Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gorillas in the disappearing mist

Around four months ago I responded to an email from my head, that read something along the lines of 'Wow! Sounds great! I'd be interested, but I'll still be at work'.

Fast forward and I'm just back from two weeks in Uganda thanks to a very understanding boss in my other school and the British Council.

We had to spend at least four days at our partner school in Mbarara teaching and learning. We had criteria and guidelines to follow which saw me teaching a class on peace and conflict as well as imparting some of our music and songs from the UK in reciprocation for being shown some of their choir's repertoire. 
My travelling companion (one of our senior school maths teachers) had carried out around 10lbs worth of unifix type blocks in order to teach maths with a practical bias. These proved (whilst we were there) to be very popular.  

One of the things we needed to note were the resources that we can try to raise funds for back in the UK. Much other their teaching is done via rote learning, chalk and talk and not much individual thought or practical work. Some of the things we felt were pretty essential in the younger end of the school are sandpaper letters and numerals, pencil grips and pencil sharpeners. There is also a need for more unifix so that each class has a set.

We were hosted for the week by the director of the school and her family. This wonderful family gave us the most amazing week. We met their family and friends and were treated like princesses.

 Once the first week was up, we had booked on a safari and a gorilla trek. The latter was going to be the highlight of the trip to me. I have been slightly obsessed with gorillas ever since being entranced by Dian Fossey's book and the film, Gorillas in the Mist.

To cut a long story short, we ended up at Bwindi via an amazing trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Bwindi is home to a large number of the 900 or so Gorillas that live within the Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan divisions of the forest. Bwindi is also the place of a community hospital where a good friend of mine worked for about five years.

On the eve of our tracking experience, we went for  walk and I mentioned to Mel (my partner in crime) about Paul and Vicky's time at Bwindi and how it'd be nice to have a look around the hospital and put a picture to the blog I read at the time. She did suggest we could try to fit it in, but I declined, too excited about the primates.

Not 12 hours later I found myself within the confines of Bwindi Community Hospital as a patient. Not exactly how I wanted things to turn out.
A nasty bout of food poisoning and severe dehydration had me testing out the facilities to the full. Our driver and Mel had to carry me into the hospital as for me, the world was rather blurry and very yellow. Miles of distance doesn't make for an easy, calming phonecall to your husband when you're in a rural African hospital with an, at the time, undiagnosed illness. However, the support of the doctors at Bwindi, my friend Paul and Mel, I think Mr Beehive held it all together pretty well (until the airport ;-)  )

Sadly, the gorillas (for me) were a no go. It is highly important, regardless of how well one might feel, that the gorillas are not subjected to unfavourable germs. Their population is sensitive enough without us humans creating more reasons for their demise.

Now back on UK soil, feeling slightly more philosophical than I did at the time, I can almost laugh about my naive comments the night before. The care I received at Bwindi was second to none and I am very grateful to all the staff there keeping me in the picture as much as they could, ensuring that my friends and family back home were kept up to date with developments and getting me better as fast as they did.

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go back another time. Here are a few photos:

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