17 February 2010

my mamba

Late monday afternoon I learned that my grandmother (mamba) died. Amy Laura Elizabeth Luecke Lutjens, my dad’s mom, went to be with Jesus on Sunday afternoon.

My mamba, my ‘Gram’, was quite a lady. The kitchen table always full of guests of all sorts, the extra beds nearly always full (including the ever popular twin beds in the hall upstairs), her bridge/teeth left next to the sink in the upstairs bathroom, her “pockabook” (aka pocketbook) always jammed to capacity (lipstick for putting on in the car as Grampa was always waiting outside for her, Bible tracts for handing out to the guys in the toll booths on the NJ Turnpike, and the favorite amongst us grandkids was the stash of gum she always carried with her), the stack of mail and brochures she kept next to her Bible to pray through in her morning devotions, the carloads of stuff she always brought with her – “everything but the kitchen sink” - whenever she and grampa took roadtrips to visit their kids and grandkids, the jam packed refrigerator in her kitchen that only she had any idea of where/what anything was inside, her smile, her laugh, “how’s your ever livin’ heart?”, the two-handed wave as she stood outside 895 Westwood Avenue as we pulled out of the driveway headed home (wherever that happened to be at the time) that continued until we were out of sight, her love of nuts…in EVERYTHING…, her frugality (especially in regards to wrapping paper), her hugs, her jumps off the high dive at family reunions, and my personal favorite memory was one that she repeated throughout my life even through the later years when she couldn’t remember my name, but she would hug me, kiss my cheek, often pinch them, and say to whoever was nearby (sometimes a complete stranger) “Doesn’t she have the most beautiful dimples?! Just look at them!”

I am so glad that Jesus took her home, but she will be dearly missed!

04 February 2010

there are plans...and then there are steps...

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” – Proverbs 16:9

I just got a text message from Jennifer which ended with “never easy is it?” This seems to be my life’s theme. I wrote back and told her that there used to be a joke (or maybe not so much of a joke!) on my floor at Children’s in St. Louis that no one ever wanted to work with me, or get report from me because anything that could go wrong always did...I also found this tshirt at our church’s rummage sale several years ago that has a picture of a cow that got stuck on the moon as he tried to jump over, the words read: “Nothing’s ever simple”…

I’m writing from Kampala, where I have been since late Sunday afternoon, in pursuit of some R&R.

Plan: Pack on Friday night in order to leave Saturday morning for what will be about 3 ½ weeks out of the district.
Steps: I left my house in COMPLETE disarray, with George babysitting the electrical guys who are literally hacking away at the cement walls in my house with a hammer in order to install wiring to connect the duplex to the grid. Exciting stuff, really it is, but I was quite bogged down for the last 48-72 hours in Bundibugyo with the mess of the process...the cement dust, the apparent lack of quality workmanship on the parts of the electrical guys (in the Lutjens house the motto for rehab is “quality not quantity”…somehow these guys don’t seem to share that value), the stress of mistrust – not wanting to leave a team of men I don’t know alone in my house while I am gone during the day...All of the above led to throwing A LOT of stuff in a big duffle bag on Saturday morning when the workers were several hours late because my ability to be discerning about what to bring/what not to bring was non-existent.

Plan: Drive with Anna and Scott to Kampala in the Zoolander on Saturday.
Steps: I arrived in Kampala via private hire on Sunday because the Zoolander is (surprise surprise) in need of emergent repairs involving the fuel injection mechanisms involving the fuel pump. Atwoki, mechanic who has worked on Mission vehicles for likely more than 20 years, came from Fort Portal to diagnose and then tow/drive the vehicle out to his shop in Fort.

Plan: Drive to Jinja on Thursday to meet up with the Myhre’s and Ashley and the Sudan team at the Sudan team retreat for a couple of nights on our way to Kenya for a Christian Medical and Dental Society conference.
Steps: Take a taxi out to the bypass road tomorrow to meet the Myhre’s in their truck to hitch a ride to Jinja because the Zoolander will not be fixed.

Plan: direct route to uninterrupted R&R
Steps: What seems like more than a few hooks thrown my way (I admit, I threw the pajamas I was holding in my hand, used a few choice expletives, and flopped down on my back on the bed in a moment of despair when Atwoki called this morning) but there was also a whisper reminding me that He is establishing my steps and therefore I will be just fine.

In the meantime, I sit here on the porch at the ARA, sipping a cold Coke, watching a very cute little 5 year old getting tennis lessons from a somehow tall and somehow black Ugandan tennis pro, listening to the British women next to me discussing their balloon color schemes and jazz band entertainment plan for their upcoming PTA Dinner Dance. Every once in a while I glance over at the pool wondering if it’s worth the effort to go and put my suit on to take a dip on this sweltering day as the sweat drips down my back. It’s a rough life ☺

03 February 2010

red, white, and blue

I need to update you on a very important item of news from Bundibugyo.

You might remember Little Miss Polkadots (June blog post). Well, I had the pleasure of holding this strong little girl’s hand as we walked through the police station in Bundibugyo Town as we pursued getting her case a bit closer to some semblance of justice.

• After a local big man was arrested for defilement, and the local outcry about his apparent history of such behavior was still in the air, Jennifer and I went to the police station in Nyahuka to see what had come of Little Miss’ case (expecting NOTHING to be the answer). God works in mysterious ways…the next day we drove a limping shirtless young man in the back of the Myhre’s truck to the Police Station in Bundibugyo Town where he joined the dozen or so similarly shirtless men behind a single set of bars. Grilling the officer in charge on the way back to Nyahuka, we were still not sure how they were sure this was the right man.
• The next day Litte Miss herself showed up at the Health Center, this time dressed in a super cute blue jean outfit with her mom and baby brother. They heard through the “bush”vine that the man had been arrested and they came to ask for help with transport money to go to Town and make a positive identification. I unfortunately missed the mother’s excited explanation to Jennifer about how ecstatic she was that this man was being brought closer to justice. Sure to explain that she was not afraid of him or the police, she was ready to go! I walked them over to the Nyahuka police station to try to contact the Bundibugyo station to give them the heads up that she was coming. Supposidly they didn’t have any phone numbers for officers there (doubtfully true), they sent a uniformed officer to accompany them (with his transport paid by Jennifer of course).
• We heard nothing for a day or so, then 2 days later, Little Miss with mom and brother in tow showed up on the ward again. This time with forms for Jennifer to fill out AGAIN, and a report that in a surprising feat of strong police work, Little Miss and mom both picked THE man out of several groups of prisoners who were showed to each of them separately. We breathed a sigh of relief with confidence that this was the guy. Somehow Saleem managed to pull out the copies of the medical findings reports Jennifer had filled out 6 months before (still SHOCKED that he managed to keep them…again a work of God!), and after rounds and loading up a few other patients who needed to go to Town with referrals from Jennifer we all climbed in the Myhre truck and headed to Town.
• Little Miss, sitting in the back seat, propped her hands up on the tops of the front seats, resting her chin in between Jennifer and I. When we got to the Station, I took her hand, and she didn’t really let go until I pulled my hand away to climb back into the car. Trying to keep her out of the line of sight of the “cage” full of men peering out from behind the bars, we walked around the side of the building to the offices in the back where we sat and talked to the officer in charge. I say we, but I really mean Jennifer…she’s the voice of the operation, I’m just along for moral support and hand holding ☺ Every once in a while, Little Miss looked up at me…to make sure I was still there? Because she needed a smile? Not sure, but I was still there, and I did give her a smile and shoulders shrug everytime. She nestled her head into my arm as she sat between her mom and I on the bench in the office. The visit didn’t last very long, and had to pull my hand out of Little Miss’s grip to climb back into the car. Her mom was so grateful, and thankfully so persistent. Supposedly the next step is for the case to be sent to a state attorney in Fort Portal to decide if there is enough evidence to charge this guy.
• Yeah, so I have NO IDEA how this all came to be aside from the strong hand of God. So I sit back and try to sort through the variety of emotions that this leaves me with…the paradox of ensuing happiness and sadness is hard to sort out. I’ve decided it’s not meant to be “sorted out.” There’s just this level of messiness we need to learn to deal with, that won’t ever get sorted out, but that we need to engage with but cannot be consumed by.

Stay tuned for future episodes of NCIS (Nyahuka Criminal Investigation Service), staring Special Agent Jennifer Myhre – doctor, lead investigator, and pursuer of justice and quirky sidekick Agent Heidi Lutjens – nurse, moral support, and hand holder.

01 February 2010

a few photos...

I don't often just post pictures of everyday life so here are a few...

The BundiNutrition store at Nyhuka Health Center...white bags packed and stacked on the flats? Beans in 20c allotments for motherless patients. The words painted in white around the border of the blue wall thanks to Pat Abbott? Isaiah 55:1
"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost."
Teamwork. Assusi (white uniform), Olupah (dark shirt to A's left), me and Scott Will teamed up to serve/process/screen the 30 or so patients who showed up one day last week for the NuLife program (provides Plumpynut to HIV+ and other severely malnourished patients). It's so fun to work together on these kinds of things when we have the luxury of multiple staff present :) (and makes everything go so much quicker!)
Me and my bud Kato. He's got pants on today, usually that's not the case. His twin Isingoma is a nutrition patient, but Kato (2nd born) does pretty well for himself (interesting considering it's usually the older twin who traditionally does better). We're both sharing a bit of a "deer in the headlights" look at the moment.
dead monkey - found Christmas eve in the pool at the bottom of the Ngite falls when 3 Myhre kids and Anna and I took my sister up...a bit (ok, more than a bit...) concerned about why this monkey died and therefore it's potential effects on our health (the rumor is that the Ebola outbreak 2 years ago started in a monkey), I made everybody get out of the pool of water pronto. Scott and Jennifer didn't seem too terribly concerned (for which I was relieved). Merry Christmas!
Yes, that's a couch...on the back of a motorcycle...no problem. This is why I felt it was reasonable to get on the back of one yesterday with my huge red duffel bag stuffed to the gills and 2 other bags, plus me and the driver...no problem.
Interesting shot by Carrie...The HOME paintings I brought with me to Uganda, with several items that help me enjoy my little home in the foreground...gin & tonic with frozen mango slices instead of ice cubes, a Bombay bottle turned candle holder, more candle holders, and of course the little bowl for salt (I am Kurt's daughter!)
A hilarious ad for a brand of beer that I saw at the hostel eatery at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth.