Uganda: 1 Car Crash, 1 Senegalese Drummer, 7 Thieves and Dozens of Children

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Uganda never fails to be eventful. This is my third visit to Uganda (Leckie’s second) as we have an ongoing relationship with a charity here. We always find that so much happens that we need to journal just to process everything, and this time is proving no different.

1 Car Crash

Our first event occurred in the taxi from the airport. In heavy traffic, the likes of which can only be experienced in Africa, we heard a thump. 3 grown men on a motorbike had just run into us, and judging by the speed with which they weaved off through the traffic, they had caused some damage. Luckily everyone involved was OK, but as suspected, the rear bumper of the car was not. I felt pretty sorry for the driver who seemed quite upset.

1 Senegalese Drummer

We had landed on a Saturday so decided to relax in a hostel and come out to the project on Monday. Aside from being the only hostel in town, Red Chilli was pretty awesome. They have a huge swimming pool and a great bar. Things like food and beer are much more expensive than local bars, but we were happy to hang out and talk to other travellers and locals.

One guy we meet from Senegal has a local drumming band that is so cool that I just had to share:

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The pool at Red Chilli

7 Thieves

Monday rolled around quickly and then it was time to head out to the project site. Having been there before, we offered to find our own way. With a bit of luck, we quickly found a shared taxi going or way… or so we thought.

I was allocated a front seat with one other passenger and the driver, while Leckie was squeezed into a row with 2 other passengers and the conductor. There were a couple of others in the very back. The passenger beside me made polite conversation and then said that the driver had asked him to adjust his passenger side mirror. He tried to lean over me, made out that my bag was in the way on my lap and put it onto the floor at my feet. I had noticed him looking at my bag and become suspicious, so I was already on high alert when he ‘dropped’ a jacket over my bag and leaned across. He adjusted the mirror with one hand while opening my bag with the other. I felt his hand and saw that his arm was covered and managed to grab it quickly. He had opened my bag, but not succeeded in getting anything out. As I sat next to him doing a silent inventory of my bag contents he said, “Sorry Mamma”.

Realising now that we were in a car with 7 men who intended to rob us, I tried not to make a scene, instead warning Leckie to hold his bag tight. Turning to make this warning I could see that one of the men in the back had opened his newspaper over Leckie’s lap. It turned out that after a friendly conversation, the man next to him pretended to drop some coins, and after positioning his newspaper over Leckie’s leg tried to take his phone from his pocket. At the same time, the guy on the other side of Leckie had tried to open his bag. He noticed both and stopped them. Realising that they were rumbled, they pulled into a service station, kicked us and our bags out and sped off.

“That guy just tried to pick pocket me. I caught him,” I said to Leckie in disbelief. We thought about what to do. We could take their number plate, but we had no desire to deal with Ugandan police. We could shout ‘thief’ and mob justice would likely ensue, but they don’t really deserve to die for attempted theft. In the end we just swore for a bit, dusted ourselves off and got in another taxi.

Dozens of Children

1 more share taxi and a motorbike taxi later we were at the project site. The ‘project’ is a primary school called Jolly Mercy Learning Centre. It’s run by a charity called CALM Africa. They do all manner of things within the local community, including social work, small business loans, vocation training, etc.

Last time we visited, our friends, family and colleagues were kind enough to send some of their hard earned money with us, which we donated in a variety of ways. Leckie made an awesome video about it:

We’ll be focussing our time here on making follow up visits to loan and donation recipients, helping CALM with their newsletter and doing some individual reading with the children.

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A sign at Jolly Mercy

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