Monthly Archive for December, 2007

Grania: Christmas in Uganda

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas. I am sitting here typing this on Boxing Day, slowly recovering after a manic few days. Xmas Eve begun very like it does in the UK – travelling in to work knowing that you won’t be working a full day, and wondering just how early you can escape. Thankfully there was not too much to do, so after a morning Ward Round I was free to drive up to the airport on an important errand…

Dan’s family had sent us over a Christmas package, and last week Dan received a call informing him of its arrival, and also the Import Duty that was expected – a whopping 49% of the £150 the package had been insured for! By chance, a friend of ours who works at IHK was also in the same situation, so just before lunch we took Ursula for a spin up to Entebbe to pick a fight with the unsuspecting URA (Uganda Revenue Authority) staff. What an afternoon it turned out to be!

To start with, we had to find the DHL Collection Point, which was a task in itself but eventually turned out to be in an area of the airport that ordinary members of the public aren’t allowed access to. So we had to sneak in to the DHL office past a security guard with ridiculous shades on who looked like an extra from The Last King of Scotland, then we had to rummage around the DHL office looking for the parcel. Once the parcel had been retrieved, we were told that if we wanted to challenge the Import Duty we’d been charged, we’d have to take it to the URA Customs Office next door. So we went next door and joined the back of a rather chaotic queue. As we did so, one of the ladies who worked in the office plucked us from the queue, ushered us into the office and presented us to the “man who was going to sort it out” and demanded that he sort out the tax issue and ensure that we got our presents. (Thank you Clare!)

Amazingly enough, we managed to talk our way out of paying any tax. Luke (the friend from IHK) wasn’t quite so lucky, and while we had spent two hours sorting out our parcel he had spent two hours in the office waiting for someone to even find his parcel. Thankfully, with a bit of kicking-up stink we got his parcel and presented ourselves back to Clare (who was busy ignoring the crowds of people waving wads of cash in her face desperate to receive their parcels before the URA office closed for Xmas), and yet again we were let in to the office and began the process again. We spent a total of five hours in the Customs Office sorting this out and saw all sorts of crazy things – one lady was charged 520% of the value of her parcel in Import Tax. I do not understand how a country can function charging that much on imported items!

Anyway, once we had escaped from the airport we had kindly been invited to a Swedish Xmas eve party (Swedes apparently can’t wait for the day itself and get going early!) We were treated to a delicious array of goods in a Smörgåsbord fashion. I had my first glass of champagne since our arrival, and although the beer here is good, I do love champagne… As we enjoyed the food, company and spectacular views of night-time Kampala from the balcony, it was decided that as we weren’t in the cold old UK and midnight carols weren’t an option, the only thing to do was a midnight swim, so just as midnight came we jumped into the pool – much to the amusement of Linda’s security guards!

Thankfully on Xmas morning we had made it back home in time to be tucked up in bed and asleep when Santa came. (I was concerned he might have got lost.) Once the stockings were done we opened all the pressies that had come from the UK (by various means!) and thank you Brigden and PP families, presents were great – especially all the DVDs. I was spoilt with a 4×4 course in January from Dan so that I can take Ursula over all obstacles in our way. We then went to our neighbours’ house (the one with all the children, nearly sure there are ten of them but it still seems to be more!) and give them a small gift of rice and oil. It was great to see the smile on the mother’s face and the children dancing around makes you realise how lucky we are and what Xmas is really about.

Then down to the day’s main event – we were having 14 people for the Xmas Day BBQ. The garden was set up, badminton net erected, mulled wine mulling and then the party could begin! It is very strange experiencing Xmas in a hot climate as the whole thing feels slightly surreal, but with the help of mulled wine, Santa hats and cheesy music we quickly got into the usual festive activities – eating and eating and then squeezing in a bit more eating.

Once we’d eaten too much we all moved en mass to a swimming pool close to our house and enjoyed a merry game of Xmas water polo. (Unfortunately the blow-up Santa didn’t survive the game and drowned at the bottom of the pool.)

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Then we all back for a warm up hot toddy, mince pies, Xmas cake and silly Xmas day games! It was a really fun day and I got over the fact that we have no oven, so no crispy roast potatoes! Unfortunately, due to a crashed internet we didn’t get to Skype the folks back home but our thoughts were with you all…

Boxing Day started earlier than I would have liked with a 6.50am phone call from the hospital, but after popping in and sorting out a few problems we prepared for a second day of entertaining. We had some Ugandan friends of Dan’s round for lunch and this time volleyball had been arranged. It was another fun day and spending it with Beatrice and her family, and the associated bickering and banter helped ease some the feelings we had about not being at home.

We hope you all had a fun Christmas and if we don’t get to post anything before the New Year – Happy New year. We are really looking forward to 2008!