Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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4/8/19: so wonderful to be in Uganda again

Here I am in Uganda!  Such a fantastic place to be.  Arrived on Monday having forgotten how horrible flying is - well, fun the first few times, but the grind of security, long queues, hanging around, being herded from one place to another.  Travel is very definitely a means to an end as far as I'm concerned, fantastic to be in other places but the process leaves a great deal to be desired....

And visiting the Kampala Christian Orphanage!  The children are fantastic, know in general terms the kind of stories which mean that children end up living in orphanages (not necessarily because both birth parents have passed away) but don't know - and think it's best not to know - any details of the individual children who come across as happy, friendly, loving children who love to play and show every sign of enjoying the extra attention I'm able to give them, occasionally getting into scraps with each other.  Do they think about their families, about what life could be like?  I don't know, certainly there's no obvious sign that they do.  One of the things I've learnt over the years is not to assume that we can what anybody, of any age, is actually feeling and thinking, I for one am quite capable of putting up a front quite different to what's going on inside.

I've been putting Facebook posts up with some pictures, my full picture collection, duplicates deleted but still needing some sorting, can be found here.  If I may, a couple of random reflections at this point.

Firstly, language.  There is no one language which goes right across Uganda except for English, I've yet to meet any Ugandans for whom English is their first language (although I did know people in Dar es Salaam who were bringing their children up as first language English speakers).  Lugandan is spoken across much of the country but by no means the entirety, and is what is spoken here.  I've not yet worked out how similar Lugandan is to Swahili but there is certainly some crossover, 'mzee' means 'old person' in both languages, similarly 'kuku' (chicken) and 'mzungu' means 'whilte person'.  And in both languages a literal translation and back of eg. 8.30am is 'hour two and half', the numbering starting from 6am and 6pm as it does in the Bible around the crucifixion account.

(Parenthetical thought: I've now lost count of the number of times I've said, mostly to childen at the orphanage, yes, I am an mzungu, but my name is Geoff, please call me Geoff, not mzungu.  Imagine doing something similar in the UK, the offence caused would be extraordinary!  But I accept my status as a bit of an oddity here...  End of parenthetical thought.)

So children locally speak Lugandan as their mother tongue to the best of my knowledge, I'm not aware of more local languages but it's very possible, particularly outside of Luwero Town where I'm staying, that they exist.  Then they start to go to school - and are expected to speak, and learn, in English, with teachers who may not be 100% fluent English speakers themselves.  So what they learn in the classroom does not always transfer very easily outside of the classroom.

I find it really difficult to imagine what it would be like to have to work and study in a language other than my mother tongue.  But that is the reality for many people across the world and is certainly the case here.  When I first met the children they really could not understand what I was saying at all, which caused some interesting difficulties both ways.  So, I asked them their name and initially they did not understand me.  When they did understand, they said, quietly and quickly, 'My name is..;.' and then reeled off the entirety of their name, not necessarily with given name first.  So it's difficult to hear, and then difficult to disentangle which bit of their full name I should call them by.

Now that they've seen me for several days certainly the older ones are starting to understand that the rather strange sounds coming out of my mouth are, in fact, the same language which they themselves speak in the classroom.  Very pleased yesterday when a boy asked me, when I was in the staffroom area, for a football.  Yes, making progress!  Look forward to further progress soon, so good to be able to stay a little while in order to get over some of the initial communication difficulties.

Enjoying getting to know children across the 3-10 age range, some of the younger ones seem to regard me as a bit of a climbing frame, certainly the idea that the travel bag I'm wearing under my shirt with passport etc. was a secret was blown pretty quickly.  They've also discovered how to change the time on my watch ('sawa' in Lugandan which, in Swahili, is the word for 'all right'), I can only hope that this is helping them tell the time in due course, it certainly isn't helping me!  The veins on the back of my hand, hairs on my arm, glasses, base ball cap, water bottle are all subject to the same scrutiny.  Very pleased that I already have the next prescription for glasses made up, the pair I'm wearing is the old one and that is how it is to continue.  Acutely aware that I'm here for only a short time, but what am I supposed to do?  Any advice gratefully received.

Have also made contact with St Mark's Anglican Cathedral, Luwero.  Was told that the service would start at 0830 but actually it started at about 0920 so gave me plenty of time to get to know some of the children attending.  I can't think I've ever appreciated a smart phone more than I did this morning.  Firstly, I realised that people were bringing their own Bibles and I didn't have one with me.  No problem, few button presses later and I've downloaded the Kindle simulator app and a Bible.  Where do you come from? Can show them on Google maps.  How comes you told me you live in England and him you live in the UK?  Ah, let me show you on a map.  Don't understand a word, use an app which translates English to and from Lugandan, not 100% but pretty good.  Is this (actually Baughurst) where the world ends?  No, let me show you a picture of a globe.

Looking forward to going back tomorrow, we have various games going on to get ready for the sports day on Saturday in the gaps, thin rope is wonderful, facilitating skipping, obstacles races, three legged races and a variation on sack races.  Fantastic!  To finish, here we are chilling.  Bye for now, back in touch soon, do send me any questions I can address in future blog posts!


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