30 April 2008

whoah baby!

Today I was overwhelmed. I was pediatric bedside nurse, in & outpatient & satellite center nutrition programs coordinator, ART clinic staff, and hospital supply storeroom personnel - all at once...and I'm not very good at multi tasking, have I said that before? I think I have. Today I was keeenly aware! I was also keenly aware of the fact that it is a work of God that anyone survives admission to this health center...really, some days it just seems miraculous, and today was one of them. Myhre's, Masso's and Pierce's and Ashley are all traveling, so it's Pat and Sarah and I holding down the fort.

Back to the idea of paradoxes, and the notion that this place is full of them, or that life here for me is full of them. There's the 6 hours at the health center that are just pure madness with everybody gone - not many to bounce ideas off of, to share work load with, etc. And then there's home - which while everyone is gone has a calm to it that's really pretty nice! There's not the rush rush of people coming in and out of your house with questions/meetings/dinner appointments, etc. The time here while most of the team is traveling is a paradox of madness and calm.

And then I have this question...has Aquafresh toothpaste always been red white and blue striped or was it infact red, white and green striped when I was small? I don't think I've used it in about 15 years but I bought some here and have been perplexed each morning and night when I go to spread it on my toothbrush...doesn't quite look right...

29 April 2008


This is my name most of the time here in Uganda...people hear "Aida" when I say "Heidi" because it's a name they're familiar with that is somewhat similar...I've even started responding to it when people call across a room or are trying to get my attention when I'm looking another way, "Aida!" "Nisioni!" (that's me!). Oh and it's pronounced "Ida" as in "Idaho"...well, kind of....

Another funny interaction I've had in the last week or two is about another part of my identity, but I didn't think it would follow me to Uganda...that's the identity I have of being a "P.K." I was showing a couple of the nurses at the health center the photo of my family the other day (and everybody says "where's your mom?" and when I point to her in the middle they all say "ah! She looks so young!") and one of the nurses, Jophes, asked what my parents do for work, and I told them my mom is a Nurse Practitioner, kind of like a clinical officer here, and that my dad is a pastor, and he says "ah, so you're a P.K.?!" with this grin on his face, and I looked up suddenly and said "how do you know P.K.?!"...he mentioned it again today when I said I'd been sick over the weekend, he said "well, she's a P.K. so she could just pray to feel better!" Geez louise, it's the same in Africa as in the States!!!! Ah!

20 April 2008


National Pot Smoking Day (in the U.S. thanks to the Grateful Dead) and also, although more devastating, the birthday of Adolf Hitler. The latter event has made 4/20 into a day of mourning in American history for the last couple of decades...4/20 is the day after the Waco Massacre (4/19/93), the Oklahoma City Bombing (4/19/95), the Columbine School Shootings (4/19/99), and 4 days after the Virginia Tech Shootings (4/16/07). There are probably more, but that's enough to get my point across I think.

BUT 4/20 also marks the birth of one Heidi Jeanne Lutjens (born on her uncle Gary Lutjens' birthday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY UNCLE GARY!) to her parents Kurt and Susan Lutjens at 2:17pm in St. Mary's Hospital, St. Louis, MO, in the spring of 1979.

Yep, today's my 29th birthday. So far I've celebrated by skipping church, listening to a Tim Keller sermon tape (yes, cassette tape) and singing hymns with Ashley and Sarah (who were also playing hooky from church), and now I'm eating a chocolate bar and drinking a DIET COKE!!! I've saved this can of CocaCola Light for about a month and a half, for this occasion, and of course it's flat now, but I'm still enjoying it. Really I'm not in much of a festive mood.

Friday afternoon, I hit the wall. The cultural adjustment, "I've enough of all of this", wall. I kind of knew it was coming but wasn't sure when it would hit. I'm one week shy of my three month mark and that's when I learned it was supposed to hit for most people, so evidently I'm normal...or at least somewhat normal...

I've had enough of kids dying, of being stared at, of not being able to understand/be understood, of being in a fish bowl every time I step foot outside my front door, of not having any time to myself, of not having anyone around who knows me, of having no other option but to cook 3 meals a day from scratch, of having kids knocking incessantly at my door asking for things, and the list goes on...

BUT ("and it's a big but")...

This is my Father's world
O let me ne're forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This in my Father's world;
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav'n be one.
- M.D. Babcock

and ...

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And He who was seated on the throne said "Behold, I am making all things new." Also He said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" - Rev. 21:3-5

I've seen beautiful glimpses of this "making new" and of "My Father's world" this week...Swizen dancing and being discharged, the crazy strange familiarity of the almost full moon lit sky and the light it casts on this place here at the end of the road, Ndyezika and Juliet being joined by God in marriage, the beautifully harmonized and vibrant voices of the children's choir that sang at the wedding...

For these things and many more I am thankful this birthday.

13 April 2008

chuckling to myself

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon here except that doesn't mean that it rains all of the time, but rather in spurts on/off. It's a good afternoon for recounting a few laughs I've had this week...

Today on my walk up the hill to church (just a few hundred yards) I passed by the church/community center cho (latrine) and there was a woman inside singing away...needless to say I chuckled to myself :)

This week a couple of times on my walk to and from the Health Center I've seen this character in Nyahuka wearing John Lennon like sunglasses (rare to see sunglasses at all) and a long pink raincoat...he also has made me chuckle to myself...

I got this super funny email from my dad who I had written to the day before to ask a question, and evidently I wasn't the only one who had written/called to ask him a question that day because he replied "Today I'm running a $2 special, it's your lucky day...if you want a better answer try back on a day when I'm running my $5 special..." maybe it's not so funny if you're not his daughter living all the way around the world and just glad to have heard from home...

I was pasteurizing my milk on Friday night and it has to get up to 160 degrees F, and it had reached about 130, so I turned around to do other things and promptly forgot about the milk on the stove until Craig, a visitor who was doing my dishes (I tried to stop him but he was persistent), said "did you forget the milk?" DOH! Yep, I had indeed forgotten the milk and it was billowing up to the top of the pan and had reached about 210 degrees, so I yanked it off and tried dumping it into the pitcher and it was a bit too heavy and so it spilled all over the counter before I got a good hold of it and got most of it in the pitcher...geez louise...more chuckling...

And the milk ordeal was at the end of the night that started for me in the kitchen with making a Mornay sauce...have you ever heard of Mornay sauce? Me neither, but Pat was making Chicken Divan for our guests for dinner and she was a little behind in some other things she was working on, so I took on the Mornay sauce...the Joy of Cooking recipe was WAY over my head but after plugging through it sentence by sentence, including "1 small onion studded with cloves" (who "studs" an onion with cloves, I mean really...), the sauce was a success believe it or not...but I was talking to Rachel and Craig at the same time and chuckling out loud to them while talking/cooking as I made my way through my first attempt at Mornay sauce...

Yesterday afternoon I decided I was in the mood for some brownies, which here means making them from scratch, so I started on that venture and then decided while I was thinking about it to make yogurt from the milk I had pasteurized the night before and was working on that at the same time...then after the brownies were done and the oven was still on I decided I should make granola to go along with the yogurt while I was thinking about it too, so I embarked on that ordeal too...trying to find a recipe that included things I actually had, etc. Needless to say I'm not one much for multi-tasking and there were a few points where I just turned in circles in the kitchen much like I did in the nurses' station at SLCH, but they all turned out pretty well if I do say so myself, but the whole process involved lots of chuckling...

Mom, could you send me your granola recipe by the way? If you've never had my mom's granola and you know how to get a hold of her, you should ask her for the recipe, she got it from Linda Blakeman and it's scrumptious and addictive, so watch out. I guess there are worse things to be addicted to.

The last thing I can think of right now is the three legged race I did with Julia Myhre at a birthday party yesterday afternoon for Lydia and Kym (two orphaned girls that Pat looks after)...the photo above is proof...needless to say we both laughed all the way to the end and back, and I think we managed to beat Ashley and Sarah (the other photo) somehow!

12 April 2008

Nutrition extension sites

Busaru Health Unit Immunization clinic (happens just before the Nutrition program). Those are all mom's and their small kids waiting under the tree to get shots.
Busaru's grounds...it's a private/public partnership so they get funding from the Catholic church which is why the super nice facilities!
Biira, the little girl in her mom's arms at the Busunga Health Unit. Biira's mother pictured here is developmentally delayed and not very capable of taking care of her without help and the "grandmother" type woman involved isn't much help either...it's a long story but I don't think this little one is alive any longer.
Babika, a nurse at Busunga, handing out soy and gnut pastes to one of the mom's in the nutrition program there.

Dave's visit

On the porch at the Good Times Restaurant in Bundibugyo Town just before Dave left for Fort Portal (and then on to Kigali, Rwanda and then to Botswana for his last Med School rotation)
"Thank you Jesus for Cold Drinks" - I have no idea what this sign really says but in my mind that's what it says. Pat says it's not Lubwisi, maybe it's Swahili or something, but after a really hot market experience Dave and I went and found a couple of cold sodas near this sign - so nice!
This is the church that's here on the mission...check out the church leader maxin' and relaxin' in his "beach" chair while the choir sings...
Ngite! Ngite is the waterfall closeby, we drove to the town near the bottom and then hiked up to the falls, or really "scrambled" up to the falls since it's not really something you do standing up, but rather on all fours...but sooooooo worth it on a really hot but clear and beautiful afternoon! How hot you ask? Well the next day in the shade on the Pierce's porch the thermometer said it was in the 90's...so with the humidity and in the sun, very much above 100 I'd say.
Not sure if this picture helps with perspective but it's pretty darn tall! That's Acacia Masso who is 10 years old standing ready to take the plunge into the crisp/cold water....

Things/people from around town

Ashley took this with my camera after our team's Passover dinner at the Myhre's
A little Passover wine (or mixed berry juice if you're under 20), a little candle light and a few readings made for a great celebration/rememberance of "the night our Lord was betrayed"
This is Ngongi who works outside for Pat and I, pushing Akiki and Lydia on the swingset down at the Pierces house on the Christ School grounds, I don't know who's having more fun, Ngongi or the girls!
Swizen, our long term Peds ward resident walking with Olupah the nurse...he's got quite the attitude and spunk now, it's really been an incredible process to watch his healing take place
Here's Joshua the tailor's feet hard at work...it's incredible to watch these old Singer sewing machines hum and tick - he says this machine rarely ever requires repairs as compared to the newer fangled ones that aren't as reliable.
Joshua the tailor happy at work (he was tickled I was taking his "snap")
Circumcisions: this boy is wearing the "I just got circumcized" outfit that I've seen around town frequently these days...kind of a different spin on the "halter dress"...
Church with a view after everyone had gone home for the day
I was too chicken to get a shot with the guy actually using this contraption but imagine a man in his mid to late 40's sitting backwards on the bike seat, pedaling, the bike stays in place and the circular thing above the back tire spins and he uses it to sharpen knives and other sharp things...African ingenuity I tell you! And the umbrella, that's the best part, who wants to sharpen knives in the hot equatorial sun?!

My "hood"

Snow capped peaks (taken from the health center/Peds ward)
Longhorns visiting the Health Center
Early morning view
Residential Nyahuka

11 April 2008


I'm not so used to this Monday - Friday work week thing...not so crazy about it to be honest, but it's good for me I think. Believe it or not, I have more routine here than I have since graduating from high school...

Here's a few things from the week...
  • I was walking to the Heath Center one morning this week and there on one of the sparsely populated porches of the shops/living quarters that sit back from the road a bit there was a young guy, probably about my age, standing with a towel wrapped around his waist and bathing in a basin much like I wash my dishes in...I guess he just decided he'd rather bathe on the front porch that morning...whatever :)
  • Sunday afternoon I had a cold coke when we ate in Bundibugyo town before sending Dave off to Fort Portal, and can I just say IT WAS FABULOUS! By the time I went for a soda last night at Team Pizza there weren't anymore coke's left so I had a Fanta Orange, it was good, but can't quite measure up to a cold Coke!
  • Yesterday morning during rounds we came upon our first of what would be 4 kids with convulsions of various sorts...this one unconsciousIt was just Jennifer and I at that point, so I'm pushing (yes, 8E, PUSHING) valium, ceftriaxone, and D50 diluted with NS...every several seconds the kid (maybe 2 years old guestimating) would pause in his breathing and my eyes would move from the IV catheter that wasn't really working all that well, to his chest that had momentarily stopped moving up and down, and say a little prayer, "please God, not now, not another one" and think "BREATHE!" to myself, and his little chest would return to it's heaving, pulmonary edema-like pattern...the mom started crying at one point and as a nurse there's an unbelieveable feeling of helplessness to not be able to communicate with her and reassure her or even ask her what she's feeling...he's still alive today, has malaria and a Hgb = 4, so was being transfused when I left...
  • Jennifer recieved confirmation from the Dr. in Kampala that Maate arrived safely at International Hospital and we'll hopefully hear updates at some point of what they find/how he's doing. Thanks for praying and keep it up!
  • The men hanging around at various points along my walk home from the Health Center today were in rare form, jeering/mocking/laughing...(I guess they're glad it's Friday to0)...and after our study at team mtg. yesterday about forgiveness I'm trying not to let their behavior define them in my heart/mind...trying not to let their behavior affect how I respond to the smiling/friendly kids I pass a few paces beyond them...evidently Desmond Tutu defines forgiveness as not letting what someone does/says define them...God help me...
I'm going to try to post more pictures tomorrow, we'll see what happens.

Later Gators.

07 April 2008


This afternoon was my time to talk to my parents...monday morning their time, dad's day off, works well, but since daylight savings our scheduled time is right in the middle of internet time, I told mom that I was in the process of getting online to post pictures to my blog when she called, and she wants to see the pictures so agreed to call back tomorrow at the same time...

I have now spent the last 45 minutes trying to load pictures and have only been able to successfully post 3!!!! Craziness!!!!! So frustrating...there are lots more to come, just need some more speed/bandwidth or something...aaaaahhhhh....



this smiling young man is really sick. He's 15 years old and weighs about 20kg or about 45 lbs. We've been treating him for about a month with TB therapy based on his Chest XRay but he's not getting any better infact he's getting worse, but these days his main complaint is his abdomen, he's so think you can see the pockets of air/gas moving through his intestines and causing him pain. Jennifer's not sure what else we can do with what little we have in Nyahuka as far as diagnostics go, so she got on her cell phone, called International Hospital in Kampala and got the director of the HOPE ward there to agree to take him in their "no payment" required program. Problem: we're not sure we can get a male relative to go with Maate and his mom, for protection and provision and translation, etc. Please pray that they come up with someone to send and that we can get him to Kampala ASAP. I stayed behind after Jennifer and Scott left to make sure that Maate understood why we were sending him to Kampala and where we were sending him and that it's the best hospital in Kampala and that they'll take good care of him, and that I didn't want him to be scared. Often in health care, we talk over/about patients and not TO them, he's 15 and very capable of understanding what's going on, enough that he had this look of fear/pain on his face, but then as I was leaving after we chatted (via. translation) I did the double hand wave and smile, and I got a smile and wave back...such a great kid...please pray!

Cheerleading African Style

The girls gathered in the photo on the left waving their arms are the Christ School girls that are sort of like self appointed cheerleaders. They sing praise and worship songs and other sorts of songs throughout the game and the drums on the right are their accompaniment...a little bit of a different spin on the American short skirts and pom poms, but exuberant and motivational nonetheless.

06 April 2008

For love of the game...

I really like watching soccer, or football as it's called here. These are a few shots of last weekend's district semifinal game in which Christ School was actually defeated by Semliki but advanced to the finals (which they won on Saturday) because Semliki was playing with a mercenary (a player who was in this case too old to be playing) which disqualified them. The final game this weekend against Good Hope CSB won with a successful penalty kick 1-0. Note the difference in attire of the CSB keeper (black jersey/shorts/socks with flames on the jersey sleeves) compared to the Semliki keeper (red jersey and barefoot)! One of the pictures towards the bottom shows all of the people watching from over the fence. The football games really are the thing to do (the only thing to do really) here on a saturday in Nyahuka, and it costs 200 USh (about $0.12) to get in so if you don't want to/can't pay you pack in behind the fence and try to follow the game. Also not sure if you can tell from the action shot towards the bottom that there's a bunch of men standing in the workshop behind the field watching the game...they look like pretty good "seats" and shaded too :) Then there's the throw in shot, and what struck me about that picture is the pressure of a throw in with that many people packed in around the sideline...sheesh...So, I'm not a good photographer, and I'm an even worse sports photographer but I figured you'd like to see the pictures anyways :) Oh and the picture of the two kids is one I called "young entrepeneur." The kid on the left is selling hard boiled eggs with a little garnish of salt, you can see his try sitting in the grass in front of him while he reaps his profit from the other boy.


It’s been a good month so far. Granted we’re only 6 days in, but I’m thankful nonetheless. The week has been busy but good.
  • The first week post Stephanie has not been a total flop like I was thinking it could turn out to be. Stephanie left one week ago today, and we have missed her, but she’ll be glad to know that kids are still getting food, and the books are still being kept and so on and so forth.
  • 51 goats (minus about a dozen who have owners who have not come to claim them) arrived around 3am on Wednesday morning. Pat woke me up (I’d asked her to but believe it or not I was already awake and had heard the truck coming up the hill to the Masso’s house) and I went out in my PJ’s (with a Kitenge wrapped around my waist on top of my pants so as not to be immodest even at 3am when I’m sure no one could have cared less) and we unloaded goats one by one in the dark and carried each of them to the goat pen where they rested for a day or so until they were given away to new owners (HIV+ mom’s, caregivers of motherless infants, etc) on Thursday. When I went up to the back of the truck so Lemech could hand my first goat, he said “I think this is your first time?!” as he bent down and put a goat into my arms which I was holding much like I used to hold my arms when standing at the back of the Uhaul/borrowed pickup truck when my brother and I used to stack fire wood on the front and back porch of our house in Pittsburgh. This city girl was definitely a first time goat carrier (and Lemech could tell) but I did pretty well if I do say so myself, especially given it was 3am and those of you who have had to wake me up for anything can imagine the sleepy stupor I was in.
  • I successfully and safely rode to both of our extension nutrition programs this week, on the back of Basime's motorcycle...he's new to driving and I'm new to riding, so we're quite the pair. He's careful and for that I'm grateful. Because he's new to the driving thing he's asked me to ride conventionally (ie. not side saddle) which means I put a pair of pants on under my skirt for the outings but so far no one has stared any more than usual.
  • My friend Dave from college arrived safely in Bundibugyo on Thursday evening, just in time for hot pizza's coming out of the oven and a cold beer. It was so good to have him here for a few days, someone that knows me from my prior life, it was refreshing. Not sure if he knew how good it was for me to have him here. We drove him to Bundibugyo Town this afternoon after church and he sent an SMS saying he got to Fort Portal safely. So Carol, if you're reading, your husband is safe and sound for as much of the Uganda portion of his trip as I can do anything about!
  • Since Thursday it has been really beautifully clear here, Dave thinks it was his arrival here that brought the weather through, in any case we're thankful. It has been really hot but really clear...4 days straight of views of the snow on the mountain tops of the Rwenzori's...absolutely beautiful.
  • Shhh...don't tell my mom, but I drove home from Bundibugyo Town this afternoon...yep, driving on the right side of the stick shift 4 wheel drive vehicle, shifting on the left side of the steering wheel and driving on the left side of the road...it was fun :) Pat gets tired of driving all of the time, so I'm looking forward to providing some relief for her every once in a while...Now I've just gotta get my hands on a drivers' license :)
more later, I'm out of time!