22 June 2009

white with red polka dots...

(this entry is a bit graphic, so please read on with caution)

is the color of her dress today. She's six years old. She has hair plaited into a few braids that fly away from her head in different directions (which means she must not be in school, you have to shave your head to be in school in these parts, girls and boys). She has two siblings who follow her, and mom is very pregnant. On Friday mom was resting, and this little girl and her 2 younger siblings went to the mom's garden to find casava for dinner. An old man who is related to their neighbors found them there and grabbed the 6 year old girl. He warned the other two younger siblings that if they made any sound he would call the police and have them shot...they took off for home as fast as their little legs could carry them. They reported to their mother, between gasps for breath no doubt, that this man had spread their sister's thighs and was breaking her arms...my mind must have got lost at that point because the story I remember skips to the hospital...Friday night she is brought to the health center, bleeding profusely and unable to walk properly, her legs spread in pain. The male nurse on duty went across the street to the police station and reported the case himself immediately around 11pm.

Two full days pass, this morning she's sitting on her bed in her white dress with red polka dots with her mom reclining in rest, eagerly takes the sweet offered to her by Dr. Jennifer. After we finish seeing the rest of the ward, miss polka dots and her mom came into the treatment room and sat on the bench with Jennifer. The male nurse who had received them on Friday stood by to translate and retell the story. I sat on the procedure bed and listened with a sick stomach, smiling at the precious little girl whenever she looked my way as she sucked on her sweet. "Where's her father?" Jennifer asks, "he's outside there" the nurse says and goes and brings a man with yellowed teeth and eyes into the room. He somberly/gingerly eases his body down onto the bench next to his wife.

A medical police report surfaced for Jennifer to complete after her assessment. But first she asked the nurse to translate directly to miss polka dots..."I'm not going to hurt you, I just need to look to be able to tell what happened so that we can get the man who did this to you, do you understand?"...the little girl lifts her chin in agreement..."you know what happened to you was not your fault, this is not the way it is supposed to happen, you did nothing wrong, some people do very bad things, but it's not your fault, it was okay for you to be in the garden, but we need to make sure this man is punished for the bad things he did to you" she went on. "Do you have any questions or want to say anything about what happened?" The little girl with the white dress and red polka dots and the plaits in her hair goes on in her little girl trying to be brave voice and retells the whole story of what happened...what do you even say?...

Jennifer does her physical assessment, as gently as she can, but the little girl cannot help but gasp in pain...The old man was a soldier and so the parents are handed a box of tablets for post exposure prophylaxis she is to take for one month, for which they are grateful when it is explained to them. She waddles back to her bed with her mom.

After rounds, Jennifer and I and the nurse and the father head across the street to the police station...remember the police station? "So what is keeping this man from being arrested?" Jennifer asks. "No one knows where he lives" the guy behind the desk tells her. "Well, go and FIND where he lives! The police are supposed to investigate, yes?" she adds. "We have to be sure before we go because if we are wrong then he will find out we are looking for him and then he will be very hard to find." AAaaaaaahhhhhhhh....maddening. A six year old girl was RAPED! And you are all sitting around playing mankala and chatting?!?! "You know we will need money for transport to go and find him.".....AAaaaaahhhhhhh! Absolutely maddening. A plan of action involving the identification of the man's whereabouts and then his arrest is made, and Jennifer requests a message from the nurse as soon as he is apprehended.

What is the perception of justice here? Sexuality? Childhood? HIV/AIDS and the thought that it can be cured by sex with a virgin? Parenthood? Work ethic? Evil? The questions are swirling in my head as I ride my bike up the road, and those are just the questions arising from cultural differences/norms...Then there is miss polka dots...her life and future...her interactions with boys/men from now on...her future of sexuality...the value she understands herself to have or lack...the safety of her life for coming and telling her story...the future of her physical health...the tears come easily as I write.

21 June 2009


I don't know if you can read the shirt, but it was a thrift store find he's pretty proud of :)
It reads as follows: "I can only please one person each day. TODAY IS NOT YOUR DAY. Tomorrow doesn't look good either." :) He's holding the shirt out wide so I could capture it, but it's obviously better in person...you might be able to catch him on Monday in it :)

On this father's day - a tribute to my papa.

- He can never pass an apple orchard in the fall in New England without stopping to pick a few bushels
- He has this uncanny ability to find wonder and awe in the most minute of details in God's creation - the green of the moss on the forest floor, the variety of mushrooms found growing on rotting logs and alongside said moss, etc etc etc
- He is a pretty phenomenal craftsman when it comes to working with his hands, especially with wood
- He pours over baseball box scores everyday for most months of the year
- He sticks with a team faithfully, even when they stink for decade after decade
- He's child # 3 of 6 in the family of Amy and the late Herman Lutjens
- He walks really fast, even on vacation
- He doesn't listen so well all of the time, and now he's got his "bad ear" from Meniere's to blame it on :)
- He makes a mean stir-fry, ooh and eggs fried in bacon grease with home fries...yum yum
- He loves finding the perfect card for any occasion, but especially birthday cards...can you just picture him in Target laughing his head off trying to think of who he could give a certain one to?
- He used to take my brother and I wood cutting with him on Mondays when we lived in Pittsburgh and had a wood burning stove in our living room for the majority of our heating needs - and usually the outings involved a stop at Dunkin' Donuts on the way :) (this was my personal favorite part of the day :)
- Oh does he love a bargain!
- And a used book store?!? Watch out, he could stay in there ALL day!
- Buck Nights at Three Rivers' Stadium in the 1980's...Gen Adm seat for a buck, hotdog for a buck, coke for a buck...they were a favorite!
- He loves a good laugh, a good book, a good movie, a good ball game, a good conversation, a good friend, a good hike, and he loves us three kids. we love him too!

Happy Father's Day, Papa!

20 June 2009

"you give me fever..."

"fever, in the mornin', fever all through the night..."

A little bit of Ray for ya here on this Sunday afternoon...my Ray Charles tribute to mosquitos and the "jift" they have given me in the last week and a half or so in a little something called Dengue Fever...at least that's what we think it is...fevers, exhaustion, muscle and joint aches including pain behind the eyes, a pretty impressive full body rash if I do say so myself (which turned petechial), and a few other symptoms I'll keep to myself :) Luckily the fevers only lasted about 4 days, (the rash only a few more) and ended about a week ago, since I've just been acting like an 80 year old woman (I also remember feeling similarly when I started playing high school soccer my freshman year in Cheltenham...sheesh, that was in 1993..., I had never run/played so hard in my life rendering me pretty much useless for several weeks except for soccer and necessities of life) ...moving around just takes a lot more energy and causes a bit more discomfort than I'm used to or prefer, joints/muscles still sore and swollen...I'm quite the sight walking out to the cho first thing in the morning, having difficulty walking in a straight line, dragging my legs up the stairs and sometimes it doesn't seem very likely that I'll ever make it up out of the squatting position ever again...alas, I somehow manage every time...

Let's see, what else is going on...

- There was an earthquake while we were in church this morning, always provides a bit of excitement to an otherwise very LONG (3 hours today) service
- I have a rat living in my house who may be dead now thanks to the poison scattered around the kitchen, but I won't know until I smell "the smell" that means nothing other than a dead animal is "in the house" :)
- The light in my bathroom has not been working for a week or two now, so I shower by headlamp at night, and never really know what I look like when I leave the house every morning because there's not so much light in there even during the daylight hours
- A couple nuggets of wisdom from Ugandan primary school education curtousy of our friend Naomi yesterday afternoon while we sat painting our toenails outside my front door:
"Eating is not a business"
"A mistake is not a disease"
- I have realized that I really love clinical nursing, bedside nursing, whatever you'd like to call it. I've also been realizing that I might like to go back to school...I think I could benefit of another round of A&P and other courses I took in nursing school - maybe a bit more advanced than the first time around...but I don't want to give up bedside nursing...any ideas?

Okay, signing off on this lovely Sunday.

09 June 2009

on the approach of Father's Day...

It might sounds funny coming from a single woman, but I've been thinking a lot about fatherhood the last few days. I talked with my dad on Sunday night (afternoon their time) which is usually a pretty busy time for him, but I must have caught him at a good time...but one of the things that was said (first mentioned by dad, and confirmed by me) was how I take after him in most things as far as temperment goes (more than Jeff and Carrie)...he's totally right...when I was about 14, an inmate in a maximum security prison looked at me and the first thing out of his mouth was, "what's your problem, sister? You look like you got a stick stuck up your butt just like your daddy! You need to relax, like your brother and sister here." (I was a 14 year old girl in a maximum security prison for men, you best believe I was a little on edge!) But he was right, let's just say the firstborn in me has made me a bit more concerned about things...And it's my dad I get my hardline nature from...no nonsense..."sorry charlie - you know the rules" which most of the time pays off, especially in my work. I also think it's my dad I get my "I" on the Myers-Briggs from. So, part of being a father is seeing yourself in your children, and them seeing you in themselves...it seems to me that could be wonderful and terrifying...

Sunday morning I played hookey from church and listened to a sermon my dad preached this past winter on the Trinity. He spoke of the perfect love and joy that exists between Father and Son in the Trinity - and the glimpses we get of that when we watch fathers and sons amongst us really enjoying each other and the joy and love they display - this is the stuff we're made for! My dad spoke of pouring concrete with my brother on a beautiful crisp, clear, 50 degrees and sunny winter day in St. Louis - he spoke of their enjoyment of the work, of the coffee breaks, of the weather, and most of all of each other. It's really fun to watch my dad and brother together, I might take more after my dad than my brother when it comes to temperment, but when it comes to the things they love to do and their senses of humor - the two of them are like two peas in a pod!

Monday morning I unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it - it really is an honor to be a part of such things in people's lives anywhere in the world - even though heart wrenching and painful) witnessed the death of a child on the Peds ward at the Health Center. The mother turned away, hoping it wasn't true, shielding her eyes, and as the other nurse and I went over to confirm the child was dead, she began to wail as is usual for mothers and other female family members. The other nurse instructed the father, who was standing next to the bed with tears in his eyes, to bring the child into the treatment room to be wrapped in preparation for the family to carry him home. The father picked up the child and began to tremble and to sob, barely making it to the bed in the room just next to the child's bed. Men here (in common with men the world round it seems) don't usually react so emotionally, so it's particularly poignant to witness a father's sadness and grief like that...the nurse took the child from him and layed him on the bed and the father slowly dropped to his knees on the floor and continued to tremble and cry...I can't really imagine what that must be like...to watch the life leave the body of your flesh and blood - one moment it's there and the next it's not...I was struck at how hard it was for me and I'm just the nurse who gave him a shot a few minutes before he died and tied his little legs together with gauze after he died, not his father...This father won't have the chance mine does to enjoy the companionship of his son. This is not what we were made for...Come quickly Lord Jesus.

07 June 2009

you know you're in Africa when...

you go into your pit latrine to use the bathroom, and reach for the "toilet paper" (which is obviously a mis-nomer since there's clearly no toilet in this situation), and a lizard has already beaten you to it and pooped on it already...true story, happened this afternoon...gotta laugh :)

The big city

Just got back friday from a 4 day trip to the big city to pick up my dear teammate Ashley Wood. I showed up at Entebbe airport with a smile and a big hug and a vehicle to load her Stateside treasures into, and after quick shower and a bit of protein intake, I whisked her off to the grocery store of all places :) We spent the next 2 days doing a humongous amount of shopping for all of the singles (6 of us - 4 teammates and 2 interns arriving in EBB tomorrow) for the duration of the summer. What a better way to re-enter into African life than spending 2 days shopping and spending money...sheesh...sorry Ash...but you've gotta do what you've gotta do..there's always stories and funnies to follow from such a trip, so here's a few for ya:
  • imagine yourself at Crane Bank on Kampala Road...outside there sits a guy taking cell phones and returning them to their owners upon their exit of the bank, you then approach the super spiffy space module looking doors that open, you step inside, the glass doors close behind you and then the doors open to the inside of the bank and you step out into the bank...inside the main floor of the bank looks like any big city American bank a decade or two ago, smells faintly of air conditioning (! gasp !) which is, of course, "not there", and is quite quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of Kampala Road just outside the space module doors. You head to the far end of the floor and down the marble stairs that curve around to the basement with little cubbies built into the marble walls with lit statues of Ganesh and other Hindu deities perched inside. At the bottom of the stairs you find a windowless room with a counter of 5-6 tellers whose job it is to receive large amounts of cash in deposits and count it by hand and then confirm the totals with the little cash shuffling machine. Unfortunately we are not making any large cash deposits :) but we use these tellers to exchange the large bills, (20,000 and 50,000 Ush notes) given to us by the ATM machines which are completely useless to us back in Bundibugyo, for small bills (1,000 and 5,000 Ush notes) which are our means of daily exchange around here. So Ashley and I stand and wait for tellers to become available, and while waiting I was reading the signs posted inside the teller's cubicle..."Please, customers, stop and count your money before leaving the counter. Management" at the top which was then translated into either Luganda or Swahili, I couldn't tell. The second word from the english instruction was translated to "Kastoma" and the second to last english word translated to "Kawunta" :) We both got a good laugh :) Then, I continue to wait for a teller to become available while Ashley is exchanging money, and finally one does at the end next to the door that important people keep coming in and out of. I tell her what I need and she goes off to see if another teller has something of that sort, and so I lean against the counter and look back to where the stairs come down, and there's this guy dragging a big sugar bag across the floor...there's something written in black marker on the bag and I lean forward to see what it is..."EURO'S" in capital letters...this guy is dragging a sugar bag full of Euro's across the bank floor!...and then comes another guy with another bag just like it!...quite an amusing site...Ashley told me later that they had dragged it all the way down the stairs like that..."thud, thud, thud" as he made it down each step :) She and I looked at each other and couldn't help but bust out laughing :)
  • Now imagine GAME, the South African chain similar to a Target I guess, floor to ceiling shelves, clean white shiny floors, everything neat and tidy in their plastic packaging, and a mix of ex pats and Ugandans wandering around pushing their shopping carts. A most annoying guy starts hitting on Ashley and she quickly exits the interaction only to be stalked by him around the store...and then in one isle we see a Ugandan young woman wearing jeans and a white t shirt with red type that reads "I think therefore I am single" :) We chuckled. Based on interactions like Ashley's with her GAME stalker, I would agree...sometimes here it's hard to remember that male-female interactions do exist that involve mutual respect and are void of "cat calls" and inappropriate behavior and mistrust.
  • Volume: We purchased 4 trunks full of food/supplies for the summer, 4 coolers full of meat/dairy products/produce, and a healthy amount of alcohol :) We visited 5 grocery stores, 3 shopping malls (2 indoor, one strip mall), waited in vain for 2 hours for the most intimidating Ugandan I know (our car mechanic) to show up when dropping off the vehicle for repairs - finally leaving and telling the other staff we couldn't wait any longer, and later in the day spent 1 million Ugandan shillings on repairs when returning to pick up the vehicle (only to learn it needs to return before too long for electrical system repairs which were not complete because the most intimidating Ugandan didn't show for work in a timely fashion). We found fuel present at every fuel station we went to in Kampala (not always the case), we managed to make the 7 hours of driving on the return trip with no music (! gasp !)...I was getting sleepy at points, and that's beyond dangerous on these roads, but God preserved our lives with no problems or close calls for which I am thankful, and of the 3 hours on the Bundibugyo Road from Fort Portal to home, the whole first hour to the top of the mountain is graded and therefore drives like a dream! When you eliminate most of the stress on one third of the time involved in that drive, it makes such a difference!
In any case, Ashley (muzungu on the left) is back and we are very glad to have her here. The picture posted above is from an afternoon last "fall" I think, playing with kids outside my front door while watching and documenting the "tree assassins" cutting down all of the tall trees along what will be the power line thoroughfare...Sarah (muzungu on the right) is oh so glad to have her roommate/age-mate/co-teacher/friend back, as are the neighborhood kids. Welcome Back Ashley!