29 June 2008

not just another Sunday

I really enjoyed the church service today, for some reason not understanding what’s going on frustrates me more on certain days and today I was content to understand the bits and pieces I could and to enjoy listening to my neighbors worshipping in their own language, appreciating music sung acapella with drums being the only accompaniment, the scattered glimmers of untrained yet beautifully harmonized voices of the choir every now and again, the clapping that gets the on and off beats in just the right places – every person clapping in their own little rhythm but right on most of the time, even a greeting time which is enjoyable and not painful like it is in the States…and then there was this line, in the middle of the service…Charles Musinguzi was beginning to preach and was welcoming visitors and he said by way of introduction/definition that “This is Bundimulinga New Life Church; our trust is in what Jesus did for us on the Cross.” Holy shoot. It was that simple but for so powerful in that moment – that pretty much sums it up…we can put our trust in nothing else, and the love and faithfulness demonstrated in the Cross is unfathomable. Oh and last but not least there was communion - the first time I've had communion in an African church service (only the second time I've had communion since leaving the states 5 months ago). The bread was biscuits ("bis-kwits" = little dime sized cookie things) and the wine was actually Mirinda Fruity (essentially grape soda). But it was still communion, and it brought tears to my eyes, that Jesus died for the Babwisi and for me, and in His eyes we are equals, we are peers, even if in everyday life, sadly, no one sees it that way.

The sermon was on the first 13 verses of Acts 2 – the story of Pentecost. “…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance…’we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed…” It was ironic to read this passage after Charles asked that we all stand and sing one more “hymn” before the sermon, another song in Rtoro, the language of the tribe from the other side of the mountains, a place where people are more educated, where there are more resources, where there’s electrical power, etc. My TRUST is only in what Jesus did for us on the Cross, and my HOPE is that as His Kingdom comes here as a result of what He did on the Cross, that the Babwisi and Bakonjo hear more and more of the mighty works of God in their own tongues. That the Holy Spirit would fill the hearts and minds of people here - that they would write more songs about these mighty works in Lubwisi and Lukonjo and sing them in church, that people would develop a vocabulary in their own language (not just in Rtoro) for expressing things of the heart and of the soul. And it might just take an act of the Holy Spirit like Pentecost to help me speak Lubwisi, but I’m open to that ☺

28 June 2008

Kampala update

So, it seems that I'll be going to Kampala again this week for a very brief < 24 hour stay to try to get a few things sorted out and then the plan as it stands right now is that I'll return on Sunday July 13 to begin my 8 weeks, which *should* then finish Friday Sept. 5.

I still have a lot of questions and a fair amount of fears but all in all I am confident that this really is a gift from God, this opportunity to be in Kampala for 8 weeks. Even my confidence is a gift from God to be honest. Just a month ago I was sick to my stomach about the possibility of having to go to Soroti by myself for a week, and here I am excited to go to Kampala by myself for 8 weeks!? I can take no credit.

Questions - housing? food? financing? work schedule? actual work? uniforms? community? language? transportation? church? email/internet? How does one live as a white woman alone in an African city? and the list goes on...I covet your prayers and thank all of you who have been praying, your prayers are unbelievably evident to me throughout all of this!

Public Apology

So, I need to make a public apology. A few years ago, Nat and Maria Johnson made me my first gin and tonic and I turned my nose up...wasn't a big fan. It was summertime as far as I remember and they had come over to Dana's for dinner when I was still living there before she and Andy got married...we were making something on the grill out back, and Nat was kindly mixing gin and tonics for everyone. After tasting mine I think I said something like, "It tastes like bitter lemonade." My taste buds were clearly failing me.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm in Africa, or if it's the kind of gin involved, or maybe there's something about Evervess tonic, or maybe the little limes we put in them here have a magic about them, but geez louise, a gin and tonic tastes soooooooo good here! Don't worry, I'm not becoming a lush or anything but after a long day, when you're cooking and sweating and winding down for the day, it TOTALLY hits the spot. Now the rest of my family feels this way about a cold beer...yuck. But a gin and tonic - BRING IT!

Last night for instance, I had taken a break from emails/spreadsheets/covering bases for while I'm in Kampala, and was making what turned out to be quite a yummy peanut sauce that we put over rice noodles with marinated stir fried beef, and Pat was on drinks. She mixed up a gin and tonic for each of us and as I was finishing stir frying the beef and draining the noodles I began sipping on my oh so refreshing beverage - and well, it was just what the doctor ordered!

Ashley and Sarah were over for dinner and the four of us had a great dinner conversation - ranging from our reactions to the movie we watched the night before called Shooting Dogs (about the Rwandan genocide), to the parallels we drew from the movie to our own lives here in Uganda, to why the international community's response to genocides in recent years has been so cowardice, to what the Bible has to say about punishment for sin vs. mercy and grace, to why Swedish fish are called Swedish fish. As we wrapped up I lamented both that I won't likely have such dinner conversation in Kampala and the fact that my gin and tonic was finished.

So, Nat and Maria - this is my public apology for my failing taste buds and my failing to realize the fabulous refreshment of the gin and tonic you kindly introduced me to! Next time, drinks are on me!

25 June 2008

More interesting than a Muzungu

As I was walking home from the Myhre’s yesterday afternoon, a bulldozer/front-end loader type contraption was slowing groaning it’s way up the road, and alongside of it was a group of primary school boys running and yelling and thrilled to be able to say they saw this super duper machine in action. It doesn’t happen too often but I can say everyone along the side of the road was FAR more interested in this contraption passing by than in me passing by, so I smiled to myself and relished every second of my walk home in peace ☺

The walk in peace was fleeting - this afternoon, they were "how are you?"-ing and "muzungu, muzungu"-ing and running alongside me as I walked up the road...oh well.

Note to Self:

Don’t take zyrtec and mefloquin and a multivit and a viactiv on an empty stomach and then try to gulp down some crystal light and a girl scout cookie as a quick “breakfast” on the run as you run out the door in the morning…let’s just say the girl scout cookie got “tossed” along with all of the above mentioned substances before I even made it out to the road yesterday morning. Poor Jesse was standing by as I said, “I think I’m gonna hurl” and asked if he could hold anything…fortunately I immediately felt perfectly fine and we continued on down the road to the health center.

Spiraling outta control!!!!!!

Ever have moments when you feel like you have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over anything in your life at the given time? Man alive, it hit me like a ton o’ bricks this afternoon. I had just come home from the Pierces after giving Anneliese the shpeal about what happened in Kampala and what my “plans” are at this point and she encouraged me to think about the implications of the whole scenario on the team here and I started wondering if maybe this is really stressing everyone out and they’re just not telling me because they don’t want to stress me out…and I sat down at my computer to try to print out an Excel file for Pat to use at ART clinic tomorrow...I had spent an hour before heading to the Pierces unsuccessfully trying to do it without killing 6 trees in the process. And this second attempt was not progressing well, and I suddenly felt my mind decelerating to a halt (kind of like the Bart car did on the road last Wed.). I had no control over the stupid computer or printer, I have no control over the next 3 or so months of my life with an imposed move to Kampala and the implications that has on my life in finding a place to experience big city Ugandan nursing/sleep/eat/have some friendship and community of some sort, I have no control over the implications this imposed move has on my teammates here or how they feel about how well/poor I handle it, I have no control over the implications of being a fallen woman subject to the curse on Eve that “your desire shall be for your husband and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b) which is even applicable when I have no husband, I have no control over my tendency to eat as many Swedish Fish as my blood sugar can stand at any given moment, and the list goes on and on.

So what was my solution, you ask? Simple. I stood up from my desk and walked over to the couch and laid down and stared at the ceiling for about 15 minutes. I think I need to do it more often actually. It used to be a common practice of mine, but I haven’t really done it at all since I got here. I think it’s a Lutjens thing…

24 June 2008


So, over dinner tonight, I think I FINALLY articulated something that has been weighing heavy on my heart since I got here almost 5 months ago. I've never been particularly articulate and so it felt really good to put words to this and to say it out loud. I'm not sure I'll be able to recreate it here, but I'll give it a try.

Today, a grandmother came to the Nutrition program at the health center with her orphaned grandchild who is less than a month old. We told this woman a week ago when we gave her milk for the baby that she needed to find a breastfeeding caregiver for the child and that we would provide milk for the baby for the first month while the caregivers breastmilk is coming in and then provide the caregiver with a bit of nutritional support every month until the child is a year old. Well, she came back today without bringing a someone willing to breastfeed the child. The babies weight has come up, so she's doing a good job, but the agreement was that she'd bring a breastfeeder back or we wouldn't be able to help her. We cannot supply formula/milk for every motherless child in this area, we just can't. We can't feed all of these kids until they're a year old, but how can you possibly fault this hardworking grandmother who looks as old as my grandmother and probably walked miles to get to the clinic this morning in pursuit of good care for her grandchild? And the situations like these are endless.

The kid that comes to my door every day and says "give me bread," "give me your money" who has become accustomed to the Bazungu living on the mission being generous and merciful and so comes to see what he can get from you today. I don't want to be taken advantage of, I don't want to hurt these kids by enabling them to grow up thinking that they can just go to the nearest white person for their provision, I can't provide for each kid that comes to my door, I get so frustrated and feel so overwhelmed. But how can you fault them when they see what I have compared to what they have?

The big umbrella organizations like UNICEF or EGPAF or the like that have all kinds of top-down rules and regulations and standards for how you, the small NGO, are to use their resources...these parameters and regulations feel so limiting/constrictive when you're sitting in front of a woman with a child on death's doorsteps who happens to not fit the criteria. But do you fault them as organizations for having rules and regulations as to how their resources are to be used, or requiring reports of how you are using their resources even though the reports are painstaking and time consuming and just downright annoying? No, because it's not wise of them to just hand out resources left and right without any guidelines on how it is to be used, and it's unwise to ask for accountability for how it is being used in the field...But these are not the people sitting with the woman with the sick child who doesn't qualify...

We look at the Babwisi and say "they don't trust each other...they seem to have such strong communities but no one trusts each other so what kind of community is that?" But how can we fault them for not trusting each other when we have a hard time trusting them because of their behavior/deceit?

EVERY situation, and EVERY encounter I have here seems t0 have these impossibilities in them...it's exhausting and overwhelming and should be driving me to the feet of my Savior. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

23 June 2008

Kampala Whirlwind, vol. 2

Thursday 19 June
0700 – We woke up and had a few minutes to sit and enjoy the morning view (see photos) from the porch. I told Jennifer I could just sit there all day, but it was not meant to be – we had important appointments to keep.
0730: We were off, an entire hour and a half before our 9am appt. at UNICEF. But we needed every minute of that hour and a half to make it across town to the UNICEF building and we signed in at the front desk at exactly 8:55am. When we made it up to the right floor, we were buzzed in to the office area by one of our contact’s coworkers who said that our contact with whom we had the 9:00 appt. was in fact running late this morning. So we sat. We used the nice bathroom, we were offered a variety of hot beverages, we made phone calls, we loaded airtime onto our phones, we read all of the things posted at our contact’s desk, I found the Nurses Council’s phone number and saved it on my phone for quick access if needed later in the morning, we discussed the plan for the day…
0945: Our contact person arrived and we progressed with our meeting, making it clear we had to leave by 10:30 to be sure to have enough time to get to the Nurses Council by 11:00. We discussed our nutrition program and she made suggestions and gave us some information about UNICEF’s guidelines for nutrition, and in the end we came up with a plan for 3-6 months of F75 and F100 formula to be delivered to Nyahuka Health Center. We were encouraged and satisfied with her requirements of us and she seemed satisfied with our answers and plans for the use of their resources. Praise God.
1030: We rush out of the UNICEF building (super spiffy building by the way), and take off for the Nurses Council building. Now, keep in mind that I had been there once before but in my wide eyed first trip to Kampala which didn’t really involve me trying to remember where everything is. So, when I no longer recognized our surroundings I made use of the phone number I had saved and called the office, it turns out we were just around the corner. So we pulled up, Jennifer and I go in and I sign it at 10:55 for my 11:00 interview appointment.
1130: I looked at Jennifer and told her she should just go and try to actually get something done instead of both of us just sitting there. I had no idea how long I might end up being there. So, she took my picture in front of the statue of the nurse out front (see photos), and off she went. I went back and sat down. Luckily there was a tv in the waiting room, and I had copies of both the New Vision and the Monitor newspapers to read but after exhausting the interesting articles in both of them I turned to the tv that everyone else in the room was watching. It was a random channel, a little bit of PBS, a little bit of ESPN, a little bit of CNN, all kinds of things really.
1400: I’m still waiting…still watching tv, shifting back and forth in the chair that I initially thought was pretty comfortable but no longer held in the same esteem. The most interaction I had with the people in the room (some of which looked like they were African, some of other nationalities) was during a program about lions and leopards and their relationship to one another and interactions and mating patterns and survival techniques, etc. Well, the leopard dropped her antelope kill down from her perch in the tree and right into the mouth of the lioness waiting on the ground…a big gasp/sigh went up from all of us spectators and we looked at each other and smiled when we realized that it wasn’t the coverage of the women’s triathalon in Vancouver, or the potential Budweiser takeover, or the discus thrower from Estonia trying to make it to the Olympics in Beijing, that had all of us gripped and intently involved, but it was our dashed hopes for the underdog leopard to outsmart the lion. Then the secretary changed the channel from a story about an aspiring soccer agent to live coverage of the Ugandan Parliamentary sessions involving discussions of the past and potential use of DDT to attempt to control mosquitos and therefore malaria.
1450: The lady who I talked to several weeks ago, who insisted that I come for the interview, and who hung up on me when she called to tell me when the interview was, called me into the conference room where a half dozen or so Ugandan women and nurses in leadership positions sat. They warmly welcomed me and asked me to sit down. They were looking at my college transcript and my CV and other documents I had submitted for their review. The asked me questions about my education, about what a “credit hour” is equivalent to (I think from looking at my transcript they thought that I had for instance only taken 1 “hour” of Anatomy and Physiology in my nursing education. I explained that in fact I had taken 3 hours of lecture and probably 3 or more hours of lab every week for an entire school year of Anatomy and Physiology. Thankfully they seemed satisfied with my explanation but I think that was the hardest question to respond to effectively, why 1 “hour” doesn’t actually mean 1 “hour”. Anyways, they asked about my work experience and what I was doing in Bundibugyo. And then they asked me to step outside and that they would call me back. So I obediently complied, not wanting to cause any raucous. Then they called me back in and dropped the bomb. After asking which area of practice I preferred, they explained the following policy of the Council. That in order for a nurse licensed outside of the country to get a work permit as a nurse, they are required to be registered with the Council. In order to be registered with the Council one must spend 8 weeks observing Ugandan hospital care in a Kampala area hospital with the oversight of one of the Council board members. They listed several hospitals and asked which one I would like to choose to do my observation in. My heart had, by this point, sunk to the bottom of wherever hearts sink to, and I had to back pedal a bit to help them understand where I was coming from. I explained that this was all new news to me, that I had never been to any of these hospitals and that I had no idea which one I would like to choose. I clarified exactly what they had just told me, discussing potential alternatives and/or lack thereof, discussing what exactly my 8 weeks would look like (a question to which I still don’t really know the answer) and they told me I should go home and think about whether I wanted to continue to pursue this. I thanked them for their time, gathered my things and left the room.
1500: I call Jennifer to tell her that I’m done and she was just finishing her third appt. since leaving me about 3.5 hours before. She asked if everything was fine and I told her “not really” but that I’d meet her down on the main road.
1600: We eat falafel at the Lebanese restaurant in the food court at the Garden City Mall, and then head down to Uchumi, the grocery store in the mall, to pick up things we and others on our team needed, then off to the tile place.
1630: My mom calls while we were eating just to check to see how our day went, and I told her of the days events and my mixed emotions.
1655: We find the tile place, in rush hour traffic, Jennifer goes in and they close the door behind her and lock it since business hours are over. We got there just in time.
1755: After purchasing the tile Scott had asked Jennifer to buy, we headed to Quality Cuts to get meat to freeze and take home with us to Bundi. I jump out of the car and run in, just before they closed at 1800…we got there just in time.
1930: After eating ice cream for dinner, we returned to where we were staying and plopped back into the chairs on the front porch, once again enjoying the beautiful view…After a bit of email and internet chatting, my battery died and so I just sat and watched Kampala nighttime. I was thinking about what happened, about the doors God kept opening for Jennifer, and about what seemed like a closing door He had given me, wondering what He was up to in it all.

I sat for 4 hours with only disappointing results, while Jennifer trecked around Kampala like a rock star, everybody she encountered basically offering her whatever she wanted to benefit the children of Bundibugyo. But as soon as I left that office, as I walked down to the main road to meet Jennifer, I was thinking to myself, “How can there be good in this? How can I look at this situation and see God’s hand in this?” And I realized, it would be a really amazing opportunity to get to see how a large hospital functions here, to see how things are done, to see what the nurse’s role is like. I thought back to my experience studying abroad and how fascinating it was to learn from the nurses at Hadassah and to see how they looked at things so differently than we did as Americans. I also thought, I’ve been talking all about how I’m a city girl at heart, and that this might be a really cool chance to get to spend more time in Kampala, seeing what’s there, getting the chance to get to know more people, people doing all different kinds of things…I thought of the email I’d received not long after my arrival here of a friend’s friend who was going to be in Kampala for the year with IJM, and how I had thought it would be cool to get in touch with her and see what IJM is up to here in Uganda.

So, that’s the scoop. I still don’t know any details, but it looks like I’ll be heading to Kampala by myself for 2 months, as soon as next week, maybe more like 3 weeks from now, we’ll see. I have to find a place to stay, pick a hospital and figure out what exactly I’ll be doing there, I have to make sure there are people in place to take over my usual responsibilities here in Bundi for the 2 months. Needless to say there’s a lot of details to be settled, but all in all, I really think that what looked at first to be a closing door was instead an open one, it just took a little bit to see it that way. But now, it’s pretty clear.

It’s my teammates here that will really take the hit…the hit of added responsibilities, the hit of trying to juggle their own work plus mine. I’m the one that will get to reap the benefits, the opportunity to see more, the experience of something really different from here. The flip side to the benefits I’ll reap by being there though, is the disappointment of not being able to be here. I’m not looking forward to 2 months by myself…but I think God has something good for me in it.

Friday 20 June
0800: After a good night of sleep we take off for home, with a prayer for safety and for a less eventful trip than 2 days before. A quick stop at the Patisserie (see photos) proved to be very satisfactory, and then a stop at MAF to pick up trunks the interns brought from the US but were unable to get onto their little flight to Bundi on their arrival a few weeks ago.
0930:We actually head out of the city, headed towards Bundi. It was a very uneventful trip comparatively speaking, for which we were both very grateful.
1645: We pull into the Myhre’s driveway of sorts and from Scott's initial comments it seems that the rest of the team was quite distressed about the results of my interview. It has taken several conversations and likely several more to explain what really happened and what will be happening as a result but I’m really thankful for their concern. God just chose to answer all of our prayers in a very different way than any of us hoped or expected.

22 June 2008

forgot this one....

This one's for my dearest Carebear. This is a Ugandan tea plantation, just for your comparison to the Indian variety. Note the presence of the random trees growing tall above the tea, scattered seemingly randomly...did we ever figure out what that was about? It seems like the Ugandan variety grows more densely and maybe isn't as tall, whada you think?

Kampala Whirlwind photos

Kampala streets in the dark - not a great shot, but gives you an idea of how dark it is and the lack of street lights...craziness
Thursday morning view of Kampala from the porch where we stayed overnight.
This is how we started off what would be a long, busy, important, encouraging and disappointing at the same time, day.
The Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council - Jennifer took this around 11:30am as she left to go pursue actually getting something done (and boy did she ever get something done!). I continued to sit for another 3.5 hours...I sat right inside that window on the right edge of the photo...I had no idea at this point what was in store for me in this interview, neither did I know I was going to be there for another 3.5 hours...I probably wouldn't have been smiling...
Yep, this is their mission statement - to protect the Ugandan public from renegade foreign nurses such as myself...
Friday morning we stopped here for a pastry and coffee before heading out of town...I don't know if you've had the experience in other countries of going to such a place and salivating because the delicacies in the case look sooooooo yummy, and you decide to splurge on one and it tastes like cardboard?! Well, this is NOT that kind of place - the delicacies in the cases actually taste as good as they look, it was such a wonderful culinary experience :) I got a sausage roll (piece of sausage wrapped in pastry dough - sooooo good, and protein rich too mom!) and then Jennifer and I split an apple turnover - so moist and delightfully yummy...
The Kampala haze as we headed out of town.
Fast food Ugandan style. Chapati (tortilla looking thing wrapped in a piece of notebook paper), gonja (a banana look-a-like, sweet potato taste-a-like, very yummy), and muchomo (chicken kabob of sorts that was very tastey). And then of course the t.p. stuck in the dashboard for less than ideal potty experiences on the road.
View from the Bundibugyo road as we drove over the mountains back into the district.

"snaps" from everyday life

This is Lydia in action :) One of two sisters that are Pat's "children" who come to stay with her most every weekend. Lydia loves to sing and dance - here she's showing you one of her moves!
Lydia I have affectionately nicknamed "spaz-o" because she's kind of a spaz - but check out this smile!
Me and spaz-o yesterday morning - I was still in my PJ's
My turn with the fake eye - again in the PJ's and with bed-head and all - I've given up on only posting somewhat flattering pictures of myself...there aren't many and well, this is where I'm trying to portray something of everyday life here, and mornings before changing out of your PJ's and brushing your teeth and doing something with your hair are real life :)
African version of the iron - charcoal inside - Joshua the tailor was leaning over this little "chimney" apparatus blowing gently inside to fan the flame/heat the charcoal up in preparation for ironing his handiwork.
View from the top - just in case you doubted that it was charcoal inside...
Used clothe-ez rack in the market - those sticks hanging from the rod are hangers - ingenious!
I think I've posted a picture like this before, but one afternoon I was struck with the beauty around me as I walked back to the house from the cho...who gets such a bathroom experience?!

Autoclave - sterilizing instruments from the operating theatre at Nyahuka Health Center...in the States, autoclaves are the size of a whole room, and notice that this one is sitting on top of a charcoal cooking "stove" as a heat source! Hopefully it's getting hot enough!

Kampala Whirlwind, vol. 1

I don’t really know where to start. I suppose if you’ve already read Jennifer’s blog (link on the side) you know most of the details…I’ll just add a bit to fill in my side of the story…

Tuesday (17 June)
18:30 or so: Jennifer calls and says, “I’m in.” She had finally talked with our UNICEF contacts and confirmed a meeting with them for Thursday morning and therefore confirming the usefulness of her coming to Kampala with me. I was really thankful and looking forward to traveling with her and the connections/experience she was bringing to the trip (ie. place to stay for free for two nights, a vehicle to travel in, more knowledge of the city than I have, etc).

Wednesday (18 June)
06:30: Every Wednesday morning we have team prayer meeting. I’m not usually very thrilled about getting up because, well we all know how much I like the early morning hours, but afterwards I’m usually glad I went. Every week there are two people assigned, months in advance, to lead prayer and share their prayer requests and what has been on their hearts and minds as of recent and have the team pray for them. This week Ashley and I were on the schedule, so it was really good timing. I explained what little I knew of what was awaiting me in Kampala, and how I was feeling about it, and everybody prayed for me and Jennifer and our trip.
8:30: Off to the health center after packing the last few toiletries in my bag. I was so thankful for Nick and Katie’s help (two of the 3 interns here this summer). They came down and weighed all of the kids on the ward while I packed up a couple of boxes of supplies/meds for the nurses to use while Jennifer and I were gone. Then Nick kindly stepped into Basime’s role in ART clinic, handing out numbered charts to patients as they came into the clinic, and Basime came with Katie and I over to the area we do Nutrition clinics in, and I set them up to hand out and record the food given to ART moms/kids. They got started and off I went, thankful to leave the ward in Margaret and Olupah’s hands, and Nutrition in Basime and Katie’s hands, and Nick to help pick up some of the slack in ART.
11:15 or so: Jennifer at the wheel of the Bart-mobile, Melen and baby Jonah in the back, we come to a smoking halt near the office of the King of the Batwa (pygmies). I stood with the car while Jennifer went off to make a phone call and a jerry can of water…meanwhile the inebriated mechanic with all his henchmen sat around under a tree trying to convince me to sit down on a stump in their midst (which I refused which in turn made them all laugh, I was glad as always to provide some comic relief). The mechanic asked about my father and how he was doing…I clarified that he wanted to know if my father was good, and wasn’t in fact telling me that his father was doing well. I assured him my father was doing just fine, and he seemed happy to hear that. He then asked about my “mummy” and I assured him my “mummy” was doing just fine as well, and thanked him for asking. He then suggested that it would be a good idea for me to take a Babwisi husband. I reassured him that I didn’t think it would a good idea and he persisted a while but when his English ran out, he gave up. At one point, when boredom took over the group after they ran out of things I was doing and saying to laugh at, they went over to the car and opened one of the caps on something under the hood and dark brown thick liquid began shooting straight up in the air like a volcanic science experiment…they jumped back and watched until it finished spewing and then put the cap back on…it didn’t seem to be a good thing that they seemed as surprised as I was about the dark spewing liquid. I was glad to see Jennifer heading back to the vehicle so we could progress in a constructive manner towards some sort of end…the end was that we did get it cooled off and running again, off we went only to come to a halt again going up the mountains less than a half hour later…so we waiting for Scott, feeling really bad about him having to come all the way to rescue us and trade vehicles.
1430: off we were again and pressing on to get to Kampala at a reasonable time
1930 or so: it’s dark, and the road is full of potholes that seem to creep up on you just when you get back to a reasonable speed, causing you to swerve or take the hole straight on, which means that other vehicles on the road are also swerving unexpectedly and slowing and speeding up randomly, plus everyone is home from their work or school during the day and walking on the road, laughing and shoving each other in a joking fashion that isn’t so funny when you’re driving along in the dark and trying not to hit them or the potholes. Then there’s cows and goats and chickens and children and dirt piles and cars stopped with “flares” that are just leafy branches placed in the road, not really very effective in the dark...so driving became teamwork with Jennifer and I discussing what is where in the road and both trying to discern what is what and what is where…
2030: Kampala, not any easier in the dark than the road leading to Kampala is in the dark. The teamwork driving continued with “Is this a lane?” “I think it could be” “Can you see a traffic light anywhere?” “No, but there’s a policeman over there fwho looks like he should be directing traffic but instead is looking at his watch.” “I think I’m just going to do what the guy in front of me is doing.” “I’d say that looks like a good idea. Oh, watch the bike, and there’s a boda.” “Can I go now? How’s it look that way?” “Looks good, wait no, um, almost, go NOW.”
2200: After dinner, exhausted we arrived at our accommodation for the night. We unloaded our overnight bags, took showers, and plopped into chairs on the porch overlooking the city and Lake Victoria, and enjoyed the beauty of the full moon’s light shining on the Lake. There was also wireless internet access and so we got to check our email while admiring the view. I went to bed praying, “God, thank you for giving us what we needed today. Tomorrow’s a big day too, please give me whatever it is I’ll need. I don’t really know what I’m going to need.”

17 June 2008

"as in three days from now?"

it's monday afternoon...about 1pm. I'm home on a lunch/email break, heading back down to the health center for a meeting with some of the people that I work with on Nutrition stuff about the fact that lots of the supplies are dimishing without documentation of where they are going...not good...but that's to be saved for another post altogether. But I still should have about 15 precious minutes of internet time...

the phone rings...shoot...so I run to my room and grab the phone from the curtain rod (the only place in the house that gets reception), and run outside to the front yard to answer it...the voice on the other end is Ugandan, and indicates after I asked who was speaking, that she is calling from the Nursing Council...crap...And she says ever so sweetly that I will have an interview in Kampala "this thursday 19 June"...I couldn't understand her very well at that point, the connection wasn't great (surprise surprise). So I repeated what I thought I heard, back to her..."this thursday, as in three days from now?!" I was needless to say a bit surprised since she told me I'd have at least a week's notice when I talked to her in the Council's office 3 weeks ago.
She confirmed my fears and said, "yes, this thursday 19 June." Crap crap crap.

So there's a lot more to the story, including her hanging up on me, but apparently that's not at all rude here. The long and the short of it is that tomorrow morning I'm leaving for Kampala to be there for this interview on Thursday morning and then to turn around and come back on Friday.

Thankfully I won't have to travel alone (although I will be glad to do it sometime just because...). Jennifer is coming also, so that we can observe a unit treating severe malnutrition patients and then negotiate some with UNICEF in order to keep getting formula and supplies from them to treat the malnutrition patients we have in Nyahuka. That's another really long story which will need it's own post when the saga is finally finished.

So, that means that Jennifer and I will be driving some sort of vehicle (possibly the Bart's old vehicle which as of this evening didn't really so much start without a jump from the Pierce's vehicle - so that we can get new tires put on...which means the tires need replacing, which means that the Bundibugyo road, which is not exactly "easy" on tires could leave us changing a tire by ourselves...which I have, for the record, never had to do by myself, in the States let alone along the side of a narrow road in the mountains of Uganda) to Kampala to try to get two things accomplished....

1. A letter of approval from the Nursing Council of Uganda (following an oral clinical interview) required for my application for a work permit (and no letter no work permit, no work permit no Heidi in Uganda)
2. Signed agreement with UNICEF enabling us to receive and use their F75 and F100 formulas to treat severely malnourished children in Bundibugyo (no agreement no formula, no formula and we're back to buying boxed milk and giving oil and sugar to create a high energy milk for the kids to eat - effective but not nearly like these formulas have been).

So, it feels like a big trip. If you would, please pray that things would go well, and even better than we anticipate.

13 June 2008

Looking back on the week

a few random thoughts:

1. I think I've mentioned the plethera of smells that exist here, most of which I could do without. Well, as I was walking to the health center one day this morning, I passed the chapati corner and got a whiff of what? A diner...they say smells trigger memory more than the other senses, but this was incredible...I was totally transported to South Philly or maybe the "Family Restaurant" my brother and I stopped at in the middle of the night in Kansas on a drive home from Colorado...eggs, cinnamon, coffee...it was unbelievable. Here they make something called a "rolex" - nope, not the watch, but a breakfast/lunch food...a chapati with eggs on the inside or outside, I can't remember. I've never had one because I've never been a big fan of most varieties of eggs. But man oh man was that smell good enough for a momentary trip home to the states for an imaginary breakfast.

2. I successfully hired my own boda here in Bundibugyo, all by myself. Yep, under the same tree that the men yelled at me so obnoxiously from, I just walked up to the oldest looking boda driver and said quietly/confidently, "I need to go to Busunga." "To the hospital?" He asked with a respectful look on his face. "Yes" I said. "That will be 2,000" he replied. I agreed, hopped on the back and off we went. But the rediculous part of the story is that I was not only wearing a skirt but also a pair of pants and a slip...the things we do to avoid ridicule...craziness...Oh and I got one 1/2 of the way back too :) I was so proud of myself. They both drove safely and I was thankful.

3. People here point with their lips. They look in the direction of the they they are trying to point out for one reason or another and they pucker their lips really big and gesture towards the thing with their lips...I have to keep from laughing everytime somebody does it, but I think it's cute :)


I feel like someone turned on a water hose inside my nose...I'm allergic to something around here, not sure what yet, probably won't ever know. I thought maybe it was the new bed, but luckily I don't think that's it...but I've been sneezing like a banchee (although I do love to sneeze - has a wonderful cleansing feeling to it, at least for the first few seconds just after), and my nose has been running constantly. I had this happen a year or two ago back in St. Louis. I would be standing at a patient's bedside at work and have to tip my head back and cover my nose and make the universal sign for "wait a minute" (holding up one index finger) and run out to the nurses' station to find some kleenex (which were invariably the texture of a paper towel, so I started bringing my own box of Puff's Plus with Aloe to put in the conference room for such moments as these). It's not a good situation when your child's nurse has got to go off and blow her nose before she can return to the room. Not really the picture of cleanliness/hygiene/health :) But it's not like the kid is going to catch my allergies from me, but you can't very well explain that to them convincingly. Anyways...It was much like that today down at the health center. But TIA. Things are a little bit different here...
1. I don't know that people (Ugandans) have allergies here...they sure don't get treated for them that's for sure.
2. This is a culture in which no one has kleenex. Maybe they have a handkerchief or a piece of kitenge they use instead but mostly they just wipe/blow their noses and their kids' noses in their kitengi which is wrapped around their waist as a skirt of sorts. It's the same piece of fabric that their kids pee/poop on when they're sitting naked on their mom's laps, it's the same piece of fabric that they often hand to me to wrap their 10 cups of beans in because they forgot the bag we gave them to carry their beans home in...a very versatile piece of fabric indeed.

08 June 2008

Rain in Bundi

Ever wonder what a rain storm looks like in Africa? Much like a rain storm looks in the States. Ever wonder what a rain storm sounds like in Africa? Nothing like a rain storm in the States! Today there was torrential downpour for a little while just after we got back from a bit of singing and prayer together in English. I was reminded again of the deafening roar of rain on a tin roof...pretty much if you're watching a movie or having a conversation you have to turn the volume up twice as loud or start shouting in order to hear/be heard. But you know what rain means?! The arrival of cooler air! Praise the Lord!

open mouth...insert foot

So, the "glamorous" day I mentioned I was going to have yesterday – it got progressively less and less glamorous as the day went on, culminating in a less than stellar and actually most embarrassing personal performance in a riotous, very fun game of “Bowl Full of Nouns” at the girls’ house last night. Grammar has never been my strong suit and this game was no exception but it sure was fun, and I think I laughed more last night than I have since I got here (save the night Pat and I starting laughing hysterically like junior high girls after a table full of dinner guests left and we couldn’t stop). The fact that I just said that grammar has never been my strong suit only makes the story to come that much more ironic…It might be that kind of story where “you just had to be there” or else it doesn’t quite make sense or seem at all funny, but I’m gonna give it a whirl.

So, this game (which, from the title, sounds way more nerdy than it actually is) consists of three rounds, the first one is like a mix between Taboo and Catch Phrase where you describe nouns with other words trying to get your team to guess as many as they can in one minute. The next round you use the same words but this time you only get to say one word to describe the noun you’re trying to get your team to guess, and again do as many as you can in one minute. The third round is charades with again the same “bowl full of nouns.” Now, I’ve never been good at charades…but I love taboo and catch phrase. It’s much easier for me to use words to describe things than it is for me to use my body to describe a word…It’s the same reason for which dancing has never been a skill I’ve obtained or really even tried to obtain. So, keeping this in mind, here’s the rest of the story. As we’re counting up points for each team after round two, Ashley was saying that she was more hopeful for her performance in the last round as compared to the first two, that she was better at acting things out than describing them. I was trying to express that my experience was in fact the opposite, and I opened my mouth and out came “I’m better with words than with my body.” Gasp! As soon as it came out I thought, “yeah that didn’t really come out the way I intended” as I realized just how much it could be misconstrued from my original intention. Shoot.

One of the guys looked over at me with a kind of puzzled/surprised look on his face that had “did you just say what I think you said?” written all over it! He says with a smirk – “Heidi, what if I said I’m better with my body than with words? As Ashley and Jesse are laughing in a “I can’t believe you just said that?!” fashion…I immediately said, between my own hysterical laughs, something like “okay okay, so that didn’t quite come out the way I intended it to…I’m better at describing things words than I am at acting, okay?!” Which is, of course, so very IRONIC considering how my words had come out so wrong in trying to say how much better I feel about my use of words…oh Heidi…open mouth insert foot…

Okay, so the thing is, that’s not the only ironic thing that happened during the game that caused those in the room, especially myself to laugh…I think it will be enough to say that my name became synonymous with Interpretive Dance! I don’t think you can get much more antithetical than Heidi and Interpretive Dance! Let’s just say I’m way better with words than I am with my body ☺

07 June 2008

the docket for the day

I guess dockets really only apply to courtrooms, but it seemed like the right word...

Patient/supply reports to UNICEF
Kwejuna project database updating/data entry
ART clinic ARV register data transfer
Bundi Nutrition bookkeeping revision
dinner/fun with the other single missionaries and interns

the glamorous life of a missionary nurse :)

Is it the pants?!

Wednesday I wore my pants with one of the very nifty salwar tops that Court brought me back from India - the lightweight shirt comes down to my knees pretty much. I was expecting to go to Busunga via motorcycle with Basime, and it's much easier to ride on a motorcycle when wearing pants as opposed to a skirt (especially since Basime drives a *bit* faster now that he has some experience under his belt) - but as I walked by the "bike tree" - a big tree in town under which men fix bicycles and motorcycles – and one of the men yelled "dirty woman, dirty woman" in English (which sounds like “dah-ty woo-mahn, dah-ty woo-mahn” with the accent)...he could only have been talking about me, and I wonder if it was because I was wearing pants...I asked my friend Olupah at the health center and she said he was just making fun of me...that much I'm aware of. And then a bit farther another group of men started making "smooch" noises as I walked by...I don't really know how else to describe really obnoxiously loud lip-smaking kissing sounds...and shouting “hello madam! how are you! I love you! Weh! Weh! (You! You!) And surrounded by laughter and lots of Lubwisi I obviously couldn’t understand.

I don't know if you can imagine the internal monologue I have as this is happening..."Shut the &*@# up! You are so obnoxious! I'm walking down the road, what is the big deal?! I walk this way every day - twice. Is it because of the pants? Or is it just the color of my skin? Is it worth just wearing a skirt so you don't act like this? No, because you do crap like this even when I wear a skirt! I’ve seen Ugandan women wear similar things and not get harassed…so it can’t be the pants…White women have lived here, in this village, and walked this road, for about 20 years! Get used to it! Is it just because you’re male? Are you drunk? What in the world could be your excuse?!”

Certain days they behave worse than others. I guess I’m the same way, certain days I behave worse than others.

People in the minority the world over have experienced behavior like this for centuries I suppose, different words, different skin colors/eye shapes/body shapes/disabilities/deformities/opionions/politics/religions/etc. but I don’t suppose the tone of voice has ever changed…every country I’ve been to, the derogatory tone of voice is unmistakable.

One day, we will only appreciate and love the differences we have amongst ourselves as people. One day I will be able to walk down the road/street/path/boulevard without being harassed. One day our love for one another will be perfect. One day I will love and be loved perfectly.

04 June 2008

A little bit about a bed...

As you have read here, sleep is really important to me, whether in the USofA or in Africa or anywhere else in the world. And sleeping here has a few extra features added in, namely the mosquito net...now, if you’ve never slept in a bed covered by a mosquito net, there are a few things you need to know to make the most of your sleep experience.
1. It’s really helpful to have a frame of some kind to provide some tension/structure to the net, otherwise it drapes/falls however it pleases all over you in the bed.
2. If you are a mobile sleeper, such as myself, moving around quite a bit in the bed throughout the night, and you have no frame/tension for the net, the net can often be mistaken in your sleepy stupor for a sheet or other light cover. It obviously cannot serve this purpose and therefore clearly leads to tangling, which leads to frustration, which leads to waking up, which clearly is not good.
3. If you plan to stay up and read or do anything inside the net before going to sleep it is helpful to take everything you need in with you in the first place. For instance, if you’re going to read and take your book in but forget your glasses, you’ve gotta flounder around with the net to find the edge and reach out to get the glasses, then you get back in and realize you’ve forgotten a pencil to underline noteworthy portions of whatever you’re reading, so you go through the whole process again of finding the end of the net and reaching for whatever it is you need…then if it’s not in arms’ reach you’ve gotta climb out of the net and then climb back in…really, I’m not as lazy as it sounds but if you get me on the wrong day, it gets a bit frustrating. Much like lots of other things in Africa this requires planning in advance and being prepared for things to change ☺ It’s kind of like my work as a floor nurse back in St. Louis. When we have kids in droplet isolation, or TB isolation is even worse…you get all gowned and masked and gloved and into the room, and then you realize you’ve forgotten a small little connector piece you need for the appropriate IV tubing, or the linens you needed to remember to change while you’re in the room…so you’ve gotta take everything off and go out and get it(or to stand in the doorway and look for Pam and hope she's in a good mood and is willing to get it for you :) and then put all the garb back on and then go back in only to realize the patient has changed their mind and they really do want a straw with their chocolate milk when minutes before they said they didn’t…aaaaaaahhhhhhh!

In addition to the mosquito net, the beds themselves are an extra feature to be reckoned with, not necessarily a “bonus” feature. Now, the Babwisi, and people in Bundibugyo in general are known all over Uganda for being short. It seems rare that I speak to anyone, male or female, taller than I am and I’m not that tall. But it seems to me that the beds all over the country are made for short statured people…how unusual. I’ve never noticed this before but my bed had both a headboard and a footboard, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a bed with both before. I sleep on my stomach and like to dangle my feet over the bottom of the bed, which when you have a footboard is impossible, but may be tolerable if the bed is long enough to stretch out in…not so in Bundibugyo. I’m not sure but I think I sleep also with my arms above/under my head, so that adds some length also…needless to say, a 6 foot long mattress is too short, and I’m only 5’6 ½” tall ☺ I only know because I’ve been having low back pain that cleared after 2 weeks of not sleeping in my bed, and returned after we got back, and it’s worst when I’m just getting up in the morning…Pat has been super generous and traded me my bed for the bed in her extra room and now, not only do I have a longer bed, but no footboard, and a frame for my mosquito net…jackpot! I’m very much looking forward to going to bed here in a few minutes…and stretching ALL the way out ☺ -written 3 June 2008 at 10:30pm my time :)

03 June 2008

this week thus far in pictures

This morning, just as we were packing up to go home, this little guy Bwambale arrived with his mom for a nutrition distribution. He's memorable for a few reasons, first that he showed up at about 2.6kg and 4 months old or something like that a month and a half ago or so, spent several weeks on the ward as an inpatient and is now a whopping 4.5 kg...second - he has one blue eye :) I don't really remember the whole genetics square calculation of the likelihood of having a child with blue eyes vs. brown, etc, but Jennifer says that this kid has to have had some caucasian blood in his history to have one blue eye...somewhere way back, there's a muzungu in this one's lineage...this is another one though who has grown into a big boy face from a "little man" face when he was underweight (thin and wrinkled)...And he was flirting with Pat :)
I know you're all probably tired of pictures of these Ankole cows, but this one I took yesterday out of one of the panes of my screened front door...they don't usually come this close to my front door, but today their keeper was a little bit of a slacker so they were just wandering wherever they pleased and I guess the grass was greener on my side of the driveway :)

01 June 2008

a few photos

Susana ("sus-ah-nah") and her mother, Ada ("ah-da") - Susana is a really delightful woman who works in my house once a week and speaks about as much English as I do Lubwisi - makes for lots of laughing on both our parts :) And I think we both like to laugh, so it works out just fine :)
I think Pat took this the day after we got back to Bundi last weekend...Kymigisha is on my right, Lydia on my left and Akiki in the striped shirt (Kym and Lydia are Pat's unofficially adopted daughters of sorts - their mom, a good friend of Pat's, died of AIDS this past August)....I'm showing them pictures from our trip...they love looking at pictures, especially when there's animals or people that they recognize. Yes, that's me showing skin above my knees - shhh - only in the privacy of my own home...had to wrap a kitenge around my waist to go out to the bathroom...
Heidi vs. the tilapia - our first night on the Sesse Islands after a long day of travel and my disappointment in our accomodations - it tasted soooooo good :)
A scenic overlook of sorts in Kabale - you can see the teracing of the crops better than in the other pictures I posted...that's Sarah and I in the foreground.