Travel experience in the United Kingdom 2007.

By Moses Kigozi

  I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Servas International Development Committee for the travel grant, Dianne Peterson who made the donation to the Youth Award. Special thanks to Servas Britain whose contribution ranged from encouragement, hospitality, prayers and advice to make this possible. To you all, I say thank you.

After a long struggle to get a visa to enter Britain, on 23rd June 2007, David rang me informing me he had talked to the Visa manager at the British High Commission and I had to go and collect my passport at Visa Handling Service offices in Kampala. I was remaining with only three days to do my last minute planning. When I got the opportunity to travel to Britain I was very anxious, I did not sleep well the night before I left Uganda. This was my first time to travel by plane and also go to Europe. I was imagining many things because I had heard a lot about up there in Europe especially the weather, people and traveling in a plane.

On 27th July 2007, I had to check in at 13:30 and the plane had to leave at 16:15. I traveled with Emirates Airlines and had a transit at Dubai. When I entered the plane, I was welcomed by the attendants and I appreciated their friendly service. I liked the personal computer screens that provided, travel plan, music, movies, games e.t.c. It was a 15hour journey from Entebbe to Heathrow Airport.

At 7:15 I arrived in London. After clearing with the immigration and got out of the airport, I found the weather very strange; it was shining but very cold. I had never experienced this before. I did not find much difficulty and I thank Ann for all her advice about what to do and where to go when I arrive in UK. Before I left Uganda, she had paid in advance my bus ticket from Heathrow Airport to Leeds.

When I reached Heathrow Airport, from Terminal 3 I needed to take the Hoppa bus, a small bus which links the terminal and to ask for the collection point at the Central Bus Station. I had a copy of a printed ticket details which I presented at the collection point and a lady gave me a bus ticket. She also directed me where I should wait for the bus to Leeds.

After some 30 minutes wait I boarded the bus which took me 5 hours to Leeds. After arriving in Leeds, I took a walk around and visited the market while waiting to be collected. In three hours David and Sustan from India came with a car and collected me from the bus station were I was waiting. He drove us to his home briefly, this was my first time to enter an English home it was a lovely house with a garden behind. David had to collect some things from the house after some few minutes we then headed to Dalesbridge.

When we reached Dalesbridge in the afternoon, I was shown the bunk house were I was going to stay. We were 125 participants and some stayed in the main house, camping area and bunk house. The event brought members of all ages from a wide range of countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America. I stayed and shared this bank house with Pablo from Argentina, Josh from Belgium, Tapan from India, Austin and Rodolfo from Mexico. It was a nice house, the beds, tables, ceiling and floor were made out of pine wood. My room mates where very helpful in many ways. In the evening after 9pm, all of us met in a large room. We were told about information about Dalesbridge Center, the local area plus advice about walking in the countryside. I wondered so much about the day light at 9pm because in Uganda by 9 pm it is very dark. When I asked my new friend Josh from Belgium, he explained to me about the weather and climate in Europe. I also briefly shared with him about the weather in Uganda. By then I was feeling very tired after along journey so I wanted to go and sleep.

On Sunday 29th August, I woke up very refreshed and took a shower. We had breakfast in our group in the house. There was a variety of eats but I wanted to taste all since the majority where new to me. After the break fast I took a walk around the center. In the morning there was a different meeting for parents and young people under 18 years. We had introduction to Servas Youth meetings and planning for the week.
In the afternoon we took a walk took to get to know the area. I joined the group which went to Ingleton village. While walking in the village, the streets were very clean with no rubbish example plastic bags and bottles like here at home. Every home I visited I noticed that they sort out their rubbish, plastics, papers, glass e.t.c in different bins or bags. I admired this system and I do it at home and work place.

The houses were built with lime stones over hundred years ago. During our walk, we had to go swimming. There was only one outdoor swimming pool in the area. I was surprised to find the water in the pool warm since the weather was cold compared to Uganda. I had to be with my sweater all the time which took a bit of getting used to, but fortunately without serious mishaps.

After swimming, we returned to the center and had afternoon tea followed by early evening meal in the dinning room. This room was later cleared for entertainment and we danced before going to bed.

I am very thankful to Servas Britain team for the good organization of the "Servas Youth and Family Event". From 28th July to August 4th, we participated in a variety of programs. During the event, it was an opportunity for me to contribute to the programme in the workshops below.

  • Health issues in Uganda and Africa, followed by a wider discussion on world health.
  • An interactive workshop - Communication across Cultures.
  • Watching of "An Inconvenient Truth", a film by Algore on climate change in the large meeting room followed by discussion on climate change and implication for traveling the world.
  • Debate about world wide aid, debt and fair - trade - the balance of resources between rich and poor countries. This is led by a local Oxfarm development worker with contribution from me and others.
  • Presentation by Jean Seymour about Tourism concern and responsible tourism, followed by discussion about how Servas can offer young travelers a low impact, sustainable and ethical way to see the world.
  • Every day around 5pm out side the main room, we had youth meetings to discuss youth topics in Servas. Discussions held were on;

  • Servas Youth Dolphine Data Base" to include youth members contact information on line. "Servas Youth Language Experience" (SYLE) the program provides one month for learning a foreign language abroad through the Servas network for travelers between 18/30 years old.
  • Music for Peace CD", the files to burn and create the CD to our Servas groups were available and a donation of five pounds to cover the production costs was expected.
  • Youth Web Site". During the meetings, volunteers from several countries offered to help Servas Youth. Pablo was also to work with them later through e-mail.
  • I enjoyed a variety of Sports on/off site and pre - dinner games and entertainment. Most of the games where new to me, I liked caving this was provided by the Center's instructors. We participated in sessions and our group had ten people. It was cold under the ground but the instructor told us during the winter it is warm. A walk in Malham Cove fields was nice.

    On 3rd August we gathered in the large meeting room to exchange information and finalized the day's programme. Later in the afternoon we concluded discussions and we had the final Servas youth meeting. We went for the ceremony to receive our awards. Dianne Peterson from Singapore presented the awards. This was a donation from her stepmother's legacy. The final evening party was held.

    After the youth and family event, I went and stayed at Ann and David's home. It is a beautiful home located in Burley-in-Wharfedale, Ilkley (Yorkshire). Behind the house was a small garden with vegetables, Irish potatoes e.t.c. Some days we could get Irish potatoes from this small garden for our dinner. The potatoes tasted the same like those in Uganda, I later learnt that they were brought to Uganda long ago by the British colonialists. The first few days we were over ten people especially from the event. The house had only two bed rooms but some slept in the living room and I was given a sleeping bag to stay in the reading room with others. This reminded me of our culture in Uganda when some times we share the homes with relatives. After a couple of nights some members left, I was given a bed room to sleep. At this home there was a dog called Josh and cat. Josh had broken his leg was under going treatment, I was surprised to see that animals are treated like human beings. I had a chance to go with Josh at the clinic for treatment. Some dogs at the clinic had been admitted. This reminded about Uganda where people die due lack of treatment and drugs in hospitals. I wanted to help with house work but I discovered that most of the house work is done with the help of machines, this was my first time to see and use a dish washer, washing machine e.t.c. so I had to be taught how to operate these machines. During that week, I was able to move around the village. According to Uganda's standards, what is called a village in Britain is a City in Uganda. I visited Leeds several times.

    On Wednesday 8th August Ann and David gave me and Mary (Servas friend from Malawi) an offer to go and visit the York. This place had many tourist attractions like Minster, Clifford's Tower, and Castle museum e.t.c. In the morning we packed our lunch, I learnt that it was expensive to eat in restaurants and most people had to prepare food at home. Ann dropped us at Leeds Train Station so that we take a train to York. She had to collect us later in the evening after her work. Mary and I visited the Minster. We found many visitors from different parts of the world, we were told that, the first Minster was built of wood in 627 AD after being damaged when York was captured in 1069. I was very surprised to hear that the new Stone Minster we know today, construction began in 1080 and 1100. It took about 250 years to build. While walking around I noticed it was under going renovation to prevent it from collapsing due to the weight.

    We further went and visited the Clifford's tower named after Roger de Clifford who was hanged there in 1322. This place was a base for administering the North of York. Due to time, we failed to see the museum because by 5pm we had to be at Leeds station where Ann was supposed to pick us after her work, to go home.

    While in Britain, I was very much cared for and on top of that I was provided with food, accommodation and transport between host families. After staying at Ann and David's home for five nights, they tried to make arrangements for me to visit other Servas hosts in Britain. When I told them I had never seen the Sea, Ann made several calls to different hosts who lived near the sea. Rachel and Steve, (a couple) in Lancashire accepted to stay with me for a couple of nights. On Thursday 9th Ann drove me to Leeds train station where I was to take a train to Silverdale.
    I enjoyed so much traveling by train because we do not have passenger trains in Uganda. While traveling, I enjoyed the nature, I saw the sea for the first time. When I reached Silverdale, Rachel and Steve were waiting for me at the station. They drove me to their home in a small car which I later learnt it was a very economical car. When we reached home it was a beautiful large house with a nice compound, in an area of out standing natural beauty. The home was in a quiet place away from city noise. After showing me around the house, I was later served with a drink. I was asked if I was not very tied to go and do bird watching, and see the red deer. I replied, I wanted to see the deer for the first time. Before going, we had a walk in the village and along the sea shore. I again noticed that also houses in this area were also constructed using stones including finishing. Its rare to see this in Uganda since we use blocks.
    I was very lucky to meet Steve, a field studies leader and Rachel an Ex-academic. This gave me a chance to get practical and experience many real things I was taught at school in geography 13 years ago. We had a walk to Silverdale shore and explained to me the history and the geology lesson about the area. There was no sea as we had our walk on the shore, Steve explained to me more about tides, "a regular rise and fall in the level of the sea caused by the pull of the sun and moon". This was a great opportunity for me to experience in reality, what I was taught at school 13 years ago. After we went back home to pick Rachel so that we could go and see the birds and the deer.

    When we reached the scene, guides briefly told us about the place and how best we cold see the deer and birds. "Making a lot of noise drives away deers", the guide told us that in the past many people missed the seeing deers. I was lucky I saw the dear and different kinds of bird species. Some birds came and went according to the season and there are those which stayed throughout the year.

    We went back home and had a delicious dinner with mutton while eating we planned about where to go the following day. St. Bees was the place chosen. Steve had been briefly Kenya (Africa) he told us about the Masai tribe, who believe that cattle in this world belong to them alone. I also told him about the Karamojong tribe in northern Uganda who believe like the Masai. It was really a nice time to talk about political, economic and social issues in England and Africa. After dinner these friends were so kind to drive me back to Silverdale sea shore to see the tide coming in. It was a great experience!

    The next day I was taken to St. Bees by train, I saw the Irish sea. While on a rocky shore, I was able to view Scotland at a distance, Sellafield nuclear power station. Steve taught me another geology lesson. At the beach, I failed to swim since the water was cold and tried to put my feet in the Irish Sea. Some people who were swimming, Rachel told us they had swim wear which brought warmth.

    We had our lunch at the restaurant near the beach, I tried chicken Muyone. People here live a different life style. I wondered about the caravan park at St Bees it is a kind of small village where people stay in caravans , instead of houses. When I was above the beach, It was interesting to see the surf in St. Bees bay. In the evening we had to take train back to Silverdale. I was used to time tables unlike in Uganda were taxis do not move on a schedule.

    When I returned from Silverdale, we had a separate Youth planning meeting at Ann`s home. The event at Dalesbridge was mainly a social event rather than a business meeting. As members of the Servas International Youth Development Group, I was also involved in planning meeting for the group following the main event, We discussed:

  • The future of Servas
  • Why Servas in some African countries especially Anglophone is on and off?
  • Why some National groups do hold meetings?
  • United Nations (How UN works and how young people can understand its aims, and operations and what it offers to young people).
  • Servas Africa Area meeting 6-10 December meeting 2007
  • Communication between National Secretaries and Youth representatives from each country.
  • Restriction of travelers especially from developing countries.
  • Increasing members in our national groups
  • After some three days at Ann's home it was time to say good bye. Jean the National Secretary of Servas Britain passed by Ann's home to pick me to go with her. She was returning to her home after a visit to her grand children. We had already agreed at Dalesbridge to stay with her at while visiting London. She lived in nice home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. North of London. One of Jean's hobbies was music, so I listened to different kind of music all corners of the world, I liked Bob Marley which made me feel at home. During our journey I had a chance to see Motor ways and under ground roads. When we reached home that evening, Jean took me out to see a man made river which is over 20 miles. It was used long ago a round 1884 to transport goods in London, She took me for a cup of tea in the near by café. Before we went home to prepare dinner. We shopped at Sainsbury supermarket. I saw that in every region in Britain they had the same things in terms of Supermarkets, Banks, e.t.c. I recalled Steve in Silverdale, told me he had spent 6 year without going to t London. When I asked him why, he said he got very thing he needed in Lancashire.

    The next day Jean took me to visit the Hatfield House This was another chance for me see motorways again .This house was built in the 15th Century. It was located 21 miles North of London. Previously it was a home for Queen Elizabeth I. I had never seen such a big house with thousands of books in the home library. Every thing in this house was very expensive and some designs were imported from China during that time.
    While returning home we discussed visiting my last host Larry before I went home. Jean advised me that London was very expensive to live in but Larry knew how to live in London cheaply. I had met Larry at Dalesbridge, a university student in Britain and comes from Nigeria.

    After a couple of night at Jean`s home, the next day she drove me to London at her daughters place. Her name was Emily. From there it was very easy to go at Larry's home. I had to meet Larry later that evening. I left Jean at that home as I took a walk in London I took a train to Embarkment. I went over different kinds of bridges, including foot Bridge, Tower Bridge, e.t.c The buildings like London eye impressed me, I saw that buildings were constructed in a variety of shapes un like Uganda where most are in box shape. By 5pm I had to be back at Emily home so that I could go to Larry`s home. Although some streets and houses looked the same, it was not possible for one to get lost as streets were marked with numbers and names. To reach Emily's home from Queen`s Park station was very easy, roads had sign posts unlike Uganda where most roads do not have sign posts. I took Victoria Rd, turned left at Hazelmere Rd and again at Chasteris Rd. A few weeks before I traveled, I had a chat with my friends from Australia about mail delivery in developed countries. As I was returning to Emily's home experienced mail being delivered at the physical address as told by my friends. In Uganda I have to travel 7 miles to get my mail at the Post office.

    Larry lived in East London the last days I spent at his home, I was able to buy a cheap day travel card to enable me move around London throughout the day. I was able to visit the Charity Center This gave me chance to purchase books useful to APY. I also visited some Ugandans living in UK.

    In conclusion, Servas in Africa needs a lot of support and I am sure Uganda will lead the change. Most of the things were new to me and I had always wanted to try out. First time to travel by train, plane I enjoyed the so much the day I forgot to get off the at Shipley station and remembered after reaching the final station in Leeds! , the buildings, the cars and people, lastly I liked the system of doing things in time.

    We live on the same planet (earth) but see things differently. I remembered one day we passed under -ground and I asked Jean how they managed to develop to that level. She said that people in Europe plan for generations. This made me see that most Africans plan for today. Ignorance, poverty and diseases affect us so much. Lastly I want say my life changed for a better!