30 June 2010

Jane...er, I mean, DENISE Austen

So, here in Bundibugyo, exercising is a challenge. Ever tried running in a skirt that keeps your knees covered? Give it a whirl sometime…not easy…or even more of a challenge – ever tried running in pants with something wrapped around your waist to cover your rear end and knees? Picture it…right arm pumping with each stride, left hand clutched at your waist holding your wrap in place…yeah, no. Okay, well, say that was not enough to stop you, picture steeling yourself to run with hoards of children or at your heels or young men taunting you from the side of the road as you pass – “I love you, I love you” “tsst, tsst, mzungu mzungu!” “you hot love me!”…well, how about early morning, you ask? The sun begins to rise about 6:30am…just about the same time school children begin to leave for their walk to school…remember the hoards of children I mentioned? Perfect example. Or how about the old ipod-headphones-in-the-ears trick to tune out the verbal taunting? You might as well take your life and put it on the line with the boda drivers zooming around the corners and lorries rambling along the road at breakneck speeds.

So, in search of other options, post baclava and gelato filled vacation, Anna and I have turned to exercise videos…I know I know, how “mom” does that sound? (Actually, come to think of it, my mom never did exercise videos I don’t think…) But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do…

Now, our sisters up North in Sudan told us a story of their friends at a local secondary school telling them one day, “we saw you yesterday jumping up and down in front of your computer!” ☺ At least here in Bundi we have the luxury of enough space and reasonable enough temperatures inside to do such things in some semblance of privacy…so we gave it a whirl…

Our first attempt was a 45 min. Fat Burning Workout DVD, so we cleared the room, pulled out one of our computers and popped it in to see what we had in us…well, let me just tell you, if you could have been a fly on the wall in that room, you would have had the entertainment of a lifetime! There were arms and legs flailing every which way while we tried (totally unsuccessfully, mind you) to keep up with the samba-ing and sashaying aerobic instructor. “Can’t we just do one thing at a time?!” we whined as she kicked our butts through the computer…BUT instead of letting ourselves be totally demoralized, we said to each other hesitantly, “well, maybe with practice we can get it slowly by slowly?”

Yesterday, for our second attempt, we thought we’d try another DVD to see if they’re all as crazy fast and furious like that one or if there might be one a bit more our pace…so we popped in “Denise Austen” (who I mistakenly referred to as Jane Austen when I went to borrow it from Pat. “Ah, no, Heidi, not Jane…this is a bit after her time…” – whoops! Am I my mother’s daughter or what?!) and her Personal Training System DVD…not sure what we might encounter we were pleasantly surprised. With the room cleared and our cans of garbonzo beans in hand we found a challenge lacking total demoralization…how nice…I mean, granted, we’re still talking about Heidi trying to follow steps requiring movement of her upper AND lower body simultaneously (sound at all like, dancing?!), so it was not without it’s amusement, I assure you, but generally speaking I was moving in at least the correct DIRECTION for more than ½ of the time ☺ Anna, on the other hand, she could have a third career as an aerobics instructor, I’m sure of it. She’s totally got the pep and smile for it! I can see the cover of the DVD now, “Aerobics with Anna, Bundibugyo Basics vol. 1”. It might be up there in contention with Tour Guiding on her list of future possibilities. Or maybe she could combine the two… “Aerobics for Tour Guides”…

Ok, I digress. Back to Denise Austen. I do have to admit that I was way more sore after the demoralizing workout madness last week…but I’m not sure I can face that 3 times a week! But maybe it beats the running in a skirt option, or the taunts from the side of the road…

28 June 2010

for a few laughs...maybe just a few :)

Carebear and Scotti: Here's to bad customer service and hellish travel experiences...

27 June 2010

saturday morning

Owen, Joyce, Ann
Dan and mama Dan
Joyce and Nabalongo
our audience
our "twins" - Aidah (Heidi) and Aidah (in red shirt), Ann and Ana (blue jumper)

20 June 2010

on unannounced grief and dreams

So, I've gone through a good amount of transition in my life...and I *rarely* remember my dreams...(don't worry, the two are connected, I promise)...

In May and early June, I said goodbye to half of my closest community during my time in Bundibugyo (following the first quarter's departure in December)...but I haven't really had time to think about it, or haven't made time. I think today the grief is seeping in; the grief of the recent past along with the future grief of even more goodbyes in July, and then more in September...Today, I'm feelin' kinda funky...

and I've been dreaming about the States...dreaming that I had the privilege of attending Court and Patch's wedding (which in reality doesn't occur until 10 July, but in my dreams occurred on Thursday night, I believe)...the privilege of hanging out with Dana and Andy and their boys (which in reality won't happen until September, but in my dream life occurred last night)...but both were kind of weird dreams...the encounters were nothing like I would have expected, and involved a good deal of relational distance, much to my dismay.

So, nothing is ever predictable...I'm not consciously grieving transitions (the frequency of such here in Bundibugyo has been unparalleled in my transition-full life thus far), but the grief is bubbling up unannounced...I'm not consciously stressed about going back to the US, but the fear of distance where there once was closeness is bubbling up unannounced as well.

What to do? I don't know. But Ash and Nathani (and Salah, as well), you are missed dear friends. Walking past your empty room and empty house is weird, and dinners/team pizza's are not quite the same...And Court/Patch, Dana/Andy (and all of the other relationships you represent in the US) - I do look forward to hang time with y'all...time that doesn't involve an agenda, and maybe involves some good food/drink/movies/music and most of all LAUGHS :)

And for today, a few more hellos. WELCOME to Anna #2 (our summer intern) and Ann, visiting for a week. And for tomorrow, will there be blood in the lab? will there be staff on the ward? will there be ICU patients for us to manage to the best of our ability with what we have? I don't know the answers to any of these, but I do know there will be kids, and I hope a couple of them will be smiling :)

15 June 2010

Taking Public: Vol. 3

The road is being widened in preparation for paving (so they say). The Asian contractors (Chinese, I think I’ve read) directing large machines and vehicles, building for office/housing space quickly constructed for the project off to the sides. We rock and roll up and down through the switchbacks as we cross the mountains. I had never before heard the term “acute corner” pronounced “acute cohnah” by the Kalita Inspector lady who had taken a seat across the aisle from me. Well, it reminds me of the medical term “acute abdomen.” I don’t really remember what an “acute abdomen” means exactly, other than the fact that it’s no nonsense – time to get the patient to a surgeon pronto or the patient could die! Well, an “acute corner” is somehow similar and feels a bit like the bus you are traveling in is going to topple…like you need to get the bus back down with all 4 wheels on the ground or else people are going to die. Often occurring often in switchbacks, caused by too much speed, not wide enough angles for turning radius? I don’t know, but whatever it is an alarm goes off on the bus…and then when all 4 tires meet the ground again, it turns off…twice this happened…nothin’ like a little excitement. I notice that the forest covering the mountains has a sweet smell of sorts…kind of like the smell I imagine on a diabetic’s breath who is in ketoacidosis…but I digress…

The excitement continues when we reach flat ground again after descending from the mountains. Now the driver is convinced he can do anything now that he got us down through all of those switchbacks, so he puts the pedal to the medal and we reach speeds no vehicle should ever reach on a dirt road…I grab onto Anna’s leg at one point as a boda approached and no decrease in speed seemed to be in the plan, and she tells me of a fatal accident scene she and other teammates passed on that stretch of road several months ago with mangled vehicles and blood in the road…ai yi yi!!! As I inhaled deeply when we passed the boda, I noted that the rainforest here on the other side of the mountains has a different smell from the forest on the mountains…the rainforest smells like…dirt. Now believe it or not, this city girl does in fact know what dirt smells like…and loves it!

We are approaching Bundibugyo town at dusk, my favorite time of day…the mountains are lit up in the hues of the setting sun, the clouds above them pink like cotton candy…an awesome glimpse of the red ball of fire setting in the west…sheesh this place is beautiful!

“You give me money!” said the first boy I saw when I stepped foot off the bus in Bundibugyo Town at 19:00. Welcome home, Aidah. After my momentary ideals of a beautiful place where everything is happy came crashing down with that statement, I saw Lamech’s smiling face, a comfort for sure, honored by his willingness to help us get transport to the Mission from town with all of our stuff. “It’s no problem. I thought you would be reaching late and I know what happens here” he said.

We pulled up in front of our house as the last moments of the sun’s light was fading away. “Do you have the house key, Anna?” “Oh shoot!” Saved by the combination lock!

The End

Take home: Taking public was overall a good experience and I would do it again. Beats driving the whole 8 hours any day!

13 June 2010

Taking Public: Vol. 2

11:00 and we’re on the move. As the driver maneuvers the huge bus through the streets of Kampala, I am thankful the vehicle I have been entrusted with is a fraction of that size! We rock and roll towards Fort Portal, speedy for sure, but I am not yet uncomfortable with the speed with which the bus is moving. About an hour and a half in, the bus rolls to a stop along the side of the road with nothing in close proximity. Men and women begin moving off the bus and in the grass along the side of the road they begin assuming the gender appropriate positions for using the bathroom, all in plain sight of each other and those of us still on the bus…women hiking up their dresses/skirts and kneeling on the ground – in all of the times I’ve used the bathroom when hiking/camping I’ve never thought to try kneeling…note to self…men thankfully facing away from the bus to do their business…people finish and mosey back onto the bus. Cultural norms with issues of modesty are so interesting…

A while beyond the potty stop is the “in your face chicken place” – Ugandan “fast food” is my favorite variety of Ugandan food I think…roasted chicken and roasted sweet bananas….yummy yum yum. Around 16:00 we reach Fort Portal, leaving people off in one place and moving to another place across town to pick more people up. As we waited for people to board before leaving, I noticed a woman sitting by her seguili (sp?) breastfeeding her baby…I quickly realized it had been a month since I had seen a woman breastfeeding in public…more notes on cultural modesty norms…

16:30 the bus resumes movement and we leave the pavement behind. The dusty roads lead us to believe there hasn’t been rain for some time, but the green of the surroundings indicates otherwise. I quickly realize that my comfort with our traveling speed has in fact ended…the driver no longer seems to care that the size/nature of the road had changed, but rumbles through village after village honking to let people know he’s coming and I hope they respond accordingly! Our fellow passengers seem to think that Kalita offers door to door service as they shout and request drop offs every 3 minutes it seems. One stop in a trading center results in drive-by grocery shopping. We conveniently receive a text message from teammates Travis and Amy who are in Kampala, telling us they just finished their grocery shopping at Capital Shoppers’ Delight, meanwhile we’re sitting with a “Kalita Shoppers’ Delight” of sorts happening practically in our laps, people leaning out the bus door (which, you’ll remember, is just in front of our seats) to buy onions and tomatoes, vendors climbing/reaching in to ensure they get their money.

As the shopping drew to a close, the conductor closes the door and off we go towards the mountains…ahhhh, the mountains. As my eyes are drawn to their green peaks and slopes, I am comforted that I am almost home. I hear Lubwisi being spoken as a few stragglers climb on the bus, and I am further reassured that home is in sight. Slightly leary of repeating the Kalita Shoppers’ Delight experience at every drop off I wondered in Karagutu how long we would be stopped, but then I saw the mangoes…I love mangoes. Anna had been hoping we would find some along the road to buy as the season was likely to be over or at least almost over to our dismay. We bought 20 mangoes for less than 50 cents, almost totally emptying the old woman’s basin that had seemed rather full when she rested it on the bus stairs…ahhh, mangoes…

Taking Public: Vol. 1

So, the blog has been quiet...what I failed to tell you all is that our team said goodbye to two of my closest community for the last 2.5 years and then I was traveling for a while...WHM Mission wide retreat was in Greece and we decided to do a bit of traveling in the Mediterranean vicinity before the retreat, so I have just returned to BGO and the following is the first installment of a lengthy post about our return to the district...


Thursday morning, 08:45am, Anna and I arrive at the bus park in Kampala...the definition of “hustle and bustle,” I am sure of it. Currently the bus park sits in the shadow of 2 huge billboards singing the praises of Ethiopian Airlines…we chuckle to ourselves in honor of Scott Will’s hellish travel experience in their care (or lack thereof) several weeks ago. We ask and are directed to the bus heading to Bundibugyo. We are the first 2 onboard (save a young possibly drunk guy sleeping in one of the seats who was shoo’d off by Kalita staff).

We stow our 4 pieces of luggage (backpacks and 2 coolers of frozen food), pick our seats and settle in, knowing we have about an hour before the bus is scheduled to depart. A great place to people watch (a favorite pastime of mine), we notice 2 bazungu walking to the ticket counter, I wonder aloud as to what their destination might be. We soon learn the 2 of them along with 2-3 SIL (Wycliffe Bible Translators) staff from Bundibugyo will all be “moving” with us to Bundibugyo that day. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) As young women with friends who have been treated inappropriately on public transportation in this country, we smile and laugh in honor of God’s tenderness towards us.

As the bus begins to fill, and we reach what we thought was a 10:00 departure time, no one else seems to mind we are not making any movements toward leaving. In fact, a snazzy dark green Land Rover pulls up alongside the bus, and out steps a nicely dressed African woman who begins giving directions to the Kalita staff around the bus to help her with her luggage. Next thing we see is a 40 inch Sony LCD flat screen television being hauled onto the bus and stowed in the aisle at the front of the bus, next to the driver and blocking 2 more rows of seats filled with people. “It’s no problem.” There is always room for something/someone else. How best to protect such cargo? Goat ropes of course…yes, the ropes used to tie goats to a fence or tall grasses while they graze, aka goat ropes. So, indeed the goat ropes were expertly twisted and knotted to fasten the gargantuan television to the metal bars around the driver’s seat. Remember, “it’s no problem.” While this TV/goat rope scenario is playing out as we all sit in the sun in the now full bus in the bus park, there are other people walking up and down the aisle selling things…primary school science review books, loaves of sliced bread, fruit, and the most interesting item for sale: antifungal cream. For all of your antifungal needs, don’t worry, you can always buy it on the bus.

Being the rookie Kalita travelers that we are, we didn’t realize that the seat numbers printed on your ticket are very much adhered to…it’s so interesting, you never know when people might get in a fluster about details…most of the time it seems like Ugandans could care less about details, but sometimes they can lead to quite a tizzy. We were the cause of such a tizzy as people tried to find their seats…long story short we were moved but in the end it was for our benefit for sure! We ended up in the first seats next to the door, which meant a bit more room and air movement. Thanks Kalita!