions. This is useful for me in case I need to adapt or change any training but thankfully they all wrote down the areas I have planned to cover: child protection, sex education, ways of teaching money and ideas for reading.
I started the child protection training with a brief explanation of what it is and then asked the teachers to work in groups to mind map what they understand child protection to be in their own settings. We had two groups of 4 which worked out perfectly. They made some great contributions and their mind maps generated a lot of discussions which was good news! I was worried I would be the only one talking but thankfully that wasn’t the case! I then gave them an activity where they had to group a variety of statements into true and false.
After their 30-minute tea break at 10:30am, we came back together to look at the four categories of abuse: neglect, emotional, physical and sexual. I spoke at length about what I would look out for at my own school in England but explained that culturally they would be identifying very different things. I asked them to mind map around each category what they would look for in their centres. One group wrote underneath physical abuse ‘missing limbs’. I was totally floored at that point. I asked them to give me an example of when they had had to deal with a child protection issue like this and a teacher said a child had come into the centre with their hand removed and they had to take them to the hospital and then call the police. At that moment, it was very difficult to think I had anything to offer these teachers – the things they have to deal with are really quite horrific. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor child.
We fed back and discussed the ‘warning signs’ of abuse at length. I then set each centre off with a task to put together an action plan of how they would manage these risks within their own settings. They then each produced an action plan for the girls, highlighting the risk factors for each individual child based on their special educational needs and actions to manage them. This took us up to lunchtime where everyone was relieved to have a bit of a brain break I think!
Although it was a very heavy session, and a real eye opener for me, the teachers seemed to find it useful. The headteacher of Mukisa, Florence, thanked me and said she has lots of ideas to implement back at the centre which I am so pleased about. Hopefully, these strategies, or even just the fact they have more of an awareness, will keep their children as safe as possible whilst they are at school.
After lunch, Emily and I delivered the Creative English session where we talked about what makes lesson creative and fun, and then taught the teachers some games! We showed them, in a carousel style activity, how to play Scrabble, Hangman and Silly Sentences, and generated discussions about how this could help the girls in their lessons. It was really fun and they came up with some great ideas of how they’d use the games in their lessons.
The session finished at 4pm and we headed off at about 4:30pm after clearing up the rooms ready for tomorrow. It was an emotionally draining day, mixed with lots of smiles, laughter and fun, and I am really excited to deliver some fun maths training tomorrow!
Tuesday 9th August
I woke up feeling ready and prepared for the training day and was excited to get going! We had breakfast and walked straight to the training centre where I whizzed round setting up all my maths games. When Nikki arrived with my shop items, which she’d kindly picked up for me at the weekend, I started to feel really excited! After a rather hardcore training day about child protection, I was definitely ready to show these teachers how to have some fun with their children!
The ladies started the day with their amazing singing and dancing again which was great fun to join in with (although the only thing I could actually do was the clapping with the occasional bounce here and there!) and then my group came into the sitting room again to start our session. I only had five teachers today (four ladies and one man -poor Ronald!); this was quite intense but what has been lovely is the relationships we have developed across the day. I really feel that I have started to get to know these teachers well.
Our first session focused on PSHE (Personal Social Health Education) and how they can use circle time to support them with identifying any needs or concerns the girls have – from a child protection perspective or even just from a growing up perspective. I explained about the importance of ‘ground rules’ during circle times and asked them to come up with their own. They had some fab ideas and wrote these up which we then discussed. I explained that in the UK we teach PSHE to help children manage emotions and to give them a voice in a safe environment, but we also teach SRE (Sex and Relationships Education). The difference is that SRE must include lessons revolving around the body, feelings (linking to circle time), relationships, family life and online safety. We went through these (online safety isn’t relevant for these teachers so we didn’t address this) and the teachers then completed an activity.
Faridah volunteered to be the ‘body’ and the group drew round her on a few pieces of flip chart paper which they’d stuck together. I explained they could also ask the children to do this with chalk outside on the ground. We then sang ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ with the actions and then pointed to the appropriate body part on the outline of Faridah’s body. This strategy is to help SEN children establish that what they see on their body is the same as what is being represented in the labelled drawing. I then asked the teachers to label as many parts of the body they could and put a tick where it is ok for people to touch them and across where it should remain private. This generated lots of discussions and one of the teachers, Angela, said she couldn’t wait to do it with her girls on Thursday! That made my day!
After the sexuality training, we kicked off with the maths fun! I had printed off pictures of Ugandan shillings (notes and coins) and cut them out so the teachers had some resources to take back to set up their own shops. We talked about the common misconceptions children have when learning about money (the main one being that the biggest coin has the most value) and I explained there are three main areas children need to understand to confidently grasp money:
Equivalence (two 50p coins have the same value as £1) Practical situations – making decisions relating to buying and selling
I split the teachers up into groups- one group began pricing up the items for the shop and the other used paper and pencil to complete coin rubbing to help with coin recognition. They also used playdoh and paint to make prints of the different coins. In Uganda, each coin has an animal on it so we discussed how this could help the girls recognise each coin – by thinking of the animal on the coin and what number it matches to.
The groups swapped over and then we came back together to play ‘shop’! Josephine was the official teacher and the others queued up and asked to buy particular items. They were brilliant! They made it hard for Josephine because they picked the wrong coins or made the common mistakes we’d discussed earlier and said ‘this coin is the biggest so I must only need this to pay for those sweets’ etc. Josephine handled it brilliantly with some fantastic questioning and promoting to help – I felt very proud! They each had a go and it was so much fun playing shops with a group of adults. These teachers are so open to ideas and have absolutely no sense of embarrassment like we might in the UK. Their role playing is literally the best I have ever seen! I managed to grab Stella (the teacher from the centre Oasis who inspired me so much earlier in the week) and showed her the money shop and thanked her, explaining it was her shop that had inspired me to do this is in the training. She gave me a big hug! What a legend!
After the maths shop, I showed the teachers the different maths resources they have in their centres and demonstrated ways they could use these in maths lessons to help the girls learn in practical and visual ways. It was so lovely to see them all playing together and discussing what they were going to do with these resources the following week. I really felt like the training had been useful and their feedback was so positive. What a successful morning!
I then had the afternoon to prepare some last bits for tomorrow’s session (Sara and Emily took the Creative English session together to give me a bit of time which was amazing) and then headed back to the Guest House with only one day left to go! I can’t believe how quickly these two weeks have disappeared but I can’t wait for one more day with the teachers and the CRANE and VIVA team tomorrow.
Wednesday 10th August
My alarm went off at 6:30am and my first thought was ‘I can’t believe this is the last day’! The last 10 days have gone so quickly and it feels a bit surreal that this amazing experience is about to end.
We all met for breakfast and then headed straight down to the training centre to get ourselves organised and set up. I had spent the evening last night practising my session for the day so was feeling a lot less nervous, and excited to have a bit more fun with my group of teachers.
From 9:00-11:00am all the CLC teachers met in the main hall to complete an evaluation of the GEC project to date. If more funding is not secured then this programme will end in April and so there has been a lot of work from CRANE and VIVA in the last few months to demonstrate the positive impact their work has had on keeping these girls in education. We were not allowed to be part of the evaluation and so us four UK teachers and the CRANE team members all worked on laptops in the sitting room whilst this was going on – the photo of the line of ladies working really made me laugh!
At 11am my group of five teachers joined me in the sitting room where I had set everything up ready to go. The session today was all about creative ways of teaching Literacy and so I focused on story-telling. Pie Corbett is an educational writer in the UK who created the scheme Talk4Writing, and I used this technique with my group of teachers to teach them the story of Noah’s Ark. The idea is that you put specific actions to certain words to help, not only broaden children’s vocabulary but to memorise the story, too. I have used it many times with my own classes (KS1 and KS2) and the children have loved it. It’s been amazing to see the lower ability children sitting and re-writing the story, and then every so often they burst into the actions before scribbling down their ideas. Such a great way to support children’s reading and writing.
After yesterday’s fun and how engaged the teachers were I knew teaching them the actions would be brilliant. These people have no inhibitions which makes my life as their trainer a million times easier! I read the full story of Noah’s Ark before breaking it down into actions page by page. There was a lot of repetition, to help them learn the words and actions, but they did so well! We laughed a lot and had so much fun learning the story. What a way to spend a Wednesday! Nikki, the project organiser, came and videoed bits during the learning process and then we had a brain break at about 12:15pm.
I had set up lots of Literacy games using the resources from their centres and, just like yesterday, I showed them different ways of using these resources to help them develop the girls’ literacy skills. We played Sight Word Bingo (they had never played Bingo before so that was great fun!) and made playdoh letters, too.
At 12:35pm we came back together for one more practice of the story and then we went into the main hall to show the rest of the teachers what we had learnt. This was an absolute highlight for me – my amazing group got up in front of 40 other teachers and performed the story using the actions we had literally just learnt! Then every single teacher in that room joined in and followed us as we told the story of Noah’s Ark. Hopefully, the video works so you can see how involved everyone was; it was absolutely brilliant to see and be a part of!
We finished off the session with all the teachers together in the main hall and I summed up ways of using the actions to help children in their reading and writing. I explained that with children you would never learn that much that quickly, but you would stagger it across a week, or even two weeks, so they could really know the story and it would then stay with them forever.
We had a massive group photo before breaking for lunch, which is a lovely keep sake, and then we went straight to eat- everyone was pretty hungry after all that exercise! I managed to have a photo with my lovely group of SEN teachers, too, and I had a photo with Stella – my money shop inspiration!
The afternoon session involved the same activities as Monday afternoon – Creative English with Scrabble, Hangman and Silly Sentences. It was a great afternoon and I got to work with every single group playing the silly sentence game (basically a game where the children can pick words to construct silly sentences e.g. The red tree jumped over a happy frog). This was a game I bought with me from the UK and I can’t believe what a hit it has been! The teachers have asked for their own game at each of their centres so I’m going to order a load when I return to England. Good old Amazon!
By the time it got to 4pm we were all exhausted! The teachers were very grateful and we all had lots of hugs and hand shakes as they left the training centre. I am so happy that the three days have worked well and been useful for each of them – what a sense of relief! We packed up the centre and headed back to the CRANE offices for more hugs and goodbyes. It feels a bit surreal that I won’t be seeing their smiling faces tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing them again at some point in the near future – I can’t imagine never coming back here now!
Once we’d unpacked the gear and said our goodbyes, Nikki took us all out to celebrate at Javas Cafe where we had mocktails (pina colada-yum!), good food and the most sickening chocolate sundae ever! She gave us each a thank you card from the team; I was really touched and it’s something I’ll keep forever.
We are all now slightly dazed but very much looking forward to our two-day safari – a real treat after a phenomenal, albeit exhausting, ten days. Thank you CRANE, VIVA, the amazing teachers in Uganda and those gorgeous children!
Thursday 11th August
After an amazing nights sleep the alarm went off at 5:45am so we could get up and be ready for our safari tour guide to pick us up at 7am. We were all packed and ready to go at reception so we thought we’d grab a quick coffee and banana (!) before we left.
Moses, our tour guide from Kazinga Tours, arrived in his safari van and we loaded it up with all our luggage before settling in for the journey ahead.
We headed straight to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which is the only place in Uganda where you can find the white rhino. It took us about 3hrs to get there and it was worth every second of the journey. Our rhino-guide hopped into the van and we drove for about five minutes into the sanctuary’s grounds. We stopped, got out and went rhino tracking! Literally walked out and about in the open through ridiculously tall grass to find rhinos! To say we were a bit nervous may have been the understatement of the century. The brief ‘if you die we are not liable’ chat at the start of the tour didn’t help our nerves! Before we strolled into the rhino’s home, our tour guide gave us some background to the sanctuary and the rhinos living there.
The White rhinos were hunted to extinction in Uganda for their horns and so they set up the sanctuary where rhinos were donated (from Disney’s animal kingdom in Orlando, Florida, as well as Kenya) and began a conservation project to reinstate the White rhino as a citizen of Uganda! So far they have nearly 20 rhinos within the sanctuary and they are still going strong! Our tour guide explained that they have a rhino which they named Obama because his dad is from Kenya and his mum is from America! Sadly we didn’t see Obama, but we saw many of his brothers and sisters which was pretty amazing!
After the background and safety chat (this basically consisted of ‘if a rhino charges hide behind a bush or climb a tree’ – brilliant!) we walked for about 15minutes before we saw a rhino mummy with her baby! We startled them a bit as they were lying in the shade and when Emily spotted them she gasped pretty loudly making all of us jump, including the rhinos! They jumped up but stood really still – as did we! Our tour guide reminded us to speak quietly and I quickly decided which tree I was going to climb whilst keeping one eye on the magnificent animals in front of me. Thankfully no rhinos charged as we stayed well back and kept very quiet. They got used to us and realised we weren’t a threat and after a few minutes laid back down in the shade. It was pretty amazing seeing these animals in their natural habitat looking so happy and at home.
After plenty of photographs we walked on and bumped into loads more rhinos, another 10minutes on! There were seven in front of us at one point with a whole family of warthogs running around – I literally felt like I had stepped into the Lion King! I wanted to burst into song and sing ‘Hakuna Matata’ (I didn’t obviously but later on, on our safari, it did become the theme tune- amazing how much safer you feel inside a van)!
After seeing these incredible animals we began walking back to where Moses had parked up and I think it’s safe to say I was in a bit of a daze. Going from the dusty streets of Kampala with boda-boda’s buzzing around everywhere, to essentially being out in the wild with animals I’ve only ever seen on TV or locked behind gates in a zoo – well it’s a bit hard to sum it up really. I just felt so privileged to be there.
We drove our rhino-guide back to the main centre, had a quick stop off to use the toilet and then went on our way. Moses said we’d get to Murchison Falls National Park in a few hours – we were so excited!
So the ‘few hours’ ended up being five hours. Moses had decided to take a short cut through some villages and basically on roads that could only really be described as fields with dirt on them. I’m not going to go into too much detail here because quite frankly it was a pretty stressful experience, but basically the positives were we got to see an even more rural side of Uganda, none of realised we’d be experiencing a roller coaster ride (our bums came high off the seats several times because of the speed in which we were travelling and the bumps on the ‘road’) and it made us very grateful for bananas seen as that is all we’d had to eat all day. Every cloud and all that.
We entered the Murchison Falls National Park at 4pm and saw straight away baboons chilling out on the side of the road! It was so surreal and also really quite funny! They sat really still but their heads moved with us as we drove past. We made sure our windows were closed so they didn’t jump into the van with us!
It was about an hour to the ferry crossing to our safari lodge and it was lovely to get out of the van to stretch our legs whilst we travelled over the water. When we pulled into Paraa Safari Lodge we were tired, hungry and so relieved to be there! I’m not going to lie, there were a few moments where I wasn’t sure we’d even get to the lodge, so pulling up to the entrance was the best feeling ever. The staff at the lodge greeted us with ice cold towels (like the ones you get after an Indian but a cold version) and fresh watermelon juice. I think they thought we were a bit mad because we were so ruddy grateful that we pretty much threw ourselves at them in thanks!
They brought all our luggage in and showed us to our rooms. I was literally overwhelmed – such a beautiful lodge and the height of luxury. I was so excited about the bed that I took a photo of me on it- such a mundane selfie but it was a pretty marvellous moment after a 10hour journey in a van.
We inhaled our food and ordered cocktails by the swimming pool, soaking up the gorgeous surroundings and taking stock of the day. Although we’d only been to one place (we had more planned on the itinerary but due to the journey we hope to forget we sadly missed our boat ride) it was really an unbelievable day – seeing rhinos in the wild was phenomenal and I’ll never forget it!
We had a dip in the pool, which was absolute bliss, and then enjoyed watching some of the Rio 2016 Olympics with a glass or two of red wine. As we headed to bed excited for our game drive the following morning, the staff reminded us to keep our mosquito nets around our beds, especially if the balcony doors were open. I said ‘don’t worry we won’t let the mossies bite us’ and their response was ‘it’s the baboons you have to worry about’!!!! The balcony doors stayed firmly closed all evening!
Friday 12th August
Our alarm went off at 5:30am, waking us from the most incredible sleep I’ve ever had. I can’t begin to explain how wonderfully quiet it was everywhere and that bed – possibly the best bed in the world ever! And that never happens when you are away, does it?!
We got up, dressed and headed down to a very early morning breakfast. There was a hot and cold buffet and we all stocked up on as much food as possible; after yesterday’s food debacle we thought it better to eat as much as we possibly could at 6 in the morning!
Moses met us at the entrance and we excitedly piled into the van, cameras at the ready! Moses had moved the roof up several inches so we were able to stand and look out from inside. We weren’t allowed to get out of the van for this safari for obvious reasons – we were all slightly relieved about that! We drove for about ten minutes and were on a track road (a million times better than what we travelled on yesterday!) with the most incredible landscape imaginable. I felt like I’d stepped foot into a totally different world. The sun was rising and you could see this beautiful orange light peeking through the African trees – an unbelievable setting. I felt as though I was on top of the world.
As we continued to drive I stayed standing and just looked everywhere I could all at once – now I really know what people mean when they say they wish they had eyes in the back of their head! As a teacher that’s a common saying, but this is why you need eyes in the back of your head; to see the most beautiful place in the whole world. As I was taking it all in, I saw the most phenomenal sight – ELEPHANTS!! Elephants walking through the Savannah, keeping close to the trees. I shouted so loudly and pointed and the other girls whipped their heads around so fast I thought they were going to spin off! Moses stopped the van so we could watch them and take photos – I just couldn’t take my eyes off of them. When I was 8 years old I read a book called Elephant Gold by Eric Campbell, about a girl protecting Elephants from poachers, and from then on they were my favourite animal and it became a dream for me to go on safari to see them in their natural habitat. It was 100% worth the wait. I can’t even put into words how amazed I was by these majestic mammals. Just beautiful.
Emily had joked that we would end up seeing so many elephants we’d be fed up of them. That was definitely not how I felt at any point on the safari but we did see so many African elephants – I’ve never felt so lucky in all my life!
As we drove around the Savannah, we saw all kinds of wonderful creatures – we spotted giraffes eating from tall trees, so many different types of antelope and deer, each as beautiful as the next, and we even spotted another Pumbaa which promoted us all to burst into ‘Hakuna Matata’! It really was funny because we stopped to take some photos of this super cute warthog and he was very still, but this other animal was jumping up and down behind a rock. He was so quick we couldn’t see what it was but we all decided it must be Timon!
As well as seeing all the amazing animals, we also saw some pretty phenomenal animal poo! Elephant dung is literally massive- the size of a small boulder! Johanna took lots of photos of the animal poo which made us all laugh! Poor Moses seemed rather confused as we kept asking him to stop so she could take another photo of poo. Brilliant! What was even funnier was later that evening, when I text my dad about seeing elephants, his response was ‘woohoo can’t wait to hear all about it! Those elephants have huge dung!’! I read it out to the girls and we couldn’t stop laughing!
After about an hour and a half we started to bump into other safari adventurers who were on a quest to find a big cat – apparently, the hardest of the big five to spot! Moses exchanged numbers with all the different tour guides so if anyone spotted a lion they’d let us know and vice versa. We kept driving along many different routes and suddenly Moses spotted some other jeeps across the Savannah. He pulled the steering wheel hard to the left and we bumped our way off road to a huge bush where – low and behold – there was a lioness sitting on her hind legs panting inside the gap in the leaves! Goosebumps ran up and down my body! She was HUGE! The other jeeps drove over to where we were for a better view (Moses really did sort us out with the view of her – she was directly to the side of us- amazing!) and we all just stood leaning out of our vans taking photos and staring at this beautiful animal. She got a bit fed up with us all staring at her after a short while, and sloped off through the tall grassland, presumably to find the rest of her pride.
After all of that excitement, Moses took us to a vast lake where there were so many Hippos, just chilling out in the water. From far away they looked like floating stones or rocks so it was really hard to spot them, but we were able to park up and get out at this point so we could really see they were real life actual Hippos! There were lots of other vans and jeeps parked up so it was quite a common spot and we all stretched our legs and walked to the lake to take photos of the awesome Hippos!
We drove back to the lodge after the most amazing 5-hour safari- we just can’t believe how much we were able to see! The photographs do much more justice to this place than I can with words – it’s just one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Throughout the morning we saw elephants, giraffes, antelope, vultures, warthogs, a lioness, and hippos! All in five hours!
We had a very quick turn around to grab our luggage from the lodge and headed for the 12pm ferry crossing. We had a bit of a wait so had some fun watching the baboons roaming around! Once we were over the river we headed straight to Murchison Falls where we walked to the very top. It was so loud and the spray was so cold and very welcome after a morning in the van! We had some photos on the edge of the rocks and just took in the view. Murchison Falls is the most powerful waterfall in the world and has many visitors. Whilst we were there, lots of schools had brought classes for the afternoon – we had lots of people staring at us again (we hadn’t missed that part of being in Kampala!) and someone asked to take our photo!
After taking plenty of photos, we headed to a shady spot to eat our packed lunch. Then we jumped into the van ready for a very long journey back to Entebbe and our flight home. Thankfully, Moses stuck to the main roads on the way back but, because of the crazy traffic, it still took 7 hours to get there!
At 10:30pm we pulled into Lake Victoria Hotel where we had a room for a few hours so we could shower and eat before going to the airport for 1am. The staff there were so friendly and brought us extra toiletries and lovely, fresh, fluffy towels. I can’t tell you how good it was to have a shower! We sat in the restaurant after showering and ate a yummy salad before Moses picked us up at 12:30am. He dropped us at the airport, we went through security and waited until 3:30am when we boarded our flight. Our plane left at 4:00am and landed at Istanbul airport at 10:15am local time.
We had a few hours to kill in the airport so enjoyed a mooch around duty-free and a ‘proper’ coffee courtesy of Starbucks (Emily and I were very happy about that!) before boarding our next flight to good old Blighty! We took off at 1:55pm and landed at 4:05pm in our wonderful country – England! It felt so good seeing Brighton and the sea, the fields and just generally feeling like we were coming home. It was Saturday late afternoon and the last time we’d been in a bed was Thursday night – we were all so very, very happy to be home!