Uganda diary: Motorbikes, mountains, and starving orphans

24 10 2010

Life’s most memorable moments are often those that abruptly and impolitely arrive in our lives without invitation or expectation. They sometimes invoke a sensation of the event occurring externally to your life – an out-of-body, surreal experience.

Such experiences range from the trivial, like when I was five and I rode my brand new BMX (first bike without stabilisers) straight into a barbed wire fence, to the more heart-crushing moments, such as family bereavement.

When writing a blog about somewhere like Uganda (or any other African country), it’s hard to avoid the clichés and chunks of information which the reader has already heard and already been told.

I’m telling you that now, because this blog post will probably sound like the generic Africa experience. Not the one where people bounce along bumpy tracks in a zebra-pattern Land Rover Defender on an epically amazingly incredibly culturally phenomenal search for the rare Grey Mountain Charging African Bazooka Rhino. No, my experience was akin to the sombre and heart-wrenching appeals on Children in Need and Comic Relief.

Early morning walk…

Before I explain what the above paragraphs are about, I’ll provide some context. We got up quite early (6:30am) on Sunday 22 August. An hour and some breakfast later, Vianney, Emma and I were on the back of a couple of bodas. We drove to the boda stage in Buhoma, and stopped. Some fuel-filling and boda swapping happened, and, for the first time in Uganda, I had a boda to myself.

Up until that point, I’d only ever shared a boda with Emma. So, the experience of not sandwiching my hand between my back and the rear bar of the bike was a welcome treat. Another luxury with only having two people, rather than three, on a motorbike is that my male bits had some room.

Eventually, we left the boda stage and a few minutes later turned up a wide path (it wasn’t a road). Our convoy of bodas went down steep hills, and up steeper ones. We did unintentional wheelies, lots of wheelspinning, and lots of bouncing over bumps. It was brilliant fun!

…up a mountain

Sadly, the amusing boda journey came to an end when we reached the bottom of a certain path. The purpose of the day was to walk up to a village up in the mountains, and discuss plans to construct a rainwater-retention water tank (the reasons will become clear shortly). We were joined by Milton and a couple of other blokes called Sam and Soul (think that was his name). One was the village chairman, and the other was someone else who did something important.

Milton had warned me and Emma that the walk would be tough. Emma’s dad used to do hill-running, so storming up hills is in Emma’s blood. I ran six miles for charity in March – I hoped this would stand me in good stead.

Just 100 metres into the walk and my aching leg muscles suggested I hadn’t done as much exercise as my rose-tinted glasses had led me to believe. But, thanks to a hefty breathing pattern – consuming most of Bwindi’s oxygen supply – and taking on lots of Uganda’s finest bottled water, I kept pace, and my legs were kind enough not to get any worse.

After 45 minutes of walking, and me doing my best to appear as a hardy – albeit pale – Brit, we stopped for a break in the soft (yet fairly warm) morning sun.

The view was like a child’s drawing, with all the mountains following a uniform triangular shape; like a series of overlapping pyramids, each covered in trees.

It was also at this point that I understood why the village needed a water tank. Their source of water (outside of rainy season) is the river which flows between the mountains, which is where we had walked from. Every day, villagers have to walk down the mountain before each lugging a jerry can back up.

Eventually we got going again. A small girl, probably about four or five, spotted us, and walked with us, then in front of us, then ran off. Here I was, at the age of twenty, sweating every drop of water I was consuming, my leg muscles a-burnin’, with a four year old comfortably whooping my arse up a mountain.

Mobiles on mountains

We made it to the village and were greeted by the locals, with each cheerfully grasping and shaking our hands. Apparently, we were right next to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). So we went for a walk to the border. When we got there, it turned out we weren’t at the border, but we could see it! Somebody pointed somewhere to where it was, and I nodded and said: “oh right” and smiled. But if I’m honest, I didn’t have a clue where it was. I could see trees and mountains, and that was it.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is over there. Dunno where, but it's somewhere over yonder.

Interestingly, and a sign that there is still an unfortunate residue from the two countries’ history together, only the women from the village go to the market across the border. Women shop, men fight – that’s why only women are allowed.

There was a rather bizarre moment as we looked out to the DRC. All those with a mobile phone got them out, and looked at them intently. I didn’t have a clue why, until Vianney pointed at ‘CELTEL DRC’ on his phone – the mobile network from the Congo. Yes, we’d walked up a mountain and here we were looking at network providers.

We were then taken through the village to a meeting area.

Along the way, we passed mud huts, and the children we dressed in mostly worn-out clothes, and too many had small abnormalities, such as growths on their faces, presumably a result of waterborne infections. We were also shown where, during the rainy season, the water is taken from. The picture is below.

Business

Everyone soon got down to business. There were two public meetings, with Milton translating, split up by having a look at the proposed water tank site. I also took on my new job of taking pictures of people, and then showing them their picture (it’s a lovely feeling being able to communicate with people without words).

After the second and final meeting, we said our goodbyes, shook lots of hands, eventually left, and started our journey back. Five minutes later, it came to a sudden heart-wrenching stop.

A sad reality

We approached a mud house with five children sat outside. Milton turned to me and said: “These children have malnutrition.” An impromptu mini-humanitarian aid effort followed.

I gave a bruised and squidgy banana from my bag and gave it to a small girl, who ate it immediately. In my bag were mine, Vianney’s and Emma’s lunches. We took no time in distributing them among the six or seven children (the food comprised bananas, some pineapple, some biscuits, hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches and small cartons of ‘Splash’ juice), and left a large bottle of mineral water with the grandmother.

While we were there, we discovered that the children were from the same family, and were orphans. They were living with their ageing grandmother. It is an unpleasant thing to think, but, with the grandmother looking so old and frail, how much longer will she be around for, and what will happen to those children? A possible answer is that the oldest child will become the head of the family.

No number of hours of charity appeals, be it by the Disasters Emergency Committee or the BBC’s Comic Relief, can have anywhere near the same effect as knowing what it is like to feed a starving orphaned boy a hard-boiled egg.

As unpleasant as it was, I hope I never forget it. Somehow, I don’t think I will.

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Uganda diary: Back to school

28 09 2010

On Thursday 19 August, I saw Buhoma Community Rest Camp for the first time without  being beneath the veil of darkness, dust and vomit from the night before. It was morning, the sun was rising from behind the mountains and, bloody hell, it was magnificently beautiful.

The ‘Bar & Restaurant’ was… hard to describe, so just look at the pictures below. Breakfast comprised toast, fruit, an omelette and tea. My first immediate observation was that the pineapple was very tasty and juicy.

After breakfast Moses arrived with his motorbike-pick-up-thingymajig. Thankfully, this time I was hydrated, it was daytime, and I felt well.

About 15 minutes later, we arrived at the Buhoma Vulnerable Children’s School (I wasn’t sick). The school has 82 pupils (mostly primary school age I think), about 15 of which were orphans because they’d lost their parents to AIDS.

How to make a stove using ash and cow poo

The main reason for our visit (well, Emma and Vianney’s – my only role was to be a tourist and to take pictures) was to get the ball rolling for building a water tank, and to see a new stove being built.

The stove started life as mud, cow faeces, ash and, I think, some wood shavings. From these materials cement was made and, using handmade bricks, by the end of the day the school had a new stove (the new stove will save the school quite a lot of money when buying wood).

The resourcefulness and ability which were shown throughout the build reminded me how little I know about what’s around me. I feel proud when I manage to hang a picture frame on the wall. Could I even have thought about building a stove from materials within an acre of where I was stood? No chance.

Water bottle bricks, stoves, and posha

The other reason for our presence (well, again, Emma and Vianney’s presence – I just happened to be there) was to get water tank preparation on its way. The special thing about this water tank, though, is that it will be built with water bottles, rather than bricks.

By firmly packing them with dry soil, empty bottles become a suitable alternative to expensive bricks. As there is no recycling in the area (or indeed Uganda), but bottled-water-drinking tourists aplenty, the idea makes financial and ecological sense. (Water bottle brick fact: When full, a 500ml bottle weighs about a kilo.)

At about 2 o’ clock – about half an hour after we’d eaten our packed lunches – some ladies appeared from a room carrying bowls of food. Seems we were in for a second round of lunch.

I opted for a plantain, chicken, posha, beef, rice, avocado, and a couple of sauces. Despite looking slightly odd on the picture, it was a surprisingly nice meal. Also, if anyone says they don’t like posha (the stuff that looks deceivingly like mashed potato), they’re lying – it tastes of nothing, so it’s impossible to either like or dislike.

A cool Swiss couple

After getting back to the Rest Camp, and while the other two showered and did some reading, I decided to sit down at the bar, and found myself befriending a Swiss couple.

Herbie (cool name) and Rebecca were touring around Africa in a second-hand Land Cruiser (four litre diesel V8 – I asked). They’d arrived in South Africa (I think in Cape Town) at the beginning of April. By the end of April, they’d bought their car, fitted it with all the right gear, and then set off. They were cool, don’t argue.

In April 2011, they’ll return home.

The Sauce

After my long natter with the cool Swiss couple, it was tea time. Chicken, rice and two sauces found their way onto my plate. One was a brown nut sauce (was very nice ), the other was The Sauce…

With this particular meal it was called ‘mixed herb sauce’ – but, strangely, we were sure we’d had it the previous night with the spaghetti, but then it was called ‘tomato sauce’. This sauce would continue to haunt our meals for the rest of our stay under the pseudonyms tomato sauce, mixed herb sauce, and just sauce.

The Sauce





Uganda diary: A day of dust and dehydration – on a bus

7 09 2010

Leaving Kampala

If you’ve ever spent 12 hours sat on a bus, you’ll be able to empathise with me in this blog. If you haven’t, let me explain why it’s not something you need to rush out and experience.

I’ve never really been a massive fan of bus journeys. I enjoy travelling a lot, and I’m fairly used to getting numb buttocks after being sat in cars for hours and hours (for example, when I was six, we drove to the Czech Republic). But my first bus journey in Uganda could be described as the worst in my life.

Tuesday 18 September was my first full day in Uganda. It comprised going to Emma’s work (where there were turtles outside), buying bananas, and mentally preparing for the next day. I say preparing, I mean proverbially soiling myself.

Waking up to a nightmare

I met Wednesday 19 August 2010 when it was just four hours old. Waking up at such a time always hurts.

Just under an hour later, our taxi arrived. We shuffled outside, chucked the bags in the back, and headed to the bus park.

The next two minutes were too similar to the types of nightmares you get when you’re feeling ill. The ones where the dream is like reality, but you feel lost and confused; a dystopian realm which you believe to be reality.

Difference between a nightmare and real life though is that you can soon be back in your nice warm bed with a nightmare. The Kampala bus park was reality.

All my senses were attacked and overcome by the smell of soot-filled diesel fumes, the feeling of trudging across mud and avoiding puddles, saying no to all the people who appeared from between buses to carry our bags, and trying to work out, amidst the darkness and blinding headlights, which bus was ours.

How Emma knew which bus was indeed ours, I don’t know, but she got us on safely, and we had most of the bus to choose from. We chose some seats about halfway down – good seats.

We then waited for about two hours. During that time, various people got on the bus trying to sell watches, pens, handbags, torches, a football – all the stuff you need on a long bus journey.

Things start to get busy in Kampala

Leaving Kampala

After we left the bus park, and had made it out of the pothole-ridden mud road outside, we reached the tarmac and got on our way.
And then we stopped at a petrol station.

Lots of people got off to go to the toilet. I wondered whether or not to go. Should I or not, I thought. And then I decided I should. The toilet smelt how it looked – like everybody had missed the hole in the floor. I stood at the doorway and was clinically accurate with my aim. Proud with my work, I strode back to the bus and sat down again.

We stopped somewhere at around 9 or 10 for another toilet stop (handy travel tip: if it’s a number one, you are said to be ‘checking the tyres’; if it’s a number two, it’s ‘a long haul’). After scampering off to an unpeed-on hedge, I was very happy that I didn’t get stage fright (definition: when you know there’s pressure on you to pee – such as at a urinal with a queue – and you just can’t).

That was the last toilet stop of the journey.

By this stage, we had also discovered that we were in the worse seats on the bus, with me taking number one spot.

All the windows had two sliding panes of glass, meaning each passenger could decide whether or not they wanted their section opened or closed. Not me. I had no choice. There was only one pane of glass in my window.

My view

This meant it was either me or the person in front who got a window’s worth of air and dust. Wanting to avoid people thinking “selfish tourist”, I took the hit on behalf of the rest of the bus, and for the rest of the journey I was at the mercy of the person in front of me. Of the 12 hours I was sat there, 11 and a half hours were spent with me being blasted by air and, especially later on, dust.

Free exfoliation

If you want to exfoliate your face, you can spend a few quid in Boots, get yourself some exfoliating gel, get home, rub it into your face and then admire the smooth results.

Blindly following another coach overtaking a petrol tanker, with half the bus on the verge. Hello death

Eating a plantain. Like a banana-ery potato

Alternatively, you can get on a bus from Kampala to Butogota/Buhoma. For about six hours of the journey, I was blasted with fine bits of dust which continually poured from beneath the bus’s tyres as we thundered on (I received even more dust to the face when we overtook other vehicles – half of the bus on the road, the other on the dirt verge. Oh and sometimes we’d blindly follow another big vehicle going past a slower vehicle). For the other six hours of the journey, I was blasted with greater quantities of dust.

The last three or so hours in particular were bad. Why?

No tarmac

From one town onwards – the name of which I’ve since forgotten, and not that bothered about remembering – there were no tarmac roads. Seen those nice pictures on TV with the clay-like roads, y’know, the orange roads that seem to be on every nice picture of people on safari in Africa? Well it was those roads that we went on.

But on the TV they look smooth. These ones weren’t.

First of all, the bus was surrounded by a constant plume of orange dirt. A lot of this found its way onto my clothes and face, and into my eyes and nostrils.

Second, the roads were horribly bumpy. Now, farm tracks seem as smooth as velour by comparison. How my spine and sternum are still intact, I don’t know.

If we slip down there, we ain't stoppin' until we reach a tree

Finally, the edges. The edges were big and steep. Of course, they’re not the worst in the world (can go to South America for some fine examples), but enough to get me thinking of some headlines along the lines of: “British man killed in Uganda bus tragedy”.

I also started wondering, as we were bouncing downhill to the next corner, seeing as though there’s no such thing as an annual MOT – no legal requirement to keep vehicles in a good state – what are the brakes like? Thankfully they were good enough, and, to give him his due credit, the driver did a good job in keeping us on the road, and slowed down a lot for each bump – so well done him.

Steep drops, but at the same time breath-takingly stunning

A boda boda mob

At some time between 7 and 8pm, we arrived in Butogota. There, two of Emma’s friends, Milton and Moses, met us to take us to the Buhoma Community Rest Camp. Our transport was Moses’ motorbike/pick-up thing. Imagine a metal box (about 1.5m cubed), a wheel either side, with a motorbike bolted onto the front. Well that was what we went in.

Now, it looked very cool. The novelty value would have been excellent. However, there were some issues – it wasn’t very big, so, standing up in the back of the vehicle, I had to crouch a lot; it wasn’t very fast, taking us about an hour to reach the camp; there didn’t seem to be much suspension, and the roads got worse –not ideal.

However, what was more immediately scary was the mass of boda boda riders that surrounded me, Emma, Vianney, Milton and Moses as we were stood by the vehicle. They thought we were paying Moses and Milton to take us to the camp – we weren’t. This led to some fairly heated arguing, but, thankfully, Moses and Milton dealt with the matter calmly, and eventually the mob left us alone.

There was still one issue remaining though…

That's not a fake tan gone wrong, that's just me after 12 hours of sitting next to an open window. Also, check out those bags under my eyes. Attractive.

Dehydration

In the space of 11 hours, I’d probably drunk less than half a bottle of water – not even a small cupful. I’d had a lot towards the end of the journey, but it was too late.

The hour’s journey to the Rest Camp was incredibly physically tiring. The lack of water in my body meant I had a throbbing headache, meant I didn’t have a lot of energy so felt weak, and I felt sick.

Five minutes after arriving at the Rest Camp, I vomited behind a hedge. I considered it my peace offering to the local mosquitoes (it seemed to work. At least until I got back to Kampala, where I was bitten by a mosquito on my big toe. I’d never been bitten on a toe before, but it was bloomin’ annoying).

After taking on some water and some re-hydration stuff (at the behest of Emma) I felt much better.

Thankfully, the next few days – and indeed the rest of my time in Uganda – were much better. What’s more, with the bus journey behind me, I can now find it amusing and look at the funny aspects of it, like when people brought chickens on board, or when we spotted a cow in the back of a pick-up.

A cow in a pick-up. Enjoy





Uganda diary: Airplanes, Africa, and Parmesan legs

5 09 2010

Heathrow Terminal 5

My journey to Uganda started, rather ideally in terms of constructing an idealistic narrative, on a rather pleasant English evening on Sunday 15 August. It had been raining for weeks before, so I was fairly annoyed that it happened to be lovely weather just as I was going away for two weeks.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I left my seating on the plane to chance. I didn’t check in online. For one flight this was fine, for the other, it led to me breathing in someone else’s dead skin.

The first of my two flights took me from Manchester to Heathrow. I sat down at the end of a row of three. Not ideal, but at least I wasn’t stuck in the middle.

But then my luck changed. We were on an emergency door row, and there was nobody sat in the seats next to us. Then a stewardess asked: “Would you like to sit over there by the emergency door? We need to have a passenger to sit there. Don’t worry, you probably won’t need to do anything!”

I said yes, and I sat myself down before reading and memorising the emergency procedure, equipping myself with the knowledge of how, if the time came, I would open the emergency door and save myself and my fellow passengers.
Thankfully that disaster never happened. Unfortunately, another – albeit minor – one did.

Parmesan legs

I was sat next to the emergency door – I had my window seat, and I had a vast amount of legroom. This was excellent. Then another passenger asked the stewardess if he, too, could sit on the same row. She said yes. That was fine with me – there was still a seat between me and my new emergency exit-row comrade, so I had plenty of space.

We were halfway into the flight when I noticed the sunlight catching a plume of dust. This was the first time I’d noticed dust on the flight. It seemed to be coming from down and left of where I was looking.

My eyes followed the stream of dust before landing at the legs of my fellow passenger. It wasn’t dust I was breathing in. It was his dead skin.

I looked down with sufficient horror to subconsciously scrunch up my face in disgust, but it didn’t matter, my fellow passenger was too busy concentrating on ferociously scratching his flaking leg.

The amount of flakes of dead skin dropping onto his sock, shoe and floor (I’m not criticising him for having a skin condition, but the toilet on the plane was vacant) led me I instantly clutch my fist, and shove my hand against my mouth and nose. I hoped this would help limit the amount of dead skin I inhaled.

If you’re wondering what the dead skin looked like, it was as though someone had got about one and half heaped tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and sprinkled it on the floor. Remember that next time you have spag bol.

Eight hour flight – no parmesan legs to see. Or inhale

I got off the flight from Manchester feeling slightly ill, and considerably anxious about whom I’d sit next to on the flight. I did manage to take a look at Parmesan Legs’ ticket on the previous flight, and it didn’t say Entebbe, so I knew I wouldn’t be sat next to him.

But this didn’t mean I could relax – there was still the possibility I could sit next to someone with constantly flaking skin, or someone who smelt of BO, or who had a foul personality, or who kept needing the toilet every 15 minutes (I was on the end of the row of three, so this is why it would’ve been an issue).

Turns out I needn’t have worried. I ended up sitting next to the very lovely Amy who was travelling with about a dozen Northern Irish folk who were off to Uganda with the charity Abaana. Amy didn’t have flaky legs like my previous neighbour, so instead we talked for most of the flight. Oh, and she even gave me the leftovers from her Chicken Tikka Masala (after establishing that everyone around me had chosen Chicken Tikka Masala, I too chose this dish. This meant that if I burped, nobody would know it was me). So, the Manchester-Heathrow flight was awful, the Heathrow-Entebbe flight was excellent (if Dottie, one of the members of the Abaana group, is reading this, hello. I’m sure you’re delighted I’ve just mentioned Amy).

Hello Africa

After about seven hours of trying and failing to sleep, filling in questionnaires on the screen in front of me (four questionnaires to choose from, all the same), and talking, the sun started to find its way into the plane, bringing along some new scenery for all us British folk to look at.

Amy and I realised at this point that we were now in Africa. Neither of us had been to Africa before, so a mutual awareness that we were indeed in a completely different continent led to a few minutes’ awe, silence and thought.

Entebbe airport

After landing, we were transported by bus to the terminal (could’ve walked). Here, I spent a good 25 minutes standing in the wrong queues, wandering around and generally doing well to show myself off as a lost British tourist.

Fifty US dollars later, visa in hand, I waltzed through border control and retrieved my bag before meeting up with my cousin, Emma.

Entebbe to Kampala

The taxi journey from Entebbe to Kampala made me realise something. It was during this journey that I realised that any preconceptions, no matter how small, I had about Uganda – its society, geography and lifestyle – were to be completely shattered.

Journey from Entebbe to Kampala

An hour or so later we arrived at Emma’s house; a lovely little place.

That day we went, using a boda boda (the motorbikes which can be found even in the remotest areas which are basically taxis. No helmets, no safety gear, and, for most of my time in Uganda, riding three up. Scary at first, but fun), to a Belgian cafe, and generally chilled out.

The next two weeks would be filled with culture shocks (from the amusing to the horrific), cultural experiences, seeing some of the most majestic views and some of the grimmest, and acquiring a new understanding of the importance of drinking water on long bus journeys.

My hotel





Uganda diary: Preface II, smelly trainers

10 08 2010

On Friday 30 July, 2010, I went for a run. Not my normal type of run. Not a one mile run where I’ve got a stitch after ten enthusiastic strides. No, this was a run of sufficient distance that I could call it a run, and deem it to be classed as exercise. It was a 3.1 mile run (I checked on Google Maps).

I was very happy about this run. I was so happy that I tweeted about it:

I went for a run yesterday evening. Just wanted everyone to know. And so that if anyone Googles when I’ve been for a run, they’ll know. 11:01 PM Jul 31st via web *

My run took me along lots of local lanes, and I saw cows, sheep, goats and birds. It was lovely. I also ran through a field.

The grass was very long – taller than my knees. I have long legs, so this meant it was long grass.

Normally this would just lead to a plethora of midge bites. This is not the case when it’s raining though.

Before I entered the field my trainers were dry (that’s what Gore-Tex does for ye). When I left the field, my feet were soaked. But I was enjoying my run, and I carried on. If anything, the water was keeping my feet nice and cool. Lovely.

Then I got home, took off my trainers in the kitchen and continued with my evening (probably on Facebook).

The trainers stayed next to the door for two days before I picked them up again.

Everyone knows of the French cheese that is identifiable because it smells like smelly trainers. Well, my trainers smelt like the French cheese that smells like smelly trainers (there’s no need to compliment me on my descriptive skills).

This was problematic. I need the trainers to go to Uganda. They’re the only trainers I have which I can comfortably walk long distances in. More importantly, they’re likely to be my footwear of choice when flying from England to Uganda.

The problem

I could see my future – getting on the plane from Manchester to London, and detecting a slight, mildly pungent whiff emanating from my feet. Paranoia would set in; I’d think: “do I smell? Can other people smell my feet? Are they talking about me? Do they know that the smell of that cheese that smells like smelly trainers is actually coming from my trainers?”

And then I’d land at Heathrow, rush to the duty-free shop, buy some strong aftershave, dash to the toilet, and enthusiastically douse my trainers in Hugo Boss’s finest. Then I’d board my flight, the chance to further neutralise the odour now gone.

Eight and a half hour flight. Two hours in, my feet are getting warm, so I slip my trainers off. But this simple action, carried out simply for my own comfort, would result in a powerful infusion of smells. The Hugo Boss, normally quite pleasant when applied modestly, gives people migraines with its strength. The smelly trainer smell, on its own enough to induce vomit, combines with the Hugo Boss and causes people’s mouths to be overwhelmed with ulcers, boils and cold sores, their bare skin blistering as soon as it is touched by the potent eau de toilette/trainer vapour.

The solution

The solution involved hot water, a bucket, some washing liquid, and a lot of time to soak (I forgot about them for a few hours). Rather than explain in narrative form, I shall write it as if back at school in chemistry, and write a method. This way, should you ever get your trainers wet a fortnight (I let the trainers stagnate for over a week before taking any action) before you go to Uganda, you’ll know where to find an answer.

  1. Fill large bucket with hot water from tap. Add washing liquid (same you use to wash clothes).
  2. Stir in washing liquid.
  3. Take soles out of trainers.
  4. Place trainers and soles in bucket.
  5. Top up bucket with more hot water to ensure trainers are covered as much as possible.
  6. Leave for two hours (at this stage, I just forgot).
  7. Rinse trainers and soles under hot water.
  8. Re-fill bucket, and add trainers and soles again (you don’t want there to be bubbles from any remaining soap next time your feet get sweaty).
  9. As soon as you remember that your trainers are outside in a bucket, take them out of the bucket.
  10. Squeeze the trainers.
  11. Place on washing line or on window sill to drain.
  12. Put in tumble dryer on low heat for about 90 minutes.
  13. Return every 20 minutes to close tumble dryer door (my trainers kept flying into the door with such ferocity that the door was forced open).
  14. Once dry – or almost dry – remove trainers and leave them wherever you normally leave them.

What next?

If you’re expecting me to give you answer for “What next?” regarding the trainers, well, have you tried wearing them?

However, I’m talking about “What next?” with regards to going to Uganda. Well, I’m glad you asked.

I’m going to have a haircut.

*You can Google it here.





Buses – reasons to love them

9 12 2009

Why on earth would anyone love buses, you may ask. Very few people in the world love buses. In my previous post I said I hate buses. Now I’m saying I love buses. This love, though, is more like a guilty pleasure; I love to hate buses.

My reasons are simple, comprising a bit of Schadenfreude, and being nosy.

Disclaimer: Do not mistake this for saying I like buses themselves, I don’t. I’d much rather drive somewhere than suffer the great humanitarian injustice of having to sit in a mobile waiting room.

Buses are an excuse to grumble

See previous post.

Buses mean you can avoid tedious roads

Yes, sometimes driving can be a bit tedious. If you’re ever in Preston, drive from the roundabout at the north of the city (the roundabout which gives you the choice of choosing the M55, M6 or A6) and into the city. It’s a 30mph road. Fair enough, there are lots of houses, but it’s incredibly dull and tedious. It’s straight, so there’s not even a corner to entertain you. There’s a few traffic lights to break it up, but that’s it.

So, bus drivers can suffer the misery of a dull road while you suffer the misery of a wailing toddler whose neglectful, jewelry and sportswear-ridden mother LOLs at a text from her 28th boyfriend of the week (I’m not laughing out loud, you soulless bint).

Buses present a wide spectrum of society

Yes, buses allow you to see a whole variety of people. Sometimes they’re normal people, but sometimes they’re quite interesting. Sometimes you can find so much about them (yes, I know, you shouldn’t listen to other people’s conversations, but, when your attention can be taken away from the dandruff-filled mullet of the bloke in front, it’s a good idea). I shall provide some examples.

Bus journey example one

On this journey I learnt about two men. One was probably in his 40s, the other in his 70s. I shall give them fictional names to ease the storytelling. Man in his 40s shall hereby be referred to as Jeremiah. Man in his 70s shall hereby be referred to as Eugene.

Jeremiah

It turns out that Jeremiah had been a naughty man. He had been to see his girlfriend, and he’d had a bit to drink, and they’d had a bit of an argument. But you won’t believe this… naughty Jeremiah decided to drive home. But don’t worry, the British legal system thrust its gargantuan foot right into his once-proud balls.

While driving home, Jeremiah was caught by the police. Jeremiah claimed that it was just a random check. Funny that, isn’t it, that the police “randomly” pulled over a bloke who was drink-driving when he “was driving fine, like. Not dangerous or owt.” Yes, Jeremiah, what a coincidence. What a shame that the police are successfully taking drink-drivers off the road.

Eugene

Jeremiah told his story to Eugene. Now, Eugene was a cheeky old fellow. He had a girlfriend down South. And I found out he had a Rover 75. He was really proud of his Rover 75. He said it was really good on the motorway. He said that he bought it cheap from some local garage. He seemed proud of his Rover 75, and also the fact he had a girlfriend at the age of…well, probably 75.

Bus journey example two

There were two characters worth mentioning on this journey. We shall call them Augustus and Percy.

Augustus

Augustus got on the bus first. He was wearing a big, bright yellow fluorescent coat. Now, to be fair, he wasn’t completely there in his head. As he counted out his money for the bus driver, he kept repeating: “Corporation Street”.

He sat down in front of me. Then, out of his pocket, he brandished his handkerchief. It wasn’t a very nice handkerchief. It was a bit dark in places. I think Augustus had recently had a nose bleed.

Augustus then proceeded to blow and pick his nose until he deemed that the bloody stains had decreased in size enough to warrant him returning the handkerchief to his right pocket. For the rest of the bus journey, Augustus’s head frequently darted from left to right, but not by much – I’d guess no more than a 15 degree angle.

Percy

Next, Percy got on the bus. I remember when I was a child, I used to read about Percy the Park Keeper. This was not Percy the Park Keeper, though. This was Percy the Drug User (I assumed he was on drugs).

When the bus driver opened the door, Percy leapt onto the bus. He was happy to be here.

From his pocket, he wielded his bus pass in his right hand, which he then thrust towards the partition separating the bus driver from the bus passengers. Oh yes, Percy was enthusiastic about bus travel. Even more enthusiastic than Augustus and myself… put together!

After the bus driver accepted that Percy was allowed to travel with me, Augustus and a handful of others, Percy set about getting to his seat. He then energetically lunged towards his nearest vertical bar (those upright poles that are there for people to cling onto when walking through the bus).

From there he swung, like a gold medal-winning gymnastic orangutan, to the next upright bar, and then to the next, and then to the one after that.

But, there was only one pole left before he reached the one behind my seat (facing forwards, I was on the left side of the bus). Percy extended his left arm, grabbed the pole in front of me to the right, and swung around. Out of caution and fear, I ducked out of the potential collision course. I awaited the arrival of an impact, but I’d done enough to avoid Lancashire’s own whirling dervish.

In an unexpected change of tactics, Percy remained clung on to the pole he had grasped in his left hand, and swung around and dropped into a seat, behind and left of my own.

After that, Percy listened to some music. Very loudly. But I wasn’t too annoyed – I was unhurt, that was all that mattered while Percy was on board.

Conclusion

So there we have it, the reasons that make travelling on a bus less horrific. If you have any other reasons why you think I should like buses, please leave a comment.





Buses – reasons to hate them

6 12 2009

Buses are awful things. They’re dreadful. Be honest, you agree with me. But, at the same time, I love to hate them.

Now, I know I can’t make such a controversial, bold, never-heard-before statement like that without supporting my argument, so in this post I’m going to tell you why I hate buses.

Buses are slowBuses are so slow that, when picking your nose, your fingernail will grow in the time it takes the bus to accelerate

They take a very long time to get up to speed. In fact, I’d wager a bet that if I started to pick my nose when we left the bus stop, by the time we reach the speed limit my fingernail would have grown so much that I would, in fact, be hacking away at the lower segment of my brain. That’s how slow buses are.

Buses are often late

My most recent experience with getting a bus involved waiting for 15 minutes after the thing was supposed to arrive. I was not pleased. The traffic was light and free-flowing, but the bus was still late. I can only suspect that the driver was late in setting off. I believe he was doing one of the following:

  1. Finishing a cup of tea or coffee. Why didn’t he make and drink it earlier?
  2. Talking to a colleague. He will see them tomorrow, or some other time. I am paying for both their salaries, I expect my driver to be there when I expect.
  3. Oversleeping. He should buy an alarm clock.
  4. Checking traffic and weather conditions, listening to local radio traffic bulletins. Very responsible, I admire his thoughtfulness.
  5. On the toilet. Fair enough – there’s a limit to how much control you can have over bodily functions.

Buses are smelly

They can be a mixture of any or all of the following (in order of most commmon):

  • Stale smell (general stale smell or damp stale smell)
  • Exhaust fume smell
  • Burning smell (brakes and/or clutch)
  • Sweat smell
  • Flatulence smell

I’ve found that the smell of damp is the most frequent offender. A bit of regular fresh air and Fabreeze would do the trick.

Buses are cramped

I have long legs relative to my height (I’m a smidgen over six feet). But even so, I’d like to be able to sit down without having to spread my legs at a right-angle. As such, I can’t wear shorts for fear of being arrested for indecent exposure.

Rather than having to take up the space of two seats with my legs akimbo, I’d just like to be able to sit down, with my legs in any formation which I desire. Surely, that’s an international human right.

Buses are rarely well-driven

The driver of the bus I was in most recently was okay, but not brilliant. Granted, he knew the dimensions of his vehicle, so fit through some fairly tight spaces, and his judgment wasn’t too bad either (although, up for argument). But, he wasn’t smooth.

Smoothness is not something I associate bus drivers with. Approaching lights which had just turned red, did he gently get onto the brakes in good time, bringing the bus to a smoothly and gentle stop? No, he just kept on going at the same speed, then braked when it was absolutely necessary.

I did not appreciate this driving style. I paid £5.90 for my Dayrider, I wanted to see signs of good observation and planning, not laziness.

Conclusion

To conclude, buses are dreadful. How can anyone like buses? How can there be any positives whatsoever in travelling on a bus? Read ‘Buses – reasons to love them‘ to find out.