the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Would you believe it?

on March 1, 2020

I am in Kampala again as a result of a ‘would you believe it?’ moment. On Friday I travelled to Gulu because I needed to extend my tourist visa to provide cover until my work permit is issued. I was told renewal was a simple process, all I had to do was turn up at the office, produce my passport and pay a fee. After a six-hour drive from Yumbe, I went straight to the immigration office. I had heard from fellow volunteers based in Gulu that it had taken them five hours to acquire the necessary renewal. I wasn’t too worried because if I failed to get the stamp issued that day, I could always go back on Monday. But oh no. The immigration officer was away at a meeting.  He also had meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday so was unlikely to report at the Gulu office until Thursday! Back in Yumbe there’s a busy week ahead scheduled including an important visit from the VSO project manager on Thursday. “Is there anywhere else I can get the visa extended?” I asked. By this time, I was starting to panic. I absolutely need to have a valid visa otherwise I could face a fine or imprisonment! ‘Go to Kampala,’ came the reply.

After another seven-hour drive I am now in the capital. It’s good to be back. I know my way around the Tank Hill Road area well and the cooler climate in Kampala means I can sleep under a blanket for a change. I even have a balcony to enjoy the view of Lake Victoria.

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The only (slightly) troublesome thing about Kampala is mosquitoes. I have been very impressed that my regime involving the daily application of mosquito repellent and the wearing of socks, long sleeves and trousers in the evening has worked well. Other measures include sleeping under a mosquito net (and taking anti malarials) which have kept me safe. But, there’s no protection while taking a shower and one crafty mosquito managed to get me twice on the thigh. These bites have turned into huge, red welts and even antihistamines can’t stop the itching. I’m so glad that getting bitten by a mosquito is a rare occurrence. It was one of the things I worried about before leaving home, but with a rigorous routine, there really is nothing to be fear. Would you believe it?

A further moment happened recently when I opened an email which confirmed my debut novel The String Games is a finalist in The People’s Book Prize. There is an uncanny connection between the novel (written long before I ever considered volunteering in Uganda) and my current placement. At Bidibidi refugee settlement I work with families who have fled conflict in South Sudan. My work helps address the psychosocial needs of children by building parental skills and confidence to promote children’s wellbeing. In my fictional work The String Games, readers follow the development of my protagonist, Nim, from a child to a troubled teenager and then into adulthood where she is able to address unresolved feelings of guilt and responsibility over the loss of her brother when she was ten years old. This ability to come to terms with the past is a common element in my creative writing and the work I’m currently undertaking.

If you’re interested in supporting my creative endeavour, please pop over to The People’s Book Prize and vote for my novel. With your help, another ‘would you believe it’ moment could find me standing on the podium as winner of the fiction category.

 


2 responses to “Would you believe it?

  1. jim bates says:

    Hi Gail! Good to hear from you as always 🙂 What an amazing experience you are having. I see you writing at least one book coming out of this. Here’s wishing you have a safe week without any mosquito bites!! Take care…

  2. Catherine Randall says:

    Keep going Gail. So impressed with what you are doing. Lots of love Cathy

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