Monday 22 December 2008
So my diary is complete but not to my satisfaction as I have left out so many details which I, myself, would not like to forget but it is not to be. Now we are days away from Christmas, cards are sent, a few presents bought and all without too much enthusiasm on my part. I feel like a fish out of water here but I know I shall get used to it in time. I worked out that my cards and postage would have paid half a child's boarding school annual fees so I know what I will do next year! I was talking to Ben, my 5 year old grandson, and mentioned that Santa Claus doesn't go to the children in Uganda and he stated that maybe they would be happiest with some clean water. How right he is! No computer games, no toys, no crackers. Just the true meaning of Christmas and maybe chicken on the menu for a treat! They would still have had to visit the borehole or well for their water as day broke.
Nothing stands still and we have attended a concert in Yarm church. Anna Huntley who went to the same church as JP sang beautifully and we enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies in the Church Hall afterwards. A total of £1,200.00 was raised for Adesso School. JP has told us that he has bought 2 "cracking cows" (one is pregnant) and a calf so the school has already got milk! My Fund continues to grow as so many friends have been active while we have been away and I have more talks in the diary. Now I must settle down to make my 2008 presentation because my first talk is in early January and that is just round the corner. Thank you to everyone for your support and for my letters which are always a delight to receive.
Sunday 21 December 2008
Three weeks have passed since my last entry and my memories of events aren't so good but I shall endeavour to recall the main events. I left off while Chris was sick and after my last writing, he relapsed into another rigor and a further four drips were given to him over the next 48 hours, Wet towels were draped over his body and the doctors continued to call, each one stating that he WILL be all right which meant that they too were concerned for his recovery. Anne who cooks for us tempted him with morsels of food such as pineapple and chips as they say that it is important to eat but poor Chris constantly brought the lot up and, seemingly, much more. The millet porridge seemed to be the only thing that stayed down and I have to say that Modesta's version is quite the best I have tasted. More visitors came bearing more gifts but the patient was too ill to care.
Juliet continued to be an excellent Florence Nightingale and reported a drop in temperature by the end of the evening and now the knee was causing concern as the leg was very inflamed and painful. This is still not cleared up as I write.
Wednesday 3 December
The patient continued to be sick and was now getting weak and needing help to go to the loo. However, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and Juliet decided she could pack her bags and continue her hospital duties. She had been caring for Chris during the day and at night and also trying to work in outpatients. She really deserved a medal! All I had to give her was my torch and a toothbrush! I was able to leave the bedside and to start the packing process as we were due to leave in a week and I know that the final days are frantic. I accumulate so many papers and notes as well as T-shirts (Adesso School and Kumi Hospital), my African everyday dress and lots of gifts. One case was empty due to all the things I brought out and my plan was to take it back without nothing in it but in the end it was full of millet flour, G nuts, paste and gifts. The malaria was subsiding but poor Chris continued to vomit and sweat. Howver I decided I could leave him for a short while as long as there was someone in the house so I cycled up to the hospital to arrange the building of a mud hut for a double amputee. Gabriel was now on the Nutrition Unit as his condition had relapsed and he looked so sick. All he wanted to eat was tomatoes but these were too acid for his stomach so he was desparately losing weight and his face looked so small and too full of teeth. But he could still manage a smile...just.
Thursday 4 December
Chris was over the worst and I could manage to continue my programme. Anne promised to stay with him and I knew that he was in good hands. The Land Cruiser was out of action so George, another driver, picked me up from the GH in a 4X4 which was the only vehicle left. Little did I know that the push starts they tried had failed and they had had to have a tow to get the engine going. Charles, the hospital administrator, had waved them off announcing that he would be surprised if we didn't break down! Better that I didn't know as we were off to Kaberamaido to a Health Clinic and also to see my boy, Anthony Edinu. All went well, we collected Anthony on the way because he knew where to go as we meandered through the tracks, down the potholes and out again and through the bushiest countryside I had seen. No wonder the Karamajong cattle thieves had a field day in this region. They killed many peasant farmers and their families and stole their cattle in the 90's and early 2000's. They continue today but not on such a large scale. The clinic was intresting but the language was not Ateso so it was like Chinese whispers with the story probably ending up in English with a very different version from the start. The clinic finished well, we piled into the vehicle but the engine was as dead as a dodo. George, in his wisdom, decided to try a push start and had many people pushing it away from the road and at a good speed but no engine-stirring could be heard as they disappeared into the bush. We waited and waited and then Michael and I decided to investigate and we followed the tyre tracks at the junctions knowing it was ahead somewhere. Sound travels well and we should have heard some chatter from far away, but no, they were not to be found until we had walked a couple of kilometers or so in the relentless heat. Then, there it was, a silent, useless heap and with George deciding to start on the engine so the bonnet was up, screw drivers and spanners took off this and that and then he replaced them and tightened them up but to no avail. By this time, the voluntary pushers were too exhausted to push any more and we were further from the road than when we started. If they had gone the other way, we would have been much nearer a road which had no traffic but at least we would know that left or right would lead somewhere! SOmeone knew of somebody who lived "over there" and whoknew something about engines but George was convinced there was air in the fuel tank so he wouldn't give up. After a while, inquisitive visitors arrived from nowhere and helped to push the vehicle back to the Health Clinic and the only option we had left was to pray. Well, George loosened some important-looking nuts and started the engine and it spluttered and shot out jets of air/ steam/ fuel? and the engine roared into life. Our prayers had been answered and, at least, we could get nearer to civilisation. We still had time to take Anthony home as I really wanted to meet his family and I could hardly believe my good fortune as we chugged into his village where his grandparents lived. (I must remind you that a village is not what we would think and is only a group of mud huts belonging to that family). It seemed idyllic but I knew that this was where his parents had been killed by the Karamajong and that the family had had to abandon it and live in the camps. We were introduced to the family and then we sat down in traditional manner and ate a meal prepared for us; rice and chicken so I enjoyed a plate of rice. In fact I would have enjoyed a sheet of cardboard having had nothing to eat since daybreak. We gulped the borehole water down while George kept the engine running and then we said our good byes all too soon.
Friday 5 December
Chris was doing well and I could continue with my field work with a clearer conscience so it was off to Ngora with William and, to my horror, in the same vehicle but Ngora is not far so the sense of adventure was not the same. We had a busy day checking up on progress with goats, cows and mud huts and I returned home happy that people were being enthusiastic with their new opportunities. We also dropped in to see Jane at the Aliasit Ladies Group to check on the Kumi ladies' visit on Monday. They are to spend 3 days learning about poultry rearing and I wanted to finalise payment and the programme. Jane had a group of 70 people there for a week and I have to say that the centre looked fantastic. Whopper tomatoes and egg plants growing out of the top of maize bags with onions emerging through holes in the sides, all due to the compost; raised nursery beds with row upon row of different crops. So different from the standard fields of maize and sorghum and so much better to get some variety into the diet. I wished I could also attend a residential course but maybe one day...
Chris and I had been invited to Martin's and Josephine's for supper but Chris wanted a quiet evening so I went alone. Not far, just to one of the new staff houses in Dr Landheer Avenue (this doctor funded the house construction last year) so I managed to walk in the dark without the aid of a torch as the sky was clear and the moon and starlight were sufficient to see by. I found Martin and Alex sitting outside and I joined them on the proverbialy low stools (good thing Chris hadn't come as his leg would have let him down badly) and we watched the children play and the women prepare the meal. The fire flies were flashing away and the African chorus was chirping in the grass. They have two children, Rhoda(5) and Joy(3) who speak beautiful English with the most fascinating accent. These children go to a good school in Soroti and will go far in life, I know. This year, their family has increased with the addition of James who was fast asleep on his mattress on the floor so I didn't see him. The evening passed all too quickly and I was able to convince Martin that I didn't need escorting all the way back as is the custom. It's just the roots of the trees which are a bit scary in moonlight as the shadows look remarkably like snakes. Back home to find that Chris had had a queue of visitors bringing lots of gifts to bring to UK including eggs which we cooked and ate. There was far too much for us to even consider packing so the Childrens' Village were grateful for any excess.
Saturday 6 December
Dr Lillian's traditional marriage day has arrived and I was looking forward to going. The Guest House was filled with her friends staying and the bride was breezing in and out as though she hadn't a care in the world. The ceremony started at 11 and she told me that her father was a stickler for time keeping (an unusual trait for an African) so I thought I should be ready. I found time to visit Gabriel who was weaker but his sister had arrived and he said he was full of joy at the sight of her. His brother, Stephen, had been missing for a few days so his sister was able to be his attendant. Some units of blood had been obtained for Gabriel and the nurse was trying to find a vein which hadn't collapsed but she could not. Gabriel's face was twisted in pain as she tried and tried but he bore his suffering in silence as he had always done. Anthony had given me a bag of oranges for him but he was unable to eat anything. I came home with a heavy heart as it didn't seem fair for Gabriel to continue in this way and I prayed that he wouldn't have to go on much longer. There are such extremes of emotion here and it is difficult to go from one to the other as in turning a page in a book but it was back to the marriage but with Gabriel always in my mind.
Lillian told me that she would send a vehicle to collect me which meant I didn't have to keep looking at the sun to tell the time and it wasn't until 12 noon that Anne said it was time for me to don my gomaz. If only I could go in my comfortable clothes but, no, at my age I'm always being told, I must conform to custom so it was on with the kikoi (a weight in itself and it's purpose is only to make your bottom look big! I don't need to try!) Then the metres of material are wound round, pleated, tucked in and tied together with a second strip of material. Finally, a large, wide satin, stiff with heavy duty polythene sash, is tied round the waist with a bow and I have to feel elegant because if I move a muscle the thing might fall off so it's a straight back and with no spinal rotations! My tin of safety pins was untouched because Anne tried to convince me that nothing would loosen. You have to stand akimbo when putting the thing on so that you can take a stride, a tip which would have been useful the last time I had to endure the discomfort as I could only take a Chinese-type step which didn't allow me to climb into the Land Cruiser with dignity. It was up above my knees and lets hope no one is looking! Anyway, I duly arrived at Lillian's home where the tents were erected, flowers which had been fresh but were already wilting in the heat and barely anyone had arrived. I was relieved to see two friends from the hospital were seated and I could join them also in their gomazes (not sure of the plural!). The music was loud and rhythmic and the time passed until the procedings started. The ritual is lengthy so I won't go into every detail but a cheque from the groom is placed on a suitable table, 4 processions take place whereby the bridegroom's family inspect each girl and then choose the one they think most suitable for the groom. I suppose they always select the right one as there would be trouble in the camp if not. The first procession is with toddlers, then old women (my age), then mothers belonging to the Mothers Union and finally the one with the bride. The band continued to play, the old women danced with much ululation and then the two families went off into the bush to inspect the dowry. There were 8 cows and 8 goats and lots of chickens and sacks of crops. The family representatives went into deep discussion and then the bride's side announced that they would not accept two of the cows as one was too small and one looked sick. So more lengthy discussions took place until there was agreement. We could then return to our seats and continue with the procedings. I was getting hungry by this time and I was pleased to see the girls bringing many dishes of food to the tables. Finally we could wash our hands, help ourselves and eat with our fingers. How sensible not to have knives and forks as it saves on the washing up! Present-giving (anything from goats to chickens, pans, crops, brooms amongst many other things) took place together with presents to and from the groom's family and was followed by speeches (not too lengthy). I couldn't understand a word until I heard "Robinson" (good thing I was concentrating) which meant I had to go forward and say a few words; difficult when I was very uncertain about my gomaz but I delicately lifted the 3 pleats which raised the hem to avoid tripping only to reveal my ungainly thong sandals but I am sure no-one noticed as they would be admiring my bright blue Mothers Union gomaz for sure. Everyone else's gomaz was magnificent in every respect but I was grateful to have been given this which is now residing in the Guest House for future use. It was dark long before I left having remained in my seat as dancing was quite out of the question but the party was in full swing and the noise of the music could be heard many kilometers away back in the hospital until morning. The church wedding was to follow in Kampala the following Saturday but I was to be back in UK by then. I was very happy to have had the opportunity to go and I wished that Chris had felt well enough to accompany me. I think Dr Ekure enjoys reading my diary so I am sure this will give him a chuckle!
Sunday 7 December
Our last Sunday morning prayers which entailed the usual good byes and "see you next year!" Back at the Guest House and straight into a meeting of God's Grace Womens' Group as I had failed to attend them on weekdays due to returning from the field before dark. We started with a prayer and a hymn and then I was given the minutes and Constitution to bring back home. What comprehensive notes! I now know that they will be able to continue their projects and record them well. I was presented with g-nut paste and g-nuts for the AIC members at home. We discussed the 3 day visit of the 3 ladies to the Aliasit Womens' Group the following morning and I reassured them that all was in order having called in last Friday. They have been given a lump sum so that they will be able to start their chicken project and hopefully build a house and compound. The meeting finished with a song specially written for the day which I recorded.
Chris decided to stay at home while I went with Florence (physio assistant), her sister (a ward sister) and Martha (her daughter) to her mother's village,a visit I do every year. It was lovely to see her again and to enjoy lunch with the family even though the mother sat apart from us with the women and children. We arrived back to find that Chris had had a steady flow of visitors bearing their gifts for us to bring home.
Monday 8 December
My phone rang early and it was Ruth to tell me that Gabriel had died. I was surprised at my reaction as I could not have wanted to have him suffer any longer but it was like a family member dying. There were so many tears amongst the staff and it made me realise that Kumi Hospital is one big family and Gabriel had been a son to everyone. I went up to say good bye to him and he just looked asleep especially with being black but so small under the blanket, almost as though there was no one there. But his body was so very cold and he was at peace at last. Burial plans had to be arranged and I was able to complete my care of him over the last few years by buying a coffin, burial sheets, cement, sand and aggregate, and food. Last week I had decided to cancel my field trip as it was my last day and I remembered last year's chaos so I could go to town to help with the arrangements. I returned in the back of the vehicle with the coffin (covered in purple material and cut to size as Gabriel's body was not big due to his contractures) and sitting on the cement bags. I had too much to do to accompany them to his village but I knew that he was getting the burial he deserved. I wanted to see the achievements of the God' Grace women so Anne, from the GH and also a member took me to her staff quarters where I was greeted with a flock of chickens of all sizes and I also saw her raised nursery beds, compost heaps and her fuel-saving stove. She escorted me to other homes where the ladies were doing equally well so I am assured that they will go from strength to strength.
By dusk, I finally managed to achieve what was to be my first task of the day which was to decorate the Christmas tree which had been in one of the boxes (how long ago it seems that I had the headache of their arrival!) and given by a friend's son in Middlesborough. Stephen, Gabriel's brother, had heard the sad news and it was so good to be able to talk with him. He was devastated as was Vicent who had also heard and had come wearing his Xmas clothes which we had bought together a few weeks ago in Kumi Town. I still can't fathom out how news gets round so quickly to such far away places. We managed to get the tree up but the lights didn't work even after trying several power points. Stupid me, it dawned on me that there was no power and it wasn't until morning that we discovered that all was well and that another goal had been accomplished.
Tuesday 9 December
Our day of departure arrived and Chris managed to get to the Hall of Hope for Morning Assembly and he thanked the staff for their support of his tree project. He presented Dr Opolot with a shepherd's crook for him to lean on in his dotage to look up at the thousands of trees which should be sky high by then. I had time to say a quick good bye to everyone and wished I could go to Gabriel's burial but maybe it was a good thing we were on our way south (to go north). We left only an hour late with Chris in teh front to be able to stretch out his leg while Dr O, JP and I squeezed in the back seat. James, one of the drivers, Ruth and others squeezed even tighter into the very back with all the cases, specimens, injector pump, chickens et al. One never goes to Kampala with only one task. JP was going down to buy a permit to visit the gorillas (I must do that one day), Dr O was going to a meeting and Ruth wanted to see what an airport looked like but, also, to visit a college where she hopes to be admitted to take a Diploma in CBR. At present, she only has a Certificate. As we passed Margaret Asio's home, Alex blew loudly on the horn and she came running to say farewell. She had given me sim sim balls and g nut cookies for the journey and I shall miss her cooking too much. Of course, we delayed in Kumi Town to do this and that. Dr O turned up with Xmas cards for our family members, Ruth went to get some chapattis and then we were all set to go. Alex turned round and asked me why I was sad and I said I was thinking of Gabriel's burial but he said we had to put things behind us and look forward. How wise but so difficult and now as I write this at home it's hard to think that his burial was less than two weeks ago. My plan was to visit Regina's (Italian physio) home in Kampala but the journey took long and by the time we had visited the National Forest Association and studied the pine trees, dropped off a specimen for biopsy, taken in the injector pump for repair, dropped off Dr O for his meeting and taken his suit to UPMB, stopped at the market to buy chicken on sticks and roast bananas for the veggies, we just had time to get to the airport. Even this was complicated as Chris found he had the Guest House keys in his pocket as he emptied everything out to go through security so we had to phone Alex, wait for them to return to where they had left us and hand over the keys. It had been a palaver when Chris lost his keys on his first day there and new locks had to be ordered only for JP to find the keys on the road! But we were still in our final hours of being in African mode and the frustrations and satisfaction in sorting out a hitch were par for the course.
Tuesday 2 December 2008
The patient is much better, Juliet is very tired and I am destined to be an attendant for another day. With only 5 working days left, I will soon be panicking to get everything in order before I leave but I am enjoying getting through the volumes of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Chris has been up for a wash and a shave, had his bed changed and his room cleaned and is eating his breakfast as I write and we are awaiting a visit from Dr O who called earlier but Chris was washing. He is as deaf as a post due to the quinine and I wonder if it is temporary. He can just to say hear me if I lower my voice an octave.
Monday 1 December 2008
Now things went downhill when Chris woke with the shakes which was most alarming. I ran to Grace's to see if she had some ideas and to look through her book on tropical medicine but we were none the wiser so I went to ask Dr Opolot if he would take Chris to Out Patients but, even better, he sent the nurse here. Blood sugars, BP and a malarial blood test were taken and Chris was tucked up in bed. Malaria was diagnosed, an IV drip inserted into his arm and Juliet, the Out Patient sister moved in! The attention was far quicker than any you could expect to receive in UK and, if you have malaria, come to Kumi Hospital! My visit to Kumi Town, a lunch and a supper date had to be cancelled and I had numerous phone calls and visits from well-wishers. A pumpkin was brought, a Thermos of millet porridge, g-nuts, Sprite and Coke and the promise of many prayers. Chris improved as the day went on but then his condition worsened and Dr O and Juliet shrouded him in wet towels to reduce the fever. Another unit of quinine was given and Juliet stayed the night to administer a third at 2am and to keep an eye on the patient's condition.
Sunday 30 November 2008
The first Sunday of Advent and prayers at St Joseph's proved to be a very lengthy process. Tom, the Choirmaster, started to talk about novenas and didn't know when to stop in spite of being prompted to summarise which I think he did but then he followed this with a concluson until we all gave up in despair. It was the start to a not very successful week. We were to have lunch at Okerenyang's, the clan chief, but a high up member of the clan was murdered in the early hours of the morning so we presumed that lunch would be cancelled. The man who did the shooting was arrested when the police entered his home only to be told by his wife that the man was not there but when they broke down the door, they found the man hiding under the bed.
I have to say it was a very pleasant change to have a free day and I started preparing to sort out my paperwork, wrap presents, make cards and generally get ready to leave bringing our departure day even more imminent. I always find it difficult to come here when the time approaches but it is more difficult to leave, even moreso when a text message arrived from Peter saying there was ice on the inside of all his windows in Dalkeith and that he is very grateful for the shutters he has made.
The day improved when we went to Dr and Mrs Opolot's home for supper to meet 5 of their 6 children. We drank wine and shared our meal with the new addition to the Ugandan menu, banana pancakes which are quite delicious.
they say that one must eat when
Saturday 29 November 2008
There was power so I was up at 5am to wash my hair, my clothes, change my sheets and have everything in order before the sun rose. Chris and I walked over to see his project which is coming on well. Five men were digging out holes for the fence posts round the perimeter of the area. The posts are from the felled eucalyptus trees in a nearby "forest" which were planted not too many years ago. One shaded seed bed is finished and a second is to be constructed. Two 5000 litre water tanks are in situ and it looks like big business. It was already intolerably hot and the day had hardly begun. We were off to town on boda bodas to do our weekend shopping. Bicycle charges have gone up as a result of the tanker taken by pirates off the Somalia coast (we are told) and fuel is scarce. Only one of three garages in Kumi Town had fuel so they could charge what they liked and they had doubled the price so we all have to pay more! As we passed the villagers and the cattle and a few dusty lorries, I thought that in just 2 weeks time, I will be cycling to Sainsbury's under my own power unless, of course, the roads are not too icy. It's impossible to comprehend that it's winter back home. The Internet Cafe was available but my hopes of sending this diary to Peter were dashed when I found I had saved it on the CD as a shortcut. I learn by my mistakes where computers are concerned. Chris went to the ironmongers and then we met up and searched the shops for playing cards for Gabriel. It took a while but I was sure they must be there as you often see men sitting under trees and playing card games. We were finally successful and I came out of the shop with a bag of sweets, a plastic football and 2 packs of cards. Thirst had overcome us so we stopped at a cafe and drank Cokes in the cool breeze before our ride home. With the motor cyclists paid off, we walked up Margaret Asio's track and we were given the usual "You are most welcome" greeting and we were made to feel very much at home. The chiuldren soon spied the football in my flimsy caverer (carrier bag) but it was not for them. We were given the customary low wooden seats in her "car park", one of her many shaded seating areas, whilst she prepared tea for us. Leah, her 5 year old girl, played with Coke bottle tops making her own simple games. Four toddlers sat on the verandah of her house again amusing themselves by hand clapping and jumping. A small boy was throwing a fruit and catching it. They were all fully occupied with their own imaginations and I thought that back home, the fingers would be active on computers and Nintendos and the eyes on the screens. We then moved to another seating area to partake in tea and maize and we returned home with freshly picked pawpaws pushed off the tree with a long stick.
Our social calendar continued and we embarked on another boda boda to spend the rest of the day with Alex and his family in his village. We were greeted warmly by his mother who is younger than I am (not difficult, do I hear you say?), his grandmother and lots of aunts and cousins and sisters. So here is a family of 4 generations! The children ran off with the football I had bought that morning and it survived the whole visit although I doubt it would be whole for long as it was too cheap. They played football and handball without stopping hour after hour and we said our goodbyes resolving to meet again in 2009. On our return home, we passed Martin's village where Martin looks after Gabriel's new acquisition, a cow. It's a nice, black beast which has been de-wormed and I know will be cared for well. Supper was cancelled as we are consuming too many calories and we decided to make do with our lunch.
Friday 28 November 2008
Thank goodness the week is drawing to a close as it has been exhausting but another follow up clinic must be done. The Land Cruiser has given up the ghost so a car has been hired; bliss! It has air conditioning so, not only do we remain cool, but we can drive with the windows closed so the dust doesn't pour in when we pass a lorry or bus. We also have to drive slowly as the car isn't suitable for these roads and presumably Alex wants to return the car in good condition. We left early as we had been summoned to an important meeting of rehab staff at 2pm but we decided that waiting patients have to be considered first. We were shocked to see hundreds of children waiting to see us and it took what seemed ages to put them in some sort of order by which time we were dripping with sweat so we decided to take our table and chairs outside under a mango tree. So many interesting conditions to be seen; knock knees, burn contractures, epilepsy, TB, CP, club feet etc etc and, by the time we had seen the very last child, we had seen 90 patients. Now we were very late for the meeting so we decided to be even later and ate the food offered to us, beans and rice for me and chicken for the carnivores. After all, it is rude here to refuse hospitality and our tummies were rumbling loudly. Whilst we ate, a child who had just suffered an epileptic fit stumbled past the open door. The grazes to his face caused by the fall were horrifying making me realise that the side effects of this dreadful disease can be far-reaching.
Back at the meeting, they were only into the second item on the agenda and we never did find out if they started on Africa time but I think they must have. It was a well-structured and positive meeting relating to issues for the rehabilitation department and finished almost on time.
Walking out of the hospital and back to home, past the children and their mothers or fathers helping them to wash or cooking food or consoling the inevitable wailing baby, as they kept in the shade of the trees and out of the glare of the now intense sun, I heard the shouts of a volley ball game outside the gate. Kumi Hospital were playing Kumi University and where they found the energy from in this heat, I do not know. A netball match followed and I was well settled in the shade of a tree with my feet soaking in a bowl of cold water when it was all over and the University bus passed taking their teams back.
Grace' birthday is today so we were to have a small celebration at the Guest House. It was also Jennifer's (she cooks for us) 40th birthday and it was good to share the celebrations with her as her special day would pass off unrecognised in her home. The staff had arranged bowls of bourganvilliae and franzipanni flowers everywhere and had cooked samosas as a treat for us. Grace had made Jennifer a card and JP had bought her a 500mlwater bottle filled with waragi (the local gin, far stronger than ours.) My offering was far less exciting but probably more useful. Jennifer was happy with her water and took a swig only to splutter and choke when she discovered its true identity. We heard, however, that the bottle was empty by the time she staggered home but she reported no hangover the next morning.
Thursday 27 November 2008
A long, tiresome journey lay ahead as we set off for Kapelebyong, 150km across very bad, bumpy roads towards Karamoja where the cattle warriors come from. You can tell a Karamajon as he has long, dangling ears from piercing and odd clothes. We held a clinic in a Health Centre which went on and on and I knew I wouldn't be back until too late for Grace's birthday party to be held in Kumi Town at a local cafe belonging to Michael who is a good cook but has no business acumen at all. I decided to be dropped off at the cafe to find the door locked by the landlord as Michael had not paid his rent. He ushered me round the back to a small room where a family were assembled. The others soon joined me and we had a very different birthday party which Grace cannot forget. We started with an introduction, prayers, speeches, welcome songs, more speeches and then Grace had to cut the cake and share it out. Another speech followed where it was announced that "baby Grace" was past breast feeding and could go onto solids so she was duly taken out to help herself to a plate of food. The evening progressed in a similar vein until there was another speech, more prayers and the evening was closed and we could come home. I was still so dirty from the day's work and I had not made a "short call" since 7am so I was very proud of my bladder control. I cannot believe that my energy levels are holding out and that I need only a few hour's sleep to recharge my batteries. BR>Wednesday 26 November 2008
Another day out with Ruth to continue following children I have seen in previous years. Opeja Martin's 2 goats had turned into a good-sized bull. Ogwang Jeffrey's (who was burned by lightening) 2 goats had turned into 5 goats and Okia Emmanuel's 2 goats had turned into 6 goats so it is good to see that it's all worthwhile. Okia is a lovely boy, now about 12 years old, with arthrogryposis who was getting a ride back from school on the back of a friend's bike. Unfortunately, Ikebese's cow had to be slaughtered as the bull who came to visit it was too heavy and its legs were fractured! They sold the meat and they have managed to buy another cow.
Tuesday 25 November 2008
The first duty I had was to give the sewing machine with a handle rather than a treadle which Dick Whiteside had given to me to Aliba Anna, an amputee of 18 years. I have known her for a few years and I remember her from the time she had her leg removed. Her problem started with a swollen knee and this progressed to a pathological fracture and osteomyelitis, a disease which kills the bone and causes many deformities or in Anna's case, amputation. She had about 8 operations to save the leg but ended up having to have it removed high up near her thigh. She was walking well with her prosthesis and was overjoyed to be given a sewing machine. "Already I have seen a machine in front of me so I can do my tailoring!" she said. She is already in her third year of a tailoring course in a Fransciscan rehabilitation centre in Soroti. We all piled into the Land Cruiser and set off to Kumi Town. As I was collecting school uniforms from my tailor, Rita, I bought Anna a couple of lengths of material for her to practise on and I gave her my pair of scissors, a good pair which I shall miss! We left her at the bus park and I wonder how she managed to get the machine to her school. I'm sure she will have managed. people don't give up easily here.
Chris joined Ruth and me and we managed to follow up children where we had intiated Income Generating programmes. We took school uniforms to Silver's family and waited for the Local Councillor to arrive so that we had a witness to the return of land and the gift of a bull so that the family had regained their land to be able to grow their own food. We bought half a dozen goats, distributed mosquito nets and were given a bowl of ground nuts and a dozen maize cobs, a great reward for our efforts! We had footed it throught the bush to the villages and I arrived home tired but well satisfied with our achievements.
Monday 24 November 2008
In two weeks time, we will be preparing to leave but there is so much to be done before then.
Today I was off to Osere with Francis, a CBR worker, on the back of his motor bike so it was on with the helmet and we disappeared into the bush leaving a major dust trail behind. It's too dry and dusty now making us all change colour as the red dust sticks to our sweaty skin. The majority of the children are once again the victims of malaria either having brain damage, Gluteal Fibrosis or epilepsy. I am thinking of writing to the New Vision newspaper editor to emphasise the point that Gluteal Fibrosis and Post Injection Paralysis are due to bad practise in the outlying Health Clinics. One poor family had three children with disabilities one of whom we found naked in a collapsed mud hut and tied round the ankle to a piece of wood. It seemed inhumane but I don't think the family had a choice. We made out a treatment programme for all three, advised on the importance of mosquito nets and arranged clinic appointments for the next week. I had been carrying a Sunderland football shirt to give to a child who I nthought would appreciate it but I ecided to give it to Olinga John Peter so that he at least had one item of clothing. Photos were taken for Grace to pass on to friends of hers who know the S'land players. If only one of them would see a picture of the boy tied down and then one of him in the shirt.
I arrived home too late once again for the women's group meeting but relished soaking my feet in a bowl of cold water whilst reading my book, an excellent way to recharge my batteries as riding on the back of the motor bike is not the easiest of ways to travel through the bush. Feet get pierced with thorns and blood once more poured from the wound which I thought had been cured by the Traditional Healer last week. At one point, my leg went into complete paralysis having kept it in one position for far too long. I couldn't decide whether it was painful or numb but, whatever was the case, I wondered what the local people thought of a strange white person whose leg collapsed on putting it to the ground.
Sunday 23 November 2008
Mass at St Charles Borromeo (I must look him up in Butlers Lives of the Saints on my return), the orphanage where I attended a Confirmation what seems like months ago. I had asked two boda boda boys to come at 7.30am but they arrived at 7am which was fortuitous as, even though I had timed the journey, I hadn't allowed for the slower speed of a motorcycle and we needed 50 minutes to be there on time. I was worried about Chris being that long on a bike as he is getting bad bouts of cramp and when it happens the effect is immediate and alarming but we were lucky and reached safely with Chris and me on one and JP and Grace on the other. It was a very pleasant early morning ride with few frighteningly large, noisy lorries passing us and we mainly had the road to ourselves; a man cycled past carrying a very relaxed goat round his neck, the usual oxen with their yokes and ploughs, children and ladies carrying their jerry cans to the borehole or well for the day's water. Mass was delayed while we took breakfast with Fr Charles and then we proceeded to the magnificent church built with no expense spared to find it packed with children and adults. The orphans which Fr Charles had brought back from the war-torn north a couple of years ago stood out in their orange T-shirts and the rest of the congregation were dressed in their Sunday best making a colourful scene. The music and singing filled the church spoilt for me by the electric organ. If only they had been strumming the acungos, arigidigis and adugos, we would have been much happier but, of course, for them a keyboard is everything. Mass was long and I knew we had to be back for 11.30 so a surreptitious text message had to be dispatched to inform our next host of an unknown delay. Finally it was over but then the speeches started and we had to go to the front to introduce ourselves which we can now do with ease and even greet the people in their language. Fr Charles gave a rendition of "This is the day" and "I've got the whole world in my hands" before we could leave. Lunch had been prepared for us but we had already been invited out to Pastor John's so a hopefully polite but a hasty departure and the return journey to Kumi Town were made with promises to return. The fourth and last umbrella in Papal colours but without insignia was given to Fr Charles but the gift seemed irrelevant now the dry season has arrived. Perhaps he will be happy to have a sunshade sometime!
Each year I visit Pastor John in Kobwin and this year was no exemption. His children are now growing up but his wife still looks very young. We sat under the mango tree and watched the girls thrash and winnow the maize until it was just seed alone and was ready to be bagged for storage. The sweat poured off their brows as they beat the crop with great force. I tried but I definitely didn't have the right action and my efforts had little effect. Pastor John was adamant that the task was only for girls or women and that he would never put an ounce of energy into such a menial duty. It was an idyllic way to spend a Sunday afternoon even though we had to wait over 3 hours for our transport to come to take us home.
Saturday 22 November 2008
It's up with the cock's crow and off to Sironko to spend the day with Robert, the teacher, and his wife, Jane, and their two children, Susanne and Shadrack. The journey entailed a boda boda, to town and public taxi to Mbale, both rides being very pleasant and uneventful. The boda boda ride enables me to see the crops, huts and village life from a sideways angle and the cows brush my legs as I compete for the centre of the road all because I ride side saddle like a local lady. The men only see the back of the shaved, black head in front of their noses. We were expecting to be picked up by a driver in Mbale for the third and final section of our journey and it wasn't long before I heard "Robinson" from behind and we we were seated in the back seat ofa Toyota and we realised that the first part of the journey had been to simple to be true. We whispered to each other about the square wheels and the swerving steering and we quickly said our prayers as the car wound its way up the mountain side finding it difficult to keep within the constraints of the verges. We drove over the coffee beans laid out to dry across the tarmac along with all the other traffic, mainly lorries spewing out the blackest of exhaust fumes but also the cattle and goats doing what they do naturally all over the beans. It's always at this point that I decide to never touch a cup of coffee again, or a plate of rice as that also suffers the same indignity. What a relief to arrive at Robert's only find that indeed the tyre was flattened. Introductions all round, a gentle hint to the driver that a repair was needed before we would embark on another journey, bananas and tea taken and we were ready to set off again to see the Sipi Falls further up the steep slopes. The car was slightly improved but our confidence was shattered and we sat biting our nails as the car revved its way up the winding road unable to enjoy the panoramic views over the north of the country. The engine kept failing but we reached our goal and enjoyed the fresh spray of the middle of the three Sipi waterfalls. A man soon spied the muzungos and took us to his cabbage field where he was growing hundreds of huge-hearted white cabbages on the slopes of the mountain. The climate is cooler here and conducive to the production of crops such as cabbages and carrots. Of course, I had to buy four whoppers for 400/= each (45p) and we worked out that the farmer was into a good thing and we wished that more local people were able to have the opportunity to grow cash crops. The Arabica coffee bean farmers sell their dried beans for 3,000/= a kilo and then these have to be processed by roasting, grinding and packing before they are distributed for export. What do we pay for a cup of coffee in a cafe? Around £2.00 perhaps? 5,000/= and how many cups of coffee can one make from a kilo of coffee? Overheads cannot be that high and so is the trade of items such as coffee fair to the farmer after all? Chris and I were not looking forward to our return descent and, although we chugged and spluttered our way down, I was brave enough to dismiss the driver and inform him that we would make our way by public means to get home. Surely this would be preferable. After a lunch of rice and cabbage for me, meat for Chris, we hailed a taxi and decided this was far preferable to the car even though a taxi ride is always a scary experience. We stopped at trading stations and we enjoyed watching the world go by. Children played with old tyres, women sat making chapattis on the charcoal, men fell over on their drunken state, cattle were herded past and the cheerful noises of African music. More and more bags of crops, planks of wood and many Muslims (rarely seen in Kumi) piled into the vehicle and after what seemed many an hour travelling in a very overloaded taxi, we disembarked in Mbale, risked our lives crossing the road and waited for the next vehicle but none came. Cars stopped to ask where we wanted to go, the sun was setting rapidly and we started to make contingency plans if we completely failed in our mission. Then we spied a welcome vehicle, tipping at a dangerous angle but it stopped and this time we decided we were not going to let it go without us so we squeezed into a few inches of space with people overflowing on top of us and the door squashing us even further as it was closed. We counted 24 heads where only 14 people are allowed to ride and that was not counting the luggage which is always cosiderable. Chris was in front and we managed to communicate to each other that we were both surprisingly "comfortable", anything to get back before dark which we did. Then it was only a boda boda back to the hospital and the day was over!
Friday 21 November 2008
Augusto left early for the airport and I think he may be back to take up the appointment here. First he has to convince his wife that she could manage to live here for a few years. He was quite taken by Kumi when he found that he could take an early morning run in cool temperatures along quiet country tracks as he is used to the steamy, heat of Dar Es Salaam. Little does he know that the hot, dry season is now upon us and there are no cool mornings. The sun beats down relentlessly from the moment it rises above the horizon.
It was a relief to have a hospital-based day with the ward round which took most of the day and then the out patient clinic with Dr Ekure. We saw many children and over 50% had conditions resulting from quinine injections in the buttocks to treat malaria, a treatment that is not only unwise but not necessary. Such a waste of the hospital resources.
This evening, Chris and I had been invited out to Ruth's for supper, an evening I always enjoy. We found her busy with two others in her compound and cooking a banquet for us both. The table was laid outside under the stars and fireflies and we feasted on, firstly, omelette and then nine dishes of delicious food. Pork, liver and cow for Chris, Irish, rice, greens, beans, cabbage and chapatti. Quite the most extravagant meal I've had! I've found a disadvantage to having a meal out with Chris as, if meat dishes are produced, then fewer vegetable dishes appear and I don't do so well but not this evening! We were joined by her mother, another unusual event but so much nicer than her sitting in the distance. We finally left to walk home by torch light and to find yet again no power.
Thursday 20 November 2008
Before leaving for the Interschool Sports Day, I took the opportunity to catch up with some financial matters which need organising before I leave. School fees need to be finalised and other matters like re-roofing mud huts, buying goats and cows and generally tidying up the loose ends. Chris and I had been invited out for lunch so I left by boda boda in my African dress I had made feeling suitably dressed for a lunch date and for the Sports Day. I first wanted to send an email and attach my web site update to Peter which I put on CD. The first Internet Cafe had no facility for inserting a CD, neither did the second one but then I found a third one which will be my first choice from now on as it was a dream, more expensive but instead of waiting 30 minutes to sign in, I could complete my objective in minutes. Meanwhile, Robert from Mary McAleese School had called me to ask what time the transport for the children would arrive. This subject hadn't been mentioned and I had hoped (but was not too confident) that the school would have taken the initiative and had not expected me to arrange it. I had an hour to find a lorry to take 80 children and so I felt like Anika Rice as I fled through the town seeking a lorry. The first one I saw had no brakes and I felt somewhat responsible for the children, the second had had a load of concrete tipped out so was not suitable and then it was third time lucky as I was told there was a lorry outside the Police Station. The driver was prepared to be paid very highly to do the job and he was quickly push-started off to the school and I could go and enjoy my lunch with Mrs Olopot. I had been warned that she had decided I was to wear a gomaz for the Sports Day and so I wasn't surprised when she broached the the subject but I categorically refused and stood my ground until she said she was very offended if I refused her gift. What could I do? Chris was also presented with a garish shirt which he put on and then it was my turn to enter their bedroom to find a gomaz neatly laid out on the bed. Off with my clothes and on with the traditional dress! First, there is a heavy kikoi (wrap around) tied at the waist with a band and folded over making two thicknesses down to the ankle, then the gomaz which is metres of material intricately pleated, held in position and secured with safety pins for my reassurance and then tied with another band. Then follows a broad satin band lined with thick black polythene and held with paper clips and knotted with great diligenge in front. ! was almost there but there was a string of pearls, a white bracelet and a shoulder bag to complete the ensemble. I have forgotten to mention that the material was bright blue with the Mothers Union insignia printed all over as was the bag and a handkerchief. There i was dressed to the nines and hardly able to take a step but strangely feeling rather elegant! Lunch followed and Chris was honoured with the chicken's gizzard which he failed to devour. Vegetarianism has its advantages! Time to leave for the sports and so Chris left on the back of a motor bike while Mrs Olopot and I were privileged to ride in the front of a pick-up. We passed the lorry with 80 singing children and arrived at the Sports Field to enjoy the afternoon of Netball, volley ball and football. The first two matches went well and so did the football except, as last year, there was doubt as to which school the children actually attended. The teachers had given their word that the players were indeed pupils of the aforesaid schools but there was doubt. John Paul refereed well and was almost in command of the situation most of the time. Unfortunately, it was pointed out that his team had 12 players at one point which didn't help the heated atmosphere. The PE teachers had a slight fracas which was not too pleasant and I wonder if I can manage another year of dispute. I try to emphasise that sport is to unite the children and not to divide but the adults find the competitiveness of the day too much. The trophies were presented, speeches given and the sun was setting. I don't think I have mentioned the engraving for the trophy for last year's games. Let me explain. Adesso School won last year's events and so I left Kumi with them promising to get the trophy engraved for 2007. Patrick, the PE teacher, took the shield to Mbale and just before the engraver put the engraving tool to the silver plate, Patrick stopped him saying that scratching the silver would spoil it. He decided to have rubber stamps made with "Health Body Health Mind", "Robbinson Trophy" and "Adesso 2007"and firmly glued to the silver. Ingenious and definitely different!
I hadn't time to remove my gomaz before we were to be picked up by Dr and Mrs Opolot and taken for a very pleasant evening at Kumi Hotel with JP, Grace and Augusto. Quite a day and you may have heard my sigh of relief as I undid the safety pins and stripped off my layers of, by now, dripping with sweat, material.
Wednesday 19 November 2008
The day had dawned for us to take Vincent Omage back to his home. I have known Vincent for 6 years now and we have achieved some of our objectives. As he had no attendant to care for in the hospital, he was resident in the Leprosy Unit thus labeling him with this disease. We sent him to kampala School for the Disabled and then to Ngora Boys Primary School where he now awaits his P7 exam results. Now that he can walk with his two artificial legs, it is time to resettle him within his own community. This morning he packed his few belongings into a small case and we set off for Katakwi. I wondered what was going on in his mind as he neared his home. When we reached it, we found that his small unit in the trading station had collapsed and was now a corridor between its adjacent units. We continued to his mother's (I had thought he was an orphan!) home where she was a concubine and this did not allow Vincent to enter the home. I am no expert in this culture but I'm learning. Much incomprehensible and noisy discussion ensued until we returned to the trading station where even more heated talks took place until one young man, Philip, offered Vincent the use of his adjoining unit. Vincent's mother swept it out and Vincent installed his total belongings quite happily although to move into a home with leaking iron sheeting, no windows and about 6 feet X 6 feet would not be my first choice. We've given him a goat, some provisions and agreed to rebuild his collapsed house. Philip was to buy Vincent stock so that he could start selling a few items to make a living. Now we await a phone call with the costings for his new home. It wasn't too difficult to leave him as I know that he has to stand alone sometime. This took most of the day and it was late by the time we arrived back home to find Chris was progressing well with his project and Augusto, an Italian who may take overMatthias' post in Kumi, who had come to see what Kumi was like. We spent the evening in candlelight and discussed the hospital and its future.
Tuesday 18 November 2008
Tuesday is Gerard Moses', the blind man's day, so sure enough he was sitting in the porch when I emerged from my room. We shared breakfast slightly unfairly as I knew he couldn't see my plate of fruit but I knew he would rather have some bread, our 2 eggs and water.
Today I had been allotted Peter, a driver, to take me to Mbale to collect twp tricycles which have been waiting since my day of arrival. This week seems to be allocated for tidying up lots of loose ends making me feel as though my departure is looming. After a few hitches like Chris taking my phone, things started moving well. Losing a phone here is like losing a part of you with sudden panic when you can't put your hand in your pocket to contact someone. I ran (well, a quick walk to be more honest) home and managed to get into Chris' room to find his phone by his bed so I rang him with fingers crossed hoping he would answer my phone which hopefully was in his pocket. Now, in the Hall of Hope, there is a notice written on the blackboard "If you are waiting for a phone call from God, leave your phone on but if you are not, please switch it off!" To Chris' embarrassment, my phone rang loud and clear but he didn't recognise the tone so he left it ringing! As realisation dawned, he dashed out and by this time I could see him about 50 yards away. I don't think he will do it again!
My first duty of the day was to visit Olelia Primary School to hand over the desks to the school. A boda boda ride up the tracks took me to the rural school and Ann Grace, the Head Teacher. We entered the Primary One classroom to be greeted to a "Good Morning, Madam!" shouted in unison as the 120 children stood up to greet me. The 12 desks looked insignificant as they seat only 36 children but it is a start in the right direction. Not all the remaining 84 children were not seated on the floor in front though as up to six children were squeezed on the desk's integral seat. The children bombarded me with many questions, what do you eat at home?, What do the children sleep on?, why are you white?.Sings were sung and I was sorry to leave the happy bunch but relieved that I am not a teacher.
Peter and I set off for Mbale, about 60km south, stopping to buy a sack of sweet potatoes for his family in Bukedea, a trading station we passed on the way. A boda boda boy was stopped, the potatoes were unloaded and the 100k+ sack was strapped to his bike for him to take them to Peter's home. The mountain range of Mbale loomed ahead and we soon found ourselves riding over the many speed bumps which cannot be ignored, passing the roadside shacks selling the local crops and the barbers and simple cycle repair services etc. The many people, goats and cattle walk on either side of the road with the cyclists avoiding them, the motor cyclists avoiding the cyclists and trying to avoid being knocked down by the vehicles which seem to skim past with milimetres to spare. We continued into the town centre to start our shopping; tyres and inner tubes for tricycles. This proved difficult as we tried each possible shop until we ended up in the market where we found a very helpful Indian who could supply the goods. Returning to the car, there was a car park attendant who demanded a day's charges as we had presumably delayed our return within the alloted time but I managed to persuade him to take only 200/= instead of 1000/= being a matter of principle. Now to find Kews Co for the tricycles! Thank goodness for mobile phones as, having bought some airtime, we were able to continue phoning him for directions until we could finally see him standing on the roadside outside his engineering works. The tricycles were duly strapped to the roof and the inside.
Next stop was to see Bob Arnold who I had not met before but a physio friend from home had told me about him and his wife living in Mbale. He is in Uganda with the Church Missionary Society and his wife, Ros, and he had so many places and people in common with me. We talked over lunch, walked round his agriculture project and then said our farewells. Back home, power resumed earlier than usual and so it was a golden opportunity for washing my hair and clothes in some warm water - bliss! Patrick, the teacher, called to ask for money for food for the Intersports Day on Thursday. I knew from past experience that I had to be shrewd in deciding a fair deal and, although he wanted rice and meat for the players, I thought posho and beans was sufficient so enough funding was given for that and only sodas and biscuits for the teachers and invited guests instead of the banquet we provided last year. Firewood was to be collected, soap and salt bought and the final plans were completed.
Monday 17 November 2008
JP was much better and was returning to teach at Adesso. Chris was to continue with his tree project, Grace went quietly to resume her duties on the children's ward to find that the tetanus baby was holding her own but the second man had died, and I wondered what lay ahead with no definite plan to work on. After Assembly, I soon settled into a day of resolving outstanding issues; accessibility of school fees throughout 2009, giving out a tricycle to Ogudo Charles, the poor man who lives with his sister and sleeps on a sheet of cardboard. I had given him some shillings to buy soap to wash his clothes but they were as dirty as ever. He had used the money to start building some mud bricks and labour for his new house. Being a PPP, he can only shuffle on his bottom or crawl on all-fours so he had done well to do get this far. I gave him some clothes I had brought from home and some money to complete a very basic house but one which will give him a roof. He gave me, in return, an enormous grin and I look forward to showing a before and after photo of him with his change of clothes to Pat back home. I think she too will have a large smile when she sees it. I saw a few children including Otim Samuel, another athetoid CP, to whom I was immediately attracted. His personality shone through his distorted expressions and he was eager to communicate by speaking, a bright little boy of 10 years old with a good mother and I wish I could add him to my list of children at school but I must make sure I don't take on more than I can manage. His name is on my list though as I know he would do well in Kampala School for the Disabled. He can write from 1 to 7 with his toes and I went through the alphabet with him and he could go from A to Z by repeating the letters after me. Then I drew a cat, wrote c,a,t, he laughed at my drawing and understood that c,a,t spelt CAT so I rushed home, got some flash cards that peter had sent last year and I hadn't given out and showed his mother how to help him with his letters and words. The day continued in this manner until it was time to walk home and to soak my feet in a bowl of cool water and shampoo for bubbles.
Sunday 16 November 2008
Chris and I walked to St Joseph's Church for prayers, calling to collect Gabriel from his ward on the way. Another introduction for Chris to the congregation and then after to sit on benches under a tree for him to meet the Church Committee as he wants to finish off the building of church. I returned to find we had power and so immediatelt set into my diary but too many visitors arrived and I had to abort my plan for another time. I tried to phone Jackie, my cousin in Spain, to wish her a happy birthday but a woman gabbled at the other end perhaps telling me that the phone was not available and to try again later so I failed. We had been invited to Simon Peter who works in the Workshop and his family for supper and we arrived to a scene worthy of a President's reception with two seats at a table bedecked with lace cloths. I know the family well and it was good to meet TaTa (granny) again. Although neither of us speak the same language, we seem to communicate with little difficulty. A vast selection of food was arrayed before us and it was difficult to do it justice but we did manage to do the honourable thing and take a little of everything hoping that in the darkness, the lack of volume went unnoticed. Chris had a fine time telling SP about his tree project while the youngsters enjoyed playing with my camera and made video clips much to everyone's amusement. The baby chased to dogs, the dogs chased the chickens which took refuge in the big tree where they sleep, the fire flies flashed and the women and young girls cleared away all the pots and plates until the evening had passed pleasantly and so very differently from at home. A lift home in SP's old car painted with LIVERPOOL on the rear rounded off the day and we slept dreaming of all today's events.
Saturday 15 November 2008
A free day lies ahead but I know it will be full to the brim with this and that. I started off with my washing, changing my sheets and tidying my room, cycling to the hospital to collect the storeroom key, only to find that Anne Grace, headmistress of Olelia School, had arrived for us to go to Kumi Town to collect the desks for Primary 1 classroom. Two picki pickis were hired to take us to town; one for Chris and the other for A Grace and me to squeeze ourselves behind the driver who had to move up front and sit on the engine. We called at the Post Office where a parcel awaited for Grace (but mine still hasn't come) and then we continued along the Main Street to pay for the desks. Twelve small desks seating three 5 year olds each were piled onto a pick up and I am to visit the school on Tuesday to photograph them in situ. Chris hadn't enjoyed the experience of Saturday shopping in Kumi Town and I think he found it much more appealing than in UK. He revelled in the 5000 litre black plastic water tanks and I could hardly tear him away from the ironmongery. Even the market with its plethora of fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses and dried fish together with the sounds and smells have their attraction. I needed lilac and blue material for school uniforms, a football I'd promised a boy, airtime, toilet paper, sweets for the kids and my only disappointment was to find Rita's tailoring "shop" closed. We were quite laden, hungry and thirsty so we went to Home Again for beans and rice as Chris had been put off the chicken after last night's supper and swilled it down with a couple of bottles of Club lager. Back by bike and we called in to see Margaret Asio where we received the usual greeting; "You are most welcome!" and indeed we were. Seated under "my" tree shade, we were introduced to Margaret's children and once more the UNO cards came out for the children to play. I gave Chris a guided tour of Margaret's estate, demonstrating how she had put into practise what she had learnt in Ngora. I hadn't been for two weeks and everything had doubled in size, the banana trees were taller than I am, the small tree plantation was now established, her tomatoes were turning orange and the sparse garden when I arrived was almost looking overgrown. We were called to the food table, our hands were washed, grace said and an omelette and pawpaw were put in front of us. We'd overeaten at Home Again so it was with difficulty that I managed to squeeze down a polite amount of food but Chris was just too full to try! JP wasn't well and retired to bed after supper and then the evening was spent with Pius joining us for a game of UNO bringing in more new rules making the game very fast and furious, almost with flesh lost during certain moves. So ended a "free" day.
Friday 14 November 2008
At Morning Assembly, Chris was given the usual Africal greeting and he had to give a few words of thanks and then I hardly saw him for the rest of the day as he started immediately on his forestry project by visiting the hospital farm with Charles, the hospital Chief Administrator. His day was very successful and he came back in the evening very enthusiasticly relating every moment whilst we could not get a word in edgeways! We know it's 1300 trees to the hectare and how the seeds are planted and transplanted in April etc etc.
I suppose my day could be considered to be routine, but never is it that! Today Alex and I set off north for Katakwi taking some ex-blind patients home following their eye surgery. What joy there was from the back of the vehicle especially from one very old man who could not get over the fact that when he came, he saw nothing and now he could see the fields and sky. They disembarked in Apopi which is where they had first attended our Outreach Clinic the week before. Just think! Only a week from their first consultation to surgery and discharge. How does that compare with our NHS? It is far to Katakwi and it was a little alarming to find that the waters were rising and that some areas were flooded again. We heard on the radio that 2 people had already been killed by the floods and we saw water rushing through the culverts and the swamps which had become extensions of the lake once more. It shouldn't be similar to last year as the dry season is due so the rains should lessen. We picked up a very old lady who had been collecting water from a puddle and I was amazed at how far she had already walked this morning along the road to get the water. We must have driven at least 10 minutes before we reached where she had started her day's trek. She must have been very, very grateful to have been able to avoid the intolerable heat of the overhead midday sun.
In Katakwi, we picked up Moses, the CBR worker, and we resisted the temptation to have a meal at the cafe where we went to last week and I wondered what the day had in store for us. I was not to be disappointed as we drove from village to village visiting the children with disabilities and reviewing and assessing them. We were warmly greeted by all except for a few children who screamed at the sight of the white woman. (Sometimes I have to take a walk away from the village as they fear me greatly.) Of the 6 children we saw, 5 had acquired disabilities from malaria and 1 was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. This is a dreadful situation and I hope Bill Gates' research comes up with his 100% effective vaccine as soon as his foundation is able. What a good man he must be to spend his wealth on such a needy cause and I wonder if he has travelled through the bush to experience the situation at first hand. The futility of these children's plight is indescribable. The day continued; we arranged to collect two children on our next visit on 26 November to bring them to the hospital as it is too far for them to make their own arrangements. One needed a little wooden walking frame as he was now able to sit unaided and walking training. The other who contracted malaria at eight months needed plaster casts on his legs to reduce the muscle spasm which was causing flexion contractures to his hips, knees and ankles. With these contractures, standing and walking are not possible.
I was distressed to find a CP 6 year old girl, Acori Rose, living alone in a dilapidated, leaking hut with nothing but a maize bag and a few ragged clothes. Her father had two wives and the stepmother was left to care for her. The stepmother lived "Over there" but I was unable to see a mud hut in that direction so it was through the thick bush somewhere. Rose was brought food supposedly every day but who knows! What could we do? Very little then but we formulated a plan whereby Moses would return to the stepmother as soon as possible with the LC1 (Local Councillor) who would oversee the situation and we pray that the child will have a better future instead of living in this incredibly inhuman way. How can such situations develop and what could that child ever hope for? It's difficult not to engulf her in your arms and bring her home! Our final child of the day was Ideet Emmanuel, a 2 year old spina bifida child who lived with his mother following the death of her husband. Once again, the situation was very moving and the family needed an effective plan to improve their pitiful life. Their living conditions were indescribable and so we decided to build them a new hut with Moses supervising the project. They were also given money for two goats which will belong to the child and a little extra for some food.
Hot, tired and hungry, we started on the return journey knowing it would be dark by the time we arrived at the Guest House. Charcoal sacks sit on the road side waiting for customers and here the charcoal is good quality and cheap at 10,000/= a sack whilst it is 18,000/= a sack and of lesser quality in Kumi. It's too good an opportunity to miss so two sacks were bought and lifted with much effort by two strong men into the back of the vehicle. I don't know why I thought a bag of charcoal would be quite light but I was very wrong. Further along the road, we picked up a lady bringing her 2 week old baby home after a Caesarian delivery. It was her twelfth child and she had so far to walk that she too must have been pleased when we stopped for her. She just didn't have enough money to take public transport and so it was so easy to be able to give her a little help to allow her to take a bus to Soroti. The rest of the journey was straightforward and I must have spent well over an hour absorbing the beauty of the evening skies. The panorama stretches 360 degrees as the horizon is low and far, far away. It's impossible for me to describe the patterns and colours of the clouds and skies as my words cannot do them justice but, take my word for it, that it is a memory not to be forgotten.
Back at the Guest House, Chris is full of his day's events, JP is not well so he was not his usual cheery self. My cockerel was on the menu and I am afraid that Chris did not appreciate the lack of tenderness of the meat and he may well resort to vegetarianism before too long. I plated the remaining chicken as I knew Gabriel would be more appreciative and so he was. Chris and I walked up the path looking carefully for lurking snakes and went to the hospital to Gabriel's small ward where he sleeps. The room was in darkness and he, with Stephen, his brother, and Vincent were already asleep. They were very grateful fro the food which I presume they shared. Back to the GH as an early night was called for. Chris needed a little instruction on how to take a shower without a shower and we retired to bed under our mosquito nets.
Tuesday 11 November to Thursday 13 November 2008
Up at the crack of dawn to set off to Kampala with JP, Grace and Henry. It was an uneventful journey apart from passing the overturned lorries, and a couple of accidents. People were dismounting from a public taxi onto the roadside after it had collided with a private vehicle and a women lay on the roadside after being knocked down by a motor cyclist.
We dropped JP and Grace at the Immigration Office and Henry who was returning to Holland and I went to Matthias' to spend the day while we waited to go to the airport. Henry was leaving on the flight which Chris came in on and it wasn't long after saying goodbye to him that Matthias and I were waiting in the Arrival Hall to greet Chris. Not only was it Chris on the flight, but also Dr Opolot, Dr Ekure and Adam, the physiotherapist, who were returning from Michigan, and also Sarah Hodges, the anaesthetist for her husband, Andrew, the plastic surgeon for Smile Train.
Wednesday was spent almost the whole day playing UNO with Noah and Joshua, Matthias' sons and eating delicious meals cooked by their cook, Maron.
Thursday, Alex came to collect us to bring us back to Kumi. On the way, we bought many books for Mary McAleese School, stopped at the NFA (National Forestry Association) centre, bought chicken legs on sticks and roast bananas from a roadside market and drove many miles into the darkness until we reached Kumi Hospital. Can you believe that power had been uninterrupted since I left? Bourgonvilliae flower arrangements adorned the porch, the sitting area and Chris' room! What a welcome for his first night back in Kumi.
Monday 10 November 2008
This is day before I go down to Kampala (I wonder if one goes up to the capital in Africa? I don't know!) as Chris arrives tomorrow evening. I continue with my tricycle renovation as a very dilapidated one which belongs to a poor PPP man has arrived. To find out what PPP is for new readers, you will find it somewhere below! I don't normally help adults but this one is so helpless and when someone looks at you from the ground, it's difficult to say no. His brothers have ousted him from their home and he is homeless and sleeping in the open air on a piece of cardboard. I have verification of these facts as it is Michael, the CBR eye worker who knows him and has asked me to help. I have agreed to build a local mud hut (home-made bricks and not expensive, also with a short lifespan but it will be better than nothing for him.) Ruth and I set off and bought a mattress, mosquito nets and a blanket on the way to the field. Adeke Esther, a 3 year old CP girl was walking well and now she has 2 goats for herself. Okiror Abraham, also a CP 3 year old could now sit well thanks to his CP chair and is to attend the CP clinic to be fitted with a standing frame prior to a walking frame. It will be good when he is independent as he is one of eight children and his mother aged 39 is once again pregnant so there are "8 children and 1 within). A toothless old man who looked like a great grandfather appeared and I was surprised to find that he was indeed the father! I asked Ruth if it were appropriate to suggest Family Planning and she started on a long speech to the couple. He announced that they would accept whatever God gave them so that was that! He had been a Primary School teacher so his English was good. Egadu Francis is a 17 year old epileptic boy who has completed P7 (this allows him to enter Secondary School education) but he has no future as he is. He and his mother who is a little mentally retarded have been removed from their village and they live on the periphary in very poor conditions whilst the rest of the family live relatively well. He was proud to show me his hut which was basic to put it mildly but an absolute tip. I told him that, if he tidied it, he would get a surprise so he swept it up, threw away lots of wood, dust, rags and old jerry cans and then asked me to inspect it. It was reasonable so he then got his mattress, blanket and mosquito net. He was overjoyed as was his mother. We then talked about a possible technical training for him so that is yet another issue to consider before I leave. The list is getting longer and I now realise that my time here is getting short if I am to complete all my projects. As we started the engine to leave, we were asked to wait and we saw many children running through the crops and bush and realised they were catching a chicken for us. It wasn't until we found they were chasing a 4th one that the mental capacity of the mother was revealed to us and was not all that it should be and we had to call out to ask them to stop. Ruth, Alex and I were all presented with a chicken each which helped me with the conundrum of who should have the chicken at the end of the day. I was given the splendid cockerel with irridescent plumage whilst Alex was given a lesser cockerel and Ruth a hen. The birds fought like cat and dog in the back of the vehicle until they were exhausted and gave up the fight. (It wasn't until Thursday night when my cockerel was garotted and we found that I may have been given the bird with the best feathers but it was as tough as old boots.) The final child (Okurut Silver) was lying on a rotten maize bag alone in the village when we arrived. Soon the compound is always filled with children and adults alike as soon as the sound of a vehicle reaches their ears. The parents were in the field making charcoal to sell to buy some food. We had time to investigate their living conditions and we found no food, little garden for growing crops, a leaking roof to their mud hut and no animals; a very poor home indeed. We were just about to leave deciding that Ruth would return to speak to the mother when she appeared, pregant again! The mother was not being neglectful but she had to make some money so this situation was not unique. We formulated a plan and asked the mother to bring the child to the CP clinic and to provide assistance. They had no land as the father had had to sell their one plot to a neighbour to be able to give the mother's parents a dowry so, until they had their own land, they would go hungry. Ruth was to meet the new owner of the land with the LC1 (Local Councillor) to agree the re-purchase of the land which was to cost 50,000/= and a cow. School uniforms for the 2 elder boys and 1 girl were to be made so that they could attend school and we gave them 20,000/= to buy some food. We were braver this time to bring up the subject of Family Planning and Ruth assured me that the parents were attentive of our advice.
I returned to pack and to have an early night as we were to have an early start to Kampala.
Saturday 8 November 2008
It's Saturday as I write this in the physio office with the generator giving power. The Hall of Hope is seething with what seems to be the entire population of the hospital who are watching Man U play Arsenal. The roars and cheers are deafening and I wonder what the score is. Arsenal is definitely the most popular team here but Man U , Chelsea and Liverpool come a close second. I passed a young local lad who was wearing a Man U hat and an Arsenal shirt. How things have changed here since I first came when many people hadn't even heard of footyball.
I should be in Gerard Moses' village with Grace and JP but I got my days wrong and they were expecting us on Sunday and they hadn't sent boda bodas for us. We will go tomorrow as I know they will have gone to a lot of trouble and our plans for tomorrow are also scuppered so all in all this weekend is a bit of a mix-up. JP and I went to Kumi Town to the Internet Cafe but they couldn't start the generator so that was a dead duck along with everything else. At the supermarket, I bought a toilet roll, some cooking oil, 10 envelopes, a big bag of sweets and some long-life milk and spent the same on that as I did for my airtime which seems a bit ludicrous that the mobile phone takes up so much of my budget. The Post Office had nothing for me. He told me that Robinson came in yesterday and picked up a parcel so I asked to see the official book and found that the parcel was not for me! JP bought a piece of ply wood maybe 8 feet by 10 feet and I have a video clip of his return to Kumi with the wood on the back of a motor bike. He paid extra to the boda boda man as the wind resistance caused by the wood must have trebled his fuel consumption. It's worth seeing!
Now the light is fading fast, Grace is on the children's ward dealing with a neo-natal baby with tetanus while the man in the next bed who also has tetanus is gurgling away. I am waiting to be asked if she wants him to have chest physio. She has just asked my advice as to what to give the baby as the mother has no milk and the baby has a naso-gastric tube. I've suggested that she goes up to the Nutrition Unit to see if they have some formula. Now I'm finishing today's entry before the day is over but it will be supper, maybe a game of UNO by candlelight, a shower (not what you all think a shower is for sure!) and then sleep. I almost bought a bottle of altar wine at the supermarket as we are hoping Henry will be back from his trip to Tanzania to see his sister. We have all missed his company and he returns to Holland on Tuesday, on the plane that Chris comes in on. (PS If we had power, we would be able to see what we were eating, maybe watch a DVD, read a book and all the other pastimes one can do when the light goes on and off.)
Friday 7 November 2008
We were taking Anthony to Soroti bus station so that he could catch a bus to Kaberamaido and Ann Margaret, the girl with the amputation, with her new Singer sewing machine and everything needed to start off a small business back to her home. I was sad to say good bye to Anthony with his new back pack, the bag I gave him last year, smart fleece out of one of the boxes and new shoes which Alex bought for him. It was a different sight from when I first saw him last year, a very frightened boy with no belongings to speak of and unable to speak English. I phoned his grandfather and was pleased to hear that his English was very good as he was educated long ago when the education system was much better than now and the children learnt to speak the language. Now I know I will be able to keep in contact with the family and probably wish them a happy Christmas on Skype when I am at home in UK.
By this time, we decided we were hungry and stopped to have lunch at another very local cafe in Katakwi town. Seven of us sat round the table (Ann Margaret managed to get out of the vehicle with difficulty as she hadn't tried this manouevre with her new leg before) and ate chicken, atap, beans and chapatti all for the equivalent of £3.00!It was definitely time to get going so we washed our hands (very greasy when eating with the fingers), jumped in the vehicle and left to take A Mgt home. It was so far, the mountains that I admire so much in Kumi got closer and closer until I had a good view of their contours and then we finally reached her home. The sewing machine was taken down from the vehicle's roof, the local children were given new (second hand) clothes, a 30 year old man came to show us his terrible "cancerous" feet, a lady with her elephantiasis and I was given a chicken which I have since added to John Paul's collection. (One of his died unfortunately). By the time we were ready to leave with Ann Margaret very happy at the prospect of setting up her own business, we realised that there was no time to see any more children so we set off for home. We may as well have been in Kampala, it took so long. The roads were bad, the rain severe and we could see that if this rain continues much longer, we could be in for more flooding. So many vehicles had broken down, a Coca Cola lorry had overturned and people were offloading many crates and we also saw so many wheels taken off and bonnets up that it was a relief that we managed fine to reach home safely.
It was dark and I was expected at Florence' for Martha's birthday party an hour ago. We off loaded the sack of charcoal I had bought on the way home, threw the chicken into the kitchen cupboard for the night, had a brief cold wash and changed and was ready to set out to make a quick dash for Florence' home. This was not to be due to wet, slippery murram and deep puddles. I had to inch my way along with the help of lightening to avoid sitting down and then I couldn't find Florence' house so I ahd to phone her and ask her to stand outside and flash her torch. There she was in the distance with her "morse code" guiding me in the right direction! I felt privileged to share the family birthday and the supper prepared in the one room on two charcoal fires. It's so cold at the moment that it was a pleasure to sit round the glowing embers! I really don't know how they cook in such difficult conditions. We may enjoy an annual two weeks camping experience when the sun shines but to do nthis 52 weeks of the year is a bit too much. We ahd omelette, maize, greens, ebor, rice, chips and chicken, all cooked on 2 fires. Admirable! Chris phoned but there was no way I could hear a word for the rain on the roof and the thunder roaring away so I had to ask him to put the phone down! He has yet to ring me back! Maybe he has been out. A few loud cracks immediately overhead made me jump whilst everyone else never moved a muscle. There was a short cessation of rain when I quickly left for home wading through almost rivers of puddles and hopefully avoiding any lurking snakes which I did or I wouldn't be writing this. Then it poured all night long and I really thought we would be a floating island by morning.
Thursday 6 November 2008
Julius is my first visitor and he brought the large acungo (thumb piano) but I was not at all happy with it. Even with my unmusical ears, I knew that the sound was not as deep and vibrating as it should be and the workmanship of the frame left a lot to be desired so he reluctantly took it back after much discussion. He is a most infuriating lad to communicate with as he says yes when he means no and yes when he means yes. It took an age to get him to understand that I wasn't going to pay for it and also that I wasn't going to give him money to replace the bull which he had stolen last week. After a few false starts, he finally left and I could walk to the hospital much later than I intended. Morning Assembly was over and I was to prepare for an Outreach clinic at Angopet with Grace, Cocas, Lydia and Florence. I had plenty of time to visit Anthony and Gabriel who looks very sick and has lost a lot of weight. With even more spare time, Grace and I continued with the box-sorting and we made good progress. Finally, we set off along the Soroti road, branched off and arrived at a large church filled with patients and parents. This was to be the most organised clinic I have ever attended as the patients formed orderly queues making the work as easy as is possible. The second patient was Alfred,a boy of 18 who crawled to our table and was accompanied by his 70 year old father. I was sure the father couldn't understand English so we discussed a plan which included giving the boy a tricycle as I knew that the father would die some time in the not too distant future leaving the boy a burden to his 5 brothers. With the tricycle, his life would be transformed and he would be able to get around without too much difficulty. I heard the word "tricycle" mentioned as Florence talked in Ateso and then I saw the boy's face light up with joy. So this means that one of my two tricycles will definitely go to him. I wasn't even sure that they were still available in Mbale but I have since checked and they are. It only needs time and a vehicle to get them brought here. We saw many children, the majority having problems associated with malaria, whilst Grace helped Michael with the eye patients. Her learning curve was steep and she finished the day with much knowledge. The local mobiliser gave us sodas and biscuits in a mud hut whilst we watched 5 children playing with a Kumi tennis ball which lasted about 5 minutes before it was completely destroyed. We called them into the hut to present them with lollipops when they thought they were going to be in trouble and probably beaten for having broken the ball.
During the evening, it was back to the candles but power came on at 1.00am so it was an opportunity for re-charging batteries which was good as it then went off again until heaven knows when.
Wednesday 5 November 2008
Great jubilations today as Obama will be the President of USA and the White House is now black! There has been intense interest in the election here amongst some of the hospital staff. I have just heard on the BBC World Service that there is to be a Public Holiday to celebrate.
It's also Guy Fawkes night and try explaining that to non-British people.It really sounds so ridiculous!
It's very cold as I write this and, at one point, I wondered if I would have turned the heating on if I had been at home. It must be the interminable rain which has made me very damp and maybe I should put on my socks which normally only come out for the flight home.
Today, having cycled to the hospital, I have been within (Ugandan terminology for not being out). The ward round, checking up on projects, sorting out more wheelchairs to repair, chatting to Gabriel who is a little better; just a nice, easy day which means I'm reasonably clean but in need of a hot wash to warm me up. I may even need to go in search of a blanket for tonight.
Antony, my orphan boy from Kaberamaido, returned from school today having completed his P7 exams. He has to wait until the end of January for his results and he fears he has failed his Maths which means repeating the year and delaying his entry to Senior School. Let's hope he is mistaken. He really is such a lovely lad and I shall miss him when he goes to his grandfather's on Friday. This afternoon, I left Gabriel, Vincent and him with my radio as I told them that they were hearing history with the US Presidential elections but, when I returned to collect it, there was loud African music emanating from their ward. (I must now mention the frog which is croaking extraordinarily loudly outside my door. Quite unbelievable) They promised to return the radio but then the rains came and it was just before dark that they turned up with it at the front door. I was able to give Antony the gifts which I had brought from Tony in UK. His face was a picture as he saw the wind-up torch and he left with his new back pack filled with lots of presents for him. I certainly have a nice task with duties like these. Thanks to all back home! No sooner had they left than Paul who is sorting out the tricycles and wheelchairs came and we talked until it was impossible to see anything. He was followed by Consolata who came bearing a cavera (poly bag) filled with bananas. I had given yesterday's bunch to Gabriel so they were very welcome. So now I'm right up to date for once so Good Night!
Tuesday 4 November 2008
I'm writing this with power on and the laptop on charge; my old mobile phone is charging before it decides to pack up completely. The mozzies are crashing into the screen when they are not nibbling my legs and the thunder continues to rumble away.
Shopping in Mbale is the order of the day and, as usual, we set off late. While we waited, JP and I had an excellent sort out of the contents of the boxes and they will soon be a thing of the past. JP is going to make nesting boxes for his hens out of the cardboard boxes. We hear little of the hens' laying habits now as they are laying well after all this time. It's amusing to see again the things Chris and I packed in July and all of which are useful somewhere.
Shopping in Mbale is not easy, for one thing it's nearly always raining and the other, you risk life and limb crossing the roads. Eyes have to be kept on the ground as pavements disappear into potholes, steps are very irregular and the mud is super-slippery. I managed to buy a Singer sewing machine, 2 feeding cups, a hand of bananas for less than a penny each, an hour in the Internet Cafe and I had to give lots of explanations to shop assistants that today's US elections did not directly concern me and to listen to their great desires to turn the White House black!
JP and I managed lunch at a roadside Dutch cafe where I had a pizza and we shared 3 bottles of Bells beer while we watched the world go by. The Land Cruiser was packed to the roof and above with food for the Childrens' Village and the Nutrition Unit, my sewing machine and many tired staff. Back home, I had Vincent waiting to see me and Cecelia who needed 5 exercise books before she could sit her exams tomorrow. All dutries accomplished, we enjoyed our supper, Dr Michael has gone to find a TV to watch the elections and JP and Grace have fled home before the road turns into a river as it did last night. So I am quite happy all alone and now I am going to have my wash in my bowl and fall into bed with only the candle to blow out before I fall asleep.
Monday 3 November 2008
I woke to power still being present so this meant an impromptu and not-to-be-missed hair washing session, probably my most tedious task I have to do here. The rest of the day didn't follow what I had expected and so I joined the ward round with Dr Michael as Dr Ekure is still in Michigan with Dr Opolot. We visited the children in the Physio Ward and then the adults (although children aren't excluded here) in Ojikhan Ward; osteomyelitis is the predominant condition and caused through bad hygiene and poor diet. One man was suffering from a suspected case of tetanus and was to be removed to another room. Before the round was over, I was called to go for Field Work, not with Amos as expected, but with William whose area is much closer to Kumi. Peter, the driver, and I set out and got hopelessly lost as we looked for William's mud hut home which is like looking for a needle in a haystack. We asked many people but didn't realise that he was using a different name which hampered our progress. He wasn't at home so it was back to Ngora town and we finally caught up with him in the Sub County Headquarters. Now our day could start but I was famished and I had to have something to eat. We stopped at a very local place and I ate beans and chapattis and probably a few flies with my fingers, of course! The beans were too hot and I cannot eat 3 chapattis, in fact I've never managed more than one. Three big meals for £2.00! Now our working day was about to begin with half of it over but we managed to see seven children in the course of the afternoon. One of "my boys", Moses Okenyecure was huddled in his hut with his grandmother, sheltering from the torrential rain and hardly finding space to sit amongst their worldly belongings. The hut was dark and uninviting but their welcome made all the difference. At the trading station, I had stopped to buy them some provisions and a plastic bowl to put them all in; beans, posho, rice, soap, tea, cooking oil etc. They were very happy thinking Christmas had arrived. Moses' bicycle business is doing well and he needs more stock. He still continues with his Primary School education so is a much happier lad than when I first met him. The rest of the children we saw were from very poor families but always managed to produce a smile or two. We came home in torrential rain and even the Land Cruiser almost got stuck in the mud. We passed the Send a Cow project and stopped to say hello to Jane who was busy with her new local hen house which is even going to have a ladder for the birds to climb to roost! I phoned my good friend, Pastor John and he was at the local hospital visiting his sick son so we even managed to see him. He has invited Chris and me out for a meal and it isn't going to be easy to squeeze all these dates into our programme! Can you believe it that we came home to no power yet again so it was supper by candlelight and then UNO and then bed also by candlelight! The thunder continued to rumble well into the early hours and the rain lashed down on my window.
Sunday 2 November 2008
I was expecting Julius with the acungos today and only heaven would know when he would arrive so I closed the curtains very tightly so that I could move around without him knowing I was up as he can turn up as early as 6am! There was a knock at the door which I ignored at around 7. The knock got more impatient and then I spied a muzungo arm pass the window. It was JP wanting his chicken out of our kitchen cupboard! We walked to church for prayers and called to collect Gabriel in his wheelchair on the way. After my breakfast, we still had power so I was able to continue with my diary until, here I am, Sunday evening and I'm almost up to date with only a few gaps earlier on. Of course, my quiet day wasn't exactly quiet with Modesta and her daughter calling, then Julius arrived minus the acungos but bearing a very large grin as he showed me a large bag of, guess what, sweet potatoes, 3 pawpaws, a jar of g-nut paste, 4 boiled eggs and a pumkin. He was also bearing the sad news that his big bull had been stolen and he reckoned it would have been slaughtered and sold. The acungos will come on Wednesday! We had a picnic of his eggs, bread and Coke in the compound and then he left as I was going out to Margaret Asio's on my bike whilst wearing a long skirt. I made it safely and I played UNO with the children while Mgt made tea, a chapatti with egg and pawpaw. This was to be a day of several meals. It was a lovely afternoon but the wind rose and the heavens opened, then the thunder started and any idea of leaving was abandoned until the storm had passed. Chris phoned while I was in the iron-sheeted house so there was no way either of us could speak to each other. I either had to risk the dark or suffer the rain so I decided to cycle home as riding in the dark is dangerous. Over supper, JP and Grace ercounted their adventures which included falling off the motor bike but I leave them to tell you their stories!
Saturday 1 November 2008
I did copy my diary to a CD and I have successfully sent it to Peter who has sent me an SMS saying my web page is updated. Now I can write up what happened yesterday and tidy up the rest of it. After our tiring day on Thursday, I was hoping for an easy Friday and was quite relieved to hear that we could not go to Katakwi as the Government had chosen that day to do something which meant that all families had to stay in their homes. Instead, Martin, Alex and I set off for Home Visits to families much nearer. We managed to visit four families, all of which lived in very poor and remote areas. Achom Juliet had been born normal but had contracted malaria and was now severly disabled with Cerebral Palsy. How frustrating and unnecessary this is as these unfortunate children and their families have a lifetime of difficulties ahead of them. We managed to demonstrate how Juliet could practise and hopefully learn to feed herself with her mother's guidance and, before we left, she was able to hold her beaker with minimal assistance. I'm hoping to find a source of babies' feeding cups for these children so that they don't get soaked when their hands slip. The roof of their mud hut was in a deplorable state so now they can re-roof it and be dry when it rains. The mother was so happy that she wanted to give me a chicken but it was difficult for me to accept as she was so poor. I was brave enough to request a bowl of cow peas in exchange for a chicken and maybe she was very happy with this arrangement. I also picked a couple of green lemons from her tree as I passed. The other families were equally poor and I bartered for a large sack of sweet potatoes in exchange for some shillings. Men come to pack the potatoes into large sacks and then a truck comes to take them to Kampala to sell at a vast profit. As usual the farmer comes off worst and the packers cheat by piling the potatoes way above the top of the sack enclosing them in a mesh of sisal string. I am sure they can re-pack them and make 3 sacks out of 2 thereby making a greatly unfair profit. I thought my sack was just a bit heavier than one of our 20kg sacks of potatoes but I didn't realise that it was 10 times that size - 200kg! What a job it was to get it loaded onto the vehicle and we had to pay 2 men 1000/= each to help. I couldn't even lift a corner of the sack! Just imagine, 10 times the amount of the permitted weight of a case at the airport! I had also bought half a sack of oranges from a man on the roadside mainly because I wanted the maize sack they were in and these sacks are 2000/= new. Produce is sold by the bowl and a bowl of oranges costs 1000/= so I had a bargain but, to my dismay, he emptied the oranges onto the floor of the vehicle and went off with the bag. We managed to distribute the oranges without difficulty. Almost done for the day but Martin wanted to visit the Send a Cow project to get a few tips on cow rearing. Alex and I sat and ate almost a bowl of improved oranges (very sweet) whilst Martin had a walk round. By now, it was dark and it was another night without me seeing my room in daylight! The next morning, Saturday arrived and it's the day for changing sheets and towels. I rinsed my clothes and hung them on the outside line knowing they would drip dry in a couple of hours. George, the driver, called for Dr Michael and showed us the track of a large snake which had come out of its hole last night to graze and then went back down only feet from my room. Then we heard of its offspring joining it. More care will be taken from now on when walking out in the dark! I went to the hospital to re-charge the lap top once the generator had been switched on and got a lift to town with Sam, a teacher, on the back of his motor bike. I wanted to send my emails which I managed with difficulty and I also wanted to receive some but I found none! I have opened another email address as I have given up on Yahoo and Google is much more reliable. I did a bit of shopping at the supermarket - Harpic, Doom as I am being poisoned by my last purchase of Bop, a mozzie killer, cooking oil to take as a gift when I go out for lunch and airtime. I called at the PO to find 2 letters, thank you to the senders!
A ride home, a quick wash and then it's out for lunch to Margaret Akol, the MS secretary, who is almost a neighbour. Her daughter, Winnie, and her two babies were also there as Winnie had fallen off a boda boda and hurt her foot. A pleasant lunch was enjoyed by all and I returned to the Guest House in time for supper. JP went to watch the football at Dr Raymond's and Grace and I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly DVD as at last we have power. After Grace had left, I had to iron my clothes as I had reached the point of wearing creased ones. By the time I went to bed well after midnight, my cupboard looked very diffderent with plenty of clothes neatly piled up.
Friday 31 October 2008
It's actually today that I am writing this, by headlamp torch with insects attracted to the screen and my light. My bites are hell-ish and driving me mad night and day. Nothing but plasters stop me from scratching and they are going from bad to worse. I shall record today's events later but I am going to try copying my diary to a CD and then go to the Internet Cafe tomorrow morning and send it to Peter who may then be able to update the web page. I am fully aware of the big gaps which I regret as this diary is also a true record for me to refer to at any time. I shall endeavour to complete it when I can plug into the power socket. (If that day ever comes!) I shall destroy the CD afterwards just in case it's not wise to put it into my laptop once it has been in the Internet Cafe one. I know I am being fanatical about this but I liken computer viruses to be like AIDs and HIV and I'm taking all precautions!
Power is my biggest drawback as we have had one evening this week and it would be the one I was out for a meal! Hence all I have is the battery so time is limited.
Now I am waiting for the kettle to boil on the charcoal in the kitchen so that I can have a good wash. I've boiled three kettles full already to soak my filthy clothes so that I can rinse them tomorrow and hang them out to dry.
Jp, Grace, Dr Michael and Henry have all gone to Dr Raymond's to play UNO but I was late back from the field again so I have stayed behind to wash and make notes of my day.
PS Birth Announcement (or almost!) JP's hen laid an egg today!
Thursday 30 October 2008
The night was disturbed by a tremendous thunderstorm with the strong wind and rain lashing against my window. The lightening and thunder eliminated any notion of sleep and then one simultanoeus flash and crash had me reaching for my sheet to snuggle under for security. Of course, the power went off having had it for only a few hours. How I wished I'd taken advantage and ironed my clothes which are piled high since my last opportunity.
Gabriel returned from his review appointment at Mulago Hospital in Kampala with a good report and does not need to return until the end of January. He left Kumi at 4am and returned at 11pm, a long day indeed for a sick boy. They were delayed by a headlong collision of lorries on the way and they had to divert along a very bumpy route where many small cars were stuck in potholes.
I was to join the Outreach team but, before that, there were many things to see to. I daily check the dental clinic which is cluttered with 6 broken dental chairs kindly(?) donated by organisations unable to dispose of them. "Lets send them to Kumi!" they all say and here they say yes please and fill the place with junk! Each day they remain and now there is an ultimatum as I don't want Chris to see the clinic looking like a storeroom. Paul has prepared a small wheelchair for me to take out and yet another tricycle appeared for repair. This makes six in all since I came and a job well done!
Finally, we were ready to leave; patients for discharge were packed in tight, the wheelchair was strapped to the roof and we set off for Kumi Town where I bought mattresses and mosquito nets to distribute to homes we had visited on Monday. Passing through Ngora, we stopped at a milk co-operative where we bought yoghurts and mandazi for us and the patients only to find we had a puncture. The ladies stood in the shade whilst the men sweated profusely while changing the tyre. We were all happy to have the cool yoghurt. We were travelling far to Serere collecting Amos and delivering the wheelchair which needed modification as the child's head was too floppy to hold upright so it was strapped back on the roof.
When we arrived at the Health Clinic we found over 300 people waiting for us and it reminded me of a Premier football match. Order was restored, eyes went left and children went right and Gerald, Amos and I started to assess and make plans for over 200 people. There were the usual conditions, some we were able to help but a few were more difficult. The old people were happy to have anything written in their blank exercise books and go on their way to help themselves. It was dark when I put my pen away and we all returned very, very tired, thirsty and hungry. We hadn't had time to think of our stomachs since our yoghurt. Coming back, I experienced an exhibition of lightening as I had never seen before. A huge firework display could never compete with the sky's most amazing performance. There were star bursts of lightening which also seemed to write across the skies without reaching earth. The thunderous clouds edged in gold were profiled against the background of almost continuous brilliant, white lights stretching as far as my eyes could scan across the horizon. The outiles of two-dimensional palm trees sped from right to left and I hardly blinked not wanting to miss a moment. It was, however, with relief that we reached the Guest House all in darkness as Henry and Michael, the locum Orthopaedic surgeon had retired to their rooms. The ascari (night watchman) had forgotten his torch so he couldn't help me find the keyhole! Finally, I entered the house to find my food was cold but the hot water in the bucket was still warm enough for me to have a good wash. I was almost too hungry to eat but the beans and potato were very welcome.
The Ladies Group had attended their meeting in our garden and I had fortunately been able to contact them to say I would not be present. I have since heard the meeting went well and that the numbers are growing.
Today my aunt is 97 years old so I tried to phone her without success. The night passed peacefully and I slept knowing the ascari was around.
Wednesday 29 October 2008
Today's programme includes House football matches in Adesso primary School and supper in Kumi Town at Ann Olopot's. The morning was my own so I counted epilepsy pills in the Epilepsy Clinic, did a little in the Club Foot Clinic, checked the Dental Clinic and tricycles, visited the Nutrition Unit and generally had time to spend here and there.
I suddenly decided my hair had to be washed so it was a quick dunking in the basin, a vigorous head shake like a wet dog and forget about styling! Adesso School was awaiting my visit to watch the House football matches so it was without delay that introductions, presentation of bouquet consisting of bourgonvilliae, hibiscus and other flowers, speeches, National Anthem and the welcome songs were accomplished and the games could start. The school is divided into 5 houses; Peter after the school founder, John after Dr Opolot, Richard after JP's father, Elspeth and another whose name escapes me. The matches were played with much skill and I really don't know how JP manages refereeing by following the game sprinting up and down the field with such nimbleness. It's times such as these which makes me reflect on my advancing years and envy the youth. Sadly, Richard beat Elspeth 1-0 but I can assure you that the staff and children supporting Richard went wild and did a lap of honour cheering loudly. I was ready to share water and g-nuts with the teachers;Patrick, Stella and Tom until Robert came to whisk me off on the back of his motor bike to my next engagement-supper at Ann Opolot's in Kumi Town. I was looking forward to meeting her again and had wrapped up a large umbrella to give her as a retiring present from her position as Head Teacher at Mary McAleese School. Carrying a long umbrella on the back of a bike was for me not dissimilar to the locals carrying their loads of doors, desks, thatch, cows, goats, pigs, coffins and even dead bodies amongst other things seemingly impossible. Ann lives with her husband, Joshua, in a nice house in Kumi Town and has TV with lots of channels and even a landline phone. Unfortunately, Ann was in Kampala looking after her grandchildren so I never saw her but Robert and I enjoyed our meal and spent a pleasant evening with Josh listening with one ear to all his knowledge on England and many other issues and the other ear to the TV where I caught up with the world news and even the Footsie Index. Things don't look too good on the financial scene at home but it's so far away that it doesn't seem too relevant here!
Tuesday 28 October 2008
Who could say that my days are repetitive! Today follows the trend of something new each day. I know I have to be ready for 8am to be picked up so I made sure I had my breakfast before the car arrived. Lilian, a nurse, and Berna, her sister, arrived in a smart Toyota with air conditioning to take met to St Charles' School and Orphanage in Akulony. I could have gone all the way to Kampala in this comfort; so cool and without the windows open to blow all the dust in. I was received in a very comfortable establishment to find breakfast waiting for me so I started again and I hoped that there would be no more food for the day. Also at the table was Jens, a young German of 21 who is there for 10 months assisting in the school. He showed me round the place and explained that he was enjoying his stay but he missed his social life back home and he found the evenings long. I first became aware of St Charles' last year when I met Fr Charles who really wanted Towi's family bible and, after much deliberation, I decided to present it to him where it would be appreciated so much rather than end up decaying on a bookshelf elsewhere. I was pleased to be able to present him with a church paten which had come in the boxes and a tin of rosary beads and a bag of scapulae. I received this SMS later in the evening: "God's will takes us where the grace leads us. You are a mother to us and we pray that God will always lead you to come and visit us. Have a blessed day." Today, the bishop was coming for Confirmation so it was a good opportunity for me to visit them. The orphanage is supported by a church in Germany and I was impressed to see what can be done and started by one lady only 10 years ago. She is to be admired for her achievement. The Mass went well with lots of music, singing and dancing and about 50 children were confirmed and blessed. No sooner had it finished but the skies opened and the people soon scattered. We returned to Berna's home for another meal and then it was farewell once a large pawpaw resembling an enormous rugby ball had been knocked off a very high, 3 year old pawpaw tree and a bag of juicy oranges had been picked.
Still no power back at the Guest House! I wish we could get used to it. Just an hour or two would be appreciated to recharge a few batteries and to see what was what.
Monday 27 October 2008
There are always so many things to see to at the start of a new day. Straight after Morning Assembly, I needed to arrange Gabriel's check up in Kampala on Wednesday as I will be out on Tuesday and Gabriel will leave at 4am the following morning. Another tricycle required renovation which makes four in all so Paul is continually busy for me. Last year it was the church benches and now it is tricycles and wheelchairs. My phone needed charging and I could use generator-power to do this.It seemed an age before Landheer and I finally left for the field as patients packed into the back with all their belongings anxious to get a free ride back to their villages. At last we were off to Serere to meet up with Amos to do a good day's work. I was not disappointed and our first patient, Herbert Emolu, proved to be in need of much help. His mother is a Primary School teacher who does her best for him but it was hard to realise that his condition is directly related to malaria, the dreaded disease. I made a video clip to use on my return and few people will believe what they see. His mother would like him to join Lawrance in Kampala School for the Disabled so she is to investigate possible admission, cost, her contribution etc during the next year. He tries to talk and maybe he is as bright as the next person; who knows! We spent the rest of the day visiting very poor families. I had met Ekulu and Ikulong in the hospital soon after my arrival and we returned to find them living in very poor conditions. The grandmother had bought two mattresses as agreed but had spent the mosquito net money on millet to make the local brew to make some money to buy nets as well as make a profit. I told her of my disappointment as the children were to be prtected from mozzies as soon as possible but Amos promised to supervise the building of an iron sheeting-roofed house for the two children in preference to two mud huts as this would be far more permanent and, hopefully, cheaper, than a hut. Twelve year-old Aliokot lives with her grandmother since her parents died of AIDs and the plan for her is to buy two matresses and nets and to provide a small wheelchair so that the grandmother can take her out of the hut. The long term plan is to re-roof their hut. The plight of the children worsened with Adong whose father had been killed by the LRA and her mother struggled to look after her 8 children. They were given funds for 2 goats, 1 mattress, 2 blankets and a net. I am to return on Thursday to monitor their progress. Our final child of the day was Akello, another 12 year old, who never came out of her room and so was paler than I am. She was unable to eat solids and was seriously manourished. Again, on Thursday, we will collect her and bring her and her mother to the Nutrition Unit as I have shown them her photo and they agree to take her. We would have continued but Landheer had a phone call from the hospital saying that they needed the vehicle to transport a dead body back home before night fall. An eye patient had died during surgery. As it was still light, I went to the Internet Cafe as Chris had told me he had sent an email which needed attention. Yahoo Mail is a nightmare and takes so long to open that I sometimes almost give up but, once in it's not too bad. There were lots of emails to read and then I realsied that darkness was almost upon us so I left in haste to hire a motor bike back to the hospital. There was Julius with his musical instruments waiting for me all day! I felt bad for not answering his incessant aborted phone calls especially as the instruments were so well-made and he had brought me 4 hard boiled eggs. His "wife" also sent a letter telling me that Julius could now buy a cow and bull for a dowry for her to her parents with the money I had paid him for making the instruments. I don't suppose St Marys' School in Richmond ever thought that their fund raising would produce such a good result! Still no power! The final acungos will come on Sunday and then we will arrange days for Julius to teach the Adesso children how to play them and to form an orchestra.
Sunday 26 October 2008
A day for staying in bed longer as today is Harvest Festival and there is only one service starting at 9am...or 10am or, even more accurately, when i t starts! But I can't waste the daylight hours so I decided to change my bedding and tidy my room. If only there was power, I could do my ironing and so much more. Henry and I walked to church passing many people carrying 50kg sacks of crops for the harvest offering and calling in at the hospital for him to put some batteries on charge. He was lucky as the generator was on in spite of it being Sunday. JP and Grace were saving us a seat in church as a priest was coming to say Mass so the seats quickly filled up. The church was filled with traditional music and singing and a the whole service was very special. The ladies'offertory basket contained three eggs and the altar was piled with many sacks of food which were blessed. It was also a day for Baptisms so many babies were splashed with water without any fuss. Two and a half hours later, we left the church and I couldn't wait to delve into the boxes. So far, so good! No breakages, the statues were intact and I found Consolata's tapestry which I had promised her. We passed each other on our way to our respective homes and she was pleased to take it. I wonder if she will find time to finish it ever?
Julius was coming with the musical instruments at 1pm but, by four, he still had not arrived so I phoned him only to be told that he was still at home due to rain. Rain is very local and so no rain here doesn't mean no rain there. So it was back to the hospital to open all the boxes and I distributed many jumpers to babies and shirts to men. There was almost a riot with people taking 2 pieces and, in spite of me requesting them to form a queue, there was no orderliness about the process. Everyone went back happy and there was much dancing and singing.
JP and Grace were out for supper so Henry and I had a quiet meal in candlelight before JP and Grace returned for their chicken. He is seriously into chickens at the moment and now owns a hen and a cock. From what I can make out, the hen jumped nout and another jumped in so I don't think they have the original one. If the hen doesn't lay an egg soon, it is to be beheaded and eaten without delay!
Saturday 25 October 2008
It's Saturday, 4.34am, there is power and I'm wide awake. I've a full day ahead and so I've decided that, if I don't put down the week's events soon, they will become a blur in my memory. What Chris will do when he arrives and finds my sleeping hours are worse than at home, I hate to think. The second group of God's Grace Ladies Group left for Ngora today. I went to the hospital to see them off and I found their vehicle packed with 10 boxes - MINE, at last! It wasn't long before they were stacked in the physio storeroom and I couldn't resist a quick peek to see that they were all intact. Half had been opened presumably by the tax men to see that my packing lists were honest and above board and all were labelled exactly as I left them in UK stating where they were from and where they had to go, not as stated by the freight company who said there was no indication on the boxes of their origin or destination. Perhaps they just wanted to make a quick buck. Never mind, they are here all complete.
Sixteen ladies squashed themselves into the Land Cruiser and set off for Ngora hoping for an informative day. They had theory, practical, video and farm visits so, when they returned in the dark, they called by to thank me for the day. They also brought me some "improved" oranges which we ate for supper.
I might have gone but I had another programme. Florence (physio assistant) called for me and we set off for Soroti for the day. First a boda boda picki picki, then waiting at the roadside for a Gateway bus which took us reasonably comfortably to Soroti, half an hour north of Kumi Town. Next was a boda boda bike but I spied Amos (CBR worker) who was in Soroti to do his college course work at the Internet Cafe so we paid off the bike boys and Amos was our driver for the day. Our first stop was to Bethany School where we met Kate, one of my children. It was her Visitation Day so she was allowed to have visitors. I paid her year's school fees and studied this year's progress reports. Maths was weak for all pupils, in fact there were no passes so I asked if the teacher was weak. I had a letter from Mavis for her and she had a card in return. She is very grateful for the help she is being given and promises to work harder with her Maths. Next was to Jemelar School to meet Martha, Florence' daughter. The staff were happy with her and hope that she will pass her P7 exams next week and then be able to go to Secondary School in Tororo. Her brother, Pius, also came and we went for a family lunch to a very "smart" restuarant where Amos and Pius could watch Everton play Man U. The service was incredibly slow. "It's on its way" was the waiter's comment more than once and 3 hours elapsed before the plates arrived in dribs and drabs. My vegetable curry and chapatti were worth waiting for, I'm pleased to add. Martha and Florence hadn't been out for a meal since we went together last year! Martha's school diet is posho and beans for lunch seven days a week followed by posho and beans for supper seven days a week and millet porridge for breakfast every day also. No greens, eggs, fruit! Nothing else so a perfect example of eating to live but where do the children get their vitamins? Amos dropped Florence and me in the Main Street to catch a public taxi and set Pius and Martha off on a boda boda. I'll see them before I leave as Martha will be finished her exams and we will spend her 14th birthday (9 November) together as we have for the last 6 years!
Back to the Guest House to no power and another game of Uno with JP once more the winner.
Friday 24 October 2008: Another Outreach Clinic in Gweri this time which is a bonus as it's easy to spell. Grace, Adam, Florence, Charles and I set out with Alex driving towards Soroti, over the swamps that were so flooded last year, along the murram tracks until we reached the Health Clinic in Gweri. Hordes of mothers and grandmothers with children were sitting in every crevice of shade they could find on the verandah and under the trees awaiting our arrival. The sight and sound was alarming and a plan had to be implemented immediately. It reminded me of sorting sheep from goats! There were children with disabilities and those with eye problems and unfortunately we hadn't come with Michael from the eye department. There was only one choice and that was to promote Grace to Opthalmologist so she was destined to examine and assess over 40 eye patients while we saw the others. She was OK with the allergies, conjunctivitis and the trauma but many of the conditions were alien to her. Alex, our driver, was her interpreter and mentor as he often helps Michael in his clinics and is very knowledgeable on so many areas of outreach work. With her patients finished, there was no opportunity for her to sit back and relax as our queue was lengthening by the minute. We divided into two teams so that we could work twice as fast. Grace and I (with Alex interpreting) had our own list and we managed reasonably well diagnosing hemiplegics, TB spines, bow legs, knock knees, deaf and dumb (only to find the deaf could hear) and I think we both felt quite confident with our plans of action. One very old, skinny grandmother entered dragging as best she could her adolescent grandson, a big boy badly disturbed by epilepsy and with so many problems. How can she possibly have managed to get him there let alone cope with his every need each day? What had we to offer her? Very little; just reassurance and encouragement for her to continue with the medication she gets locally. These are the people who I think about as I lie at night comfortably under my mosquito net complaining about my very itchy and unimportant bites. The sun passed overhead and started descending quickly while we continued with our work until all was silent, the last child had been seen and we totted up the total for the day - well over 100 patients. The clinic co-ordinator must have felt sorry for us as he brought each of us a litre bottle of Coke and a large mandazi (doughnut). Grace and I shared a bottle and still felt hyped up on 500ml each. We welcomed the moment to wash our hands in the rain water collected from the roof and be driven home feeling exhausted but content that we had done a good day's work. The Guest House is quiet now and. after supper, we thought a DVD would be relaxing but somehow time goes by and the DVD stays unseen for another evening. I have with me a chaotic assortment of cables for cameras, my lap top and heaven knows what else and JP was delighted to find one fitted his camera so he managed to copy his photos to a CD. Grace went to bed, Henry mended the plug on my kettle which was burning my fingers when I removed it from the socket and I sorted out what I needed for the next day. It wasn't long before JP left carrying under his arm pit his newly acquired cockerel which was eagerly waiting to meet its spouse and spend the night in their kitchen. I wonder how long Grace will tolerate these birds inside the house. Less than 24 hours, I fear! The cockerel here starts around 3am but perhaps theirs will sleep longer. Also I don't have to clean the kitchen!
Thursday 23 October 2008: Both American teams left the Guest House today. Matt and Brecci had taken their video footage and have promised me a copy of the final product. Lets hope they remember as it will be a very useful tool for my talks. Patrick and Susan gave a presentation at Morning Assembly to show the staff their findings during their visit. Pie charts and statistics broke down the work of the hospital, the areas where patients came from and the fees collected. Strengths and weaknesses were explained and future recommendations given. It was very informative and I was surprised that they had managed to collate so much data in such a short time. Patrick will be pleased to escape without malaria (I am sure he did) nor being attacked by the flying insects but they will miss Kumi for sure.
A busy day lay ahead for us so it was off to Kumi to do some shopping. Collect Peter's school uniform and Grace' flags from Rita, the tailor, buy 3 mattresses, a mat, a box of 120 packets of glucose biscuits, a bag of lollipops, air time of course, and our days lunch; yoghurt, water and dry buns. On the way to the Outreach Clinic, who should we pass on the roadside making his way to school with two of his friends but Alfred , our little athetoid boy, in his wheelchair. He was on our day's list so we stopped to give him his new school uniform with which he was delighted. We promised to return to his home in the evening with his mattress and we waved him good bye. On arrival at the clinic, we were greeted by just a few patients but they arrived all day in a steady trickle. Although the number was not great, the disabilities were intriguing and I wish I could manage to attach a few photos. Perhaps it's better for you not to see some of them! Gruesome burns and deformities probably best kept in the camera. A crumpled old lady struggled along with bent knees and asked for a cure. Just by asking her to stand up tall straightened her knees and allowed her to take better strides and she left grumbling to herself as no medication was handed out to her. I saw her disappear into the long grass gradually sinking to her former height as gravity took over.
Back home to a quiet Guest House, a cup of tea on the verandah, a bowl to soak the feet and a book. What more could you want? It wasn't long before Henry arrived. He is a Dutch power man and is here to evaluate an economical system to provide electricity for the hospital. Solar power may be the most desirable but is also astronomically expensive. We await the outcome of his findings and I know he has much knowledge on the subject. He talks of the hospital growing crops to provide its own energy but more later when I am wiser. JP came following his energetic day of teaching sport and so the evening started with new conversations but no power. I had great news from Matthias regarding the boxes. Not only had he paid the sum required to clear the boxes and to pay the tax but he had also collected them and taken them to his house. No more storage fees mounting by the day at last! I can't thank him enough as it has caused me many sleepless nights not knowing what the Inland Reveue were going to manage to get out of me. My main worry was the church patens which look like silver and gold even though Chris assured me they weren't. He had studied them carefully for hallmarks before they left UK. The total was plenty but I had feared it would be many times the amount to pay. Now Dr Ekure has the millions of Ugandan shillings to take to Matthias and I'm hoping he won't stay the night in Serena Hotel, the best hotel in Uganda, where the bill for one night would take the lot! My present feeling is that there will be no more boxes sent out here...EVER!
Supper (cabbage and rice) (Henry is also a veggie) followed by a game of Uno played in candle light.It wasn't long before we realised the light was too poor to distinguish the blue from the green cards so the head torch came in useful once more but attracted the mozzies and moths until we suffered more and more bites. JP was the outstanding winner of the game and went back to his house triumphant.
Wednesday 22 October 2008: These boxes are getting the better of me. It's a month since they arrived and there seems to be no way out. I rang Julie at Swift Freight as a last resort and she again advised me to go to the British High Commission to ask for an exemption form to be released but that entails another trip to Kampala and more expense. As the day continued, I at last had news of a possible release if I paid the fees so this was real progress. A few hours were spent arranging transport as there was a vehicle going to K'la and leaving at 3am to collect a Dutch man. You can't imagine how long it takes to arrange anything! Phones are unavailable or plans change and I was to and fro from the Guest House on my bike sorting things out until all plans were in situ and I was to have an early night ready to leave at a final time of 5am. I phoned Matthias as promised to tell him my good news and he offered to go to the office to pay the sum which meant my journey was unnecessary after all. I could hardly believe my luck and I slept well knowing that at last I could get on with what I was here for without distraction.
Sunday 19 October 2008
The weeks fly by and here comes another Sunday. My diary is falling apart as I have lost the enthusiasm due to lack of opportunities to update it daily as last year. Now it's Sunday evening and so today's events are fresh in my mind. No power last night so there was little point to get up at my usual early hour with the cockerels but power did return late morning. I tried hard to be late for Morning Prayer but I was earlier than ever and I even arrived before they had started. I was joined by a very appropriate neighbour for prayers, a green praying mantis which cocked its head from side to side in its usual fashion. It was quite cloudy and cool but the day warmed up nicely and after prayers, I managed to get my ironing done and then I settled down to file my photos on the computer. before long, JP called and it didn't take much to pursuade me to sit outside under a tree and share a coffee with him. He is a good narrator and I enjoy listening to his stories. Stephen Obwongo came with his bike laden with his wares; paddles which is just what I want to stir my laundry and a chapatti roller which is perfect for JP as a rounders baton. Lateral thinking is essential out here! Grace came with her flag material to adorn the walls of the children's ward and was wondering how she could get the edges hemmed. I'm collecting school uniforms I'm having made at my tailor's for Alfred in town on Tuesday so another problem solved. We ate a lunch of water melon, mango, pawpaw and g-nuts before a boda boda came to whisk me away to Hellen's. She is the cleaner in the Eye ward and lives not too far so the ride was fine. Her husband was killed by the Karamajong cattle thieves in 1997 and she struggles with her five children by boosting her salary with a small shop inside her mud hut. Old cardboard boxes were stacked like shelves and stocked with basic items such as beans, posho, matches, tea. A regular flow of customers came during my visit mainly requesting Waragi (local "gin") in small polythene sachets, cigarettes for 53/= each (1p!). One man was very drunk and could go no further than the bench in the hut while he poured yet another beer down his throat. It's difficult to see people come and go in a hut due to the lack of light but when it rained no one came nor went. The downpour was quite incredible and one crash of thunder sounded like a bomb had hit the hut. We all jumped! Soon the hut was an island in a lake. A boy put out a plastic bowl to catch some rain and it floated away, bobbing up and down on the waves like a ship at sea. They announced that I would have to stay the night but, if I was to venture to the pit latrine, then I could almost as easily go home. Unfortunately this was not so easy and, when I finally plucked up courage to ask the boda boda man to take me back before it was too dark, he reluctantly agreed. I was told to get on the bike "like a man" and thank goodness I did as the road was more like a tributary of the River Nile with the water flowing with a strong current. My feet were caked thickly with murram and I was forever steering the bike myself by pushing the driver from side to side as though I was avoiding an icy skid in a car back home. When the big puddles appeared, I was even more concerned that they didn't hide an enormous pothole and that the front wheel wouldn't disappear with us following. But... I arrived back and I am sure my blood pressure must have been sky high. There have been too many RTA's this weekend without any more. Twenty seven people were killed when a bus collided with a cement lorry between Jinja and Mbale and a man fell off a boda boda bike just near here and was dead on arrival at Kumi Hospital. A mother and her two children were killed on the main street of Soroti and those are the ones I have heard about. JP and Grace were out for supper at Simon Peter's so I had not ordered supper but the visitors from Michigan, USA returned and we shared the weekend's events.
Saturday 18 October 2008
4.30am, there is power and so it's up with the cockerels to boil water to wash clothes and hair! There was little time to spare after the power was switched off for the day so I felt good to have done my duties but also a bit tired. I managed to read my book under the tree making sure the owl wasn't above to fire pellets at me and I had few interruptions. At 12 noon, the 8 ladies, JP, Grace and I met to set off to Ngora for the God's Grace Women's Group's outing to the Aliasit Group to learn about their Sustainable Agriculture programme. We were greeted by Jane Olopot who gave the ladies a very vocal and demonstrative introduction to the day in Ateso. JP, G and I could only guess that she was explaining for example how far the roots of trees spread underground. We were pleased when the practical session started and we had to go off to collect green and dry matter to make a compost heap. I now know that compost (C O M P O S T) is THE most important thing to know how to make to have a successful garden! We measured the ground, prepared it, laid out the straw matter, green matter, lots of cow dung, plant tea, ash, urine (cow but human is OK), top soil and repeated the layers until it was a metre high. After 21 days, this is turned and then in 28 days, a beautiful, fine, high-quality soil is produced for growing the best produce ever! Fortunately, I had provided each lady with note pad and pen as they took copious notes on every detail. Following this, they learnt how to make a fuel-saving stove and chicken rearing. We toured the garden and viewed the improved oranges, gardens in maize bags and lots more. I am hoping that they will be full of ideas to start putting some of these into practise. After a glass of refreshing organic orange juice and organic g-nuts, we piled into the vehicle to visit an Aliasit member's farm. What a relevation compared to other peasant's gardens! It could be compared with the best of English nursery gardens. Oranges the size of grapefruit, crops in abundance and the faithful 8 year-old cow continuing to give up to 20 litres a day compared with the 1.5 litres from a local cow on a good day! I bought 2 improved passion fruit plants (500/=[15p]) and a vine for wine-making all of which can be planted when compost is ready. Lets hope that it is in abundance before I leave. We returned to Kumi in the dark and the ladies had much enthusiasm to start raising themselves out of poverty. It was with disappointment that we found there was no power which gives a good excuse for an early night.
Friday 17 October 2008
A slow start resulted in a late departure to Soroti for a further day of field work. We were ready to leave when so many patients decided that they wanted to accompany us and soon the vehicle was bulging at the seams. A PPP boy's tricycle had been refurbished and had to be tied to the roof rack. He was very proud of his Wayne Rooney shirt and I wish some of these footballers could just see how these boys idolise them especially the Arsenal team. Chelsea is a close second and then Man U. The passengers were dropped off one by one and then we could start visiting our patients which proved to be difficult as we lost our way. Trying to find a new client is no different from finding a needle in the proverbial haystack; so many tracks like the roots of a tree all leading to not where we wanted to go. Down a very narrow track, there was suddenly a thump on the side of the vehicle and I thought we had knocked down a child but a boy had thrown a stone and then scarpered into the bush to hide. Alex was out like a flash and would have tied the boy up and thrown him into a police cell so no wonder the boy had hidden. I was greatly relieved that it was only a stone! We visited many families once we had got our bearings and assessed children with CP, osteomyelitis and one with Down's Syndrome and dreadful deformities. I found his knees in quite the wrong place. I was pleased to see that the Government programme to give out mosquito nets to all children under 4 years is working well and that the risk of malaria is greatly reduced. On our return, a wash and a meal first and then we settled down to watch a DVD, "We are all together" about Agape, an orphanage in South Africa. We just got to Chapter 4 when John and Consolata Opolot called and the rest of the evening was spent with them. No news about the boxes....
Thursday 16 October 2008
A day I have been awaiting with eagerness; we were going to Kasodo to visit Max at school and then his family at their village. Then I heard that the clinic we were to hold had not been mobilised and so I thought my hopes were dashed and our plan was not to be but it was decided to go anyway and visit some families especially two "old" young men who we had seen last year. Karen (a German girl who used to work in the Lab and the Nutrition Unit and who I have known here since 2002 and visits every year) wanted to join us so off we set also with Ruth and we decided to visit Max first. He is in Pal and Lisa Secondary School in Pallisa and he was pleased to see us in the Headmaster's office. What a charming, polite and pleasant young man he is, now 19 years, and in his first year of 6th Form. I remembered the headmaster, Eric, from last year, almost like a cartoon character and with an intriguing personality. Max was very grateful for the assistance given and also the stationery gifts and letter I had brought from home.
Then to Pallisa market where we bought provisions for Max' family and 3 mattresses and 3 blankets for the 2 old boys. Karen and I would like to have taken lots of photos in the market but neither of us feels comfortable bringing out the camera as though we were a couple of tourists so the evnt stays undocumented. By this time, our stomachs were rumbling and so we went in the cafe I like to visit. Seven of us ordered lots of food and sodas and ate until we were replete. The bill was 21,000/== (much less than a pound each!) and with a local newspaper thrown in as someone had left a copy behind. Max' home was as ever with Rose and Mary just a year older but in the same postures as they have been in since 2002. The compund has been opened up and the father has been increasing his area for crops. His 7 goats from last year have turned into a very good-looking cow and 2 goats so he is progressing well. He had spent some of his money on wooden windows and 2 doors for his modest house. No more babies have arrived so perhaps they had listened to my advice last year! They, too, were grateful for their assistance and it so special to be sitting with them once more. Time was short so soon it was "goodbye, see you next year!" Our two old young men were also found where we left them in 2007 and were very happy to have their mattresses and blankets. It's hard to explain how much I have done in the last year compared to they have done...nothing except sleep and eat. Last year, they were given 2 goats which now total 5 so, at this rate, next year they could have a cow! Lets hope so! We didn't return empty-handed as they presented us with lots of g-nuts, entula (which resembles an egg plant) and a curry tuber. We had them for supper, the entula was delicious and the curry was ground into a powder as was much nicer than any curry spices I have ever eaten.
By the time I reached the Guest House, the Ladies' Meeting had commenced with 17 ladies doing some needlework to make purses. Tese will make the foundation of my Christmas presents with luck as I won't have much time when I fly home in December for such duties. Plans for Saturday's outing were made and I am sure that a strong group will be formed which will be active for many years.
Wednesday 15 October 2008
The box issue is still unresolved and I feel I am going to have to ask the British High Commission for help in granting an tax exemption form. More later as I want to push such matters to the back of my mind. We have a Field Work programme today which is far more important. Jennifer, the epileptic girl, was waiting to visit Kumi Technical School for her proposed entry to a tailoring course but, just before she entered the vehicle, she took a funny turn and we lay her on the grass thinking maybe she was fitting. I approached Dr Opolot to ask him to intervene in the boxes issue and, following a phone call, he proposed to make another and get back to me but I think he didn't return from his meeting till late and so I continue to wait but not patiently! Jennifer had improved and so Ruth, Francis, Cocas, Grace and I set off for Kumi. We entered the school and went through the usual ritual of signing the Visitor's Book, introductions, speeches and, finally, introducing Jennifer. We discussed many options as she has a good O-Level result from her exams in 2002 but, due to her epilepsy, we decided that a 6-month tailoring course close to the hospital where she gets her medication was, perhaps, the most appropriate. The Head Master then leant forward and addressed Jennifer directly. "Are you pregnant?" he asked. She admitted that she thought she was which put all ideas of a 6-month course out of the question. Hence the reason for her funny turn became clear to us-morning sickness!
An interesting tour of the technical school followed. We saw a computer class room with about a dozen computers, keyboards still in their bubble wrap and unused, brick, joinery and tailoring rooms and maths class rooms. There are 250 pupils and it appeared that the standards were good.
At last, we started our home visits and checked up on many CP children. One child, Rose, lived with her 8 siblings in very poor conditions. Her brother was quite remarkable in his care and handling of Rose and, as the roof of his mud hut was in a serious state of almost collapse, he now has funds to replace it. Rose was given a mosquito net, a blanket and all the children were kitted out in new outfits. How smart they looked by the time we left especially Rose' brother who had canary yellow trousers, a trendy black shirt and cap. I hope to return later in my visit to check up on the roof and then I consider the provision of two goats.
More visits, a chapatti from the roadside for lunch, a drive home with Grace and me in the front seat neither of us stopping talking throughout the day, and back to the Guest House to find there was power. Heaven! I could have a quick hot "shower" before going to Ruth's for supper. But JP called by and my departure was delayed as he had so much to report on his day at Adesso School. Nothing amazes us any more! Ruth had prepared a delicious meal and I soon forgot my hunger as I ate an omelette, greens, cabbage, chips and what is known locally as mingled rice when it resembles wall paper paste rather than rice! Ruth talked for hours telling me all her concerns before seeing me safely home. We called in at Florence' who was in her nightie and ready for bed but she had asked me to call to give me a couple of paw paws.
Tuesday 14 October 2008
6 am and I was aware that there was a visitor at the door. This is just too early and so I kept my curtains closed and rose at my usual pace. I could see that it was young Julius, the instrument maker, who I had missed on Sunday with being in Kampala. He lives far so he must have left his village at at least 5am to cycle this distance. Finally, I took the plunge and unlocked the front door. He so wants to make more instruments but I do want them right this year and so, after much discussion over quality and standards, he left to improve 2 drums and 1 arigidigi.
We have an influx of visitors; three from Michigam USA, their driver and 3 from Soroti all here to work on the hospital management and future. Supper was in three sittings, bathrooms are shared but it's nice to meet so many varied people. Conversation is always interesting.
I return to the day's events. I am still no further with the boxes but MS Secretary, Margaret, has suggested that we refer the issue to UPMB which is where they should have gone on arrival. I'm pleased to pass it on to anyone so that it does not occupy my days so much. Unfortunately, Margaret, who was waiting for UPMB to return her call, suffered from a bout of high blood pressure (no wonder with the burdens I load on her shoulders!) and was sent home by the MS. I know no more and the costs continue to rise. I've almost become complacent about it all.
A day's work had to be done and we were to visit homes in Ngora. After buying ten mosquito nets and the only blanket in the store, our first stop was to see a young man of 22 years, a post polio paralysis whose wife delivered a baby in Kumi Hospital last week. The wife died but the baby survived and will live with the father's sister so he will rarely see it. It is so sad to see such things. He had a small business of repairing shoes which we would have binned months before they had fallen apart but he would patiently re-sole them to last a few more months. I remembered the leather offcuts from the Poor Clare monastery which are packed in the boxes and this gives me further determination to continue with the battle to get them to Kumi as they will help Silas in his work. We continued to two schools in the second of which I found Alfred Opio, surely destined to become one of my favourites if I'm not careful! He is a 12 year-old athetoid Cerebral Palsy boy, as bright as a button and with their usual magnetic personality. It is refreshing to see such a child integrated into main stream school, albeit P2 and his brain way beyond this level. He pushes himself in his wheelchair to and from school, a fair distance for such effort. We went to his home and found his grandmother who cares for him and his siblings since his parents died of the "sickness". The other children have a goat each so now Alfred will also have his own to care for. His mud hut is slowly being destroyed by termites so we bought a termite exterminator to pour into their two nearby hills which will kill the queen and then all will be well. I shall also buy Alfred a mattress as he sleeps on the earth but tonight he has a mosquito net to help prevent malaria and further complications. If his grandmother has cleaned his hut and removed the one already collapsed from termite trouble he will get help to make it waterproof. The day continue with many visits. We checked up on two children with walking frames and found another teenager whose tricycle had been lying unused in a state of disrepair since the front wheel had been stolen. We piled it into the back of the Land Cruiser for repair. Okwerede Lazara was 7 years old and also an orphan living with his grandmother. We found that he could walk with 2 people holding his hands but I wonder if the old woman will continue prctising with him.I hope so! Back to the Guest House to see how the business team is prgressing but I am sure my day was much more interesting than theirs.
Thursday 9 October - Monday 13 October 2008
Independence Day! On 9 October 1962, the British Goverment granted independence for Uganda and so today was a Public Holiday. Some children called and so I asked them the meaning of the day. "Were they pleased the British had left?", Yes, they were. "Why?" I asked. Because they killed a lot of Ugandans! So I left the subject there.
I should have had a celebratory day having been invited out for lunch at Constantine's home and supper at Simon Peter's home but I had to leave for Kampala. Weis and I set off for the long journey, pausing on the way to buy roasted plantain and chicken on long, wooden sticks, from a roadside market. We said good bye almost certain we would meet again in Kumi next year. James, the driver, took me to Centenary Park where I was to meet Juliet from Swift Freight. She had phoned repeatedly on our way as she was giving up her Public Holiday to try to sort out the box problem but we were on African time. We finally met and she tried to explain the problem telling me that there was no indication on the boxes where they were to be sent. I presumed they had lost my professional-looking file containing every possible necessary detail and that the labels had been removed. The company needed a copy of my passport and the Gift certificate both of which should have accompanied the load but I was unwilling for her to take my passport to return it to me tomorrow so I arranged to have yet another meeting in the morning. I was staying with Matthias for a couple of nights so I was grateful for some creature comforts, a washing machine and the family's company. I took a taxi to Collin House for my second meeting with Juliet, the taxi got lost and again I kept her waiting. Papers were photocopied, a clearance fee was paid and I was told that the sum owed by me was growing by the day but I should be able to collect everything by Monday. Monday arrived and I retruned to Kumi empty-handed and more and more concerned that the cost of collection was going to outway the value of the contents.
The weekend passed well and I managed to visit Regina and her family which was a bonus for me. We had so much to tell each other about our families as we failed to meet up last year. I went out with Matthias' family for lunch and I enjoyed a delicious Italian-style pizza and a fruit juice called "Morning After"! Back to Kumi on Tuesday where we arrived late and tired after the long drive.
Wednesday 8 October 2008
I knew my days couldn't carry on without trials and tribulations and today they poured in requiring some quick decisions. Chris had phoned to tell me the boxes had arrived and were waiting collection. On further research, I found that they arrived on 23 September, 4 days before I did. The clearing agent wasn't informed and they were sitting there with storage charges building up by the day. I hadn't a clue what to do but I decided to come to Kampala with Wies on Thursday on her way to the airport and meet this lady from Swift Freight who was very pleasant. So many complications which are still not sorted out and I probably won't pick the boxes up until early next week. It entails returning to Kumi and then back down with a Land Cruiser to collect them from Entebbe.
Meanwhile I managed fieldwork with Ruth. We shared a picki picki made for 2 not 3 people and we ventured into the unknown for me. How long did I have to sit side saddle without being able to move a muscle? We visited the girl who wants to attend a tailoring training course and we found her living very modestly but with a lot of pride. We also visited other children until we returned home very exhausted. In the morning, I had put some cream on my feet so the red murram had stuck to them in a thick layer, another disadvantage of being white! Serious foot soaking ensued!
Tuesday October 7 2008
Just a week since I arrived in Kumi Hospital and each minute has been taken up with projects. Today is the first day that I feel I have any energy due to a dose of flu which knocked me for six but I haven't mentioned it so that it wasn't uppermost in my mind. So now it's full steam ahead. The day starts with an early alarm from four cocks which are residing in our "kitchen". I can only say that the sooner they are eaten the better as they are about 20 feet from my pillow! I'm off to Ngora today with Peter, the driver, as Alex has a bad dose of malaria. I posted a letter to me aunt at the Post Office (none for me as expected!), we collected William on Ngora Main Street and we set off on our home visits starting at a small home where we found many women sitting on the rough cement floor either washing their clothes or pots or cooking on their charcoal fires. A grandmother brought out a young boy who walked badly due to a quinine injection in the buttock a year earlier. This can cause foot drop resulting in an inability to lift the foot when walking. The father had brought the child for treatment which is a Plaster of Paris cast to the lower leg but, when this was removed, he could find no incision wound nor stitches and so thought the boy had had no treatment and he had been cheated. It was difficult to pursuade the father to bring the boy for further help but he agreed to allow William to take him this Friday to Dr Ekure's orthopaedic clinic. Next was Kameke Standards Primary School, a small school boasting great academic skills even though the headmaster did not know the capital of England but mention Arsenal and all eyes light up! The 10 year-old patient there also needed to have a POP applied but, first, I told (one never asks) the Headmaster to take the boy through a daily exercise session so that in a month he will have better co-ordination of the foot muscles and balance allowing a much more effective result when the plaster is removed, if he even needs one at all. Another pupil had suffered from severe epilepsy but had had no fits since she started her medication and so was just reviewed by William. The Headmaster of the next school we visited had a severe Cerebral Palsy 8-year old boy and so we assessed him and I took photos of him sitting in his CP chair to show the hospital Work Shop to see if they could improve on its design for this boy (easier than taking the child plus chair to the hospital). The Deputy Headmaster's child was a hydrocephalus boy who we found in their home where they had a small (extremely by our standards) "shop". He needed to attend the CP clinic and so the father promised to bring him the following week. I bought the last 3 packets of high-energy glucose biscuits which we ate eagerly. Our final patient was Amunget Janet who we reached by "footing" it when the Land Cruiser could go no longer along the tracks. We had already traversed deep potholes and driven at an angle of at least 45 degrees with me closing my eyes and being convinced that the vehicle must tip over any second. At this point, I must congratulate Peter for his excellent driving skills and judgement. Janet's mother of the same name as her child is a single mother with 8 children since her husband left her for another woman. She was managing reasonably well but William asked if I would consider starting an Income Generating Project with her and we thought of the possibility of a cow as Farndale YCA had funded one and asked if it could be called Daffodil! I suddenly recognised two ladies sitting with us who also thought they had met me and then we realised that we had met on the Send a Cow Workshop last year. Our plan for Janet evolved from this encounter and the three ladies and I set off to visit Jane Olopot who is in charge of the cow project now called the Aliasit Women's Group. What a welcome we got! Jane invited Janet to join the group and she is to attend the next meeting on Tuesday. She will learn how to build a shelter for the cow, grow the required types of grass and how to manage a cow before it is bought. A little disappointing for me as I will probably not be able to bring back a photo of Daffodil as promised but much better to do the job properly. I also arranged to take a few ladies from Kumi with a view to starting off a women's group so that they can start a self-financing programme. Then it rained as though it had never rained before. lightening flashed overhead and the thunder crashed (I have learnt in the past why that verb is so appropriate). The wind blew like a mini hurricane and the visibiltiy was as in a severe snow storm with the sand and rubbish flying along. Chris phoned as we sat in the vehicle and I had to ask him to call later as, if his name hadn't appeared on the screen on the phone, I wouldn't have known who it was. Finally, we took the ladies back and called it a day dropping William off in Ngora town and driving back to Kumi Town where there had been no rain at all. The Internet Cafe was open so this was my first opportunity to check my emails only to find Grace and JP already there. The computer system was so slow but I did find that I had hardly any messages which was both a relief and a disappointment! It won't be my favourite port of call during my visit as I am spoilt with Broadband at home but I shall go occasionally. Then back to the Guest House for a serious wash as I was looking very suntanned with the murram dust which would soon disappear with soap, a loofah and the excellent back scrubber which Peter and Sara sent a few years back. But this was not to be as Consolata joined me to talk about the ladies she has gathered to form our potential women's group. Then, of course, we reminisced about her stay with us in UK and her family until it was 8pm and we were sitting in the moonlight and I was seriously bitten by the mosquitoes. As soon as Consolata left, I dashed to the bathroom which I share with Wies only to find that she had forgotten to unbolt my door when she left through her door into her bedroom. This was bad news as she had gone out for supper but the mobile phone was my saviour and she soon came to my rescue. It is unbelievable how dirty you get when out in the field especially when there is a wind storm. I had the Guest House to myself so I managed a good hairwash by boiling the water in my kettle and even blew my hair dry. I enjoyed an early night under the mosquito net and listened to the BBC World Service which tells me all about the world financial crisis but little if nothing about what goes on at home.
Monday 6 October 2008
I started the week with a field trip to Amuria where the camps were. These are fewer now as people start to return to their homes now that the area is more peaceful. Michael saw many eye patients but our children with disabilities were few so I started to see the very old (about my age) people. The first old lady couldn't lift her arms so I gently worked on them as we talked and finally she raised them to the skies with loud ululation praising me and God! This caused the queue to lengthen rapidly and I decided my hands must have terrific healing powers. I wonder how they all felt the folowing morning. It was so good to be back in the field but I was tired on my return to find that JP, Grace and I had been invited to a birthday party 40 minutes after we got in. We first thought we'd give it a miss but then summoned up the energy to attend. What a good thing we did as we were the only invited guests! We sat around the pot of local brew under the stars and fire flies once more and I have to report that JP tasted the ajon and decided this brew was quite palatable and aqccepted the tube whenever it was passed to him. So now Grace eats chicken and JP drinks the local brew, what next! Of course there were brief speeches before we could make our polite leave!
Sunday 5 October 2008
Before I left for prayers, Julian, who had last year made the musical instruments, called so I had to ask him to wait. I went to St Joseph's Church and was very pleased with the paintings of St Joseph and Mary which Patrick Ongeletum had painted and also the Stations of the Cross which bedecked the church walls. Not many people attended because it was so wet but I enjoyed being there once again. We bade farewell to Nathan and Gabbie who left after their elective to spend some time touring to set off for Rwanda. Then Grace, Wies and I walked to Margaret Asio's for lunch. JP had gone to attend World Teaching Day in Mbale so it was a Lunching with Ladies affair. I have spent many hours with Margaret in the past mainly because her English is so good but also because she is a well-focussed person with endless energy. She had completely developed her garden using the techniques she learnt in Ngora last year. Her newly planted banana trees were wallowing in her compost and her crops were thriving beyond all expectations. She had cooked a delicious lunch in many dishes on her Lorena stove and we failed to do it justice but not another morsel could we eat. None would be wasted as her children and all the others she cared for would wolf the lot, for sure. I had to leave for my next appointmnent - supper with Florence and I managed only 5 minutes with my feet up before I had to leave again. A surprise waited for me as her son, Pius, was home for the weekend. He has graduated from Mukono University and he was so grateful for the assistance he had been given. He even kept a ticket for me to attend the graduation in April hoping I would turn up! He is volunteering in Amuria which is a start to finding a job. How much tougher life is here! He walked me home ahter the meal whcih again was quite delicious but my stomach was still too full. An omelette on arrival followed by egg plant, greens and potatoes and then pineapple was what was on the menu. Pius saw me safely home in the dark and the weekend was over.
Saturday 4 October 2008
I was up at 6.30am to write up my diary whilst it was relatively cool. I sat outside and listened to the rare silence with the children away from school, the chickens, the birds and the odd cyclist passing by. My little friends, Leah and Brenda, called with a cake which their mother, Asio, had made, ground nuts and ground paste and invited Grace, Wies and me for lunch on Sunday. Stephen Obwongo called to say that yet another "brother" had died so I bought a few oranges and lemons from him to assist him. He wanted my dress for his wife! Ruth collected me and we went to Kumi Town to attend a meeting which resulted in a presentation on network selling. Ruth is a member and was hoping I would join. It was a very high-powered selling programme which seemed very unfair to me. The Supergrow which sold at a high price could easily be substituted by free compost but I didn't want to dishearten Ruth. We went to Odello market, an experience I prefer to avoid but I wanted a chicken (live) to take to Asio's, I bought 3 aubergines the size of melons for 15 pence, onions, which are expensive,and peppers.Then it rained heavily and I had a SMS from JP saying he was home again. I was caught out by this phrase last year so I knew he was at the Home Again cafe in Kumi Town. I dropped in to find Grace and him tucking into a tasty meal of posho and chicken before they stayed to watch Middlesborough play Wigan. M'bro won 1-0 so JP returned quite happy! Power returned during supper so it was an immediate dash to recharge camera and phone batteries and to catch up with the ironing.
Friday 3 October 2008
Before the childrens' Orthopaedic Out Patient clinic, I gave Paul (Workshop) money for repairing the tricycle and he showed me his new design of standing frame. I suggested a tray would be useful for the child maybe to eat off whilst standing and, by the evening, he had called me to see the chair plus tray. The clinic was busy with about 60 children with so many disabilities relating to the after effects of malaria. Lets hope an effective vaccine is soon produced to help all these people. One child was not only brain damaged but had also had his leg amputated following the disease. At around 3pm, we managed some lunch of beans and rice.
On my way home, I made arrangements for goal posts to be made out of old water pipes for Mary Mac as I did for Adesso school 2 years ago. I soaked my feet again during a heavy thunderstorm while I sat in the porch getting gently showered by the torrential rain which was nicely refreshing. Francis Okerenyang called and it was good to see him looking well. He reported that his chicken project was going from strength to strength and so I look forward to seeing it. Supper of Chapatti, Irish (our potatoes), greens and chicken which Grace, an ardent vegetarian, enjoyed. Everyone went to Jp's to play UNO and I made for my bed.
Thursday 2 October 2008
I was woken by a phone call from Robert Ecelat, teacher of Mary MacAleese Primary School, to say he would come at 7am for the letters from St Francis Xavier School in Richmond, North Yorks.He invited JP, Grace and me to a concert that afternoon. My morning was spent in the hospital where I visited in a side room a burnt patient, Joseph, a young man of 24 years who had been burnt when the thatch of his mud hut had been set alight. It related to something to do with the witch doctor but I couldn't quite work out all the facts. I wasn't prepared for the sight I saw - all but his lower legs was just raw flesh. It was the taste in my mouth which lingered longer than the smell and, of course, the image of him. It is the physio's job to prevent contractures and maintain a good range of movement of his joints but I could not do it in spite of wearing surgical gloves. Florence taught the father who managed well. I am often very cowardly and I know I cannot do everything. Afterwards, I called in to see my leprosy friends and got the usual grand welcome. Only one of the resident ladies has died in the past year. They are always so very happy with their lot which makes me feel very humble. Whilst going on my way, I met a father whose wife was delivering her baby. We called in to see how she was and found she had given birth to a healthy boy just a few minutes before. He had 7 girls and this was the first boy so I thought he would have been delighted but, in their usual manner, he showed no emotion and ignored his wife completely. He invited me to name the baby and so he is to be called Nicholas.
The concert at Mary Mac was very good althought the speeches that always accompany such events proved to be more time-consuming than the singing. The head master gave us a puzzle "What makes you young?" I somehow had the answer and was given a prize of a brown ceramic mug which is just what I wanted to hold my pens etc in my room. No sooner had we returned on our picki-pickis when Tom, the choir master, invited me to his staff quarters to meet his new baby and his wife. We sat on their door step drinking African tea until the stars and fire flies lit the skies for us. Their neighbour was visited by Mary, the lady who I had helped last year with her vegetable stall. I was told that other people had been jealous of her success and had contaminated her produce with faeces so she had to leave. Failures such as this are very disheartening.
Tired and dirty, I returned to the Guest House to find John and Consolata waiting. It was good to see them again and to spend some time talking about their visit. I gave them the photo album recording their visit. After they left and even more tired and hungry, I enjoyed my supper and a good wash in cold water and in candlelight.
Wednesday 1 October 2008
The customary walk to the hospital became immediately familiar greeting the children with Yoga Noi!, encountering women carrying jerry cans filled with water from the borehole or garden tools having been digging in their gardens, stepping over numerous squashed frogs and being passed by bicycles cycled by staff members and patients' attendants. Morning Assembly still followed the usual routine; few there on time, a hymn, a reading and a homliy.Wies and I were welcomed and introduced and then it was greetings to all and off to the physiotherapy department. I hadn't reached there when Charles, a CBR worker, asked me to help an epileptic girl, Paul from the Workshop agreed to renovate the pile of broken wheelchairs and tricycles and so I knew that my time in Kumi was to be very full. Gabriel, the paraplegic boy who is now 17 years old, looked much improved but he was on his way to Cure Hospital in Mbale as his shunt was malfunctioning. Before I knew where I was, I was on my way for fieldwork with Francis and Ruth, both CBR workers, to visit many families with children with disabilities.Today a spina bifida, an amputee, two cerebral palsy; all children. Ruth took groundnuts to be ground into paste but, on coming back, the vehicle unfortunately went into a ditch and her paste ran all over the floor. So much work in planting the g-nuts, digging them up and shelling them was wasted.
On my return, I sat outside with my feet soaking in a bowl of water and I tried to write up some notes but too many children visited. There was no power for my first four days so it was candle light or head torch (what a brilliant invention!). Chris phoned on Skype to tell me all the dismal news from home especially about the financial crisis. I'd rather not know it all!
Tuesday September 30 2008
Off to Kumi picking up Wies, the yound Dutch doctor who is studying tropical medicine with a view to working maybe in Uganda one day, at a shopping complex where you can buy just about anything. I bought a sim card for my old phone and I managed to choose a very easy number to remember.+256 777722858. The road up to Kumi has improved greatly and the miles of unimaginable dusty stretches of road have been transformed into acceptable tarmac surfaces making the journey far more pleasant and less of an endurance test. In Mbale, we stopped to visit Jeroen who is a Dutch cheese farmer living seemingly a very simple life with his cows. He makes Gouda-type cheese which he keeps underground and reaches by descending a ladder into a tiled store. Mid afternoon, we reached the Guest House to be greeted by Anna, Grace and Jennifer who patiently look after the house and prepare the food for us. It was lovely to see John Paul on his way home from teaching at Adesso School and I was able to fill him in on what was going on in UK. He and Grace joined us for supper together with Nathan and Gabby, two medics from Brighton University. (So many muzungos!) I must explain who JP and Grace are at this point. JP is the son of a very old friend of ours and Grace is his fiancee. They had plans to go to Malawi for 6 months but these fell through and so I arranged for them to go to Kumi instead. Fortunately they appear to be very happy and were even more so when I gave them lots of parcels from home. The Middlesborough football flag was a sure hit with JP and Grace was soon engrossed in her letters from her family. The headlamps have been invaluable as power has been non-existent for days.
Monday September 29 2008
Four weeks to the day since my last entry finds me in Kampala staying with Matthias and Rebecca and their three children until tomorrow when I go north to Kumi. Preparations completed as far as they ever will be, Chris and I set off for the airport at 4.30am. The whole journey was a nightmare. Checking in the hold baggage was easy as the two heavy bags weighed in at 47kg and so did not exceed my allotted 50kg. Chris and I said our farewells and then the fun started. I was only allowed 1 piece of hand luggage and I had my permitted case plus a camera case and an almost-empty small back pack. In ten minutes flat, a decision had to be made. I either binned the camera and bag or trusted to Providence that they would not be completely destroyed if they suffered the rigours of the hold. I managed to sort out a few things and then said farewell (forever?) to my third piece of hold luggage just seconds before they closed the gate. By this time, I was hot, flustered and tiredness had already set in. Could I relax during the flight? As soon as I had seen the untidy bag with straps straggling at either side, I realised that my money had gone and probably forever! Having had to experience body searches in the past and then having to explain that the money was for mud huts and goats, I changed my method for what I had thought would be a more simple process.
Monday September 1 2008
September has arrived and my flight is booked for 26 September. Autumn is here and the British 2008 summer will be remembered for the rain. For us, we have had many visitors and, amongst others, John Opolot, Kumi Hospital Medical Superintendent, and his wife, Consolata, came and we managed to complete our full programme. They could not believe how our ancestors built our abbeys and cathedrals and I think they may have returned to Uganda with stiff necks as they studied the lofty architecture. They should try the Russian churches! Many thanks go to our friends for their hospitality and friendship and my apologies to all those whose invitations we just couldn't fit in. Marjolein, the Dutch nurse I met in Kumi in 2002, and her husband came for a weekend to meet the Opolots and it was strange to be sharing our food in such a different way from when we eat together in Kumi. Friends of the hospital came from as far afield as Harrow and Southampton to meet Dr Opolot and we never seemed to stop for breath.
Now it's full steam ahead to finalise (maybe "start" is a better word) plans for leaving. I have four more talks, boxes waiting to seal and despatch (I am hoping they will go with trolleys which Darlington Memorial Hospital are sending out), and many more issues keeping my mind overactive.
John Paul, the young teacher, and Grace, the junior doctor, have been in Kumi for about two weeks and, from what I hear, they have settled in well. JP's mother, Kay, lets me know when an email arrives and I let her know when I get an sms about them. I heard that they went to Matthias' leaving party on Saturday and that they dance well! The rehab staff and I shall miss Matthias in Kumi (he is the CBM co-ordinator) as he has really got the department organised and motivated but now he is moving on to greater things. The hospital's five year plan hopes to transform the hospital into a centre for disabilities as well as to continue with some general surgery and medicine and so I can see much progress since my first visit in 2002.
Friday 11 July 2008
The months have flown by and many Kumi talks, meetings and discussions have taken place.
Highlights were the visit to Macclesfield where I attended the CNU Conference and met many like-minded people all with their hearts in Uganda. So much is being done and I was amazed by the energy forces used to help the people there.
I met Robbie who I had shared a meal with at Dr Piet's home in Mbale and he has contacts for mega-goats. My initial plan fell apart when I realised that the expenses for transporting the goats from western Uganda to Kumi far outweighed the cost of the goats and so that plan was immediately aborted. Jayne who also works for Jenga in Mbale was there and she and I had shared a day of fieldwork in 2006.
On 29th June, we held our Annual Open Day. The garden was magnificent and our home was transformed with a raffle, tombola, cake stall, plant stall, Guess the Name of the Clown, tea, coffee, soup, bbq etc etc and it rained...and rained. However plenty of people turned up in spite of 3 other similar events close-by and an unbelievable amount of over £2,500.00 was raised for the Fund. I cannot thank everyone enough for the support we were given in time, effort and money. I am not going to single out any one person as there were so many giving so much.
Now we are waiting for the arrival of Dr and Mrs Opolot, Kumi Hospital Medical Superintendent and his wife, next Thursday. They will stay with us for 17 days and we hope to introduce them to our family and to show them a few of the local historical places we are fortunate to have. Lindisfarne Island, Durham Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Reivaux Abbey, a garden or two or three. We are spoilt for choice but what we need more than anything else is a period of high pressure to give us the delightful English summer days which we should be experiencing. Marjolein, from Delft is coming for a weekend. Tony, from Harrow, Michael Hutton from Barnard Castle and maybe Francis Fairhurst who has great plans for Kumi are coming for a day so it's going to be busy.
John Paul, a teacher, and Grace, his fiancee who is a junior doctor, are finalising their plans for their six month visit next month. I am sure they will not be disappointed and they will find much work to do.
I hope to book my flight out for September very soon. So lets hope we can continue to help the people and the hospital. There are lots of plans in the pipeline but we will wait until they come to fruition before putting them down in black and white.
Keeping the diary up to date here in UK is not at all easy as life is so different with little to write about. Not that there's nothing going on but it isn't nearly so interesting.
Thursday 7 February
Anne Marie from the Ushaw CAFOD office visited us today to discuss the possibility of funding which is a long shot as they already have a presence in Gulu but anything is worth a try. The next stage is to visit their office in London.
Wednesday 13 February
The plans for the talk I was to give in St Augustine's Parish Centre were well under way. Elizabeth, the Ugandan girl from down the road, came with her 2 year old daughter, Marie, to show me how to make chapattis and mandazi. We had a hot, floury, oily afternoon and ended up with platefuls to take tonight together with dodo and g nut paste on biscuits. It was a very successful evening with Lynne, Angela and Maureen (our AIC group) manning the raffle and the refreshments. About 50 people came to hear how their very generous donations had been utilised and I think they found the evening interesting. I was given lots of beer to loosen my tongue and I hope I was not too talkative.
Thursday 14 February:
No need to pack away the projector, screen etc as Chris and I set off over the North Yorkshire moors to Helmsley where I gave a talk to the Yorshire Countrywomens' Associaton. It was a cold night and the Town Hall was rather chilly. We set up the equipment and then nipped off for a quick half pint at the Black Swan where it was very quiet and "proper" so instead of having supper out (after all, it was St Valentine's night) we returned home to a bowl of porridge.
Friday 15 February:
The Friends of Darlington Memorial Hospital delivered boxes of dressings and disposable gloves, not out of date, just that the doctors have asked for a new type!I walked to St Augustine's P/S to talk to the whole school (215 children and about the same number as in one Ugandan class.) They are no different from their counterpart as they sit cross legged on the floor and ask lots of interesting questions. I have left a fishing basket for them to guess what it could possibly be! If anyone gets the right answer, I shall wonder if they have been reading this. The children were in mufti as a special treat and they were sharing their donations between CAFOD and Kumi. The staff were eating cream cakes and strawberries at coffee time so I came home happy and replete. It was a busy week with lots of computer work, letters, cheques etc so I felt as though something had been achieved.
Saturday 16 February:
Pat and Barry had a stall at the Churches Together Coffee Morning at Scorton Methodist Chapel and raised £36.00 which is a great sum.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Back home to the dark days and it is very difficult to adjust to this way of life. The condition is commonly known as "Reverse Culture Shock" and I can assure you that it takes time to find a balance once more.
I hadn't been back long before my duties started firstly by delivering the letters from Mary MacAleese and Adesso Primary Schools to the children in St Francis Xavier and St Mary's schools in Richmond. I had also got presents of groundnuts and g-nut paste for some of the teachers.
Chris and I went out to a Christmas dinner just after my return and as grace was said before we ate, we were reminded to think of the poor African children who have nothing. I couldn't help feeling he had got it wrong and that the children here are the unlucky ones as they want so much and then are disappointed when their dreams remain unfulfilled. The African children are not unhappy because they don't expect anything and Christmas only has its true meaning.
My days are spent sorting out my hundreds of photos, printing (at Boots) and dispatching 273 for the hospital staff, all in their separate envelopes and compiling my presentations. I seem to have endless phone calls and meetings all relating to Uganda and I feel as though my months at home are going to be fully occupied preparing for my next visit.
I have already received many donations. Friends gave their families goats or mattresses instead of presents, Kumi cards sold well and my cupboard is already filling up with a new consignment.
Anthony Edonu will start school on 4 February and I hope he will work hard and believe that he can have a bright future. I have heard he is looking after Gabriel, the orphan paraplegic, as Gabriel's brother has gone away. I am sure he will return to continue caring for Gabriel although he knows he will be well looked after in the Children's Village in the hospital.
7 January: My first talk since my return was at Newton Aycliffe Methodist Church where I spoke to a patient group of delightful ladies.They had started out in the 60's as a Mother and Baby group and were still going strong! My new presentation was long but they were happy and interested and I came away realising that I must reduce the content by a lot.
16 January: I visited St Augustine's Primary School to give them the children's letters from Olelia Primary School in Kumi. They were received well and now I look forward to developing a good relationship between the two schools.
17 January: I was asked to talk to a set of BTEC National Diploma in Care students at Darlington College, 17 year-olds who were an inspiration to me. They enjoyed their ground nuts and had difficulty guessing that the football was made of banana leaves. I have since received a letter of thanks signed by all the students.
18 January: Darlington Rotary Club invited me to talk and to have lunch with them. My talk had to be no more than 20 minutes so I was pleased to have had a couple of "rehearsals" and I compiled an abridged version outlining where the funds were utilised. There was a good write-up in the Darlington & Stockton Times.
22 January: I was pleased to be able to tell the members of Darlington Lions Club how their donation had helped many families. I showed them photos of my day with Kumi Lions Club when we visited schools with children whose homes had been ruined by the floods. I gave out 300 mosquito nets and packets of water cleansing tablets which will help these children to be protected from malaria as this is much more prevalent as a result of the excess waters.