The netting is caught between my toes, I can hear the rustle of a sleeping bag next to me and I start to rise from the half sunken mattress. Handmade screens on the windows maintain our privacy from the children peering through the bars of the classroom. The bat that survives in the corner of the room is no longer present. I leave the safety blanket of the mosquito net to adventure outside. There’s a slight breeze in the air and I greet the cook who silently prepares our breakfast and head towards the toilets.
“It’s best to go early morning or in the evening”, one of the builders told me in broken English on my arrival. “There are too many flies and with the heat”.
I do as I’m told, and avoid the site in the daytime. The toilet is a small outbuilding made from brick. The two toilets have a door propped closed with a stone. Inside a roll of toilet paper sits on the floor and a hole in the ground is what is presented. I scan the perimeter for cockroaches and close the door behind me, I use my torch as a light and crouch to the floor. I try to not breathe through my nose to avoid the stench. The children’s toilets are positioned behind ours, they retreat to a row of long drops with no doors and no privacy, something that still surprises me.
I wander back to the classroom, my home for the next four weeks. It’s time to get water before breakfast is served. The yellow jerry cans sit outside the room empty. A volunteer and I carry the empty cans down the dirt path through the rural village of Jinja, Uganda. My shoes wobble on the stones and the dust has already settled on my clothes. We head to the water station and wait till the pump is unoccupied before we begin. A circular basin surrounds the pump and the metal tap is attached to a cylinder pipe. The water is released from the sea saw pump, with every bounce drops of water flow into the plastic bottles. I watch as the Ugandan children take it in turns to jump with the arm of the pump. It’s our turn.
“Muzungu” (Ugandan name for Western visitors), they giggle to us.
The heaviness of the arm makes me lose my breath and I feel weak compared to the children who do this on a daily basis. With each push of the arm more water is released, the volunteer holds the jerry can under the flowing tap. Between us we take it in turns, with every bounce the flow becomes steady and the heavy lifting becomes easier. Four jerry cans are filled to the top and each one is sealed with the red bottle top. Next, it’s time to carry the cans up the dirt path, back towards Wabalungu School. I can hear the children laugh behind me; I’m struggling to carry one can, let alone two. I quiver with each step I take until a child runs up and takes the bottle off me. I feel guilty as the young child relieves the weight of the jerry can from my arms and carries it confidently up the dirt path. They know where they are going, the village has already been told of our arrival as word spreads fast. I wonder what they think, as I try to carry just the one jerry can back to the school.
“Silly Muzungu”, I bet that’s what they are thinking.
I meet the children at the front door of the classroom, they’re infectious smile stretches as they see me barely balancing towards them.
“Webale” I smile to them, meaning thank you in Ugandan.
I pop a purifying tablet in two of the jerry cans and leave the other two to sit ready for the washing up after breakfast. The school handbell rings for the start of the day. I sit down to eat breakfast at the plastic table and chairs before a day of digging the playground begins.
I tuck into the fruit at breakfast, now the day can begin.
During this trip, I volunteered with the charity East African Playgrounds.