In summer 2007, I went to Uganda on behalf of Softpower Education and Leeds RAG (Raise and Give), which I was the Co-ordinator at the time, to help build schools and refurbish education centres.
It was my first serious long travel trip and I’m pleased to have done it to Uganda in the heart of Africa! Most people will tell you it’s either USA or Australia but for me, it’ll always be Africa.
Throughout my time there, I kept a travel journal, so I will be posting on here my experiences then! I will go into more detail about Softpower Education and Leeds RAG in the near future but for now, sit back, relax and happy reading!
Uganda Project Day #1 – 13th June 2007
A very pleasant journey with Hull Trains on my way down from my hometown to Gatwick Airport in the UK. Very comfy seats, smooth ride, refreshing drinks, stunning views of the sunny English countryside. What made it even better was that I was sat next to a bloke who had the same name as me! When I introduced myself as Ed, he suddenly slapped his head against his forehead and remarked that his name was Ed as well! What made it even funnier that the discarded newspaper in front of us had an article written by an Ed! It truly was Ed-cellent! After a good chat, I found he was due to be 17, doing his A levels at a boarding school in Cambridge and he asked for my advice on History and Geography modules.
After parting at King’s Cross, I took a short walk to Thameslink Station, which is a short walk away, and sat waiting in the Eastenders’ style station for the 15:40 train to Gatwick Airport. I say Eastenders’ because it was all gloomy and the Kat Slater lookalike gave me a filthy look when she caught me stopping myself laughing after she dowsed herself in a fizzy drink when opening it. Oh, how immature things that can make you smile!
While I was waiting at the station. my mind was still reeling from the traumatic experience on the stationary train at Hull when after standing around for a few quiet minutes, Dad cleared his throat and scratched the back of his head and proceeded to loudly tell me to wear condoms if ‘I ever messed around’ in Uganda. My face dropped in horror and out of the corner of my eye I could see people sniggering. Bye, Dad!
One thing I was looking forward to Uganda was how un-PC the country was going to be, I mean I saw the ticketman’s proper title is Revenue Protection Inspector. Sigh. The country’s going crazy!
Arriving in Gatwick, I took a speedy transit from the South to the North Terminal, to which I bumped into one of my group mates going to volunteer with, Hal! We went into the Airport restaurant with her dad for coffee while we waited for the others and no sooner than we walked in, we bumped into others…and I suddenly realised I was the only boy with 9 girls…my very own harem! Don’t think they appreciated that when I said this was to be the case!
I suddenly got very excited to be going to Uganda and pretty soon my enthusiasm infected the others and we were all bouncing around! Until I reached security control..
They discovered gaffa tape in my hand luggage. Oh dear. I forgot to pack it in my backpack after closing the top and thought I’d just toss it in my hand luggage. The security guard gave me a right ticking off for having gaffa tape..and I was still clueless to why it was a big deal. He said to me that it could be used to tie people up…to which I replied without thinking, that he can be assured that I wasn’t into that extreme sexual side of things! Oops!
We finally got on the Emirates plane and it is fantastic! You got your own pillow and blanket and the meals were delish! The best yet, we had our own personal TV so you could choose what you wanted to watch. Mel and I were sat together having a right laugh at the films, pillow fights, walks on the plane and squeezing wet towels over each other…it must be love(!)
As I settled into my sleeping position, I flicked through the channels and saw the map showing where the plane was and I bolted upright! We are over Iraq?! I peered through the window in the dark and I couldn’t see anything…should I be worried?
Day #2 – 14th June 2007
By 6am in the morning, I still hadn’t slept properly, being a 6ft plus bloke on the plane is really at a disadvantage in cramped spaces. I’m always mystified how people can sleep upright in the seated position. Tried covering myself with the blanket, chilled out to music but it didn’t work..argh! I would have got to sleep I would think if dawn didn’t arrive and then because it was dawn, the lights on the plane flickered on!
What an unbelievable odyessey from Dubai to Entebbe (Capital of Uganda)! You’ve guessed it, I’ve still had little sleep! Here how the night went..
We arrived at Dubai Aiport and we basked in the glorious yet dusty sunshine. Ann-Marie and I threw out our arms in the air at the opportunity..however thatw as short-lived as we were forced to go into the dry airconditioned airport, which is a shopper’s paradise! Gold, Frankenstein and even myrrh could be found here! The harem went to the ladies to refresh themselves…they stunk…so did I… whereas I busied myself trying to to find out where the gate was for our next plane. The records showed that not only we would be flying to Entebbe but to Addias Abba (Capital of Ethiopia). We hoped we would go to Entebbe first!
But that was put out of our minds when we encountered miles and miles of travelators! Reached to the gate and bumped into more of our group in the form of Dan and Orla! I immediately shook hands with Dan as it was certainly an experience travelling with a harem! The greetings weree short-lived as we found from Dan and Orla that yes indeed we would be stopping at Addias Abba first…noooooo!
Boarding the plane, I was struck how much better the stewardesses were compared to the last flightbut it didn;t make up for the fact that all of us were individually spread out on the plane. The overzealous boarding pass person weren’t impressed with us motley crew! Of course, Sod’s Law follows everywhere I go, an annoying person in front reclining to the max missing my nose and an annoying person at the back banging on my seat to stop me from reclining even the barest fraction. Tried to get some sleep but it was far too cramped. Sure enough, the film would cheer me up…music and lyrics it was called. Hugh Grant’s acting must have seriously gone downhill. Oh well!
We arrived in Ethiopia about 11.30am Ugandan time and it was a scene to behold when we were landing as we had the view on our tvs. Everyone on the plane took a huge deep breath as we saw 2 very large birds flying directly towards us and then seemingly miss us. Gulp! After we landed, we were told that the flight to Entebbe was delayed due to an engineering fault…surprise surprise, one of the birds flew into one of the engines! As we waited IN the plane for 3 and a half hours, yes 3 and a half hours, we talked to each other and met some ugandan locals. Some of us snuck into Club Class to spread ourselves out and play cards but we ultimately got discovered and chased out back into Economy. But it did certainly get warm inside as the temperatures went scorching outside! Luckily, we worked our charms on the stewardesses and they let us stand at the open doorway so we got some air..one foot step away from setting ground on Ethiopia! So near, yet so far!
Finally, we set off amid to cheers and popping of ice cold cans of coke and I finally caught some sleep! 3 hours later, I woke up to preparations to land in Entebbe! I peeked out of my blanket and Erin turned round to me and mouthed ‘we’re nearly there!’ triumphantly! Everyone had grins on their faces and the plane touched down on the land of Uganda and suddenly people clapped…we’re here!
See More: Uganda Project Series
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