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Friday 14 December 2007
Time for an update on everything that has happened since I came home. Firstly I have to admit to being shattered and am still trying to adjust to the dark, cold days of the English winter which isn't easy. I also miss the life and people out in Kumi and hope to find my feet here very soon.
Chris has been very busy working for Kumi and the fund has been growing steadily. Our GP has raised £250.00. A further £215.00 has come from the sale of recycled Christmas cards in Richmond. A friend who gave Kumi goats last year has given Kumi mattresses this year. The mother of one of our grandson's school friends has made and sold Christmas puddings in basins given by the Poor Clare sisters. Cheques are put through our door and the children in the Richmond schools are busy and so it continues.
There is important news of Anthony (letter below). A kind soul has offered to help him through a whole lot of coincidences and I wondered if it was at all possible to find Anthony as it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I felt a bit like Sherlock Holmes as I did some detective work and liaised with Matthias in Kumi. I was surprised and delighted to hear that the tom-tom drums (or mobile phones) had done their job and he had jumped at the opportunity to go back to school. He has had an assessment at Joy Christian school who were impressed with him. Today he has a further three assessments and I have yet to hear the result but I am fully confident that he will be able to return to his studies in the New Year. I cannot believe what can be achieved in so short a time and have to thank all those concerned for their input especially his sponsor. Last night, I watched on the news an item about a young man from the slums of Nairobi who found a flyer on the rubbish tips about Manchester University and he had a dream. Yesterday he received his MA and hopes to return to Nairobi to help improve the youngsters' situation there. His father had been murdered when he was 13 years old and he had led a life of drug dealing to support his siblings. Life in the cities has no comparison to life in the bush but the youngsters must have similar ambitions. It would be my dream to be able to give them this hope out of a life of desperation.
I cannot thank everyone enough for all their support I have received. Matthias continues to work very patiently as I continue to have trouble with the number of noughts when dealing with Ugandan money. Without him, the CBR staff and Alex, the driver, nothing would continue so I would like to document how grateful I am to them.
I am now home and can update from 16 November to 27 November. This is in chronological order as opposed to the previous order of new upon old and finishes at Anthony's Story. It is written from memory as the final few days have been intense from before daylight till bedtime and with little power to work by. I hope to keep the diary updated with developments and I look forward to your messages and feedback. Thank you for all your encouragement and now my task is to sit down and evaluate the total visit. I have no spell check so I apologise for any clerical errors.
Friday 16 November 2007
It's almost with a sense of relief that I am offline for 12 days as it means the pressure for my daily bulletin is off and I don't have to worry about batteries or power and maybe I'll even sleep in until 6am now! There is a different source of pressure now and I have many projects to finalise.
Good news is that we have power. The bad news is that the light given from one light bulb is less than one candle power but we will remain patient. Last night I went to Dr Angella's to her Ladies Meeting where she taught us how to make cakes. Before the Jamie Oliver demonstration, the ladies had been asked to draw up 5 and 3 year life plans. Then I stood up to introduce myself and failed to work out what my plan was for 5 years time until I had sudden inspiration and announced that I would still be coming to the hospital! The village ladies have only ever made their local food which doesn't include cakes so we sifted 2.5kg flour with 1.5 packets of baking powder, beat the sugar and Kimpo, added eggs and water and mixed the lot until it resembled Playdoh. This is then cooked on the charcoal stove and produces good-looking cakes. We then did a costing exercise which identified that making cakes was much more economical than buying them. For a tin, you go to the welder and he will make any shape of your desire. She had her extremely elaborate wedding cake stand made locally and I must say it was very dramatic being in the shape of a heart about 5 feet high. I then was asked to instruct them in keeping a cash book which I found difficult. They buy 50kg of charcoal for 15,000/= and then sell it for 5,000/= per basin. I presume that a basin fills a charcoal stove which means that there must be a huge profit in buying and selling. My logic suggests that they should buy a bag together and share it out unless they cook on wood. The bag I bought in Serere cost only 9,000/= so I should buy a few from there and then sit at the roadside and start selling. I could soon buy a few cows!
Good news about my egg which turned into a goat! If you didn't know this, go back some days and you will find the tale recorded earlier. The goat has had twins but one died so now the egg has turned into 2 goats. More animal news is that a schoolgirl called early this morning to present me with a live chicken and a bag of g nuts. I put it in the kitchen cupboard and I will take the chicken when I go out for lunch tomorrow.
Friday has been Orthopaedic Clinic day and the first one I have been present at since I arrived. It was hard to believe that it had been a year since I last attended one as it seemed to follow on from last week. The sights we see are distressing; a boy with elephantiasis, one with probable TB of the hip, query cancer spread in a young girl, broken legs and arms, paraplegia, many children with post malaria injection complications causing lifetime disabilities, an old lady with an artificial leg made in the 50's which has served her very well since before Independence! We didn't stop until 3.30pm when we had our lunch of posho and beans.
I had very many interruptions and have managed to arrange to have the goalposts painted, the fields slashed, a lorry to transport the children, 50kg posho and 20kg beans to be bought tomorrow at Odello Market, transport to Soroti tomorrow, amazingly different artificial flowers for the church altar, invitations to the Sports Day printed and probably more which my mind can't recall at the moment. So it's Friday evening and I can't send this so it feels more like writing a diary for me than an update for you.
Saturday 17 - Sunday 18 November 2007
What a change in lifestyle knowing no-one can expect the update immediately so it's Sunday night and there is still less than one candle power emitted by the light bulbs and there's no chance of plugging in the laptop in spite of the surge protecter. Yesterday was a busy day going to Soroti. I hired the hospital car for the day and by the time we had crammed in so many extra passengers wanting to go to Odello market, Kumi Town and Soroti, we were certainly more comfortable and financially better off than by going by public means. Anthony, the boy from Kaberamaido whose letter is on this website, came as far as Soroti where he had to continue by public means. I was able to assist him with IGP (Income Generating Project) and I hope I can also give him a future. My chicken which I had been given came along also but defaecated seriously making the journey rather odorous. We started off at a local cafe by having a passion fruit juice (fresh of course) and samosas for 3 of us costing 2,200/= (about 60p). Then we went to visit Ketty at Bethany School to pay a year's school fees and then to Martha at Madera School to say hello. We finally reached our destination around 2pm when we were warmly welcomed by Florence's (physio assistant) mother and cooking lunch commenced by catching a chicken. I refused to let my chicken be slaughtered so it was allowed to roam and we found it on the mother's bed in her mud hut eager to lay an egg which popped out in no time. I am hoping that before too long it will turn into a cow! We shared a delicious lunch and now I find eating with my fingers preferable to using a knife and fork. We had to leave all too soon and returned with a vehicle full of happy travellers who had visited their families, many canes of 6 foot long sugar cane, maize we had ground at the mill, oranges galore, hands of bananas and 40 mosquito nets amongst many other things. By the time I had showered(!) I fell into bed and slept till the early hours. Sunday, up at 5.30am to wash my hair and prepare for the day, off to prayers, back home and then the visitors came and almost had to queue! Dr and Mrs Opolot wanted their dvd of Marjolein's wedding, Modesta and some of her large family called, Frances Okerenyang to continue planning for Tuesday, Okello Julian who, I realised, has no idea of mathematics and had undercharged for his complete orchestra by a ridiculous sum. The main reason for his visit was to ask me to buy him some Wellingtons as he had been bitten by a snake whilst he organised the tree he wanted to have felled for the large acungo. His work is excellent and I wish I could bring many instruments home with me. Then Dr Angella called to ask me about the necklaces and bracelets which her ladies' group are making so I am bringing home quite a lot hoping there will be some willing buyers and she was followed by Gerald (physio) who helped me with Julian's costings. I heard little Vivien called but she left unseen. Now the day started and Weis and I were going to Alex' village for the day to meet his family especially his uncle and father and mother and wife and children so they were all special! I had one of my best days playing with the children and having an excellent lunch cooked by Hellen, Alex' wife. Chris rang to tell me about the English weather which sounds most unwelcoming....flat battery...may be continued. We climbed the rocks and played with the children until it was time to leave all too soon.
Monday 19 November 2007
Margaret Asio, Francis Okerenyang and I set off to Ngora to spend the day at the "Send a Cow" agricultural project as a follow-up to my visit in September. We hired a car which made me realise how safe I feel in the Land Cruiser. This car bumped its way over the rough murram road; the driver's door kept flying open and seat belts weren't in evidence. I couldn't open my window so I roasted like a Yorkshire pudding on the top shelf of the oven. The journey seemed long but we finally arrived and we were met with a truly African greeting of singing, dancing and ululation. We spent the day visiting womens' farms where they were all following similar organic principles with slightly different slants. None had been told how to milk goats and I now can't see how I can change their attitude towards what seems to me such a sensible source of protein. Alex tried it once and managed only a half teaspoon in a mug after the kid had had its fill. I told Chris on the phone and he suggested milking the mother first but that doesn't seem fair to the kid. It's going to be an uphill task to motivate the people. We ended the day late and came back dirty but full of ideas. I was greeted with too many visitors all wanting decisions on different matters. Okello Julian brought the orchestra of instruments which filled a large part of the Guest House and much musical merriment and discord followed. I can't start to go into how many people wanted attention and it was difficult to make them out in candlelight. Fred had the right idea when he announced that he could see I was busy and would come another time.
Tuesday 20 November 2007
7am brought my first visitor, namely Julius Okello who had come to finish an arigidigi or tube fiddle. I watched him string the instrument so that I could show Chris how it is done to repair the one I already have at home. Gerald, the physio, called, Gerard Moses, the blind boy, was happy to fiddle with the instruments to continue the musical merry-making from the previous night and I gave him his Christmas card.; Pastor John called to invite me out and Friday was my only free time before I leave. Francis Okerenyang wanted to finalise plans for the games and I was dizzy before the day had even started. Following breakfast and a walk to the hospital greeting the many children with "Yoga Noi! How are you?", I had to find time for some actual patient duties before I could leave in the lorry to collect the children from Mary McAleese School. The musical instruments were carefully placed in the rear and it was like climbing up a mountain to get into the cab but I managed in my smart dress even though a little ungainly. Firstly, we had to fuel the lorry in Kumi Town for the drive. The children welcomed us with much singing and dancing and then about 50 piled into the back to sing their hearts out as they hung on to the metal bars and bumped along the road to the Adesso Sports field. Children unable to fit in the lorry came out of the bush in all directions eager to arrive at the school before us. The day was a big success even though the speeches were a bit tedious. There were so many invited guests all wanting their say and then, to my surprise and not on the programme, a Health Clinic official and a nurse came to demonstrate to the young girls how to use sanitory towels and explained how the school must provide these things so that the girls don't stay off school at such times! I thought it could have been more appropriately timed as there were the best part of 1,500 primary school children present all waiting for the games to start. Then the games could commence with netball won by Adesso 5-1 followed by volleyball which Adesso won and heaven knows what the score was as I failed to follow the game. The football almost started in a riot as the teachers decided that some of the children were too large to qualify and it resembled an English pitch with so much disaccord. I stopped the match near the start as one of my stipulations was that no boots were to be worn and a few players in one team had disobeyed the ruling. Mary McAleese won the match 1-0 with Adesso goalkeeper letting in a most feeble goal. Trophies were presented and lunch was taken for the players and invited guests. Fortunately now my skills at eating without cutlery are adequate to pass by unnoticed instead of earlier giggles from all. The Director of Education Sports Officer was present and he explained that next year it was to be a much grander event with many schools participating and to have the grand final at this time of the year so it seems as though I shall be returning.
It was quite exhausting but then I had no time for a rest and cuppa as I had promised to provide a bike for an HIV+ lady who was struggling with her life and she needed some form of transport to cope. Going to the hospital at dusk is always a pleasant experience as the children are quietening down and the whole atmosphere is one of peace. It's a change to have time to sit with them for a while outside the Village houses and talk with the parents even though we have no common language. Walking back as the sun went down, Chris rang and I caught up with home news and then to my delight I noticed that we had proper power for the first time for almost 2 weeks. What a treat!
Wednesday 21 November
The days are flying by and, although I rise very early to get things done while it is relatively cool, I still seem to have a mountain of tasks to achieve. After many duties were behind me, I sat outside to watch the sunrise and to read over my letters which all tell me what a colourful autumn it has been in UK before I reluctantly discard them to reduce my luggage home. I could never have too much post and I must thank everyone who has been so diligent and even more so to those whose post never arrived due to the UK postal strike. A lady carrying a baby called for transport money home but I had to refuse or I could easily set a precedent and open the flood gates to all. I had a brief meeting regarding leprosy patient's Christmas gifts as, if I'm not quick, will not happen this year. Emmanuel, my child in the Nutrition Unit, has been discharged and I had promised IGP for him. I added a little to pay his hospital bill which is against my usual policy but when I heard it was 6,000/= (less than £2) and without it, he would have to stay until he found the money, I was able to sneak a little extra past the eagle eyes of everyone. He has gained 3kg and is beginning to look almost plump! When I found him, I thought he would never survive but now the Workshop has made him a standing frame and, although he will never be a "normal" child, he has a long way to go and should be able to walk before to before too long. The father is so caring and loves the boy so much and I shall miss the little family. Little Harriet Stella's gain in weight is slower and her brain damage is far more severe so I fear her progress will be very limited.
My next plans for the day were disrupted as Michael (eye fieldworker) asked me to join him for an Outreach Clinic so I dropped everything to oblige. On our way, I had promised to visit Margaret Asio so we parked the vehicle and all walked up her track to her home to find to my delight that she had already made and was using her Lorena stove as demonstrated only on Monday. She was very happy with it and was all prepared to start off with her kitchen garden. I knew I had chosen her wisely to take to the project as she is willing to put her hand to anything. I had promised to reward the first three who installed a stove so I kept my promise by assisting her to complete her pit latrine. I thought it wouldn't be until next year that I would see one in action and I wonder who the other two will be to give me their good news. Going through Kumi Town, we stopped for me to buy (on credit!) 40 blankets to go with the 40 mosquito nets for the leprosy patients and we arranged to pick them up on our return. So now I had completed two of my three planned tasks which would have taken me all day. The clinic wasn't too busy so Cocus and I had time to spend with each child and I could provide mosquito nets for those without too much commotion. We were able to return early for a change giving me the opportunity to complete my last task which was to find a place at a boarding school for Vincent, my double amputee boy, who we all agree should be integrated into normal school instead of the Kampala School for the Disabled. He has an interview on 10 December at Joy Christian School which looks very pleasant and I was pleased that the classrooms are accessible to wheelchairs. I hope to visit Vincent and Lawrence next Tuesday on my way to the airport. Just a few more tasks to complete so that I was up to schedule and so we stopped to collect the blankets for the leprosy patients together with mattress and then realised that we were very hungry. I've been meaning to patronise Michael at his "Kumi White" "cafe" throughout this visit and this was a good opportunity. He was delighted to see us and I have to admit that his cooking is tasty even though his business acumen leaves a lot to be desired. When Chris was here, we had lunch with him at his home and later Chris got a letter saying that he had promised Michael a cow so that he could get a wife. Good try but we are often reminded of such promises so a good memory is advantageous.
I returned home to find three of the staff of Mary McAleese waiting for me to discuss the quality of the musical instruments. This is my biggest disappointment of my whole visit as they were not content with them and wanted to tackle Julian, the boy who made them. I thought otherwise and asked them to return them to me in their entirity. They had gone well over their budget anyway so I was to be the one out of pocket. They have done well with the money I brought buying lots of sports equipment and what they have left can acquire goalposts and nets but I have left that up to them. As I write, I am still awaiting the return of the instruments and I have an idea who will be the recipient.
Thursday 22 November
It's a Public Holiday for CHOGM but work continues at the same pace. Dr George and the Plastic Surgery team left for Kampala without me having time to attend any surgery or catch up with George's news. After breakfast, Weis and I walked down the road to Margaret Asio's as I had promised to call in to settle her reward for being the first to build a Lorena stove. We were given the usual welcome and Margaret disappeared into her kitchen to cook us a big meal. Having just finished a big breakfast, we both wondered how we would manage to swallow it down and I wished I had a doggy bag with me. I looked round but such things are not common here. We were due to leave when she came in bearing plates piled with cassava, sweet potato, greens and chapatti. It was a bit of a struggle but I did well and needed nothing till later in the evening. Weis has had a bad stomach so we shared her residue on our plates so that it looked as though we had both eaten well. Margaret was well on the way to preparing her new compost heap and she really has taken what she learnt on Monday seriously. Her neighbour escorted me to her hut where she was constructing her stove and eager to tell her neighbours.
At 10am, I was due to meet the headteacher of Olelia primary School at the hospital so we had to make a polite departure and hurry as I was soon informed that she was waiting for me and it was quite a walk to the hospital. It is very hot at the moment so difficult to make haste. I had met the teacher, Anna Grace, at the Sports Day where I was told that her school would like to twin with one in UK. Already she had brought letters written by the children and one from her so I look forward to finding a school at home and I am sure it won't be too difficult. This is the poorest school of the three that I will now have and she apologised about the children's writing as they have to write on the ground. She has nothing to be sorry about as I think the letters are excellent. She has worked for 39 years and is looking forward to her retirement. Her husband was also a headteacher but was shot dead 8 years ago and since she has managed to educate all her 5 children who are doing well with employment and schooling.
I now had a couple of precious hours to myself but these were filled all too soon with completing a few of the remaining tasks left. Too often I take one step forwards and two backwards but I will get there in the end. In the afternoon, I had pomised to show the dvd of Marjolein and Jeroen's wedding to the staff who knew her so we met in the Hall of Hope where we have Morning Assembly and meetings and we were joined by mothers and children eager to see what we were doing. It was lovely to go through the wedding service once more and it was enjoyed by all except Dr Apio who really wanted to see Marjolein enter the church and walk down the aisle with Bodwein, her father. Next was Dr Angella's Ladies Group but before I decided I needed to have 5 minutes rest on my bed and ended up sound asleep in no time so I was a bit late for the start of the meeting. I took the cabinet I have had made for her to display examples of their jewellery in the Guest House hopefully to entice visitors to buy some to encourage the ladies with their work. Today they evaluated their progress so far; what they had learnt, which aspects they considered would improve their situation and what they had already put into practise and also what they would like to learn in future weeks. I have recommended a visit to Margaret Asio's so that she can demonstrate the advantages of the fuel saving stove, explain the importance of compost, manure and organic pesticide and also to teach them how to build a kitchen garden.
I couldn't stay long as I was visiting Florence for supper and had chosen my menu, chapatti and beans. She had been working all day in spite of it being a holiday otherwise she would have spent hours in food preparation. We always have lots to talk about our families and it's as though we have never been apart for months. At 8pm, we listened to the Uganda news report on the Queen's visit just as I imagine the people listened with their ears to the radio during the war! I feel extraordinarily patriotic and I listened to her every word and was pleased that she wishes the UK continues its friendship with Uganda. A Ugandan official mentioned in his speech that the Queen was honoured to be with the Ugandan people and so she is!
Friday 23 November
It's another public holiday for the queen's visit and, from what I have heard, it is going well and the main comment is that she looks so strong like a woman of 60 years. I haven't seen her and my radio is broken so I have not heard anything. The hospital is running as normal apart from a few administration staff so the mothers and children queue for the Orthopaedic Clinic but I never managed to made it. I started the day by taking a pickipicki to Frances Okerenyang's home at 8am as this was my last opportunity left to say goodbye to his wife. We talked about the stoves and compost and he showed me the foundations of his stove which was well on the way to completion. I am pleased I decided to go by road as a python has taken residence on the path I usually walk along through the eucalyptus trees and now everyone takes the long route.
The musical instruments continue to haunt me and I will not start on that saga. Harriet Stella was discharged even though her body weight is inadequate so I arranged for her to obtain 2 goats to help the family situation. After much comings and goings, jumping on a motorbike to save time, sorting out leprosy sufferers' Xmas presents which I have failed to distribute, I was collected at 12 noon to go to Pastor John's home for the day. He spends a lot of his time at Edith's Home, an orphanage which teaches tailoring and building construction, and I was impressed with their achievements. The students gave me the usual welcome and we exchanged many facts about our countries. I ate lunch with the staff and then John and I went on his scooter to his home which is a place of great peace apart from the intrusion of the radio. To my delight, I found he has invested in milking goats and I was able to learn first hand where they come from and how they are cared for. He plans to buy a further two and so I hope to have two also and to lodge them out probably at Frances' home. Firstly, he has to build a house for them and maybe it will be not until next year that they will be finally bought but at least it is progress.
Tea was brought out and two pots, one with potatoes and the other with chunks of fresh pineapple. I politely took some of each and then noticed that John had only taken potato. I told him I was trying to be polite and thought it was their custom to eat the two together but they were a good combination and we both enjoyed our unusual menu. The children and I played with a broken tennis ball and did a floor jigsaw I had taken and I waited for two hours for my driver to return. I didn't want to drive in the dark as the road has an enormous pothole which scares me even in the light of day. "Don't worry!" he said but we came upon it just as a lorry passed and I can assure you that the murram thrown up is always far more dense than our thickest fogs. We stopped on the edge of the precipice with him totally unperturbed and me a nervous wreck. We drove over a large snake managing to squash it flat. Back at the Guest House with no time to wash off the dust and now with my torch in my bag and I was off to visit Dina. I insisted that the driver took me as I was long overdue. I was supposed to go for supper which is usually cooked after arrival but as I was late it was evident that they had done without supper and that it would have been bought and cooked for me. The 10 year old twins were sleeping under their mosquito net on the floor with their 6 year old brother and the grandmother was asleep also on the floor cradling the 2 year old daughter. The children woke and we spent the evening between the wall and the mattress with them saying poems, singing, reading the book I had taken, sharing a soda and finally listening to them saying their prayers as they wanted to get back to "bed" to sleep. The family struggle on little income well below the subsistence level and I wonder what will come of the two girls when they have finished primary school. Education is one of the main worries for parents as they know, without it, there is no future for their children. Sam, the father, returned and he sat outside in the doorway in the light of the full moon as there was no room for him. I hadn't intended staying for long but we talked and talked about many issues until they finally walked me home in the warmth of the night and finding a torch unnecessary. I lit my candle, climbed into my bed and soon fell asleep (with the candle blown out) thinking how comfortable my conditions here are compared to so many others.
Saturday 24 November
Saturday was in Soroti with Martin, a CBR worker, and his wife, Josephine. I have decided that, after today, public transport is my least favourite mode of transport. It is extremely hot and dry at present and to wait by the roadside even in the shade is intolerable. The first stage was unexpectedly by car after we gave up on the motorbikes. The second stage was being squeezed into the back seat of a public taxi with the rear door fastened by sissal rope due to too many maize bags which allowed entry of the exhaust fumes which are noxious as well as obnoxious. The taxi went at breakneck speed especially through the swamps where the roads have suffered from being washed away. There are what are virtually speed bumps and I think the main purpose of these is to act as a barrier to large trucks and container lorries. They are huge mounds of murram with which the Land Cruiser copes with difficulty but our over-laden taxi seriously bottomed especially over the rear suspension below my seat. A Eurofoam truck driver had made an unfortunate effort to ride over the bump having obviously bribed the police and the vehicle was hanging precipitously over the edge of the swamp and was still there on our return in the evening. Served him right! Then we took bodabodas to the home of Josephine's family which was the most civilised I'd visited during my visit. After a very pleasant day we had to make the return journey which was less successful due to massive dust clouds from laden lorries on their way to Lira and a long wait for a taxi to Kumi. It's not amusing when one is hot, tired, very dirty and the sun is setting. Martin was very grateful that I lent him my torch as he had to walk the final stage to his home near the hospital and he found two big snakes, one on his doorstep and one inside his house. I still had many families to visit and I called in to see Modesta who lives in a single room behind where the men sit and drink and drink and drink their local brew through tubes. It's definitely not the place to bring up children reminding me of Dickensian conditions and also not the environment for a mature mazungu to push through on a dark, saturday night. I coped well by ignoring the spicy comments and was greeted warmly by Modesta and some of her offspring. She had good news for me; the chicken she had brought me last year and I had requested her to take it back and care for it had laid 12 eggs from which there were 9 surviving babies. She wanted to know what I wanted doing with them and I suggested she sold them when they were bigger for 5,000/= each (45,000/=) and that she bought a large goat and looked after it for me and the balance could be hers for Christmas. She was very happy. After African tea and a hard boiled egg, I managed to leave, get past the drunkards unscathed and visit my last home for the evening. Now it was definitely dark but I had my agriculture project to discuss with Margaret and we sat in the moonlight with the fireflies dancing around above our heads. The day was finally over after I walked along the road but the moon was now hidden behind the clouds and I was without my torch. I was aware of unseen cyclists and pedestrians passing but was totally unprepared to meet two large, yoked bulls nose to nose. It was one of those occasions which you don't realise until afterwards that the adrenaline should flow a little faster than it does.
Sunday 25 November
The final few days are always intense and these are no exception. The day should have started with a visitor at 6am but fortuitously he failed to turn up and I was able to wash my hair and start on the packing procedure. Prayers started at 8am and I knew there was something in the offing and I wasn't disappointed. The church goers had made me a present of a picture frame and a wooden plaque and these were presented by Dr Opolot and followed by speeches and much hand shaking and conversation with so many friends. After, I asked Tom, the choirmaster, to accompany me to the hospital store to help me with issue of the musical instruments and he gave me much encouragement agreeing to make them usable and I decided to give them to the church for a childrens' orchestra. He was delighted and I said that maybe next year I would provide the children with a uniform. On returning to the Guest House, I found my visitor, Julius Okello, the maker of the instruments, waiting for me. He wanted to explain to me that the quality of the instruments was poor because he had been given a time limit and had to hurry making them. He has agreed to take his time and replace them. He brought me some gifts to bring home: a live chicken, a pumpkin, two pawpaws, four eggs and a bag of sweet potatoes and cassava. More visitors called with g nut paste, more eggs, and the Guest House was filling up with gifts way above my KLM weight allowance. The day had hardly started and I was off on a motor bike to Gerald's (young physio) village to meet his family. I was pleased to have invested in my own helmet as I feel safer but very uncomfortable. He lives near the lake which we visited and had a trip round in a big Indian boat but there was no shade and the sun beat down relentlessly. (If only they had a stream of tourists, they would then have a better income than now). The family was a delight specially an aged aunt who had a keen sense of humour. I am going to give you a conundrum with the answer at the end of this day's entry (if I remember): lunch in the mud hut consisted of four dishes; potatoes, rice, cabbage and chicken. Being a vegetarian and wanting not to offend Gerald, I took a helping from each dish and ate the lot. I did not devour the meat. How?
Monday 26 November
Monday and my final day had arrived. Many visitors arrived before breakfast and I finally made it to Morning Assembly to say thank you. Lots and lots of goodbyes followed and I quickly visited departments before we set off to Katakwi for the last time. Mary, the lady who I assisted for her vegetable stall, has gone from strength to strength and now has 7 different items for sale instead of the 3 she had when I arrived. She returned the small loan I had given and her face lit up when I said she could keep it. It just shows what a little help can do.
We visited many families in Katakwi with the final one being a perfect one to help and a fine way for me to leave. Justine is a bright, orphaned boy of about 8 years and with a lovely smile cared for along with 6 other siblings by his brother of about 18 years. I was uncertain regarding his disability and he is to visit the Orthopaedic Surgeon but I could help his home situation. They lived in a small hut with a leaking roof which was infested with extremely dangerous wasps and their nests. The elder boy, Julius, was terrified when one flew past him. He is to construct a new hut supervised by Moses (CBR) and then we can consider an IGP programme for them. I left them with a mosquito net so that they are protected from the wasps as well as the mosquitoes. When we arrived, we found him naked and very, very dirty so I asked Julius to bathe him and to dress him. The poor boy had no clothes at all and he was dressed in a large, multi-coloured shirt. Hopefully a photo will arrive one day as he is such an appealing boy with his big grin. I only had a pink and white T shirt which was better than nothing and I left him quite ecstatic. Before we came home, we tried to find a family who had failed to pay the hospital bill after the mother had died last Saturday and also the bill for the lorry used to transport the body back to the home. It's a 2 hour journey back from Katakwi where the floods hit hard and the sun was almost down as we left to go back over the swamps squashing the pythons as we went. I knew I would be late for supper at John and Consolate's home but I did not expect a queue of visitors waiting in the dark; Robert with letters for St Francis Xavier School, Grace's daughter with g nut paste, Tyson on his tricycle as he is a PPP victim from the workshop to say goodbye, Modesta with eggs (I asked her to take good care of a cockerel I had been given) and Francis Okerenyang adn Margaret Akol (MS secretary)who gave Chris a wooden stool and a tape of local church singing and me a local dress and "kindly requested me to wear it that evening for supper"! This entailed a quick "shower" to remove the Katakwi dust and help from Margaret in dressing as I didn't know how to wear the dress. At about 9pm, I finally made it to the Opolot's taking them the second chicken I had been given that day which is an acceptable gift as we would give a bottle of wine. It was late to bed which was bad news as I was leaving for Kampala and the plane in the morning.
Tuesday 27 November
Departure day from Kumi and Uganda. A gentle knock on the door whilst it was still dark announced the first visitor and as Wies had locked me out of the bathoom we share (I have done it often to her), I was unable to go through my ritual morning ablutions and decided to greet the visitor in my kikoi draped Nigerian-style but still looking as though I had just got out of bed. It was Julius, the young instrument maker, who wanted to tell me a tale of woe about the instruments. He lives far away so must have set off on his bike about an hour earlier just about when the first cock crows. Gerard, the blind boy, was next and then Ruth, Gerald, the physio, Cecilia (Modesta's daughter) on her way to the borehole before school and Margaret Akol (the house mother) with some samosas for my lunch as she knows how much I like them. (Being called Mgt Akol is a bit like being called Mrs Robinson here.) Anna who, with Grace, looks after me in the Guest House gave me a purse made out of caveras (black poly bags) for Norma White and this joined my many kilos of gifts which I had been given. My luggage was packed; the walking stick for Chris, some musical instruments and loads of food, the chickens had had to be disposed of as I don't think the airline would have been too pleased unlike the vehicles here. Finally Alex picked me up, lots of farewells were said to the response of "See you next year!" We called at Olelia Primary School for a photo call and then to Alex' home to say good bye to his father and family but we could not delay our departure any longer. We were stopped along the way by Michael (eye CBR) and then Margaret Asio who had cooked us chapattis for our lunch. It is unbelievable how friendly and generous the Ugandan people are and I hated to say good bye. The journey down was not too bad, just very dusty and too many lorries broken down, and we didn't go hungry enjoying enormous oranges I had been given, the samosas, roast cassava from the roadside and many bottles of water bought on the way as it was so very hot. So it was a very final farewell to Alex at Rebecca's and a drive to the airport and then my last few steps on Ugandan soil.
"My father was a policeman in Kampala and he found a woman whose tribe is Amuganda and he married her and they produced us two children. me I am first born and my sister is second born. So during when the Karamajong cattle rustling warriors came to disturbed us. my father then dies. At that time when he was come for a visit at home I heard people saying that a jealous person gave him poison and some people said that he died of AIDS that because by that time aids was unknown much to people because by that time I was young (still small).
So by the time my father dies then my mother also left, she goes back to their home which some people told me that their home is in Kayunga in Mukono near Kampala city and also Kayunga is also now a district and I doesn't know where kayunga is very far from the place where I am been born, that is kaberamaido (and by that time Kaberamaido was in Soroti). It was not been divided a district even the language which is spoken in Kaberamaido is differrent from the one spoken from kayunga which was in Mukono.
And my mamy went with my sister who was second borne and left me with my grandfather and I grown on their hands but they are now very old they can not even grow the crops to be eaten at home. Meanwhile I even went to school very late in the morning because of digging. So by the time I was learning, I learned up to Primary 5. So we were just in school practise of playing football and I was rolling a ball so then I tried to dodge the person from the opposite side abd became impossible so then we meet by each other so the I dislocated from the ankle joint and the person I met with doesn't get broken. So I was having one cow which I got by burning charcoal. So because my body is painful as you know the cow was sold for the returning of my leg. my grandfather sold the cow for 220,000/= and this money get finished in the hospital here in Ongino (Kumi)so there was nobody I can come with to attend me in the hospital here.You know this world. If your mother or father left you (is dead) there is none who can ketter and protect you like your mother and father and it's few people who can do that. People who have good heart can do we the Africans we are very jealous. So all the money I came with has got finished in the hospital. There was even no food for me to be eaten, no money for transport even.
So this is the story for about my father, mother and how they lose me. So now I am helpless. No way of continuing education. No way of getting everything now. I doesn't know my mamy/mother because she left me when I was a baby and I think she also does know me now as the years are many. There is even no language I can use to get her because I doesn't know her language and she also doesn't know my fathers language and since she has left she doesn't come back to see me her son Anthony. And from their home.I does not know if she is still alive because there is even no roomers of her being alive.
Thank you Mamy Elizabeth. I am now remain as a total orphan Goodbye from yours Edonu Anthony I did PLE Exams."
I asked Anthony to tell me his story as I thought it might help him if he put ideas on paper. I have re-written the story as he wrote it.
Thursday 15 November 2007
My final entry is to tell you that the pace won't be slowing for the last 10 days and I shall describe my programme so far planned. This evening I am going to my neighbour, Dr Angela Achom, who has started a Ladies' Group to set them off on Income Generating Projects. They are making jewellery with beads and I am taking some of my items to see if they can diversify their stock. I have a crochetted blanket and a baby jacket which they may be able to copy and also a banana leaf bowl. I am going to help them with an account keeping system which I should manage as it's got to be very simple. The Workshop is making a display box so that samples of their work can be on show in the Guest House where the visitors will hopefully want to buy some to give the ladies some encouragement. I have ordered quite a lot to bring home with a view to selling them for the KCF.(Kumi Community Fund)
Friday is an Outreach Clinic and fieldwork.
Saturday I'm visiting Florence's home in Soroti and calling in to visit Kety at Bethany School and Martha at Madera S/S so the day will be full.
After prayers on Sunday I'm going to Alex' home which is not too far from here.
On Monday, Francis Okerenyang, Mgt Asio and I are visiting the Sustainable Agriculture centre in Ngora with a view to them taking training courses in animal husbandry, compost making, crop rotation, Lorena stove construction (fuel saving) amongst other subjects. This is a new venture for me and one which should be rewarding.
Tuesday is the Interschool Sports Day at Adesso and this is taking a lot of preparation. I still have to find a lorry to bring Mary McAleese children to and from Adesso, 50kg posho, 20kg beans, firewood etc and arrange to have the sports fields slashed. I've just remembered the goal posts are to be painted also but I find I am the one to get the job organised! I shall be able to breath a sigh of relief when the day is over.
Wednesday I'm off with Charles on his motor bike to visit patients in the field and then there is only one more week left before I return to Entebbe.
Dr George is coming for that week for plastic surgery for cleft palates, burns, contractures etc and I always enjoy his visit. We found many children with extra digits, hermaphrodites amongst others so he will be well-occupied. He is a young Ugandan doctor from Kampala who is an avid stamp collector of British stamps. I have realised that about the only thing I forgot to bring was my collection of British stamps. So it's a sad farewell to you for a while. I can write up my diary when there is power or battery and then one of the first things I shall do on my return home will be to zap them over onto the Internet. A big thank you for all your emails and messages. No, I haven't once sat in the sun. In fact, I have hardly sat down at all. The web site has usually been written up before 6am when it is cool and each and every day has been hard but rewarding. I have waterproof mattress covers to be made, Xmas presents for the leprosy patients to buy and many other projects to finish.
Wednesday 14 November 2007
They say that "WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THEN THE TOUGH GET GOING" and that's how it feels just now. We are still in the dark and power (or lack of) is becoming tedious for the mazungus. I checked the poles and lines on my way home this evening counting 3 wires between poles and becoming quite excited as I saw newly erected poles and 3 wires suspended between each one but then the old poles had cascaded like the domino game and the situation has gone from bad to worse! I continue with only the laptop battery and my headlamp so I know I can't write for long. My fat candles are almost spent and I will have to rely on the local tall candles which bend over in the heat and last for a short time.
It's been another very interesting day visiting homes affected by the flooding for Matthias' organisation, CBM, and we four mazungus set off with the Occupational Therapist, Cocas, and Martin, the CBR worker. We were identifying homes which had been abandoned by the residents and collecting them to take them to photograph outside the ruins. We had to take care not to enter the fallen mud huts in case of cobras which could easily have been coiled up under the bricks. Snakes are a very big threat these days as they have come out of the waters to drier ground and they are likely to lurk under stones or bricks. I find the ruination of the crops to be as disturbing as the fallen huts as these are their livelihood and it was heartbreaking to pull up the cassava roots, g nuts and sweet potatoes and just find rotting vegetation below ground. The whole countryside has been washed away since July and the bushland has flourished making the land difficult to recultivate. Channels cut deeply into the murram earth and spring wells were evident everywhere. Brave little tomato and pumpkin plants were popping up in the midst of the rubble and I wondered where the original pips came from?
I had arranged to deliver a tricycle to a post polio paralysis lady so we had tied this on the roof of the Land Cruiser and had to take care to avoid low branches or it would have been swept off the roof. She was delighted with her new acquisition and I was pleased to have gained her old wheelchair. She has two children and when we asked who the father was, we were told that men come from outside. Men take advantage of these vulnerable girls and women. No wonder there are lots of nasty diseases around! We also visited a CP teenager, Angella, who is looked after by her aging mother and I gave her the newly acquired second hand wheelchair. I also provided her with funding for 2 goats as the family had no stock for security. It's so hard for these mothers to care for their severely disabled teenagers and any help and support given to them is gratefully received.
On Friday I shall have to close my diary until I arrive home as Matthias will need the GPRS for his work and I have to accept that it has been a big bonus to have it for so long and many thanks to him are necessary.....battery is flat. To be contd.
Tuesday 13 November 2007
Today was probably my most exhausting day yet and mainly because I was exasperated by African logic! It was supposedly an easy, work free day but with a purpose to organise schooling for Max, Rose and Mary's brother,in Pallissa. On reaching his home deep in the banana plantations, I found that he had opened a bank account as instructed but had not visited schools so we went with his father to visit a school where they found a discrepancy in his school reports. I shan't go into this in detail but I ended up getting quite angry with a school official when he blamed the boy for not noticing a number which had been Tippexed and written over by the school secretary and that he had not pointed it out immediately. I later found out that the man owned the school. He told me he would rectify the error when he had time and I said that wasn't good enough. Time had to be measurable - 10 minutes, half an hour, 2 weeks or 6 months? He was equally angry bu he returned in about 15 minutes with the appropriate papers in order and we left with the rest of the teachers, who obviously disliked the man, highly amused but I was very hot and bothered. At the third and final school, we found a very pleasant, understanding headmaster who accepted Max on a PEM A level course. Physics, Economics and Mathematics allowing him the opportunity for many possibilities including agriculture which is what he really wants to do. Without this chance, his only other way of life was to be one of earning a few shillings by digging and he is very bright boy so I hope he will be very happy and conscientious. His father was over the moon in his own African way. So my plan for a nice lunch at Free Way did not materialise and we came home stopping in Kumi town for a quick beer. The Guest House is full - Matthias, Weis, a Dutch junior doctor, and Christina, a German social worker so I'm on my own with my English.
This is very short and sweet as I'm on the battery and it's just about finished. Good night!
Sunday 11 November to Monday 12 November 2007
My Sunday evening was spent with Aede Simon Patrick's home with most of his 8 children + 2 orphans + schoolboy's son's baby and her schoolgirl mother. We sat in the dark of his small house and it was difficult to know who was who as they kept changing seats like a game of chess and it's not easy making out black faces in the dark! I could make out Grace, his wife, as she is smaller than the rest. It was a special evening for me as his family is very close and to see how the youngsters all help in the social activities so willingly without prompting is encouraging. My hands were washed several times and we ate, maybe all together, but with the comings and goings perhaps some came in while others went out. Betty phoned me from home after we had eaten and I wish we could have shared more of the congenial atmosphere. Simon Peter proudly presented me with a present which he has made for Christopher and, although it is beautifully wrapped, it is not difficult for me to guess what is inside! Chris will have to wait but SP announced it is for someone with a maturity in thinking and who cares thoughtfully for others. I was brought home safely in SP's car "LIVERPOOL" which is experiencing an unexpected (by me) immortality.
I rose well after the cocks'crows, which must start at around 3am, to prepare for my second visit to Katakwi. No chance to check emails as I'm preserving the battery whilst power evades us. Anthony has written a short account of his family for me which I have yet to read and I am sure I will find it disturbing. Margaret, housemother, has written to Sr Mary Josephine about a few of her stories which have been posted. How I would have liked to have a quick read before I sealed the envelope! We set off for our day's work in Katakwi where we saw the worst results of the floods so far. On our way, we bought many mosquito nets, blankets, packets of salt and bars of soap to distribute and we dropped off Michael for his eye clinic and then commenced our day's work. I have started a new venture of house building, re-roofing and repairs as I saw the true devastation that the floods have brought to the families and the little help given by outside agencies no matter how much you read in the press about emergency aid. The homes of these houses had all been affected by the floods, many having had about 2 feet of water running through and weakening the walls making them unsafe for habitation. The pit latrines were fallen and unsafe. The crops had been destroyed and I pulled up rotten g nuts, cassava and saw millet which was of no use. It was very rewarding to be able to offer assistance and to give some ray of hope for the poor families. One good factor is that, due to more advanced farming methods, the peasants will be able to buy improved crops so that their future yields will be greater. They depend on their crops for their sustainance and their income.
We unexpectedly met the first of our "clients" along the way whilst tending a herd of cattle, a young boy of about 12 who has two artificial legs and can run, climb trees, in fact everything. He had been abandoned by his mother after the father died and was cared for by his old grandfather (about my age). He should have been at school but had no books so earned 500/= a day for looking after the cattle. Moses is going to buy him 2 goats at the Saturday market to give him a kick start. We visited 10 families in all and were able to help each one. We had forgotten about Michael holding his eye clinic but, with the wonders of the mobile phone, he called to say he had finished. We picked him up to find that many mothers with children with disabilities had been waiting all day to see us also so it was out of the vehicle for an instant clinic seeing a 5 month old baby with a cleft palate, a Down's Syndrome boy with a club foot, CP children and many others. Now it was about dark and we had a long journey ahead of us. The vehicle was piled high with mothers with children who we deposited on the way and in the dark. I don't know how they reached home! We had had no food since we left at 9am and only 500ml of water each so we were extremely tired and hungry when we reached home to find no power again. I shared my meal of plantain and cabbage with Michael and Alex and they joined me with a beer and I was soon showered and into bed at about 11pm only to get up at 5am to complete what I didn't get finished last night.
I'm writing this in haste on generator power and waiting to be called to go out to Kasodo so I must be brief and get this "passed over". It is not checked for spelling or grammar so please forgive the errors. Maybe there will be power tonight but it's great to have water. Thanks for all the emails!
Sunday 11 November 2007
A surprise update as I heard the generator working as I came to see my "boys"! I am having an easy day today and feel more exhausted than when I'm busy. Before prayers, I collected rain water and washed my hair and then my clothes in my hair-rinsing water. Patrick, the teacher, came for transport money to change the football boots in Kampala market as most of the 22 pairs he bought a few weeks ago were far too small. I don't envy him the journey as it is a nightmare especially in the market.
Yesterday (Saturday) the sports teachers and others met to arrange the sports day which is a week on Tuesday. I had some strong ideas on my agenda but decided to give room for negotiation for the most important issue and, blow me, I got my own way throughout! I was very surprised as I had decided that I may have to give in on all counts. The "friendly" match seems to have many undertones with regard to size and age of the Primary children as they can be any age even in late teens so the match can be most unfair. I asked for a junior team and the criteria is to add height, weight and half height and a total of 275 governs the placing of a player in junior or senior. This was agreed after much discussion of unfairness for the bigger players unable to play. I also wanted the children to play bare-footed despite boots and socks having been bought by Adesso. This team has not practised in boots and I am sure it takes a while to get used to them specially if they aren't quite the right size. My final request was to play on Adesso sports field next to the hospital and not in the town sports field which, for me, is too public. I was amazed when they agreed to this. Half way through my speech (one always has to pontificate at length) the heavens opened and we had to keep silence while the hail thundered on the iron sheet roofing and the thunder roared making discussion impossible. I wondered how I would get home but the storm stopped long enough for my motor cycle driver to drive me back very mote-mote over the slippery murram. I was ready for supper (matooke, egg plant and rice) as I had forgone lunch and I then washed and went to bed about 8.30pm as I can't read well by paraffin lamplight. The rain continued to pound loudly on the roof.
The good news is that water may be resumed to the senior quarters quite soon as Robert, the engineer, told me this morning that they have managed to solve the problem. There were few people at prayers this morning because their priority is to have water and they are queueing at the borehole for hours. Little Vivien queued yesterday from 6am to 2pm before she got to the front of the queue.
Today's social engagements have changed twice already and I wasn't too disappointed when I was told that lunch was cancelled due to sickness after the first one was cancelled for a funeral. I am now expected out this evening which is good as I had asked for no food today. I was going to survive on an egg, banana, avocado, pawpaw and g nut paste. I'm sharing these with a very large cockroach which is thriving in the fridge and is impossible to catch.(Don't expect a stick insect on my return as you will find a big, fat mamma!)
Time for a few emails so I'll do my best in the next few days.
SATURDAY MORNING There will be a cessation of news until Uganda Power decide in their wisdom when they are going to resume power to the whole of this area as 3 poles are down and are awaiting attention. I have decided to resist looking for a power source and to relax for a few days forgetting about such modern inventions like laptops and phone chargers. So be prepared for Kumi News to disappear behind the far side of the moon for a while. I hope I shall be missed and there will be lots of messages on my return.
I shall pass my energies on to finding water for washing clothes, hair and body as water from the lake is a more disturbing problem at present. The floating islands are continuing to saunter down the lake and have completely removed the strainer and deposited it on the bed of the lake. Dr Opolot is trying to find someone who can deal with the situation and can perhaps dive down to recover the debris.
The weekend may not have too much news. This afternoon I have a meeting with the headmasters to arrange the Sports Day. This morning I should be having a "blast" in Kumi Town but two events in one day aren't usually successful due to the constraints of African Time! I was to be out tomorrow but the family I was to visit has a funeral and the space was soon filled by another invitation. Monday, power or not, will be difficult for an update as we are off to Katakwi again and if it is a repeat of yesterday, I shall be back after dark and ready for bed. Tuesday I'm going to Kasodo to finalise my plan for my newest boy, Max, and there will be probably no power on my return so, God and Uganda Power willing, there may be an update on Wednesday but keep checking!
This seems like an update for today, Saturday, and it's only 10.15am.
Margaret, the Children's Housemother, has just come and reports that she has no water as the queue at the borehole, due to no water from the lake, is so long that there is no hope for getting to the pump for hours.
This is the true story of life here and I sometimes wonder if my diary is a bit too flippant. She has just told me of a boy, Antony, who arrived yesterday, alone, with nothing and from far (Kaberamaido which is between Soroti and Lira districts). His father was a policeman but was killed by poisoning, he was with his mother and sister but the mother kept the sister and turned the boy away and now he is admitted in the Village. As I write, he has gone to the ward for wound dressing. He is to stay in the same "house" as Gabriel who is fair. Each house has 6 beds and each child has an attendant but I am sure Steven, who cares for Gabriel, will also care for Antony. While I waited for the generator to be switched on, I showed Steven how to play Solitaire failing as usual to end up with only one peg. On his first attempt, he succeded and I explained about Beginner's Luck but I could see his mind working and I am sure it was a calculated success.
Friday 9 November 2007
The highs and lows are extreme and we have many laughs but we also shed a few tears. Today was no exception. With the vehicle laden with mosquito nets and blankets, Gerald, Moses, Alex and I set off early for Katakwi, one of the worst flood-affected regions. I found time to check at the Post Office while they filled up with fuel. Once more, to my delight, I had a parcel, this time from Marjolein, and I duly handed over my 1,000/= fee to be given it. I also had a lovely letter from Sr Mary Josephine and this is being well read by many here as it gives much comfort to the people to know that they are not forgotten in UK. I quickly ripped all the sellotape off the box to find a treasure trove filled with goodies. DVD's of Marjolein and Jeroen's wedding, chewing gum, lozenges, origami paper, face mask, hair conditioner, shower gel, jar of olives, Kit Kat, 78% cacao chocolate, cards, pencils etc etc etc. Thank you very, very much, Marjolein. I shall use the face mask when there is no power! The chocolate is solidifying hopefully!
It's a long drive to Katakwi and Alex decided to go over Awoja swamps which are closed to big vehicles. The water has receded but there continues to be mile after mile of water-logged swamps. Sometimes, the landscape appears to be a field of grass but then you see men standing from the waist up paddling their canoes along the horizon and through the swamps. We drove over roads which had been replaced with many tons of murram and Moses pointed out the places where people had been swept away and drowned. The trees were uprooted and there were still vehicles sunk deep into the mud. Many roads were badly potholed and driving conditions were slow and uncomfortable. I decided to take dramatic photos on our return not realising we would be back after dark. It took about 3 hours to reach our first child who we assessed on the floor in a drug store. The parents had brought the child by bicycle (a 90 minute ride on one bike) to the trading station as we could not have reached their home due to the road conditions. We continued visiting children in their homes or in the camps and distributed many mosquito nets and blankets, provided funds for goats and assisted with transport.
The tears came when we visited the parents of little Adeke Sarah who died on 24 October. She was a Cerebral Palsy child who is yet another victim of malaria. Not only was her short life ruined by the disease when she was a baby but another episode finally brought it to an end. Would a mosquito net have helped? Maybe. On arrival, the scene of the mother, grandmother and children sitting in their compound in utter silence and deep grief was just too much for me to bear. There aren't words to describe the moment and we also joined them in their despair and then we all prayed together. What had we to offer but words of comfort and nets for the rest of the family just in case they would help. It was good for Moses to support the family in their loss and I am sure his visit was most helpful for them. They returned the little CP chair in which Sarah had learned to sit. They were a loving and caring family who I shall remember.
Matthias had a request for photos of flood victims and one of my day's purposes was to fulfil his request. I learnt that I will never believe the press following our stage production of a completely false photo! We reached a flooded road and so could go no further. We parked the car, hailed a dugout and asked the paddle man to take the staff on board with the nets. They were duly paddled through the waters and back again and I took many photos hoping that one would make a story. Lets hope so! It cost me 2 mosquito nets and a few packets of biscuits and we left two very happy, smiling boatmen! We also took a couple of photos of families by their ruined huts but I would have liked one of a family wading through waters but, of course, they have all left their homes. We visited the families in the camps but many are starting to return to their homes now that the Karamajong cattle raiders are peaceful but there are many more who don't trust the lull in activities. Akwi Silvia is a 5 year old girl who I visited last year but this year she is even more malnourished and has dreadful pressure sores on her buttocks. I hope her grandmother (her mother has disowned her) will bring her to Kumi Hospital Nutrition Unit but it will take a long, long time for her to gain her strength. I also gave her funding for a couple of goats which she can keep in the camp and maybe they will be the start of a little bit of security for the old woman. Too many stories to tell!
We set off for home with the sun almost ready to fall out of sight. I bought a 25kg bag of charcoal for 9,000/=, not much profit for the poor man who made it (probably it was a woman!) if one considers the labour factor. We were tired, dirty, quiet and dejected when we confronted a road block at the Awoja swamps. Would we have to go the long way round by Agu bridge? I think I would have stayed in Soroti for the night but Alex decided that the rocks blocking the road had been placed there by an unofficial man who wanted us to pay for an escort through the waters. He asked me if I felt safe going in the dark and I said I thought it was OK so the man felt let down without a few shillings in his pocket.
It was with great disappointment when we approached Kumi Town and realised there was no power. Driving along the road to the hospital, we encountered branches across half the road which heralded a hazard which turned out to be the electricity wires hanging low over the road! I would never have noticed them and would have crashed into them without fail. So it was a detour across someone's crops and back to the Guest House and very late for supper which was waiting for me. It wasn't Grace' fault that the chips and cabbage were stone cold but I was very hungry and ate every bite with relish. It wasn't long before I fell into bed and into a sound sleep.
8 November 2007
Yesterday was just a blip in activities and today has been a bumper day!
I forgot to write about yesterday's fish purchase from a local fisherman. I bought four 4 foot long kebabs with the most disgusting-looking small mudfish threaded along their length for £2.80, enough fish to feed a large proportion of the five thousand. Once they were in the vehicle, I insisted they were removed as the smell was unbelievable so they were duly tied on the roof (to dry them even more in the sun!) Then I only had to contend with six fishy hands!
After my hot, bubbly bath (an explanation is really needed here but you can use your imagination and there will be a prize for the best suggestion), I went to bed but was unable to sleep because my bites were driving me crazy. I tried every ointment in my room and decided that ice cubes would be best but....Handcuffs would have been useful but I just had to get up and pace the floor. Tonight I shall refrain from a hot "bath" and see if it helps as me feet are swollen and sore. I also listened to an hour long programme on the BBC World News regarding the LRA. One of the LRA leaders was interviewed in Gulu where they have decided to visit the IDP camps to ask for forgiveness for their dreadful deeds over the last 21 years. A Government official and a church leader were also interviewed. We also heard a six year old recording of a child called Innocent whose entire family had just been butchered by the rebels and he just didn't know what to do or where to go. It was heart-rendering. The LRA rebel said that it was impossible to prove that the LRA had been responsible for such actions and these could well have been undertaken by the army itself. Is this called progress, I wonder?
To start on today! We set off for Katchumbala for an Outreach Clinic at a school and arrived early which proved to be fortuitous as we would have still been there if we had delayed our start as there were so many patients waiting for us. Michael saw 86 eye patients on his own while we, the physio team, divided into two and saw between us 91 children. Ruth and I saw 59 children, 37 of whom had disabilities as a direct result of malaria when babies. It seems scandalous that, in this day and age, malaria is still the plague of the Third World. You will be pleased once more that I can't show you the photos as some are most disturbing. Children and adolescents were convulsing as they waited, bodies were distorted, babies lay in their mothers' arms like cabbages and each one's condition was not necessary if only there was some action against malaria. We also saw children with TB spines and were unable to offer any form of help but had to suffice with counselling the parents. Bow legs, knock knees, windswept knees, forests of fingers and toes were in abundance and, all in all, it was a fascinating if not distressing clinic. The last patient was seen and the staff were very ready to set off to come home when the teachers announced that they had prepared food for us. I don't know if hunger or tiredness was the greater but etiquette required us to accept their hospitality so we disembarked and enjoyed a meal of matooke, plantain, rice and chicken. Michael whispered that I was a vegetarian and it wasn't long before ground g nuts were put in front of me. I had my first bottle of Coke since I arrived and, although I am not a Coke fan, it was very welcome. I returned to a house full of visitors just when we had power earlier than usual so I failed to take advantage of light and power but (most) visitors are always welcome. My bath awaits!
7 November 2007
I suppose I can't be expected to have 70 scintillatingly, different days and today was a little bit of a disappointment but here goes...
Bumps in the night made me get up and lock my bedroom door but it was probably only the rats in the roof. Hellen who has received some assistance for her shop from me gave me four of her hens' eggs yesterday so I enjoyed one for breakfast. Grace, who cooks the food, told me how she tells if an egg is cooked or not.. She makes a circle with her thumb and index finger, puts the egg in her palm, holds the egg to the sun and if she sees light, then it is not cooked and this theory works only if you have a powerful sun!
A phone call from Matthias from Kampala this morning and a request for photos of the floods and the affected families. It takes so long to scan a photo that I was unable to send more than two and must try again this evening. The best way is to get it started and then leave the computer while I do something else and hope it has scanned on my return.
It was fieldwork with Ruth today and the first child was a 2 year old hemiplegic whose mother had had a very tough time with her babies dying and then her husband's death. She is a very caring mother and I wanted to help her in whatever way I could so decided to buy her two goats and repair her leaking roof. I also gave her two mosquito nets, a blanket, salt and promised to buy her a mattress. The following two children had been admitted to the childrens' ward at Kumi Hospital. The fourth one, Onyait Peter, who I have visited regularly was happy to see us but we found that when we replaced the inner tubes of his wheelchair the tyres were also perished as he had used them whilst deflated. Since then, I have bought two new tyres, bicycle oil and spanners and levers for the next visit. One tyre is red and one is blue so I shall use port and starboard as the criteria for which tyre goes on which wheel. No critical comments please from the sailors! Irene, the fifth child, was the biggest disappointment as her mother had allowed her to crawl in her plaster of Paris casts and they were completely rined and ineffective. She hasn't been to school and we visited the school to find out the problem which was the absence of a ramp for her wheelchair into the classroom. This was a relatively simple task involving a bag of cement and one of sand and some labour but we found the mother so impossible we were quite exasperated with her and left. This made us tired in the heat and we saw one other child where I spent the time throwing the Frisbee which Peter had sent, juggling with three balls and blowing bubbles whilst the others assessed the child. We returned to Kumi Town where I bought 4 mattresses and then returned to have a Bell's lager in the garden with Alex. We were soon joined by Okerenyang Francis and we spent the rest of the daylight hours watching the sunset change from orange to red to a bright yellow and then to indigo when the rain started to fall and the lightening flash overhead. Time for scanning so good night!
6 November 2007
My first visitor arrived at 7am, Gerard Moses, the blind boy, who had walked for about two hours to get here but then if you are blind, you don't have to wait till daylight to set out. He is always grateful for a banana, dry bread and a glass of water. We walked to the hospital together whilst we put the world to rights. After Morning Assembly where the theme of the address was material assets and I wondered if any of the words were aimed at my relative richness, I visited Gabriel who had a good night and found nothing to complain about unlike the rest of us carping on about bites and slight inconveniences. I had bought 5 samosas from the old woman at the roadside and we shared them together. We held the Cerebral Palsy clinic in the occupational therapy department where we treated the babies and children. They are enjoying the playballs so much and these are stimulating their little arms and legs and promoting sitting postures. Little Harriet Stella is very sick and was so agitated that she seemed possessed and demented. I felt for her poor mother as she desparately tried to handle the writhing child. A man from Katakwi was telling me about the effect that the floods have had on his life and I am looking forward to going there on Friday, the first time I will have been this year, but we still have to go a very long way round to reach there.
In the afternoon I came home only to find a young man had been waiting for me since 9am! He is making the musical instruments for Mary McAleese school and he had underestimated the cost and was quaking in his flip flops wondering how I would react to the increased costs. He had written me a letter explaining his situation and the terminology is always interesting. The young boys impregnate the girls; the babies are bastards; and one I found difficult to work out was "Well cooked!" which I later twigged to mean "Well done!" After we had sorted out our business, he gave me a ride on the back of his bike to Asio Margaret for me to arrange a day to go to the Sustainable Agriculture programme. The rest of the daylight hours passed quickly until I noticed the length of the shadows so I had to leave quickly and hurry home before darkness fell in a matter of minutes.
I'm back home and had power until a few moments ago so it's on with my head lamp and a quick farewell so that I can get this transferred to the web page before battery failure.
5 November 2007
Bonfire night and I have had my own display with only one firework, namely the magnificent sun which gave a spectacular exhibition of speedily dropping down beyond the horizon like a Roman candle leaving a trail of multi-orange smoke-like clouds in its wake. Darkness swiftly followed and tonight we continue with thundering bangers and shooting lightening and it's all for free!
You will be relieved that I am no longer able to pass photos from one side to the other as today was the Monday morning orthopaedic ward round where I took some descriptive shots of patients which are not for public viewing. Protruding bones, blood and the results of beatings all making an interesting morning specially when the causes of some of the injuries are related. Smells are something else better not described. A young mother lay face down with a dressing on the back of her head. It was claimed that her husband had slashed her with a panga but on closer examination of the wound, the doctor announced that he must have only used a "small" axe! The wound was deep and penetrated into the skull. A young lad had a dreadful wound across his face so that both his eyes were swollen, his nose broken and he had much bruising and many stitches. The father lay nonchalantly across the bed announcing that he had done it. I asked if he had been drunk at the time and unashamedly he nodded. A girl who fell out of a mango tree was now a paraplegic and her wounds emitted the most indescribable stench. On viewing the wounds, I could see that the rib cage had parted company from the abdomen and the pressure sores over her hips were inches deep. Is that enough or would you like me to continue telling you about the leprosy patients, the cancerous growths, osteomyelitis? I hear a resounding "NO!" so I shall give the bulletin on Harriet Stella and Emmanuel, my two children on the Nutrition Unit. Emmanuel's weight has gone from 8.2kg to 9.8kg in 2 weeks and Harriet's weight has gone from 6.9kg to 7.8kg and the mother is less depressed and wanting to look after the child. In the afternoon, Alex and I went to Mbale to collect Gabriel from Cure Hospital, a children's neurological hospital funded by Canadians. He had an appointment last week and they retained him and operated as the shunt in the brain was blocked. He looks terribly sick and pale causing much concern. I have known him and his brother, Steven, for 6 years now and I take great interest in his condition. Alex drove as carefully as one can over the roads but I could see that Gabriel was in much pain. We continue to pray for him.
I had two letters at the Post Office today from Norma and from Gertrude and Hilary. It is lovely to hear their news. Now I wish you could hear the storm and the rain beating down on the roof. Who needs a firework display!
4 November 2007
No adventures today, just a very pleasant, cool Sunday for a change! Last night we had a storm which cleared the air and I woke to clouds and a much cooler atmosphere. The day started with Mass as a priest had come for baptisms and blessing the harvest so the church was packed to overflowing. It was also decorated with bourgonvilliae, pennants made from colourful African prints, balloons and the aforesaid lilies in the toilet cisterns. People had brought many sacks of crops, fruit, eggs and chickens (live, of course) which were piled high in front of the altar. The singing, music and ululation (a word I have just learnt from the book I'm reading!) must have been heard from far and three enjoyable hours passed very quickly. Back home, I sorted out my worldly belongings which aren't many and washed everything in sight including my extremely dirty backpack before setting out to have lunch with Okerenyang Francis, the chief of his clan, and his family. That's not quite correct as one only eats with the men while the women and children have their lunch at a distance. Grace had cooked a delicious meal of ebor, dodo, matooke, potatoes, rice and peas followed by water melon, pawpaw and banana. I had two big helpings! Although I was provided with a fork, I was happier to use my fingers as it seems so much more natural now. The children played with their new ball, blew bubbles and balloons and munched the sweets I had taken. Walking back through the homes, crops and eucalyptus forest with Francis accompanying me half way was good exercise and I arrived back just before the next storm started. Francis informed me that each of these trees takes up 7 litres of water per hour! It is also said that if you put your ear to the tree, you can hear the sap rising. It's a bit like listening to a sea shell! It was so cool for a while that I put trainers and socks on but soon found them too hot and were cramping my feet. It's now evening, we have power, my ironing is done and the rain is clattering on the iron roof so all is very fine.
2-3 November 2007
I am pleased to report that the journey to Jinja with Irmela, the eye surgeon, was uneventful apart from the roadworks, hurdles and dust so there's no need to elaborate on the day until I stepped from outside Mamma Jane's Childrens' Centre to the inside where I entered a different world and a Dickensian scene. Mamma Jane started the orphanage in the 70's when so many parents died of HIV/AIDS and it has grown from strength to strength. Wooden benches fill the spaces and a hundred children from 3 to 18 mill around the rooms and the outside compound, all very happily playing together like one big, happy family. I met Agnes, the Jinja Soroptimist President, who was my host. I didn't book into a Guest House on my way as I should have done (Cool Breeze GH had looked promising) so Agnes invited me to stay either at the orphanage where the children get up at 5am to do their housework or on my own. I asked if I could view and choose and we took a boda boda to downtown where I climbed to the top of a tenement with views over shanty town to Lake Victoria and decided against the living conditions which I encountered. Fingers crossed for the alternative and I was shown a nice room with little between me and the pavement/ road! It was OK so I had made my choice, had a "shower" and changed into a dress to meet the rest of the Soroptimists. There were 7 ample ladies who filled the small room. Jean had baked a cake which I had to cut, a traditional welcome was sung and we sat down to dry tea, g nuts and cake. I was given two slices and I had just struggled with my last bite when another two appeared on my plate but I had to refuse. A long meeting ensued with lots of exchanging information and I realised that I was expected to stay for the weekend and visit their projects. They visit the womens' prison and the maternity ward and have started micro-finance projects to provide an income for themselves. By the end of the meeting, I was ready for bed but I had the utmost pleasure of joining the children outside with their prayers, singing and dancing. I always got the impression that Dickens' orphans were as miserable as sin but not these; they seem to be in a state of contentment from morning to night. Supper followed; chicken, fish, potatoes and rice and I explained that a plate of rice and potatoes was my idea of the perfect meal.
I did get to bed but failed to sleep as the pedestrians were feet from my head and the rattling cars sounded like planes landing on the runway. Things did quieten down for a while until a dear dog started to sing and sing and sing. It was soon daylight and I was meeting Josephine, Martin's wife (see Thursday), who is at nursing school in Jinja at 6.45am. We found a downtown cafe and had dry tea whilst watching SkyNews which was the first UK news I had seen since I left home. We then got a boda boda each and went to the Source of the Nile cycling over a golf course to get there. (Jinja is a really touristy place.) We returned to Mamma Jane's and talked to the children who were busy with their chores - cleaning their rooms, swilling the floors, cleaning the beans for lunch singing all the while. They queued for their breakfast of a mugful of posho porridge. The children attend primary, boarding secondary schools and university and I never worked out who is funding them. Saturday they were having extra lessons in classes of no more than twenty so their schooling is far superior to government schools such as Adesso with 200 per class.
The Soroptimists returned for breakfast of dry tea, g nuts and bananas and then I said good bye and promised to return next year for longer as, by now, I felt at home.
The return journey was not easy and I shall make it brief. I waited 3 hours standing in the sun, looking like a madonna with my kikoi draped over me for shade, hoping for a bus, then had to sit in the back seat, bounced over the hurdles and road works yet again and felt sorry for the girl sitting next to me with her months old baby as she, the mother, vomited into a black plastic bag. The whole journey was a nightmare and I was pleased to arrive in Kumi Town, do a quick shop in the "supermarket" and return home by picki-picki only to find I had mislaid my key which I later found. So no chance of a nice cup of lemon tea, a visit to the loo (the opportunities are rare and my bladder needs much praise these days) or to clean my teeth which I had been unable to do either!!!) Now I am about to have a good wash and enjoy a peaceful night.
1 November 2007 I lay in bed this morning wondering what I might have to write by this evening and, lo and behold, I could write a book so here goes...
It's All saints day so I started with prayers in St Joseph's where we went through the litany of the saints from St Peter to the present day or so it seemed. I had time to admire the lily-type flowers in up-market containers rather than the usual washing powder tubs but, on longer inspection, I noticed a handle on the upper right hand corner and then I realised they had recycled old toilet cisterns. We should copy!
Fieldwork with Martin on his motor bike was the order of the day so I set off well prepared for any eventuality following previous experiences. Enough food and water for 24 hours just in case! I had a letter to post to Patrick, a young lad in school in Mbale, which was an excuse to check on my post and, yes, there was the parcel from Peter and Sara. What joy and I didn't really want to carry it all day on the bike but I just had to take it. (It cost 1000/= to take it from the PO).The journey started with a puncture so that took well over an hour to be mended. I spent the time buying a crash helmet of my own and talking on a bench outside a shop to Karen from Germany who I met by chance in town and she is definitely leaving tomorrow. She left last month to tour Uganda but was drawn back to Kumi which she confirms is the nicest place to be. She was returning to the hospital so she took the parcel for me and has just delivered it here. More later on that... Martin returned with the bike repaired and we decided we had time for a soda with Karen before setting off again. It's always good to sit in a local cafe and to drink sodas. We also shared my emergency rations as it was by now lunch time. Finally, Martin and I set off to spend a brilliant but fearful (in the true sense of the word) day with me hanging on for dear life to anything I could hold on to. He seemed to ride so fast over terrible terrain and I am sure I could compete with the best trail bike riders in UK. Our helmets crashed like fighting stag beetles and by the time I came home, my arms were dripping blood, my trousers were torn, the backs of my legs were sunburnt, my hair was dripping wet as was the back of my shirt and the live chicken I had been given was decidedly squashed as it had sat between Martin and me and every time he braked or turned a corner, he stopped and I continued so the poor bird ended up underneath both of us. At times, I forgot its existence as we sped along narrow tracks with branches and tall grasses brushing past us. We chased chickens and lizards, overtook long-horned cattle and goats and just missed so many pedestrians. My hands were soaked with sweat from fear as well as heat and I really did think that maybe at my age......! In between the travelling, we saw 8 children all of whom were very, very poor. I could have spent a whole day with each one. The first was a hydrocephalus boy who lacked head control so the parent was shown stabilising exercises. Then a Cerebral Palsy boy whose father had made parallel bars for walking practice; a spina bifida boy lived in a badly leaking mud hut and another CP boy lived in the poorest conditions I have seen. His hut where all the family slept was also home to 2 broody hens with loads of eggs and I watched chickens hatching out of their shells. Today's total expenditure is 6 mosquito nets, 4 goats, 4 mattresses, lots of blankets, loads of soap and salt and a tricycle for a 28 year old post- polio lady whose life will be transformed. I won a very nice wheelchair in exchange for the tricycle and we are going to distribute the items in 2 weeks and maybe consider some roof repairs or replacements depending on my expenditure over the next 4 weeks. I am aware that we set off late at lunchtime but time flew and we were far from base when the sun set. We called in at Martin's village where I must have been expected as I was to sit down to pumpkin, g nuts, egg and dry tea under the stars and with the evening African chorus getting louder and louder by the minute. These are moments to be treasured as nothing like this can ever be duplicated at home. Martin knows the tracks well by night so the final lap was carefree and chickenless as I had asked Martin to look after it for me. I think it will be his supper when it has grown up a bit.
Now it's bedtime, the thunder is roaring but power has held out and I'm up to date with my news. There will be none tomorrow as I am going to Jinja, the source of the Nile, for a Soroptimist meeting without my laptop and once more achieving another of my objectives!
I almost forgot to mention my parcel! It was like opening my Christmas stocking when I was a child. My hand felt for different items and I tried to guess one after the other. A table tennis set, a frisbee, pencils, glue pens, lots of things for children and a book for me! Thank you to both of you and it has given me as much plesaure as it will give to the children. Eyalama Noi!
31 October 2007 Hallowe'en at home tonight but it's unknown here even though the pumkins are in abundance!
The inconsistency of the power supply continues to be most frustrating and, having been on and then off and I have the candles lit, it's come back and I don't know whether to be disappointed or pleased.
Steffie and Lindy left for Kampala at 6am and it's quiet and lonely without them although Irmela, the eye surgeon, is here until Friday. Today has been a tiring, successful and dirty day and you wouldn't recognise me with the impressive sun tan but it will disappear as soon as I have washed. Once again I ventured out into the field, this time with Cocas and meeting up with Amos in Serere which is far from here. We had to cross the flood plains again and I can report that the water levels have decreased mainly because the culvert entrances have been widened and deepened so that water gushes under the roads. The men continue to fish amongst the snakes with water up to their armpits. There is much speculation as to where the water is coming from with suggestions of Ethiopia, Somalia or Mount Elgon but the strongest opinion is that there is an underground lake and the land has shifted allowing the water to escape. Who knows? Not me! We visited two families who we saw last week and we took a tricycle for Emma and a bicycle for Faith's mother. Steffie and Lindy had given me some money and so this just covered these two items perfectly. We saw the mud hut rooves being replaced and much activity and happy people. Another three families were given mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets much to their delight. Little Okiryang Emmanuel, a 4 year old cerebral palsy boy, was a star on his basic tripods made in the workshop at Kumi Hospital and he held us in awe as he demonstrated his skills. I gave him a ball to use in standing to improve his balance but he will do well and go far, I am sure. The last mother we visited explained to us that she was her husband's first wife but they could have no children so she found him another wife who duly moved into their mud hut. They have had 13 children (two sets of twins and seven surviving including Okello Peter, a young Downs Syndrome boy. The first wife and Peter have the left half of the hut and the second wife and husband live in the right half separated by a few bricks. The first two sleep on grass-filled maize bags which got wet and very smelly during the floods so I decided to replace their bedding and will take wife number one and Peter new mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets. I think she deserves a treat although she seems perfectly happy.
We could do with rain as the roads are so dusty with clouds of red murram blowing up with the wind and passing trucks and buses. It gets everywhere and especially in the eyes and back pack! I forgot to say that there were two envelopes waiting for me at the Post Office so it maybe the beginning of an inrush? Lovely photos from Dominic which will brighten up my bedroom walls.
30 October 2007 Hospital based today for a change and the morning was spent in the children's Cerebral Palsy Unit where the mothers bring the children to the Occupational Therapy Department for assessment and treatment by Cocas, OT, and Gerard, physio. The Early Learning Centre play balls are more of a success than I had anticipated and the children don't seem to mind being smothered in plastic balls. Little Harriet Stella's mother brought her which pleased me but the child is severely affected and there seems little hope for the child to improve much. The staff are very gentle, dedicated and loving with the children and the hospital is fortunate to have them on the staff. A boy about 5 years came in carrying his few months old baby brother whilst we had our morning break of bread and Blue Band with dry tea. His hand wheedled its way across the table as he was very thirsty so he joined us in a cup of tea with a slice of bread. He was famished and pushed the bread into, not only his mouth, but also the baby's. His mother was in the Workshop with her other children and they had probably come far on empty stomachs. It wasn't difficult to buy some more bread and drink for them and they were very grateful for such a mere pittance.
After a lunch of beans and rice, I attended a meeting of the Infection Control committee and was interested to hear their plans to reduce infection. Lets hope they are successful as the odds are against a germ-free environment.
On my way home, I went to see the progress on the church benches and we should be sitting on them on Sunday if the 3 coats of varnish to be applied on Friday will be dry enough. I have decided to sanction the next 20 benches so that Paul, a young man from the Workshop, can continue to spend his annual leave working hard.
A quick turn around after reaching home, a shower and into my skirt for supper with John and Consolata Opolot, Steffie and Lindy at Kumi Hotel. Power returned 5 minutes before we left leaving me no time to iron my clothes which are piled up reasonably clean but creased. It was a very pleasant evening spent dining and drinking Tuskers and wine to say farewell to the Dutch girls. I avoided selecting beans as I have realised that my entire diet for days has been beans with rice or posho or chips! We were hoping to fall into bed on reaching home but the lock on Mattias' door was broken and the next part of the night was spent hacking down the door before he could enter for his bag. It's been a short night but only because I'm an early riser!
29 October 2007 My fieldwork programme was disrupted today, not because of floods but because of mechanical failure of Martin's motor cycle and I can't say I was too bothered after yesterday's experience on the bus. Instead we went for an Outreach Clinic but there were no children with disabilities so we collected eye patients for surgery. Bedlam ensued as so many old people crammed into the vehicle so that there was no hope of closing the doors. It was obvious that some would have to dismount but none were willing and so it went on and on and on! Finally, we brought some of them back to the hospital where Irmela, the German eye surgeon, had already started her day's work. The rest were collected on the second run so all's well that ends well.
I spent the rest of the day in the hospital firstly visiting my patients on the Nutrition Unit. Emmanuel's young father is looking after his son so well that I gave him some shillings for a few extras like bread. On the other hand, Harriet Stella's mother is proving to be very stubborn and was almost discharging her sickly daughter but I persuaded her to stay another week and then we would review her condition.
Steffie and Lindy were playing with the children in the Hall of Hope and had brought dressing up clothes. There was an angel, a leopard, a tiger and a doctor and nurse. I was the patient and the doctor aged about 6 years old listened to my chest, took my temperature and decided I was very sick with TB of the lungs! He sent the nurse for medication and she brought me a few leaves which cured me instantly! The power of medicine! It is a treat to see the children actually playing and interacting with each other and I will be sorry to say good bye to Steffie and Lindy on Wednesday as they have been good company. Steffie will return next year as usual because she has a Foundation and is providing a maternity operating theatre so that the mothers don't have to be taken across the hospital compound at all hours and in all weather.
I hope you like the paragraphs which make the pages seem more readable but I apologise that the content today lacks action. Chris seems to be busier than I am and is going to attend a CAFOD meeting this evening. Maybe I should try a photo....
27-28 October 2007 Good news and bad news! Good news is that at noon on Saturday the power returned to the district but not to the Guest House as we only have power from 8pm to 8am. The bad news is that there are two more floating islands blocking the inlet to the water pump and also a flash of lightening knocked off the power again so it's now no water nor power. In some ways, I prefer it as we are back to basics which are not dependent on any outside factor.
I was to go out for my annual lunch at Kodukol and waited for my boda boda boy from 12.00 to 2.00 to take me to Gerard Moses, the blind boy who is actually 31 years old (but still my boy). It's an hour's ride on the back of the bike and even longer this year as we had to have detour round the flooded swamps. Side saddle is getting easier but I ended up with thorns from the bush in my nose and my toes! I felt sorry for the boy as I am heavy enough as it is but I was carrying a pineapple I had been given which must have weighed at least 3kg and many other goodies for the family. They were happy with everything especially the balloons. We had 2 meals inside the hut as it looked like raining and I took many video clips which kept them all amused until it was time to leave. We had left it rather late and the boda boy wanted to be back before dark therefore my return journey took half the time so I was unable to enjoy the scenery and ended up with a very sore posterior. Another meal was impossible for me to manage so I skipped supper and had an early night.
Sunday and 7am prayers were cancelled and moved to 10am for the priest to say Mass, do baptisms and celebrate Harvest Festival but I later found out that he didn't come and the programme has been moved to next week. Just imagine the chaos at home if a christening was cancelled - the family would have to come back and nobody would be happy. Here it's just one of those things. Florence, the physiotherapy assistant, and I set off on motor bikes to town to catch a bus to Soroti via Agu bridge to avoid the Awoja swamps to visit her daughter, martha, at school there. We managed to get a smart matatu which went direct and would have been extremely comfortable if there had been the allotted 7 people and not the 18 which were squeezed in tight. It took 3 hours to reach the school where we found Martha waiting patiently for us. Another boda back to Soroti and we went out for lunch at the Golden Ark Hotel where I had chapatti and beans and they had chicken, chapatti and rice all of which was well presented which was reflected in the bill - 15,000/= (£5.00) - so my most expensive meal so far. We called to see Kate to deliver a letter and gift which I had brought from home so I have achieved nearly all my missions. Our return journey was memorable and I am not sure if I should tell you this in case Chris reads it. We boarded a bus and Chris rang and I spoke to Sue and Joe saying all was well. We all had to get off the bus (there were more live chickens than people!) and wait for another old, tatty one. We set off at breakneck speed, overtook another bus as we crossed the floods at a precarious angle, managed the bridge and then the bus went out of control and I truly thought my end had come. It lurched from left to right and I couldn't decide which side we would end up on, people were screaming and praying and then it came to a halt thankfully upright. Chickens and all dismounted again, men studied the underneath of the bus, took off the radiator grill and then we all piled in. We set off and the same thing happened again but not at high speed. We all got up to get off, the driver told us to get back and stay put but I as well as others demanded to get off once and for all. It was dusk by now so a good Samaritan in a pick-up (or so I thought until he asked for payment!) picked some of us up and brought us back to Kumi town. Finally a motor bike ride and I got safely home to tell the tale and with a wonderful sun tan which came off when I removed the murram using 3 bowls of water. The first lot of water resembled Cream of Tomato soup! This is a rushed account as I now have to go out for fieldwork. When power returns, I shall have more time.
26 October 2007 Saturday morning and how the weeks fly by! Still no power and I have heard that the electricity poles at the Awoja swamps are down due to the flooding so we just have to wait but the hospital generator is up and running giving me the opportunity of an update. There will be none tomorrow as I have an early start and will be back late. The photos are infuriating but I have no alternative but to keep writing and ask you to be patient with the chaos.
The waters have started to rise again and they say crocodiles have been sighted at the old pump house where I was yesterday. My buoyancy aid will provide little protection so perhaps my next parcel will contain some armoured plating to protect me from their teeth.
Today was another day of fieldwork with William and I always enjoy his days as he has such interesting children to visit and today was no exception. Alex and I set off with the back of the vehicle bursting at the seams with grateful, very aged eye patients having recovered from their eye surgery singing songs of praise to God for their newly regained sight. At first, I enjoyed their rhythmic tunes and clapping but soon my ears became oblivious to the noise. We deposited them at various trading stations where they had to find their long way back to their villages with their belongings balanced on their heads and then we continued our journey in relative silence. (I didn't bother to check the mail on passing the PO!) Stopping for a soda to wait for William, I watched the world go by comparing it to our town centres and how different they are! We spent the day visiting some very poor families and I had an expensive day buying 8 goats, a mattress, mosquito nets, blankets and, hopefully, preparing to provide a tricycle for Emmanuel, yet another boy whose needs cry out for help. He was born about 16 years ago to a schoolgirl who buried him alive. He was found, rescued and taken to a health clinic but, unfortunately, he was brain damaged. Maybe he would have been either way, who knows? He is bright and has reached Primary 5. I checked his school books and, in spite of his spasms, his right hand writes clearly and he obviously has potential and has a good command of the English language. I am not taking on any more children but he can be helped by providing him with a tricycle so that he can move independently to and from school. He can also visit the borehole for water. He is to attend the CP (Cerebral Palsy) clinic for assessment and then he will be able to try his skills with a tricycle. He was very happy and sang a song of praise for me. When I suggested I made a video clip, he announced that he could sing much better and I recorded 3 of his hymns. Watching their faces on play back is a sight to be seen!
I came back home at dusk now not expecting any power and also not expecting a visitor but there was Robert, the Mary McAleese teacher, waiting to tell me he was going to Iganga on Saturday to buy items for the school choir and sports team. He asked for 760,000/= just like that! About £210.00! Do they think I have a bottomless purse? I happened to be able to give it to him but asked for more notice in future although he has just about spent the total given by St Francis xavier School. There will be a full school choir and dancers in traditional dress and an orchestra and I wonder if, one day, the two schools will ever have the opportunity to play together! After supper (rice and cabbage, of course) by paraffin lamp, I don my head lamp and manage my preparations for night with ease as I light up my way as I go. I am very abstemious with the batteries to make them last my stay. Another early night by candlelight and I lie in my comfortable bed thinking of the patients on the wards with their attendants struggling in the dark, falling over each other and their belongings as many of them try to sleep on the floor. It can get cold in the early hours and I pull my ki-koi over me whilst they have little to keep them warm.
24 - 25 October 2007 No power for 3 days which puts life here back in another century but this morning Sam, the engineer, has kindly switched on the generator specially for me while the staff endure the everlasting Morning Assembly for the last Friday of the month. I am hoping it will last 2 hours so I can catch up with this. The electricity lines are down and so return to power is in the lap of the gods or the Town Council! My phone, camera batteries and the laptop are filling the multisockets to overflowing. My easy day on Tuesday was not over on my last update as I was inundated with visitors wanting to make plans for Sports Day, church benches, choir uniforms and finally, when I thought I could lock the door, Father Charles arrived. He has an orphanage in Bukedea for 68 deeply disturbed children mainly from the northern camps and seems to be a saint. He had visited the Guest House the day before and spied the bible which Towi had given me. He was ecstatic as he had waited many years to own this very bible and, whenever he had come across this version and opened it, it had always been in a foreign language. I had intended to present it to St Joseph's but, as I knew it would be valued sincerely, I decided to give it to him so he turned up at bedtime. How pleased he was and how I enjoyed his visit listening to him recalling his days in the camps. He was also more than delighted with the beautiful church linen which the Poor Clare's had given me. Before he left, he gave a blessing for a peaceful night and I wanted to ask him if this would mean the cockerels would have a lie in but decided against being frivolous. Up early and into my Kumi Lions polo shirt to visit schools in the flooded areas. I arrived at Kumi Hotel at the appointed hour with Dr Ekure but then had to wait for some form of organisation to occur in spite of many hours of preparatory meetings. I phoned Matthias who is the CBM co-ordinator without whom I would be unable to do anything, and his wife, Rebecca, and their 3 children dropped in on their way past and we had plenty of time to catch up on each others' news. Finally we set off with 500 mosquito nets in 3 vehicles and firstly stopped at Kumi University for speeches. We visited 5 schools and distributed about 300 mosquito nets and a supply of water treatment tablets. I calculated that this total was covered by the Darlington Lions Club donation and so I need not accompany them again on their future visits and it allows me to get on with my "proper" work. It was disturbing to hear that most children get their drinking water from the lake and that some borehole water contains worms. The children were from very rural schools and their command of the English language was minimal. There seemed to be a couple of bright boys, smaller than the rest, in each of the P7 (final primary year) so I presume they have sailed through the school since they started whilst the rest were large adolescents looking as though they should have been doing their A levels or finishing university. Evening came and there was no power again. I rested on my bed by candlelight but my phone rang continuously so after supper I turned it off and went to sleep very early. In the morning, I was up at 5.30 to go to the lake where we get our water from to see the bilge pump in action. It was wonderful driving at dawn with the sunlight shining at a different angle across the crops and bush land. The cattle were being driven out for pasture often by young boys who have to stay at home to look after the beasts rather than go to school, school children jumped across the crops carrying their exercise books wrapped in the Daily Monitor, women dug the land, the oxen and ploughs ambled along the tracks to the fields and there was a rare existence of silence. The lake also looked and smelt fresh and we paddled to the pump house with me dutifully wearing my buoyancy aid. The water has started to recede and is now a couple of inches from the window sill. The bilge pump is brilliant. Instead of 3 men working physically hard for 2 hours 3 times a day, now it takes 1 man 30 minutes working easily 3 times a day. They are very, very happy and grateful! I returned for breakfast and then it was off to Butabu for an Outreach Clinic. I called in at the Post Office to collect my week's mail to find there was none!!! On the way, we stopped at a trading station and found a 9 year old hydrocephalus girl lying in a brick room 8 foot square. This was her "prison". Her mother had been thrown out of the family village by her husband when she produced this child and had rented this room for her and her 4 children. Her worldly belongings were minimal and their diet was poshe (maize flour) which lacks many vital nutrients as you can imagine. The child looked about 4 years old and was so pale with being deprived of sunlight. We are starting a rehabilitation programme and I gave her assistance for transport to the hospital where she will be assessed and given some form of seating, maybe a wooden chair made in the workshop or a small wheelchair. I leave these decisions to Cocas, the Occupational Therapist whose work is admirable. The clinic went well with 50 children assessed and diagnosed. Some had conditions I have never seen so they were sent to the medical doctor in Kumi Hospital for professional diagnosis. I can manage the club feet and cleft palates with ease but the likes of pea-like nodules in the buttocks and flutterings of the body escape me. I had talked with Chris on Skype and he had suggested that I get down on the ground to take photos of children as Nick did. I did just this much to the amusement of the locals and now I have a new bed companion at night, my tube of insect bite ointment as I am covered in ant bites! Back home, I shared a bottle of Club lager with Steffie and Lindy on the porch of the Guest House in the moonlight. Before I locked the door, the extraordinary clarity of the full moon, the sky, the planets, the trees, grass and the whole vision was something to share so I called Steffie and Lindy and we just couldn't take our eyes off the vista. It was only the stars which were absent from view. I'm about to upload this now with no photos and I do know that the last lot are confusing. Fingers crossed. When I have time, I shall add photos and hope they "pass over to the other side". Please be patient with the updates as conditions are out of my control!
23 October 2007 A relatively easy day today and it's 4pm and I am able to catch up with this by taking advantage of the hospital generator in Matthias' office. The big news of the day is that the bilge pump is working so well and the engineer is so very happy at how easy it is to use. I had the choice of working on the laptop or visiting the pump house and have decided to be diligent with my duties. Water supply has been resumed and the cause of the stoppage was a floating island which had got jammed at the pipe end. These islands are a bit like icebergs with most of the problems hidden beneath the surface of the water. They take a tremendous amount of hard work and the engineer is to be congratulated and thanked for his perserverence. Today I have visited Kanapa Primary School with Moses, the dentist, and Frances Okerenyang who was distributing de-worming and Vitamin A pills and injecting against tetanus. Moses gave a comprehensive dental hygiene programme to 850 children and then we inspected hundreds of mouths for dental cavities. Perhaps my dentist, Paul, will now employ me. It was interesting as the school was in a very rural area where the children do not have access to sweets or sugar and we only found 5 rotten teeth unlike the 57 we extracted at my previous school visit. The mouths were anaesthetised and then 3 children had their teeth out, the fourth was terrified but returned later for the dreaded deed to be done and the fifth scarpered never to be seen again! On our return trip, I visited my friend, the blacksmith, to find him getting older and less agile. He asked if I could help and I suggested he sat on a chair higher than the one he uses of about 4 inches. Matthias came today but has a serious dose of malaria and looked so sick. He fortunately topped up my purse as I seem to be badly in debt; hose for the bilge pump, wood for the church benches, school uniforms for 2 orphans etc etc etc. Sitting here, I can here Steffie and Lindy playing with the children in the Childrens Village and the shrieks of happiness make me want to finish here and join in. Lets hope the photos work today, fingers crossed! I have a major problem with the laptop in that it refuses to react to my memory cards for the cameras but fortunately I have a USB for one of them otherwise that would have been the end of photos for me.
22 October 2007 No pictures today and a brief note only as I have just got in (9.pm)and had a bite to eat- rice and greens and absolutely delicious. A wash is essential as I have had another dirty but lovely day. Fieldwork with Cocas, Amos, Charles, Steffie and Lindy. It was great to have the two Dutch girls along and we had quite an experience. They are repairing four roofs, bought two goats and gave out loads of balloons, exercise books and pens. I bought four mattresses, ten mosquito nets, a carton of soap, one of salt, one of glucose biscuits and four goats. I also handed out lots of little dresses and t shirts. There are many photos in the camera but they will have to wait until I've had a night's sleep. I just can't let down all the regular readers completely. There would be so much to tell but a short resume would be of the lovely children and the impossibly hard lives of mainly the grandmothers and our drive over Agu bridge and through the floods again especially tonight when it was dark and eerie and we saw a car which had ended up in the water. Many people were on the bank so I don't think there was a serious accident. The rain was too heavy and the lightening too fierce to delay our journey home. We drove over a big snake and simultaneously a bat hit the windscreen and there was a memorable flash of lightening. Am too tired to write!! Good night! I wish you could hear the rain! It's now Tuesday and I am pleased to report that we had very dirty looking water this morning gushing out of the taps but no power so we can't have everything.
21 October 2007 Sunday yet again and it would be a normal day but there is no running water which I have got used to and I take badly to waiting for water to be delivered from the borehole. Life just got too easy here! Out comes my bucket again and it's fine so long as water is in the black barrel. Prayers at St Josephs and I could hardly squeeze myself between the children. I kept finding a little black hand in mine and the owner walked home with me along with many others making me feel like the Pied Piper!I was out for lunch again and a picki-picki picked me up and took me to town with me confidently riding side saddle. It's much better than having my nose in someone's shirt which gets more and more drenched with sweat with the effort of transporting my ever increasing weight. It also gives me a good view of crops and cattle but never a sighting of my mountain, "The Bite", as visibility has been restricted throughout my stay so far. Another delicious lunch in local style so I won't repeat myself but will give you a sequel to my visit last year when I carried a live chicken (instead of a bottle of wine), presented it to Akol Mgt and out popped an egg. Well, the aforementioned egg was duly taken to church the following Sunday, was blessed and the story goes that 7 more fertile eggs appeared and hatched giving 8 in all. Each chicken was sold for 4,000/= totalling 32,000/= which bought a goat. I'm pleased to say that the goat is now pregnant and so that is how the "bank account" accumulates. Home for a quick wash in the bucket and off to Dr and Mrs Opolot's for supper where we watched a "Self portriat of General Idi Amin". Only he could have directed such a self-opiniated content which provided with a highly entertaining evening. Two evenings watching TV is excessive so I hope the rest of the week will be more constructive. Chris rang to tell me that his appeal at three masses at St Augustine's went well and I wait to see the outcome with eagerness.
20 October 2007 Photos will follow as I'm finding them tedious and time-consuming. They are fine on the off-line page but as soon as I transfer them on line they do a juggling act. I think some days there are too many people on line and this reduces the successful transmission.But I am no expert! If I delay too long this evening, I may miss the Rugby Cup Final. Chris was right in saying that I have never watched a rugby match but there is always a first time and after all I should cheer for England as they will cheer for S Africa for sure! Dr Ekure has a satellite dish and Sky Sports so all we need is power and a crate or two of beer! Back to basics and today I visited Modesta where I was greeted enthusiastically with her 7 surviving children. I took balloons, a Thomas the Tank Engine pop up book, a simple jigsaw among other things and the children were well amused for hours. I had milk tea with g nuts, sweet potatoes and pumpkin and was suitably satisfied when lunch was prepared and served. I started to help de-leaf the greens and there were shouts of "She can do it!" Poshe, beans and the very greens appeared and I had to eat a polite helping but was truly full to bursting. My skills at eating with my fingers were not up to the standard of the toddlers and more than once my attempt to take off a piece of sweet potato one-handed caused it to speed across the table like a goldfish. What an experience to spend my Saturday once more like a true local and I could have sat and watched the children play for hours. Little Emmanuel, about a year old, pretended the 8 jigsaw pieces were a generator and a broken brick was the radio. He was in full concentration to keep starting the generator, wiring up the radio, making noises and repeating the process for ages. It's an experience to watch the children be so resourceful with so little. Modesta spent her time feeding her children and many extra mouths, pounding g nuts and sweeping the floor several times. She showed me the hen which she gave me last year but, being a vegetarian and knowing her financial situation, I had asked her to keep it for me and there it was sitting on 10 eggs which are almost ready to hatch. The cock I gave her last week was sick and died! I left to visit Mgt Asio who immediately made me tea, roast cassava and g nuts so I have over eaten yet again. Now I have had supper of chips and cabbage. My clothes continue to get smaller! I finally arrived home for a rest but Patrick, the teacher, came to discuss plans for the schools' sports day and we sat a little more carefully trying to miss the owl and thank goodness as it spewed out many half-digested insects and bones perhaps from a mouse with a big splatter at our feet. Another large, long-eared owl has appeared so care must be taken with what is above and below! Chris has tried to talk on the phone but network was too poor but I did manage to catch that he was off to St Augustine's Church to make his appeal for the flood victims at the evening Mass. It would be ironic if he misses the rugby and I watch it! Lots to write. I haven't mentioned the honey with the bees which is delicious on banana and passion fruit but I must apply the insect repellent and find my best powerful torch. Good luck to England!
19 October 2007 I find it hard to believe that I left home four whole weeks ago today. I would have thought three weeks were too many and time is flying past far too quickly for my liking. Walking to the hospital this morning, laden as usual with part of the contents of the boxes, I studied the footsteps in the ground; mostly bare-footed children from toddlers to teenagers, then adults demonstrating their flat-footedness, feet with flip-flops, big birds, cycle tracks and flattened frogs! Following Morning Assembly, a group of staff gave us a rendering of drama depicting AIDS/HIV propaganda which was most amusing even though I didn't understand a word; all about getting the men to be tested as well as the women. They will take their mini production round the villages to educate the local people. Then off to Palissa with Michael and Beatrice for an eye clinic while Alex and I had our own mission to visit my girls, Rose and Mary, who I have known now for 4 years. I helped the family firstly with funds for a couple of goats and now they have 6 goats, a house and a lovely family of seven children. They are able to barter some goats for a cow and they are well on their way to increased security. Maureen Cadman had given me some funds to buy them a cow but I have decided, hopefully in my wisdom, to break my promise of no more help for education and I have put the money towards school fees for Max, a clever 18 year old who has passed his O-levels well but cannot continue to A-levels without assistance. They were very pleased with the items Maureen had given for them and Max has written a letter to her to thank her.I was given yet another chicken and some maize whih meant more to me than what I had taken! I do not regret my decision and am confident that he will one day be able to support his two severely disabled sisters. Alex and I then lunched in one of the cafes I like to visit and drank a Bell's each as we both felt in need of sustainance after the morning's ordeal. The total bill was 6,800/= (£2.00!) We were still thirsty so downed plenty of water from the borehole. Back to Kumi Town and I was dropped off at Kumi Hotel where the Lions Club were having a meeting to finalise plans for distribution of aid for the flood victims next Wednesday. I was just in time for the start at 5pm but at 8pm nothing had happened so I presented them with 1,700,000/= from Darlington Lions Club and managed to get a lift home in torrential rain and vivid lightening.
18 October 2007 I started the day by finding if my very sick boy, Amadoi Emmanuel, had been brought to hospital and I was pleased to find he had already started treatment but was still very sick. Dr Angela diagnosed a chest infection, malaria and malnutrition so he was taken to the Nutrition Unit where he will stay with his mother for a few weeks. Outreach Clinic today at Kangole where we found we were to hold the clinic in the market place with the stench of dried fish and local brew filling the air. The children's main complaint was epilepsy but we saw an assortment of conditions most of which should be preventable. To reach there we finally managed to cross the bridge at Agu where they have filled in the collapsed parts of the roads with lorry load after lorry load of murram which is collected locally from land nearby. They have also installed culverts every 50 meters to keep the waters which continue to rise off the roads.We then saw the extreme effects of the floods for which I have no words to describe the desolation for the families. It would be an incredibly beautiful sight if it wasn't such a tragedy. To see the collapsed huts in the midst of lakes of water and the poor, pathetic men waist deep trying to find some little fish among the deadly snakes for sustainance was terribly emotional for me. The cattle were huddled together on dry land and the air was filled with despair although there was hardly anyone to be seen. Returning we got stuck on the bridge as the vehicle in front but one sank into the mud but the delay was short fortunately as we could also have sunk down. At the end of the day, the tally of RTA's was three; a motor bike and a bicycle, a petrol tanker which slipped off the road at an acute angle whilst trying to pass a burnt out bus and a motor bike which knocked an old man and a baby off a bicycle. We didn't wait to find out what happened in any of the events. Some tales I can't write about in case of identification but I can assure you there are many more fascinating stories I could tell. Perhaps tomorrow I will check my post as I pass through Kumi own.
17 October 2007 Wednesday evening and we have power so I can write my diary in the evening, a first for quite a while. No day is routine although on paper this is just another field trip day. It started with visits to children who came to the Childrens Village yesterday to find me missing. One child wanted a wheelchair but on careful questioning it was revealed that she already had one. A child was given a mattress and blanket, another transport money and Gabriel continues to complain about his headache. We finally managed to leave for the field at 10am to visit many children mainly CP but also a Gluteal Fibrosis child and another very sick 35 month old who most likely was suffering from malaria. He had vomited anything he swallowed for the last three days and was severely dehydrated. His ribs were plainly visible and his scraggy little tummy was crinkled and empty. He was barely conscious and his father had gone to Soroti to find money to take the boy to hospital. They didn't know when he would be back, maybe next week, so a mere 6,000/= gave him transport and a further 12,000/= to help with his expenses so the child may even be in hospital tonight. Lets hope so! I visited two more children who I have known for two years and it is always a pleasure to see them again. Onyait Peter continues to be neglected and left dirty and alone by his mother and Amongai Irene has improved but also has a long way to go. She looks really good in her dress given by Marion Watson and was so happy with the flowery flip flops from Maureen Cadman. She was given a mattress. I had a 45 minute long phone call from a friend, Ann McFerran from London, in the middle of the bush and we talked about many issues. Okerenyang Francis was waiting for me on my return as he has measurements and prices for church benches, a project not covered by the Kumi Fund, I hasten to add. Now it's nearly bedtime and I can read with my new torch. Thanks to everyone for the emails. I shall try to reply to some of them this evening but no promises.
16 October 2007 The pump was presented to Dr Opolot this morning who thanked Chris profusely for his concern in the floods which continue to rise little by little. I am grateful for the buoyancy aid which I shall take with me when crossing the swamps. I get many emails asking about our work being affected by the waters so I must explain that patients from the affected districts can no longer come for surgery and often cannot be discharged home. We are unable go out to our fieldwork and Outreach clinics and so the knock on effect continues to cause disruption. The government is making progress with opening the roads and I have heard that Agu bridge is accessible and they have opened the road from Soroti to Katakwi which is good progress. I still have plenty to do and today was to continue with shopping, this time for Mary MacAleese School. Yesterday Patrick, the Adesso teacher, came with us to K'la to buy second hand football boots from the market but I had neither the strength nor inclination to contend with the traffic to collect him so I gave him the return bus fare. I have yet to see the fruits of his efforts but have heard he bought 22 pairs of second hand boots. This morning's news about Okirior Gabriel is that he has a severe headache which, following the removal of a brain tumour earlier this year, is cause for concern. He looks pale and sad and complains little. On reaching Kumi Town on a pickipicki boda boda (I can now ride side saddle with increasing confidence), I called in to the Post Office and there were THREE letters so thanks to Gillian, Gertrude and Anita who sent a head torch which has proved very useful already. There was also a packet for Odong Charles, a teacher, from Chris Brook, a teacher from SFX school.I pass my letters on for others to read and it was quickly picked up that Anita told me to "pass it on when I leave." I had to pay the PO 1,000/= to be given the packet. Peter tells me my parcel is in the post and that Sara took out some paper (I think it may have been a book)" to reduce the postage by £35.00". Is that right, Peter? Then the Gateway bus to Mbale with Robert and Juma, the sports teacher, and this is always an experience so different from the Arriva buses. Going wasn't too bad but the lack of suspension makes the roof come near to your head at every pothole. The inside of the roof is worth mentioning as the rest of the bus is in extreme dilapidation but the velour up top is in pristine condition. I must mention the man sitting next to me who was avidly reading my book and I wonder what he thought about the content; a tiger was eating a hyena in a life boat in the Pacific Ocean! We started with lunch in the bus park and three of us had rice and beans and 500ml fresh passion fruit juice in a Coca Cola bottle for 4,500/= total (£1.50). I was so careful about washing my hands and not drinking out of the wet metal beaker but then wondered about the water used to make the juice. My stomach is now upside down so I'm hoping they didn't use stagnant well water. Shopping is always a tedious job as I have to stay outside while the bartering goes on so I sit in the heat and read my book. We did well purchasing 36 geometry sets, football and netball kit and balls and we came home tired and dirty (I shall not repeat the last seven words again as you can presume this is a daily occurrence from now on). Earlier in the day, I asked Okello Julius to make musical instruments for the school so I am well on the way to spending all the money given by the children of St Mary's and SFX schools in Richmond. In the evening, M&S Credit Card people phoned to say they had refused an unusual transaction which meant our Skype account was terminated but with the wonders of the Internet I managed to use another credit card I have here. I sometimes (no, often) wish that there was no communication but, on the whole, it is important to keep up with home news and I appreciate all the calls. So much to say but that's enough for today.
15 October 2007 Kampala and back in 17 hours! Not my favourite way to spend a day which started at 6am driving to Kampala on very dusty and very bumpy roads. On arrival, we left Dr Opolot and Dr Ekure to attend a meeting and then proceeded to collect the pump from DHL offices. The traffic was gridlocked and quite the worst I've ever seen. It was hot, noisy and horrible and we could have walked the distance ten times over. But we got there only to find the packing number was incorrect and I almost had to leave empty-handed but I stood my stance and insisted it could have been their error. I explained the box content, where it had come from etc and then they produced it and demanded my ID which I didn't have with me. Finally, after what seemed hours, it was released and I was allowed to sign for it which I did and even that caused a few problems because my legible signature was not accepted. I left the office bearing the small box and feeling very hot and bothered. There's always a good part to a day and that was visiting my boys, Vincent and Lawrence, who looked happy and well at the Kampala School for the Disabled. They showed me their work with pride and I was able to give Lawrence the letter from Darlington Inner Wheel. His teacher has promised that she will arrange a letter written by him with his toes for Inner Wheel. I hope she will as I have given her a postage stamp. The return journey was again very long with torrential rain and lightening to contend with but this time Dr Opolot granted me the front seat so I was much more comfortable than sitting in the back. We arrived back after 11pm utterly exhausted and famished and I must thank Alex for a long day and 15 hours of difficult, expert driving. Dr Ekure is expecting me to write an amusing comment about this after my diary entry in December 2006 but I can only say I felt embarrassed that it had become a topic!!! It's early morning now and this is a quick update (no photos) and no cryptic comments have come to mind. I may edit this page later.
14 October 2007 Mission accomplished as I have finally managed to be late for Sunday prayers! I was invited to have breakfast with Pius before he returned to Kampala and he had come yesterday specially as he is being sponsored by Chrissie from UK and he is very grateful for what he has received. He is a charming and polite young man and he deserves all he is given. Breakfast was dry tea and plantains and our meeting was too brief but better than nothing. My first visitor at the Guest House was Okerenyang, father of ten, who I was expecting in the afternoon but he had clan business to deal with so came early to discuss school, church, borehole and he-goat issues! He was joined by Modesta, mother of a different ten children, and I gave her the chicken I had been given earlier in the week. Grace had wanted it out of the kitchen cupboard as things were getting a bit smelly so she had freed it and we had to chase it far and wide before it stupidly entered the house when we closed the door on it! We sat and talked under the tree which was fine until a bird did an enormous poo on me and dropped a lizard's tail at my feet! If it had been at all possible, I would have thought the bird was at least a do-do or ostrich but maybe it was the long-eared owl who lives in the tree finishing its breakfast of lizard. They say bird droppings are lucky so I should have enough luck now for the rest of the year if quantity is anything to go by. You may have realised that today is a quiet day of rest and I even managed to have a snooze on my bed. This evening Steffie arrived with a friend and we enjoyed our supper recollecting Marjolein's wedding and last year's events in Kumi. It's an early start tomorrow as I'm off to Kampala for the pump and my buoyancy aid and to visit my two children, Lawrence and Vincent, at the Kampala School for the Disabled, then returning before the day is out, a tall order indeed!
13 October 2007 Saturday morning so it's up early for access to power to wash hair, clothes and change my bedding before being collected by Ruth's brother to go to their village for the day. He arrived with a bike with no padded seat on the back so I was pleased that I had somehow acquired a KLM cushion which provided minimal comfort as I maintained my side saddle position for about an hour over potholed tracks. It was with great relief when I had to dismount to walk over sandy paths and more difficult terrain. Ruth and I spent a delightful day in her village and ate a feast with her mother. I shelled g nuts finding it difficult to maintain an African sitting posture on the mat as sitting cross legged would be very frowned upon. Ruth and I talked, she sang and read passages from Psalms and it all seemed so perfectly peaceful in spite of the many children playing outside the hut. Her son, Paulo, enjoyed blowing bubbles and I enjoyed watching his smiling face. The time to return before dusk came all too soon and I managed the ride back without so much discomfort mainly because the metal frame made one leg fall asleep and dismounting without my leg collapsing became more of a concern than pain! No sooner was I home than Patrick, the teacher, arrived to discuss football boots and I curtailed the meeting as I was off to Dinah's to wish Elizabeth a happy second birthday. We had, as usual, a special evening with the children singing and dancing under the night sky and they enjoyed their Coca Cola treat. I left them to walk home and then realised that the darkness of the starless night was extreme and I could see nothing except the dim light from my torch which I had to shake for light. I was completely disorientated, had difficulty finding the hospital gate and then I had to tread carefully for fear of snakes and try to find gaps in the hedging to reach the Guest House. I shall always carry my powerful torch from now on as it was a strange feeling as the invisible men passed me walking faster or cycling with their incredibly good night vision. I returned to no power again so it was with relief that I got into bed, blew out my candle and quickly knew no more.
12 October 2007 Do you remember the day you got your first bike? Here is Okello Steven, brother of Okirior Gabriel, with his new bike which he kept having another look at to see if it was really real! He was very happy to be able to ride it away and pump the tyres and explore the tool bag. Another happy person was Adeke Juliet's grandmother with their new goat which is very pregnant so we have yet again managed a two for the price of one offer. The grandmother has promised to try to milk the goat and use the milk for Juliet. If this happens, I will feel that I have started to achieve a great wish of mine. We also had a mattress for little Juliet and a mosquito net. Then it was my turn to receive the gift of a chicken which is always a great pleasure. A day of giving as we followed with Moses who got a set of cycle tools and a mattress and we decided to give his grandmother a mattress also and you should have seen her face! I wonder if she had been given anything ever before. I left Moses telling him that he was to build up a good cycle repair business and then he was to keep me in my old age! Last year, Moses, who suffers from TB of the thoracic spine, was provided with a tricycle. Arriving back home very dirty, we had a pleasant surprise to find the power was on earlier than usual. Maybe it's because today is the end of Ramadhan and it's a public holiday only decided last night when the moon was seen in the Indian ocean! Very confusing! Alex decided to check his emails as I was on line and to stay for supper and he had only been gone 5 minutes when Karen appeared. I was surprised to open his In Box to find that I was the only person who had sent him emails! Now I am alone and should be washing but the temptation to update this site before bed is too good an opportunity to forego. TGIF!
11 October 2007 I was invited to Mary MacAleese School today for a concert and I am sure that the Queen herself will not have a better reception when she visits Uganda next month. I was completely flabbergasted by the whole event and appreciate the effort put in by the teachers and children alike. It was sheer delight to watch the dancing, singing, music and poetry. One act was written by the school and told of their connection with SFX in Richmond. I can't wait to return home to show the SFX children the video clips but I will never be able to convey the atmosphere of the event. I even found it easy to give my speech as there was so much I could comment on. They were so grateful for the money sent by SFX and it has been decided to buy musical instruments which they had to borrow from another school, sports equipment and school uniforms for two total orphans. My Ugandan terminology is improving and I now know the difference between an orphan and a total orphan. The children in the photo are Ojema Emmanuel, Ojangole Moses and Opolot Daniel and they are wearing the football kits which are from Mrs Cooper, an SFX teacher, who posted the clothes out for the children. No sooner was the afternoon over than Matthias picked me up from the school and we went to Kumi Hotel for the Kumi Lion's Club meeting where they discussed the flood plans. A lady from the District Council read a comprehensive report on the situation and they planned to give aid to the surrounding districts of Kumi which have not been included in the main emergency aid organisational help which is principaly in Katakwi, Soroti and Armuria districts. They hope to reduce the risks of child deaths from malaria and to provide clean water. We are meeting next Friday and then distributing the aid a week on Wednesday. They were also very grateful for the donation from Darlington Lions Club and I shall present them with a wad of notes amounting to 1,700,000/= at their next meeting. There would be a photo today but they wanted to delay until they are wearing their Lions T shirts next week which is fortuitous because I wanted to add my fourth photo of a water python and I have to admit to not taking the credit for it as Alex had my camera and spied it along with many others when travelling in the swamps north of Agu. Quite a memorable day!
10 October 2007 Two letters awaited me in the Post Office, what a delight! Thanks to Mary Lowes and Sr Mary Josephine for their chatty letters. Fieldwork with Amos in Serere started off by having to cross Agu bridge so this was my third visit to see the devestation caused by the floods. We found the area to be much worse with flooding reaching further south and the road immediately south of the bridge collapsed and deep in water. Another serious traffic jam stopping all possibility of going north had inevitably occurred. A Gateway bus driver had refused to pay 1,000/= to be escorted along the road and ended up with a 100,000/= fee to pay for having slipped off the left side and finally resting at a precarious angle before awaiting removal. A second truck had done likewise to the right and a third weighted down by a load of cement bags had nosedived into the mud between the two. Chaos ensued and we watched a vehicle removal lorry try to hitch it out without success. This was followed by a JCB which rocked the offending lorry and, after several attempts, managed to dislodge the sunken tyres and bring the vehicle out of the water. Meanwhile, buses and lorries were queueing either side of the bridge, people were walking across, going by boat or, like us, watching the proceedings with awe. The Kampala to Soroti express coach was emptied and city gents, smart middle-aged ladies in local dress (gomaz), smart young ladies in pointed shoes wondered how to continue with their journeys. Two "city men" decided on the dugout, took their shoes off, embarked and then, once away from the shore and visibly terrified of the water, were quickly brought back to land and to safety! Moses, Cocas and I decided to take a pleasure trip across and I enjoyed paddling to the other side and back with no sightings of snakes or crocodiles! We cancelled our days work as it would have been late before we saw any children and we returned to the hospital frustrated by the lack of progress. It was a plesaure to find Karen, a German girl who I first met in 2002 working in the Nutrition Unit had returned for a week's visit to the hospital. We spent the evening talking and so little got done once again.
9 October 2007 After my 6 hours on the computer, I spent some time in the Children's Village finding there were several English-speaking mums which is always a bonus. Having sat down with one, I had to do the complete round and found children were from as far as Tororo in the southeast. My dear friend Gabriel's brother Steven asked me for a favour in an unusually undemanding manner and requested a bike so that he can cycle home to see his cow which is looked after by his "uncle". He lives so far away and has dedicated his entire childhood to caring for his brother so I did not hesitate. I have a great affection for these two orphans as their lives are incredibly hard (I am aware they are one of many) and they have a special bonding with each other. Home for a shower and then on my bike with the chicken complaining about being slung over my handle bars to Aede Simon Peter's whose birthday falls on Independence Day. He was born on that very day, 9 October 1962. He has many children and now Patrick has given him his first grandchild, a little girl called Kevin. He and the mother are 18 and 17 years old and still at school. The whole family are very close and last night the boys were perfect hosts and attentive to my every need. We sang Happy Birthday as we sat outside with 5 candles stuck on the table, stars and fireflies providing light. Grace, Aede's wife, was constantly busy preparing a feast which was devoured readily. I noted as I looked around the diners in the dark that they were using forks and there was I being truly local and using my fingers. I was escorted home by the sons while Aede drove his LIVERPOOL car which has a history I cannot go into now. Patrick has access to the Internet so: Hello, Patrick! I hope you like the photo and I know it's not the one you selected. Thank you for a lovely evening and see you next year, same day!
9 October 2007 INDEPENDENCE DAY 9 OCTOBER Whilst all the people in Uganda celebrate Independence Day, marching, drinking, feasting, I am being dedicated to my duty to keep up with my diary! Observant readers will note that I have skipped a day, 8 October, and this is due to no power in the Guest House for 2 days. Last night I took the opportunity to read Life of Pi with the head torch which Anita gave me but I soon succumbed to sleep and woke early to work in Matthias' hospital office where power is supplied by the generator. For once, God willing, I can sit here unhurried until I go for birthday celebrations at Simon Peter's home later today. There is great merriment from the children outside as they enjoy their Independence Day. Yesterday I set off with Hellen Tita, the leprosy social worker, to investigate the possibility of resettling a patient who was diagnosed with leprosy in 1991 and has few signs except for two leg ulcers which have not healed. I am out of my depth in this field and would have to spend much time with them before I could feel confident in making decisions with regard to assistance. His "home" was near Mount Elgon where we could see the Sipi Falls cascading down in full flow. Florence wanted her maize grinding but everywhere we went there was no power so we brought it back with us. In Mbale, six of us had a meal in a local cafe. The patient whose name escapes me sat outside until I requested that he joined us and we had a meal of chicken (beans for me),rice and matooke for the princely sum of 11,900/= total. (£2.50). Later Chris phoned me on Skype to update me on all the developments at home and he should take much credit for everything which is happening here. He is prepared for his appeal from the pulpit on Sunday 21 October (I think) at St Augustine's telling the congregation about the floods here. The waters continue to rise and they say that the levels may not decrease until around February. I am hoping I can work with Kumi Lions Club as I did a few years ago with food for the displaced peoples in the camps. Firstly we must identify carefully the needs not covered by the UN etc. Phone network was poor so I had to go in the grass to be able to hear Chris and spotted the grass moving slowly probably heralding the existence of a snake. I did not investigate but retreated slowly thinking it could well be a frog but they usually jump high above the blades of grass. We have failed to find help for a political refugee who has been living in Darlington and is being deported to Uganda today. If there is anyone who can help and it is not too late, please contact us. Thank you again for messages and emails and, when the postal strike is over at home, I expect a large influx of letters!!!
7 October 2007 You can have a day off today as I have only taken 2 photos! Do I hear cries of Hurrah? I didn't tell you this morning that my phone rang around 6am. It was Robert announcing the death of his great aunt who we met last week in the floods. She was ancient, dying and dehydrated and I wasn't surprised to hear of the poor soul's death, may she rest in peace. He wanted 60,000/= for the burial (he had to travel over the lake, buy cement etc) and I offered 50/000=. When he arrived, I said half was a loan to be repaid which he had not expected so I don't know if he was grateful or not. I tried desperately hard once again to be late for prayers and today turned up 50 minutes late only to be early again! I'll keep on trying. A quiet day with a few visitors and a walk down to Asio Mgt as I have arranged for us both to go to the Sustainable Agriculture project by picki picki a week tomorrow. Young Moses (a CBR worker from Katakwi, probably the worst affected flood region) and I walked down to a local bar (shack surrounded by bamboo) and enjoyed a bottle of Bells lager each. This evening I had supper at Florence's, the physio assistant, in her humble abode. She has a room about 12 feet square in which she has a bed, settee and two chairs African style, three cardboard boxes of her belongings, her store of crops in 50kg sacks, a clay pot for cool water and her cooking utensils, pans and pots. We had much to discuss as we ate a feast of African tea and the best small g nuts followed by 3 fried eggs followed by rice, sweet potatoes, beans in g nut sauce and cabbage. Delicious, every bite. I have just returned in the dark passing the borehole where the frogs are having a wild party and the crickets are joining in the fun. I was on the lookout for snakes but have got back in one piece and am preparing myself for another week.
6 October 2007 It's now 5.30am, Sunday morning. There was no power last night so I went to bed at 8pm thinking whilst lying under the net that the night chorus was unusually loud. However I soon fell asleep to be woken by lights through my window and someone, maybe an ascari trying the front door, but it was thundering and lightening so I checked around and soon dropped off to sleep. This happened 3 times until a dog went wild as though there was a snake so I lent out of my bed, peered through my window to find it wide open - a dreadful error to make as I have the only windows in the house without gauze. Anyway, all's well that ends well. Few photos for yesterday as we went to see the Bishop's Ordination and my camera was almost confiscated at the gate by President Musseveni's dreaded fiercesome soldiers. I escaped by a whisker and had to leave, find our driver and he took it to the vehicle where it baked in the heat. I don't think they know about mobile phones for photos and if I had had one I would have blatantly photographed the ceremony in full. The President had a large tent to himself and his guards whilst we, commoners, literally baked in the heat. The whole affair was painfully long and drawn out with thousands of people present all trying to shade themselves with every conceivable item balanced on their heads. I had a delightful young student who held my umbrella over me for the entire service but still the sweat poured down me and my local dress which is now soaking as it must stink with sweat. No photos of the tribal dancing or the impressive ceremony but only of the journey coming through the flood. We were to tackle Agu bridge but luckily we heard that trucks had blocked the road so Awoja swamps were the only alternative.The police let us drive through rather than go in a boat but I would have preferred to be safe in a boat on the water than in a vehicle with windows closed driving with water up to the rim of the bonnet over a pot-holed road.Fortunately we had a vehicle in front which stirred up the murram when its tyre entered a pot-hole and gave us warning. We soaked the pedestrians as we splashed through and the cyclists wobbled precariously as they were hit by the waves! Everyone laughs and makes the best of it unlike yesterday when tempers were getting frayed and fights started. The UN have provided boats and buoyancy aids at this crossing point, the main route north. I didn't nearly finish yesterday's story and will just mention Moses who was given a tricycle last year and is part of my 2006 presentation (photo of fishing baskets which are in our garden). He now goes to school (P1 and the equivalent of our 1st primary class), takes the jerry can to the borehole where the children really like him and they fill it and put it on the base of the tricycle for him and he has also started a small bicycle repair business. My plan this year is to fund school uniform which he hasn't got, buy some bicycle repair tools for him to do more than repair punctures and to build him a hut of his own. He sleeps with his grandmother which is not very acceptable here and as he is incontinent it is not nice for her. He is very contracted and sleeps on a maize bag folded in two so I shall provide him with a short mattress. He is thoroughly spoilt but I worry about the time his grandmother dies and he is alone. I was very moved when he held up a chicken for me as he has so little to give. It is now in the kitchen with its legs tied together, living off rice and awaiting slaughter when I take it to Aede SP for his birthday on Tuesday, Independence Day.
5 October 2007 Often on waking up, I wonder what the day has in store for me and today proved to be another very different one. Herewith is a very abridged version about a bridge. Setting off for Ngora with a vehicle crammed with very old eye patients plus luggage, we made good progress dropping them off as near their homes as possible, giving assistance for boda bodas when necessary and we continued on the road to survey Agu bridge and compare it with last week's visit. On its approach, we encountered many trucks, Gateway buses and 4-wheel drives queueing to cross so we parked in the shade of a mango tree and set off on foot to investigate the delay. Chaos in the extreme was taking place with the driver of a large truck insisting on proceding across the bridge only to get stuck in the murram. The truck in front had also halted at a precarious angle and this had resulted in many people taking to the dug outs or risking walking over the bridge which was submerged by two feet at least (well above the knees). Chickens were being ferried in the dug outs from north to south but it is in the north that there is little food so that seemed to make no sense to me. I don't think that it was all that essential for most of the trucks to cross over such as the Bell's Lager lorry, also a heavy truck laden with arms, guns and mortars for the north. I'm really too tired to write more so I shall try to continue later although tomorrow it's a 6am start for the Bishop's Consecration. I hear that President Musseveni will be there but I am not sure if we can make it as it's either over the bridge or over the swamps by boat. Watch this space!
4 October 2007 I'm hoping this will be a short epistle today as I've come in late after joining Robert and Jane for their 4th wedding anniversary and have had a hairy drive home in the dark. All my batteries are exhausted; cameras, phone and me, the former being easier to recharge than mine!I was dropped off at Robert's after a busy outreach clinic which proved very interesting and I have attached 4 of the milder photos for you. Our journey was mostly uneventful but we almost squashed a large monitor lizard as it ambled across the road and then decided to go from whence it had come. There were plenty of potholes, puddles and papyrus grass, a crop I always admire. Lunch was non-existent and I only had my flask of water but we were so busy with the patients that we didn't notice any hunger pangs. We finished before Michael Achellung who saw 85 eye patients so we went to visit another 2 disabled boys at their home. The mother has a horrendously tough life with these two who may well be 30 and 40 years old but it was impossible to tell. This was poverty in the extreme and she must have had to work by shear drudgery to be able to get through each day. Ruth talked in Ateso to her and we decided to fund her for some goats, food and maybe some second hand clothes. It will be difficult for me to forget the mother's face when we were leaving and she had had time to see how much she had been given. Winning the lottery would not have such an impact on one of us! Poor Alex has malaria so he found the driving difficult. I really don't know how they keep going without complaint when they are ill. I have a few bits of news in that the boxes have arrived in Kampala and Matthias will bring them here next week. I am due to attend the Bishop's consecration in Soroti on Saturday but the water is still rising and the last bridge is impassable but we all continue to pray! We may manage the swamps in a boat but a helicopter would be best. I think none of us will get there. Finally I have one tanned arm and one white arm which is always the case as I sit in the Land Cruiser with my left arm resting out of the window. Now I must wash the sweat and dirt away, scrub my feet and probably crawl under my mosquito net with my candle lit. Good night!
3 October 2007 Have you ever seen a rainbow round the sun? It was a pity we couldn't look straight at it and it was Alex who took the photo with the jet stream of a plane no doubt going to cooler climes. Supposedly it heralds the death of an important peson and we hadn't gone much further when we heard that a clan chief had died so it must be true! He also took the photo of my two dear friends, Osapuku and Tabule. What a welcome Osapuku gave me. I've never experienced such genuine affection ( apart from my family, I hasten to add). He cuddled in like a baby although he must be well into his teens as the sister who follows him is married with a family. Tabule is the elder of the two brothers and they are small with a poor skin because they suffer from a syndrome. I'm not well up on syndromes even though there is a large volume dedicated to these conditions alone in the department so don't expect me to be any more enlightening please! I took the photo of the lamb and if you have got round to left-clicking to enlarge them you will find it is in an enormous format. I'm not going to start to work on that detail tonight. The last photo shows Cocas, the Occupational Therapist, showing the grandparents of Okusa Simon a daily exercise routine for the child who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. You may have realised that today we were out in the field following up children with disabilities in their homes. Once more, I could write a book about this day alone as we did so much. Travelling along pot-holed roads, tracks, across the bush getting bumped up and down and side to side until, by the end of the day, we are exhausted but very satisfied with our day's work. I saw a cow which I bought last year and it looked very healthy. The two boys were given a few pennies to buy some new second-hand clothes, I gave travelling assistance to enable children to reach the hospital and mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets are high on my shopping list and I'm well into helping the poor children. Chris rang twice and he will have to start his own website as he is getting more and more involved in the programme. He has arranged for a bilge pump for the hospital pump house to be sent out by DHL and he assures me that it will arrive at the hospital early next week. I really can't think that a DHL van driver will ever find Kumi Hospital although I do know they have an office in Kampala. I think there will be a buoyancy aid in the delivery also and I hope it has the colours of the bush and is not bright orange. I will want to be unnoticeable whilst wearing it but it will be a comfort for me to know it is there. Tomorrow night, I'm visiting a couple whose wedding I went to in 2002 as it is their wedding anniversary so I have a night off from my www. Thanks again to everyone for everything!
2 October 2007 Another interesting day and I can now admit to having rowed over the lake (without a buoyancy aid!) without mishap. This was to monitor the flood situation and to decide where help is needed but I am no clearer than I was before I set out. Robert and I set out on his motor bike (he kindly lent me his helmet), me holding a cavera (carrier bag) containing 10kg sugar and 10 packets of salt. The roads were muddy and it was more like being a tight rope walker than a pillion passenger. We reached the lake shore and waited for the bike, a heifer, more push bikes, chickens, sacks and a few passengers to be on board and we set off sailing over crops and bushland, past an almost submerged local "hotel", over a market and then across the lake. Robert informed me that we were going uphill in the boat and then we would soon start to go downhill and no matter how hard I tried to convince him otherwise, he continued to stand firm with his facts.At the far side, we unloaded and set off over even more precarious roads, tracks, over bush land, through savanna, up a hill and down the other side to reach the road only passable for many miles by dugouts being paddled by the locals. Often I had to dismount and walk to avoid the bike and us falling over.We did a detour and visited his uncle and then his in-laws where we were given African tea and groundnuts hot from the fire. Then on to a school where we had to listen to many speeches and then give speeches. The children sat having their mug of posho, lunch which has been provided by the Ministry of Disaster. We visited the camps where the floods washed through last month causing devestation to the huts which had collapsed in all directions. The water was putrid and bubbling with gases. I was pleased to get out. Then another school where the families sleep at night as their huts are either collapsed, about to collapse or where everything inside is drenched. I saw some soggy straw outside the huts where people were sleeping. They were still having to keep their cattle in corales due to the Karamajong activities. I was pleased to do the return journey except by now the wind had got up and we had a more difficult boat ride with the boat being blown off course into the reeds and the propeller getting bunged up. Both ways I was treated like the queen as I was escorted to our boat by a dugout so that I didn't get my feet wet so I felt like a bit of a wimp! At last we reached home, once again tired and dirty, but the chicken I carried was fine and the bag of g-nuts and greens was almost without holes but not quite. Of course, there were more visitors. Priscilla brought a cake, G-nut paste and 3 enormous avocados from her mother, Mgt Asio. Fred came and stayed for supper. Now I'm trying to complete this before falling into bed after an exhausting day. I must thank everyone for all their messages and emails. It's lovely to hear from you! Loads more photos for today but maybe later!
1 October 2007 A hospital-based, people-orientated as opposed to task-orientated day today starting off with Gabriel who lies all day in the corner looking terrible sick and contracted. His brother had collected lemons and I asked to buy one but he wanted to give it to me. I managed to give him 200/= which brought a smile to his face - it will buy a chapatti each for him and Steven. I had arranged to meet Hellen Tita, the leprosy social worker, to work out a resettling programme. She had a list of patients but I insisted on taking only one, Mukwana, and next week we are to take him to his home. He is 45 years old but an orphan and was living with his aunt. His wife and 2 children left when he was discovered to suffer from leprosy. Our plan is to look at possibilities to make him independent with land and a hut and then to visit his wife to see if she will return. Time will tell. He is not too disabled and, all being well and God willing, we may succeed. Then we had the ward round but Dr Olupot was busy with the security guards and we returned to the department for a lively discussion with the 2 new physios, Adam and Gerard. The variety of topics included Charles Darwin, the anatomy of giraffes, the west coast of S America amongst others. A good laugh was had by all. The ward patients did get treated, I had crutches shortened for a man with external fixation to his tibia and managed to get him walking without him collapsing on me. A women was screaming with pain from a fractured femur which Florence reduced by physical force. She is very strong! I came home early as I have a sore throat and runny nose but also as I was expecting Robert to plan tomorrow's trip to see the floods. We are to leave early to catch the boat! I hope I will be able to recount the tale tomorrow. Dorothy, a nurse from Jinja, and Dinah, an anaesthetist, also called so we had a houseful. When all was quiet and there was no power, I went to bed very early to sleep off my "flu", so now I'm up early to write up the diary as so many of you out there are reading it daily!
30 September 2007 Quote of the Week: 1. On going through a child's exercise books and finding her work was very poor, I asked her if she sat at the front or the back of the class. She looked at me with big white eyes and said "I haven't got a seat!" Quote 2 from "Do not unsaddle your Horse." by Mgt Phillips who worked in Kumi Leprosy Centre in the 60's and 70's: "Suddenly I realised that I was more at home in Africa than in the "developed" world. It was difficult to enjoy fully the things that appeared to be extravagant and it seemed wrong to be part of them." I tried very hard to be late for prayers and left home at 7.45 for the 7.00 service only to find I was only the 4th person there. The other 3 were my leprosy friends so it was good to shake their hands or handless arms again. The church has come on in leaps and bounds and is looking very good. New benches would be nice but not 100% necessary! Tom, the choir master, is proud of his 'new' guitar but luckily for me he reverts to the acungo and drums for some of the hymns. Back for breakfast and I sat in the shade and read a whole book without too many interruptions. Children joined me and could stay if they were quiet, the battered wife who comes every year came for assistance but got none. Her husband who now has 2 new wives beats her and her baby but none of their other children or his other wives. I gave her the same reasoning as last time and told her to send her husband with the clan chief but she said he feared me and well he might! He has not appeared. I wonder what the next week has to offer. Wait and see!
29 September 2007 I know I cannot keep this www going each day as it is VERY time consuming! I should be ironing whilst there is power. Saturday and a day to do my washing, wash my hair, tidy my room, write letters and read! Three children called and they enjoyed their morning colouring, cutting out and reading while I got on with my chores. Many visitors came; friendly hellos from the staff and then two equally friendly policemen who wanted a statement from Grace regarding the theft a few weeks ago from one of the guest rooms. I think the naughty little boy who climbed through my window a couple of years ago stealing a Fox's glacier mint is the culprit and that my dragging him by the ears to his mother did not have the desired effect to deter him from future burglaries. Another visitor was a frog who escaped execution as the men were slashing the grass with large pangas. It sneaked through the door and I had to get it out because they are poisonous and also make a lot of noise at night trying to climb the wall. Lunch was at Asio Margaret's where I go every year. It was more than lunch as I had about three meals all eaten alone. The children enjoyed playing with a jigsaw and reading a simple book I had taken. Mgt thought the jigsaw was a picture and was going to hang it on the wall! I had to come home for supper so I have had about 5 meals today. I always seem to have an extra meal slipped in during the day and my trousers are tighter than when I came. Chris Skyped and I reported no rain today but then the heavens opened and there was a terrible storm right overhead. Now there are very strange noises outside and there are large gaps in the "curtains" so I hate to think who is peering in. My eyes are firmly on the keyboard.
28 September 2007 Today I went to Ngora for a Workshop with Send a Cow. I had a ride by boda boda to Kumi Town where I sat on the ground outside the Post Office for 2.5 hours waiting for their bus to arrive. Waiting is just part of being in Africa and, so long as you have a good book, you just have to wait. Anyway, it arrived and I set off with workers from Rwanda, Lesotho, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and more African countries, to learn about many subjects pertaining to farming. These included making organic pesticide from such items as neem leaves, pesticide control, compost making, grafting fruit trees, cow and goat management, heat-efficient wood-burning LORENA stoves. The photos will explain. My interest was to explore the possibilities of providing goats for milk production and I came away bewildered but eager to go forward with my idea. If (and it's a big IF) I can find a group of people who would be interested to enrol for a 2 day a week training programme, they can learn many aspects of farming in Ngora. The progress they have made in 2 years is staggering with a diversity of crops and farm management skills. The peasant farmer who was selected to start off the programme in this region had been widowed, depressed, poor and had 8 children to support. Now she is the richest, sends her children to school, sells her crops and water and has a good understanding of farm husbandry. She can also teach her skills to others and so I hope my plan works but it all depends on people here willing to learn. I myself have learnt that seemingly good plans often fail so I must not be disappointed. I thank David Bragg for inviting me to join them for the day. We ended the day with a banquet, singing by the local choir, speeches and much merriment. Back to Kumi and it was almost dark so I hailed a pickipicki and was back in the Guest House just in time to make a cup of lemon tea before there was a knock on the door. I was hot, sweaty and dirty and was almost ashamed to find Consolata Opolot looking cool, smart and smelling sweetly. We talked a while before her husband, John, called for her and we continued our conversation as we had lots to talk about having not seen anything of each other since Marjolein's wedding in Delft. When they left, I had my supper (no power) by candlelight and decided to use the battery power in the laptop to open up my emails. The flying insects were drawn to the screen so I finally gave up peering through so many mozzies etc to wash and go to bed by candle light. Listening to the BBC World Service, I know all about Burma but nothing about UK news. David told me England were playing rugby but with whom, I know not. I wonder who won! It doesn't seem to matter here.
27 September 2007 Greetings! How is there? Here is fine, well, almost! What a day and where do I start? Before Morning Assembly, I called to see Gabriel who returned from Mulago Hospital where he went yesterday for review. I suppose the news is good as he is on drug treatment and not further radiotherapy as expected. He left at 5am and returned at midnight, enough for the fittest of us but for him, certainly not. I would have liked to have gone but didn't want to face up to such a journey. Morning Assembly and Didymus, the Catechist, spoke from his heart about the hardships that the floods have caused. He called it God's revenge and that He had filled the lakes with large snakes in return for all the bad deeds of Man. After, I visited Moses, the dentist, to give him the Dentaid items. He was very happy. Then off to Ngora with Alex and Ruth to enrol her "sister" who is actually a 20 year old orphan into Nursing School. The Principal Tutor was a dry man and I was not going to be beaten so asked to write a letter there and then in return for consideration for ketty's admission. We have to wait until 16 October before we hear the result. We decided to visit Agu bridge which is the last remaining bridge north to Soroti. What a dreadful sight! The water was like a lake where normally there is just a trickle. It was surging through the bridge leaving no leeway for another centimetre. The current was vicious. Floating islands of papyrus were hitting the bridge and men were hacking, sawing and slashing to release these to prevent blockage of the water flow. One man was almost swept away but rescued by the others before he was taken downstream. A UN pickup came and 2 Japanese officials took photos and drove on. Enormous trucks continued to cross and the vibrations could be heard as well as felt. Police were monitoring the surface by prodding with sticks only to find it soft. Water started to flow over one end while lorries brought load after load of murram and rocks to maintain a firm surface. The entire traffic load up to Sudan is crossing this bridge and if the water continues to rise, then there will be a big disaster.I was relieved to reverse the vehicle, cross the bridge and head for home. Later, the window of a bus broke and we were shattered with large pieces of glass seriously damaging our windscreen. I shielded my face for fear of cuts but was OK. We stopped for a drink of water before visiting Simon Peter Onerenyang, a 24 year old boy in Kumi University who we are helping. He was very, very grateful and makes me wish we could help lots more. Finally, at 5pm we stopped for lunch at Home Again, one of my favourite eating stops where I had rice and beans, before returning home. My pink T-shirt is red with murram showing how very dirty I must be but I am taking advantage of power before having my "shower in a bowl". This evening I have had a visitor, Margaret Asio, and I hate to say that I was too busy to invite her to stay just because of power and the opportunity of using the computer. She brought me a bag of sugar-coated g-nuts. I have despised the time spent on this machine for a long time now but even more so when it presents itself in such an inhospitable manner. However, I have invited myself for Saturday lunch in her hut and I will have all day with her. Tomorrow should be a good day but more later...
26 September 2007 I've given up on my photos so sorry for the jumble! I will try for the umpteenth time when my patience returns! Already I could have taken a thousand photos and could write a book about the last 24 hours. I was welcomed warmly in the Morning Assembly and had no time to register in at physiotherapy before Matthias and I took the opportunity to visit Lake Bisini to see the state of the pump house. It seems that you all know about the Ugandan floods but I know little except for the true facts of what I see and hear. The last bridge north of Kumi has fallen and so now the poor people are cut off from civilisation. Their huts, crops, water etc are destroyed and so once again they are without anything and unable to have access to health care. Malaria and many other diseases such as cholera, dyssentry, typhoid could result. I hear that helicopters are flying in food but always insufficient and only the tip of an iceberg. We rowed to the pump house in a dugout with Robert, the engineer and pump house attendants who are constantly baling the water out. The sight of the floods was dramatic and far worse than I had expected. I hope my photos explain more than words. I had a text message from Dominic who hoped I had brought my Wellies and never was a truer word written. The gum boot factories must be churning out hundreds of bright blue boots per day. But I can reassure you that Kumi Hospital is fine although the pumps will probably be moved to the shore (!) for safety. This will result in a return to borehole water once more for us all, an inconvenience for me but a serious loss for the hospital. Back to the hospital and I visited the leprosy patients and ate their food. Luckily for me the atap which is probably my least favourite Ugandan food was not ready so I had to suffice with "g nut stew", quite delicious! I asked for seconds to show my appreciation. We visited the orthopaedic ward to treat patients and things have not changed here in the last year. Back to my room and I was greeted by Francis Okerenyang and we talked outside until dark. I always enjoy his stories about the old days in the hospital but he told me about what happened to the very sick leprosy patients a few decades ago - too terrible to record. Supper with Alex and Matthias during which time Chris Skyped me as he has not been getting my text messages. After supper, I had the laptop plug 1cm from the socket when power failed so it was candles for the rest of the evening and early to bed but my mind was too active for sleep.
21 -25 September 2007 Up at 4 am to start the journey to Entebbe Aiport and I had no body searches and getting through Customs went smoothly this time. Matthias met me and we drove along the road now clear of all the clutter in preparation for the Queen's visit in November (or was it cleared for me as my initials are also ER) to his home in Kampala. I was happy to go straight to bed as the last few weeks seem to have been too hectic. The weekend with Rebecca and Matthias was a welcome tonic and on Monday morning Matthias and I set off for Kumi. This day was my wedding anniversary and I was presented with a flower and small bottle of wine by Matthias and Rebecca. Chris didn't forget and I received an email with his good wishes. It's a long ride made longer by the state of the roads which seem to go from bad to worse each year. After taking an Indian lunch at 3.30 pm, we finally reached the Guest House at Kumi Hospital only to find that I am once again in "my" room. A pleasant surprise as I had not expected it. Anna, flowers, clean, crisp white sheets, new lino and a new towel awaited me and so I have 10 weeks of luxury. Power is turned on at 8.00 each night by the hospital and off at 8.00 am which is a bit of a nuisance as it gets dark and light before these times. Re-chargeable lamps have replaced paraffin lamps but these have a short light span before recharging is necessary so paraffin lamps continue to be on standby. Dr Dan, the eye surgeon from Tororo, and his nurse, Beatrice, were also staying and so a pleasant evening was spent and the bottle of wine enjoyed
18 September 2007 Two talks today to the children at St Mary's RC School in Richmond and what a wonderful morning it was for me! Last week the staff had organised a coffee/tea afternoon for the parents and this raised £145.00 for the Kumi Community Fund. I was presented with the cheque and I reassured the children that it was like us winning the lottery as it was equal to over 500,000/= in Uganda. What a lot this can buy for the school! The children listened intently to the presentation and video clips and came up with the most thought-provoking questions I have ever been asked. It demonstrated the concentration and understanding of these youngsters and they are to be commended on their search for knowledge. Many thanks to Maureen Reid and the staff for their warm hospitality. After I went next door to St Francis Xavier School where I was given a cheque for money raised by Lenten donations. I was also given letters to distribute to the children and teachers in Mary MacAleese School in Kumi. My thanks go to the headmaster, Dr McAuley, for his encouragement in this venture. A big thank you to both schools and I hope the links continue to grow from strength to strength.Next stop was ABLE in Catterick Village where I left the photo displays for Friday's big Open Day which is to be opened by Rt Hon William Hague. Proceeds from the raffle and auction are for Kumi and Lynn Tomkinson made note of the cost of items such as mosquito nets, mattresses, goats, huts and cows. She has a busy day ahead of her and I am sorry to miss it but I will be in flight on my way to warmer climes. My final visit was to Norma White who has knitted many baby jackets which will be perfect for children with fevers. Her friend, Doreen, had also been busy with the knitting needles. So...more things to pack before Camair come on Thursdayto collect the 8 boxes all ready (well, almost) Today has led to 2 hours of letter writing and paperwork and now a quick update of the www whilst I can. More events to add but they are for another day.
12 September 2007 Kay Morrissey opened her house to her parish's Ladies Group and all was going well until the mains water pipe burst in Yarm High Street causing Kay's house to be without a water supply. This demonstrated what life is like without a flush toilet! The water board left her many litres of bottled water for us to use but they restored the system just in time. Many friends who were unable to come brought raffle prizes and with lots of others, we had an amazing raffle raising £188.00. My thanks go to Kay for her hospitality.
7 September 2007 Today I was invited to the Darlington Inner Wheel meeting for an update. My old Guide Captain, Betty Gregg, is this year's president and it was a pleasure to be there. The club has contributed towards the school fees for Lawrence who is now attending Kampala School for the Disabled. I am to take him a letter from the club. I was also given more little dresses to send beautifully made by Dorothy Pearson. Less than 2 weeks to go before I leave and much more box-packing and preparation is required.
20 August 2007 The response to last week's newspaper articles has been positive and it has been good to hear from people I have not seen for a while. This afternoon, Brother Robert came to tell us that his annual Kumi appeal at St Peter's RC Church, Hinckley, has once again been a magnificent success. Many thanks to him for continuing to support the Kumi people and for the congregation for their overwhelming generosity. A letter bearing a Ugandan stamp arrived this morning with a novel request. Odeke Isaac Paul informs me that he is the best football player in Adesso Primary School. He has a vision and will make sure he will become one of the best players in his nation, Africa, if supported! I shall look forward to watching him play in a few weeks time.
15 August 2007 Last Monday, Jim Entwhistle, a young journalist from the Northern Echo, came to hear about life in Kumi. He wanted to use a photo and I gave him one taken by Alex Oumo, the driver in Kumi. We "Skyped" Alex who answered his mobile phone whilst on fieldwork and we asked for his permission to use his photo. He kindly granted us permission and on Tuesday morning the article was printed. The best part for me was to have the photo taken by Alex accredited to him. He will be unbelievably happy to see his name actually in print! I have had a good response to the article which also appeared in Saturday's Darlington and Stockton Times. Jim was interested in the history of the LRA and is now reading the book on the Aboke Girls. He has written to the Home Office and the Foreign Office so lets hope he can have some input in highlighting the plight of the victims of the rebel activity.
21 July 2007 Marjolein, the Dutch nurse who I first met in Kumi in 2002, today married Jeroen in Delft, Holland. Kumi Hospital Medical Superintendent, Dr John Opolot and his wife, Consolata who had never been out of Africa, attended and John and I read 2 poems by Susan Kiguli. This was followed by singing the hymn, What a Friend we have in Jesus, which is sung on many a morning at Morning Assembly by the Kumi hospital staff. Dr John and I sang at our usual tempo while the organist played at European speed causing us to be half a verse in front in no time! Steffie, a midwife who is a regular visitor to Kumi Hospital, was also a guest and she is returning in October when we will meet again. Dr John visited her hospital where he opened an exhibition of photos by a professional photographer who visited last year. He was also interviewed for Dutch TV. A Dutch TV team went out earlier this year and made a documentary series which has been televised there. Perhaps someone will read this and offer to do likewise here in UK!
8 July 2007 The day of Chris Challan's concert in Preston, near Hitchin in Hertfordshire, has arrived after many week's of preparation by her, Welwyn Harmony and the Luton Gospel Community Choir. On behalf of the Kumi Community, I wish to thank everyone for the enthusiasm and generosity generated from this great occasion. The singers, I heard, sang their hearts out and waived all expenses. The audience responded fantastically and the cheque presented to the fund is £995.00! I can't begin to thank people enough nor to name each and everyone but I hope I can do justice in using the fund to its best advantage.
3 July 2007
Two talks today, one to the Consett group of the Women's Network of the Methodist Church in the afternoon and the other at Girsby Womens Institute in the evening. Both went well and I enjoyed the delicious strawberry and cream scones at Consett's Strawberry Tea, definitely a perk of the job. At Girsby Village Hall, I explained to the ladies about the infrastructure of a Ugandan village and thought that maybe it wasn't too different from Girsby. I would have to return to explore further but I saw little sign of habitation in Girsby. The journey there was also not dissimilar having to cope with flooded, narrow, winding roads and crossing the bridge over the River Tees at Dinsdale. Liz and I did not delay to observe the swirling, angry waters beneath us. Again I think the talk went well and was followed by many questions. Each member had had to bring an African object for me to judge which was extremely difficult as I think there is much rivalry to be the overall winner when the points are added up at the end of their year. I hope I was tactful in my decision! A raffle was held and the proceeds given for the Kumi Community Fund. Another feast was laid before us and I went home having had a day of eating out. Christopher is beginning to wonder if I will ever put a meal in front of him but he's good with the porridge and baked beans. The greetings cards and bookmarks sold well and I have asked Moira to make another batch. The total made since Moira made the first cards at the end of May is £148.00.
25 June 2007
Adesso Primary School 1 Mary McAleese P/S 2 ................ I received 3 aborted mobile phone calls (how the caller can communicate with the recipient without it costing the caller a bean!) to inform me of the result of the replay football match. I Skyped Patrick who told me his sad news and Robert who was ecstatic. I shall now look forward to the 2007 Schools Sports Day which will take place when I am there.
20 June 2007
Today I received a letter from Francis Okerenyang and photos of their Good Friday "Way of the Cross". He gave me an update on his family news as well as the school and the hospital. The football match replay is scheduled for this term and I look forward to hearing the result. Will Adesso Primary School or Mary MacAleese Primary School win the trophy?
10 June 2007
Good news at last from Robert Ecelat, teacher at Mary MacAleese School, Kumi. "What a joy that we have finally got letters. The teachers and pupils are happy. Greetings to your family and students." Chris Brookes of St Francis Xavier School carefully posted 3 packets of letters at Easter!
2 June 2007
OPEN DAY Saturday 2 June 2007 A cloudy start but soon Anita, Pat and Barry arrived to finalise the preparations and the sun broke through. Marion brought her chilled soup and Rocky Road. Cakes, scones, prizes and plants appeared and the house and garden filled with throngs of visitors all day. Moira's cards were again a focal point and sold well. Sam, Ben and Joe helped with Guess the Clown's Name and the weight of a fruit cake until they decided it was more fun to play in the garden. The day passed most successfully and ended with a barbecue for the kitchen crew and money reckoners. Anita kindly phoned the raffle prize winners and organised delivery of the same. Sunday morning was clearing up and recollecting on the day before. The total at the time of writing is in excess of £2,000.00 and we cannot begin to mention everybody so a big thank you to everyone!
29 May 2007
The house is filling up with tombola and raffle prizes, Traidcraft items, display boards for this year's update, cakes, soup, plants etc. The garden is splendid and the rain keeps watering it. The phone keeps ringing and we all feel as though Kumi has taken over completely. An email from Kumi tells us that the crops are failing due to lack of rain and it is a serious situation.
26 May 2007
A few people are unable to come to the Open Day on 2 June and so a small coffee morning was held. The garden is looking great, the sun shone and we were able to have coffee up the garden. We went through the presentation and all went well.
22 May 2007
A morning talk to the National Council of Women (Darlington) at the Millenium Centre, All Saints Church, Darlington. Moira Culpan's cards sold well and I hope she will have time to make another batch.
4 May 2007
I was invited to St Francis Xavier School for a Service of Thanksgiving for the rebuilding which was followed by speeches, a tour of the school and lunch. Baroness Estelle Morris gave a most impressive speech and held us all spellbound throughout. It was quite an eye opener for me to go on a tour of the school to see the new facilities. I think most of us wished we could turn the clock back and be a pupil once more. Chris Brookes told me that letters to Mary MacAleese children had been sent in 3 packets about 3 weeks ago but they have yet to arrive. I sent Robert Ecelat, the teacher, a text message and he replied saying they were eagerly awaiting the delivery.
OPEN DAY 2007
Saturday 2 JUNE is the date of this year's Open Day so planning has started, invitations are being sent out and everyone is welcome. Christopher and I hope the garden will be as good as it is at present but we think it may be at an inbetween stage with less colour. He is busy taking cuttings for the plant stall. Offers of help will be gratefully accepted so please phone if you have an hour or so to spare on the day. Many people are away on holiday and so we are having a small (?) coffee morning on Saturday 26 May from 10.30 am.
18 April 2007
Our small AIC group met at home and I set everything up for the presentation. It was the second time Maureen had seen it as she is also a member of Cleasby WI but she kindly said she enjoyed it as much. It was the first time for Angela, Lynne and Liz and they asked many questions.
16 April 2007
My next talk was in Richmond Town Hall to the Richmond WI, a thriving, active group of over 45 members. They also were planning their summer outing.
21 March 2007
Christopher and I set off down the A1 to go to Preston in Hertfordshire to give a talk to the Preston Village Society. We stayed with Chris Challans who was very well organised. She managed to seat 30 - 40 people for the presentation and this was followed with many questions and refreshments. The talk was to precede their Lenten Lunch on the Friday which was also well attended and Christine sent a most generous donation for the fund. A concert in the local church is planned for July and once again the donations are for Kumi. We woke the following morning to a smattering of snow and then drove home. My thanks go to Chris for arranging the events and also to her husband, Bob, for their kind hospitality.
20 March 2007
I gave a talk to Cleasby Womens Institute and listened in to their planning for their summer outing. I came home wondering if it would be the Skipton Canal or the River Tyne trip.
28 February 2007
The Darlington Trefoil Guild invited me talk to them on Thinking Day at Elm Ridge Methodist Church. It was a priviledge for me to attend their meeting and to watch the short ceremony highlighting the four areas in the world which they support.Iwas received warmly and was given a generous donation for the Kumi Community Fund. Thank you!
23 February 2007
Northallerton Rotary Club, Black Bull, Northallerton. Following lunch, the President, Clive Harries, gave an introduction to my presentation and presented me with a cheque for Kumi Community Fund.
17 February 2007
Scorton Churches Together held a coffee morning where Pat and Barry Cooper manned the Kumi stall and sold cards raising £20.00 for the fund. Many thanks to them both for their enthusiasm and support. There is no one in the world like Barry with the ability to raise funds.
2 February 2007
Off to St Francis Xavier School to deliver the letters from Mary MacAleese School. Year 8 children were very interested to hear about their counterparts in Kumi and were eagerly awaiting the distribution of the letters. Christine Brooks assured me that replies would be written to be sent out to Uganda. I texted Robert Ecelat, the teacher, to tell him that the children had received their letters and he is looking forward to replies from the children and the teachers.
23 January 2007
My first talk of 2007 was to Darlington Lions Club where I met up with lots of familiar faces. The first time is always difficult and so I have since tweeked it a bit so that it flows better.
le to 12 January 2007
I have had a reply from Buckingham Palace, not quite the Queen but her Senior Correspondence Officer. I sent her a copy of the Aboke Girls book. "Her Majesty has taken careful note of your comments regarding your views on the activities of the LRA." The letter has been passed to the Office of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs because "as a constitutional Sovereign Her majesty acts on the advice of her Ministers." I was shocked to read that the LRA have an official office in London and, as the Queen is going to Kampala for the Commonwealth Meeting later this year, I wanted her to be aware of this.
10 January 2007
Christmas and New Year over and it's time to prepare my PowerPoint presentation for 2007. I am doing so much better than last year having been given "PowerPoint 2003 for Dummies" by Peter who may be hoping there is still a glimmer of hope that his mother can manage without his help. I have received a letter from Gabriel Okiria, a boy I have known for a few years now. "Dear Elspeth, Nice to hear from you. I am actually fine. How about you? Thank you very much for the cushien. It's realy helpfill, God bless you for the care. You asked me of my brother but I also don't know how he is doing. Because I last hard from him when we departed on 5 of Febury. I got your letter. I wish you well and asafe journy back to England and hope seeing you again God wishes. God bless so much. With lots of love and prayers Gabriel Okiria. Bye-Bye stay blessed" Gabriel is a paraplegic of about 14 who we managed to get into the school in Kampala with Vincent but he has been extremely ill most of the year so there have been no school fees to pay. I had text messages saying he wasn't expected to live through one day but he has survived in spite of severe urinary infections and pressure sores. He is an orphan and he and his brother are very special to me.
28 December 2006
Home now for 3 weeks and it's difficult to adjust. I spoke to many of my friends on Christmas Day on Skype which was almost unbelievable - talking into my computer and the phone ringing in the mud huts! Today I received a text message from Ruth: "Dear, I have just got breaking news that our Sarah is dead. Lets pray for her soul. Amen" Just a month ago we were resettling her but it so often happens that once they are aware of their illness, they die very soon.
3-6 December 2006
Up early to finalise my packing and, although I came laden, I am leaving more laden with 5 fishing baskets in a maize bag, caveras (black plastic bags) full of cassava, sweet potatoes, ground nuts, simsim balls, ground nut paste, gnut brittle, gnut cake,letters for the school children and to post in UK for the staff as well as my big bag, back pack, laptop etc. My last breakfast eaten,I was greeted by Vivian, Jennifer, Martha and Naomi who came with more letters of farewell and also to pray for a safe journey, a most moving example of their culture. Fond farewells to the Guest House staff and I piled into the Land Cruiser and set off for Kampala sitting in the back whilst Dr Ekure took the comfortable front seat. I sat squashed with other doctors, wives and lots of luggage in the back until we reached Kampala hours later. It was an exercise in tolerance as I had previously enjoyed sitting in the front while many times more patients were squeezed into the back with all their belongings including live chickens. At least, it was possible for Dr Robert and me to synchronise changing our leg positions in some degree of comfort. I was reminded of my first return to Kampala in 2002 when I was sharing the front seat with Karen. I had worn a skirt all the time I was there and was sitting enjoying the scenery when something wriggled wildly up my skirt. I screamed extremely loudly and the driver drew up to the side, let me out for me to find no snake nor rat and feeling somewhat stupid. Continuing with the journey and after quite a while, a large (at least 18 inches) lizard leapt from the back to the front and so I now knew the cause of my alarm. I can cope with lizards but it's disconcerting when the creature is an unknown quantity. And so, we arrived in Kampala, I transferred my belongings into Sergio's vehicle and said fond farewells to Alex but leaving my camera behind...another story. So that's Kumi for another year. My last 2 days were spent comfortably with Regina - showering, shopping in Banana Boat,lunch with Kim in a very nice restuarant, booking air tickets for Sergio in a travel agent where they were putting up Xmas decorations - and quickly adapting to civilisation. Monday I visited my 2 Plan children, Grace and Gloria, in Lowero and became aware of the amount of funding which goes to the south and west of Uganda while the north east is seriously forgotten and neglected. I got a taxi to the airport, bought 2 Aboke Girls books one of which I have sent to the Queen so that she may be aware that the LRA has an office in London when she visits Uganda for the Commonwealth Meeting in 2007. I didn't believe until I saw it in writing that this rebel army is assisted by the west. I have had a reply from her and she has had my letter forwarded to the Office of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which, no doubt, is a waste of time but maybe something relevant may be stored in her mind and will, one day, come to the fore. Lets hope so and also I now feel as though I have tried. My fishing baskets got through onto the plane and all went well until I nearly didn't when I handed my passport over and I was told that my visa expired in October making me an illegal immigrant! This entailed its confiscation and a long queue forming behind me. It was my usual 3 month visa but someone had written 30 days over it. As usual, in times of crisis when on retrospect I should be panicking, I waited patiently until the pasport was returned and I was allowed through.
2 December 2006
Saturday and definitely my last day starting with my usual breakfast of fruit eaten on the porch. Today I was to visit Florence's mother in Soroti. I went last year and so was looking forward to going again. I was waiting to be picked up by Richard, a young driver, at 8.00 am and, unlike most of the locals, he arrived early so I sent him to collect Florence and Martha and to return for me. On the way, we stopped at Odello market to buy some things for Florence's mother - material for a gomaz, food for our lunch and I suggested a dress for Christmas Day for Martha, Florence' daughter. We decided to buy that in Soroti so we set off pleased to leave the heat and hassle of Odello and went to a "supermarket" to find a dress. Not quite like Tesco, very dark with no lighting nor windows and an endurance test to get through the aisles over all the goods but we finally found the dresses and managed to buy a rather grown-up, peach coloured dress for her which she was very happy with. After driving along many bumpy roads, we reached the village and were greeted warmly by the old lady who has had leprosy. Whilst lunch was being pepared, the children played with balls and a skipping rope which I had taken. My phone rang which is unusual as there is usually no network but, after a few attempts at finding a signal, I stood under an orange tree in the baking heat to hear Christopher ringing from chilly England. He told me that he was spending all weekend doing the housework for my arrival home! The contrast is so great that it seems almost unbelievable that we are on the same earth at the same time. The children were called to catch a chicken for lunch and they must have spent 30 minutes chasing the bird through the crops and grasses until, finally, the bird-brained chicken took refuge, utterly exhausted, in a mud hut; the door was slammed and lunch became considerably more hopeful. Martha thought nothing of beheading the bird and I almost had courage to photograph the event but chickened out at the last moment. I returned later to find the body still well and truly active. It was pushed into a pot of boiling water to make the plucking easier and then disjointed, potted and boiled and was on the plates ready for eating in about 30 mimutes. Our hands were washed by the very young children, grace said and then we were ready to start a very enjoyable meal. (I continue to be quite content with being a vegetarian!) The meal over, it was time to return home before dusk and so lots of goodbyes were said and we left for the return trip. No sooner had I arrived back than it was time for my final appointment and it was back into Kumi Town to the recording studios of Radio Continental for another phone in programme with Ruth, Charles and Dr Ekure. I had certainly not wasted a single moment since my arrival in September.
1 December 2006
My last Friday and the day was spent tidying up lots of loose ends. The leprosy patients assembled for the distribution of gifts as usual. It was quite a considerable load and it was with relief that I gave out the last bucket. There were lots of good byes, a short farewell at Morning Assembly as well as attending the Out Patient Clinic. I left early as I wanted to pack my things and I knew I would have many visitors and I was right. Many friends called with ground nuts, ground nut paste, cassava, sweet potatoes etc. Francis brought a gourd beautifully painted in blue, red and green with "The Heart of Love" written around the top, Florence brought simsim balls, a brush made of reeds and even a pot of growing rice! Joseph came promising me a live chicken. Anna gave me a kitenga (wrap-around) for Norma who knitted the hat and jumper for her son, Andrew. Children came with letters they had written to me and, all in all, it was a very moving end to my stay but I did have one more day left.
29 November 2006
The day I have been dreading when Ruth and I planned to take Sarah back to her village had arrived. I shared breakfast with Andrew, Sarah and their team before they left for Kampala. I gave them presents for Gabriel, one of my boys, who is in Mengo Hospital where they work. Young Dr George is an avid stamp collector and was delighted to have my UK stamps off the envelopes I have received. I have promised to send him more and it will probably not be long before he realises that used British stamps are 2 a penny. Before we left for Katakwi, however, there were many other loose ends to tie up and Moses, the TB thoracic spine, was there with his new tricycle looking very happy but still, when not sitting in it, is only about 2 feet high. Alex had collected the 50 buckets, mosquito nets, soap, sugar, tea, Vaseline which I have bought as this year's gifts to the leprosy patients and all these needed to be stored until I have a moment to distribute them. I was able to get another wad of money from matthias who I hadn't seen since last week so I felt much better with funds in my pockets. Plans for Sarah were finalised, family photos taken and the vehicle piled high with her belongings. Ruth was just like a mother duck flapping over every detail and included 50kg sacks of sweet potatoes, nuts, etc. With the roof piled high and the inside packed tight we finally set off late for Katakwi with Sarah looking not too ill. We took little Isaac, the 6 year old boy who hasw been in the Nutrition Unit for 6 weeks and has doubledhis weight to nearly 10 kg. Final items had to be bought in Kumi Town; 2 mattresses, bucket, matches, torch, paraffin lamp, everything but the kitchen sink. The journey went well apart from children throwing stones at the windscreen causing many chips so we turned round to visit the school and report the incident to the head teacher. He seemed to know the culprits and promised to deal with them accordingly which probably means a very serious and painful caning. Sarah only needed to leave the vehicle once to go into the bush to be sick probably because I had bought yoghurts which was probably too much for her ulcerated stomach. It was all too much for me: Moses, Sarah, Ruth, in fact the whole futility of life, and for the first time I couldn't cope with my feelings of inadequacy. I even didn't want to check for mail at the post office as we passed. Perhaps I still wasn't 100% fit. We arrived late at Sarah's home (about 3pm) to find the sister alone but soon others arrived to see the rare event of the vehicle. They normally herald the coming home of a dead body so the sound of a vehicle always arouses local interest. Two ancient, wrinkled men sat on their low stools sniffing up tobacco in considerable amounts. With no common language, I gleaned that it made their heads feel giddy which they enjoyed. Ruth cleared the hut with a broom, moving out someone else's belongings and started piling in all Sarah's stuff including her sewing machine which needs repair. It wasn't long before she had made the bed with a rose-covered bed "quilt" which came in the boxes from UK, filled the paraffin lamp, assembled the batteries in the torch (for going to the bush in the middle of the night) and radio, sorted out her tin box and we sat on the mattress happy with the end result. The tomatoes, onions and liver were displayed on plates and the whole place was turned into Sarah's new home (but for how long?) Ruth had given her a month's supply of anti-retroviral drugs and she could come home knowing she had done the very best-and more- for her dear friend and sister. We said our farewells and left with Ruth knowing that she was relieved from a great worry of the responsibity of Sarah in the future months if not years. I was surprised that her immediate mood was raised and that she was confident that the action taken was correct. Sarah can now build a hut for herself, has all the equipment for independence and to purchase a cow which I have requested to have a shiny, brown skin. I came home to find 2 new visitors from Portsmouth who work for TLM (The Leprosy Mission) so we shared our meal before we retired to bed early. They had come up from Entebbe with Dr Opolot and reported on the presence of a large box in the car so maybe the sewing machine from the Poor Clare's in Darlington has arrived.
28 November 2006
The Inter-School Matches day arrived and started by the teachers visiting me from 7.00am onwards. Foolishly, I thought I could work in the morning and then go to Adesso School in time for the kick off but it was not so. Tuesday is Cerebral Palsy and Club Foot clinic day and the parents queue up on benches outside the department and are called in one by one for their children to be assessed, treated and the parents counselled. It wasn't long before my mobile phone started ringing and other matters had to be dealt with - arrangements for the lorry for collecting the Mary McAleese children to have fuel, sodas for the honoured guests, arrival of the trophies from Kampala etc so I decided to give up the work and concentrate on the more pressing issues of the day. We set off in the lorry to Mary M School to find the children lined up and waiting patiently for us. They broke into spontaneous singing as they piled into the lorry ready to enjoy their first school outing and, as we drove along the bumpy roads, I had no difficulty hearing them chanting local songs from behind and I could sense their excitement and enthusiasm from the cabin of the lorry. On arrival at the school, we waited for the guests to arrive - Head teachers, LC1, PTA Chairmen, School Governors - before the official part of the event could start. The children squeezed together to manage to sit in the shade of the mango trees whilst we sat at tables in front of them. The skies looked ominous and I was concerned that the heavens would open and the event abandoned. Then the official songs, very lengthy welcome speeches and responses, speech by Martha, the deputy head girl, were given and I wondered what I had started. The wind rose heralding the start of a storm but still the speeches continued whilst I was wishing they would get on with the games. At last, they were over and the Adesso girls came out in their new grey strip to great cheers from the rest of the school to start off the games with a netball match. The quality of play was extremely high and I could see the players competent to play any team at home. Their long, lean legs covered the field with ease and they shot with accuracy, both teams scoring equally so that the spectators became more and more excited and they also increased in numbers as word got round of this rare event. The official umpire and linesmen were as keen as the players and most enthusiastic to make full use of their new whistles. The programme was to have short exhibition games but things were going so well that full length games took place. The tension increased as the Scores were equal but then Mary McA scored in the final minute and the visiting team was one game ahead. The spectators moved to the volleyball pitch for the second game and the boys came out proud to be wearing their red and black strip. Once more, the quality of the players exceeded my expectations and I sat on the edge of my seat trying hard to be impartial and finding myself shouting as loud as the rest as the score increased one by one for each side. The final whistle heralded a win for Adesso which made the day's score one game each and so the final result depended on the outcome of the football match. We moved to the football pitch with its new goal posts but without the nets as the mother-in-law of Leonard, who was making them when not working in the Records Department,had died and he had to go unexpectedly for burial. The barefooted players came out again in their new outfits to give an amazing demonstration of skill kicking the ball from one end of the full size pitch to the other with ease. There was nail-biting tension as there was no score even at the final whistle which meant that at the end of the day the scores between the two schools were equal which pleased me and resulted in the necessity of a replay. Literally just before the end of the match, Alex arrived from Kampala bringing three glass trophies resembling the World Cup and we were able to present the netball and volleyball trophies but retained the football one for the replay. The players received an exercise book and a pen and a soda each and the Mary McA children returned to their school in the lorry to end a most exciting day in the history of the two schools but hopefully initiating a new association which will develop further. So it is thanks to Elmfield Primary School, Newton Aycliffe, and St Francis Xavier School for their support which has enabled the schools to meet up with each other. I returned to Patrick, the teacher's home, where I sat round their wood fire in the increasing darkness drinking dry tea and eating g-nuts, what nicer way to end a most enjoyable and successful day! At last, I walked home in the dark, Patrick escorting me over the airfield and me with the torch which goes everywhere with me in case I'm out after sunset when the snakes could be in my path.
23/25 November 2006
Availability of time and opportunity has delayed my diary-keeping and days have passed quickly but not uneventfully for me. Friday morning I received a call to say the goalposts were ready for collection. I went to inspect them and found them too heavy to budge even an inch. The tractor wouldn't be suitable for transporting them so they decided to get the schoolchildren to come after school but I doubted their strength. They arrived excited at the thought of the football match next week and they managed with ease but struggled to carry them perhaps a quarter of a mile to the football field. The next step was to concrete them in situ and my concern was that the rain was so heavy would they be firm enough before the big day. So many visitors, children playing on the porch, talking and planning the forthcoming matches have taken up time and energy. Marjolein and Jereon returned from Kampala eagerly telling me of their impending visit to the Murchison Falls next week. Sounds great. I went to bed early on Friday evening feeling very ill, cold and shivering, headache, joint aches and was concerned that I may have malaria. It's difficult to know what to expect when you've never experienced it but the locals manage the problem well and without delay in testing for it. It was unfortunate that Chris rang me whilst I was huddled under blankets feeling very, very sorry for myself and I admitted my indisposition to him whch probably caused a bit of worry at home. The next morning, things weren't much better and I had a serious pain in my abdomen and was now imagining worms had taken residence! I decided to try to forget it and went to Odello Market as planned with Ruth. The market is a fascinating place of noises and sights and smells but not for one to get out the camera safely although it would provide a field day for pictures. We bought the necessities for starting Sara up in her new home and I couldn't wait to leave as the heat and noise were too intense. I stopped off at the Internet Cafe to pick up my mail. The girl kindly turned on the generator and I read the Inmail and wrote a very newsy letter with ease. Almost at the end, I was not pleased when she pulled out a plug and the email disappeared but she got it going again and I repeated the process, this time slightly abridged, when the generator ran out of fuel. She ambled off to fill the gerry can and ambled back again in true African style but the day was my own. This was too annoying and I completed a very brief and to the point note of greeting sending it without further delay. I returned home via the hospital deciding it was sensible to have a BS (blood test for malaria) and was pleased to be told it was negative. With my mind put at rest, I felt much improved and text messages poured in from UK asking me how I was.
22 November 2006
I have news today! It is decidedly chilly and I would wear a coat if I had one! The roads are flooded and Kumi Hospital is almost an island. I have to paddle my way along the road and the bottoms of my clean trousers are immediately red from the soil. Today was going to be a very difficult one as we were starting the resettlement of Sarah,an HIV+ girl. She needs to be taken back for an introduction to her family as she has been away for about 7 years following a miscarriage, a VVF (look in your medical dictionaries) and then schooling, a tailoring course provided by CBM and then 2 years staying with Ruth. Since she has been found to be HIV+, it is important to return her or, due to the local custom, Ruth's life may be in danger. We have a devious plan which is very involved and has taken a lot of preparation. Her family live in Katakwi and we set off early as we had other visits as well. Firstly to Lawrence who we saw last week and we took him a mattress, blanket, cushion without hole for the commode, wheelchair and tapes for the radio we gave him last week. He was very happy once again and his father gave me a chicken. I have lost count of how many chickens I have been given but the carnivorous staff are more than welcome to take them home. I still want to send Lawrence to school and I hope I can arrange it before I leave. After we left him, we were off to Sarah's village but she wasn't too sure where she lived. I didn't want to get lost so I thought I would use my Girl Guide training to ascertain our direction by using the sun. Unfortunately, the time was midday and so, being so close to the equator, the sun was directly overhead and was of little use! We set off across the bush where there were no tracks and had difficulty finding her home but finally reached her family and we presented them with the official letter we had compiled. Things went well and we now plan to take her home to leave there next week so long as her sickness isn't too bad on the day. I needed to go for a short call (the Ugandan expression for spending a penny) so went into the bush and ended up with thorns in my backside which provided me with much discomfort for the rest of the day. More visits and another chicken and we came back through lots of rain once more. Marjolein and Jereon had arrived so there was lots to talk about for the rest of the day.
21 November 2006
At Matthias',I have the opportunity to update my emails but I admitted to something strange happening with my memory stick and laptop. Rebecca is wiser than I am and found a worm in the stick and cleared it (I hope). She has also checked the laptop and maybe it will now behave. This means that emails and my www update have not been arriving as the infected material has presumably been rejected by your computers. So no updates, no photos and no news apart from text messages on my phone! Back to Kumi and I visited the bank to use my plastic card to withdraw a few thousand shillings. It was rejected and the machine told me my PIN number was wrong. I know it was right but didn't want to lose my card so I left penniless. This was proving to be a bad day for me, so much for modern technology. A boda boda took me to Mary McAleese School where I was to talk to the children about life in England. I had an inflatable globe to show them where I lived but found it necessary to give Robert, the teacher, a lesson first. I gave my talk and answered many interesting questions before returning to the hospital in a pick-up driven by a Franciscan nun on her way to a funeral. A quick change of clothes and another boda boda ride to Alex' village for the afternoon. This, to date, was the last good weather we have had, and we had a most enjoyable time climbing the rocks, playing with the children, hearing the tales of his great uncle and of the days of Idi Amin and the karamajong raiders when they came as far as Kumi. I can never hear too much of the history and the time passed too quickly whilst I listened and helped the great aunt to shell g-nuts, a tedious task hard on the fingers. Another meal cooked by the absent wife was enjoyed, starting with avocado, pineapple, water melon and banana salad and then rice, matoke, greens and peas, once more most delicious,and accompanied by a bottle of Bell's beer which we shared. As I returned on the back of a picki picki along the narrow track and past the fields of sorghum and maize, watching the last moments of daylight as the sun disappeared for the night, I wished these moments could last forever. Everything is so quiet, simple and unsophisticated and so far disconnected from unfriendly ATM machines and laptop worms. I was more than content to settle down for the night and think over the day's activities.
20 November 2006
I have met a physio, Jayne, from England who has come to work in Mbale for a year with an NGO but who wanted to see what life was like working in the bush. We went out for Home Visits and she saw a wide variety of conditions ranging from post traumatic amutatons of fingers to CP's, osteomyelitis, TB spine etc etc. We walked through the bush when the vehicle could go no further and I think she had a good example of life as a physio out here. At our last home, we visited Okiria Sam and were given a welcome worthy of a king by his father. We had to enter his newly cow-dunged hut floor, had our hands washed, said grace and were presented with our meal - rice and chicken. I thought I'd get away with just a small helping of rice but Icaught the father peeking round the door, eyes glowing with excitement at having visitors, so I managed to take two chicken legs cleverly leaving behind the flesh and thus I was able to surrender a dirty plate with two bones and expostulate on the fine quality of the bird. We also feasted on white water melon and roast maize but had to leave before he had boiled the milk for us to drink. We were now very late on returning to Kumi during a fearful thunderstorm with the thunder crashing right overhead as soon as we saw the lightening reach the ground. Alex drove skilfully through the gushing streams of water and reached the hospital in time for Dr Piet, the young eye surgeon,to take Jayne and me to Mbale. I was staying with Matthias for the night to say good bye to his family and I was taking them out for a meal. He kept ringing me to find out my progress as the ride was taking so long. This wasn't surprising as I wouldn't have liked to have driven in the dark, through the heavy rain encountering lorries, pedestrians, cyclists mostly without lights and not to mention the goats and cattle. I enjoy staying at Matthias' with their children, Noah, Joshua and the baby, Chiara. I stay in their Guest House at the bottom of the garden and I am made to feel very much at home.
19 November 2006
These Sundays come round very quickly and it's back to church followed by a visit to my patient, the bishop. He really is a most disobedient but likable patient who can't understand why he should follow a regime which gives him pain. We get on very well together and I always enjoy visiting him. He is still being looked after like royalty. On Saturday a man was admitted with poisoning. He had heard voices in his head which had told him to kill his baby and then himself so he bought some strong poison, mixed it with Coke and gave it to his 4 month old baby. Its lips turned blue and it soon died. He has survived and was taken away by the police whilst still on a drip in spite of the nurse's opposition. Then, after a leisurely breakfast of passion fruit, pawpaw, banana, pineapple and omelette, another Florence came to take me to her rice field to pick rice. We walked further than I had expected in the hot sun at her fast pace. I had never seen rice growing before and I wonder if it was what I had expected. I now have some to bring home to show Joe, Sam and Ben. I needed my second wash of the day as I sweated so much and I was going out for lunch. I cycled to Okerenyang Frances who is the leader of his clan and felt I needed a third wash on arrival. His wife, Grace, had managed to cook an amazing feast in spite of having difficulty finding dry firewood after all the rain. Frances and I ate alone (a custom I am now used to but strange as often I have gone far to meet a wife but only have the opportunity to see her for a few minutes). She had cooked rice, matooke, dodo, ebor, beans, cabbage, peas and I was pleased to have second helpings and would have liked to have taken a third if I had had room to spare. After, we played with the balls and the bubbles I had taken and I hope the photos come out well as the children were so happy chasing the bubbles through the crops. I cycled home with just about 30 minutes to sit and read outside before the light finally faded (6.47 precisely) but I was soon joined by Modesita, a lovely lady from a very poor family who I have met at church and have known for several years. She has finally stopped having babies and this is the first year I haven't seen her pregnant! I had given her a few shillings and she came round to thank me profusely for the help I had given her. She had managed to pay school fees for 3 of her children and her delight was genuine and overwhelming. She had brought me g-nuts and 2 bottles of Sprite and was so excited she couldn't wait to give them to me.She said she also had a chicken but I told her I didn't eat meat and I thought her children would enjoy it but it was still alive and flapping so it wasn't a problem for her. After yet another vsitor, I was able to finally get into my pyjamas, light 2 paraffin lamps and settle down to read my book and listen to more rain and thunder. It's an eerie sensation when in a big house all alone and in the dark. We have become accustomed to the thuds and crashes from the kitchen caused by Roland, the big rat which searches for any scraps of food, and also the scratchings of the wild life in the roof space. It's not too long before the paraffin lamps are producing too much heat and I have to resort to darkness and bed.
18 November 2006
Saturday and I've been invited to visit Jane, Robert's wife, in Sironko. I've met them each year, first at their wedding, then when Susanna was born, last year when she was one and this year with a new baby due next month and they have been told that it is a boy! First I had to get to get to Kumi Town and then wait for a Gateway bus to Mbale, change at a road junction and wait for another bus to Sironko which is high up in the mountain and therefore cool; cooler than most of you would imagine. It was lovely to see Jane who works in a Health Clinic again and Susanna who loved her lovely little pink wellies which Ishbel found in the South Park in Darlington. After lunch, I had to set off home again and reverse the above procedure. The difference was that it rained and I had chosen the wrong seat in the public taxi. I don't like the back seat as it's difficult to climb over everything and everybody on arrival at my stop and I don't like the front seat as the safety record of these vehicles is very poor. There are no belts and one sudden move to miss a cow or a cyclist could result in going through the windscreen. So I had no choice but to sit on the folding seat near the door. This entailed getting out, folding my seat and standing in the torrential (and by that, I mean extremely torrential) rain while passengers wanted to alight and unload their goods off the roof, Only a few seconds of exposure was drenching but then the procedure had to be repeated at every trading station on the way and many stops in between. The steam which the passengers gave off meant that it was very foggy and smelly inside. I was never so pleased as to see Kumi Town, hire a picki picki and get home for a wash. An evening of darkness lay in front of me but my phone rang and Florence asked me to go round to meet Pius, a boy being helped by his sponsor in UK. I had to change my choice of evening dress from pyjamas to something more appropriate and set off through the muddy murram trying to avoid the puddles and "flowing streams". I last saw Pius 3 years ago when he was a tall 18 year old lad but now he is a charming, quiet, unassuming man studying for a social degree. He came all the way from Kampala arriving at 8.00pm to see me as he is so grateful for the assistance he is being given. I was given a big hug but his mother got nothing as it isn't their custom. I felt very privileged. We had a splendid supper in candlelight and then I was escorted safely home to finally get into my pyjamas and under my mosquito net and to listen to the endless thunder and rain clattering down on the tin roof and to reflect on the day's events.
17 November 2006
As I write this, it is the evening of the 17th and so I shall be right up to date if I have the opportunity to complete today's story of events. Power is due to be switched off according to the rota of Uganda but sometimes they surprise us. I was up at 5.30am doing my daily duties whilst Marjolein slept, dreaming of meeting her new husband tomorrow. Her driver came an hour early to take her in to Kumi Town and then returned at the appointed hour to set her off on her journey. I had a text message from her saying the window had fallen out of the bus window and she was back in Mbale doubting her survival. My day started with a visit to the retired Bishop of Soroti who is in a bed (in Room 13!) on the Private ward. The room is so smart with everything just about as it would have been in Scorton. I was consulted about his treatment yesterday but his medical requirements had not been heard of even by the young doctor newly qualified in Kampala. Confidentiality does not allow me to divulge his condition but I think I can tell you that the bandages sent by the Poor Clare nuns have come in very useful! He thanks them very much! Friday is Orthopaedic Clinic day but once again my attendance was interrupted by a pre-arranged meeting with Matthias and the member of staff who visited last night and for whom we are trying to sort out a few problems of great magnitude. Four hours later, I think we achieved much but the remedies are yet to begin and it will take a few outreach visits before we can safely say that it is a good job done. It's very difficult writing this as it has to be factual and objective and giving little away as to the true facts. This was followed by a further visit to the Bishop who was not keeping to his physiotherapy schedule because it caused him pain. I told him that he had his cross to bear and that the advice was for his benefit not mine. The goalpost corners have been found by scouring the length and breadth of Uganda and James, the welder, thinks the match is on 20 November so, with luck as well as devious means, they should be ready for the 28th. The leprosy Field Worker came to see when we are going out to visit her patients but I haven't a free moment between now and when I leave. She has booked the days for early in my visit next year. She wanted me to buy a bicycle for an ex-leprosy sufferer with bilateral amputations. Yes, it may be possible but I'm not too sure about him getting on and off a bike, coping with poor road surfaces and the traffic. I have said to her that when he can cycle from the hospital gate and down to the road, round the roundabout and back, then she can text me in UK and I shall rethink my decision. I am confident that I will not hear from her. I think I have taken on too many projects now that I realise that I only have 2 weeks left and my energy levels are decreasing rapidly. The children continue to visit in the evenings and it is so lovely to have them but it would be good to have a spell of peace and quiet. This evening, we were studying the blow-up world globe and I was surprised at the little they understood about any of the countries. They know more about Man U (Manchester United for non-football followers) than anywhere else! I am now awaiting my supper, my screen is being bombarded by mosquitoes, and the smell of food is getting quite tantalising. I'm expecting a special meal as they are cooking the Bishop's meal outside here. I have already had 4 delicious, hot vegetable samosas for starters and would relish a good red wine to accompany my meal but it is not to be, and tap water is all that there is and very good it is
16 November 2006
Outreach Clinic Day, again far away, but with Marjolein and the eye team joining us today. We stopped in at a local cafe in Soroti for breakfast as we had Emuru as driver today and he is always hungry. Chapatis and tea. The clinic was poorly organised but there were some interesting patients so the day wasn't in vain. Bow legs, cleft palate, CP's, the usual conditions. We came home with a sack of charcoal on the roof and patients inside. Just settling down to a quiet evening, I was joined by Sam and his friend, Peter, who found me putting my photos in the computer so they wanted to see the entire collection. Then they enjoyed playing Solitaire whilst I continued with other tasks. My friend, Ruth, called, they left and the rest of the evening was spent listening to her problems which seemed incredible. I don't think I'll ever understand the different culture. She shared our supper (peas and potatoes) and went home leaving me drained of all emotional energy.
15 November 2006
Every day is special but, once again, my Wednesday of Home Visits proved to be a very special day. Sam, Alex and I set off to meet up with Moses who took us to see Epido Lawrence, the athetoid boy, in Katakwi. It's a long drive but I now know it well, where every rock outcrop is, the papyrus fields, the small bridges over water with naked boys splashing around, so that the 2 hours travelling time was soon over. I had had made a commode for Lawrence; an armed chair from a carpenter in Kumi Town and the hospital workshop had cut a hole in the seat and the padded cushion. This was most successful and for the first time in his 16 years he was able to get off his mat and sit upright looking at us eye to eye. Those of you who remember Reggie Kirby will be able to picture a young, handsome version, equally intelligent if not more so. How does a young boy in the bush learn how to count to a hundred and to write his name in the sand with his toes? He had bought his radio and life seemed very rosy for him. He must have expected us as he was dressed very smartly and a table was put in front of us and we were presented with African tea and groundnuts. And this is called 'working' for me! What more could you ask for in job satisfaction! And where should this boy go next? He will get a wheelchair next week but my mind is working further and should he join Vincent at the school for the disabled in Kampala? To take him away from his grandparents and the bush environment to a life in the city seems unfair to me but then should he be given the opportunity to use his intelligence and develop into a useful wage earner if it is at all possible. These are the questions which are increasingly going around my mind about so many of the children and my hours of sleep are even less than at home. Impossible, says Christopher! Among Hellen was our next child, a 3 year old microcephalus with quadriplegia who was suffering from a bout of malaria and so not too enthusiastic about being treated. Her living conditions were equally poor and so we assisted her with funds for a mosquito net and mattress. Her mother had the most engaging smile that my heart melted towards her. On leaving, her parents presented me with a beautiful cockerel with irridescent tail feathers and half a sack of ground nuts. You could never believe how grateful these people are for so little. Ochen Sam was a 5 year old quadriplegia acquired through a malaria attack when 18 months old. Once again, an unnecessary and preventable condition. He was doing well. We checked his AFO's which still fitted well and decided to supply him with a standing frame so that he would be given the opportunity to progress to walking. I could tell that his father had some social standing within his clan and was then told that once he had had an important herd of cattle but the Karamajong had stolen them all and he had nothing left. Maybe, even out here, it's better never to have had anything than to lose it all? Once again, my eyes filled with tears as they gave me a chicken (a hen this time so maybe better for egg production but not nearly so beautiful) and half a sack of g-nuts. The two birds were not happy to share the back of the vehicle with Sam and Moses but soon decided it was easier to settle down under the seat and just occasionally chatter away together. We continued to a Displaced People's Camp and, although I have visited many, none seemed so full of despair than this one. Hut after hut into the distance as far as you could see; in front, to the sides and behind. The children have grown up in these camps and know no other life. We found Adeke Sarah, a severely malnourished child of about 5 years, and Akwii Silver, a child with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. This child had been operated on in Cure Hospital in Mbale when a baby but the parent had not taken him for his follow up appointment. We bundled them in the back of the vehicle with their grandmothers and belongings to admit them into Kumi Hospital and then set off for home. We shared out our booty, Alex and Sam having the chickens, the grandmothers half the nuts and me the other half hoping I would find a helpful hand to shell them before roasting. Robert was waiting for me to make final arrangements for Saturday's programme and to discuss the football match on 28 November. I am to find transport for about 50 children and supporters to bring them to Adesso School for the big event. My thoughts at present are to find a lorry. Then I want 3 trophies to present to the winning teams, a crate of sodas for the guests and lots of sweets for the players. Marjolein and I were happy to sit down after supper and watch the remainder of The Weeping Camel on the laptop. I wish I had brought some happy films with me. 14 November 2006
I visited Oseere School today with Moses, the dentist, for a dental health programme. We arrived to find 700 children and one teacher, the others seeking their salaries! The majority of the children were sitting in their classrooms unsupervised and I saw no teaching in progress so all they learnt today was about their teeth. They sat attentively and, if any child did cause the slightest disturbance, then he was whacked by the prefects who spend their whole time seeking out who could have the next swipe. Moses had a model of a molar tooth (with 4 big roots) and asked the children what it was. "An elephant!" they all cried in unison! I have to admit I thought so too. We soon returned to the hospital as Moses received a call informing him that a patient was waiting for him so I grabbed the opportunity to go into Kumi Town to check on emails. To my surprise, there was power and network so I managed an hour catching up on news from home. Then a boda boda ride back and a visitor waiting for me yet again so another evening occupied.
13 November 2006
Ward Round day comes round again and I don't want to go too deeply into the conditions and odours of the day. Just to say that the young bombed boys can get up now on crutches. One young lad was so tall, his crutches were taller than I am and he loomed over me as he stood up wavering unsteadily before starting to get his feet back but he did well and managed to walk outside the ward and into the fresh air. The old lady in the side ward was crawling on all fours with her pendular boobs reaching the ground giving her the appearance of having six legs. She is there because her infected wounds are just too odorous for the other patients. One boy who has been on the ward for over two months has only one set of clothes so my next visit to town will be to visit the second hand stall in the market. More visitors waiting on the porch after work but Marjolein and I managed to watch the first part of The Weeping Camel, a very sad film set in Mongolia, but easy to watch.
12 November 2006
Prayers start off my Sunday and again I have to pinch myself to see that I am really here. The singing, the drums, acungo and shaker and their pulsating rhythms make it truly a rural African experience. Some ladies enter in the most elegant of gomazes (the traditional style of Ugandan dress). The children wear their Sunday best and some of the tiny tots have head bands matching their dresses and look just like their big fat mammas! Looking out of the window, I watched the herds of cattle passing, bicycles with their riders silhouetted against the skyline, the oxen pulling their loads of grasses and the women carrying everything imaginable on their heads. At the Sign of Peace I shook my neighbour's arm, a leprosy sufferer, who had no right hand and an apology for a left. But it is really real and very meaningful. Returning home, I found there was power so breakfast was delayed, battery chargers took up every spare socket, my hair was washed and dried and ironing done just in case it was a blip and would disappear once more for a couple of days. I prepared to go out for lunch to Akol Margaret, MS Secretary, and was duly picked up by pickipicki at the appointed hour, (UK time, not African!) with my chicken snuggled in my arms. It wasn't a long journey but there were many bumps and I was pleased to arrive and present my chicken. It almost immediately plopped out an egg so I got a bargain in the market, almost two for the price of one. I was treated to a feast of vegetarian food which we ate seated on a mat in Margaret's luxurious hut. Now I know that I could manage a life in one such as this; just a bed and a mat but most of all there was space. We followed lunch with a walk through the bush and sheltered from a torrential downpour in a village school where there was an immunisation programme for children in progress. Back home on a pickipicki to hoardes of children colouring the books on the porch and the usual spate of visitors.
11 November 2006
Saturday morning and have I a quiet day ahead? A boda boda to town and today's challenge was to take money out of the ATM. Firstly, I stopped at the PO and, guess what, 3 lovely letters for me! Outside the bank was a long queue and as I dutifully went to the back they told me I could go to the front but I thought that unfair. I was quite happy reading my letters and continuing with my book but after about an hour I hadn't moved forward an inch and discovered that the machine was faulty. Once it got going again, I suddenly realised that there was no-one behind me so I bravely walked to the front and was allowed inside. To my relief, the machine spewed out 500,000/= and also my debit card. It's important to count the money before you leave the cubicle and that's a contributory factor for the slow service. Then to the "supermarket" for soap powder, lollipops and honey from Sorotti labelled "For use in First Aid boxes and for eating." Honey is used a lot on wounds and burns. The Internet cafe was next but the girl who sets off the generator was in Mbale until the afternoon so I waited an hour or two or was it three in Green Top Hotel having lunch (rice and cabbage) with Marjolein and her workmate. They had been to Odello market and bought me a chicken to take when I went out for lunch on Sunday. It sat dutifully at my feet like an obedient dog while I had lunch. The Internet girl never materialised so we returned home rather wet from a sudden downpour on a pickipicki and disappointed not to have managed to get on line. Supper was rice and cabbage and the rest of the evening was spent watching "The Constant Gardener" but the laptop battery soon went flat. Such is life! I took no photos today!
10 November 2006
I'm completely up to date with my diary and it is Friday morning. I've decided to skip the 2 hour Morning Assembly and stay at home to catch up with a few things so I've just written yesterday's entry and something extremely exciting has already happened today. Tina has brought me 2 banana leaf baskets, one to bring home for Sue as her Kenya one has fallen apart and she has asked me to find one for her if possible. It's not perfect but worth a try. They seemed heavy and inside was a parcel from Peter and Sara which was so heavy and, although I saw how much it cost to send, I can assure them that it was worth every penny. Sweets for the children, a book for me and some cleansing lotion (how thoughtful and next time I shall bring a gallon!), lovely crayons, paper and cards, everything just perfect. I shall even enjoy some peanuts as opposed to g-nuts! Not to be forgotten is the newsy letter about their new life in their new home in Dalkeith. They are finding difficulty using more than 2 rooms after living in their Edinburgh flat! An enormous thank you to you both and also to Peter who has managed to get my text onto the website for me. Photos will come later.There is no shortage of them and maybe those who are non-medically minded are better off not seeing some of them. I've been invited to a wedding tomorrow but I've declined as I have yet to have a day to catch up with my paperwork. Yes, there's that to do here. I have to document where my money is being spent and how many goats etc I've bought otherwise I will be unable to account for the requests from home. I have not mentioned the goods which I was given to be sent out. The Inner Wheel dresses are perfect as are all the things from the Poor Clare nuns. The bubbles, crayons, paper books, Enid Blyton books, reading books, toys, religious items, cameras, mobile phones and all the things I have failed to list could not have been more appropriate and I thank you on behalf of the poor people here. The funds are being used carefully and are helping very many poor families.
9 November 2006
Outreach clinic day again and we were off to Amuria District in the north. We were ready to set off promptly but, as usual, patients, wanting to get a free lift back home, piled into the vehicle with their mats, charcoal burners, sacks of cassava and the like, bags of belongings and you name it, it was there! More than once, they had to pile out and pack themselves in tighter putting more and more luggage on the roof. Children were screaming, parents were agitated and before we left, I felt as though our day's work was done and I was already dripping with sweat even though I had put in the least effort. I am lucky to be called "Elizabeth" so I am known as the second Queen of England and treated accordingly; also the muzungu is usually given the front seat in the Land Cruiser which is much more comfortable than those behind. The seats over the rear wheels are to be avoided at all times as they are really uncomfortable and I can assure you that it is a case of every man for himself. Michael, I and Alex share the front and have control over the radio which usually blasts out the Teso music emitted from the local radio station. Occasionally it is possible to get BBC World Service but after the 10 am News there is usually a programme interesting for me but no one else so it's back to the music. The children continue to cry but there is usually much laughter amongst the women. Their bladder control seems to be extraordinarily good as we never have to stop for them to all pile out whilst one goes into the bush. I sit with my legs crossed for a good 12 hours! We passed Amuria town and found the bush deserted of habitation as the entire community has left to live in the camps. There was evidence of much burning and very few remains of huts. We continued to Obalanga, a Displaced People's Camp, knowing that today there would be no disturbances as the road was quiet. If people had been trekking towards us we would have been aware there was trouble ahead. On arrival there we were confronted with literally hundreds of people awaiting the rare arrival of the medical team. Confusion reigned until I picked up my plastic chair, held it high over my head deciding to hold my clinic far from the noisy hoards. It worked and, having split into 2 clinics, we managed to see over 120 patients in spite of the language problems. Michael saw 101 eye patients, 44 of whom suffered from allergies. After, whilst we waited for Michael to finish, I played ball with the children starting with a dozen and ending with, again, a hundred or so. I had bought 10 chapattis before we left, so at 6 pm we had our first opportunity to take food first washing our hands at a very sophisticated water pump provided by UNICEF. In Amuria, more patients were waiting for a lift to Kumi and the morning's process was repeated but by this time we were all tired, the sun was setting and the chaos grew worse and worse and worse. The parents of the disabled children were desperate to get on the vehicle to be seen by the orthopaedic doctor in the morning. Finally, without peace being restored, we set off in the dark along the potholed roads encountering lorries, bikes and cars mostly without any form of lights, cattle, pedestrians, dogs, cats dashing over the road and even a hedgehog. Alex decided to find it and bring it back for Marjolein so it is now sitting in its box as miserable as sin with some bread and water in a saucer. How much happier it would be still strolling wild in the bush. On the other hand it may not have made it back across the road without mishap. I saw several new insects on our table at supper and fear we may have imported new varieties via the hedgehog. At least Marjolein is delighted with our new visitor. A quick meal, wash and I fell into bed going over the events of the day in my mind and grateful for my comfortable surroundings.
8 November 2006
My day starts at 6 am when it's still almost dark. We still had power so I could iron some clothes before sitting outside to eat my breakfast which today consisted of pawpaw, passion fruit, banana, g-nuts, avocado and water melon followed by a hard boiled egg. Feeling decidedly replete, I walked to the hospital and arrived at Morning Assembly to be greeted by the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, followed by a reading from Daniel. Fieldwork with Ruth today so we started by having a shopping spree in town; 10 mosquito nets, 10 blankets, 3 mattresses and a chair for me to have a hole in the seat made and then a bucket underneath to make a commode for Lawrance, a 16 year old athetoid boy with excellent intelligence. I gave him money yesterday to buy a radio and suggested to him that he listens to the documentary programmes as he will learn so much from them. He was so delighted and counted the notes adeptly with his toes. We then visited children with disabilities in their homes until after sunset. They were mainly children with hydrocephalus with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. One family who lived near the lake, a perfect situation which looks idyllic, had a tragic story. The home of the mother and 4 children was struck by lightening last year. One boy died instantly, another died the following day in Kumi Hospital, another was fine and the last had horrific burns and had undergone plastic surgery. The mother still had open wounds on her leg. I have been able to fulfill the request of Darlington Soroptomists and, thanks to their donation, the family will have a new mud hut and, hopefully, a goat as well. It depends on the availability of grass for the roof which is scarce near the lake. The family were very, very grateful. We returned home having distributed every item we had bought driving along roads the like I haven't seen before and how the vehicle got up and down the potholes I'll never know. At times, we must have been at an angle of at least 45 degrees. I've got used to Alex asking me if I want to be up or down depending on the angle of the vehicle and I prefer to be "down" when I feel as though I could touch the ground with my arm out of the window. Power went off in the Guest House but returned so, for once, I'm up to date with my diary.
7 November 2006
Today I was hospital based so it's mainly spent on the knees treating the cerebral palsy children. I had time to visit the Nutrition Unit to check up on my boy, Isaac, who is gaining weight satisfactorily but still can only take milk with supplements. He has a long way to go before he will be anything like his age of 5 years but I hope he has a chance. The mother wanted soap and sugar so I bought bread buns, hard boiled eggs, Blue Band, 0.5 kg sugar and half a bar of soap for each of the 8 mothers from a sort of shop in the hospital grounds. You would have thought Christmas had come when they saw what there was! Walking home, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other I was so exhausted by the heat and perhaps the work. In the evening, I was invited to go to Martha's 12th birthday party. It's an annual event for me and I know I shall be the only guest. We always have a special time and this time I had had a cake made by Asio Margaret for her as the one she made for me when I arrived was so good and she didn't let me down this time. This one was delicious too. We started with African tea (tea made with hot milk), then the cake cutting and eating followed by rice, matoke and cabbage in ground nut sauce - perfect! I asked Martha if she had done anything special for her birthday and she told me that she had cooked food for me. Other than that, it was a normal day except her neighbour called Radio Continental in Kumi Town and they played Happy Birthday for her. I walked home in the light of the full moon and under the millions of stars but with my eyes closely on the ground in case of snakes. I was approaching the Guest House when I heard "I'm the watchman!" coming from behind a bush. "I hope you are!" I thought as askaris are invisible wearing long dark coats with their guns slung over their shoulders and difficult to differentiate between a goodie and a baddie. He emerged quite drunk and unrecognisable but he must have spoken the truth as I managed to get to the other side of the door without incident. Marjolein told me that 2 little boys had gone home with the dot-to-dot books and pot of crayons after their usual evening of playing on the porch. I was disappointed that I was unable to trust them but they came the next night with their tails between their legs very apologetic and embarrassed. They may now return and, one day when we have a moment and power, they can watch my National Geographic DVD's which came in one of the newspapers back home.
6 November 2006 Before I set off for field work with Martin, I started my day with the usual Monday morning ward round. A lorry had earlier overturned on its way to the market injuring many women who had been travelling in the back of it. They were lying in states of shock or unconsciousness either in beds or on the floor. Somehow, none had died. A child had had his leg amputated following a snake bite. Before long, I was called to set off for our drive into the field. We passed a cyclist carrying a coffin on the back of his bike and we wondered if one of the ladies had died. We stocked the vehicle with mosquito nets, blankets and mattresses for the many poor families we visited and managed to help with the re-building of huts and starting off IGP's (Income Generating Projects) mainly by the provision of goats. Driving through a trading station, we passed Veronica's Cafe and decided to stop for lunch. I chose rice and greens which were very good but Alex and Martin had some sort of meat which was very, very burnt. They were quite surprised when I complained about the burnt bits and didn't pay the full amount for the food. We continued with the home visits and I returned home to find many children waiting for the books and crayons we keep for them. Sometimes I am tired and all I want is a quiet few hours before supper but it rarely happens. Plenty of quiet hours when I return to UK.
4/5 November 2006
I'm skipping a few days as I'm sure this isn't at all interesting. However, I could still write so much. This weekend, Marjolein and I went to stay with Dr Piet, a young Belgian Eye doctor. We managed to catch up with emails and, in the evening, we watched For Your Eyes Only, the James Bond film. Neither of us saw the end as we were so tired! We returned by Gateway bus which got us back to Kumi Town in record time and then home by boda boda. I chose the better bike as Marjolein's chain fell off twice. I can't leave out my shopping expedition on our way home from Home Visits on Monday evening. I bought an African outfit, simple this time and cool, but Alex decided it wasn't my colour at all and he went into another "shop" and bought a different one deciding that I could give the first one to the mother of Ruth and Mary. On trying them on, he was quite right and I feel very comfortable with his choice. It's like having a bossy son telling me what is what!!!
3 November 2006
Friday was a day I had been looking forward to since my arrival as I was going to visit Ruth and Mary and give them the clothes Maureen Cadman had given me. These had been carefully ironed by charcoal iron due to lack of power and I was very excited. However, Alex who has taken me in previous years, had to go to Kampala and we were to go out with another driver, Peter, who didn't know the family. I thought of cancelling my visit but then had the idea to take my laptop and show the local people the family's photo from last year.As you can imagine, the laptop caused much interest and finally a man shouted that he recognised them. So, with hope renewed, we set off along tracks, through banana plantations, and there in a small clearing were the family just as I had left them a year ago. There were now 4 goats and the children had "new" dresses and blankets. They were so happy to put on their new outfits and I have many photos to show. Their mother has the same dress on each year so maybe she is due a new one. They are doing well sending their 17 year old boy to secondary school, probably in the hope that one day he will be able to provide an income for them. I told them that they could use this year's assistance on what is needed most and I think it will go on school fees. They gave me a bag bursting with fresh avocadoes and oranges which meant far more to me than what I had given them. The eye clinic had few patients as most of the population had gone to the funeral of a teacher who had been killed the day before by the Karamajong. I was more than relieved to arrive home as we were in a very old, decrepit hospital pick-up which needed push starting, a manoeuvre which I improved on as the day progressed. I thought the brakes were not working when I saw that Peter, the driver, had backed the car way up the trunk of a tree which was growing on the top of a mound of earth. Later, I realised his intentions when he started off by free-wheeling down the tree making the firing of the engine much easier. The pickup was extremely uncomfortable and we were all bashed about so much that my bones were also rattling. I don't think I can possibly describe the discomfort we endured and at one point, where the pot hole was particularly deep and steep, I actually did a third of a backward somersault almost breaking my neck in the process. I think the car was made long before seat belts were thought of making the journey even more risky. However, all was well and I had a pleasant surprise as I off-loaded my booty from the back when my phone rang and it was Christopher who had lots to tell me. I was expecting to go to the Kumi radio studios this evening with Odele Moses as we had booked an hour's phone-in programme to promote the dental clinic but he failed to turn up. I was relieved to hear on Monday that it had been a great success and he had had over 50 phone calls and that the programme presenter closed the programme before the calls ended but we got our money's worth as he was given 1.5 hours and we paid for only one. One question from Otire Sam was "Doctor, I have several teeth on top of others and am not free to smile before a girl. How can you help me because I want to get a beautiful girl?" Moses answered professionally but on Monday morning Okiror Sam, the OT, confessed that he had phoned in giving a false name! Instead Marjolein and I spent the evening watching the DVD of Alice in Wonderland to check if it would be suitable to show the children here. Having seen it, I'm not too sure if their concentration would outlast the film but maybe they would be fascinated until The End.
2 November 2006
Outreach Clinic with Sam, Amos and Esther under a tree, not a mango this time, but one which allowed the breeze through to keep us pleasantly cool. We screened exactly one hundred patients which is very good going whilst Michael and Marjolein assessed the eye patients inside a church. Amos is a new CBR worker who was electrocuted whereby he lost his right arm and sustained severe disabilities to his left hand. He built a lovely house for himself with the compensation and another for his grandmother. His mother had died and his father continued to live in his mud hut in the same village. He invited us in for a slap up meal of beef, rice, atap and groundnut sauce which was delicious. We arrived home to find a street light on meaning that, at last, power had returned. Immediately, phones and cameras were put on charge and we had light for the first time for about 10 days...but nothing is ever perfect and we had no water!
1 November 2006
Home visits to follow up the children today with Charles and Sam. These are always good days and this was no exception. We visited 8 children, supplied one with a wheelchair and arranged for the door to the mud hut to be enlarged and ramps to be constructed to allow entry for the chair and others with nets, clothes etc. The most memorable child was Okia Festino, a 10 year old CP boy who we found lying naked in the mud hut. This is a totally unacceptable state for any child here and the mother tried making excuses and blaming her husband. She quickly dressed the child and brought him out screaming in her arms as he was only the weight of a 2 year old. She told us that he had been fed that morning but I asked her to make him some poshe porridge and he wolfed down a whole beaker far too quickly so that I thought he would be sick but he was not. She bathed him and promised to look after him but I doubt it very much. We got the Local Councillor involved and he was to keep surveillance on the family until our return. It wasn't until we were on our way home that we realised that we had not eaten or drunk since we left and we returned home tired, dirty, hungry and thirsty. On the way, I called in to see Asio Margaret who is the person who baked me a cake on my arrival. Once again, I was given the warmest of welcomes and was given tea and sweet potatoes in her little home built by her own hands. She has a hard time and can only be congratulated for her persistence and for bringing up her children so well. They play with toys made out of anything imaginable. After Christmas, 2005, I posted her the contents of our crackers and there were all the tiny, trivial items enjoyed daily by her little ones laid out neatly on her floor. She had had her house attacked the night before and had a large hole in the iron sheeting which she was going to stuff with grass.
31 October 2006
Lets leave Monday and go straight to Tuesday as I'm sure that's enough gorey detail for one day. Tuesday was a quiet day and, as there was still no power in the Guest House, my opportunities of keeping my diary up to date were non-existent so I took the laptop to work and spent a couple of hours filling in a few days. They say the electricity poles between Kumi Town and the hospital are down and it has been known that by the time the electricity company come out they can find the poles attacked by termites so they have to wait even longer to replace them. Tuesday is Cerebral Palsy Clinic for children and I also found time to visit little Isaac, the 5 year old boy, in the Nutrition Unit. He is doing well and has put on 1.5 kg but still has a chewing problem so is still on milk and supplements
30 October 2006
The start of another week and Monday is ward round day and so off to Ojikhan Ward for 3 hours which was very difficult just to walk round discussing the patients in a very high temperature and limited fresh air. The ward was particularly busy and patients were overflowing onto the floors and under the beds. Gunshot wounds and bomb blasting seemed to be the order of the day. Four young men had picked up a copper object which had exploded causing many wounds, broken bones and lacerations. Others had been shot, one child by a cattle raider and had come in with her intestines trailing outside her body. She was left with a colostomy and was coping very bravely. Another child had very severe wounds following a snake bite and the tendons on the outside of her ankle (lateral malleolus) were clearly visible. Once her dressing was removed, all the staff members in the round stepped back smartly as the stench from the wounds was so intense. The ward had run out of gauze so no dressings could be renewed until new dressings arrived which is a dreadful situation as the infected wounds had pus and blood oozing through.
29 October 2006
Sunday morning and it has rained all night and it continued after 7 am which is rare. I cycled through deep puddles to church for prayers. Home again for breakfast which was mango, passion fruit, pawpaw,groundnuts and banana washed down with Ugandan tea and fresh lemon while I sat on the porch in front of the compound with the flowering cacti, bourgonvilliae and franzipani in pink and cream and listened to the cockerels and hoopoo birds. I was soon greeted by Mad Sam who had heard that there were visitors in the Guest House and came wearing the tattiest pair of torn trousers you could ever imagine. Peter, the photographer, took instant pity on him as does everyone else but I am wiser. I told him to go home and put on his best suit so that he could have his photo taken by a professional. He was soon back looking much smarter even though there were few sewn seams to the suit but with no tears. He had a change of jacket and also a choice of 5 ties hanging from his handle bars. He left very happy having had his photo taken but with no new clothes. Marjolein and I were going to Akellung Michael's (the eye CBR worker) village straight after prayers ie 9 am and we were collected at 1 pm! It was a lovely day in his village and then in his staff quarters for lunch with his wife and I never did count how many children. We talked about Uganda in the 80's and 90's and it was distressing and disturbing to listen to the terrible atrocities which were so personal and close to these families. Lack of power continues so it's difficult to keep mobile phones, cameras and laptops charged. We just have to accept that it isn't there. Candles and paraffin lamps suffice but give off too much heat. Water is great but at times it runs out and then we are in a worse situation than in previous years. My visits to the Post Office have stopped as I've given up on ever getting letters except from Norma who has written 4 to me, all most amusing, and one other from Gillian. It's lovely to get text messages and I enjoy the emails when I can open them but even they are few. My flu must be making me feel not exactly on top of the world and perhaps a little sorry for myself but I can assure you that everything is still very fine and that the days are flying by far too quickly.
28 October 2006
Saturday morning and I thought I had a completely free weekend but it turned out not to be so. After changing my sheet (only one is necessary due to the warm nights) and tidying my room, I remembered that there was a wedding in town starting at 8.00 am and to which I was duly invited. My bicycle had a puncture and Sam (OT) kindly took it to the repair man who charges 200/= for fixing a puncture but it had the inner tube replaced and returned it to me by evening. At 11, Marjolein and I set off, both on one pickipicki and hanging on tight to the one in front, to town and started at the Internet Cafe. We both booked an hour but her computer allowed her 2 hours and in no time she had read her mail and was typing away with her replies. I only got one hour and again it took about 10 minutes for me to open a page. I changed computers and am not sure if it was worth it as the hour was soon up and I had achieved little. I left her working away and walked to the wedding 5 hours late and only to find that I still arrived before the bride. Robert, the teacher, looked after me well giving me paper and pencil to take notes of the pastor's loud and powerful oration. I took few key points while others scribbled page after page. I was thinking that it may be interesting for Marjolein to read as she was married only one week before she left for Kumi. The service was intense, hot and loud. I think I may have changd my mind if I had been the bride as according to the pastor the whole future seemed full of doom and doubt. When I looked at my phone to see how the time was going, I was surprised to see I had an SMS. It read "We are behind you on the leftern side but hope to leave after they have wedded them.if we go.pliz get us where we ate the pork from." This was Dorothy, a nurse, and Dina, an anaesthetist, and I sent a message back asking them to take me. It was impolite of me to leave before the food but I have since apologised profusely to Robert. The 3 of us then spent the rest of the day clubbing (I think we would call it back home) going from a local-brew bar inside a mud hut to another al fresco and then to a bottled-beer bar and meeting many friends and others who could be presumed to have been supping the millet beer since dawn. D and D left me to eat their pork and someone bought me a delicious chapatti surrounding an egg. Fortunately I am able to eat such food without using my fingers as my hands are always disgustingly dirty. It's done in a similar fashion to picking loose potatoes without dirtying the hands at the supermarket. Kumi Town on a Saturday is quite an experience and has to be seen to be truly understood. I ended up on the back of the electrician's motorbike and I was pleased to see the hospital Land Cruiser parked outside Axa Bar, a new bar on the Main Street, so we went in to find it packed with men watching Arsenal playing Everton. A round of drinks was so expensive and I felt quite bad as I could have bought a goat! I won't be returning. My photos would tell it all but I have given up putting them on my site until I get home. Marjolein had her lunch in a very civilised fashion at the Green Top Hotel and we met up again in the evening to spend another evening with no power, the thunder crashing and lightening flashing and the rain pounding on the iron sheeting but with lots of visitors calling.
25 October 2006
Yet again, I awoke to find Steven, my mad friend, waiting on the doorstep wanting money for this or that but he is a good supplier of lemons from his tree for my tea so I am usually prepared to buy a few. Today I was duped as the bag contained nothing but sweet potatoes. Today was one of the best, much laughter and many tears with extreme highs and lows in our emotions. Alex and I set off for Ngora to meet up with William, one of the CBR workers, for home visits. The first village we visited was at Agu where we met Okiria Sam, a 6 year old CP (Cerebral Palsy) boy who was naked and crawling like a snake (a common mode of movement for CP's). The mother dressed him, found a broken reed mat and we sat on it discussing the family situation and assessing the child. He was not only able to sit but also to get up on to his feet. He is a perfect candidate for Sue Derbyshire, the physio, coming out here in January to do Bobath training, and I hope he will be able to stay in the Children's Village here at that time. We left him playing ball with his friends while standing supported and smiling from ear to ear. Next, back in the Land Cruiser, along narrow tracks, through the sorghum and cassava crops, squashing the herbs and smelling the familiar aroma of the bush, to Okanyakure Moses, a 16 year old boy or maybe young man with a TB spine. He sat with crossed legs and could shuffle along on his bottom. He lives with his grandmother, old and doubled up with arthritis, in a mud hut which contained absolutely nothing. I can't imagine how they look after each other. She has to struggle to the well for water and I saw nothing of food or cooking utensils. What happens when she dies? Moses makes fishing baskets and sells them for 100/= each so I bought 5 for 200/= and he was very happy. Marjolein immediately agreed to pay me 500/= for one so maybe there would be a business for him if there were more muzungus. I refuse to sell one as I want 5 and no less for our garden. I can hear Christopher groaning and muttering "No more, surely!". Moses is to come to the hospital on the back of a boda boda for supply of a tricycle and he will also be given a mattress, sheets, mosquito net etc. The tricycle will allow him immediate mobility so that he can assist his grandmother and maybe go to school. Aluka Christine was next, a 4 year old orphan looked after by her siblings and able to stand with a frame only. Akungai Janet has hydrocephalus and wears leg braces which needed renewing. Her parents were so grateful for assistance given for a mattress etc that they presented me with a black chicken, the highest of gifts to be given, which they had to chase through the crops and through the bush before it finally gave up the run. It's heart-rendering to take and so much easier to give. Driving through Ngora town, we passed a blind boy pushing a home-made lorry, an intricate piece of work made of old wire and flip flop rubber for wheels which they learn how to make at school. He was not willing to part with it for a few shillings as for him it was his "white stick" but was grateful for small assistance. On to Amulen Tabisa, a 16 year old girl with a severe deformity from osteomyelitis of the right tibia. Apolot Christine's father searched his papers for her Baptism certificate before he could tell me her name! She lived in town in a shack with a leaking roof of broken iron sheets and one room for cooking and sleeping. It was full of smoke and dust. Our last child and perhaps the saddest was Igolat Miriam who was a 2 year old Down's Syndrome/ Spina Bifida suffering from severe malnutrition and looked after by her grandmother. Her mother had left her father who had been attacked by a man brandishing a panga. She was pale, small, weak and pathetic and there was little we could do then but hopefully a programme will be started very soon. And so the day wore on, my flu developed into a very sore throat, runny nose and aching joints but I only had to think of the conditions of those children to forget about my minor inconveniences. Still no power in the Guest House which means either straining the eyes to read or having an early night under the mosquito net listening to BBC World Service nightly phone in programme. I get the headlines at 10 pm for about 3 minutes before it's cut off for the night.
23 October 2006
Monday and the start of a fresh week. It's a Public Holiday as it's the end of Ramadan. I was told a year or two ago that the end of Ramadan occurs when a man who has climbed a ladder sees the moon in the Indian Ocean. My apologies to anyone who reads this and it is untrue. It has been uneventful for me this year. Last year, I was unfortunate enough to be sitting on a public taxi on the driver's side when he spat out of the window but missed. I moved my seat to the other side. They are not supposed to swallow at all during the daylight hours. Today was an important day for the hospital as visitors who provide sponsorship for the hospital from Canada came so the hospital management made a supreme effort to impress them. They don't realise that there is no need to do anything different from a normal day as it would be impossible not to be moved by the daily life just as it is. They did a tour of the departments and then came to the physiotherapy department where a hydrocephalus/ spina bifida 11 year old had rehearsed his words "Welcome to Kumi Hospital and thank you for the support you give to us. I want to be a doctor!" After lunch, we went to some nearby villages to see a post-Gluteus Fibrosis child, a CP child and 2 children who were born with club feet. The first one had neglected feet and when the next child was born with the same condition, the mother realised that immediate treatment was important and it was good to see the result of her improved knowledge. The 10 visitors were amazed by the conditions of the tracks as it had rained so much and the vehicle was wading through deep water in the potholes. I felt like an old hand and didn't realise that I knew so much about the local way of life. I was invited to supper with them in Mbale and then I stayed the night with Matthias and returned to Kumi in the morning. In Mbale there were lorry-loads of Muslims congregating at the local hotel to celebrate the big day and it was just as though they were going to a football match. Hundreds of them. The visitors returned to Kampala also in the morning and no doubt with many stories to tell their families back home.
22 October 2006
Sunday and, as usual, I'm off on my bicycle to morning prayers at St Joseph's RC Church . It starts at 7.00 am but I'm still on time if I arrive at 8.00 am. The singing and the playing of the drums, shaker and an instrument like an abacus cannot fail to fascinate me and the time passes without me noticing. My day was planned with laundry, reading, letter writing and then a cycle ride to visit Asio Margaret who I have not had time to visit since my arrival. Nothing is ever as planned and I had a visitor - Tom, the choir master from church, who had come to see the hymn books and tapes which came in the "boxes". We spent a good few hours going through the boxes sorting out various books, tapes and other religious items. He was delighted with everything and I was given many renditions of hymns which we both recognised. I don't think anyone back home can ever visualise how perfect the contents of these boxes are and the pleasure they are giving. I certainly wasn't too thrilled to see them once more and I am pleased to report that they are slowly reducing in number. We managed to reduce the number by 2 by the end of the afternoon. I was pleased that my plans for the day had been altered as the skies opened and once more we had a memorable storm which continued until after dark. Kate, a young schoolgirl, brought me her school books as she desperately wants to go to Secondary School and is very proud of her standard of work. I must say I thought the science level was way beyond my schooling at that age. So everyone stayed until the rain stopped and then we found we have 4 visitors from Holland staying at the Guest House for 2 weeks. It's full to bursting and Marjolein and I hope we will soon get used to the loss of our peace.
21 October 2006
Saturday and I really do question my sanity as I write this having had another very different day. I was in Kumi Town this morning to collect the net ball posts but the grey paint was still wet so our journey in the ambulance was not fruitful apart from buying a bag of cement for sinking the posts. I also asked for a length of string to tie my trousers up as I haven't a belt to keep up a pair which I found in the boxes. I had bought them in Primark thinking they would do for Kumi but never wore them due to their poor fit. I did, however, find the Internet Cafe open and waited an hour for them to turn the generator on and a further half hour to be online. I thought my luck was in as I found my emails (thank you for them), inserted my memory stick to update my www, looked for my ftp://page and then I failed to get any further. I did open the www and read the messages, thank you again for those. A boda boda back home and I sat in the shade reading my book half hoping that the next bb boy wouldn't turn up to take me to Kodugol. However, he did arrive and he took me along tiny tracks for miles and miles. My legs and arms were torn on the bushes, the bulls roared, the pigs grunted and many goats and chickens crossed our path. We passed cotton fields with their pretty pink and white flowers, sorghum, maize, sweet potatoes and many more crops. The lightening flashed and the thunder roared and then the big drops started. The heavens opened and, looking like drenched chickens, we took shelter in a mud hut surprising the man and his wife. He spoke a little English, admitted to a muzungu taking shelter being a unique experience and gave me ground nuts to eat. The skies refused to clear and I was wondering if I would make it back home or would I spend the night with these strangers. The mud hut was surrounded by a lake of rain but we were dry and I was freezing cold in my dripping clothes and I thought the possibility of any further progress was remote. Finally we did set out once more and away from Kumi. There is a mountain range far away and wherever I go it is on the horizon and has the profile of an apple with a bite taken out. I have named it The Bite and hope that one day I may see it close up. When we go to Katakwi, it is nearer and clearer but still many miles away in Karamojo. Today, it was indistinct and at times the "bite" was filled with dark, black clouds. Finally, we reached Moses' home having missed their lunch but in time for them to give me dinner, surely no more than an hour after they had finished their lunch. This is my 3rd visit missing only last year because the bb boy was too drunk for me to get on the back of the bike! I drank 2 cups of African tea which is made with hot milk and sweetened and is therefore very filling. I was not expecting my meal to be brought immediately afterwards and took only small amounts of rice, cabbage and white beans. I must say I asked how many muzungus had visited since I was last there and Moses told me I was the first and last. On my return journey, the bull was still roaring so I think it must have been suffering from indigestion all day. I arrived back just as the sun was dropping rapidly over the horizon to find my supper waiting, cold rice and cabbage! So this evening there is power and I can write up my diary. I may try once more with photos as I'm sure I can get them to work if given the opportunity.
20 October 2006
TGIF because I'm quite exhausted. Today, I was hoping to spend time in the theatre with the plastic surgeon but I soon realised it was not possible as, on approaching the department, I saw a mass of patients waiting outside. We started immediately and worked non-stop until darkness was approaching and we had seen 109 patients. Knock knees, bow legs, windswept knees, old people struggling to stagger in, but they were all seen and we knew we had done a good day's work. A cycle ride home, a quick wash and supper (Irish and cabbage) and off once more, this time to Kumi Radio Station recording studio for a phone-in programme on health issues such as hepatitis B which is increasing alarmingly here. The 2 doctors and the 2 CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation staff) were excellent and put over their message most professionally answering the phone callers seriously except for one. I don't think I can tell you on this site what the question was!
19 October 2006
Thursday is Field Work and we set off once more to Katakwi but this time for a clinic. In Kumi Town, we passed a dead dog on the road and Alex informed us that it was the Town Council's job to remove it. It was still there in the evening after the full day's sun. Katakwi and beyond is very far and took 2.5 hours to reach. On the way, we bought roast maize as my favourite roast cassava had been cooked the day before and would not have been nice to eat. The people at the clinic were very, very poor and in rags. The most interesting patient presented us with his tapeworm which really turned my stomach over. I'm not too sure what his symptoms were as I wasn't concentrating too well and was wondering how to dispose of this offending item. I did so with a long stick! Travelling home, we passed a tortoise on the road and I am sorry to report to the tortoise-loving readers of whom I know there will be at least one that it had been hit by a passing vehicle. I was more diligent than Kumi Town Council and removed it to the roadside.
18 October 2006
Plaster of Paris and Plastic Surgeons. Back in the hospital today and this morning was spent removing plasters of Paris from screaming, frightened children and then replacing them with new ones on the club foot children. Florence and I soon became a good team and the hours flew by without me noticing that afternoon had arrived and we were still waiting for the plastic surgeon and his team from Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.I decided to cycle home as it was obvious it would be dark by the time the day was over and it's hard enough to stay upright on the bike in daylight let alone in the dark, on a murram road and with no lights. I tackled the proverbial boxes from home feeling quite satisfied with the progress of moving them from A to B and little more. I'm realising that they have been opened and inspected so I am pleased that the packing lists were comprehensive and correct. The taxation by the Ugandan Customs is utterly inconsistent, excessive and random but unfortunately had to be paid. The surgeons arrived at 7.30 pm to assess the 45 children for surgery on Thursday and Friday. Once again, it was so interesting that I didn't notice the time pass and I returned home at 11.00 pm and fell into bed unable to sleep until I realised that I had had no food except for a handful of g-nuts since breakfast! All there was to eat was dry bread and water but it allowed me a few hours sleep before dawn. You may now be thankful that I am unable to get the pictures on the website as I think they may be too grotesque for most of you. I have emailed telling of the wife whose husband's other wife bit and chewed her lip. He brought her but didn't seem too surprised!
17 October 2006
Adesso School Shopping Expedition Today, I went with 2 teachers, one from Adesso Primary School and one from Mary MacAleese P/S, to spend the money given by the children of Elmfield Primary School, Newton Aycliffe, and St Francis Xavier RC Secondary School, Richmond. The 3 of us set off to Kumi Town on the back of bicycles, me with 1,500,000/= stuffed down my trousers! On reaching the town, we waited for a Gateway bus to take us to Mbale, about 45 minutes by road and climbed on one reasonably quickly only to find it bursting at the seams with people, crying babies, luggage and chickens causing much dust and flurries of feathers. The journey went well until the mechanical failure occurred. I wasn't surprised as the floor of the bus was shaking and there was an ominous "thunking" sound. We all stayed on the bus whilst it was repaired or perhaps attended to would be a better phrase. The man sitting next to me only went into a deeper sleep leaning at an angle of 45 degrees pushing me into the person standing in the aisle and no amount of pushing and shoving could move his big bulk back into his rightful space. He could have been a soldier, a rebel or a warrior but I hoped not. We finally reached Mbale in spite of continuing ominous sounds from below and set off on our mission to buy football, volley ball and net ball kits for the children. The first shop keeper quoted a price of 18,000/= for a top and shorts so we tried another shop and I remained outside bringing the cost down to 4,000/=! I have never been so exhausted as we pounded the pavements buying kit, balls, geometry sets, volley ball net, English books and, of course, a pump for the football. I managed 1.5 hours in the Internet Cafe but the network was so desperately slow that I only managed to see that I had 32 emails (not read them) and update the www but without the photos. Maybe one day you will see them but I will need to take a day off work and then there could be no network. Somehow these things are of little importance and just minor inconveniences in the balance of all else. We dined in a cheap cafe on matoke, greens and water for the princely sum of 3,200/= for the 3 of us. Perhaps I should say that £1.00 is roughly equal to 3,400/=. We returned home by bus and pickipicki due to our inability to ride on a bike with the loads of purchases and I realised how tired and dirty I was. A quick shower and supper with Marjolein, her parents and the Medical Superintendent and his wife and then finally to bed under the mosquito net giving me the first opportunity to read Norma's second letter by torch light. How I laughed out loud, it was a tonic. PS We still have another 250,000/= to spend!
16 October 2006
Five days since my last update and I have had no opportunity to update the website and so I still don't know if I am successful. Twice this weekend I've cycled into Kumi Town (45 minutes on a boda boda) to find no power but I may manage tomorrow. I have worked very hard but, on reading my diary, I find there is little about the main reason for my visit. Field Trips are fascinating especially the home visits with Sam, the OT, and Moses, the CBR worker. We traverse narrow tracks in the Land Cruiser and then reach the village of a disabled child and are greeted warmly by many, many relatives. We examine the child and then decide on a treatment plan. I have chosen one boy, Isaac, for one of my full projects. He is 5 years old and weighs 5.2kg. He is brain damaged and looks like a child of 6 months. I gave his mother transport money and today they reached the hospital for admission onto the Nutrition Unit where his mother will be taught about good diet and the child will be given a special diet. Once the child has increased in strength, he will attend the physiotherapy department for rehabilitation. I am hoping he will respond well and that I will be able to report good progress before I leave. We continue with our Outreach Clinics under the proverbial mango tree and see many children with almost as many different conditions. I am used to passing a baby back to its mother and have dripping , smelly trousers for the duration of the day. Actually, they dry very quickly! One of the tasks of this week is to be a trip to Mbale to buy football, netball and volley ball outfits for the Adesso P/S teams. They also want referee kits, balls and whistles but we will have to see how far the money goes. Yesterday, Patrick and I bought goalposts in Kumi Town and the Headmaster of the School came to thank me (and the children of Elmfield School, Newton Aycliffe) for our overwhelming generosity. Impromptu speeches followed and I was able to have a short rest before my supper at Akol Margaret's home. I mislaid the path to her house as I was too fascinated by the starry skies and taking one wrong turn always causes much confusion for me when out in the dark. The supper was truly delicious - ebor, matoke, dodo, cabbage, Irish and fresh passion fruit juice. Friday night was my namesake's 1st birthday party and on Saturday night I dined at Florence's so, as you can see, life is full. I almost forgot to report that the 229 kg in 15 boxes have arrived, somewhat the worse for wear, and many opened by someone unknown. I thought the battery TV was missing as there was a box dissimilar from the rest but they had repacked it and put the paperwork inside the box. I have yet to be brave enough to tackle the task of unpacking and distributing the contents and can't decide whether to start during the hot daylight hours or wait till evening which is equally hot but more free for me.
11th October 2006
Time is flying by too fast and I have few opportunities for producing an update. The working days are between 8 and 12 hours long and the evenings are taken up with visitors, washing, coming in late or collapsing into bed when there is no power. The day after my last update, we held the weekly Orthopaedic Out Patient Clinic diagnosing many conditions and deciding on treatment plans. Afterwards, I went to Mbale for the night with Matthias and his family prior to leaving the next morning for the CBM staff annual outing to the source of the River Nile at Jinja. Forty of us congregated at the Kingfisher Resort for a ride up the Nile seeing the Source of the Nile where Speke stood and announced his discovery; also round the island where the prisoners are kept and I wondered why they didn't swim ashore to escape only to be told that the waters are infested with crocodiles. In fact, we passed one such creature and the boatman circled and returned to the spot for me to take a photo only for me to see it lazily ambling up the grassy slope. I texted Christopher to say I had seen my first wild crocdile much to the amusement of the staff as it was nothing more exciting than a monitor lizard of which there are many in Kumi. A visit to the Bujigalli Falls where I foolishly went White Water Rafting 5 years ago concluded the staff outing whilst Matthias, Dr Ekure and I discussed future plans for the physiotherapy department. We slept in bandas (very smart "mud huts" tourist style) and returned to Kumi to resume my preferred lifestyle. I was picked up by the Land Cruiser only to find that Alex had collected Marjolein, a nurse from Holland who I met on my first visit in 2002 - a lovely surprise and we had so much to tell each other! She was married on 29 September, yes, 2006! Monday was Independence Day so it was my first opportunity to relax. My first visitor was a teacher from Mary McAleese School who collected the letters and scrap book produced by the children at St Francis Xavier School in Richmond. We were both impressed by the childrens' work and he has taken them to study carefully and to decide how to best use the money they raised. Later I was invited to Aede Simon Peter's home to celebrate Independence Day and I enjoyed watching the family and friends take the local brew through the tubes and play their local instruments. Suddenly the wind rose and we hastened inside just before the heavens opened and the iron roof sheeting was bombarded with giant hailstones. I have never heard such a din and no conversation could take place until the storm had subsided. I visited Adesso Primary School on Teusday morning to take the calendar, letter and photos sent by Elmfield Primary School in Newton Aycliffe. The teachers decided to spend the donation on new chairs and asked for only 5.I was disappointed, in fact horrified, when they told me they had 5 teachers and soon put the facts straight as to who was to benefit from the money! Next Tuesday I am off with Patrick, the PE teacher, to buy football, volley ball and netball kits and lots more if the money isn't all spent. Loads more to write but I shall see if this works better this week. I hope to go into Kumi Town tomorrow morning by boda boda but the success of the update depends on my computer skills and the power situation both of which are unpredictable. I hope to find lots of emails and news. Fingers crossed!
5 October 2006
Just 3 days since I last updated and I could already write a book. Work has been hard but rewarding and I think my photos will have to tell it all. Life in the Guest House is transfomed by the tap water and the flushing toilet but one must never expect...no water at all as I write and so I am still hot, sweaty and dusty after 10 hours at work.Yesterday we went into Katakwi District for Home Visits and the staff kindly told me that the rebels were quiet but the Karamajong warriors are far worse and were active only the night before. They are easy to distinguish as they are half naked wearing only skins or loin cloths and beads as they ravage people's huts and burn them to the ground, killing at random and stealing the cattle. The people continue to sleep in the camps at night only to return to their villages the following morning. They leave for their camps around 4pm and I was cautiously watching the sun sink over the horizon as it approached well after 6.30pm but we safely arrived back home late, hungry, dirty and tired. We visited a boy, Opus, who had severe deformities and Ochen who is braindamaged and one of 13 children. I came home bearing gifts of a live chicken and a large bag of ground nuts. Today we held a clinic under a large mango tree filled with swooping fruit bats stretching their translucent wings as they swooped down low over our heads. We saw over a hundred children with almost as many different disabilities and now they need to come to the hospital for surgery or treatment.
2 October 2006
I'm here at last after a very uneventful and easy journey. I even managed to get over 30kg of hold luggage through Teeside Airport without paying for excess baggage. I had only one slight mental aberration with my packing when I put my torch in an easily accessible case only to find on my first night at Helena's Guest House in Entebbe when it was dark that the case had a strap with a lock with a security number and what did I need to see the lock, yes, a torch! The next two nights were at Mbale with Matthias where I was made very welcome and had my own Guest House at the end of their garden. This morning we drove to Kumi Hospital where I was greeted by many old friends. I started seeing patients almost immediately: two hydrocephalus babies and a man with a bad back to name only three. To my delight, lunch was greens, beans and poshe. I'm awaiting supper and have already had a visitor, Brenda, whose mother, Asio, has made me a cake and given me a pawpaw.
27th September 2006
This is my final attempt to update my diary before I leave in 36 hours. Lets hope it works as soon I won't have Peter to help me. Luggage restrictions are causing a bit of a headache as the information offered is inconsistent. Presumably all will be revealed at the airport when it will be too late. At least, all travellers are in the same boat (or plane). My case is sort of packed, my hair is shorn but there are still lots of finishing touches.I shall try to update as soon as is possible so watch this space... Whoops! I've deleted the last entry in my effort to get it right but it wasn't very interesting, just saying that the 250 kg of boxes are on their way to Entebbe.
12th August 2006
The website has been created, hopefully it will be useful to keep in touch with everyone while I'm in Uganda and allow everyone to see what is being done in Kumi.
25th June 2006
The annual garden party, not quite like Buckingham Palace, but a great day raising over £1,400. A BIG thankyou to everyone who helped, came along and donated money.