Hugh Wells

Joined May 2018Living in: Newport, United Kingdom
  • Day20

    Leaving

    November 4 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 79 °F

    The day dawned to say our goodbyes, which we weren’t looking forward to, least of all Nathaniel! Zach went off to the medical centre first thing, so we saw him off (Nathaniel would hardly let go of him, and to quote Zach, “It was almost cute”, which is praise indeed from an older brother!)

    The rest of us packed up quite leisurely, enjoyed a last morning at the lovely missions apartments, where Judith and the team had made us feel so very much ‘at home’. It’s hard to imagine a nicer place to leave Zach and although sad not to be coming home altogether, it’s an amazing opportunity for Zach, which he’s very much looking forward to. (By the end of day 1, he has already put in and taken out canulars and administered IV drips....hmmm, I’m pretty sure you need to be a bit more qualified for that in the UK!) We look forward to his ongoing Find penguins to see what else he gets ‘trained’ in (delivering a baby maybe?!).

    For us, it was dear Jose who drove us to Entebbe and although sad to say goodbye, we assured him we’d be back (on Nathaniel’s insistence!) and left him on his long drive back to Kenya. We realised we’d got the flight time wrong by an hour, so far from African timing we were actually 3 hours early for a flight that was then an hour delayed! Not the most exciting airport to spend an afternoon in, but we did enjoy some final Ugandan samosas at the cafeteria before finally taking off sometime after 4pm.

    We were ‘treated’ to 3 flights in 1 for the journey home, which for Matti would just add to the excitement and be worth booking just for the extra time in the air, whereas all I could think was why take 18 hours getting home, when a direct flight would take 8! Decided to embrace the moment though (thanks to my newfound almost enjoyment of flying for the purpose of this trip), and so followed a 36 minute flight to Rwanda, then a brief stop to let more people on, then a 6 and a half hour flight to Doha (slightly cutting it fine for the connection but got there in time in the end), then a final 7 hour stint to Heathrow.

    Now as I write from the air, we are about to start our descent, and have just been told it’s 8 degrees in London, hmmm could be interesting as I’m in a sleeveless summer dress and flip flops, alas with no ugg boots left in the car, which was an oversight. Have twiddled my way through most of my braids now (to keep me calm for take off and landing) so alas the African hair will not last until you get here, Dad. Zeph says it’s more hippie than African style now and to quote him, ‘We’d better just hope we don’t see anyone we know on the boat!’.

    So homeward bound we are and shortly coming in to land, how technology has come on that we can chat from the air!
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  • Day19

    Church Watoto Style

    November 3 in Uganda ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    Three church services today - the first was a local one near our guest house - apparently starting at 7.30, although we were told it was realistically 8am - we arrived at 8.10 to realise the pastor wasn’t there - after a walk we arrived at 8.30 for the real start! After a few songs we left for Watoto church - this one was much more on time - to the dot! - we were given seats at the front of a huge auditorium, where we had to stand up as we were introduced. A really good sermon and great worship. Jose enjoyed it, but saying it was more Muzungu style.

    Lunch was at a local African restaurant consisting of goat, beef, matoke, rice, yams... all very good. Then back to the guest house to relax in the beautiful garden. At about 6pm we heard lots of singing outside and we went to investigate to find another church service which we join for a bit, Zach proving popular as one of the children gave up holding Emma’s hand in favour of Zach’s, then she wanted to be picked up and promptly went to sleep in his arms!

    Another dinner of goat, packing then bed.
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  • Day18

    Hopping snacks

    November 2 in Uganda ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

    We slept the night at Ziwa lodge with the quite surreal experience of ‘guard rhinos’ outside our bedroom window and I woke several times to the sound of their snoring, actually very gentle and quiet, considering the size of them! Instead of being the huge, threatening animals that they can seem, when sleeping and just happily grazing in their own surroundings, they are incredibly calm and lovely to watch, I think they might now be my top of the big 5!

    We got up before 6, to make sure we didn’t miss the rhinos waking up, which was quite an experience, under the backdrop of an African sunrise. We all sat on the balcony, with the rhinos literally a stone’s throw away and watched them gradually wake up, all 11 of them! They seemed to have quite a morning routine, get up, eat a bit of grass and go the loo! Quite amusingly they all liked the same spot for the latter and seemed to use a makeshift rhino toilet, which resulted in a huge pile of rhino dung just beyond our garden path! We were about half an hour late for our planned 7am breakfast as we weren’t allowed to make the 30m walk across to the breakfast area due to rhino traffic ! Eventually we crossed with the assistance of a ranger, but we needn’t have worried as breakfast was on African timing !

    So our planned for departure time of 8 am turned into nearer 9, but we thought this was still allowing ample time to arrive back in Kampala for the rugby World Cup final at 12md our time... however that didn’t allow for Saturday Kampala traffic ! The proposed 2.5 hour return journey took roughly double that, partly because of going into town to collect Aggrey, who was taking us to a local rugby club to watch the match. We eventually arrived at said club for the second half of the second half.... not the best moment to be in Africa in a final losing to South Africa! Nathaniel and I nearly got landed on by someone falling back off their stool in jubilant enthusiasm ! Suffice to say we didn’t stay around long after the finish, preferring to get some lunch at a nearby shopping centre, in the rain.

    We had planned to go back to Suubi for some more cricket but it was a bit late in the day, so we had another visit to the craft market then headed back to the mission apartments, which felt somewhat like ‘coming home’ after our night away. We enjoyed a lovely dinner, as usual, with a starter of fried grasshoppers, as recommended by Judith from the apartments, who said she can eat a whole tub whilst driving along. They are generally sold at your car window along the edge of the road and as we’d sat so long in Kampala traffic, we decided it would be a good time to try them. The only slight snag was, we saw some cooked ones and decided to have some, but by the time we were ready to wave the £1 equivalent out the window, traffic had moved on. So the next time we saw a box of them we were quicker off the mark, but as the seller handed me the sandwich bag full of them, I quickly realised they weren’t quite ready to eat, as they were still hopping around, albeit with their legs having been removed ! Caleb quickly took them on as pets, but as they then sat for several hours in the hot van before we arrived back at the apartments, they were somewhat less alive, in spite of Nathaniel’s amazing efforts at CPR. Not to worry though, chef David was happy to still fry them up and they were actually quite edible, almost a bit like savoury popcorn... sort of!
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  • Day17

    Zeph's Ziwa Birthday

    November 1 in Uganda ⋅ ☁️ 79 °F

    Today started with a plan to leave early to get up to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary after Zeph had had some presents - no Kampala driving though on his 17th birthday. We avoided the worst of the Kampala traffic and got onto the Gulu road for a 3 hour drive. On arrival we had thought we had been booked into Ambuka lodge, however after being welcomed with drinks and cold flannels it transpired, much to the protestations of the welcoming team that we had actually been booked into Ziwa lodge. Eventually we arrived at our destination, a very basic lodge next to the headquarters and were warmly greeted by Winnie, who told us she was a Watoto child and had actually shared a house with Dennis!

    The Rhino sanctuary is located in 7,000 hectares of bush land. Rhinos were lost in Uganda in the 1970s and now through this programme they are being reintroduced into the wild. In addition to all the Rhinos there are many antelope, some leopards and many species of birds. After a quick lunch we went Rhino trekking. After a short drive we stopped and walked through some long grass to be see a mother and baby rhino ahead. They are docile when left alone and can only see around 30 metres, but can hear and smell a lot better. So we were told that they were unlikely to charge but if they did to dive behind a tree! Once we had left this pair we went to another group of 3 which we tracked on a loop until we found them back were we started next to the van!

    After supper we went on a night walk - a trek in the pitch dark amongst the noise of crickets and chicadas. Although we saw no leopards, we did see rabbits - which the guide seemed very excited about, us less so. We also saw some night birds and mole crickets which make a very loud noise.

    After about 3 hours we returned back to our lodge to find a group of 5 rhinos sleeping in our garden! We got to sleep quickly amongst the geckos on our walls!
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  • Day16

    Back to Suubi

    October 31 in Uganda ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    We had another good day at Suubi, starting in the Baby house, where Nathaniel spent more time playing with little Emmanuel and Caleb with Caleb! One of the nannies suggested we should bring Emmanuela home with us as she thought it was a bit unfair that I was the only girl and Emmanuela was so happy with Nathaniel!

    We ate our packed lunch (samosas) sitting on the staff balcony looking out over the most amazing view. We also visited the medical centre, where Zach will be based and met Dr Job, clearly in the middle of a clinic but carrying a baby outside to greet us! They have a dental surgery next door (alas no braces, apparently you have to travel ‘far’ for that!), but they did have some very advanced equipment which they demonstrated on Hugh, such that the patient has a tv screen where they can actually see all that the dentist was doing! The machine was a gift from Hong Kong. The only slight thing was the room was divided into 2 sections, just by a small screen, so a poor lady who was having some teeth extracted had all 6 of us in the same room, chatting about the wonders of the high tech machine, hopefully it provided her with a welcome distraction, if not there was also worship music playing , so she should have known great peace.

    We then went up to see Denis again and took a football and cricket stuff up on to the big football pitch where we played for a while and lots of the children joined in as they finished school.

    In the evening, David cooked us a lovely meal of goat and roasted pumpkin, then Judith the owner surprised us with a huge cake in honour of Zephie’s birthday tomorrow (5 layers of chocolate sponge, covered in cream and actually really light, unlike Ugandan cake would normally be, she had bought it from somewhere that bakes for muzungus). What amused the boys was that it was decorated with Happy Birthday Zach! I didn’t have the heart to say as she’d been so kind, but it’s going to seem a bit strange when Zach stays on next week and the Zach she thought, goes home! She’s a really easy character and will probably just be amused. She had us all laughing for the evening about how she loves fried grasshoppers, which are typical around this time of year. Hopefully we might get to taste some before we leave !
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  • Day15

    Suubi

    October 30 in Uganda ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    This morning we left the apartments at 8am (quite promptly in fact, as Watoto it seems do not operate quite so much on normal African timing, so we are trying to be good!). We headed straight to Suubi village, one of the main Watoto villages, about an hour out of Watoto (though probably only a few miles). Suubi is on a hill in a most stunning location with unbelievable views and surroundings. We had a tour round some of the classrooms, the on site goat farm (providing milk for the babies in Baby Watoto, as it is more nutritious and more easily digested), the church (where all 1400 or so children and young people worship every Sunday, and lead services with their music and dance skills). We met the pastor and spent some time chatting in the beautiful sunshine.

    The highlight for us all, especially the boys, was Baby Watoto, an amazing house, large enough to house 80 babies from pre-terms to around 2-3 years. It is also in a stunning location with amazing garden and facilities, including 2 little swimming pools for the children to play in, which is quite unusual as in Africa, most people are afraid of water and unable to swim, but they have recognised that for these young children, the water brings them great joy and they say they are trying to remove the negative memories the babies have usually arrived with, and replace them with positive experiences.

    Most of the babies come to them via the police or the hospitals, mainly because they have been abandoned at birth or worse. The unit has been able to house babies from as early as 28 weeks and often when doctors have thought there is no chance of survival. They had several sets of twins and have also had triplets and quads before! The stories are very moving. When the children reach 2 or 3 years, some are taken back into their biological families, if this is possible and many are taken to the main Watoto village, where they will become part of a family of 8 children and a Mama. There they will generally stay until they finish school, which can be anything from about 18 to 24, as in the Ugandan education system they repeat years until they can pass the year, so it is not unusual to be a year or 2 behind. Today we met Julie who told us her story and she is 17 but is in a class with some 15 and 16 year olds and others older than her. She would like to become a doctor one day, so she had a good chat with Zach!

    We had lunch with one of the families, a typical Ugandan meal of matoke, rice, chicken, cow peas and a delicious ground nut sauce, which Julie had been given a day off school to help prepare for us! It was here that we met Denis, a boy we started sponsoring just before Nathaniel was born, when a Watoto choir visited the island. He actually lives in another Watoto village in Gulu, several hours North, but they kindly arranged for him to come down for a couple of days. We have been (unsurprisingly) useless at writing to him over the years, but it was great to actually meet him, and introduce him to cricket, which we played with the children from the family we’d eaten with, and were then joined by lots of local children, as they all live in houses nearby. Nathaniel managed to hit the cricket ball inside a couple of the front doors, which was quite impressive as they’re quite well spaced out as well as onto a roof ! They don’t normally play cricket but picked it up incredibly quickly with their natural athletic prowess and were particularly impressive at pace bowling too!

    It was a relatively quick journey back to the apartments for a bit more garden cricket and a sit on the verandah, before going to enjoy David the chef’s delicious dinner.
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  • Day14

    Watoto

    October 29 in Uganda ⋅ ⛅ 63 °F

    After the traffic of last night we apprehensively left the guest house at 9,15 expecting the worse. However traffic was not too bad (compared with the previous day!). Our first appointment was an orientation session at the Watoto downtown church. Here they also run a project where abandoned women can make a living by sewing. The church was once a cinema but during the time of Idi Amin it was used as a torture chamber, however during the subsequent war the founder of Watoto, Gary Skinner, saw it and saw its potential... Watoto is church based and currently helps abandoned women and orphaned children, although its focus is shifting toward the former as thankfully there are less orphaned children nowadays.

    Once we had finished down town we went to the Bbira Children’s village. The village is beautifully kept and on site is a school, church and accommodation where around 8 children live with a ‘mother’. The village also has a medical centre (where Zach will be spending much of his time for the next 2 weeks) and also provides vocational training such as dress making, hairdressing and trades.

    Once we had finished our time at Bbira we went downtown, where we put our bartering skills into practice at the craft market. On our drive back we appreciated the Kampala traffic before getting back to the guest house to play some garden cricket! Dinner and then bed!
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  • Day13

    Kenya to Uganda

    October 28 in Uganda ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    We started of with an early morning waking up at 6:50 and had breakfast at 7:10 and met Wycliffe,Mary and there 3 boys to have breakfast.After planning to leave at 8 eventually left at 9:30 (African timing).It took us an hour and a half to get to the border in Busia and spent 2 hours there getting through customs it was an interesting 🤔.There were people in yellow jackets trying to get you to exchange money 💰 into Ugandan shillings but it wasn’t a great rate.You had to pay 20 bob to go to the toilet.Eventually we got through and had a 2 hour drive to Jinja where we stoped for some lunch.We then had another couple of hours to Kampala and then another couple of hours through Kampala due to heavy traffic which was very boring🙄🙄.Read more

  • Day12

    African timing!

    October 27 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 77 °F

    This Sunday we had planned to be at Fred and Esther’s church, which they planted at the beginning of this year in a town about half an hour away, called Bungoma. Fred told us that normally they meet for the service between 8 and 10am, but because we are here (and probably not as accustomed to being at church at 8am!), they would change the service to 10-12. This sounded a good idea and we even thought we might have time to call at Gospel Springs church after to say goodbye to some dear people, especially little Levi! We set off about 9.30, which would have got us to church in reasonable time, had it not been for the police pulling us over on the way. This in itself was not unusual, as they regularly pull people of the road (by quickly pushing a mobile set of road spikes in front of you, so you’re not tempted to keep driving), then usually they just have a quick chat with Jose, look in the van to greet us and send us on our way. On this occasion however, a larger than life policewoman was not content with just a greeting, nor was she pacified by the fact that we were on our way to church. In fact she was quite determined to find fault with something and got Jose out of the van with all his paperwork and kept him for some time. She then came to us through the window and asked Hugh and Zeph why they were not wearing seatbelts, (the rest of us had had the good sense to quickly put them on when we spotted the police!). Hugh tried to pull out the British sense of humour card and charm his way out, but getting round this formidable African lady was not going to prove that easy. He then tried to play the law abiding card and put his seatbelt on, but she told him off, saying it was too late for that and said she was going to arrest him and take him to the police station, and asked him, ‘Do you accept the charge?’. Even Zeph’s youthful charm had no effect, (‘I’ve had my seatbelt on for the journey, I just took it off when we pulled in, to have a little stretch’)! At this point we started to wonder whether we would ever get to church at all, as Jose was still at the roadside for quite some time under her interrogation. She was likely looking for a bribe to get us off the hook, but thanks to Jose’s calm and gentle nature and absolute integrity, she eventually let us on our way.

    So we eventually arrived at church about 10.30, but needn’t have worried about being late at all, as clearly the service was nowhere near starting, most people hadn’t arrived yet and Esther and some kind ladies were cooking lunch for everyone in huge pots under a tree behind the church. We were ushered to our seats anyway and a song called ‘Amen’ was playing on repeat. I started singing along and Zach asked if I knew it, I said I didn’t before but after a few runs through, it was getting quite familiar. (Little did we realise quite how many times through we would hear it and then subsequently actually sing along!)

    After a while of sitting, Zeph, Caleb and Nathaniel decided to venture back outside and have some running races with Marlon, and a little girl called Rachel who took a liking to them. Zach and I followed out a few minutes later, as Hugh had disappeared on a wander with Fred, and it didn’t seem that the start of the service was nigh! In the end the service was from about 11.30-2.30, which even by African standards was a far cry from 10-12! We then enjoyed a few minutes of beautiful sunshine whilst the church was prepared for lunch. Thankfully we had just got back inside the building when an almighty hail storm descended suddenly upon us. With hailstones bouncing around outside and a sound like gunshots on the corrugated iron building, it was a definite conversation-stopper!

    We were treated to a huge lunch of rice, ugali, meat, chapati and cabbage, with some 30 people being fed and more food to spare. The hail then stopped enough for Fred to announce that we would soon be starting our next service, which Hugh would be speaking at. The boys shot me an ‘I thought we were going home’ glance and I quickly whispered to Hugh that we really should get back to pack up in daylight ready for travelling to Uganda tomorrow. Hugh started his sermon explaining he would be brief as ‘my wife has said we need to pack, and in UK it is the wives who are the boss’.....hmmm, I’ll remember that when we’re home!

    We did manage to ‘wrap it up’ and be on our way by 4.30 and were sent off with some kind greetings and offers to return and visit people again. We took some mixed tea when back at Number 70 guesthouse to give us a bit of energy for packing up the van, then Fred and Esther came and joined us for dinner (more food!) and to say goodbye.
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  • Day11

    Hearts of Hospitality

    October 26 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 79 °F

    We had a leisurely Saturday breakfast, not quite toasted sourdough, but the now familiar Spanish eggs (omelette with onions and peppers), warm weetabix, bananas and African mixed tea. We then headed to a nearby bar with a TV screen which had opened early so we were able to watch the rugby, along with Jose and a small table of Kenyans, one clearly a fervent England supporter!

    After the match, we drove up to Lubinu where the church were holding a School of Leadership training day, led by Joseph from Zambia, whom we had met last night. We arrived at around 2.30pm, at which point Mary said they were just ‘finishing up’ with the training... which actually did finish 3 hours later! We learned a new thing about African time from Zambia, that there is ‘normal time’ and ‘airport time’, as the only time you actually need to be on time is for a flight, otherwise any time is fine! Thankfully we fit quite naturally into African time, being rather good at being late, usually keeping Jose (who has adopted European style punctuality) patiently waiting for some time.

    In any case, whilst Hugh and Zach sat in on the ‘tail end’ of the training, Zeph, Caleb and Nathaniel spent time with some 20 or so village children, who were not particularly from the school or church, but just turned up when they saw the van arrive! The boys successfully encouraged them all to help pick up litter, which they very obligingly did (only for it all to be thrown back into a small ditch beside the church, clearly the normal rubbish disposal site). They then played volleyball (which is actually quite tricky with a cricket training ball!), but in true Kenyan style, they quickly picked up this new sport and amused themselves for hours.

    Meanwhile I enjoyed a Saturday trip to the salon.... or rather the salon came to me in the shape of 3 ladies braiding my hair as i sat just outside the church front door watching the children play and enjoying listening to ‘Bless the Lord, oh my soul’, on a speaker which a couple of lads were playing. The braids seemed a good idea earlier, although now as I turn in, my hair is aching somewhat and I’m not entirely sure how my head will hit the pillow. Zeph suggested I take a paracetamol and Hugh thinks it’s just like braces, sore for the first few days then it’ll settle down. Oh well, the boys will no doubt think it a great improvement that I can now keep them informed on braid woes instead of brace updates!

    It’s hard to believe we arrived in Mumias a week ago, and the boys are so sad to be saying goodbye to the children from Gospel Springs church and Light Spring Academy, especially a family of 3 little boys, Elohim, Emmanual and Levi (who can usually be found on Zach’s shoulders!). Nathaniel says he actually just wants to stay here, to live I think! It has been such a joy to see old friends again from last time, like dear Christine, who is an amazing interpreter in the services, switching effortlessly between English, Kiswahili and mother tongue, depending on who she’s translating for. She welcomed and fed 11 of us for dinner this evening as well as her own very extended family, with a delicious meal of rice, ugali, liver, chicken and mashed potatoes with banana. It has been so humbling to be welcomed so warmly and looked after so generously by people who genuinely have so little and yet give so much. And even more so as they feel the privilege is theirs in doing the hosting. We could learn much from their hearts of hospitality.
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