28 April 2009

it was a bit early...

but it was worth it. Just what I needed to hear, in just the right way and at just the right time (albeit early). "Early" being within about 3 minutes of getting out of bed and stumbling over to my computer sometime between 7 and 8am.

"It" was an online text chat with a friend who hasn't walked "this" road exactly, but has been in situations similar to the ones that I have a hard time describing to people and somehow a smirk starts creeping across his face as I try because he knows just what I mean..."it" was in the context of likening cross cultural realities and adjustments and expectations to Jeopardy, ie. quiz questions and prize money increasing with the degree of difficulty of the question...it was a bit early for me to be thinking up such ideas or metaphors, but I was awake enough to get the gist. Then he said the following, which even at such an hour, totally struck a chord that resonated pretty deep in me,

"funny thing is, as i am getting older i am realizing that the prizes are more along the lines of learning patience, long suffering. and really fun stuff like that"

THAT'S JUST IT, I thought. Instead I said something very early morning, like, "ain't that the truth!" For someone who says he's not very good with words, those few cut right to the chase. I'm not sure if it makes sense out of context for all of you reading, but maybe it does. If not, maybe next time, but take it from me, it was brilliant. I had been having trouble putting words to this ever since I came back from the States one month ago, and particularly for the last couple of weeks...and there it was. Thanks again, Jesse.

27 April 2009

the truck

In my description of "the week" I somehow failed to note the arrival of THE TRUCK...not sure how that happened, but obviously a huge oversight on my part...

UNICEF...a huge global entity attempting to make sure that the children of the world are provided for in all aspects of their lives...piece of cake, no problem, right?  (hear sarcasm!) Well, to make a very long story short, they're huge and we're not, and it's a bit difficult for little us (WHM) to make waves in such a organization in order to make their resources available to our community here in Bundibugyo...but I tell ya what, if there's anyone to get those waves going, it's Jennifer Myhre.  I'm not really a "wave maker" per se (and I think that's probably pretty close to the understatement of the century), but Jennifer, she knows how to get things moving.  The long part of the story involves communication (or lack thereof) back and forth for the last 4 months, trying to get another shipment of formula used to treat severely malnourished kids.  Well, they had all but told us "sorry, but no" and as we were on our last box of formula and she was headed to Kampala, Jennifer marched into the UNICEF office last Tuesday to see what she could do in person.  She talked with the dept. manager who told her she would work on it...I was kind of skeptical, but Jennifer was hopeful and left feeling like this woman was really going to be able to get us some milk...there were out of the blue contacts from Myhre friends in the States who know old UNICEF Uganda higher ups who know this manager, and VOILA!

My phone rang at almost exactly 5pm on Thursday. I ran into my room to grab it off of the curtain rod where it sits because it actually gets signal there most of the time, and then ran outside to a place where I can actually talk on the phone and get signal...the male voice told me he was calling from UNICEF and asked me who he was speaking with, and I told him my name and confirmed for him I in fact work with World Harvest Mission...he proceeded to ask me to please spell my name..."H-E-I-D-I"..."wow, Heidi, okay" - I was so excited because of what he was maybe going to tell me that I forgot to ask him his name, but he went on to tell me there would be a truck leaving Kampala the next morning and wasn't sure if I worked on the weekends in order to receive the shipment arriving saturday or sunday...he he he...do I work weekends :)..."I'll be around" I assured him, and instructed him to give my number to the driver and that I'd meet him when he arrived with the delivery...WUH HOO!!! I sent congratulatory text messages to Jennifer and other involved teammates and wandered down to Pierces for dinner.

Saturday morning during out 8-10am internet time, my phone rings again...this time it's the driver..."I'm at Caltex" he says..."In Bundibugyo Town?!" I confirmed..."yes" he assures me.  "Okay well, you have about another 30 minutes drive past Bundibugyo Town on the main road until you reach Nyahuka where the delivery is supposed to be made."  "Ah, what are we going to do now?" he says incredulously...and I'm thinking "um, you're going to finish your work and drive the heck to Nyahuka, is what we're going to do now" but I didn't say that...didn't want him to turn around and drive back to Kampala with the milk in his truck.  "Can you come here?" he says.  "Um, no." I said, "I have no way to move all of that milk all the way from there."  And he hangs up...or his airtime runs out, not sure which...crap, can't have this guy turning around after all of this, so I call the number back.  "I'm a bit confused about what it is that you need" I told him.  "I need to offload this stuff" he said...well, it's a good thing, because I need the stuff you need to offload, I thought.  So, I told him again, "the delivery you have in your truck is for Nyahuka Health Center which is another 30 minutes past Bundibugyo Town on the Bundibugyo Road, so you need to keep driving for a bit and when you get close you call me and I will come to meet you."

30 min. later "I'm just across from the Town Council offices." he grumbles.  "Okay, I'm on my way."  We proceeded to unload 70 boxes of formula into our storage room, it was the spectacle of the day at Nyahuka Health Center, I can tell you that...Nathan had graciously come down at my request to help unload, and he was a bit incredulous himself that when asking the nurse to find some folks to help unload, the nurse went and asked the mom's of the nutrition patients, leaving the men/fathers on the ward to whatever they were doing..."You're asking THEM to carry these boxes?" Nathan said..."the mothers?"...and the nurse assured him, he was in fact asking the mothers...and they did in fact help...

And as we are unloading, the most edematous Kwashiorkor patient I have ever seen is carried onto the ward for admission.  Talk about timing.  So, we opened the first box of F75 and made immediate use of the supplies...so, long story made not so short, there's never a dull moment.  Webale UNICEF.

26 April 2009

this was a week

I know that every week is a week, but this was a WEEK! And that's not to say it was horrible, or particularly wonderful, but it WAS. It was a bit of everything...

- there was restful quiet with books being read (!)
- there was busyness in being the go-to medical muzungu around
- there were lots of patients to be seen and relatively speaking a lot of staff to actually see them...imagine that....
- there were lots of perplexing clinical and mercy related decisions to be made
- there were hours of sitting on a bench outside the ward chatting with fellow nurses waiting for the ward to be "jiked" (bleached)
- there were lots of meals and much time spent alone (most of which I was thankful for)
- there was a walk up the road after dark by myself that enabled me to decide never to do that again (nothing happened, but it felt as if almost anything could have)...note to self...
- there were lots of laughs with kids at the door
- there were lots of losses of patience at the door (front and back)
- there was a lot of feeling at loss for words while walking alongside new teammates
- there were feelings of comraderie
- there were feelings of being really alone and alienated
- there were feelings of "I can actually do this"
- there were feelings of "I most certainly cannot do this"
- there were many mornings of wanting another hour or two of sleep
- there were a few naps to be had in the afternoons (shh, don't tell :)
- there were good conversations with biological family
- there were good conversations with my "family" here
- there was a lot of sweating done, from before getting out of bed in the morning until after getting back into bed at night
- there were lots of cold showers taken
- there were many sms messages sent to and received from traveling teammates
- there were 4 episodes of Get Smart re-runs watched and thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly :)
- there were lots of smiles from precious little kids, sick and well
- there was a lot of mocking from kids just as precious but somehow also very annoying
- there were gestures of inclusion from coworkers
- there were comments of isolation/alienation from coworkers
- there was SUN and blue sky
- there were clouds and rain

I have felt the paradoxes very acutely this week...it was a week, that's for sure.

22 April 2009

Oaster Roaster

That's what my dad used to call really hot days, hear "well guys, it sure is an oaster roaster out there today, isn't it?!" Today is one of those here in Bundibugyo...

- I just gave up on chasing a skink around my "diningroom" table, squealing and all (on my part of course)...a skink is like a snake with legs...looks like a snake and moves/walks like a lizzard...icky...I just don't like the idea of them (or the reality of them for that matter), especially not on the table for goodness sakes...but I can only waste so much of my hour of internet chasing the little bugger around the room...
- It was a bustling wednesday at Nyahuka Health Center today, a c-section and hernia repair were done in the theatre (operating room), the generator was run for oxygen for the twins born in the theatre - and all of this without any bazungu intervention...no money no direction no nothing...it was a beautiful thing for these eyes to witness :)
- You know that line from the movie Juno when her dad asks her where she's been and she says something like "oh, you know, just out dealing with things well beyond my maturity level"...well, today I was "out dealing with things well beyond my education level." Myhre's are out of the district for a few weeks and so I'm having to make treatment decisions that are well beyond my education level...a little 2 mo baby of an HIV + mom, the mom has mastitis or some kind of infection in/on her left breast, so within the last 10 days or so Jennifer wrote that the baby should not mix feed (breastmilk and other foods for supplementation) because of the increased risk of transmission of the virus if that is done, but to feed from the right breast only...well, the family says there's not enough milk and the child is crying all the time so they are mix feeding with casava porridge or something like that...and they've come to me to ask for supplementary food...which I'm can't do because mixed feeding is putting the life of the baby at risk, but the baby's life is clearly at risk if it's not getting enough milk...but is the option of weaning the baby from the breast totally a good option? no, not at all, but what is the best option? all of them put the baby's life in great danger...sheesh...and they are staring wide eyed at guess who?
- doing a little first aid at my front door with neosporin and bandaids
- trying to make sure that everyone's houseworkers have the appropriate keys and locks in the right places
- enjoying a glass of cold crystal light lemonade....yum...

12 April 2009


So, I’m back in Bundibugyo. I was gone from the district for just under 6 weeks. A month of that was spent in St. Louis. It was a good month. It was soooooo good to spend time with familiar faces, to laugh with friends and family, to hear and tell stories, to give and get hugs, to mourn losses with friends, to celebrate with them…it was rich time. What did I eat you ask? I’ve realized the last few days that the best culinary experiences I had were more about the company than about the food…there were some good meals, no doubt, but I cherished the ones I was eating with more that what I was eating. That said, it was fabulous to eat good burgers and buffalo fries, salads with LETTUCE!, to drink fountain diet coke with free refills until I couldn’t drink anymore, to reach into the freezer and eat ice cream in plenty (or just a couple spoonfuls if I wanted), and fru-fru coffee drinks at lots of local coffee shops…it was nice.

There was explaining to be done…there were hard conversations to be had…there were disappointments and disappointing…but God used and is using it all.

One of the moments that sticks out in my mind is a conversation I had with my oldest (ie. longest standing, NOT “eldest”) friend over bagels ( ☺ ) and hot chocolate…I told her of Jennifer’s prayer for me before leaving Bundibugyo, that people I encountered would not be scared of me, that they would not be intimidated by how different my life has been from theirs for the last year we’ve been apart and that they would therefore not know how to relate to me, what to say, what to ask. My dear friend heard me re-tell Jennifer’s anticipation of my experience at home, and then there were tears…there were apologies and there was forgiveness, there were questions and there were answers…there was honesty which brought about freedom.

My friend, whose first word was, “Hei-di,” was having a hard time coming up with words that seem appropriate…words that might cross the chasm between her life experience and over the last year and mine…struggles and heartache, joys and celebrations…how might they compare? Do they even matter? I tried to walk across the tenuous bridge that I can see across the chasm, or at least to describe it from my side of the chasm.

I tried to explain that the person she sees across the chasm is still me, I’m still the same person, I still enjoy the same things, laugh at the same things, struggle with the same things, but because of what I’ve seen/heard/felt/experienced in the last year I see the world from a bit of a different perspective than I did before. The situation is the same for her, she is still the same person, but sees the world a bit differently based on the things that she has seen/heard/felt/experienced in the last year. I also tried to make it clear that heartache is the same the world ‘round. Just because in certain countries/places/situations, people have more money/education/opportunities, doesn’t mean that their heartaches/struggles are less (or more) significant than those of the poor/less fortunate….suddenly the bridge seemed a bit stronger, like we could both take steps towards each other. We could both see each other a bit more clearly which I think makes the steps less scary.

She was not alone, she was just the person that was honest enough with me to tell me what the chasm looked like from her perspective. It so helped me to see things from her perspective, and others’, and the Spirit helped give me the words to try to explain mine…It helped me to know how to talk to others, how to walk the bridge that I know and feel is weak, but it’s there.

...with faith like a child…

Dear God, surround me as I speak.
The bridges that I walk across are weak.
The frustrations fill the void that I can’t solely bear.
Dear God, don’t let me fall apart.
You’ve held me close to You.
But I have turned away in search for answers I can understand..

Sometimes, when I feel miles away,
And my eyes can’t see Your face,
Well, I wonder if I’ve grown to loose the record
since I walked in light of you…

( Faith Like a Child – Jars of Clay)

I know I know, old school Jars of Clay…Jamie Smith singing Flood while rocking the Port-a-Potty back and forth from inside, anyone?...anyways…I could have filled a bucket of tears on the little commuter plane Continental flight from St. Louis to Newark…iPod in ears, window seat on the two-seater side of the plane, and hopefully quiet sobs with quick inhales as not to make a scene. This was the song that brought on the tears. The bridges, the frustrations, the voids, the search for answers I can understand, the feeling miles away, the not being able to see His face…it all resonated in my heart like a kettle drum…I was an emotional basket case by the time I left the States, my family and friends tried to understand why, and how they could help…no one, even me, knew what to say, and that’s okay…words aren’t always helpful, but hugs and tears and presence are, so thank you.

03 April 2009


When I was small and squirmy as all children are from time to time, my dad used to look at me with an incredulous look on his face and say, “Heidikins, what’s goin’ on? You got ants in your pants?!” I haven’t heard that for a long time from him, but for the last 2 months I’ve had ants in my pants…not literally (but you might recall the post about the literal occurrence of ants in my pants not long after my arrival here in Uganda in the story about the Impali invasion, and if not, it’s in your best interest to go back and find it, it was pretty funny), but figuratively…I’ve been antsy…I’ve had trouble focusing on any one thing, having absolutely zero success when I try to pick up a book a read, my mind/eyes moving over the words but absorbing none of them, it took a good deal of concentration and energy to accomplish simple things on my daily task list…I’m pretty sure it’s been about anticipation and anxiousness with all the travel I’ve done. “What’s it going to be like? How am I going to react? How are others going to react? Is it going to be hard? Is culture shock going to be bad? How will I talk to people about my life here? How will they respond? What should I do today? What should I eat today? Who do I say no to?” It could be these ants in my pants that led to my first attempt at dancing (Mynda and Jason's reception - evidenced above) in approximately a decade (9 years to be exact)...the last time I danced in public was in a bar in Bethlehem in the spring of 2000...It was fun, I'll admit.

But I’m back in Bundibugyo now, and the ants have gone. I’m back in a routine of sorts, settling back into relationships for what will likely be another year and a half or so…I successfully read a bit in bed last night for the first time in months, and it felt good (and so will dancing again, there's more opportunity for it here than in my life in the States...God planned that I think :)

01 April 2009


Here’s to the family and friends who made this all possible and who have come tonight because they love you.
Here’s to good food and drink.
Here’s to almost all of the to-do list getting checked off.
Here’s to another one biting the dust.
Here’s to a week away, just the two of you.
Here’s to a life together.

Here’s to Mynda,

who is:
- funny & wise
- classy & down to earth
- intelligent & caring
- quirky & sometimes very mysterious.
- who is a popcorn snob
- and a conisseur of burnt Cheez Its
- who needs her sleep (and her coffee)
- who likes her leftovers nicely arranged on a plate and the kitchen sink shiny and clean
- who, while we were roommates, kindly let me come and use the bathroom when she
showering and I just had to go now now
- who is patient with my moods and quirks
- who loves a Friday night on the couch AND a night on the town
- who is beautiful inside and out
- who sends great care packages
- who graciously allows me the privilege of calling her friend
- and who loves Jason very much

Here’s to Jason,

- who makes a mean chocolate chip cookie
- who is also funny and wise
- who is patient
- who could strike up a conversation with just about anyone and make them feel valued
- who is a great host
- who knows how to manage a household well (even one full of unruly bachelors)
- who asks great questions
- who loves to save a buck
- who graciously allows me the privilege of calling him friend
- and who loves Mynda very much

And here’s to God’s faithfulness. He has promised it to each of you and for that I am thankful.

(made Friday 13 March, 2009 / Rehearsal Dinner)
(photo: Joe's fantastic toast the next night at the Reception)