Bahrain 3

It was a struggle to rise at 8.00 a.m., but somehow we managed it, lured by the thought of another good cup of tea. After breakfast, Stephanie drove us to the cathedral (St Christopher’s) where we met up with Norma, Susan and Chris. It was the start of a fascinating day. The cathedral is small, but charming, with beautiful windows. Chris outlined some key points to us. Firstly it is built just across the road from what is called, ‘The Police Fort’, a large police compound run by the Ministry of the Interior, which I hope I never have to see from the inside!

In 2011 Bahrain had its own version of the Arab Spring, with largely the majority Shi’a community participating. The Pearl Roundabout became the focus for demonstrations. It has since been dug up and removed. At that time the cathedral was cut off because of its proximity to the Police Fort and many of the congregation were pulled out by their companies anxious for their safety. Tyres were burnt, teargas was used, arrests were made. Since then Sunnis have been imported to swell the ranks, particularly in the security service industry, so that the Shi’a/ Sunni split is now closer to 50/50. There is still tension and unease in some areas. However the Christian Church has never been threatened or surpressed. It has good relations with the Royal Family who are keen to reach out to different religious communities…..but possibly not so much to the Shi’a?

Chris outlined the history of Christianity in Bahrain starting with a pre-Islamic Nestorian community through the American Reformed Evangelical missionaries that came  in the 1890’s to the building of the cathedral in 1953  – when it was actually just a church. The present congregation is a cosmopolitan mix and somewhat transitory as people come and go as contracts finish or service personnel are posted. At present there is a growing Kenyan community. It is a lively place with a lot happening. It works with other churches and there are strong ecumenical links. There are also links with other faiths. On Christmas Day a Shi’a band plays at the end of the service for example. There is one other church on the island at Awali. There is a Seafarer’s Centre (Seaman’s Mission) and string links with the US and Royal Navy Bases. (more on that tomorrow!)

After a cup of coffee, we set off for the Ahmed Al-Fateh Islamic Centre with its enormous and very beautiful mosque.

The mosque was built between 1984 and 1988 and can accommodate 7,000 worshippers. Inside the floors are covered in Italian marble and Irish carpet, both with geometric patterns in them. In the main prayer hall is an enormous chandelier made in Austria surrounded by numerous handblown glass lamps made in France. The whole effect is stunning. We had to wait for the end of midday prayer so I headed off around the outside of the building. The sunlight on the warm stone is very pleasing.

We picked a guide (or vice verse if you like) and we’re brought inside the main prayer hall, our toes enjoying the deep pile of the Irish carpet. We were then taken to a sort of teaching area and asked to sit down. There then followed a fascinating half hour as our guide explained the main points of Islam and we looked st the similarity and differences between that faith and Christianity. There is so much we have in common, but we seem to part company over the Trinity, which Dean Chris and I agreed they don’t really understand. Goodness knows I think many of us don’t find it an easy concept, so I think they can be forgiven! Our guide was excellent and was very happy to take questions. Only after she finished were we allowed to take photos. Rather prosaically the dome is made of fibreglass!

From the peace and quiet of the mosque we headed off through the hectic Manama traffic for lunch in an Indian vegetarian restaurant. It was excellent. We all had a Thali – a range of small dishes – all cooked without onions or garlic. Delicious, and all for about a fiver.

Chris then drove us out to the fort which is an archaeological site on the coast. We visited the museum first if all. This is situated in a very modern concrete building and is a model of how to lay out a museum. Cleverly you begin at the lowest stages of the excavations – the Dilmun civilisation dating back to two thousand BC and then rise up through the layers to the Portuguese fort of the C15th century onwards. Explanations were clear, detailed, but not too detailed.

The short walk to the fort took us past springs which emerge on the beach and presumably were the one of the reasons why the fort was situated here. The other main reason was the natural harbour. The sun was beginning to set as we approached the fort and it all looked rather beautiful. There was a stark contrast between the archaeological remains and the modern cityscape in the near distance.

I wandered off off on my own and took pictures of the exterior of the fort before wandering in. There were no explanation boards which was a pity, but the walls and arches were very atmospheric in the evening light. The whole site is one large tell and the most recent fort dates from the C16th and was built by the Portuguese as a trading centre for pearls. The Portuguese were ousted by the Persians in 1602 and eventually, in 1782,they were driven out by the Al Khalifa family who rule today. The fort was eventually abandoned.

We left the site at sundown, passing some rather bizarre large4 than life wasps or bees which gave me quite a buzz!

That evening we went to a home group by an American ex-baptist called Angel. We were made very welcome in the apartment of Fozia and Nathan who were S. African ex-pats. We were plied with delicious food and orange juice before getting down to the study on ‘Judges and Kings’. A Bible Society video and booklet provided the core and there was some discussion. At the end, Angel, larger than life in every sense, very kindly drove us home. A devotee of gospel music we were accompanied on our journey by heavenly choirs and rather excited soloists singing with great determination and vigour. Verdi’s Requiem it wasn’t! We fell into bed and sleep very quickly.

Bahrain 2


EFA840FB-E81E-47A0-B2C0-7DE9D15CF7EDA smooth journey to Bahrain courtesy of British Airways and a very perky crew. It seems that there is an air show on while we are here and the plane had a goodly number of single men with camera equipment. One of them was snapping away as we were bussed out to the plane and could probably have told me the size of whitworth screw they use on the hold door if I had made the mistake of showing an interest. The food was good on the flight and I watched ‘The Theory of Everything ‘, a film about Stephen Hawking which was excellent.

We were met at the airport by our hostess, Stephanie, and the Dean of the Cathedral, Chris Butt. It was warm, pleasantly warm. Stephanie took us out along the approach road to the King Fayed Causeway and then turned off just before we were committed to going to Saudi and a possible meeting with Jeremy Hunt. It was a close one! Stephanie and Darshon live in a charming house on a gated estate with its own swimming pool in the centre. We may have to give that a try sometime. As we stepped from the car we noted the frangipan tree in the garden, but more particularly the strong smell of camel. Stephanie apologised, pointing out there was a camel farm in the vicinity.  They farm camels …..who knew? For riding? For meat? Imag8n3 carving that for Sunday (Whoops, I meant, Friday dinner). Leg or hump? One hump or two?

Stephanie is from Wolverhampton and knows how to make a good cup of tea which we sank gratefully. The bed in our spacious, ensuite, room called out loud and long, and apart from when a car backfired repeatedlyon the highway  (I think that was what it was,( it can’t have been gunfire surely?) we slept all too well.


This week we head for Bahrain with Christians Aware for 8 days. We are staying with a family and meeting a number of the ex-pat community. This is an interesting time to go as a Bahraini court has just sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of the opposition group Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, and Sheikh Hassan Sultan, and Ali Alaswad, members of the same group, to life in jail for spying for Qatar. This is just before the elections on the 24th November. Bahrain, one of Saudi Arabia’s closest allies in the Gulf, imposed a boycott on Qatar last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and backing the Muslim Brotherhood. The country is predominantly Shia but led by a Sunni royal family. The regime has made progress in ending modern slavery.

25+ Best Ideas about Bahrain Map on Pinterest | Map of ...


Does anyone remember Bahrain? | The Dawn News

A few basic facts:

    • The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centred around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway.
    • Bahrain’s population is 1,234,571 (c. 2010), including 666,172 non-nationals
    • It is 765.3 square kilometres (295.5 sq mi) in size – nearly twice the size of the Isle of Wight
    • Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century.
    • Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, in 628 CE.
    • Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521, who in turn were expelled in 1602 by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty under the Persian Empire.
    • In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain’s first hakim.
    • In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom.
    • In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. Formerly an emirate, the Arab constitutional monarchy of Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.
    • Bahrain had the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf.
    • Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors. Many large financial institutions have a presence in Manama, the country’s capital.
    • Bahrain under the Al-Khalifa is a Bahrain under the Al-Khalifa is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. King Hamad enjoys wide executive powers which include appointing the Prime Minister and his ministers, commanding the army, chairing the Higher Judicial Council, appointing the parliament’s upper house and dissolving its elected lower house.[111](p15) The head of government is the unelected prime minister, Shaikh Khalīfa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the uncle of the current king who has served in this position since 1971, making him the longest-serving prime minister in the world.[140] In 2010, about half of the government was composed of the Al Khalifa family.

We shall be staying with an ex-pat family and have a varied programme of visits as well as some free time to investigate the country. More to follow…………………………..


A gentle start to the day, but the market beckoned. Then Absalom arrived just as we were brewing coffee. I swear he can smell it from his house! Anyway it is always good to see him and have a chat. We eventually left for the market at about 10.30, but we had barely started our walk before Thomas pulled up in his car and offered us a lift. We went via an MP’s house as he had some business to conduct and then he took us to an entrance to the market we had not been to before – the butchery entrance! Wandering amongst carcases of pigs, cattle and goats is a great way for vegetarians to start the day! We made a beeline for the kitenge and browsed the various options. Eventually Christine settled on a lovely design, but a rather expensive one at about £9 for a triple piece! We wavered but after mature consideration we thought it was worth the outrageous price!

We walked back from the market, stopping at the petrol station for a bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk – you can see how desperate we were for chocolate! Then we realised that we had a shadow; a rather dirty and bedraggled child was walking a little behind us and had been since the market. He didn’t seem to want anything other than the pleasure of our company – a discerning young man clearly. However as we dropped into the valley he seemed to meet some people he knew and we realised that he was fickle. We stopped at a stall and bought some passion tunda and then cut down to the river and up the other side. We had gone into town via Christine’s dressmaker, but he was closed, so we returned the same way, but he was still closed.

We began a little desultory packing, but at 4.30 we had been invited to the Ruzabila’s for afternoon tea and to collect the bags we are bringing back for Rose. The house was in chaos as they are also packing to leave their house on Monday to go to Nyamiaga. Still they cleared a space and we enjoyed a black tea. Then Rose came in a with a very large bag stuffed with other bags and asked if we could take it. I said we would be happy to take the bags Valerie had ordered and paid for, but doubted if we could manage any more. Something must have got lost in translation, because before we knew it she had materialised with another to enormous bags stuffed full. I then had to explain patiently, but with a hint of steel in my voice, that we would be lucky if we could manage the first bag let alone any others. The message got through, but Rose insisted on accompanying us home with two of her students carrying the bag, to ensure, I think, we were telling the truth!

At 6.00 Thomas arrived and we went to Bishop Aaron and Kaveena’s new house half way up the other side of the valley. It is very pleasant with a beautiful view of the valley. We were made very welcome and drank soda and ate peanuts while we chatted. Their great grand-daughter, Princess was also there and seemed fascinated by us for a while. Thomas went off to do something else and seemed to be gone a long while. The sun set spectacularly behind Bishop Aaron’s tonsured head, but no sign of Thomas. We were meant to be at Fareth’s at 7.00. Eventually he bounced in, but then proceeded to sit and eat peanuts. Finally we left just after 7.00 and sped up the valley side to the dressmaker’s. It looked shut, but Thomas asked a youth standing, doing nothing much, as youths do, and suddenly there was a lot of calling and whistling and a breathless dressmaker arrived. He was on his way to us with the dress! I have to say it is a very good fit and Christine looks wonderful in it.

We arrived at Fareth and Tabitha’s at 7.20, full of apologies, but they were very relaxed about it. Wilbard was there and we had a very pleasant meal and chat. Wilbard kindly gave us a gift of a kitenge and other gifts for us to bring back for people. We left about 9.00 and were by now looking forward to bed. I decided just to download some pictures before adjourning and was midway through when Christine who was standing the other side of the table screamed and fled. She had seen a mouse! We left the building, faster than Elvis with his blue suede shoes on fire! I had always thought Christine was the brave one when it came to rodents, but I fear she has feet of clay! So we were now banished from our house and bed by a small furry thing WITH A TAIL!! I went to Fareth and asked if he could come and clear the area. Seizing only his walking stick he came in and poked and banged in every room except the front large bedroom which we don’t use. He was brilliant, even getting down on his poor knees to check for wildlife. He found none, but where had it gone? We thanked him and let him go, still nervous at the prospect of sleeping with a mouse in the house. We stripped our bed and I searched the room high and low. I then barricaded the bottom of the 2 bedroom doors and the kitchen door with copies of the English – Swahili dictionary and some pencil cases to fill the gap. I must have a word with the publishers and point out that a if they resized the dictionaries by an inch each they would fit perfectly across the bottom of a door-frame. This might increase sales.

We went to bed fearing we would be unable to get to sleep. However the mosquito tent gives one a sense of security and while it would not withstand a machete wielding rodent, it is reasonable safe. In fact we had quite a good night’s sleep as it turned out and when I did wake for the usual reasons I heard nerry a squeak nor a scrabble.


We had to get up early as Absalom was picking us up at 8.15 to take us to K9 – an unusual name for a village , unless it is particularly popular with dogs, dentists, or Doctor Who fans. The name may derive from the number given to the refugee camp that was there, or may relate to a road building base as it is on the main road to Rusumo. Either way it is quite small and indistinct. The church itself is wattle and daub with an earth floor and a stunning view over a valley and the surrounding hills.

We were welcomed by the evangelist and then waited for the pastor to arrive as well as most of the congregation. It was obviously a 9.30 service. Beatrice, Absalom’s cousin had come with us. We were shown to the guest seats up on the earth platform next to the altar. It was a lively and joyful service. The Evangelist seemed to have a permanent smile and broke into laughter readily. At one point he asked why his congregation wasn’t smiling more as they had guests. Absalom spoke very well and kept it short (about 25 minutes). Of course we had to speak as well. We felt very welcome. The choir performed three songs although their soloist was about a semi-tone flat for one of them. However their group singing was spot on and their dancing was brilliant. After the service, Christine produced her bubbles and the teenagers(!) thoroughly enjoyed chasing the bubbles. I somehow think this wouldn’t happen in the U.K.!

We had been invited for a soda at the church leader’s house, but of course it wasn’t just a soda. They laid on a full luncheon with rice, matoke and cabbage. It was very good and was washed down with soda and finished off with a perfectly ripe piece of avocado. Delicious. The generosity of those who have little always seems to outweigh that of us who have plenty. We were waved off and headed towards Ngara, with the pastor’s wife with us. We dropped her near her house and she insisted we wait while she ran inside and returned with gifts for us. Two Womencraft items were handed in through the car window – again such generosity.

Back home we set about packing, taking our suitcases outside and emptying them to make sure there were no little visitors. So far so good on that front, but let us not count our mice……..etc. Of course we have had stream of visitors including Wilbard with another gift for someone, then Joctan who gracefully posed on the porch wall while I took his picture, charming but as camp as a girl guide jamboree! Then John R turned up to see what we had managed to pack. We explained that we weren’t ready yet and that we would bring back anything we couldn’t get in by 7.00 p.m.. Then he tried to put the bite on us, by telling us his daughter who is at boarding school had texted to say she was out of money and he hadn’t any to send her. We expressed our sorrow and hoped that something would turn up but he left empty handed. Since we had delivered a £100 for bags in the last month, we wondered where the money had gone!

We have almost finished packing and have got some of Rose’s bags in, but I dare say it won’t be enough! Tonight we go to Thomas and Christela’s for a farewell dinner and to make my beautiful god-daughter cry, as that seems to be my role! The Mother’s Union has a baptism celebration on across the road. We have been invited to drop in by Innocent whose child it is, but frankly we don’t have the time and anyway the speaker system is at such a volume that we feel fully included. This is one aspect of life in Tanzania I will not miss. The steady thump of the base beat is enough to drive you crazy if you let it. Still at least the natives aren’t restless, they are just having a good time. As indeed we have, a very good time. We shall miss this place and the people, but I shall not be sorry to come home and enjoy a few things we take for granted, but are just not available here. My blog ends here. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much I’ve enjoyed writing it. See you soon!

Kagera 13


A school day today. We rose early as we had been invited by the students to witness their early morning singing and dancing. This was ‘free-form’ and very exciting with students jumping about, crawling on the floor , banging a drum and blowing whistles. I kept hearing the word ‘Jesus’ so I’m sure it was Christian, but it reminded one of rather more pagan rituals. As I murmured to Christine, “How unlike the homelife of our own dear Queen” – well as far as we know. After watching the students do a serious workout we felt hungry so returned for breakfast.

We’d had no internet the night before and so I couldn’t post the blog. This morning it decided to work so I quickly uploaded pictures and posted the blog. Obadiah arrived about 8.40, 20 minutes early, with Imami ready to take us to Ndomba Secondary School where he is a governor. We managed to get ourselves ready buy 9.10 and set off. We passed through Ngara and then turned off to the left, climbing and then plunging down into a small valley filled with rice fields; the first time I’d seen rice growing in Kagera, so naturally I asked if we could stop and take pictures. Then we climbed back up before zig-zagging down into a much larger valley with a large red-brown river flowing through it. Brickworks lined the valley floor. We crossed by a bridge which had tarmac on it and for about 50 yards either side of it – rather strange. We climbed back up again and then past where Obadiah had lived as a boy and where his parents still live. The school was a couple of kilometres further on. Later Obediah showed us where he had gone to primary school – an 11km walk there and 11km walk home. He would set off at 6.00 a.m. each morning! Furthermore when the family needed water they would have to walk between 2 – 3 kms down to the river and then carry back up hill with it on their heads. No wander Obadiah is short!

We were greeted at the school by the headmaster and introduced to the staff. There are 450 pupils aged 14 – 18 and 16 staff although only 11 are full time, the rest being brought in when needed. Some classes had 70 pupils in them, making it an impossible task for a teacher to get round to each pupil because there wasn’t room to move. The upper classes were smaller and smaller groups were needed for science. New laboratories were just being finished as the government is trying to encourage more pupils to do science at school and university. We filed out to the sort of parade ground in the front of the school and a boy drilled them until they were standing properly in rows on three sides of a square. We were introduced and of course invited to speak to them. Then it was group photo time. The staff seemed as excited as the kids and we had to pose for numerous shots with staff members.

Then we taken on a tour of the school. It used to be a UNHCR registration centre for refugees from Rwanda. The buildings were converted to school use in 2007. Some of the buildings have been converted into dormitories as parents prefer their children to board. Others are now teachers’ houses as the school is quite remote and teachers would not be able to travel to the school each day. That explained the toddlers running around the site. The dormitories are fairly spartan, but the dining hall looked as though the 3 minute warning had been given and everyone had left instantly. Benches and tables lay scattered about higgledy-piggledy. The school kitchen consisted of 3 3stone cookers with enormous pots on them, one contained rice, another beans and the third contained ugali (a rather revolting looking porridge. As we approached the classrooms, pupils came flooding out for break. The day starts at 7.00 a.m. and continues to 3.00 with a 20 minute break. Lunch is only served to the boarders. The school hopes that we can find a school in Suffolk to twin with it. Let us hope we can find somewhere that would be interested.

We left about 11.30 and headed back through the beautiful countryside. I kept asking to stop to take pictures and Imami was his usual patient self. We took a short cut back to the main road. It was little more than a track which climbed and then dropped into valley bottoms. This had been Obediah’s route to primary school and is now his way home on Friday evenings when he returns to his family from KCTC on his motorbike. Rather him than me!

On the main road we passed 4 teachers from Murgwanza primary school who had been on a training day of some sort, so they piled in the back. However before we entered Ngara proper, Imami pulled over and Obediah and the teachers got out and we were taken straight to NAPS. I assume they walked the rest of the way as Imami’s son was graduating from the kindergarten and he stayed for the ceremony. Walking long distances, it seems, is not a problem in Kagera!

As we got out of the land cruiser we saw a large tent like construction on the rocky slope that is in the centre of the school. A voice was bellowing over the loud (very) speaker system. We advanced and were met half way by a teacher who welcomed us and ushered us through the assembled parents and students to a place of honour next to Asifiwe and the Bishop. We apologised for being late, but were assured that we weren’t as it had only just begun. This slightly puzzled us as it was due to start at 9.00. However judging by the programme of events that Asifiwe had it seemed to be the case. There were many hours of entertainment and speeches stretching ahead of us!

Of course we were made very welcome and the children were delightful and very well rehearsed. The singing and dancing were excellent and there were sketches and even a science experiment demonstration. Around about 3.00 p.m. the students received their leaving certificates and a range of others for excellence. I would like to say that the whole thing was like a well-oiled machine, but in truth it was more like a well-oiled drunk, lurching from side to side as students had little idea as to whose hand to shake and how to pose for the photographs. This part had clearly not been rehearsed, but it was delightful and the pride and joy of the parents was wonderful to see. They had hung garlands and hearts with messages on around their offsprings’ necks and even some sort of perspex boards, so that the poor children could barely stand up straight!

Then it was time to ‘cut the cakee’, which involved a cake and Bishop Darlington and a student wielding a knife. The initial incision having been made, the cake was then butchered with gusto by one of the parents and its dismembered parts stuck onto cocktail sticks which were thrust into the mouths of unsuspecting guests by the student.

We were rather hoping that as it was approaching 4.00 p.m. this might be the finale, but of course not. So far there had been no speeches and that could not go unremedied. First up were the graduating students. Each speech giver issued a document to the guests so that they could follow the speech and note the progress that was being made. The students’ document ran to five pages which was long enough, but, we then discovered it was to be delivered in Swahili and then in English. The sun moved across the heavens, I am sure, but time in the tent seemed to stand still. Eventually the two students (well actually three as one was acting as a microphone stand) came to an end, having thanked everyone even remotely involved in their education and made a plea to the Bishop for more facilities. Then came the deputy head, who was remarkably brief coming in at about 15 minutes. Then Asifiwe stood up and after a few words of his own introduced us. We managed the sort of potted version of a guest speaker’s speech at Prize Giving, stressing the importance of hard work and determination if the students were to achieve the glittering prizes that undoubtedly awaited them in the sunlit uplands of academia. There was modest applause, but the fact that combined we came in at well under 10 minutes, we were probably a slight disappointment. Then the main act, Bishop Darlington. Asifiwe translated for us and it was a fine speech in deed and almost taciturn as it barely made 25 minutes.

With a sigh of relief and the thought of something more than a crumb or two of cake in the offing we got to our feet. Too soon. The parents’ representative had to have his say and then a woman whose exact position failed to ascertain. Another 25 minutes passed and then the guests of honour arose as one and headed for the food that was on offer in one of the classrooms. Yet again we are a disappointment, for, ravenous as we were, we simply cannot eat the vast amounts of rice and beans that our hosts think we should do. Still we sat with Bishop Darlington and Asifiwe so we had a very pleasant chat. Thomas was waiting for us outside and bundled us in the car to bring us back to Murgwanza before returning to pick up Christela and Joan. Joan had graduated from kindergarten that day and so I should imagine was shattered – six hours in a hot tent with a sound system designed to break the will of the Burundi government and people, must be exhausting for any child of six – surely?

We arrived home worn out, but in need of a leg stretch, so we wandered down to the cathedral and met Philipio and Nyamwenda who wanted to chat. Then we got back and started to prepare dinner but Absalom arrived and wanted a chat, which is always a pleasure, but delayed our meal. Just as we were setting the table Nyamlinda arrived with my flash drive and some incomprehensible reason why he couldn’t give it back to me. I was too tired to argue and told him in no uncertain terms that he would have to give it to Dorothee.

Scrabble as usual and then our much needed bed. Tomorrow should be less exhausting, but who can tell?

Kagera 12


An early rise as Thomas is due at 8.00 for our trip to Karagwe. We are priviledged to have the bishop’s land cruiser with his driver, Edwin, who also happens to be Absalom’s brother. We load up and are away by about 8.20. We pass Absalom’s wood just after the T junction with the T3 road. It is his pension and judging by the size of it he should live well in his retirement!

We stop at Nyakasanza which is a typical road junction town, all lorries, snack bars and rather dubious shacks which sell a variety of things. We stock up with sodas and then turn onto the laterite road which is ours for the next 3 hours, after which well….you will see. We enter the Nurigi and Kimisi game reserves, one either side of the road. The game do indeed seem to be very reserved as apart from a fleeting glimpse of some antelopes on the road in the distance and the disappearing bottoms of some baboons in the bush we see nothing, not even some Scrabble! Traffic is similarly sparse, although bizarrely the first vehicle we meet has the word ‘bakery emblazoned across its front. Do Zebra and Giraffe have a penchant for bloomers and custard tarts I wonder? Perhaps rhinos enjoy a cream horn? Occasionally we encounter a bus packed tight with sweating bodies and emblazoned with religious and other slogans. We are basically on a ridgeway with occasional saddles we drop down in to. The views are stunning, but hard to photograph, partly because it is very cloudy and misty, even raining at times. Nevertheless I ask poor Edwin to stop on a number of occasions, causing Thomas some alarm as he says that lions have been introduced recently. I speculate on how you introduce lions, “Good morning this is Mr Simba and his good lady Mrs Simba” perhaps. Anyway I see nothing more terrifying than black ants, which are quite frightening actually if you get in their way.


Out the other side we pass some fairly desperate houses belonging to local shambas and cattle herders, but steadily the housing improves as do the shambas and you begin to realise that Karagwe is actually quite prosperous along the road. We plunged down into lush valley bottoms passing large banana shambas and some quite smart houses. At last we reach the town of Omurushaka and a metalled road – hoorah!, our internal organs relax having had the pummelling of their lives. However we travel about 200 yards and then turn off to our left onto a laterite road which struggles to live up to that term. After a while there is a general consensus in the vehicle that we need to contribute to the bounty of the wet season and we all move to different pieces of undergrowth to make our contributions. Shortly after we come across the local rural dean standing by his motorbike, apparently waiting for us. Thomas had arranged a liaison at this apparently not godforsaken spot and duly hands over some letters from the bishop for distribution. We then turn down a track which could vaguely be made out with enough imagination.

We are now mainly on the edge of a valley floor with marshland to our right. There is quite a bit of forestry as well as tree planting has been happening here thanks to CCMP. At last we arrive in the village of Kabalekela which is on the side of the valley with magnificent view across to the hills beyond. We meet with Bosco who has seized CCMP with both hands and run with it. He is a real entrepreneur and is clearly doing well. He is also an evangelist and a CCMP co-ordinator for the parish.

We entered his very smart house and sat in his lounge to talk. He told me that he was born locally and only had a primary education (although he is clearly very bright). He heard about CCMP and became enthused. He set himself some priorities, in other words what he wanted from life and then worked out how to achieve them. He decided that he first wanted a decent house for his family(a wife and 4 children). He has built it himself, making the bricks and buying in floor tiles and metal sheeting for the roof. Secondly he wanted food security which he has now achieved. He produces more than enough to feed his family and to sell. Furthermore he has become a businessman, buying bean from others and the storing them until the price goes up and then selling them at quite a profit. He has 200 sacks of beans in his stores. He uses his mobile to keep track of prices. All the produce is transported to the road by bike or motorbike by 4 people who he now employs to do that. He also employs workers on his shamba. His third priority was to build a house for his mother and this is now well underway. In the future he wants to buy a car and to send his children to secondary school when they are old enough. Recently he has bought 8 acres of land for trees for timber a for fruit and this complements 6 acres of timber woodland that he has already.

Now you may be thinking that this all sounds a bit like exploitative capitalism, but actually his neighbours are proud of him and want to learn from him. Before CCMP came into the village there were only 3 iron sheet roofed houses, now there are very few grass thatched houses at all. CCMP has really changed the mindset of local people and they now know and understand what resources they have and how to exploit them.

Bosco took us down to a neighbour called Nevard who is in the middle of building his house, indeed plasterers were working in the lounge. Nevard has joined a pamoja group in the village. (‘pamoja’ means ‘together’ in Swahili). Pamoja groups are saving and loan groups which have been seed funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s fund. Basically people pay in each week and then take loans agreed by the whole group for specific needs or projects. These loan then have to be paid back with 5% interest. Each group has between 15 and 25 members and they set priorities for community improvements and help each other to achieve them. Nevard has bought himself a motorbike with a loan and then paid it back. He will use the bike to transport his coffee to the road. He grows robusta under his bananas. I noted some signs of the coffee rust fungus, but hopefully his bananas will provide enough shade to prevent its spread. He is also growing avocados and mangoes. Being part of a pamoja group has certainly raised his aspirations as well as his standard of living. He now needs some help to improve his shamba through CCMP.

From there we drove down to the local church which has just been officially opened by Bishop Darlington. The building was begun by the church community collecting stones and bringing them to the site. ‘Tumaini’ (‘Hope’ in Swahili), a Guernesy based charity offered help and now they have a fine new building. Tumaini have also helped to build a new school which was much needed. As with so many schools it has stunning views. However there are 401 pupils and 6 staff, which the mathematically adept amongst you will work out as an average class size of 66.8. Anybody fancy doing the marking for that?! The school is government run and so there is not enough money apparently to pay for more staff.

Finally we drove to Nyihanga village which is in the same parish. We met some of the congregation in the church who are at the start of the mobilisation process. The new church has been built by the community and has about 70 regular attendees, although there are about 200 registered Christians in the village. Bosco introduced us and Thomas gave a motivational speech and then passed the baton to yours truly. I talked about the importance of Christian being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in their communities and that they were very much doing what Jesus commanded in that respect. It seemed to go down well. Christine followed on with some inspirational words. We invited questions and comments. The Pamoja treasurer spoke about the problem of climate change and how it was now so difficult to predict when to plant and how it was affecting farmers’ incomes. Hearing this in a remote village really brings home the reality of climate change and the problems it is causing. How I wish Trump could have been there to hear that farmer! Then Bosco got going and went on at some length giving the CCMP message. He is clearly a very good speaker and people listened attentively. The village co-ordinator, a wonderful woman called Anatolia slipped out to check on something and as I wanted her picture I followed her out. Thomas also went out to answer his phone so poor Christine was left to hear Bosco’s speech in Swahili!

Outside I took pictures of the local wildlife and also of the severe erosion that is taking place in the hillside next to the church. Some serious tree planting is needed there and soon!

As we were about to leave, we discovered that they had prepared food for us, so the altar cloth was stripped away and a new cloth was placed on the table. Rice, beans and mashed banana were offered along with the ubiquitous soda. We were quite hungry so managed a full plate each, only to be shamed when the locals were invited to pitch in and we remembered that a plate is only full in Tanzania when it is built up to a teetering mound of what ever is going. We are lightweights by comparison!

We drove away with their thanks ringing in our ears. Our presence had fulfilled Thomas’ promise that one day he would bring international visitors to them to see what they were doing with CCMP. We felt very honoured and humbled by our reception. We then threaded our way back to the main road and on to Kayanga where we were due to spend the night. Kayanga is a rather attractive town built on the top of the ridge and spilling down the sides. There are some nice houses and open spaces and it feels rather at ease with itself. We drove through it past two coffee processing factories to a modern complex of buildings which is the diocesan guest house and rehabilitation centre. The idea is that the guest house is a source of income for the main work which is with disabled children.

We were shown to our en suite room and decided that before we ventured into town for dinner we should have a shower. What was more a hot shower was on offer in a sort of wet room. It was certainly that since the toilet was pretty much directly under the shower, but hey it was a hot shower – our first in over three weeks! Except it wasn’t. Try as we might we couldn’t get it hot. We tried different variations of knob turning and switch flicking, but the electric water heater was having none of it. I went out to track down another pillow and mentioned our difficulty to the man who seemed to be in charge. Immediately a technician was dispatched and by dint of manipulating the knobs and switches with his magic hands we had hot water! Bliss!

O.K. the shower had the force of a mist, but it was better than nothing and we both managed a shower without turning the apparatus off. Then, feeling a lot better, we headed into town to a Lutheran hotel which offered a buffet dinner. Christine said we would probably be offered a diet of worms, but actually it was a little better. Rice, brown and white, beans, matoke, and some spinach and cabbage mix was what we were offered, while the lads could add beef ribs, chicken bits and what seemed to be fish heads judging by the baleful eyes that greeted us when the lid was lifeted from the dish. It was filling and that was all we could ask.

Back at the guest house we settled down on a surprisingly comfortable mattress and under a mosquito net. The latter was welcome when a particularly large flying beetle tried to gain entry to our bed. We slept.


We had to be up and ready by 8.00 a.m., but the shower remained an enigma. The technician’s legerdemain had been so good, we had no idea how he’d performed the trick. Christine sent me out to find help, but it wasn’t easy. I surprised a young lad who was polishing desks in the office, but clearly showers were above his pay grade so he got on his mobile. However he seemed to lose interest so I wandered away disconsolately towards the prospect of a cold shower. One last try got the hot water going and so Christine dived into the shower and I followed. It just about lasted until I had finished!

So we then had a meeting with Pastor Aggrey Mashanda, the Executive Director of the Karagwe Community Based Rehabilitation Programmes. Children are brought here for physiotherapy and other support services. There is even a prosthesis workshop on site. The government supports with experts but not with finance. The centre has only been open since 2015 but we were impressed with what we saw. Breakfast had been prepared for us in a large conference hall and we enjoyed some cocoa, but unfortunately the samosas were meat based so we went hungry!

Thomas then took us to the Tumaini operation in Kayanga and we met the staff and saw the sewing school and the carpentry workshop.

Then we set off homewards. It is a long journey over some seriously interesting roads. The internal massage that such a journey gives one, had an undesirable on myself, that caused me to abandon the vehicle in the middle of the national park and, lions or no lions, contemplate the wonders of nature at close quarters. Following which, St Immodium of Diarrhoea was invoked, the patron saint of all who travel in distant lands.

We arrived in Nyakasanza absolutely ravenous and found a couple of chapatis and a couple of Mandazi were all that was on offer. We took them and wolfed them down. Frankly if I had been confronted by a lion I suspect that it might have had to look to its laurels if it wasn’t to be eaten by me!

Back home and we have had a steady stream of visitors all keen to welcome us back. Amongst them were John and Rose bearing Tim’s jacket and shirts which he had ordered. They look wonderful, let us hope they fit him! They gave us some surprising news, namely that 2 days ago they learnt that on Monday they have to move to Nyamiaga parish the other side of Ngara. About 30 pastors have been told to move on that day and some may only just have been told! The Ruzabilias were in a bit of a state as Rose works for the diocese as Sunday School cop-ordinator here in Murgwanza and the house they are moving to only has two rooms and they are a big family! If you pray please pray for that situation.

Absalom was our last visitor, just making sure we were back safely. He is still not well, with high blood pressure and what he thought might be malaria. Again prayers please if you do.

We are shattered so I think an early night is in order.

Kagera 11


Last night it rained. Those four words are not adequate to describe the frightening deluge released from the sky – ‘a rain of terror’ perhaps? For those coming out after us I recommend wellington boots, raincoat and over trousers, a small ark and a white dove. It finally stopped about 8.00 a.m. but it is cold and damp.

We spoke to Thomas last night on the phone. The car was apparently repaired within the hour. He seemed surprised that we were concerned! Today he intends to take us to the tree nursery in the valley bottom and then to his shamba.

We managed to get up fairly early and had breakfast before Naomi arrived. She works incredibly hard and we feel guilty as she bustles around us, mopping floors on her hands and knees, ironing, washing etc. Thomas came at ten on the dot just as we were going next door with a thank you card that Christine had fashioned for Fareth and Naomi. We delivered it to Tabitha who was at her back door and then climbed into Thomas’ car and headed down into the valley to the Diocesan tree nursery.

The site has been carefully chosen:

  1. It is close to the river, a much needed source of water in the wet season. At that time the seedlings need to be watered morning and evening.
  2. It is close to people’s houses, which means it is more secure as the workers live near by.

The seedlings are grown in plastic tubes which are the main cost and are imported from near Mwanza. The seeds take up to a year to produce seedlings of a suitable size for planting, although some are suitable within a month. We were a little concerned about the use of plastic and asked about organic pots. An elderly man called Thomson was summoned and he disappeared off into a nearby shamba, returning with some yellow banana leaves and a wooden post.


He drove the post into the ground having dug a hole with his machete. He then proceeded to create a pot out of the leaves. It was fascinating to watch, but obviously very labour intensive and probably not practical for 120,000 seedlings they are planting here. There are a mixture of eucalyptus, pine and another species which grows very quickly. The eucalyptus is for planting in remote rural areas away from farms as they take a lot of moisture out of the ground. However they grow quickly and provide protection against soil erosion. All the trees offer this protection plus wood for burning, construction and furniture. They also improve the short term water cycle.

Many seeds are planted in each pot, then as they germinate they are thinned out and the thinning are potted on. It takes about 6 days for the seeds to germinate and they can be potted on after about two weeks.


The workforce are employed for around Tsh 40,000 – 50,000 a month (about £13 – £17), but the main object is not employment but to train them so they can go away at the end of the year and set up their own nurseries. Some have already done this. They are 10 local people, 2 of them living in sight of the nursery so they can keep an eye on it. They work from 7.30 to 12.30 as the nursery is established and from 7.30 – 10.00 at a later stage.

The soil is mixed using 20 parts local soil, which is rich in humus from the valley bottom and 3 parts manure which is brought in.

This could well become a business in the future but currently they are supporting churches, schools and poor families by giving them for free. Funding has come from the money raised on the Kilimanjaro climb and from the AFC. The aim is to make the nursery self-sustaining in the future. It has been running for a year and a half.

It was all very interesting and the workers were clearly delighted to see us posing for a group photo at the end.

We drove home and Thomas came in for a coffee and a chat before lunch. Naomi had excelled herself again with a very tasty rice, egg and vegetable mix with her signature aubergine stew. She divulged the recipe for the juice she makes – avocado, passion fruit, ginger and sugar. We are unlikely to return any thinner!

We sat out on the porch but it was decidedly chilly. About half three we went for a walk out to the ridge. The view was very clear and we could make out the Kagera river very clearly. We walked eastwards along the ridge just below the primary school. It was breath- taking. I don’t think I could ever tire of it.

Thomas arrived at 4.30 and we went off to his shamba which is a model of good practice. His banana trees and widely spaced and produce massive bunches of large bananas. What his family don’t eat he will sell at about Tsh8,000 a bunch. The price is down this year because it is a good year for everyone but it will rise to Tsh15,000 in a dry year. He has planted grafted avocados through the shamba and these will produce plentiful large fruit which will also provide a good income. He also has some trees, already very tall after only five years. He sees all his products in terms of school fees. They are investments for his family. What distinguishes Thomas’ shamba is that it is fenced to keep out animals so that young avocados and other saplings are not eaten by deer. It is all very impressive.

Back home, we settled down for an evening of writing up the day, dinner and scrabble. However I got a bit waylaid and managed to complete the monologue I have been working on on and off over the last three weeks. It still needs some work, including some research which I can’t do here, but I think it will work.


We woke early as we had promised Absalom that we would attend communion. It was a lovely service with Fareth sitting between us and translating for us. The student choir sang beautifully accompanied only by a drum. Wilson preached based on Joel 2. There is a heavy emphasis it seems to us on the Old Testament and the Day of Judgement. We have yet to hear a sermon (apart from Tim’s) based on the New Testament. I keep thinking that while we need to repent, of course, Jesus Christ died for our sins and we should rejoice not wallow in the misery God is predicted to inflict at the Day of Judgement! There was a moment when, just after Wilson had told us about the trumpet calls that would herald Doomsday, Fareth’s phone suddenly went off and I nearly jumped out of my skin! In spite of the apocalyptic forecasts of their preachers the students seem to be very joyous and upbeat in their faith. We were brought to the front to say a few words as this would be the last communion we would share with the students. We both spoke and were roundly applauded. Fareth in his inimitable style was wearing a shirt that it was hard to look at without dark glasses and at 50 paces.DSC_0770

Although it had been cool to start with, by the end of the service it had warmed up and we filed outside to have a group photograph taken. Chairs were hurriedly assembled and we were sat down. The Bishop’s secretary took the photos and Christine noticed that he was using my old ipad, so at least it is being used! Lots of pictures were taken and then as the group broke up for breakfast, individual students wanted pictures of us on their phones. Eventually we managed to get away and headed to the Bishop’s Office. Thomas had said that he would like to see us at 9.00, but we explained we would be at KCTC and could we stick to the original plan of 10.00? As we had had no reply we thought we’d get there as soon as possible. However he was in a meeting so we went with Thomas to his office.

Thomas showed us the kit that Community Health Visitors can use to teach people about reproductive health. It is provided by MMA (Medical Mission for Africa), an Australian charity. It is excellent with all sorts of useful visual aids including a very realistic looking pelvis, two dolls, a magnetic board with pictures showing the uterus and male penetration, a magnetic menstrual cycle, and a couple of knitted uteri of different sizes! We were fascinated and were still trying to get over what we had seen when we were summoned to Bishop Darlington’s office.

Darlington greeted us warmly. It was lovely to see him again and we had a very useful and constructive meeting with him. The good news is that he will becoming to the U.K. in February for a conference in Canterbury and plans to spend some time in Suffolk afterwards.

We left and Thomas suggested that we set off to Nyamiaga at 12.00. We just had time to pop home, collect the presents we had for Darlington, which we had forgotten, walk down to the dress maker who had let it be known that he needed another measurement from Christine and have a quick cup of coffee. It was positively hot by now and very welcome it was too!

Nyamiaga isn’t far and we remembered that we had been there before five years ago as we drove into the church forecourt. We walked across the grassy area in front of the church towards a line of eucalyptus trees which had been planted about the time we last visited and were now very tall. They provided some welcome shade from the hot sun, but as we came through to the other side, there was the most magnificent view across the valley. At our feet and stretching away down the rocky hillside were eucalyptus saplings, 2,500 in all.


They have been planted by the church community for a number of reasons:

1. They prevent soil erosion

2. They will provide firewood, as well as timber for building in the future. This will be a source of income for the church as well

3. They act as a windbreak for the church at the top of the hillside

4. They provide a shady area where students from the school and church members can sit quietly

5. They will provide a haven for wildlife.

The trees planted 5 years ago will be ready for cutting in another five years. Coppicing will mean that they will go on producing wood for many years to come. Eucalyptus is the only suitable tree for this location. There is no farming here as the soil is thin and the slopes steep, so there is no rpoblem of the trees taking too much water from the soil.


The saplings were planted last Autumn in the wet season. Obviously it is hard to protect them from grazing animals and other problems, but only 200 have been lost which is less than 10% and compares favourably with other tree planting projects. The evangelist, Josias, joined us we stared out over the soon to be forested slope. He is in charge of the project and is clearly doing a good job. Pastor Selestine also arrived wearing a very bright jacket which made him visible from the top of the slope if not from outer space! Crickets averted their eyes as he made his way towards us. There is a long term plan to introduce beehives in the shade of the trees and produce honey which will again provide extra funds for the church.

On our way back to the car Pastor Selestine told us about another project. He had brought back from Bokoba some vanilla plants and these were now growing in pots in Evangelist Josias’ garden. There is a ready market for vanilla pods, particularly in Uganda, so here again was some enterprise that would benefit the church and the local community. As we passed the primary school we noticed a very attractive use for plastic bottles. They were using them as edging for the borders in the school courtyard. One student had fashioned a windmill from a plastic bottle, but was rather reluctant to let me photograph it. Luckily a ‘friend’ grabbed it and held it while I took a picture.

We drove back to Ngara and went in search of honey and sesame seeds, both of which we found. The sesame seeds or ufuta were £1.00 for half a kilo, so if anyone wants some……

Back home we managed a quick lunch (Naomi’s version of pizza – not sure it would be considered as such by an y self-respecting Neapoloitan, but hey!) and a brief sit down, before Thomas arrived to take us to the Murgwanza School of Nursing to meet the Community Health Worker students and see the MMA kit in action. We first met Innocence the Principal of the school, who made us very welcome. He is quite a character and there was a lot of banter between him and Thomas. He explained that there was a real problem amongst young people as regards sexual health in particular and that he wanted his students to go back into their communities and teach others about it. Poverty and ignorance are the basic issues and he was training students to break those cycles and end unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexual diseases. The successful students will be employed by the government in their local communities having been trained at this diocesan school. In Tanzania Aids has increased nationally but in Kagera, where it first appeared in the country, it seems to be fairly stable if not declining. However there are 5 NGOs working in the region trying to reduce HIV infection.

Innocent took us into the classroom to meet the students, one of which was Nyamlinda. The room was full of late teenage men and women who all stood up as we entered and bade us welcome. Thomas spoke and then we were invited to speak as always. Then we sat and watched Innocent deliver a lesson using the MMA kit on fistulas. It was both informative and entertaining and clearly he is a natural teacher. He was funny but never failed to deliver the importance and seriousness of the subject. Watching him trying to push an oversized baby into a pelvis held by a young woman is possibly one of the more surreal moments in our trip so far.

We were asked for some final thoughts and I gave a brief case study of the danger of ignorance in these matters from my own teaching experience. Christine mad the point that being entertaining like their tutor would enable them to get the message across in their villages.

We walked home agreeing with Thomas on the way that we would be ready at 8.00 a.m. to leave for Karagwe tomorrow. Once in we took our books out on the porch, but already the wind was getting up, the clouds were gathering and thunder was rolling in the distance. About half an hour later the heavens opened and it poured down. Thunder, lightening, wind and rain. It might not be the apocalypse, but it certainly gave us a taste!

We are planning an early night after dinner, some packing and, of course, a game of scrabble.