The Long Goodbye

Both Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett woke up very sad today, knowing that it was to be their last day in Uganda. We were up very early and started the none-too-exciting job of packing our suitcases. Luckily, having arrived with 6 cases, full to bursting point with the generous donations from our schools, the job of packing was much easier as we were only returning with one case each!

It was nice, on our final morning, to be able to share breakfast with Joseph, whom we had promised to treat to this! He had kept avoiding it all week (we think because he was worried that it was coming at an additional cost to us), so we virtually had to force him to sit down and join us – only finally convincing him when we said we had ‘bargained’ for a very good price! Having a busy schedule, we checked out as quickly as possible and hit the road, giving Abdul a warm welcome as we arrived at the car. Today was the day that we were delivering the musical instruments to Mr Walyaula’s school; unfortunately, all four of us and our luggage would not fit in the car alongside the instruments, so Joseph and Abdul decided to drop us at school and return to collect the full car load of instruments, whilst we were at school.

We arrived at Mr Walyaula’s school for 8.15am, telling everyone how sad we were that it was to be our last day in Uganda but equally reflecting on how grateful we were to be spending it with everyone there! We presented Mr Walyaula with one final gift from us; a nice Parker pen to help him with his work! He said that he had heard of Parker pens before and was so grateful to receive one.

After a quick Facetime call to Mrs Hollings, from St Julian’s, the time came for the assembly. The children all emerged from their classrooms, to the sound of the bell. Once the children had all gathered under the mango trees (using its low hanging branches for shelter), P2 came to the front of the assembled pupils and began to sing for us. Following some beautiful singing, the children began to demonstrate some of the games they play in school to help with their learning; they showed us a ‘dodgeball’ game, ‘pick up stones’ and even a jump rope game. Whilst the children were playing these games, their teacher was explaining how each helped with a different element of learning. The final activity they showed us was some skipping! The whole school began to chant a song which went along with the skipping taking place. Being no stranger to a good skip, Mr Prewett jumped in and had a go – trying to be a little too flamboyant, he only lasted a few skips before hitting the rope, much to the delight of all those watching! Up then stepped Mr Mansfield (feeling he had to redeem himself in some way for all the sporting embarrassments he had suffered this week). Despite his height, he managed to get through the whole song, with the school erupting in raucous cheers as he completed his skip triumphantly! Mr Prewett, not being able to be outdone, joined Mr Mansfield in the rope to see if we could both try together. Despite a couple of false starts, on our third attempt, we nearly managed to get through the whole song – something which went down very well with everyone watching! It was lucky the skipping stopped when it did as, despite joining in with much sport this week, we were both struggling for fitness, having achy legs and no breath left in our lungs!

The presentation continued as a range of groups came out to the front to perform a variety of poems and songs and even did some acting. It was really humbling to think how much preparation must have gone into organising this for us and it was lovely to sit back and enjoy all the things the children were showing us. After a little while, the presentation neared its end and Joseph and Abdul had now arrived with the instruments. We were able to present the school with them on the field. This caused much excitement as the children tried to gather around to get a closer look at the full set of instruments. Mr Walyaula thanked our schools for all of their support, not just with the instruments but with the entire collection of resources we had been able to provide his school with, this week. He then invited us to speak. Worrying he might crack again, Mr Prewett gave a short speech about how thankful we were to have met everyone, how sad we were to be leaving and how we would, one day, love to come back and see how they were getting on with the instruments. Mr Mansfield followed by saying he was looking forward to receiving some photos from when they entered competitions with the instruments. He also thanked them for their warm welcomes and their kind words before requesting they join in with one of our favourite Ugandan songs; “Join me….I will sing hosanna…”, he announced, as the school burst into singing and dancing to join us for one final song.

Sad to be leaving, it was now clear that Joseph was getting a little worried about time. He impressed upon us the need to leave soon for fear of traffic on the way to the airport. You know you must be running late when even a Ugandan starts to worry about time! This led us to say some further goodbyes, thanking all of the staff, talking with some of the children (in particular, Ibrahim, who has been such an amazing boy to meet, having helped us paint and been so kind to us when we have been at the school) and then waving goodbye as we set off in the car. Luckily at this point, our emotions had been spent and we held it together a little. Knowing that Mr Walyaula was joining us for the journey to the airport probably helped with this somewhat!

From school, we headed to Joseph’s to say goodbye to his family. They have been so special to us this week. They have been warm, kind, welcoming and incredibly generous. We knew this bit would be tough! We arrived at Joseph’s house to a warm welcome from Jeremiah, who rushed out and jumped into Mr Mansfield’s arms. With it being his third birthday, he was extra excited! Joseph quickly wanted to show us his barber shop, which is next door to his home. We almost convinced Mr Mansfield to get a special Ugandan haircut but, fearing people back home might not like a Nike tick shaved into the side of his head, he politely declined.

As it was Jeremiah’s birthday, we had arranged for a gift to be delivered to his house…a goat! He was delighted with this and will ‘rear’ it, using it for milk and maybe to eventually breed. He enjoyed posing for some pictures with the goat, being much more confident around the tethered animal than either Mr Mansfield or Mr Prewett! We also enjoyed being able to give him some presents we had wrapped up for him before we left Wales; something Jacinta was very grateful for. Jeremiah seemed more interested in running around wearing Mr Mansfield’s shoes, rather than with his birthday presents. It was amazing to be able to say one final goodbye to this wonderful family and it was not long before we were all in tears before leaving! (Although we were still not allowed to leave without a little food – this time, some ‘Popo’ – which tasted like melon!).

Off we set on the long journey to Entebbe. We were leaving at about midday for an 11.25pm flight; this might seem excessive but given the unpredictable traffic in Kampala (heightened by a festival taking place this weekend), Joseph and Abdul still seemed a little worried about making it on time! Although slightly unnerving, we were happy to be making seemingly good progress as the group all went a little quiet. Mr Prewett spent much of the first part of the journey catching up on yesterday’s blog writing (whilst Mr Mansfield enjoyed catching up on some sleep!). Mr Mansfield (between naps), woke up to notice some tears rolling down Mr Prewett’s cheeks, as he thought about Joseph’s project with Chance Nabweya. A little squeeze on the shoulder was enough to acknowledge this, without making either burst into uncontrollable sobbing!

Stopping at Jinja for a quick snack (some Pringles and some ice-cream), Abdul was very happy with the progress we were making. This feeling, however, did not last too long as we began to hit large amounts of traffic on the approach to Kampala. After a couple of stand stills (and a shortcut through some people’s gardens!), Abdul again appeared concerned for time. This led him to deploy all of his driving ‘tactics’, including playing chicken with the cars on the opposite side of the road, and driving on the pavements to undertake the queues of traffic!

Having been stuck in a relatively small space for a prolonged period, Mr Mansfield needed to take some action to stretch his legs. Thinking it would be a good idea, he rolled down the window and stretched his long legs out of it! Although this increased his levels of comfort, it did get many inquisitive looks from those passing on Boda-bodas – we assumed it was a strange sight, seeing two ‘Muzungu’ legs, sticking out of a car window!

His feet also then began to draw unwanted attention, as people on the roadside began offering us an assortment of good, from shoes to flip flops, maps to bangles and even (to Joseph and Mr Prewett’s delight) a ‘Tummy trimmer’. Having taken on a lot of additional food this week, both have been ‘feeling the pinch’ but Mr Mansfield has been much more conscious of this, so it seemed very apt that he was offered this on the return-leg home!

With traffic at a standstill, it seemed to take an eternity to get through Kampala, with not a great deal happening with the traffic for long periods before suddenly, and seemingly for no real reason, we were able to move again.

We finally got through the busiest part of the city and stopped the other side for a quick break. Mr Mansfield disappeared off to get some chips which allowed the others an opportunity to play a little trick on him… Abdul moved the car around the corner into, what we thought, was a well-hidden spot. Unfortunately, our best laid plans were scuppered as Mr Mansfield exited the cafe and immediately spotted Mr Prewett’s phone, which was filming him, sticking out of the car window. “You are too sharp for us!”, Joseph laughed.

Mr Mansfield seems to be taking a ‘Hansel and Gretel’ approach to our trip, having left many of his possessions around various points in Uganda, perhaps so if he got into any trouble, he could get back to the airport. We received an email earlier in the week from the ‘J Residence Hotel’, with whom we had stayed in Entebbe, to say that he had left his grey hooded jumper there. This led to another slight detour, although we did enjoy a catch up with the hotel manager who found this slightly funny!

We were now not too far from the airport and our sadness grew as we noticed planes in the distance, signaling our impending arrival at Entebbe airport. One thing we had forgotten from our previous visit, was that they make all passengers get out of the car at the entrance, to walk through security scanners (to check for weapons and other ‘unwanted’ items, we were told!). Wanting to capture this moment, Mr Prewett quickly whipped his phone out of his pocket to explain the situation for our vlog. He quickly realised that this was not the best idea, as a security guard began to gesture at him from a distance! Trying to play it cool, he panned back around to the car and took a screenshot of the video, assuming he would be asked to delete it, but not wanting to lose the footage. The security guard approached and said firmly “What you are doing is wrong!”. After a quick explanation and Mr Prewett offering delete the ‘image’, the guard allowed him to continue the walk towards the security scanner. As he got there, however, the guard had clearly changed his mind. Re-approaching Mr Prewett, he ordered him to stop, just before the security gate. He began to get a little upset about the situation, explaining that security did not allow photographs to be taken and that Mr Prewett was breaking Ugandan law, for which there could be a penalty. Far from attempting to diffuse the situation, Mr Mansfield urged the guard to confiscate Mr Prewett’s passport and lock him up in a Ugandan prison to teach him a lesson for breaking the rules. Fortunately, the security guard did not take Mr Mansfield’s advice but rather ordered Mr Prewett delete the photo he took. Happy to comply, knowing he had also taken a sneaky screenshot, which he was happy to delete, Mr Prewett showed the guard as he ‘deleted’ the photo (but keeping the video!).

Luckily, it was not long for Mr Prewett before the shoe was on the other foot and Mr Mansfield found himself in his own sticky situation. Having arrived at the airport and unloaded our luggage, wheeling it to arrivals (to collect the drone which had been confiscated), it quickly became apparent that it was lucky we weren’t too late, as this would not be a quick process! Mr Mansfield first had to go to the arrivals area, where he was told to go and visit the customs office upstairs in the airport. Having to head back through security, Mr Mansfield arrived at the office to see a huge queue – not what he needed! The man behind the desk also seemed to have no urgency, despite there being a poster above his head, outlining the airport’s commitment to “Speedy Service, Friendly Manner and High Levels of safety”. Mr Mansfield commented that the worker seemed to be satisfying none of these aims. Finally, Mr Mansfield, having lost the receipt for the drone, managed to convince the worker to accept a photo of the receipt which, fortunately, he had taken as a ‘back-up’. He was then given a pass and some documentation to return to the customs area. He was ordered to leave his passport at the customs desk until he returned to hand the pass back in following the collection of his drone.

Upon arriving back at the customs area, Gloria the officer on duty, was less than happy at the idea of accepting the photograph and demanded to see the original copy of the receipt (which Mr Prewett, having been alerted to the situation, was frantically trying to find the receipt in Mr Mansfield’s luggage!) After some negotiation, Gloria became willing to accept the photo in exchange for Mr Mansfield’s email address, so she could keep in touch with him when he returns to the UK. Ugandans really do love making a new friend! With no other option, he agreed and willingly gave his email address to her, changing a few letters in it. This was not quite enough to secure the return of the drone, however, as Gloria wanted him to email her immediately from his phone to confirm that he had not given a false address! Once this had been completed, the drone was returned and a very friendly police officer offered to take us through the staff entrance to departures, noticing we might be running late, and remembering that it was he who had confiscated the drone from Mr Mansfield in the first place!

With all the last-minute drama, thankfully our minds had been taken off the impending goodbyes. This could be delayed no further, however, as we did not want Joseph, Abdul and Mr Walyaula to get back home too late, as they were returning to Mbale that evening. We all gave each other big hugs and, as we said how much we had enjoyed their company and urged them to look after their families, we welled up again. As Mr Walyaula always says “It is easy to say ‘Kodi’ (hello), but much harder to say ‘bye bye’!”. Joseph went to leave twice, but came back for another hug from us both. Mr Mansfield picked him up and spun him around to try to distract from the sadness of the goodbye, but Joseph couldn’t even bring himself to smile. He said one last goodbye before putting his head down and walking off… still wearing Mr Mansfield’s grey hoodie that we had retrieved from the J Residence hotel.

For the next two hours, whilst we waited to board, we spent some time reflecting on our week and trying our best to stay awake so as not to miss our flight! We were both exhausted and could barely keep our eyes open despite trying to fill up on some food and fizzy drinks. When the call came to board, we were ushered into a sweltering hot room, with no seating left available. Unable to bear the heat and claustrophobic conditions, a small child burst out crying! Airport staff came over and quickly took him and his family through the the boarding tunnel. Mr Mansfield called over the airport staff and told them that Mr Prewett was also about to start crying like the little boy, to see if we too could get ‘priority boarding’… unfortunately, they didn’t believe us and kept us waiting in the hot room.

Once we had finally boarded the plane, it was not long before both Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield were asleep. It had been a long day and the late nights and early mornings had clearly caught up with us. Only waking to eat (and even then, not actually finishing any of our meals), we spent the majority of the time fast asleep!

From Entebbe, we only had to transfer in Brussels this time. With our flight leaving slightly late, we were worried we would need to hurry but, fortunately, we caught up some time in the air. This left us some time to sit and write this final blog in Brussels airport. All seemed to be going well until Mr Prewett urged Mr Mansfield to go and check the boarding gate on the screens. From here, panic ensued. Mr Mansfield frantically rushed back, grabbed his cases and declared “It says 8 minutes… we have only 8 minutes to get to the departure gate.’ Quickly packing up his things and chasing after Mr Mansfield, Mr Prewett also began to make the dash across the airport for gate number B89. Our hearts sank as we realised we were only at B1 and B89 was over a mile away. 8 minutes did not seem like an awful lot of time to make it! Rushing past the other travellers, speeding along the conveyor belts, Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett arrived at the gate with seconds to spare. Well, they thought they had seconds to spare, only to be told by the lady at the gate that ‘8 minutes’ referred to the time it would take to get to the gate, not the time we had left to board the aeroplane!

Fortunately, this gave us chance to recover from the mad dash and check-in, even managing to convince the lady on the check-in desk to upgrade our seats to ‘Executive’. This only set us up for disappointment, as we arrived on the plane, to find there were very few perks to this ‘upgrade’! Indeed, the staff probably regretted choosing us for this particular bonus as Mr Mansfield’s luggage was deemed, once again, too big to fit in the cabin, with the air hostess requesting he put it in hold. As before, Mr Mansfield proceeded to start listing the electronic items he had in his case and the air hostess just gave up and crammed the case into the overhead storage compartments. With much shuffling of luggage (and having our hand luggage strapped to a nearby seat!), we just about managed to ensure the luggage stayed in the cabin, rather than moving to the hold.

Just as we thought the drama was over, the captain announced that because of some delays at the gate, we had missed our time slot and would have to wait one and a quarter hours on the plane until we could taxi over to the runway.

This was however, the last of the drama and fortunately both Mr Prewett and Mr Mansfield have returned safely, all in time to publish this final blog. It seems sad to be signing off on what has been an incredible adventure. We have had some truly special experiences and have enjoyed every minute. The dramas along the way have added to the trip and it had been a wonderful and fulfilling experience. The schools and organisations we helped whilst we were out in Uganda were incredibly grateful for all that we had done. None of this could have been done, however, without the support of our two amazing schools; St Julian’s Primary and Mount Pleasant Primary! The children have been incredible and instrumental in all that has been achieved. We look forward to sharing some videos with you in due course and cannot wait to share all about our trip when we return to school next week. It is with great sadness that the trip is over, but we are sure that our partnership with Uganda will continue to grow. We will stay in contact with the pupils and staff at Busiu Primary, Namunsi Primary and Bumwalye Primary. We have also started to sponsor several children from Joseph’s ‘Change Nabewya Project’.

If you have enjoyed the blogs and want to support the children further, you can still sponsor them at the following link, with all donations going directly to Uganda: Just Giving Page Here

Thank you so much for your support before and during the trip. Our pupils have donated pencil cases, clothes, flip-flops and over £3000 to some incredibly needy, but also incredibly grateful and happy children. I’m incredibly humbled by the generosity and kindness of our pupils and families. Thank you St. Julian’s Primary.

Mr Mansfield.

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