Empowering HIV/AIDS orphaned children in Africa to a self sustainable future

Catherine Koch

Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.

Part 3 – Temptation, Tangles, And The Trouble With Transport!


~ Love ~

My “day off”, and I have awakened early in the predawn darkness of this Sunday morning.. seems just for me, the very committed rooster outside my window calls in the morning with fervor, and a winged symphony, featuring master soloists, fills the air with it’s magical offering.. Blessed Sunday everyone. I send Love to one and all.

It’s taken me some time, I’ve been very busy with much work and travel every day, and just plain bushed when I get back to internet possibilites.. but here we are, with my 3’rd and final installment:

Part 3 ~ The Trouble With Transport!

We – as in the driver and all the other 20 or so passengers in the public taxi – only ran out of gas two different times this past week, ( that’s one of the drivers, way down the road walking towards us with a jerry can of petrol, in the first pic.. ) causing us to all be pulled up alongside the road for some extended period of time in the late afternoon sun, dust, heat. I take to meditation when that sort of thing happens – and it does happen often – and on most days when I remember to, all along the route between Mbale and Mutufu and back, the journey lasting anywhere between one to three hours that I’m taking several times a week now.

It’s true, transport has been a big issue for me this journey, and while I’ve tried to do what I can to minimize my need to move long distances as my earlier postings have attested, my attempts to do so (as I’ve also shared) have been met, so far, with minimal success. So, here I am, doing the long haul, let’s say from White Rock to North Van ( heh, I know someone who does that drive 🙂 just about every day, on public transport that’s often jammed with too many people who are all sticking together in 30 degree weather, along dry, dusty, potholed roads, stopping sometimes every 50 feet or so along the way, to spit someone out or squeeze someone else in.. honestly, it eats up the majority of each day and can just wear my enery thin.. but, as is often said here, “I am firm!”

Used to be when I first got to Mbale and started heading to the child care center in Mutufu, Sironko on my own, I’d arrive at the mango tree on Kumi road where Mutufu taxi’s are known to stop before they finally pull out of Mbale, and there I’d be greeted without fail by several men all yelling at me “Mzungu, where are you going sister?”. I’d answer “Mutufu” and I just can’t tell you how many times, many hands would try to grab my bags and pull me with them saying “you come in this one, we’ll take you there”..

So ok, everytime, I’d first recapture my space, and then try and qualify which one to choose, and eventually I’d get inside a taxi. And sometime around an hour, or two, or three later, after touring around in circles in Mbale until enough passengers had piled in, and somewhere down the bumpy road between there and now here ( yes, nowhere.. 🙂 the taxi would stop, and everyone remaining in it would get out, and me, for the first few times, with mouth wide open and eyes buldging would look around and see that I wouldn’t be anywhere near Mutufu.

So, I’d start.. “I told you I want to go to Mutufu.” And they’d say, “You just give me 2,000 and get out here and get the next taxi over there and they will take you”. And I’d say, “No. I told you I’m going to Mutufu and you told me you would take me there.” And they’d repeat.. and so would I..

Then after a few times of this happening I started getting wiser and at this point I’d say “I am not paying you until you take me to Mutufu”. And they’d say, “Oh come on sister, you just pay me and get the next taxi there.” And I’d say “No.. and, ( then, even wiser.. ) I’m not getting out of the taxi until you take me where you said you are going”..

This sort of thing went on, day after day after day.. sometimes I was left stranded, sometimes I didn’t pay, sometimes I was driven, after the fact, to where I had been assured we were going in the first place. I found myself bracing long before I even arrived at the mango tree.. and then came the idea to phone Vincent before we would leave Mbale so he could speak to the driver to make sure I was on the right taxi. But even that didn’t work, they’d still just lie, to me, to him, to anyone, and take me and other unsuspecting passengers wherever they were going, try to collect money, and drop.

Then I started saying up front.. “IF you take me where I DON’T want to go, I WILL NOT pay you!”. One day, I guess when it got about as rough as it could, one man challenged me when I mistrusted him after he had assured me he was going to Mutufu. Before we left Mbale, I thought I heard him calling out to attract other passengers with “Miyembi”.. a destination I had learned I DID NOT want to arrive at. And so I asked him, “Heh, did you say “Miyembi”?” .. and he looked at me angrily, right in my eyes, and said very forcefully “I TOLD you that I will take you where you want to go. OK?” “Well, ok ok, thank you..”. And then, a couple hours later, there I was, at the side of the road needing to find another taxi to take me to Mutufu FROM Miyembi”. I ranted, I raved, I was even called a “hot mzungu” and not, I assure you, in the way most women where I’m from might appreciate! 🙂

But, by now, I’m older, I’m wiser.. I know which taxi’s to catch and I think most of the drivers now know I will not pay them if they insist on taking me where I don’t wish to go.. I’m guessing by the looks of things they might figure it’s not so good for them to continue this practice with me either because I noticed that as I stood my ground ( allbeit unknown 🙂 others, who were also being tricked by the drivers began to stand theirs too and soon, several people weren’t paying.. and I guess that can get expensive..

So, the moral of this story is this. I would like my own transport for here in Uganda.. and while a 4 wheel drive vehicle would be best and work in all sorts of weather and road conditions, I know they cost “thousands and thousands” and, well, if I owned some of those I’d gratefully spend them on such, but alas, it’s more true to say I owe some at present, so.. I’ve put the word out in Mbale, and now here that I would like for LITA to be supported to purchase an economical motorcycle, for me. A used boda boda type motorcycle ( a street bike ) costs around 1.8M .. so, that’s well under $1,000. A new one, around 3M.. or say, around $1,500.

A trail motorcycle, which is the better type to have because it has greater suspension and works well on highways, dirt trails and in harsh, wet conditions, costs more, both used and new. I don’t have a price on them yet, maybe more around the $3,000 mark. One of the local NGO’s uses that type of bike and occasionally auction off their used ones, so I’ve asked friends there to let me know..

Now, many who know me know I’ve considered before now to have a bike.. I used to think how fun it would be to travel across Canada on a touring bike and, actually, I’d still like to do that some time..

.. but for now, these are my concerns and my needs as I navigate Uganda doing my best to serve our orphaned children here.

I’ve a very good friend here who’s a driver who will teach me.. and just like my brother would advise ( a former motorcycle safety council instructor! ) and all my brothers, family and friends would want, I suspect, I’ll wear all the proper protective gear.. and drive slow and carefully.. ( much more protected, and slower, and more careful than is the case now, as a passenger, pictured here.. ) I promise.

Please give this a thought, perhaps you or someone you know would like to assist LITA, and me, in this way..

So onward, let’s see what happens next! In the mean while, driving in circles in Mbale, or somewhere between Mbale and Mutufu, or maybe even Mbale and Bukedea, in a matatu, most mornings and late in the afternoon as the sun is coming to set.. that’s where you’ll find me.. meditating 🙂

Blessings in Love, I’ve one large stack of dirty clothes to try my hand at washing now.. literally 🙂

Cath xox

PS.. Just two days ago, it became very clear to me, and I made the decision that I will be extending my stay.. I plan to explain here later today, in another posting. Let’s see how that goes.. power is “gone” and I’ve exhausted one of my computer batteries so far.. and the 2’nd is descending rapidly to the 40% mark ~ Love ~

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