27 April 2010


Sometimes you get muddled down in the day to day goings on of whatever place you are in life.  What is on the to-do list, what is weighing on your heart, what is going your way, who is standing in front of you.  Often I have to be snapped out of detail mode and nudged to take a few steps back in order to see the big picture.  In today's case...well, actually, now that I think about it, this applies to the majority of my day, but the instance that started today off, was a conversation about the "bush"  (hear "boosh").  

When I came to Africa, I wasn't so sure about this term "the bush."  I wasn't sure if it was a derogatory white man's terminology for rural or rain-forrest-y parts of the continent, or if it was a legitimate term that Africans used to describe their place.  It turns out it's the latter...well, at least, it's current use in Bundibugyo is the latter (I guess it's origin could have been in the  colonization process, but everybody here uses it).  People in Kampala use it to refer to what they also call "the village,"  and it's also used to describe just what it says...the "bushes".

In the States, a "bush", is kind of an autonomous shrub or low-ish plant growth...singular...there's one of them, distinguishable from the plants around it...or maybe there are "bushes" a series of said plants that are intentionally grown together.  Well, in Africa it's a bit different.  "Bush" is indistinguishable plant growth that serves no purpose that the average person is aware of...or at least not for whatever sentence or point you are trying to make.

so Smith, a guy who usually is the water guy, the one in Travis' phone as "the plumber," who moonlights as a landscaper, was working in our yard yesterday (with someone who must be his brother because they look just alike)...they were doing "bush" control...whacking away at the "bush" around our fence and house so that little (or even worse, big!) critters who might be living in said "bush" might be forced to find other homes.  They didn't do a very good clean-up job yesterday, surprise-surprise, and so I was pointing out to them what else needed to be done today before we would consider the job completed and therefore pay them.  We were standing outside the back of the house, just outside my bedroom window, next to the water tank discussing what "bush" exactly needed to be taken care of, and him instructing me that cleaning out the gutters would be "wasting our time" because they run into the tank that is inoperable (I disagreed, by the way, because at least the water would be taken away from the house instead of just pouring out of the gutters against the house...but I digress).   Before I walk away, a small grin spreads across Smith's face and he points at the water tank with his panga and says "I remember when this tank was built...I was this many years (gesturing with the very sharp knife at a height about at his knees or a bit above).  And now I am having 6 children."  (My guess is that he is currently this many years: 30 - or about as old as I am maybe?) He continued "and there was this boy who was even smaller than me," (gesturing again with the razor sharp panga at about his shins) "I was carrying him.  His name was Benjamin Lee.  That son of Alan Lee."

I hit the pause button on the to-do list in my head, on the play back of all of the patients I saw yesterday that may or may not still be there today, on the wearing on my spirit that comes from dealing with men here who have little respect for women especially those who are not married...the pause gave way to space for thought as I walked around the house and got onto my bike to ride down to the health center...I don't know Alan Lee, or his son Benjamin, but they built my currently non-functional water tank...There is so much history here...so much I know nothing about...many have gone before me...many have riden and walked this road, have smiled and laughed with the people they've encountered, have learned this language, have said hellos and goodbyes again and again...I am not alone, we are not alone.  In fact, I have all those who have gone before me to thank...to thank for the water tanks, the houses, the cultural and other life tips/ins/outs of life in a rural place with far fewer amenities than we have here now, for their faithfulness and compassion that precedes me, and the list goes on.  

So thanks Alan and Benjamin.  Thanks to all of the WHM Bundibugyo Missionaries who have gone before me, whose names I have only heard in stories, but who I will share the Supper of the Lamb with face to face one day.  Until then...

Here a goat, there a goat, everywhere a goat goat

Many of you very generously gave financial support to our Give-a-goat program here in Bundibugyo over the winter holidays, and I'm wanted to finally get around to giving you some "proof of purchase" for your contributions.
There will be about 100 goats distributed to malnourished children, HIV exposed children under the age of 2, or other particularly vulnerable families in need of protein rich nutrition for their children.
The 100 goats will be distributed in 3 distributions through the year, the first of which was held last month, 8 April.
Lamech (tall man on the left) is "the goat man" he trains all of the recipients in goat care, distributes them and then provides follow up veterinary care for them. Currently he has about 500 goats in his care and we are working on trying to make that a bit more manageable for him.
John Clark (WHM teammate, white guy on the right :) is mr. agriculture, overseeing all of WHM's agricultural work in BGO including the goats, a chicken project, demonstration gardens, income generating farms for Christ School, etc.
The women come from near and far and all leave with one of these super cute goats that are purchased by WHM with your contributions, that then provide life saving milk for their families. They leave the Mission so happy, with a bit more hope for their lives. We are unable to match a particular goat/recipient family with a particular donor, but I wanted to share with you a few photos of the resources we are privileged to distribute because of your generosity.
Here is the where the goats are kept on Mission property before they are distributed.

And here's a part of the herd distributed a few weeks ago. Thanks again to all you who gave so generously!

25 April 2010

"Use caution near the edge"

see, it's the little things in life that try to put you over the edge...(photo from Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA)

God has been doing a lot in my heart and soul these days, I wrote an update about it and have tried sending it about 6 times and yahoo's updated spam protection or some annoying thing like that has stood in my way...so that made me think, well, maybe I shouldn't send it to everyone...my tendency is to be too vulnerable with too many people, so maybe God is trying to protect my heart for me...so I tried sending it to a smaller group...still no go...grrrrr

Another "anonymous secret" posting from today reminds me that I'm not alone in my struggle to maintain some semblance of balance between vulnerability and "indecent exposure" of sorts, when it comes to my heart...

"my kids don't know my baggage...to tell them might destroy them [or me]. Not telling them means they don't really know me."
So, maybe you'll find an update in your inbox, maybe you won't. In any case, you can take my word for it and praise God with me and continue to pray for me when you think of it.

20 April 2010


• Team pizza – BBQ sauce, pepperoni, onions, mozzarella, garlic cheese bread, Krest Bitter Lemon. Scrumptious.
• An unparalleled African sky show of sorts, courtesy of God. A stunning sunset in the west, storm clouds rolling in from the east over the mountains threatening to soak our pizza but amazingly refraining, and somewhere in the middle where the two met – brilliant blue sky met grey clouds, and in that blue sky a sliver of a moon with it’s halo, and a few twinkling stars, and in those grey clouds a lightning show lit up the evening. Dazzling.
• Little Bryan voices, “Miss Heidi!, Miss Heidi!” beckoning me to come to the patio for dessert. Precious.
• Ghiardelli brownies with sparkler candles and homemade coffee ice cream. Exquisite.
• Gifts and creative cards. Thoughtful.
• “Good try, Heidi Jeanne” performed by the VonMyhre family singers, to the backup of Elton John’s rockin’ piano hit - “Goodbye, Norma Jean.” Brilliant.
• The chance to honor two friends, teammates, coworkers, travel companions (and the list goes on) in ~ 300 photos summarizing the last 2 years of their/our lives. Fun.
• A sunrise walk down Butogho road with the lovely Amy Johnson including spectacular views of the snow capped Rwenzori mountains. Breathtaking.
• Pancakes with MAPLE SYRUP for breakfast. Tasty.
• 2 hour ward rounds with the lovely Jennifer Myhre (as compared to the 8 hour solo marathon from last week). Priviledge.
• Visiting Assimuwe Gloria, firstborn daughter born to fellow nurse, Eliza, a few hours before. Cuteness.
• PEACH!/mango smoothie for lunch. Refreshing.
• Drool on the pillow mid-day nap. Lovely.
• Afternoon delivery of a full plate of cookies from the lovely Loren Clark. Delicious.
• Burial for a church elder and fellow nurse’s father. Sobering.
• Chats/calls/messages from family and friends.Encouraging.
• Evening plan of pasta and hot bread (yeah carbs!) for dinner and a few episodes of NCIS. Relaxing.
• In summary: It’s looking like 31 will be a great year.

14 April 2010


  • attempting to dodge cow pies in the mostly dark first moments of light on the way to Team Prayer
  • singing a bit of "it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor..." in the cool of the morning sunshine on the way home from Team Prayer
  • an 18 month old kid in an unbuttoned onezie literally RUNNING (or toddling as most toddlers do) as fast as his little legs could carry him up the road to greet me as I walked to the health center.
  • after I greeted and shook said toddlers hand, the chorus of the 1980's Celine Dion (?) hit whining from the neighboring Boda repair shop (it seemed particularly fitting after moving on from such a greeting):

Must have been love, but it's over now
Must have been love, but I've lost it somehow

  • a thin woman, the middle rider of 3 adults on a motorcycle, clad in orange and yellow kitenge's, being helped off the boda and into the HIV clinic.
  • best name of the week: Goodyear. 
  • pushing a 200ml blood transfusion 10ml at a time through an IO needle...using gentle force to push blood right into a 2 year old's bone injecting it directly into his bone marrow.  Marveling with each syringe that this is even physically possible.  
  • Baluku Thomas code team: Jennifer Myhre, MD (code team leader); Travis Johnson, MD (IO placement and ongoing site assessment consultant); Nathan Elwood, (MD in about 4 short years) (equipment supplier, procedure preper, limb stabilizer); Heidi Lutjens, RN (IVF/blood/drug pusher :) and dressing changer); Assusi Mildred, Nursing Officer (patient care idea source and IV attempts expert); Balijukya Wilson, ECN (IV placement master); Kalibatira Betty, NA (ward secretary).
  • Celebratory sweet and sour pork dinner with FRESH SWEET CORN (from chez Clark!!), chilled chocolate pudding pie for dessert (thanks, mom!), and mojitos to top it all off...in celebration of Nathan and Sarah's grad school decisions (Sarah, we celebrated on your behalf, in your honor; you were in absentia but present in spirit for sure! Congrats again!).

10 April 2010

my minds eye

Sundays: Ashley and I were just sitting at the table, eating tuna sandwiches for lunch after church...and she says "listen to how quiet it is." The only sounds were the chirping of the birds. No cars, no motorcycles, no people talking...aaahhhhhh. Nice. Conversation turned slightly to what Sundays in the Wood and Lutjens households were like...both of which included the "sunday paper". To this day, even when living in different houses in the same city, the Lutjens kids often descend on mom and dad's house after lunch on Sundays for the purusal of the Sunday edition of the NY Times...fighting over the coveted Magazine section, reviewing the "Week in Review", the arts, style, sports, travel and front page sections, we pour over it all. Today, the online edition will have to suffice...Sudan elections, Indian cuisine in Delhi...what else will I find...

Dreaming and Waffling: In regards to big decisions in my life, what happens next kinds of decisions, I've always weighed facts and feelings and come to a decision and gone with it...good and hard things have followed but it's always been clear to me that I'm ultimately not alone.

dream (v): indulge in daydreams or fantasies, typically about something desired
: waste one's time in a lazy,unproductive way
: contemplate the possibility of doing something or something that might
be the case

dream (n): a series of thoughts, images, sensations occurring in a person's mind
during sleep
:a state of mind in which someone is or seems to be unaware of their
immediate surroundings
:a cherished ambition, aspiration, or ideal
:an unrealistic or self-deluding fantasy
:a person or thing perceived as wonderful or perfect

waffle (v):to fail to make up one's mind

waffle (n):a wonderful traditionally breakfast food, made spectacular when topped with fruit, ice cream, and/or lots of syrup

I'm in a dreaming period right now. A period of time in which I'm free to dream about what I might do next. My time here in Uganda will come to an end sometime in September and I'll head home to St. Louis for a few months, and then who knows...it's a beautiful thing really...to dream...to not feel pressured, to consider "thoughts, images and sensations" in wakefulness, "contemplate possibilities", to be in a state of mind which takes into account my immediate surroundings and the surroundings of my past life to piece together what my future surroundings might look like, to consider what "things (I) perceive as wonderful"...

I'm not sure that I've ever taken this much time in advance of a decision to dream...and it's funny, I'm not sure that I've ever waffled so much either. In "the fall" (aka. months of sept/oct/nov), I was thinking seriously about going back to school - purusing Nurse Practitioner programs. Then after a medical education conference in Kenya decided being an NP was not for me, that I really enjoy the role of an RN. When I was in the US in Feb. this is what I was telling friends and family who asked...it felt good, I was at peace with the preliminary decision...then on Thursday, after rounding on the ward without Jennifer, I began to think again about maybe going back to school...

Hmmmm. I'm not quite sure what's going on, but maybe this is what dreaming is all about...I'm not worried, I'm not stressed, but rather curious about what's going on inside my head and heart and curious about what might happen in the end.

Having fun, dreaming on.

09 April 2010

Global Mosaic

I'm in Africa, my sister's in India, my parents and brother are in the US, I have friends in various parts of east Asia, the Middle East, western Europe, central and South America...I love to think about what's going on in all of their lives...how different and how similar our surroundings look and smell and feel...a photo only captures one of those (look)...maybe two (feel).

Here's a cool project that I just came across on the blog displaying the work of the NY Times photographers (combined with other photojournalists from around the world). Thanks for the tip, Care, it's great site!

What are you doing at 15:00 GMT on 2 May? Whatever you're doing, have a camera with you and take a "snap"...