On the 5th of August our leaders took us on a trip around Masaka. We had only seen it up to then while driving to the safety of our hotel. On that day everyone of us realised the true grip the poverty struggle has on millions.
On the walk into the city centre, we pass two banks with armed security guards outside. You would think with two banks side by side with each other there may be some form of economic enlightenment for the locals. We pass by the post office with lockers for pigeon holes and a sign reading "Please remember to lock". Down onto the street "by-passing the centre" where you take the best opportunity to cross the road. "Stare them (the drivers ) out of it and they will stop". Finally we are in the main town. But to get there we had to use a small wattle and daub bridge to cross the dug-out sewers containing the rubbish since the last rainfall.
As we walk down the path we see drivers and pedestrians look at us. "MUZUNGU" they call. We don't even look around to see who shouted it, we are used to it by now. We were told it is not an offensive word. Most of the Ugandans realise why we are here. Roughly it refers to the wealthy Westerners. Heads turn as we pass the open shops. One image that I can still see clearly in my mind is the end of an open sewer with the backlog of rotten waste. Every shop looks the same, the majority sell the same products. The phone company Zain, seems to have the monopoly on phone networks in Uganda. On every shop wall there is an advertisement for Zain. It is just a mere painting on the wall, nothing like in Ireland. We went into a small supermarket to get some "Comfort Foods". I see the Cadburys chocolate bar behind the counter feeling more at home. But walking outside again we are stuck by the African world.
The cars beep everything that gets in their way. Mostly it is families on the one motorbike pulling in and out of cars on the road. The main form of transport seems to be by motorbike. The lucky have a car, the majority go by foot. The children look at us in amazement. After all it is the first time they have seen a white skinned person. We just look back and smile. We pass by a butchers. Instead of the nice friendly local butcher with the meat freshly imported and the protective glass around it, we see meat hanging from meat hooks on a makeshift roof with the flies crawling on them. The person who owns the shop desperately trying to make some sort of a sale. Unfortunately for him the biggest industry in Uganda is farming.
Our eyes by now are exhausted from the lack of blinking as every time we turn our head we see something new that is a complete contrast to what we are used to. We walk back to our hotel leaving the city of Masaka behind to return to the safety of our hotel which most Ugandans would only dream about.
Despite the sadness of this passage, we have to remember there is some light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it myself. First a group of Irish teenagers are going over to help the less-fortunate and second it seems Uganda is making an internal progress. For example; the road which we drive every morning and evening to get to the school is partly funded by the EU and part of Masaka was funded by Germany. As the sign on arrival at Entebbe airport reads "Welcome to the Pearl of Africa" it is so true. Uganda is a green and fertile country which hopefully will allow the Ugandans to prosper. There is potential for Masaka to grow and hopefully over the next few decades we will se a dream come true.