June 2002

Well between travelling back, the World Cup and driving across a flowing river June had a few exciting moments as well!
The first day of the month of June found me in the unlikely situation of being up early on a Saturday morning. There must have been a valid reason I hear you say... And yes! I had to get up along with the millions of others who sat around the living rooms of Ireland to witness the start of Ireland's hopes for the World Cup. Cameroon could only manage a draw, fierce excitement in Irish style. Had a lovely fry (thanks Emer & Joe) and headed on tour of Dublin friends. Strolled in the sun in Phoenix Park with Ciara (fab lunch thanks!) and yet again felt that there is nowhere in the world that can beat Ireland (when it's not raining!!!) I believe it hasn't stopped since I left, sorry!! Afternoon tea with Michael and barbeque with Gary that evening.
Honestly I seemed to be eating all day, when I was at home. No wonder on my return everyone was so quick to tell me that I was after getting so white and so fat! Both intended to be complements of course. Can you imagine being delighted to be white and fat!! I was told that my mother had obviously given me plenty of MILK while I was home. If they only knew that it was the chocolate. But to be honest I was in shock when I ordered a coke at home to realize that it is only 200ml. Here a small soda is 300ml and a large 500ml. I could easily drink two large sodas a day and not think twice, where as there isn't a chance I could drink five cokes at home. No such thing as a diet drink here though so I'll just have to put up with the calories.
Back to the barbeque!! Sr. Yvonne (from Australia) here in Lodwar had been in Ireland for the month of April and I had taken her mobile phone for the duration of my stay. By mistake on the previous Monday I had phoned a number she had recorded as I bounced a baby on my lap and he called back. Mortified I apologized as I had no idea who this guy was, Yvonne's cousin apparently. Low and behold at the barbie I started chatting to this Australian (loved the place would go back in the morning!!) After about three minutes chat I realized that this was in fact the man whom I had spoken to only five days before! Totally amazed by how small my world seems to be, I took out my phone to phone his to confirm that I wasn't going mad! Funny old world!! Turns out Pete lives in the house so a photo was taken to show Yvonne who knew before I ever arrived home; as news had gotten to Australia and Kenya before I got back.
Before leaving Dublin spent time in my old flat (just like home!!) with Helen and caught up with the gossip, so good to have so many great friends! Headed off to Cork with my sister Aisling and half her life in the back of the car, fond memories of summer holidays from college. En route we got a flat and I changed my first tyre. Previously I have been the damsel in distress but I felt very independent and competent after this liberating experience not to mention covered in dirt and livid with the many cars that beeped and people who whistled as I worked away on the side of the dual carriageway.
The next few days were in turmoil as the Pilots strike caused havoc with the bank holiday weekend flights. I still hoped to fly on Tuesday so packed and enjoyed the Queen's 50th Anniversary Celebrations trying not to panic. Panic set in on Monday and I went to change my ticket. A wonderful and patient Aerlingus employee was fabulous and changed everything, I didn't realize how fab until later on!! Only one day delay it seems! But it did mean that I got to see the Ireland v Germany game in Cork with my family and Katia (my brother's German girlfriend) and the atmosphere that cannot be duplicated anywhere in the world. Irish fans are really the best!! In the real world, my poor brother Seamus started his final exams (Leaving Certificate!) that very day. God love him, a tough few weeks ahead but he seemed totally unperturbed by it.
More changes the next day meant that I got to the airport three days in a row and finally left on Thursday with two heavy bags and a bike in a box (no questions asked). When I got to Amsterdam the KLM lady was very pleasant. It wasn't until I boarded that I realized that I had YET AGAIN!! been given Business Class (no wonder she was nice to me). What are the chances of this poor missionary ticket holder getting Business Class both ways?? Thrilled, I ordered dinner from the menu and read all the newspapers like I was used to travelling in this style (in a t-shirt and jeans). The joy of it all soon died when I was left bagless and bikeless for the next three days! Oh well you can't have everything. Heather picked me up from the airport (Bless Her). Travelled to Kitale, half way home, early the next morning and onto Lodwar by Matatu on Sunday. Didn't get the front seat but moved a 6'7" man to the middle seat so I could sit by the window. Felt a bit bad but it would have been worse for him if I had been sick. The last hour of the journey was not so bad as we got a flat and while the tyre was being changed a friend from Kakuma was passing and I joined them. At this stage all bags had arrived but had been sent up on two vehicles separately.
The first few days back were spent pottering around trying to get the bike put back into one piece and getting back into the swing of work. World Cup fever had really taken over and the place was riddled with footballs made up of plastic bags wrapped around each other and tied with string. I thought this was ingenious till I discovered that in order to get some buoyancy they put a blown up condom in the middle. No doubt these are found by the kids, and so undoubtedly previously used. It just doesn't bear thinking about! On Wednesday I ran around trying to find somewhere that would show the Irish match. What with Cameroon playing at the same time there wasn't a hope that I was going to get my way, so I sat among the crowd of almost 100 in front of a 20" (that's inch not foot!) screen, wearing my green, white and orange wig, jumping up and down and waving my flag every time an inset on the screen (2 inches square) showed a goal by Ireland. Doom and gloom all over Lodwar as Cameroon is out and I stay almost alone now to watch the re-run of the Irish v Saudi Arabia. We're through to the next round!
Not only did Ireland get a boost that day but so did I. I got a CAR. Well let's not go that far but I do have a 16 year old suziki at my disposal. Once I park on a hill and carry around five litres of water with me I'll be fine. At the moment I won't go anywhere I'm not prepared to walk home from but I am getting more confident. The independence is magnificent, but I may yet revert back to the bike as it is swallowing petrol and there are weekly repairs required it seems, we'll see. I am trying to get the funds to do it up a bit so I can travel without fear but there are so many other worthy needs in the Diocese that my car is not very high on the priority list but you never know. In theory I am to visit adult education classes in this and as they are out in the bush I really need more reliability. But this was only the start as now that I am seen to be driving I was able to borrow one of the Hilux pick-ups to go to my next workshop. I didn't know myself.
All set to go to Lokichoggio, the rains in Uganda arrive in the form of a flowing river from 6am on the morning of departure. Sure it hadn't even rained here so I wasn't worried it couldn't last that long. At around 9.30 I went down to find waves where the road once was. Being the good Samaritan and now the owner of a vehicle I gave some lads a lift back from the river... only to be robbed! A hard lesson! They just took the money out of my bag. Bigger fool me, but I was only trying to help them I didn't expect them to want anymore. Either way I went to report the crime (having had 20 witnesses at least as the lads got out of the car!!) The police asked me "so what do you think we should do?" I couldn't believe it!! To top it off he asked the girl from Justice and Peace all these questions about me in Kiswahili and wrote the report in ENGLISH!! How rude!! I was livid but to no avail.
At three a lorry crossed so I went home packed and got ready to set out. Having seen many an overturned lorry I was a bit nervous but was assured that it was no big deal just stay in second gear and your laughing.(I wasn't laughing at any point I might add.) I got to the river, still up to the knees of those brave enough to cross, and asked the assistance of a kind driver who had just come from the other side. All extra tips gratefully accepted. He recommended I look straight ahead at all times and that I put the Hilux in 4WD. "How do you do that?" I found myself asking like a real bimbo!! I got my first four wheel drive lesson at the side of this swiftly flowing river. I was already six hours behind schedule so I got in and headed of only to panic at the edge as if I was jumping in. On lookers cheered and asked for lifts to various destinations, I closed the window (thought about closing my eyes) and headed off, into second gear and fought the current all the way across the 50 or so metres. When I got to the other side it was like driving through the finish line of a big race, people jumping out everywhere, big cheers and I was sure I'd knock someone down. Hands shaking like a leaf and having prayed like I never did before I got out of the car to change the tyres back to 2WD only to stop right next to the Bishop who was waiting on the other side of the river (no intention of crossing!!) I tried to look as calm as possible but I'm sure I was visibly shaking.
With all danger behind I headed north and stayed in Kakuma over night as darkness was falling and insecure as the road is in daylight, night driving is out of the question. At the crack of dawn I headed off and arrived "un-shot" in Loki at 9am. A big and enthusiastic crowd of 22 teachers turned up and worked through the day to get the most out of this now delayed workshop. Partied as always in Loki and ready to head back south on Sunday. Timing was all important as the Irish game against Spain could not be missed. Clubmilks (thanks Edel!), which had travelled from Ireland, had to be taken from one fridge to another for the duration of the game lest they be ruined. They were fine and are now well devoured!! More Green, wigs and flags but a few more Irish to support my madness. Not our day but sure it's only a game and THEY COULDN'T BEAT US ON THE PITCH!! I then became a German fan as, if they won we could say that the winners couldn't beat us! The Africans couldn't understand my rationale! They tend to back the winner and are so fickle they change sides after a goal is scored. First comes an African team. Next the team with the most black players. Finally anyone who didn't kick out any team they had previously supported. No loyalty really!! I guess if Kenya had been playing it would have been different. Huge interest all the same with every game available on video in our local video store (all videos are copies and brutal quality). If I had a video machine, I think I'd get that Ireland v Spain game. Honestly I got such a kick out of the Spanish going off-side they would do a great close up and boy aren't they a good looking team??!! Well when I no longer get to look at Tony Cascarino's bum I have to look at something! Sure you'd be all day waiting for a score.
Mid-month I had a fall off my mountain bike due to the axle being unsteady and when the cross bar moved the wheel never followed it. Though my wounds healed I was more upset that all the locals (whom I have been living next to for nine months!!) did was laugh. I was more wounded by their reaction than the big cut on my elbow. Bruised and battered I carried on!
I started Turkana language classes and I am the worst student I just haven't had a second to spare to study so I am very slow, I keep saying I'll try to speak it but just a few words here and there is all I have managed. I know it will improve as I work with the Adult Literacy classes as they have no English so I will have no choice.
Got my first letter since January (thanks Andrea!). It was an aerogram so I figure they must have thought that there was nothing worth stealing inside. I hope this is a sign of things to come, mind you I have received nothing since but sure what harm! I have been kept alive by the e-mails that I am now getting on a regular basis! Thank God, long may it last!!
Had mid term in late June and headed up to Lokichoggio for a few days to just get away and got to say goodbye to Paula (from Concern) who has gone to Afganastan. Brave girl but they are lucky to get her, she will be sadly missed in Loki. Rosa also left mid month back to Holland. The transience here is very difficult. You make friends and just when you think... "I'll be fine"... your new friend moves on and you have to start again.
The last few days of the month were spent in Lokitaung Parish. This can only be described as the top of a mountain, in the middle of nowhere!!! I have no idea why anyone ever though of living there but I drove on a tar road for one hour, a half tar road for two hours and sand and rock road for the next three hours, straight up hill for the last twenty minutes. I have paid good money over the years to do a far less interesting off road experience and at that I was the passenger NOT the driver! What a great experience! (okay I wouldn't do it every weekend, I was stressed out of my mind!) I followed the administrator of the medical center up there so I felt safe enough and they were on call when I got my flat so can't complain. I picked up 9 teachers on the way and in total had nineteen. These teachers are so cut off that they have NEVER had a workshop before. They were so grateful that I had made the effort that it made the drive home manageable.
What with it being World Cup final day I had to leave at the crack of dawn. The same kind gentleman offered to escort me down but on a shorter route, following the lake. I genuinely thought, well it can't be worse that the trip up..WRONG!! The first 45 mins was through a gourge. I drove along the river bed at high speed trying to keep the other car in sight as there was no real road per se, or track marks for that matter. But the locals who were accompanying me some of the way seemed very sure when I came to a PURE CLIFF FACE that this 15 feet at a 60 degree angle of solid rock was in fact the road. I sat at the bottom going "NO WAY!!" But the car ahead drove up and I duly followed. Low and behold at the top there was in fact a road going across the top. Fine till I had to come down the other side!! I thought not only was I going to die but all my passengers were coming with me. The views were spectacular and any other countries would have tourists fighting to get a look but I was so stressed I couldn't even take my eyes from the stones looking for a clue. I felt like Hansel and Grettel and someone had eaten the bread crumb trail that had been left!! Once I hit sand the next four hours of the safari seemed like a walk in the park! I picked up Fr. Charles and his motorbike on the way (he had a flat and has to travel 100km to get it fixed!!)
Front row seats reserved by a bottle of coke allowed me to witness Brazil take the cup in an entertaining match which not only brought the World Cup to an end but the month of June also.
Tune in next month for more desert adventures and passing friends. Hope all is well where ever you're sending time these days, whether it is summer or winter where you are. Here it's just HOT! As always! But no sand storms for a while so I won't complain.
Love always the driver in the desert!