Tuesday, 13 January 2009

First four weeks

It's exactly 4 weeks now since I left the UK and I'm gradually getting used to life here in Masindi. The heat is incredible at the moment, it's just so dry, which means there is lots of dust. I leave my house in the mornings feeling relatively fresh, showered and cool, but by the time I arrive at the hotel 10 minutes later I'm ready for another shower! I've also been working along side the chefs in the kitchen quite a bit of late and I seem to be constantly dripping in sweat, which is not pleasant! It'll get cooler come February/March time, so I'm told, but the rains come then as well, so instead of the orange dust there'll be lots of orange mud. I'm also getting used to having almost permantly dirty feet, as all of the roads, other than the main ones are dirt tracks, so by the end of the day my feet are very fetching shade of orange!
Not long after I arrived I bought a mobile internet connection, lots of people have them here - you top up the sim card in it with about £30 a month and it gives you unlimited use. It's great having access in my own home and being able to keep in contact with everyone.
Work at the hotel is going well so far and the staff seem pleased that I'm working along side them. They are all really pleasant and very welcoming and so far seem very receptive to new ideas and improvements. I've been mostly in the kitchen, mainly organising the layout of the kitchen and the equipment and also trying very hard to get all the staff to be consistent in their cooking, hygiene etc. The head chef, Vincent, started working at the hotel the same time as me, so that has been useful. There is still a very LONG way to go, but so far so good. Once I've managed to get the kitchen working a bit better, I want to spend some time focusing on the other departments, such as the restaurant - the staff there are all really nice, but would benefit from some training.

I had a fantastic time at Murchison Falls - I went the weekend after New Year. Unfortunately, we got a puncture on the way there and another one on the way back - this is quite common as the roads are very bad and most of them have no proper surface. We stayed a lovely lodge, The Nile Safari Lodge, which is managed by a guy from Northamptonshire. The resort is made up of small wooden 'bandas' (huts) or tents - I had a tent but it wasn't at all like any tent I've stayed in before! It was really luxorious, it was basically a big tarpaulin on a raised wooden platform, covered with a wooden roof and a veranda overlooking the Nile. The tent was attached to a wooden hut that was the bathroom from which you walked out onto an out-door shower. The restaurant was a big round roofed but virtually wall-less hut, which allowed lots of very unwelcomed (on my part) visitors, such as bats, to fly around while you're having dinner! But the sound of the hippos splashing around in the river below and the monkeys in the tamarind tree made up for it. I did a boat trip up the Victoria Nile to Murchison Falls, and saw lots of animals on the banks and in the water -hippos, wart hogs, elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo and some fantastic birds. I also did an early morning game drive with Suliaman, who's the driver at the hotel, he knows the park really well so was a really good guide. We saw lots more elephants, some in quite big herds, giraffes, lots of oribi (small, very cute antelope-type animals). The park is quite untouched and there are no restrictions about where you can go, so the animals just roam where ever they want.

I have lots more photos but they take an age to upload, so will try to add some more on my next posting.

I went to Kampala last week for 2 nights with Maggie and Sallie - I needed to stock up on household supplies and food (Masindi is quite limited retail-wise), I also wanted to buy a fridge. Sallie had lots of shopping to do for the hotel, most of which is done in supermarkets as there is only one cash & carry in Kampala and it's product range is quite small. The 2 days were very busy, but fortunately I got most of the things I needed to make my house feel more like home, though I spent way over my VSO allow of £145.00 a month! Large electrical goods are quite expensive here and then they have to be transported to Masindi, which means further costs, but I would find it hard living without a fridge especially in these temperatures. I paid for the fridge but as yet have not had it delivered, it's quite a complicated system - I paid Godfrey (the driver Sallie uses in Kampala) to hire a pickup (also paid him for his time) to collect the fridge from the store and bring it to a lorry park somewhere in the city, it is then loaded (more money) onto a lorry bound (fingers crossed) for Masindi, where I'll pay for delivery and unloading!! It was supposed to arrive Tuesday, but there's been no sign of it (wed today) - I have been told that it can take up to a week, though where it actually is during that time is anyone's guess! I'm assured this is all quite normal and perfectly safe.....I'll let you know in my next posting.

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