Thumper…

January 7, 2018

Nepal day 2, Kathmandu

26/3/17
Went for a walk around the Thamel area again today, but there didn’t seem to be that much that we doubled up on from yesterday. Every now and then I saw a street or a sign I recognised from yesterday but it wasn’t often. Amazing that walking around the same area two days in a row didn’t see too many repeats. Either that or I wasn’t taking enough notice, which is possible, but I don’t think I’m that bad.

What's Pesting Pocketing?

What’s Pesting Pocketing?

The maze of streets and alleyways took us past tangles of electricity wires, strange english signs and everyday life of inner city Kathmandu residents. Maybe once, a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square would have been a highlight. But the place is overcrowded with hawkers, rubble and flying rats (pigeons). It looks uncared for and what our entrance fees (to a public square) are spent on remains to be seen, because it’s not restoration of the buildings or care of the area. There’s plenty of scaffolding up and plenty of props holding up walls, but other than that, it seems like not much is being done.

Flying rats!

Flying rats!

We saw the royal palace and there were some before and after photos of the buildings which showed the damage from the quake. There were definitely buildings you didn’t want to enter (and weren’t allowed to enter) and I found myself looking up to check out the building before I entered. Parts of the palace were at a fair angle, not sure whether they were going to try and restore it or not. To be fair, even before the earthquake damaged it, the area looked like it would have needed some attention. All you could really do at the palace was walk around the buildings – you weren’t actually able to enter any, possibly due to it being unsafe. They did have a few historical information boards on the outside and some passable public toilets.

Royal Palace walls, propped up

Royal Palace walls, propped up

We saw the Kumari Gar, a building (supposed to be a palace, but a poor palace) where the royal kumari of Kathmandu lives. You are allowed in the courtyard of the building, but not inside. It’s always interesting being in a crowd of people and not speaking the language. You really have no idea what is going on, so you tend to ignore a lot of it until something in English comes up. This time in the crowd there seemed to be some excitement building, but I really had no idea what. But then, the kumari girl actually came out! Wow, the effect on most people was interesting as they turned to look – well stare really – at her. I’m not sure what her significance is, apart from being revered as a Nepali goddess, but you can’t take photos of her and she’s pretty much a prisoner in the building and is not allowed to leave it. She is only young, perhaps 9 or 10 years old. Apparently she only comes out once a week, for a few seconds and we got to see her sad face. She really didn’t look at all happy, like somebody forced to be there, doing what she had to do out of duty rather than enjoyment. But really, what could be enjoyable about doing that job? You’re a child and can’t leave the building to go out and play, but would be able to hear the shouts and laughter of children in the streets nearby. You’re held up as a display to gawking tourists and worshippers. You’re separated from your family. If you do happen to get out of the building, you’re carried around in a procession (I may have read somewhere that she was evacuated during the earthquake). You know that once your time is up as Kumari girl, it’s unlikely that people will want to marry you, so you’re destined for a life of loneliness. Yep, all of that could explain the sad look.

Inside Kumari Gar

Inside Kumari Gar

Bodhnath stupa was next on the itinerary – big white and dominating the skyline in that area. Really, a quick wander was all that was needed there, but we had a bit more time, which included lunch in the Boudha Stupa Restaurant and a visit to an art studio. From the top of the restaurant you got a good view of the surrounding area and nearly all the rooftops had solar panels and water tanks. I was noticing that because that’s one thing we were looking at for Mike when we were in Uganda. Again there were plenty of flying rats in the area and worse still they’re encouraged to be there by all the people feeding them. This area is especially significant and draws a lot of worshippers, evidenced by the abundance of surrounding shops selling everything related to offerings and worship – candles, spices, prayer flags, flowers, bells etc.

For the offerings, Boudha Stupa

For the offerings, Boudha Stupa

Pashupatinath is the central hindu temple in Kathmandu and one of the hindu sacred sites. I don’t remember too much of the outer courts, except that there were some restoration works happening here and monkeys everywhere. On the main temple side of the river is where the cremations take place and while we were there, quite a few bodies were brought down for cremating. Interesting the rituals that they do – take the body to the edge of the Bagmati river and wash the feet, walk around it, bless it then take it to the site for cremating, a little further downstream. It’s a little weird watching it, even though we were a fair way away – on the opposite side of the river.
From there we headed back to the guest house, just in time for an evening meal.

Preparation for cremation

Preparation for cremation

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January 4, 2018

Onward travel – Uganda to Nepal

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 11:39 am
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23/3/17

Departure day was today. I packed up a heap of my stuff that I didn’t need in Nepal and got Dave to take it home with him.
The 11kg I checked in with contained 1.6 litres of water! A bit different to on the way over with just over 30kg (most of which was gifts).
Left Mike and Shirleys around 9am. That’s 5pm Melb time. I eventually arrived in Nepal 5.30pm the next day Nepal time, or 10.45pm melb time the next day. That’s a long time in transit!
The trip to the airport wasn’t too bad. There was quite a bit of traffic, meaning that it took as long as we expected to get to the airport. Stopped off for a bit of lunch just before the airport, around 12. We take the ease of getting around here in Australia for granted. To get into the shopping center, the car is stopped, passengers get out and walk through and the car is quickly searched for explosive devices. Pretty similar procedure to actually get into the airport grounds. It’s just what happens there, but I could imagine if you had to do it every time you visited a shopping center or designated “target” public space, you’d quickly get tired of it.
Eventually checked in at the airport, cleared customs easily and discovered free WiFi in the entebbe airport! Who’d have thought!

The flight through to Dubai was pretty good, spectacular sunset, arriving on time, 9.30pm Dubai time.
This was where Dave and I headed different ways, him to Melbourne and me to Nepal, I had to change from terminal 3 to terminal 1 at Dubai, flying out at 6am the next day. They couldn’t check my luggage the whole way through to Nepal, so I had to collect it at Dubai. Just before l went through customs, I asked at the info desk about it. He suggested trying the connections desk before going through customs, just in case.
The lady there said no worries, they’ll reroute my bag to Nepal and just collect it there… why would you have any doubts, airports never lose luggage…
Found a place to sleep, all was quiet except for the TV in the room and the continual airport announcements. I wasn’t sure I really slept, except that I was woken with a start by a voice "Excuse me, excuse me". The airport patrol man wanted to know whether I had a flight to catch and if not, he was going to take my passport and stamp it. Essentially I couldn’t live in the airport. What a shame, they are such exciting places… I was going to move soon but he suggested I spend another hour there when he found out my flight time.
From Dubai to Delhi was a bumpy flight, then a quick transfer for the last leg to Nepal. It was a little cloudy as I came in, you could just see some mountain tops poking out.
Waited for ages at the baggage belt for my bag. Finally gave up, giving a last walk past the belt in case my bag had fallen off. Over next to a pole a few meters away from the belt was a pile of unclaimed bags, one of which was mine! Who put it there and why, who knows, but good job Dubai airport!

I had a free airport transfer back to the hotel (Kathmandu Guesthouse) and by the time I made it out of the airport after waiting for my bag, everyone else was loaded and sitting waiting for me. It’s not too far to the city centre from the Kathmandu airport though, so within about 20-25mins, we were back at the hotel. Ended up eating in at the hotel restaurant as it was suggested it wasn’t that safe to go out at night by myself. They had some decent offerings at the restaurant, so I didn’t mind too much.

It was a great time in Uganda, but it’s amazing how a few short plane rides can transport you to an entirely different world, where the experiences of just a few hours ago seem so surreal and almost like a dream. A couple of days ago I was sitting face to face with a lion in an almost desert like environment. Now I’m in a completely different climate, flying near the highest mountain in the world, which is surrounded by snow.

January 3, 2018

Last day in Uganda

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 10:03 am
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22/3/17
Another day around Mikes land, which turned into a hive of activity around lunch time. Headed into Bombo on the back of Victor’s bike for a few extra supplies/gifts for home. First time I’d ever done shopping from the back of a motorbike – literally pull up next to the shop owner and do the deal while on the bike.
Was down in the garden weeding for a while, before Abbey and David, a couple of pastors from Kampala, came out for lunch to see us before we headed off.
Was good to have them for lunch, introduced them to an "Aussie" lunch of sandwiches… David had eaten sandwiches before, and introduced them to his family and they sometimes had them for lunch, but for Abbey this was his first time. Judging by the sandwich he made himself, I’m not sure he’ll run with the idea. He’d never tasted mustard before, but slathered his bread with it, then put another strange combination on top. To his credit he ate it all though!
As well as David and Abbey, around this time we also had the guys out whipper snipping and some other visitors checking something else out.
Nice last day.

January 2, 2018

Around Kampala

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 9:33 am
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21/3/17
Into Kampala today to check out a brick machine at the university.
Watched it in action, it only takes a couple of people to use it which makes it really useful for small sites, but can still produce up to 500 per day. Good view of Kampala from the university hill.
Visited a craft market for Dave to get some souvenirs of Uganda, but most I know already have plenty from uganda, so there was no shopping for me. Except that I found the elusive flags here, so finally I have Ugandan flags for my workmates!
From there lunch, more farm equipment, dentist, food shopping and a trip home through the traffic with an ice cream stop.

January 1, 2018

Around the farm – Uganda

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 9:18 am
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20/3/17

After the long day yesterday, we just had a quiet day around the farm, or land. Exciting things like washing, cooking, cleaning…
In the arvo I weeded the seed beds, unfortunately the Ugandan seeds probably didn’t come up, hopefully the assortment of vegetable seeds from Australia will do better.
Still hadn’t had much rain there, so I couldn’t help plant the 11kg of bean seeds I brought over.

December 31, 2017

Arua to Kampala

19th March – Arua to Kampala Uganda

We started off the day early, as we all went to different churches. I ended up at Dove Church. There is a good spirit in the churches at Arua and this one was no different. They began with a prayer meeting, was good to see them praying for different things, like church and government leaders, their city and nation. Didn’t end up finishing there until about 12, so missed going back to the other church as the plan was. Arua was good, it was a place I hadn’t been to in Uganda before and very different to the other parts. Much drier and more laid back.

Village of grass huts, not far from Arua

Village of grass huts, not far from Arua

Left Arua around 1pm for the trip back to Kampala, about 500kms, or around 8 hours. Stopped for lunch at Leosim Hotel in Nebbi, two of us ordered what was already meant to be ready, but the food still took about an hour to come. It was a late lunch, which was possibly a good thing seeing as we didn’t get home til late.

As we continued driving, the road runs through Murchison Falls National Park, where we got some glimpses of elephants near the river, a few deer and cob and plenty of birds later on. There were some really big flocks of some kind of birds, and then a convocation of eagles which is really unusual. At one point through the park, an elephant decided to cross the road in front of us. We were close to it, and at one point it turned, started flapping its ears, stamping it’s foot, waving its tail and started coming toward us. I was driving, the passengers may have been getting a little worried as they told me, no, instructed me in a panicked voice, to start reversing… I think what happened though, as we stopped for the elephant, somebody in our car popped out of the sunroof to take some photos. Cars and trucks they know, but now the car has a different shape and is a bit threatening. So that makes the elephant behavior a little more understandable. We noticed too late, that the oncoming truck was a long way back – although to be fair he could see the elephant a lot earlier than us. And when you think about it, when we drive in Australia, the biggest thing we have to deal with is kangaroos. In those instances, we drive up reasonably close to kangaroos (ie don’t stop 100m from it), because they’ll just keep jumping through and aren’t going to turn and come after you and attack your car in the way an elephant would.

Oops, here he comes, reverse!

Oops, here he comes, reverse!

A bit later on we came across some baboons, just near Karooma Falls. They were just playing on the road, so we had to slow down for them, but then one big one jumped on the bonnet and hitched a ride. First reaction was to wind up the windows. He turned and glared at me when I hit the brakes hard trying to shake him off. Just as we got to the bridge, he kind of turned around, as if to say thanks for the lift, then jumped off.

Don't try and get me off...

Don’t try and get me off…

The falls were pretty spectacular, just make sure you only take photos of the falls not the bridge. The army guys will stop you and ask you about it, or yell at you if they think you’re taking some of the bridge.
Continued on as it got dark, and we realised the cars headlights were aligned a little incorrectly making driving a little more difficult – and of course dark people walking along the edge of the road in the dark doesn’t help.
Eventually got back about 10pm to Mike and Shirley’s, the restaurant we tried to stop at for tea was closed, so it was a straight run through after that.

December 30, 2017

Murchison and beyond days 4-6 Arua

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 3:21 pm
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16 – 18th March 2017, Arua Uganda

These three days we held a 3 day conference for pastors and leaders in the Arua area, from 10am – 4pm each day. Over the three days we focused on churches, leadership, and our relationship with God.
Each day we were given lunch, traditional Ugandan, such as rice, posho, beans, g nut sauce and greens. Sometimes there was some meat or fish. To go with the lunch there was soda (soft drink). It wasn’t until the end of the conference they noticed we preferred water to soft drink, so for an offering on the Sunday we received about 6 crates of bottled water…
Overall the conference went well, with Mike, Dave and I taking it in turns to share at the sessions and in between talking to the people there, getting to know them, their churches and the ministries they led.

After lunch one day

After lunch one day

We were invited to speak at a rally they were having in Arua, but we ended up declining, so we had the evening to prepare for the next day and to enjoy a nice meal. The rallies they were holding were going for 36 days straight. Cafe Cosmo is quite good if you’re ever looking for somewhere to eat (pizza and Indian), even providing free WiFi, which is pretty rare in uganda. Our accommodation was the Royal Crane Resort in Arua, which was comfortable enough and gave us breakfast each morning.

Indian at Cafe Cosmo

Indian at Cafe Cosmo

The first day in Arua was absolutely freezing – well compared to what we were expecting and compared to Kampala. It was probably mid teens temp wise, which was cold when none of us came prepared with warm clothes!

One afternoon we took a drive around the center of Arua – I saw an abattoir, unfortunately didn’t get any pics, and took a walk through the markets. Mostly they had just food, plastic goods or kitchen utensils for sale. Hard to see how they could make a living out of what they were selling when so many were selling the same things right next to each other. It must be pretty hard going with the drought, as the produce didn’t look that good in many places.

The market of Arua

The market of Arua

December 29, 2017

Murchison and beyond day 3 – to Arua

15/3/2017 Murchison Falls to Arua, Uganda
Up early this morning to go on safari through Murchison. On our checklist was elephant, giraffe, lion and some birds – Ugandan Crane at least. Our super wish list included leopard. The best animal sightings are on the opposite side of the river to where we were staying, so we had to catch the ferry over.

First light on the ferry

First light on the ferry

We didn’t realise you had to buy a ferry ticket beforehand (not at the ferry), so we had to wait til that opened before we could queue for the ferry. Thankfully we still got on the first ferry, which meant we had maximum time on our safari. (So here’s a tip: buy a ferry ticket the day before so you can go down to the ferry loading area and queue immediately.)
On the other side, we picked up a guide who jumps in the car with his gun. Good to know we’ll be safe, but best not to make him angry!

Don't make me angry!

Don’t make me angry either!

Started slowly, enjoying the show of a few animals. We were driving ourselves and our guide, who was sitting in the back kept saying keep going, keep going. We sacked Mike from driving for the time being, so he could concentrate on taking photos, rather than trying to drive and take photos. We installed Dave as the driver and that worked a little better as he was concentrating on driving, not taking photos…
“Stop”, “a little further”, “just 10m”, “forward”, “back”, “stop there”, “drive”, “go go go”, “left”, “right”, “slow”, “faster”, “semi rally” – his instructions coming thick and fast as we looked to cross animals off our list, as well as are whatever else we could.

Uganda Cob with the lake in the background

Uganda Cob with the lake in the background

It’s pretty amazing seeing wild animals like elephants and giraffes in their native habitat. He was good at spotting them, which was helpful for us.

The best part though was the lion. Slightly off road, we hesitantly followed another group to the back of a tree, wondering whether Dave had got the instructions from our guide right. We were all silent as we slowly crept forward, wondering what we were about to see. We stopped when the guide said stop and sitting to our right, quietly under the branches, oblivious to the fuss, was a lion. We were two metres from the lion, I had the window down, and it felt like you could reach out and touch him. Don’t worry, there was still an awesome respect for the lion – we were in his territory, but thankfully the car was between us and him (even if the window was down). Plus we had a guide with a gun. He just sat there, enjoying the shade. We just sat there looking at him, until the guide said “let’s go, forward”. Who said you don’t see lions in Uganda?

The lion!  Up close!

The lion! Up close!

That lion was definitely the highlight. We saw more giraffes, elephants, plenty of Uganda cob, water buffalo, hippos, a group of Uganda cranes, a jackal (rare sighting), other animals and a couple more lions and lionesses – again ‘lion’ around under a tree. We missed a leopard, but we saw so much, you can’t really complain. The north side of the river within the park was much more lush and green than the south side of the park, with some vegetation and water holes dotted around the place, which is why the animals hang around there I guess. We headed back to the ferry area and by the time we dropped the guide off, and exited the park, we had about 10 minutes to spare on our 24 hour pass.

Some trees in the park

Some trees in the park

As we were leaving the park, there were a few elephants just outside the park, so we enjoyed what may be our last elephant view (it wasn’t).
From there we headed towards Arua, the holiday part of our journey over for a while.
Lunch was at the Leosim hotel in Nebbi, typical Ugandan, (I had no success in finding ice cream for us), then we continued on. The land to the north of the national park is very different to the south of Uganda. It is very dry and clearly they were in a drought. Around Arua is also very hilly and has many former volcanoes. Found some ice cream in Arua and met Usaf who took us to our accommodation. Good day.

Mud huts near Nebbi

Mud huts near Nebbi

December 27, 2017

Murchison and beyond day 2

14/3/17 Murchison Falls Area, Uganda
Started the day by visiting a small fishing village, where the shores of lake Albert were bustling with people doing their washing, heading out to fish (or just getting back), swimming, gathering things etc. There were also girls here down by the water, collecting water in 20l jerry cans, then putting these full cans on their head and carrying them back to the houses, perhaps 600-700m away. Not sure that I could carry them by themselves, let alone on my head. Heading toward the next village, the road took us through areas clearly drought affected. Dry, dusty and sparse areas lacking in vegetation wherever the livestock called home. Despite the hardships, if you took a few moments to have a chat to the people, you were rewarded with friendly smiles and greetings.

Fishing Boats at Wanseko area

Fishing Boats at Wanseko area

The next fishing village was Wanseko, a place where the ferry left for Panyimur, on the other side of the lake, a short ferry ride, or a long drive round through the park. Enjoyed a few minutes there where the locals took an interest in us from a distance, then headed for the park entrance, passing a landscape dotted with thatched roof mud brick huts. These look more weather proof than the old tin buildings also found in the town area. It gives you an idea of the poverty these people dwell in, because these tin building wouldn’t even pass for garden sheds in Australia.

Posing for photos after collecting water

Posing for photos after collecting water

Just before the park entrance we stopped at Bakers Lodge Resort for the others to have coffee. The resort was at the higher end of the scale, so the only thing most backpackers (or those on a tight budget) would do there is have coffee. It was nice and relaxing though and in general regardless of whether you’re there to stay or there to just stop in and have a look/drink, you are always looked after. Perhaps the best thing about the lodge was the wildlife sighting board. The board indicated that lions had been seen in the park that day. That’s what I was here to see!

There's been a lion sighting! Bakers Lodge animal sighting board

There’s been a lion sighting! Bakers Lodge animal sighting board

The national parks in Uganda are a little different to Australia. You have a 24hr pass only, each 24hrs costs about $40USD per person, plus you pay for the car to come in. It’s not cheap. Go over those 24hrs by 1 minute and you’re up for another days payment.
We entered around 12. Not enough time to get to the top of the falls, especially as we had three different opinions from the park rangers as to how far away they actually were, so we went to our accommodation, the cheapest resort in the park, Red Chilli, and had some lunch.

The world maps are still there!

The world maps are still there!

The boat cruise up the nile river was meant to leave at 2pm. Annoyingly it didn’t leave then and it was some europeans they waited about 20 mins for. No excuse from them, as they were in the same resort as us, and had just been sitting around doing nothing.
The cruise was ok, although compared to other times there weren’t a big lot of animals. Saw some birds, elephants, hippos and a few crocs. The falls itself are fairly spectacular. The entire white nile river is pushed through a 7m gap in rocks. The noise is huge, the force of the water enormous.

Hippo

Hippo

After we got back from the cruise, we took off for the top of the falls. We expected to be coming back in the dark and with a storm brewing, we had to hurry. We just got to the top of the falls, about a 40 minute drive from where the boat leaves when the rain came down! We looked at the top still, as it is far more spectacular than seeing it from the river. Got absolutely drowned, as it rained properly there. Those 15 minutes spent waiting for the others at the boat could have been spent better at the top of the falls – and we would have had a chance to see it before it rained.
Anyway, it was still pretty spectacular. Headed back to the lodge for the night, got there just after dark and without collecting any animals which was a bonus (any animals hit and killed cop a huge USD fine).

This pillar at the top of the falls belonged to a bridge that didn't last long

This pillar at the top of the falls belonged to a bridge that didn’t last long

December 5, 2017

Uganda – Week 1 Kampala Area

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 8:22 pm
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5/3/17 – 11/3/17 – Uganda

Earlier in the year two of us from my church headed to Uganda with the aim of spending time teaching and training pastors. The build up to leaving for this trip was pretty hectic. Right at the end of summer and the finals season in tennis, plus it was relatively short notice. As well as that, there were lessons to prepare for the teaching that would be happening in Uganda and the strategic purchasing and delivery of gifts… Just like Australia, there are some things that you can bring in and some that you can’t. Given that I was visiting some Australians in Uganda, some treats from home are always welcome. Think salmon, kabana, cheese, chocolate, lamb… the list went on. As long as they were cryovaced (vacuum sealed), they were ok to bring in and would make the distance in good shape – that meant still able to be consumed at the end! If you’re interested in taking stuff on a plane (checked of course) that is normally cold, go for the gel ice packs which stay frozen/cold for a day or two and then a thermal blanket. The ice packs were still cold when I unwrapped them about 36 hours later. Also, stuff that is vacuumed sealed would probably survive ok as is without the icepacks for a short time.

The Emirates flight on an A380 was very nice. Great debate surrounded what the little pull out button thing on the back of the seat was for. Turns out it was a coat hook type thing. Seems entirely useless to be honest, as anything hanging hangs down and gets in your way.

It's a coat hook!

It’s a coat hook!

After arriving in Entebbe Monday arvo around 2pm, we had some lunch at the pizza place near the airport, then went home via the centre of Kampala to get Dave a local sim card so he could use the phone glued to his hand. Meant we didnt get back to Mike and Shirley’s till maybe 10pm, thanks to all the traffic.

Ponds for the fish

Ponds for the fish

Tuesday was a free day, had a tour of Mike’s land in the morning and went in to Bombo and had a quick look around at the town in the arvo. The land has come along since my first visit to his land a few years ago (maybe 2012). There’s goats and bees, some ponds for some fish (good job Shirley), vegetable plots and the trees planted all those years ago and have started to develop. Of course there was also a house now, which was the first time I’d actually seen the house there. (And since I’ve returned home there’s also some running water added now!!)

One of the many goats!

One of the many goats!

Wednesday we had a CRC conference in the morning where we talked about the values of the CRC for those who will be joining and were interested in joining. Did a whiteboard session with the guys there, they really enjoyed that. Mostly people just get up and talk at them. In the arvo Dave went one way, while I went another, to David’s church. Left around 8 in the morning, I got home around 9.45 pm, pretty long day.

Thursday we went to David’s church in the morning where we talked about pastoral care with the leaders there. In the arvo we came home for about an hour before I headed to Sulas church and Dave to David’s church. Another late night.

David's church

David’s church

Friday was the same, but the morning was up in Luweero, a country town north of Kampala. That was a nice friendly place up there, a lot more relaxed being out of the city center.

Luweero

Luweero

Met some interesting people, mostly pastors at the morning meetings, but that was the intention. They seemed to have responded well to the messages, but the fruit is really in the outworking.

Today (Saturday) is a bit of a rest day, decided to stay home rather than go to Jinja, tomorrow is church in the morning, lunch with a pastor who has planted a few churches, then to a meeting in Kampala – so another long day ahead.

Then a few days free while we travel to Arua in the far north.

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