My Diary 2010

Uganda

 

Monday 6 December

 

It was good to be home and very good to feel cold! My Jeckyll and Hyde way of life slipped into action again and soon I was back to the old UK routine knowing that my “team” in Kumi was working hard. The outreach clinics are going well and I am very proud with each and every one of them who is continuing the programme. I hear how many children have been targeted for surgery and rehabilitation and the more I reflect on my visit, the more pleased I am with the outcome.

 

Now it’s down to the fund raising for my next trip. I have to thank everyone who continues to support these children and, still, cheques keep arriving. Thank you all so much!

 

I shall endeavor to keep up with any news in my diary, a promise I made last year but failed to keep.

 

Happy Christmas to all!

 

Sunday 5 December

 

Rebecca, Matthias’ wife, was celebrating her birthday so, for a treat, we went to Speke Resort, a very smart hotel complex in Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria. We lounged by the pool while the children swam and splashed with the other well-to-do Ugandans. Waiters brought us drinks and lunch and it was a completely different world from Kumi (and UK for me)! Rebecca and I did a tour of the grounds visiting livery stables with well-groomed horses living in spotlessly kept premises and with shiny tack and name plates whilst, not far away, people were living in slums with nothing to compare with these animals’ conditions. The gardens were exquisite with exotic flowers, trees, water features; just another life! I prefer the natural poverty of Kumi any day where few people are any the wiser of what they are missing.

 

Back home, Monopoly was the order of the day until it was time to leave for the airport. More farewells and then I was off wondering if the inclement European weather was going to interrupt my smooth passage.  All went well to Amsterdam and then there were a few hitches like de-icing the plane, the runway and then an aborted take off which wasn’t as mind-blowing as the drive from Kumi so we landed to be greeted by huge piles of snow everywhere.

 

Saturday 4 December

 

Up with the cock’s crow was necessary as final packing had to be achieved by 8.00 and, guess what, my first visitor arrived before 7.00 and the last left after my hired car arrived. It’s so difficult to keep accepting so many gifts but accept I must otherwise I would offend the donors who have so little.

 

I had hired a car as I chickened out of travelling by public means and thank God I did as I witnessed a bus involved in a dreadful accident soon after it happened and the road was littered in dead bodies and wounded adults and children. There but by the grace of God I could well have been one of them.

 

I had hired Moses’ car a day or two ago and had commented about the lack of tread on the tyres and how the vehicle leaned severely to port. I was reassured that new tyres had been fitted and the car fully serviced for my peace of mind. I said my final sad farewells and left with Moses (the uncle and guardian of Gabriel, Brenda and Leah) driving, Alex whose annual leave was over and Brenda, Moses’ 14 year old niece who had never been out of Kumi and came for the ride. I couldn’t believe that anyone would go to Kampala and back in one day for fun but she will have learnt the hard way. My prayers were answered by good driving from Moses and a safe arrival in Kampala where I stayed with Matthias and family for a night. Such a different world even here where I had many comforts and European food.

 

Friday 3 December

 

I don’t know what was sung this morning as, on my way, the chain came off my bike and I had to roll it back and walk. Packing is the order of the day and I had a bag full of bits and pieces to hand out. One’s last day here always entails going to the front of the hall and saying good bye. Unfortunately in some ways, the Hospital Administrator knows what I have been up to more than ever before as he has to be consulted from every angle (a very good improvement, I hasten to add) so my secrets were out. I went round the departments to say my farewells and found the leprosy patients all assembled to greet me and to sing to me. Their cooking shelter is a building site and I didn’t realize it was such an involved construction. The physios were analyzing yesterday’s outreach clinic which would have been better if the Presidential campaign hadn’t also arrived there and, as he is handing out lots of 3,000/=’s, can you blame the people for wanting to see the great man himself. If that’s not bribery, well, I don’t know what is! The work shop was busy making standing frames and, all in all, it was good for me to see so much activity going on compared to when I arrived and little was happening. There is much happening in the future; new staff are arriving, small salaries are being given out and I hope and pray that the hospital is going to end up in a new glory rather than its former glory.

 

With much to do, I returned to the Guest House and I sat with Anna outside watching her make chapattis on the charcoal stove for the farm men but leaving one for me plus “the last born”, the smallest of anything made from the remaining scraps, a phrase I shall remember. Then the visitors started and hardly stopped until I left the following morning! Tubs of ground nut paste, bags of groundnuts, honey, calabashes, popcorn, simsim balls, mandazi, letters for friends back here in UK, Christmas cards all forming a queue outside!  A live chicken was found a home as were very many other gifts as it would have been impossible (and I would have been arrested for bringing forbidden items into the UK) to pack everything.

 

A locum doctor was staying for the weekend to cover for Dr Ruth and he was immediately called out to cope with an emergency but he returned in time for supper and I enjoyed his company before retiring for my last night in Kumi in 2010.

 

Thursday 2 December

 

Too many early visitors, Simon Peter with more groundnuts, Katy with letters for someone she met and who had a US address, Betty to have her phone charged and George, the driver.

 

 Joy to the World filled the hospital compound today!

 

The outreach team was prepared to go to Armuria, a region where the Internally Displaced Camps still exist and they left me behind to continue with finishing off my projects. I started with a convivial meeting with the Hospital Administrator so that we could discuss what had been done and what we hoped could be done in the future regarding my programme. I met Hellen who has a produce stall and who was sick. We shook hands in true African fashion and then she told me that her malaria test was negative but she had typhoid. It seems there is quite a lot about this year. In the afternoon, Adesso School was to complete the unfinished Interhouse Sports with junior volleyball. But beforehand, I was asked to visit Betty, the teacher, in her small school house. She had a visitor, Janet, who had won the manure competition last year and had used the prize money to pay the hospital bill for her Caesarian section.  Carrying the aforesaid baby, she proudly presented me with a cockerel asking me if I would get it to London. I skirted round the truth and accepted the gift with sincere gratitude. It was one of those birds with a scraggy, featherless neck which is purported to be of a good breed but most unattractive in my eyes. Back to the sports field and in spite of the usual disorganization, this time the match went somewhat smoother than the first day’s events. The game was completed, the teams lined up and I adorned the winning team with gold medals on red, white and blue ribbons and bought from Wilkinson’s at home. We had the usual speeches and a meal was served in the new classroom. I was presented with a present which I shall open on Xmas Day! Sam had failed abysmally to have the trophy engraved for the last 3 years so I am bringing it home, not only for the engraving, but for all to see their version which, to say the least, is different.

 

Back home, washed and changed and back on a picki picki to go for supper to North East Villas, my favourite eating place this year, with Consolata, John and 2 of their children, Clare and Maria. It was a pleasant evening sitting outside under the stars and talking about the UK weather which seems incredible from this angle.

 

Wednesday 1 December

 

Silent Night was today’s hymn! Tom strummed on the guitar and the music and singing was so loud. More plans were in force and things were going well. Today

 

I was to go to Soroti with Harriet and Alex and we traveled in a private car I hired rather than go by public means. First we were to meet Antony who has finished his school term and we were to discuss his future. Unfortunately his report could have been much better but it could have had something to do with having been suspended for a trivial matter for 3 weeks. I had hoped to change schools but he would have to repeat Senior 2 if he were to move. We agreed on a plan of action whilst we ate lunch at a café in the main street. Antony and Harriet both had tilapia, large Nile fish, with chips whilst I had chips and cow peas and Alex chicken and chips. With the sodas, the bill came to 4 pounds!

 

Then our next mission was to open a bank account in Harriet and my names at Centenary Bank where Pius (one of my graduates) works and needs 150 new accounts to get through his probationary period and have a permanent contract. It wasn’t such a good idea as my details were somewhat far from the norm but all was accomplished in the end but we were so hot and bothered. We paid school fees for Leah and Betty and then took the receipt for Betty to Madrea School for the Blind for a receipt from Sr Mary Kevin, a chubby, cheerful Fransciscan nun. Now we had achieved all and we were back in Kumi just in time for me to attend the Rotary Club meeting where we sat outsie to conduct the business and to listen to an in-house speaker. By the time we had dropped everyone off and members had done their shopping in Kumi Town where the shops stay open until people go to bed as there is little else to do it was time for me to go to bed. The atmosphere in town is most lively with music being played incredibly loudly and much bustle and hustle, cows competing with motor bikes and children and people trading all and sundry.

 

Tuesday 30 November

 

Once in Royal David’s City was the hymn sung at Morning Assembly. It seems strange singing a carol in this heat but then I realize that December starts tomorrow. I’m taking a day off or that was the idea until I step into the hospital compound to find that many issues need to be decided before Friday. The outdoor cooking ban requires alternative arrangements to be available and these need organizing before the signs we have had made are erected. A cooking shelter is to be built outside the leprosy ward as there is no alternative for the patients but to walk too far to the nearest cooking shed. Their disabilities would be enough for them to make excuses for not using the stoves.

 

George was to take the Land Cruiser to be serviced today as one was long overdue. My expenses funds have come in most useful for such needs. Harriet would travel to Mbale with him to purchase plaster of Paris and epilepsy drugs and I was off to Alex’ village to enjoy a day out with his family. His wife had been cooking in the kitchen (a mud hut with smoke exuding through the thatch) and she emerged to greet me with streaming eyes and smoky apparel. (They need to learn how to make a new stove and quickly!) Their baby, Isabel, continues to fear the muzungu so I have failed to have even one cuddle from her.  I left before dark on a picki picki to spend the evening with Consolata in the Guest House before falling into bed so tired.

Monday  29 November A sad start to the day as Joy, my chicken, died. She didn’t come out of the kitchen cupboard as usual and so I carried her and gently laid her in her blue bowl in the porch where she lays my eggs.  Her nostrils were well and truly bunged up and I diagnosed bird flu and then realized the implications of maybe bringing an unwelcome virus into the UK next week so I washed my hands well and blew my nose. Then I heard an almighty scuffle as she performed a dramatic rendering of the dying swan act and she departed this life. A dead chicken here, even though she was my pet, isn’t so serious in the overall balance of life so I phoned Grace who came to “throw her” as she did the rats caught in the traps so no shoe boxes needed for a dignified bird burial here.

 

Four visitors before 7.30 am! Ketty who had taken her O levels and was returning her text books, bringing a letter for me to take back to Mavis and reporting that her mother was very sick. Her mother is HIV+ and may not pull through. Her father is also but none of the children are +ve. Florence brought her daughter’s report for me to read. Once again, I was late for Morning Assembly in spite of rising at 4.30 am! That will be 1.30 am when I get home so heaven help Chris!

 

The Outreach team meeting took place with the Hospital Administrator and we agreed to a plan to continue with the weekly clinics to help the children with disabilities, increase the patient numbers and to give the staff something to do. It requires much motivation and loyalty on their part as they will not be getting much remuneration but they reached agreement and I think they were happy.  We continued into town where 7 of us enjoyed lunch together in the Arise Restaurant. I had called into the Post Office where I had 2 letters and a parcel from Peter which contained pictures drawn by the nursery children of Happy Days in Dalkeith. You have to pay to collect a parcel but of course it is so exciting to receive one that payment is no problem. Amos was with us for lunch so he was able to take the drawings, bouncy balls, pens and colouring books with him to deliver to the nursery benefiting from Happy Days’ most generous donation. Timing couldn’t have been better and I left Amos to take the drawings, pens, colouring books and bouncy balls to HOW nursery.

 

The rest of us went off west to deliver some more shoe making materials for my tricycle man, funds for new school uniform and a new tricycle to Alfred who will now be able to ride to school independently once his eye infection is cleared, a refurbished wheelchair for Serbervare, the 16 year old CP boy who had been squashed into a tiny CP chair and then to deliver an adult refurbished wheelchair to Paul, the Huntingdon’s Chorea young man. The day couldn’t continue being so good and now we found that the chair was slightly wider than the door. Problems solve themselves with thinking and we trekked off to find a joiner who was to widen the door and to make a slope into the hut for ease of access.  Paul’s brothers were struggling to walk and Joseph tried the chair but shook his head at being asked if he liked it. I was surprised until he mimed that he would like a tricycle! I had bought Paul a radio and it was so humbling to see the joy on his face. Martin thought he would like Christian music while I thought he would prefer BBC World Service. I was right for once! On saying goodbye, I entered the dark hut and found Paul working the radio dials with his mouth. The brothers now wanted a radio also so I am leaving my set for the when I leave. We had bought water melons from an ancient lady sitting under a mango tree on the road side for 20p each so we gave Agatha one and her face beamed with delight.

 

The evening passed with the arrival of many visitors tying up lots of loose ends in my last week.

 

Sunday 28 November

 

A day of rest it was not! Church prayers were followed by a request to visit 2 poor families in Kachaboi and so  Okerenyang called with a picki picki to ride to their homes but I had decided to decline the request.  It would not be right for a muzungu to appear just a week before departure as the family would immediately expect a lot. Also, my families are all selected by the CBR hospital workers who already know their outstanding issues and I value their judgement. Instead, I asked him to accompany me to see the school cow shelter and to reiterate my concerns as to the strength and suitability of the structure. I stressed that, if repairs needed to be done, I wanted no excuses about parents not forking out and it was up to the Cow Committee as they assured me that all was well. Time will tell!

 

We returned via the school where I wanted to check if the bottles in the 6 crates of sodas from Sports Day were all present and correct before George, the driver, collected them. Many were missing so I stood firm until there were no gaps in the crates. All present but not all correct as I later discovered as they had replaced bottles from another drinks company.  My learning curve will never reduce!

 

Now I was late for my day at Aigestio Women’s HIV Group and I had promised the PAG church I would call in after their service to encourage people to use fuel saving stoves.  A quick, downhill cycle to the church and I found the service hadn’t finished. It was International Women’s Day and the ladies were adorned in their very best gomez’ looking so wonderfully beautiful whilst dancing and singing. I wished I’d gone sooner! Of course, a speech was necessary and, as usual, I had made an error which had to be corrected as I hadn’t introduced myself. At as an appropriate moment as was respectable, I took my leave and I checked on the stove with already boiling water and once again I advised them to use less wood to reduce the smoke output and to preserve the trees for future generations. The people can’t believe that only a couple of sticks are required to maintain the heat.

 

Back on the bike and returning uphill, I reached the home of Chairperson, Akurut, and the welcome I received was of greater volume than all the PAG congregation put together! Such wild singing and dancing! It was a beautiful, hot day but I was ushered into the hut which had almost collapsed during one of the storms and I sat alone stewing under the iron sheeting roof. I managed to use insect repellent but I couldn’t disguise the strange odour which must have emanated from the walls or floors as otherwise the room was bare. Akurut joined me and, in spite of her swollen cheek due to toothache, she was bearing up well.  I have been plying her with my reserve painkillers which I haven’t needed but she will have to attend the hospital as soon as possible as an infection for an AIDS person is very serious and requires immediate medical care.

 

After lunch, we emerged from the hut and sat down to enjoy  the drama, a play depicting how drink especially the local brew, ajon, leads to drunkenness, promiscuity and the transmission of AIDS. If there had been aisles, we’d have been falling about in them with laughter and it was quite ironic when all but me were HIV+ or with AIDS. The two members dressed as old men had us in stitches and the whole event was so well presented for a load of amateurs. They had even hired a music centre (paid for by me, I was told! 3 pounds!) and a young man played CD’s of thumping African music which must have been heard for miles around. The children played with the balloons I’d taken when they weren’t dancing to the rhythm of the music with toddlers of about 1 year old wiggling their bottoms with gay abandon.  Tremendous! The sweat poured down all the faces and I wondered how they could have such energy when they are sick. They did drop out one by one until we came to the business side of the meeting where the money was shared out to the members. Even I received 44,000/=! All the remaining money was loaned out and had to be returned in a month with interest. It’s difficult to understand their system but it works! Finally I could take my leave. The host always rolls the bike to the roadside and then says farewell. Today this task was taken over by 2 of the members who reminded me that I had promised to visit their homes. It is humbling to see how they live and to listen to their stories of how they came to end up living in such squalid conditions.  They can be spotless in appearance and in their minute home but their total worldly belongings barely exist. Outside, the pigs wallow in the dust, chickens strut everywhere, fires burn all round with mandazi frying in oil, millet is cooked to produce waragi, a form of distilled spirit which is the downfall of so many men.  The children roll old tyres and ride adult bicycles with one leg under the cross bar to reach the opposite pedal, cows and goats pass through but this isn’t like the city slums which are a hundred times worse. One mother was telling me about her life with her two children and how it had been improved with belonging to this group. You would never believe how grateful they are. She has two beds, pots and pans and all through being a member. In the corner, she had 4 sacks of groundnuts which she had bought from borrowing from the group and she was to sell them as the price rises around Christmas time and she will make a good profit. Of course, as it is there custom, you have to sit down and eat and drink when invited into a house so she had rushed out to buy a chapatti and a soda which I had to partake of but I did persuade her to share with her children. By now I was late for my supper date so I politely left after she had rolled my bike to the road and I sped home, past the school and over the airfield to rush to Lydia’s (physio assistant) for supper. She lives in staff quarters which I find reasonably presentable but make the GH look like Buckingham Palace. We sat outside on the small traditional chairs with her husband, Wilson, and we watched the stars come out while their teenage children spent at least 2 hours cooking supper at the bottom of the compound and silhouetted against the firelight like animated pinmen. One could never tire of these experiences especially when aware of the appalling snow conditions back home. At last we entered their small room where we all filled our plates and enjoyed the meal. The remaining food would be eaten before the children went to school in the morning. They would escort me home but soon George, the driver, appeared from behind and I was driven back only to fall into bed, tired and happy.

 

Saturday  27 November

 

If I get this written, I’m up to date with my diary and it’s a shock to see that I have written 58 pages! I know my stay is about to come to an end as I have started my final strip of anti-malarial prophylaxis pills. Washing day and I will be happy to be home to use a washing machine as it is tiresome to rub the clothes in 3 bowls of washing powder in an attempt to remover the murram.  The colour of the water continues to amaze me each week. I hung them out dripping wet at 6.30 am and brought them in bone dry before 11 am! Washing clothes and hair is usually a combined operation as it saves on water consumption. With these 2 procedures completed and still before 7 am, I then had my first surprise visitor of the day; Ann Margaret, secretary of the HIV group where I am to go tomorrow. She was in a state of great excitement as they are planning a surprise for me and they are rehearsing continuously. It is going to be a full day’s event and I am to arrive early. I will go after I have been to prayers, ridden on a motor bike to a family with a child with a disability and checked on the fuel saving stove production at the PAG church. Yesterday the group shared out their profit over the year and each one received 44,000/= (13 pounds) as did I as I am a fully paid up member! Each one had contributed 1,000/= to pay for the food for my lunch which I will eat alone, no doubt! I was not asked to contribute! It’s great to see them managing as they are and with such enthusiasm. Their sickness is no longer in the forefront of their minds all the time and they are well-motivated. Some are weak and they find it difficult to keep up with the other’s hard work but careful consideration must be given to these ladies.

After she left, I had time to start on sorting out my financial situation in preparation for leaving before my next visitor, Agnes, arrived as planned. We needed to sort out the future for the bakery, portable stove production and large school ovens. It had been a reasonably costly project and above budget but Chris had told me that a cheque had arrived for exactly the right amount from the Major from the British Army who was here last week. He also told me that there is snow at home which is difficult to comprehend when living under such a hot sun. He also cheered me up by informing me that our central heating boiler was malfunctioning so I am definitely not looking forward to touchdown in UK a week on Monday!

The morning was fruitful and I was feeling much more relaxed and in control than yesterday. Florence and her 2 offspring, Pius and Martha, arrived on picki pickis and we rode into town for lunch at North East Villa, this year’s top of the list venue for me. We had a lovely lunch (their chips are perfect) and spent much time talking about this and that. Pius has a girlfriend who is pregnant which is great news and I hope to meet her. Martha continues to enjoy school and she is maturing into a lovely young woman. I always feel part of the family and we have spent many happy times together over the years.

Back home with nothing planned for the rest of the day that is until Andrew, the teacher, came to discuss his plans for a nursery. This does not come within my criteria but I can listen and advise.

Now I’m up to date! Good night!

PS A flying insect has just crashed into the door with great force. It will be a very large beetle which will now be lying on its back waving its legs in the air. I shall not check as this happens frequently but it is with quite a force and it will still be there tomorrow.

 

Friday 26 November 

 

Sports Day at Adesso School, and apart from it being important to promote sport for the youngsters, my heart is not in this project.  I really am very disgruntled with the headmaster who is a total disaster and another member of an advisory committee. I can’t help but sympathise with the “good” teachers who have to work in appalling situations and conditions. Enough said!

I started the day at 7am with Moses, the uncle of the 3 orphans in my new family, who gave me details for fees for Leah’s school. Gabriel, her brother, is 14 and I still had my “reduced to 3 pound Sterling” blazer from M&S to hand out and he was the perfect choice.  Moses has kindly offered to take me to Kampala next weekend (for a fee, understandably) if I’m stuck for transport. 

I was to take the morning off but, after Morning Assembly, one thing led to another until the morning had gone.  I had a few things to talk over with the Hospital Administrator which ended up in a fruitful discussion. My visit this year has been so different from the norm as the situation at present is unique and my funds have been distributed still with the children with disabilities in mind but from a different approach.

In the end, I was late for the official start of the sports but I needn’t have worried as they finally kicked off 2.5 hours late. The head was even more infuriating than usual and he seemed to think the whole matter was amusing until I informed him that I thought otherwise.  They even brought me an omelette, tomatoes and onion to appease me and it was welcome but more so by the little girl who had inched onto the bench next to me. She managed to eat most of it and I enjoyed sharing it with her as I’m sure her need was greater than mine. I refused to sit in the Guest of Honour seat which I handed over to Wilson, an old friend of mine and chief of the overall clan. The children were a delight and played netball, volleyball and football with both skill and enthusiasm. Having started late, the sun had set, junior volleyball had to be omitted, very short speeches were given and then I left to cycle back as my friend from St Charles Borromeo Orphanage had called to see me and it was high time these little children set off to walk the many kilometers home.  I felt too tense and then all was revealed when the thunder and lightening arrived in full force. I opened the curtains to enjoy the sight of the fork lightening swishing its way to earth and then to hear the overhead crashes of the thunder as they shook, not only the house, but my very bones. There was nothing else to do but to retire to bed and enjoy the spectacle.

 

Thursday 25 November

 

A month today will be Christmas Day. An email alerted me of extreme weather conditions at home so I was urged to check even further on line to find that we had a couple of inches of snow and it could last until next week. I think I would enjoy looking out onto a white garden just at this moment!

 

Visitors started before 7 am. Betty, the teacher, wanted to recharge her phone and George came to collect the radio for the boy in Armuria for whom we had promised one. The PTA meeting I thought was at 8am on Saturday turned out to be today so 10 members turned up to discuss the cow project. We had a heated discussion between the members who are dissatisfied with the leadership of the school. Let’s hope that, by the end of the meeting, progress had been achieved and that school relationships would improve. It seems that these muzunguz certainly put the cat among the pigeons when needed!

 

I had a brief meeting with Charles, Administrator, and then Paul, physio coordinator, who has completed his University studies but still has a research project to do.

 

The fieldworkers had gone for an outreach clinic far away without me to see how viable it will be to continue with the programme. I looked forward to their return and their evaluation of the day.

 

I decided to take the rest of the afternoon off and I cycled back to the GH and then realized that I was completely exhausted. I lay down on my bed and felt terrible. Perhaps I dozed until I heard a small voice repeatedly calling “Hello, hello!” which I ignored until I decided to get up nearly keeling over in the process! There was Peter who, ages ago, had asked me for a football and I told him to make one out of caveras (black poly bags) and there he was standing proudly with his home-made one to show me. I suppose I should be flattered that he asked me to join him for a game but all I could reply was that I was ill! I returned to my sick bed until it was time for me to shower and to visit God’s Grace Group. All I needed was a shower to cool me down to make me feel fine again. The group was there in full capacity all bringing their kids produced by the goats they bought last year, pulling them along by the tethering rope tied round the ankle or carried across the shoulders like a scarf! They were to sell them and then use the total for a loan system. I really am impressed with the progress these groups are making and their enthusiasm when they have achieved a goal on their own. Following the last meeting, Stella had completed her basket after I had taken the materials to show them how to weave but they already had the skill.  The start was my work and so weak compared to where she had taken over. I bought it for 5,000/= but said that any future ones of that size would probably only make 3,000/=. I know I would be prepared to buy a set of table mats. They have no access to get the raffia in spite of having so many fibres rowing so I must remember to buy some skeins when I get home. The sisal is here in abundance and the only other requirement is a needle.

 

Photocalls over and I was to have supper at Margaret’s, a sister in the hospital, with her sister and my good friend, Florence. We started with omelette, groundnuts and small bananas, the table was cleared and, after a polite period, I started to take my leave when I realised there was another course! Rice, cabbage and chapattis! I had to manage a polite portion before I could take my leave! They escorted me home through the moonlight and along the tracks where the roots of the trees seem to stand out resembling snakes!

 

Wednesday 24 November 

 

Morning Assembly and Barbara went to the front of the hall to explain to the staff of her frustration, anger and disappointment with Moses, the dentist. She spoke powerfully and got her message across to a silent and surprised staff. You could have heard a pin drop! Afterwards she and the Hospital Administrator had a meeting whilst I met with the rehab staff to start preparing for the continuation of fieldwork after I have left. It will not be easy to arrange the budget but, if we do not continue with what we have started, all will be to no avail. We have arranged a meeting for Monday when the Hospital Administrator will also be present. My last week will fly by in arranging all the projects and funding we have started.

Back at the Guest House, Barbara met with Martin, CBR worker, to instruct him in the Oral Hygiene programme so that he can include this in his fieldwork programme and then I discussed with him the future of his home visits, our groups and some of my students. Barbara’s pick up arrived, the bicycle she had generously given to Moses and later confiscated was put in the back and I was sorry to see her leave; all alone again except for Joy, the hen, who is laying eggs for me regularly in the blue bowl lined with grass in the porch. Barbara phoned me later to say that she had also collected the dental chair she had lent to Moses on the condition that the use of it was complementary to his dental practice within the hospital. He had seriously failed in that respect.

 

I was to be collected by a driver to take me to Pastor John’s home in Kobwin at 2.00 pm. By 3, I was very happy to be still in the compound reading my book and so, when I heard the pick up arrive, it was with a little disappointment but I always enjoy an afternoon with John in his home each year. This time, I decided to take a wood-saving stove as a gift and, although they are supposedly portable, they are very weighty. We drove into Kumi where we sat for over an hour waiting for the Pastor to emerge from his meeting and then a further hour while he was in the local radio station.  The “On Air” sign was illuminated so, no doubt, he was involved with a broadcast. A cockerel followed by a hen strutted in but soon got bored and exited to enjoy the bright daylight. Being about the time it should be when I left his place, we set off into the sunset, arrived, sat under a mango tree while the wife and family prepared the meal, ate the meal and then returned home late. The roads are incredibly dusty at present so visibility is much reduced especially when using headlights.

 

Tuesday 23 November

 

Neither of us slept well and in the morning she decided to tell all to the Hospital Administrator. The next few hours would have been perfect soap opera material but we would rather have not had to go through with it. 

Fortunately, I had arranged home visits and we set off to distract us from all this. The road-side post polio paralysis shoe repairer was to be given the leather he had requested and, once again, another grinning smile emerged as I handed it over through the vehicle window. Next call was to Ngora School for the Deaf where I was to pick up the receipt for school fees for next year for Apulemera and the letter which she had written for the Soerst Soroptimist club in Germany. We met two muzungos in the Head Teacher’s office; an elderly (about my age) German who had been headmaster there years previously and a German lady Ophthalmologist.  It was a day of tying up loose ends and we called at Aliasit Farm to arrange for the HIV/AIDS group to attend training on sustainable agricultural methods. I had taken the Chairperson last year but the rest were a bit miffed that they hadn’t been and that they hadn’t learned from her as much as I had hoped.  Easily solved, send the rest! One of my boys, Alfred, an athetoid cerebral palsy 13 year old who was given a wheelchair a while ago and is in mainstream primary school was absent so we visited his home. His eyes were so sore not surprisingly as he kept rubbing them with his dirty hands. Barbara told them how to dissolve salt in boiled water and she gave him her paper handkerchief supply to use as swabs. His wheelchair was completely collapsed so we agreed to supply him with a tricycle even though he could walk a short way but definitely not the distance to his school. A child brought the goat we had given and its offspring for us to see. It had also had had twins which had died. Then on to Charles Elongat , the arthrogryposis 8 year old boy whose wheelchair was in the vehicle. I am doing well recycling wheelchairs from a pile of what looks no more than junk and this one was one of these which had been adapted to suit his disability. It was perfect and so comfortable! He could manage with difficulty to get in and out but this skill would improve each time he practiced. He would soon even be able to propel the chair on his own on uneven ground. Smiles all round yet again! The compost heap we had started on our last visit was maturing very well and the mother had prepared holes for about 20 improved orange trees so the programme continues. We called to see Akol Jesca who had had a dismantled tricycle which we had asked them to mend. This was mainly done but the ball bearings in the front axle were missing so this continued repair had to be sorted before the tricycle would be functional. It is so evident why continued follow-up of these families is imperative if the programme is to be a success. Then to Amulen Elenor, the Down’s Syndrome girl looked after by her grandfather. We had made parallel bars a month ago for her to get onto her feet. She was managing well and we were told that she often went to the bars to walk on her own. I found she could walk well holding hands with 2 persons and so she will soon be off independently realizing that walking is a lot easier than crawling. It had been a good day and a distraction from our troubles. We returned via Alex’ (“My Man in Kampala”) place to see his wife, Hellen, and to meet their daughter as well as to enjoy a soda together.

 

Back home, I was to finalise arrangements with Sam for the Sports Day, food for the players, sodas and water, ‘engraving” the shield etc. Then Barbara and I spent a quiet evening with an omelette for supper followed by showers and bed.

 

Monday 22 November

 

A new week and I was to welcome Barbara Koffman from the dental team who had come hopefully to revitalize the hospital dental clinic and to get things moving in the right direction. On her arrival, we partook of samosas and chapatti with egg and tomatoes inside and African tea cooked on a 3-stone fire (bad news for fuel saving) in the canteen based in a discarded 40 foot container . I was looking forward to hear a person speaking English without a Ugandan accent! Things don’t happen singly here and, no sooner had Barbara arrived, when a further two ladies arrived from Hampshire. They were frequent visitors to the Teso region of Uganda and they have a charity which sends out containers to this region. Interesting and I have their contact details. I was able to show both Barbara and Linda and Pat around the hospital on yet another tour. The latter were well informed about Mission hospitals in the region and they had nothing but praise for here which was so encouraging to hear in these dark times of difficulties.  We needed refreshment and this time took sodas in the second small canteen within the hospital compound. After saying our farewells, Barbara and I continued with our discussions before returning to the Guest House to prepare for our visit to Modesta’s home. We found Modesta busy cooking but she stopped to give us her warmest of greetings. We sat inside but it was too hot so we ever so politely suggested we sat outside in a rough cobbled passageway with a pig for company. It was slightly cooler but now we had flies to contend with. Prior to our visit, I had made Modesta promise not to cook anything but, of course, she couldn’t keep her word! First we were presented with a litre bottle of Sprite each and a bowl of groundnuts freshly roasted over her home made fuel saving charcoal stove. Four of her children joined us followed by several others, her father and then her husband until the passage was blocked by our little party. A mad man kept walking past but he caused us no harm; just part of the entertainment. No sooner had we done justice to the nuts than she produced rice and beans with great enthusiasm. She always enjoys muzungu visitors calling and I suppose it breaks the normal everyday routine for her. Barbara gave her a skirt she had brought and they were both very happy. We were joined by a neighbour, Susan, who had provided the meals for Barbara’s outreach clinics and we were saddened to hear that Moses, the dentist, had cheated her rather stupidly as it was not difficult to prove his guilt.  Barbara was too upset at the discovery even though she has been to Uganda enough times to realize that honesty isn’t always evident. We returned home and she felt it necessary to phone Moses to speak up for himself. I had my meeting with Sam, the sports teacher, on the porch to arrange for Friday’s Sports Day while Barbara dealt with Moses. Of course, denials came flowing forth but he finally had to submit and admit deceit. He left and phoned to ask for a further meeting with Susan present. Poor Barbara had to ascertain who was speaking the truth before making a conclusion. It was all very unpleasant and she was very hurt that she had been betrayed.

 

Sunday 21 November 

 

One has to see to believe the experience of the beauty of the full moon light! It is quite incredible being more silver than grey with the trees silhouetted and 2-dimensional.  In bed, the big round ball shines as bright as a 150 Watt bulb through the window illuminating the mosquito net and casting strange shadows around.

 

I listen to the BBC World Service and I am waiting to hear the news which must be headlines in UK of the royal engagement.  Apart from seeing a snippet on the Yahoo home page, I have heard nothing. The world news concentrates on Obama and Clinton, a suspicious device on a plane bound for Germany, miners killed in New Zealand but nothing about William and Kate. Perhaps I’ll catch up with the details when I get home. I can wait!

 

Sunday morning and it’s off to prayers again for my penultimate Sunday in Uganda. I cycled there and back and I spent a relatively peaceful morning reading in the garden whilst waiting for a driver to collect me to go to Oseere for Sunday lunch at Margaret Akol’s (MS secretary) place. It’s an annual visit and this time she has a Visitor’s Book for me to sign. I must have signed 50 books at least since my arrival! Each time I dine out, I am treated to a feast of delicious food as my favourites are well-known. Fresh passion fruit juice, avocado, do-do, eboo amongst others. Margaret and I had a quiet afternoon with no children interrupting our conversation and we put the world to rights and more. We went for a Sunday afternoon stroll and passed a young widow with 5 children working away at a sewing machine in her compound. She was a cheerful soul but very poor so a little assistance was given to her. I looked back as I left and she must have peeped at the few notes in her hand. I shall not forget the face with a big smile and with white teeth shining in the shadows of her tree.

 

After an evening of many visitors, I was able to relax and enjoy a shower and retire to bed.

 

Saturday 20 November

 

A grueling day off it turned out to be! Betty, the teacher from Adesso, and I set out on a boda boda each riding side saddle to her home village in Mukungoro, a 1.5 hour ride away, with the dust filling our eyes until they were just too sore. I was very good to wear my helmet there and back and, in spite of the visor, I still seemed to get drenched in the stuff. It’s a long time to sit still to avoid unbalancing the bike but we arrived safely and all I could think about was the return journey. I came last year to meet a newly formed group which went to Aliasit Farm for training in farming methods after I had left. Their work was impressive with productive fields of tomatoes and onions, squawking turkeys fenced in with cassava stalks, big, fat chickens, improved orange trees, Lorena stoves amongst other projects and produce.  Here is where I was to judge the projects and choose 3 winners as I did last year with God’s Grace’ compost. There was, of course, an overall winner who knew hers was the best by far and I regretted being unable to choose Lucy who came second as winner as she had done very well as well but was less forthright. They came up with a problem list which they thought I would solve so they were probably disappointed when I announced that I only had encouragement to offer them. Judging the gardens entailed footing for what seemed miles along tracks between the villages with the midday sun beating down relentlessly on my well-thatched head.  Midday, 1 pm and then 2 pm and we weren’t done. I could have flaked out quite easily. I entered a hut to greet and old lady who had broken her arm when falling. She couldn’t walk and I think that she would not survive the ordeal. She was just a bag of bones and very old at 60 years!

Returning, I was pleased to find that dishes of food were emerging from the “kitchen” and being carried to a half completed house so we sat amid piles of rubble and bricks.  Very cloudy water was poured out for me and, although I should avoid such liquids, I was so thirsty that I had no option but to drink it but the taste was vile. I had to breathe out as I took a gulp and then try not to let anyone see the grimace I could not hide. I heard with great expectation the word “soda” but I think it must have been only part of a Ugandan word like Kasodo so my hopes of enjoying a Coke were dashed.  Lunch was at two tables again: one for the bike riders and one for Betty and me. When Betty had cleared her plate, she upped and off-ed to the other table where she tucked into the chicken stew. It seems that she couldn’t eat meat at the same table as a non-meat eater! After lunch, prizes were delivered in reverse order and speeches were next on the agenda. I hardly stopped for breath as I spouted forth about Oral Hygiene and the importance of saving the Ugandan trees from being used as firewood and offering encouragement to continue with their projects. Time to leave and I was given tomatoes, onions, eggs and ground nuts all to be carried on the bike. We were very deep in the bush and it was good to come to more populated areas and finally to Kumi Town.  

 

Friday 19 November 

 

6.19am and my first phone call followed by 6 more before 7am and all having something to say. My first visitor arrived before 7am to collect a small amount of money which she had asked to borrow and I know she will repay it on time. A queue formed with Moses coming to discuss the education of my 3 orphans and my offering to buy Brenda a bike so that she doesn’t have so far to walk each morning to school. Robert had asked for 10,000/= for fuel to attend his cousin brother’s burial following his death caused through AIDS. The phrase is “He was positive” and I made a big clanger the other day when someone made a remark and I said “Are you positive?” with a totally different connotation.  When I turn up late for Morning Assemblies, I am sure (positive) that Charles, HA, thinks I have slept in. He is mighty wrong! 

A home visit today so, with a new tricycle in the back of the Land Cruiser, we set off with the pleasant task of delivering it to Angela Betty. What a welcome we received from the whole family. She was washing her big clay pot which keeps her water cold but she soon stopped what she was doing and scrambled onto the tricycle to practice pedaling round the compound. Joy abounded and I was presented with a beautiful cockerel and a bag of ground nuts given in gratitude. Within a mile of each other, we found 5 prospective patients for plastic surgery in February  mainly with burns following falls into the fire due to untreated epilepsy. A few homes later, we called to see a new family of five disabled youngsters in their 20’s and 30’s. I’m not in a position to diagnose but I can say almost with confidence that they all suffered from Huntingdons Chorea at different stages of its onslaught. Their mother had died from the same condition and they were left to fend for themselves although their father lived in Kampala with a new wife and did visit his children about every month. They weren’t poor in the pecuniary sense but they lived a simple life according to the culture. Theresa was the least affected but had been born deaf and dumb. It was on her shoulders to help the rest. Agatha was next reporting that her first symptoms were weakness of the limbs and difficulty with speech. She could have been Miss Universe as she was really most beautiful but with a contorted face when speaking. She had great difficulty co-ordinating her movements. Joseph and Vincent came next, unable to walk and talk coherently but still able to feed themselves.  They had all been educated well. Then came Paul who is 35 years old, had trained as an engineer and was the most severely affected.  He stays in his hut in darkness sitting in a contorted manner and with violently wild movements and the sight was grotesque, horrific and sincerely distressing. His brain was as good as the next man but it was impossible to understand what he was desperately trying to tell us.  I could cope with open questions where the answer was predictable. He supported Man U and enjoyed football very much. What could we do for this poor man and his family? Not a lot! I will try to get a wheelchair for Paul who must be at least 6 foot tall and, if at all possible, two more for Joseph and Vincent.  Paul’s hut will have to be adapted by providing a slope for the chair to get in and out. We needed to measure the door width and how many times do I say we must carry a tape measure with us? Improvisation was necessary so we pulled a thread from a maize bag and used this to measure accurately enough for what we wanted.  I shall also provide Paul with a radio so that he can listen to the sport as well as the news and music. It was a depressing visit and a large part of me wished I’d never gone.

We finished early and, after depositing at Modesta’s my beautiful cockerel to join the chicken I received earlier from Moses Okenyekure, I returned to sit in the Guest House compound to read my book and have a cup of tea. It was most pleasant until a very drunk man turned up being a big nuisance. I ended up coming in and quickly locking the door and closing my windows. I waited for him to leave and watched while he staggered down a track until he fell over, stumbled up and proceded no doubt to continue drinking elsewhere.  The rest of the evening was gratefully uneventful.

 

Thursday 18 November

 

My second day of this week staying “in” to reserve my energy levels. We started with a demonstration of the portable energy saving stoves for charcoal and wood for patients and attendants. Many crowded round the stoves while the team, attired in their polo shirts and caps, showed how little fuel is required and the speed at which the water is boiled. Tea and bread buns from the bakery oven were served and then there was a stampede up to the Nutrition Unit which has almost become a factory for the stoves as everyone wants to know how to make them. I left at this point to have a couple of meetings, the first with Max, the Workshop Manager, with whom I am arranging to swap items for the children with disabilities with materials for his stock. We both find it a mutually agreeable arrangement. The second meeting was with Charles Okular, Hospital Administrator, to keep him up to date with my projects. Poor man, he is very patient with me! I had also heard rumours regarding next year and I wanted to clarify the situation. All is not black and white for sure but there is light on the horizon for the future of the hospital. How great this would be! Also, the hospital is buzzing with patients mainly due to our outreach clinics and I felt it only fair to contribute towards their food so we agreed on a budget for sacks of posho, beans, salt and jerry can of cooking oil which should keep the children fed for a couple of months at least. We agreed to reduce the amount of plaster of Paris and epilepsy drugs I was to supply in case funding returns. Also I may well be back in February with the plastic surgeon and his team so I can review the situation then.

Next stop was the prison so, with Agnes behind me and George Albert and Samson on another picki picki, we sped off to town to have a meeting with the assistant commandant, Okello George Washington, of the prison. After being locked in securely, we discussed their cooking facilities and then entered the prisoner’s compound through another metal gate to see the process in action.  Now there were 2 locked gates between me and freedom! The prisoners were dressed in canary yellow tops and shorts and one was “mingling” the posho by beating the living daylight out of the stuff with all his might. What a splendid exercise for an angry man except sweat was dripping off him and splashing into the cauldron big enough for a cannibal to cook his prey, It probably saves on the salt requirements! The ambience of the compound was far more convivial than I had expected with the men playing cards and bao,; local musical instruments lay around;  some dried fish or cabbage brought in by relatives was being cooked on small charcoal stoves and it was not the place of eternal despair which I had expected. There were 173 male inmates and on the other side were the 6 female inmates which is an interesting statistic when compared with UK. Two mothers had murdered their husbands and one had poisoned her two children. One was inside for serious assault and two were on remand. Tomorrow, Agnes and Sam will supervise the prisoners as they use all their energy on treading and throwing the termite hill mud hopefully not at each other but at the stoves.

Then we rode off to inspect the ovens already installed in the schools and, at the last school, Kumi Parents, the children of each class entertained us with songs and poetry with soda and cake (?) to follow. I was famished before the so-called cake but now my appetite was appeased but we stopped for lunch at Arise restaurant in Kumi main street. After a plate of beans and sweet potatoes for me, some sort of meat and rice for the rest, we started to talk to the manager about his cooking arrangements and we were invited to visit the cooking area which could have been better organized. (I now wished I hadn’t eaten anything cooked there). The manager, a fellow Rotarian with Samson, agreed to have 4 charcoal stoves installed as they get through a sack of charcoal a day! No wonder the trees in Uganda are disappearing fast! This was our first business venture and he agreed to pay 50,000/= per stove. (16 pounds Sterling) If the man is satisfied and impressed, heaven knows where this venture will end! N

ext stop was home for a quick shower, change and leave to walk for a meeting with God’s Grace Group which went well with each member explaining how she was benefiting from being a member.  It sounded good in theory but I wonder how much they really do. Afterwards, my last meeting of the day was with Francis Okerenyang when we discussed many issues about the school, the vaccination programme and this and that.  By 9pm, I was ready for a breather  so I explained that I still had much preparation to do for tomorrow.

 

Wednesday 17 November

 

These early morning visitors are coming earlier but, as I get up so early, it’s fine by me and means my evenings will be less uninterrupted. Today I was observing the heavens laden with stars at 5 am and it is truly a sight to behold. Orion is there in so much more clarity than at home. even down to his sword.  Anne Margaret gently knocked at 6.30 carrying her year old daughter named after me! Her husband sweeps the hospital compound and hasn’t been paid since March. She is desperately worried and doesn’t know how to continue even saying she will swallow the pills to be out of it all.  It’s too hard as I can’t single out one family and all I can do is listen and come up with a few ideas. This meant I was late for Morning Assembly again  and I am sure the Administrator thinks I must sleep in ... if only!

Serere today and we arrive in the trading centre to find a group waiting for the “doctor”; me! A post injection paralysis, a hydrocephalus girl, an 18 year old post polio girl whose crutches were far too small and she wanted some shoes and a 6 month old cerebral palsy baby, all of whom could be helped. Some days we have highs and lows and this was one of them. My highest of highs will come later and I will comment on only a couple of the 7 we saw.  We stopped at a school where we found Akello Elizabeth. She is 13 years old and was born without legs and a malformed right hand. She walked some distance from home to school and was late each day and left home with the others so arrived home very late also. Her uniform was worn out under the arms due to the rough wood of her crutches which she had had for 6 years and were only as high as her waist level. The dress was patched extensively with a material of no resemblance to the dress.  The feet of her prostheses (artificial legs) were worn away and, of course, the legs were far too short for her growth. Her walking brought tears to my eyes and it is incredible the determination these youngsters have to attend school and to learn. The plan was simple! First, arrange for her to come to the hospital where she will have new legs made once her Primary 6 exams were finished  (next week). I told her she would come back much taller and she was very happy.  She will have the correct sized crutches. I will buy a bicycle so that she can be carried on the back of it to school and so arrive on time and get home sooner. I have heard there is a bike which can be ridden by a double amputee but this needs research on my part. I arranged with the school that she would have school lunches during the exams.  Normally she has nothing to eat from the night before to the next evening. Finally I gave her some money to buy 2 school dresses at 3 pounds each.

I had visited Akello Elizabeth, a totally blind girl, a few weeks back. Since then, I’ve been to Madera School for the Blind and seen about admission details. Today I was to explain to her grandfather our plan which pleased him very much. She’s an 8 year old girl, very bright, quiet and timid but she can get round her compound with ease in spite of her blindness. She felt my skin and knew I was different as “it was soft”; flabby more like; and then she felt my hair and knew I was the odd one out! Ruth asked her what else she would like and the reply little more than a whisper was “School only” and I wish you could have seen the smile form on her face.

We can’t help them all and Ejulo Isaac was one of these. He is 10 years old, blind and sits twisted in a chair with the blankest of looks on his face just because he has nothing to think about and that is how he will spend his entire life. It is heart breaking and totally unimaginable. He is dirty and probably hungry. His hands are clawed so he has to wait to be fed.  They found a spoon so we encouraged his mother to let him feed himself. He has, on top of everything else, gluteal fibrosis which can’t be operated on as it would probably make his overall problems worse. This is a further factor hindering his sitting posture.  What could we do? I suggested to Amos that he arranges for parallel bars to be made to help the boy get onto his feet. We went into his hut where he sleeps on a reed mat with no mosquito net so we will get him a mattress and net and some sheets. I will leave behind my radio for him and we will buy him a goat so that he owns just something in this world and hopefully it will multiply. I can’t remember what was said but I will never forget his smile, the only change of facial expression I saw and he is such a fine looking boy.

And here am I complaining about the sand in my eyes, my sore, chapped lips and 2 painful toes!

Now for the highs! Coming back through Soroti, George took me to a supermarket with trolleys and a choice of food on the shelves. I took a trolley and then put it back as I thought it must be for a child. It was almost of a good design but not quite as two couldn’t pass in the aisle without lifting one over the other. What fun I had, I bought sweets and balloons for the children, two rolls of soft toilet tissue, small cartons of UHT milk, BROWN bread, Blue Band and HONEY (local) and two cans of cooking oil to take out to my guests this weekend. These will be more welcome than a bottle of wine which was also on the shelf.  I couldn’t wait for supper...and breakfast and the following supper! We were back late and what did I find? Joy, my pet chicken, had laid her first egg on the front porch and was waiting there to proudly present it to me! She must have been disappointed that I was so late as she should have been tucked up to roost in the kitchen cupboard at dusk. She entered the house through the front door and turned right into my room thinking I would upgrade her for her good work. Finding it to be less interesting than she expected and with some encouragement from me, she was shooed into the kitchen where she felt more at home. I cooked the egg in a kettle on a paraffin stove and enjoyed bread and honey and Blue Band but I didn’t want the milk.

Time for sleep and to wait for Thursday which should prove to be different yet again.

But I’ve forgotten another piece of news! Happy Days, the cow, was mentioned on the local radio this week, not quite BBC World News but she has hit the headlines!

 

Tuesday 16 November

 

A house pet to keep me company!

I’m alone in this house which is quite large and with many strange noises at night so I’m happy to have Joy, my pet chicken to keep me company. She sleeps in the kitchen cupboard and each morning I let her out of the big, metal back door for her to wander freely with the cockerels and hens. At night, I open the door for her to come in to snuggle down on the somewhat smelly piece of cardboard. One night last week, I forgot to open the door and I heard a peck, pecking at the mosquito mesh just near where I was sitting and there she was sitting on the window ledge telling me it was her bedtime!

 

Long before 7 am, my first visitor was Obwongo wearing the floppiest of hats and smothered with bundles of thatching grass attached to his bike. It took a while to find him amongst it all. He was delivering my acungo (thumb piano) which he has kindly made for Chris. I managed to refuse his persistent request once more to go to photograph his pit latrine and appeased him instead by taking a photo of him and his laden bike. Next visitor, Agnes, who had come to collect 10,000/= notes to hand to the mothers for making stoves for the hospital. Then Gerard Moses, the blind boy, with Simon Peter who was coming with me for the clinic and all these visitors before 7.30 am! There is never a dull moment!

We were off to Arapai for a clinic whilst the bus and Land Cruiser continued north to collect the patients we screened last week. As this is my project to get things moving in the hospital, it was my painful task to fuel both vehicles. I went with the bus which dropped me off at the fuel station to wait in the garage forecourt where there was little shade and it was so very hot. Waiting is a part of life here and, with my book, it isn’t a hardship. Pastor John passed by and we made a date for me to visit his home before I leave. The clinic went well with about 15 children to attend for treatment or surgery. Waiting for George to return at the end of the clinic was more tedious now as we were tired, hot and dirty but Ruth had a basket of food from her mother so we partook of a picnic in the Health Clinic’s compound. Baked bananas, groundnuts, very warm water. Not too bad and great when you are hungry! Coming back, the vehicle was packed with ancient eye patients coming for surgery with all their belongings and 3 bags of charcoal on the roof.  The rest of the journey was slow as the roof rack had broken and everything clanked on the roof every time we went over a pothole. The charcoal was delivered (I’ve said before how incredibly heavy a sack is and the heavier the better as that is how to judge the quality) to grateful friends and I managed a quiet evening reading. The Internet connection failed as I had had a serious intrusion blocked and this took me around 24 hours before I managed to sort out the cause. 

 

Monday 15 November

 

I have decided that I am, after all, an OAP and it’s time I took life a little more easily. I’m pacing myself more easily from now on in the hope that my energy levels will last out for the final weeks.

Today could have started better as I have become too complacent about the rats and I left my entire food stock out of the cupboard only to find that I had been visited in the night and my pawpaw was nibbled as was the one and only mandazi  (like a doughnut!).  I was hungry so, after cycling to the hospital and the Morning Assembly, I took breakfast in Agnes’ canteen, as basic as one could find but very friendly and cheap. I bought a flask of African tea (weak, sweet and made with hot milk) and the most delicious chapatti made with egg, tomato and onion  all for 33 pence!

Tricycles and wheelchairs were checked and all will be prepared in time for dispatch.  I have also asked for metal tripods to be made for some children. Simon Peter was eager to show me all the items he had bought on Saturday in Mbale as this is how I am paying for materials used. I am replenishing their stock and he also bought some leather hides for my post polio man who repairs shoes on the roadside in Nyero.

A meeting followed with Agnes and Samson who are the chief co-ordinators for the fuel saving stoves. They are continuing with installing large stoves for schools and are now being approached by hospital managements. There will soon be around 50 stoves for the attendants to cook inside sheds and not in the hospital compound. I’m hoping to eliminate outside cooking before I leave.  Thursday we will be having a demonstration of the stoves to disseminate the knowledge learnt by the new trainers and to prove that food cooks much faster. We will be boiling water and handing out cups of dry tea (tea made with water as opposed to hot milk) and bread buns which are being baked in the bread oven  by the thousands and sold at a profit. After doing my ironing on a physiotherapy plinth, I returned home to wait for a boda boda to take me to Bishop Maraka Secondary School for me to pay school fees for Brenda and Gabriel whose mother died of AIDS earlier this year leaving them orphans. The driver forgot to come so I enjoyed reading the last few chapters of The Poisonwood Bible whilst sitting outside in the shade. I was almost disappointed when he finally turned up an hour and a half late and I had to leave the last few pages for later. School fees paid, we returned and he dropped me off at Modesta’s, my dear friend whose home leaves much to be desired. As usual, I got a warm welcome and was given a litre bottle of Sprite and glucose biscuits. I took a low seat outside where she was repairing her jerry cans and plastic bowls. She had found an old black plastic bag which she was heating in the hot embers outside her house (room for 12 to live and sleep) and then scraping the melted plastic into the cracks with a metal tool, ingenious and it works. Her 5 year old son, Emma, (a boy’s name here and short for Emmanuel) was making what we call at home, I think, a “whizzer” out of a flattened crown cork pierced twice to take a length of twine rescued from an old maize bag and knotted. The disc is rotated and then the ends of the twine pulled and relaxed to produce a spinning action. How different from our children with so much choice in the shops and they can get hours of amusement out of scrap. I walked home and enjoyed an evening with no visitors for once.

 

Sunday 14 November

 

That’s today! Allelujah! Is it possible I’m up to date before bed time. An empty diary with nothing to do? No! First Sam called to proudly show me the sports equipment he had bought in Mbale yesterday. Outfits for 2 teams for football, volley ball and netball, balls, whistles, javelins, discuses (disci?) skipping ropes and a track suit for himself which he had asked if he could have. Then Florence came with her story. She used to be working here in the Guest House but her job has been affected by the hospital problems. She had just undergone a hysterectomy and she had had  to sell 3 goats and a bag of groundnuts to pay the hospital bill. She wanted to start a small business and asked for a loan. I may have declined in earlier years but this is an exceptionally difficult time for these people and I can afford to help her out. She was so grateful!

 

Last night I had accepted the invitation to attend the PAG service and so I cycled along at a suitably late hour to join the very happy-clappy, Masai-like dancing, etc worshippers. Quite an                                                                                                        experience which lasted 3 hours and I will never need to attend a Gospel Choir concert again as this one fulfilled a lifetime’s desire. People at home would have paid high prices to hear such singing. I had to introduce myself as usual and so I apologized for the English person’s reticence when it comes to joining in. I didn’t realize that lunch was part of the deal so it was back to Betty’s where I ate lunch outside and in solitary confinement as is the custom but more so than usual. Two tables were set out; one for me and one for the 3 men who joined in lively conversation whilst I sat isolated and lonely. My solitude was interrupted by a phone call from Chris back home who wanted to know if I was free to talk. It could have been bad manners but I was happy to stay on the phone. The thunder started rolling and the skies blackened but they assured me there would be no rain. I decided to take my leave and cycle home so here I am with hopefully no more interruptions before bedtime. Good night!

 

Saturday 12 November

 

My day to myself but, before 7am, Sam, the sports teacher, had arrived on his way to Mbale to buy the sports kit for Adesso School and the sports day scheduled for a week on Friday. Janet soon followed to keep me up to date with the collapse of her son’s house in the storm on Monday and then I had a chance to do something for myself until Paul called to collect funds to buy materials for the Workshop. I haven’t cleaned my teeth and I have handed over 4 million shillings! At last I managed to update my diary from 6 to 11 November and now I’m almost catching up.

 

I have just looked out of my front door to be greeted by 3 huge, long-horned cows and 2 cockerels. Now I am seated and outside the window I see my chicken, Joy, pecking the grubs from the ground and joined by a rather splendidly plumed cockerel. Surely she is laying eggs somewhere by now but I wouldn’t know where to start to look. I’ve opened the big, metal clanking back door in readiness for her to come and roost in the kitchen cupboard for the night.

 

To continue with Saturday and my next visitor was Alex, the driver from Kampala, who had brought me my final batch of funds for my stay. I think it will last out well! I was waiting for Martin (CBR worker) to collect me to go to his village for lunch at 1pm but he came at 2.30 and we rode off to join his wife and 3 children at his home where he is building a house...slowly slowly! The children go to a private primary school and so they speak good English and we can manage a conversation with ease.  Lunch appeared quite late which we had to eat inside due to rain. Little Hezron wanted to sit on a chair like I was so he went off to drag in one of his own. He also washed my hands with water from a small jerry can without being prompted. These children’s social skills amaze me. Hezron is just 2 years old! The girls (7 and 8) had planned a programme of singing and dancing for me so they set to on 14 songs and dances.  I had taken balloons which kept bursting on the rough ground but they still seemed to be amused them. At dusk, Martin rode me back on a friend’s bike as his had got yet another puncture. Now Betty, teacher from Adesso, was awaiting my return as she wants me to visit her home and the Group we started last year. Next Saturday is my only day left so it’s off to Mukongoro again on a picki picki. Her visit overlapped with Andrew, another teacher, who wanted to discuss with me the possibility of starting a new nursery but he also wanted to open an email address. I was just too tired but then I think I shall have plenty of time to rest at home in UK in 3 weeks! It took ages as the Internet is not as easy as at home and you think you are there and then all is lost. However we made it and I was left alone at last to bathe in cold water.

 

Friday 12 November 

 

Jan left at 6.30am for Entebbe airport and I shall miss his company. A day to myself to catch up on this and that so I started with my washing! However, I needed to do a few things at the hospital first so I went on my bike so that I could come and go as I pleased much quicker than on foot. The Morning Assembly turned out to be the lengthy monthly meeting which goes on for most of the morning. It is always interesting to hear how things are going so I decided to use this as part of my rest period but after 2 hours I wondered when the end would be. Charles (Hospital Administrator) was called out and soon he called me out also as he wanted me to meet 2 British Army officers who had come to ask about disaster arrangements in the area. Did we have any policies and procedures in place for such events? Major Adrian and Lieutenant Beccy were visiting some areas to ask just this and the answer in a nutshell is no! What were our contingency plans for floods or drought or disease outbreaks? No plans but everything falls into place as and when required. Everything is taken in one’s stride. Or do they have advance warning of nuclear attack or chemical warfare. Perhaps warfare in the cyberspace is possible as the Internet is up there somewhere but I am not sure how one would prepare for that. They were very pleasant and Charles asked if I would do my tour of the hospital with them. I’ve done it so many times that I have a round route and, depending on the time available, I can adjust accordingly. They had as much time as they wanted so we made a leisurely stroll scaring the pants off the kids as army uniforms are terrifying here! They have a Workshop in Kumi Hotel which could be interesting and to which I am invited but I am busy. It never ceases to amaze me who I meet here! Finally they left and I still had a few issues to address. The mothers needed their 10,000/= for making the stoves for the hospital before they were discharged. There are now 25 stoves installed in the area where the attendants cook so the plan is to get them all inside so there will be no cooking of food outside using the 3-stone method and too much fire wood. Agnes (in charge of this project) also reported that all 600 bread buns were sold yesterday with the Leprosy, Children's Village and Nutrition Unit getting free supplies. Not only are free buns distributed, profit for more flour being made and the man who sells the buns being paid but there is a balance in hand. I needed to hand over money to the Workshop to buy more stock instead of paying for all the equipment I want making. Then the money goes directly into the system instead of being diverted elsewhere. I know I came as a physiotherapist but adaptation is required to fit the local needs!I did my ironing on the physio plinth as our solar panel doesn’t power an iron. Lydia has left her iron there and, although it does the job well, the flex leaves a lot to be desired so you spend more time taking care to avoid touching the flex than doing the ironing. I also requested transport for next week. A hundred and one things until it was 3.00pm and I knew I was invited to join the dental team for afternoon tea at Moses, the dentist’s village. So a quick change and I was on my way. Moses and family were all there to welcome the team who were concluding their most successful week. We took afternoon tea which consisted of dry tea and bananas for starters followed by fresh passion fruit juice, avocado, jack fruit, tomato, carrots, liver, chicken, dodo, all on the same plate. This was followed by introductions of his family; his father, mother, 8 brothers and sisters, their wives and 25 grandchildren amongst others! We had to introduce ourselves accompanied by translation for the family. Two of the team found it too emotional to speak as tears ran down their cheeks. Girls sang a song with dance and a merry time was had by all. I am hoping Barbara has enjoyed her Kumi experience and I know she has been very happy with the team she brought out with her and her accommodation. I wish her well for next week in Mbale and then she will come here to stay with me for a day or two while the others take a 5 day trek up Mount Elgon .

 

I walked back past the men digging out aggregate, the newly born kids, the frogs starting their evening chorus and, with dusk looming, I was pleased when Silver passed and picked me up on his motor bike. No sooner was I home than Stella, a teacher from Adesso, called to return the money I had lent her. We shared my omelette and had a convivial evening together until she left allowing me to bathe and fall into bed to reflect on the week’s events.

 

Thursday 11 November  

 

An outreach clinic in Acowa, Armuria today. (IT is possible to Google Earth these places if you feel so inclined!). We piled into the vehicle, bought chapatti, samosas, bananas and water en route and set off for Armuria. It is far and, on arrival, we found many people waiting to be seen. One by one, we assessed the children and on Tuesday George, the driver, will go in the hospital bus to collect 27 children plus attendants, food etc. Michael saw over 100 eye patients and 15 wil be collected for surgery so with the 200 dental patients also seen toay, we are certainly putting Kumi Hospital back on the map!

 

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and, on turning, I saw an old lady, Adengo  Amelenia who had her cleft palette repaired by Mr Viva last November. I never saw her smile last year as her lip was still swollen before she was discharged but today she was so happy. She says she is no longer labeled “the disabled woman” and she helps escort mothers in labour to the local clinics.

 

We saw many disabilities, a boy with an amputated leg following cancer who will come for a prosthesis, cases of osteomyelitis, post injection paralysis, gluteal fibrosis, a cleft palette, club feet to name a few.

 

On our return we bought 7 bags of charcoal which weighed the vehicle down at the rear too much so that all oncoming vehicles flashed us due to our bright lights. Lorries, stacked high with potatoes and people, struggled with the potholes and one ahead of us finally got stuck with his wheels far embedded into the mud. We had to wait while many people tried to push it out and finally they succeeded thankfully without injury to themselves. At last, we reached the tarmac where we could put our foot down and we were doing well. A vehicle came at great speed and seemingly out of control. I shut my eyes as there was a big ditch on the left so we could not take evasive action but it was only the wing mirror which was hit but without damage. George thought that the driver must have dozed off!

 

It was 8.30pm before we arrived home and we were all tired and dirty. I shared a late supper with Jan who was to leave for Holland early in the morning and then I will be alone. His photographs are exceptionally beautiful and I wish I too had his talent. The staff have been happy to have him around as they have been able to watch DVD movies on his lap top.

 

Wednesday 10 November  

 

I’m pleased to be going out by Land Cruiser today as my buttocks are still bruised from yesterday on the bike.  We had a few preparations to do before we left. I needed to check on the ovens the mothers were making and I found them busy with the mud throwing exercise. They wanted paying for making the stoves and were not happy with my proposals so a riot ensued. I had to ask them to put down their pangas as they were flying dangerously above their heads and we negotiated until they quietened down a little. It’s difficult to realize that there is a point where these people change from being angry to being happy and I have yet to grasp the difference! Then to the Workshop where I have many issues; new tricycles to prepare, wheelchairs to be refurbished from scrap, CP chairs to make, the list is long. Ann Margaret, the girl with the broken prosthesis (artificial leg) had come and the leg was repaired but needed paying for.  She has the sewing machine donated by a Darlington Catenian.  Stephen Okello (Gabriel’s brother from years past) wanted to discuss the next stage of building his house. He gave up his education to look after his brother, Gabriel, (both orphans) and I am helping to start him off. He hopes to build a basic house with facilities for a “shop’ in front so he can do business.

 

Finall y, we set off to see some sad cases, Serverbare (is there a saint of that name?) who who was 18 years and in need of a wheelchair so that his mother could manage him better.  The mother also needed a push start so she was grateful to receive some funds to start an IGP (Income Generating Project).  Akol Jesca, a PPP 35 year old, could no longer ride her tricycle as it was in need of repair. On lifting it into the vehicle, we found it to be in a seriously unsafe state so she will get a new one.  After visitng some more homes, we ended up at Max Okenyekure to give him his new tricycle. He couldn’t stop grinning and also his grandmother who was also too happy! The site of his new house is under way and bricks are being made out of termite hill mud.  I shan’t be revisiting him till next year when I ope he is established with his bicycle repair business from his new house by the roadside.  He presented me with one of his few chickens which brought tears to my eyes. It’s a big, heavy one and full of eggs about to be laid, I’m sure. I can’t have 2 chickens living in the kitchen cupboard so this one is on loan to Modesta, my friend here. Next year I know this hen will have turned into a goat!  So it was home again and the above is only a very small account of the day’s events. If only I could write in detail there would be pages! Thank God, I hear you cry that I have to be brief!

 

Supper with the dentists and they continue to be happy and are exceeding all expectations in patient numbers.  I shall miss them when they leave!

 

Tuesday 9 November

 

As daylight broke, the peasants could be seen gathering the branches from last night’s storm like a trail of ants arriving to remove the crumbs. There was no shortage of timber for the early birds and, by the time I left for the hospital at 7.45am, the ground was clear!

 

The dental team joined us for Morning Assembly , prayer and traditional introduction which new visitors receive on their arrival.

 

Now, I often think that some days are the best of all but today is the best of them all…so far! Martin and Is et off on his motor bike for home visits. We visited many poor homes with CP children. Seeing has to be believed; one mother who belongs to one of the groups was very sick with pus in her stools and with no means of paying for treatment. She had 5 children, the eldest unable to attend primary school as he had no school uniform. It was good to be able to help her. aWe continued to the home of Opesen Lawrance, a spina bifida of 8 years, a delightful child who could walk with his broken walking frame supplied by the hospital. His upper half of his body was strong and he could use a pencil well so could he go to school? We went to Kakures School to ask the Head Master who agreed to take him if he had a wheelchair even though he is doubly incontinent.  He will start next term and be given an opportunity to improve himself. The mother was so happy! Amongst the children were two little girls making mats out of nylon thread and a safety pin with the smallest hook on the end.  They learn at school and use these to act as cloths for bathing, very useful for exfoliating the skin! I paid her handsomely (around 2p) for the one she was working on and she too was happy. And so am I to have a sample of what can be done. More home visits and then we reached Angela Betty who was given a tricycle 3 years ago. She is the post polio paralysis lady (PPP) who was used by the local men but now she is upright in her chair and is a  proud lady able to go to the market and fetch water ...except the tricycle is broken.  This is how the field programme breaks down when the programme stops.We are to collect it, repair it and return it asap. Now it was Peter, my boy with the legs tied and who didn’t come to the hospital when expected. I feared the worst but there he was sitting outside his new hut, legs still tied, clean, eating, no tooth abscess nor cough, fatter, communicating and smiling! What had happened? His mother was also happy and skipping along in a clean dress.  She had not come as she couldn’t leave her house in case her drunken son pinched the remaining thatch for her new house so she had used the transport money for drugs and milk for the boy. No less than a miracle! Being part of a small group has helped a lot and I do feel that we have achieved a lot even though we cannot stop Peter’s legs being tied. We visited the other member of the group who also had great news. The goat had just produced a tiny., dappled grey kid, the 2 hens we gave him on our last visit were sitting on sacks, one with 12 eggs the other with 10 eggs and the cow was about to produce.  This is field work at its best! Martin showed the father how to treat the cow and left him with the necessities. As the cow was about to give birth, Martin couldn’t do it there and then. So we were back on the bike and so happy with the day!

 

I joined the dental team for supper which we ate outside and we discussed their day when they saw almost 200 patients! They seem to be finding the whole experience most ehilatrating! I explained to the boda boda boy that the moon we could see was the same as the one you see in UK . That was a puzzle for him! Only one moon, what about America ?

     

Monday 8 November  

 

What will this week bring, I wonder! Today the dental team from England arrived by bus at the hospital to start their week’s programme of outreach clinics. After a brief introduction to hospital management, I boarded the bus and joined them for their first day. English-speaking muzungus at last! It was a treat to hear them, some from my neck of the woods with the familiar local dialects! The clinic was to be held in a church hall  sort of built but with much rubble and dust around. The team expertly unloaded their equipment off the truck and in next to no time six dental chairs were set up, a table laden with hundreds of forceps and syringes and all those dreadful looking tools which dentists use, a cleansing area, assessment table, recovery area and Oral Hygeine Instruction corner. After a short prayer, patients were being examined, teeth were being attended to and the queue got longer and longer with the people becoming rather unruly and impatient. Barbara, the Team Leader, is well expert in these clinics although it was her first visit to Kumi and she led the day in full command. Interpreters helped the dentists and I was soon given the task to man the Oral Hygiene Instruction area. I learnt a lot and it was necessary for me to keep dashing off to an expert to find out what instructions for the patients meant. We soon found the appropriate twig which is transformed into a toothbrush to clean teeth and most effective it is too and I hope the advice I gave was enough to help them all. “Round and round”, “One tooth at a time” and “Twice a day, morning and night”.  No one seems to clean teeth at night, they all use a brush and then there were the strange questions I got. “Can you use petrol for a mouthwash?” was the most alarming! Salt, ash and charcoal were most commonly used alternatives to toothpaste but the latter two are to be discouraged as they are too abrasive. I soon realized that Tom, my interpreter and choirmaster at the Catholic Church, had picked this up and could easily take over from me so, having found the exercise somewhat repetitive, I turned to helping Barbara with the washing and drying of the instruments. I was interested in the method of sterilization whereby Barbara uses a system recommended by the WHO which uses a special solution but is very expensive. She really has got the whole process off to a fine art and she can organize everything most efficiently.  I had asked Charles, the hospital administrator, to visit and I was pleased that he came to see for himself how impressive the work is. We stopped for lunch of rice and beans and water and then resumed  duties for the afternoon. Great work was done and I was so hot and tired as I am not used to being indoors. For the others, it was their second day in Uganda and for some their first visit to Africa , so the conditions were harder for them. The iron sheeting roof radiates heat to the extreme and it is fortuitous that the fresh air can enter the doorless and windowless gaps in the walls.

 

I was to attend the Rotary Meeting and, after a wash and change, I was ready for the boda boda who came promptly and just as rain drops started to fall. What followed was a sight to be seen. The heavens opened and visibility was zero due to horizontal and deafening rain and hail stones the size of peas thwacking the windows and roof. Continuous lightening flashed across the sky and only the thunder cracks immediately above could be heard above the hail.  I have not experienced a hurricane force wind and I would think this came into that category. The boda boda boy (man called Silver) sheltered until the worst was over but I decided to find a vehicle with four wheels rather than slide through the actual rivers flowing from the rain. I was really scared as I know that the rafters in the house are almost completely destroyed by termites. Once calm resumes and it is a thing of the past, fears settle and this night I went to town and joined Rotary Club somewhat late to find the guest was a Past District Governor in Australia .  I can’t believe that all these Rotarians are passing through Kumi Town !

 

Sunday 7 November

 

With my hair washed  and after  a short visit to church for prayers as I arrived late and left early, I settled down to a stream of visitors. Modesta and her family called followed by Robert, the teacher, and then the boda boda boy who took me off to Kodukol where I was going for my annual visit to the blind boy’s family. I have finally succumbed to my advancing years and I decided to go by motor bike rather than a pedal bike   which is a long, tedious ride resulting in scratched legs and an exceedingly numb bum. Using motor means took a fraction of the time and effort so it could well be the end of using sweated labour for me in the future. It’s always a pleasure to visit this village and to catch up with the family news, to see more babies who have been conceived and born since my last visit, the youngsters growing up and the old ladies looking 10 years older each time. The hours passed swiftly and it was time to return home as I was expecting Andrew, teacher from Adesso. Andrew wanted to tell me about his dream to develop a private nursery school in the nearby PAG church which is only used on Sundays. Children nearby go to nurseries in Kumi Town which entails a boda boda ride for some or a school bus ride for a good school outside the town. Occasionally the transport fails and the tiny tots have to walk the 9km alone back home. Parents see education as the only way forward for their children and those who attend nursery school get more than one foot on the ladder of success. At 10 pounds Sterling a term including food, it is within the means of some and they are prepared to put everything into their children’s future.  This has all developed since my first visit in 2002 when nurseries were not readily available.  English is the only language spoken in private schools as opposed to government schools where local languages are used until Primary 4.  Children write all their newly learnt knowledge down off the blackboard in English but have no understanding of the words! How they ever make the grade is beyond me and it could well be the answer to why so few children succeed. Back to Andrew, the idea is good but he needs to develop the idea and do some research before he goes ahead. I can listen and give him some advice for what it’s worth. Sometimes, it helps to listen!

 

Saturday 6 November

 

A whole day ahead of me with nothing planned. I turned down the invitation to a wedding in the PAG church as they are very long and it’s a case of been there, done it and got the tee shirt and I didn’t know the happy couple!

The Land Cruiser left for Kampala with Steffie, Timme, her baby, and friemds and all was quiet except that Jan, the photographer, has stayed behind until Thursday so I’m not alone. Time to catch up on things; my diary was up to date, my room clean and the washing on the line when I suddenly realized that my modem which allows me access to the Internet expired at 2.18 this very day. If I missed today, the next opportunity would be next week so I hired a boda boda and we rode into town passing bikes carrying pigs, goats, one with a bed and mattress and bowl tied behind, roof thatching, 5 on a motor bike and you name it and you will see it! By the roadside, the men were drinking the local brew through tubes, children ran after the bike calling “How are you?” with a definite emphasis on the “you”. “I am fine,” I reply a hundred times a day.  Some men were turning sisal leaves into ropes for tethering animals, many women were hoeing in the fields, the frogs were ribbeting in merry chorus and life continued as it does day after day, indeed decade after decade.  I dismounted the bike and went into the MTN shop with my modem. The girl had gone to Soroti to do some shopping and would be back, I was told,  but this could be too much to hope for so I left my phone number and asked her to call. So back on the boda boda to return home. Ah well, this is Africa so you learn not to expect things to happen just like that! Children called to play and we had a geography lesson with my inflatable globe. An interesting experience for me as well as them as I find it sad to realise how little these children are aware of and how much more our children know about the world. We talked about the moon going round the earth and the earth going round the sun very simply and they are eager to absorb any information they can. Surprisingly, the MTN girl called to say she was back so I hired another boda boda to return to town. She really is a whizz kid with the phone and soon she was adding another month’s subscription only to find that the network was down. Thwarted once more, but she took my money and I left expecting to have failed. The end of the tale is that on Sunday night I received a call on my mobile to say that I had been reconnected so I was back in touch with the world. I often wish I wasn’t so that I could be untraceable for a few weeks!

 

Friday 5 November 

 

Guy Fawkes night at home but we have our own shooting stars and fire flies to keep us illuminated. Today I was out delivering the CP chair and visiting Okenyekure Moses to make plans for the building of his house/shop.  Before we left, there were many issues to be checked and I took African tea (made with hot milk) and samosas in the driver’s canteen. The mothers were throwing mud with gusto to make their stoves, Agnes was off to order polo shirts and caps for the stoves team, tricycles were being restored and there was much activity in the hospital through my projects. En route to Ngora, I stopped to greet the paraplegic who I gave a tricycle to last year. It was in good order but he was needing some leather to continue his shoe repair business. This request is not too easy to fulfill as leather is bought in Jinja, many miles away but I shall do my best. His daughter was sick so I didn’t see her. (His wife died giving birth to the little girl a couple of years ago and that was how I got to know him.)  Phone calls started with regard to the tricycle being collected by Edward, the hydrocephalus boy, in CoRSU Hospital in Entebbe and finally the mission was accomplished with great relief on my part. Without a mobile phone, this would have not been possible. Later I watched the lady of the girl with the CP chair milk her cow and give the girl her daily porridge and then we continued to the next village where we were given sweet potatoes, beans, groundnuts, dry bread and more milky tea. My stomach wasn’t going to rumble today! This was at the village of Modesta who also lives near the hospital and who kept Chris going with her millet porridge when he succumbed to malaria a couple of years back. (People have their villages as well as their “town houses”; not a good comparison as you cannot imagine what these are like.) Okenyekure was as usual pleased to see us and he had heard the vehicle arriving so had rushed to put on the polo shirt I had given him. We planned for the house as well as loading the tricycle into Land Cruiser as it was in desperate need of repair. On closer inspection, I think it is beyond repair and he can have a new one if I can arrange it for him.   On our way back, we stopped at the market to buy some items before returning home. Steffie and friends leave in the morning so there was much packing and preparations.

 

Thursday 4 November 

                                                                                     

Agnes and I made another trip to the schools in Kumi Town to see how the ovens were going. Two are finished and will only need skimming once they are dry in about 4 weeks time. We are extending the programme to get the mothers in the Nutrition Unit and the Children’s Village and some leprosy patients working rather than sitting round doing next to nothing. My attempts to do weaving and rug making demonstrations have fallen by the wayside as I ended up making such a mess of my samples. Sheilagh at home had made it look so easy! The mothers were soon activated into collecting materials to start making the portable stoves which I shall pay for just for starters, sell (hopefully) and stimulate them into forming a production line with demand keeping up with supply.  They are to use their payments to help towards settling hospital bills and in theory the idea is excellent but in practice it could well be another matter. Time will tell! I received a message to say that Max, one of my boys who is at Mbale Islamic University was sick and needed money. Now I was in a quandary as it was to be a big day in Adesso School for the commissioning of the new classroom and girls’ pit latrines which have been funded by Steffie. She was the Guest of Honour but I had also received an invitation to attend. I wanted to do both and I finally decided to attend the school function and to send Martin with the funds for Max. It turned out to be a wise decision as it was a very special event and important to attend. The muzungus all sat in the front seats (a 3 piece suite, no less, and very comfortable it was too) with the other guests on the ever-popular plastic chairs and children by the hundred scattered around. The proceedings opened with prayer and the National Anthem and continued with songs, dancing and music provided by local musicians. Speeches were surprisingly brief and followed by a tour with cutting of the ribbons and blessing ceremonies of the latrines and the classrooms finishing with presentation of gifts. The star of the day was little Timme who charmed adults and children alike with her year old actions and smiles. I unexpectedly was given a gift and so I was pleased to have decided to attend this function and not visit Max who was delighted to receive from Martin some funds kindly given to me by a friend in N Yorkshire. Back home, a quick wash and change and we were ready to receive our invited guests, Hospital Administrator and Medical Superintendent (Charles and Ruth) for supper. We just have to be the hosts as Anna and Grace cook on charcoal stoves outside. The chicken which was drinking the water I was washing my clothes in earlier in the day was garroted and consumed for the meal. It was a most enjoyable evening but we all nearly fell asleep as we waited for the driver to take her home. The area is too bushy with too many snakes for her to walk at present.

 

Wednesday 3 November

 

Today a field trip was arranged with Steffie, her year old daughter, Timme, 2 friends and Jan, the photographer. We were off to Serere to see Amos who had arranged home visits where Steffie has had some input so it was really a day off for me. However we did call in to collect drawings from the HOW Nursery School along with letters of appreciation  for Happy Days Nursery.  By the end of the day, we were hot and exhausted with getting in and out of the Land Cruiser and Timme seemed to be the one who coped best of all!  

We arrived home after 8.00 pm, very dirty, hungry and tired!

 

Tuesday 2 November

 

I promise to make today’s entry shorter! Two visitors before 7 am – Obwong with lemons and the offer to sell me a chicken and then Gerard Moses, the blind boy, who accompanied me to the hospital. A mother brought her child to have her CP chair repaired but she needed a larger one which we would take on our next visit. There is no Plaster of Paris in the physiotherapy department so I sent Harriet on a mission to Mbale to buy all 3 sizes so that the club foot children will be treated on Wednesday instead of being returned home after a futile trip. The Rotary fuel saving oven project in schools is going better than I could expect and Agnes is putting every ounce of her efforts into the exercise. We went by boda boda to visit the 2 schools and found much activity and mud-throwing in progress.  I was expecting Cordelia and Eileen from UK who came to visit the hospital and see the stoves in action. We started with the bread making where 240 buns were in the process of being made and baked.  They found the tour of the different departments in the hospital very difficult to cope with and they were disturbed with the sights they witnessed. After lunch in the Tree Shade hospital canteen, we returned to the bakery to inspect the buns which looked and smelt very good. After they left, I took the rest of the day off and washed my hair before going to the Guest House in town where they are staying.  It was another world sitting on the verandah, drinking fresh passion fruit juice and eating vegetable curry with knife and fork in beautiful surroundings! I had come by boda boda and I was hoping for the offer of a lift back. I was fortunate as Emmanuel took me home in his car.  A pick up passed us going in the other direction having just encountered a pot hole which caused the contents to be dispersed over the road. We collected everything up and Emmanuel said he would arrange a local radio announcement in the morning and the load would be collected…a good system!

 

Monday 1 November

 

Another interesting date 01.11.10.  Some hospital duties were called for and I arranged for the refurbishment of a child’s wheelchair for Opelai Charles, the arthrogryposis boy, who we were to visit today. The energy saving oven is completed in Kumi Technical School and the team are to start on Bishop Maraka Secondary School today. More schools are hearing about the scheme and the list is lengthening fast. I shall continue as long as the hospital staff are given leave of absence to do the training.  The urologist was due to arrive and the VVF ladies were all queuing outside the Physiotherapy Department waiting for assessment. This is Vaginal Vesicular Fistular, a condition limited to the Third World where the mothers have prolonged deliveries and tear their insides leading to continuous incontinence and shame and degradation. The smell is putrid and I was pleased to be out for the day.

 

Martin and I set out to revisit 3 of our families who had formed a group. We started in town where we bought 3 tyres, inner tubes, ball bearings, grease, a spanner etc to repair the broken tricycle which we identified last week. Opelai Peter is a bright 10 year old boy with arthrogryposis, a disabling disease with the joints bending in all the wrong directions. His little sister, the same size, managed to walk him so that they resembled a Come Dancing couple as they stepped in unison across the compound. He will have the wheelchair which is to be adapted to cater for his bending-in-the-wrong-direction knees and then he will be able to attend the local primary school. The cow presented to the Group they belong to and started last week was brought, a fine light tan beast with curly horns. Martin had brought the medicines required to treat cows and he showed the man how to inject a treatment with a syringe and needle. He also de-wormed the animal and sprayed it to remove the tics of which there were many. I never realized that CBR workers’ training included farm management and the holistic approach of the family of a child with a disability to this extent which I find to be most encouraging.  We have no pressure on us to complete a certain number of home visits so we decided to extend our visit to show the mother how to make a compost heap in order to prepare for the orange trees being grafted. Both parents started to collect green and dry materials together with cow dung and soon the heap was a good 2 feet high and waiting for about 10 jerry cans of water poured over the top. I would think this to be the most arduous task as water has to be brought from the bore hole which could have been far away and 10 jerry cans is about the total amount of water required each day for a family so it would mean twice as many trips.  The compost will be turned after 21 days and will have turned into perfect compost in  28 days when it will be used to fill the hole dug out for the lemon tree seedling. Once this is established, a shoot of an improved orange tree will be grafted on and then oranges the size of grapefruits will grow instead of the local oranges the size of limes.  Children learn at school how to make compost but most of the peasants have dropped out of primary school long before they reach this stage due to sickness and death of parents and then the necessity to work the land for survival.  A boy with a lump over his eye visited and we booked him in for plastic surgery for February. Lets hope he attends! To continue, we called by at the local school to request that the Head Master accept  Opelai Peter for primary education. He was willing and also pleased as new classrooms were under construction and a pit latrine for a child with disabilities had been included.  So it was straight home or sow e thought as the bike had a puncture! Not funny! We had to walk to where I didn’t know and it was hot and dry. Finally, a man came and offered to cycle to the nearest trading centre to send another man to mend the puncture. We finally sat under a tree to await his arrival until I found I was covered with ants even though I had checked there was no termite hill nearby. Our saviour finally arrived and it took him an hour to remove the inner tube and patch the hole using an old maize cob to roughen the rubber. All mended, we completed our day very satisfied with what we had achieved.    

 

Saturday 28 October 2010

 

Now I’m starting with Wednesday which will be confusing for you! This was a disorganized day due to my plan being disrupted by the CBR worker who really gets up my nose. I know he won’t read my diary but we just don’t get on. There’s always one, isn’t there? He decided the vehicle had to go to Soroti via Serere causing a delay of around 3 hours. We were to return the Gluteal Fibrosis kids back home although Saturday would have been just as convenient. Anyway that’s the way it was and it was good to drop the children off and reinforce their exercises with the parents.

 

We picked up Ruth in Soroti and started our day around 1 pm by visiting Anthony at Jeressar School . He has had some problems with school and I was disturbed to find he had been suspended for 3 weeks earlier in the term for asserting himself while giving a speech to the school. He was caned which I am sorry to say is normal here but Anthony is “my boy” and already disturbed by the violent deaths of his parents. I am seriously thinking of changing the school as he hasn’t performed so well this year. He is very reserved and nervous and he still could do with lots of hugs. I will return and speak to the School Director rather than the Headmaster who appeared to have been drinking and his Deputy Head of his section who didn’t know him. There are over 2,000 pupils so I can’t blame him too much for that.

 

Then on to Bethany School where I saw Ketty, another of my children, who is taking S4 (GCSE) exams this year and we will have to find another school next term if she passes. She is a bright girl and I will see her when she comes home for school holidays early December.

 

On to Madera School for the Blind as I am considering sending a lovely blind girl we found out in the bush earlier this week. What a wonderful school. All the children are blind or partially sighted and each has to help the other. They learn to read and print Braille and are eager to learn. I have brought home the details for me to consider carefully as I really must decide how many children I can manage. Some have graduated this year and I can fill their places.

 

The Pamba Centre which is run by Franciscan sisters is teeming with youngster with all kinds of disabilities. I called to visit Ann Margaret to whom I gave a hand sewing machine a couple of years ago. She is busy with her tailoring but her prosthesis (artificial leg) needs repairing and I shall bring her to the hospital workshop to get it seen to. We ran out of time so we had to leave before I had an opportunity to meet the Mother Superior but, as we drove along the bumpy road, she stormed up driving her pick up and we had a moment to slam on the brakes and exchange greetings.

 

Late as usual, we drove back to Kumi at breakneck speed so that I could attend a Kumi Rotary meeting as I have joined up with them with the energy saving stove project for schools. The meeting was being held outside and it was cool, the sky was lit with lightening from far away and the meeting was in progress. The project was discussed and all is going well. The timekeeper stopped the meeting promptly which was good as I was aware that my visitor waiting in the car park. He is Soenke from CBM Germany and has been making an educational promotion presentation to take back to Germany and had just come to Kumi out of interest to see what goes on in the field.

 

It had been a fulfilling day but too rushed to feel it went very well.

 

Thursday  - was a better day! Alex, “my man in Uganda, brought Soenke up and so he drove us up to Kamuda where we had the first outreach clinic since February, they told me. Many guardians lined up bringing their children for assessment for conditions mainly relating to malaria and mismanagement by the remote Health 3 homes and at the last we found Michael who I had met before a previous year when he was in the hospital with his disabled mother and 2 disabled siblings. Michael was at school in spite of his congenital deformities, a syndrome of some sort, so he climbed into the vehicle and took us to his home far into the bush. The mother just to say manages but they are very poor. The second child has knees which bend the wrong way and the youngest cannot stand and manages to crawl using hips and an elbow. Michael has a winning smile and is in P7 but with no hope of going to secondary school. We withdrew to discuss a plan for Michael and there is only one solution – education! I said I could take no more but after being told “God will provide” and glancing towards Michael and his family, I couldn’t refuse although we must wait to see how he performs in his exams. Often it is easier to be employed for a disabled person with a qualification so we shall see.

 

Was it a peaceful evening? No! I had three sets of visitors wanting to report their progress on the school energy saving project, the Asio children and other money matters. The phone also never stops from morning to night and, without it, I often wonder how we would manage anything.

 

Fridays seem to come round very quickly and they are welcome arrivals. Today I excused myself from Morning Assembly as Martin and I were going to town on his bike to be collected by Ngora School for the Deaf. The driver, Ann, the Deputy Head and Apulemera were waiting for us outside the Post Office. I don’t even go in to check if there is any post for me…I’ve given up! We stopped in the market to buy provisions for Apulemera’s family, the usual beans, posho, rice, soap, matches, soap, cooking oil, meat etc before traveling to her home with silent directions from her. It’s difficult to sit next to a deaf girl without knowing sign language but she taught me a few words; fish, good, bad but these words don’t make particularly stimulating conversation. Her village was far from the road and her family were there waiting for us. What a welcome we were given and what joy to see Apulemera rush off to see her siblings and new niece of a week old. I learnt that she was the youngest of 9 children with 6 surviving and that she is 14 years old. Her mother died when she was 1 year old. The oblong concrete slabs of her mother and one of the tiny dead babies were set into the earth in the centre of the compound. None of the surviving children had the opportunity to enter senior school because there were insufficient funds to pay the fees.I asked how they managed to pay Apulemera’s fees as her primary school is not Government funded and I was told that they paid out of their agriculture produce. They owned 4 gardens for growing crops (definitely not flowes as we do!) and had 1 cow and 3 chickens. The father looked quite old but with a very congenial temperament. He was so grateful that Apulemera’s fees were being paid. I made a tour of their compound and took many photos to take to Soerst  SI when our club visits them in May. They are an industrious family and I would say they don’t fit into the category of the “laziest people in the world”! Before we left, they presented me with a large bag of ground nuts still in their shells and one of their 3 chickens. It grieved me to take it  but I know one mustn’t refuse a gift. Fond farewells were made and Martin is to return to teach them grafting of orange trees. I know I will return to visit them again and maybe with the German Soroptimists; they wouldn’t be disappointed!

 

Back in Kumi, I wanted to check up on the oven making programme at Kumi Technical School so we all went to see what was happening. A hive of activity was taking place with the pupils and Agnes, the oven making trainer from the hospital staff, treading the mud as we do grapes. The qualified trainer from GTZ was busy measuring exactly the thick banana stem for making the shape of the pan inserts. Then the mud was kneaded as we do bread until “loaves” were formed and stacked up ready to throw to make the stove itself. They were working so hard in the intense heat and had to continue until the task was completed. The Deputy Head Teacher of Ngora School for the Deaf has added her school to the ever-growing list of schools requesting such training. It is hoped that the pupils undergoing this project will return to their villages and teach the community thus earning small money for school fees.

 

After we said goodbye to Ann and Apulemera, Martin and I took lunch at Home Again, a popular café in town. I had beans and rice but once again I couldn’t eat it all. A local man who I know is a little more than mad came asking me for money but I gave him my food remains which he poured into a dirty old black plastic bag but he still wanted money….for alcohol! My newly acquired chicken sat patiently next to my chair like a dog. The meal ended, groundnuts strapped to the back of the bike and with live chicken under my arm, I just couldn’t get astride the saddle because of the bag. One day I will make an utter fool of myself as I go head over apex but it is important to prove I can do these things. (Once on, it was far more difficult to get off and most unladylike!) The chicken had to be kept in the kitchen overnight so I unstrapped its legs from the banana fibre holding them together and set him down to enjoy a meal of bread and water which it accepted willingly. It’s no wonder we have rats! It slept overnight in a cupboard and I had to ensure in the morning that it exited the house from the back door as that would be where it would enter the following night. I usually give my chicken gifts away but this one from Apulemera is very special to me and it will soon start laying eggs. The chicken who gives me an egg most days under the chair at the front door has given me the cold shoulder and gone off in a huff.

 

The afternoon wasn’t over and it was a pleasant change to be back and to have time to sit in the garden and read. Fortunately, I wasn’t under my usual tree which was fortuitous as a very large black with white breast and collar bird resembling one from the crow family but called an eagle here landed on a branch of dead wood which crashed to the ground. I shall be more observant in future of what is above. Darkness fell but once again I had visitors until I retired late having tried my hair drier in the solar power plug. It worked which meant I could at least dry my hair anytime.

 

Saturday 30 October dawned and it was with glee that I washed my hair plugged in the drier which only worked for a few2 seconds. My plan was thwarted and I had to dry my hair in the sun; not a great hardship but just a nuisance! Washing was hung on the line, the chicken let out, my room tidied and I could take it easy until 10 am when I was going on a shopping spree to Soroti with Janet and Margaret. We had hired a car which I fuelled and I was concerned about the driver’s skill but all was OK. I asked if he liked driving: “Soooooooooooo muuuuuuch!” was his reply. We left the driver as we went shopping in the market, indoor or outdoor, I couldn’t make up my mind as the stalls were covered in banana leaves making it dark with a few sun rays seeping through the gaps. The noise and the smells left much to be desired but the ladies were incredibly happy except they thought I was Father Christmas and I was going to treat them to everything they saw. They were mistaken but I did buy them a pair of shoes each (3 pounds) and a flask. We took lunch at Sipi Falls café where the service was indolent but the food was OK. My chips would be more than acceptable in UK and beans. Yes, beans are about all I eat here when I am out! By now I was so hot and tired that I couldn’t wait to get in the car and come home and it was with physical and mental relief that I could relax if not cool down. Maybe the dry season is starting because it is too warm.

 

The Dutch crowd arrived; Steffie with Timme, her 1 year old baby girl, a professional photographer and 2 friends who are here for a week. It’s a pleasant change to have some company but they don’t speak much English! Also sometimes I think my photos aren’t too bad but his are somewhat superior!

 

Wednesday 27 October 2010

 

Wednesday morning (early) and I was almost thinking of returning home on the next flight. The bat infestation continues but now George, my driver, is certain that rats are eating my food as bats eat upside down and couldn’t be eating my fruit because their wing span is wider than their legs are long and so they couldn’t take off. Maybe! So yesterday I went to market and bought 2 rat traps and a kebab of cooked cow which cost as much as the trap. Meat is very expensive. Last night I arrived back to find a bat in full flight so, that having been disposed of by the recommended method, it was down to the rat business. The traps were set on black polythene “because there would be blood”, the cracks under the doors were blocked off with material and a bible (a good book indeed for such a task and I was ready to dash under my mosquito net for safety. At 3 am, I bravely emerged from my room to see that the traps were still set so back to

bed and no sooner had I tucked in the net than I heard the trap go but I waited till morning to venture forth with rubber gloves on at the ready. There was a rat but it was not the monster I had imagined, rather sweet really with bushy tail. How it ate all that food, I can’t imagine!

 

To get back to Monday; after my 5 days out last week, I decided to stay within today but, as usual, a programme evolved and Agnes from the training school and Sam, the electrician, both of whom are Rotarians and trained in the making of the fuel saving ovens and I met to discuss a joint project with Rotary to train schools in making the ovens. We decided to start immediately so it ended up an “out” day with us visiting schools in Kumi Town.  Some had addressed the issue and at Wiggins Secondary  School, they already had an oven which had cost an organization 6,000,000/= (2,000 pounds) whilst ours are made for free out of termite hill mud, grass and water! Three other schools were identified and a training programme starts today (Wednesday).  It was alarming to see the amount of wood which is needed to cook the food for the schools and it was so expensive.  Cooking beans takes 3 to 4 hours to cook using the traditional 3-stone method and 45 minutes on the new one. Also, in all schools, the teachers cook their food separately necessitating duplicate fires although the food is just the same (always posho and beans!) It turned out to be a very interesting and illuminating day. Two teachers came back with us to view the ovens in the hospital as well as the portable ones in the staff homes. The idea sells itself, no problem at all! I took them for lunch at Tree Shade, a canteen in the hospital compound. Five of us ahd drinks, rice and meat (I had beans) and as much as you could eat for 4 pounds Sterling!

 

In the evening, I had been invited to Dr and Consolata Opolot’s for supper in Town so I went by boda boda and hoped to return with George. There was an almighty storm raging the whole time I was there, power went but we managed a most convivial meal. George didn’t arrive to take me back, his phone has broken and he couldn’t inform us that the Land Cruiser was stuck in the mud. The poor man was stranded for 4 hours until he was pulled out by another driver who also picked me up! He was later called out to collect a mother who had been in labour for days to undergo a Caesarian Section. Unfortunately the baby died.

 

Tuesday - hardly before the day starts,Obwongo found me at last so I’ve had a short time of peace for which I must be grateful! Two pawpaws and 2 eggs from his wife, lemons from his tree and a determined request for me to take a photo of his latrine! The Guest House wouldn’t be the same without him so I must be grateful for his visit.  He was swiftly followed by Gerard Moses, the young blind man, who wants to stand for Local Councillor representing the disabled but needing 20,000/= to register. He hadn’t been able to read all the requirements to apply but he was off to Town with the money to try his best.

 

Today we were off to Ngora and, after shopping for the usual boxes of provisions for the homes, we first went to the home of Moses Okenyekure, the TB spine boy who I have visited since my first year here in 2002. He’s a delightful 25 (approx) old who lives with his grandmother and sits no more than 2.5 feet due to his TB spine  spends much of the day making fishing baskets.  What a change in his conditions. His grandmother announced that when I first went, she had everything to do for him but now he is the “father” of the house and looks after her. His bicycle business ticks over well and he replaces stock as necessary from his profits. He continues selling his fishing baskets. Fishermen bring him the grass and he is paid for his labour – 150/= (about 10p) otherwise he is paid 500/= per basket. He can make 4 a day but it tires him and so he usually makes 3 but supply exceeds demand. He grows potatoes, cassava, maize, tomatoes and he has even planted canna lilies round his compound. He can weed the garden but employs a man to do the digging. His first goat has now reached 5 with 2 stolen.  So we needed to make a further plan as he has a good friend in UK who has helped him over the years.  Martin came up with a good idea. Moses is to sell the goats so his neighbours think that is where the money is coming from and they may as well be used for establishing a good project than sitting there waiting to be stolen. He was to build a house with iron sheets near the road where he can continue his bicycle repair business and have a small “shop” selling everyday commodities. It is an excellent suggestion! We left him grinning from ear to ear and with a happy grandmother who thanked us profusely for the box of provisions. Last night they will have eaten meat with onions for sure for the first time in a year! I gave him one of Christopher’s polo shirts to replace his rags. (Obwongo got the other shirt).  It was such a satisfactory start to the day! Would it continue?

 

It did! We called at Ngora School for the Deaf where I have a girl, Apulemera, who is supported by Soerst Soroptimist International Club in Germany. It’s a special school and it’s very strange to enter the gates where all is quiet. It’s like watching a TV programme with the sound off. Life goes on in silence and it seems wrong to speak. The Headmaster brought Apolemera to his office where I gave her the letter from Soerst SI.  It needed explaining but she learnt a lot from the information it contained. She was top of the class again and I know she will be able to continue her secondary education in Mbale School for the Deaf. The school sent 4 pupils there last year. Those who don’t make the grade stay on to take up carpentry or tailoring courses.  The students now make beds and school desks amongst other items all of a high standard. I can only praise the staff in the school for their commitment to these fortunate pupils. The school has started a poultry project, has 700 orange trees and 7 cows which started as 1.  The Headmaster is picking me up outside the Post Office on Friday so that I can visit Apulemera’s home and family with her. I only wish the Soerst SI members could be with me!

 

Next to Amuge Janet’s home. Sometimes things go wrong and 2 years ago I made a mistake of giving a CBR worker money to buy a goat which he kept. It took a year for me to find the mother and, after many lies, he had to admit his deceit. I took the matter to the Hospital Administrator who agreed to provide the mother with a cow from the hospital farm and to deduct salary from the CBR worker. As the staff haven’t been paid for 5 months, I’m not too sure what the present situation is but I leave that to them as my mother has the cow which has produced a calf in June. What a welcome she gave me and what a difference the milk has made to the cerebral palsy child! I didn’t recognise her! Instead of having the limbs of a stick insect, she is quite chubby.  They were happy with the second box of provisions and I left knowing  I had fulfilled my promise. The CBR worker is atypical, I hasten to add and the two I am working with this year are fully transparent in their input.

 

It really was a great day and ended with my return to the Guest House to find an egg in the porch and the rest of the day is recorded at the start of this entry.

 

Sunday 24 October 2010

 

Friday - and I have to TGIF as I’m quite exhausted after every day out.  At Morning Assembly, the Hospital Administrator announced that Uganda had won a Gold Medal. He had heard on the BBC World Service and read in New Vision, Uganda’s daily newspaper, that Ugandans are the laziest people in the world and the second country with the fastest population growth, maybe the two go together? Before I left for the field with Martin on his bike, I managed to check up on the tricycle repair project which is going well, the delivery of the epilepsy drugs, pay 6 months of rent in arrears for 3 orphans who were about to be evicted by their landlord who lives in Entebbe and investigate the possibility of having a child’s pair of tripods made.

 

Then we set off down the main road this time to Bukedea where the Monday cattle market takes place.  Our first home visit was to see an epileptic cerebral palsy girl, Apolot Anet, who had a most beautiful mother. She was carrying a plastic can filled with cassava on her head which she lowered to the ground. Before I asked her to place it on her head again for a photo call, I tried its weight and I couldn’t move it a millimeter so I refrained from asking her to do so. Two more mothers came with their children so we discussed the possibility to form yet another group. They were enthusiastic with the idea and, once again, they fancied growing orange trees. One of the ladies had learnt how to make compost at school so she was going to get them moving straightaway.  All they need is a push start and they start a good community project.

 

I was priding myself on my endurance on the back of the bike all week but today I think we must have ridden much further. As we rode down the pot holed roads which became tracks and then no more than the tyre’s width sometimes on a high ridge, sometimes with savanna grass either side, I did seriously wonder when we would find the homes of the children or if I would have to ask Martin to stop for a rest. A big improvement was wearing socks necessitated by sun burnt toes from the last day out but they did save me from many scratches from the bushes. My helmet seems to fit better this year which means my head has grown! No longer does it slip down so that I can’t see out. Returning home, we stopped at Atutur Government Hospital where Dr Opolot is now working, a miserable place where I wouldn’t want to be a patient or a member of staff. The wind rose and the clouds blackened so Dr O offered me a lift home which I gratefully took leaving Martin to ride back alone. Coming up the hospital road, we could see there had been an accident where a cow had run in front of a motor bike and it was with relief that I found it was not Martin who was involved. He had got caught in the storm and it took him over an hour to return after which we had to evaluate the day’s visits and plan for the next week. Simon Peter (Ruth, the depressed CBR worker) called to bring me loads of my favourite ground nuts which are small, round, red and sweet as opposed to those which look like peanuts. I now have a discerning taste in groundnuts! There are always so many visitors and phone calls all pertaining to the projects. All are welcome but not the solitary bat who called and continued with the banana munching. Left alone, I washed my hair and, using the water, I put my clothes in to soak until the morning and then fell into bed feeling tired but clean.

 

Saturday - and a day to sort myself out. I finished washing my clothes and you would have thought I had washed an entire rugby 15 team’s kit as the water was utter sludge.  Bed sheets changed, bathroom cleaned, papers sorted and the floor swept and I was feeling on top of things once more. Paul Burden (orthopaedic Workshop) and Michael Akileng (eye CBR worker) called to discuss the tricycle repair project. They want to extend the programme by increasing the potential number of tricycles from 10 to 20.  I may agree to repair 15 but I am happy that they have found the trial successful.  I changed into an African dress which I was given in Cameroun last year to have lunch with Okerenyang and his family. I set off on my bike and was pleased with myself that I didn’t fall off whilst wearing the dress. It was a pleasant day sitting under a tree and eating lunch (posho, atap, greens cooked 3 different ways and washed down with fresh passion fruit juice) with father and son while the women and children ate at a distance.  We had for company a cow with its one-day old calf and 16 male turkeys which were strutting proudly round the compound like military men and showing off their colourful plumage. Chris phoned and I had to cut short the call as a turkey was about to gobble up my lunch! A niece of Okerenyang’s was sitting pounding ground nuts and I was told that her husband had been killed a couple of months ago. He was slashed to pieces with a  panga by neighbours disputing ownership of some land.  She was left with 6 young children.

 

Storm clouds were looming so I said my farewells and started to cycle up the hill with the wind rising.  I managed to be safely inside before the storm started and I was looking forward to a quiet evening but….Paul Ekellot called with his toddler, Solomon. Paul works in the physio department and is a cerebral palsy diplegic which means his legs are weak. I have always encouraged him to exercise and cycle and, sure enough, he has benefited from the nagging. He lives in the mud hut next to the Guest House with his young “wife” and baby which arrived last year while I was here. Paul is so proud with his son but he was advised not to have any children a they would be “cripples like him”.  Solomon is as perfect as they come! Paul has managed to finish his University degree so he was bringing his paperwork for me to read.  He has done well and I am very proud of him.

 

Sunday - and up for prayers followed by a reading session under the tree but I had visitors! Peter aged 11 years, the son of my very poor friend, Modesta, called to tell me that his mother was in town as her brother had been arrested for stealing and was in prison (a place to avoid at all costs). This poor family never gets a break and I feel so sorry for them. Peter is turning out to be a good boy and I told him so. His English is unusually understandable for someone of his age and he agreed that he is polite! He had had no breakfast and had little hope of a meal so I offered him a banana and gave him my precious packet of biscuits. “Give me a banana for Emma” (his brother, Emmanuel) which is their polite way of asking for something so he went home with a banana and 200/=. “What will you buy?” I asked. “A pen” he told me so I gave him a pen and told him to buy a chapatti. No sooner had he left than Moses Imangilat (brother of the late Margaret Asio) called as arranged. I wanted to talk to him about Margaret’s children as he had been left in charge of them. He now has 39 children to care for in his extended family following the deaths of his brothers and Margaret. Two her children are to be sponsored by a UK man and I arranging for fees to be paid for the third.  Two are self sufficient.

 

Hot and tired, I went to lie down for half an hour while I waited to be collected to go out for lunch. Off we went on a motor bike, ate a nice lunch with a family and on the way back, we got a puncture. 17 minutes precisely before darkness arrived and I was stranded about 7 km from home. Walking would have taken long and there are many snakes on that road. I took the only option but to hale a motor bike and I was pleased when one stopped and we agreed a price.  It wasn’t until we got going that I realized that the suffocating fumes were not from the bike but from the man himself who must have been imbibing on local brew all day.  Sometimes I wonder would it be easier to stay at home in UK and lead a quiet life but then it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying!

 

Friday 20th October

 

Friday

 

Who has noticed today’s date? 20.10.2010 just after we have had 10.10.10.

 

I’m so far behind with my paperwork that I decided to forego Morning Assembly and I managed 4 solid hours trying to catch up before Martin called to whisk me away for fieldwork. He knows I don’t like being on a motor bike on the main road so he very considerately took me down the murram tracks which, after last night’s rains, were almost impassable. The potholes were full to the brim and the mud was very slithery.  Even I suggested we return by the main road! His helmet is broken but I always (well, nearly always!) wear mine which meant that, instead of helmets clashing when traversing potholes, he was almost concussed. My feet and legs got very scratched by the thorny bush and I must consider gum boots so that I’m protected from top to toe. My toes are so burned from the sun that I know I will at least wear socks tomorrow.

 

Our first child was Amulen Elenor, a 5 year old Down’s Syndrome girl, who could almost get off all fours and onto her feet but not quite. We decided on more parallel bars so Martin and Elenor’s grandfather, a Reverend, disappeared to hack down the appropriate branches while I whiled away the time sitting in the semi-shade of a large tree and wondering where better on earth I could be. The panga was at work again but I was most fascinated at how they recycled old 6 inch nails from a redundant piece of wood with utmost patience.  The bars were finished with precision and Elenor took to them like a duck to water, walking up and down and turning unaided at each end.

 

After Elenor, we met up with 3 families to start a new group which they decided to call Aipecitoi Disabled Group, the same name as Monday’s group very many miles away! The members are the mothers of Odeke Samuel, an acquired CP, the mother of Elwat Charles, a severe arthrogryposis child  and Akol Tabitha, a lady of about 30 years who has congenitally absent lower legs and gets round on a tricycle which needs repair.  They discussed their objectives and selected an orange tree growing programme which means that Martin is going to teach them how to make compost and then when it is ready they will plant lemon trees and graft orange shoots onto the trunk. They chose also “rearing” so on Monday Martin will buy another cow for them. The cow will rotate its lodgings between the 3 member’s homes. 

 

The storm clouds were looming ever nearer so we decided to call it a day so that we reached home dry. The electrician from Kampala was still here to check the solar system and we shared our supper together with all the lights on as he needed to monitor the battery’s capacity. It was strange to have company overnight and I was surprised to find myself locking my door!

 

Thursday - was another good day! Field work with Amos, Lydia and Ruth again. There is some dissention as those who are being given money for their work must have told those who can come along for the ride and a big discussion followed. I hope we ended up amicably and that all are happy.

 

First stop was at Kyere to deliver Happy Days, the cow, to the nursery school we visited on Monday to the children.  As we entered the school compound, the children started chanting “Good Morning, Teacher” in unison followed by happy singing and dancing while 2 toddlers banged away at goat skin drums. It would have been impossible not to have a broad smile. I had to be patient and wait for the end before I could see the cow which is a beautiful tan colour with two large curved horns and, best of all, is pregnant. There was more singing and dancing and photos before we could make our getaway. The compound where the cow will live is also the children’s playground with locally made swings, roundabout and a slide.  I am sure we will manage to develop a good relationship with the school.

 

Next stop was to visit  my two dear friends, Mary and Goretti, about 2 feet tall and wonderful characters but their home was all locked up and as spruce as ever.  Their goat we bought last year was ambling over the rocks with its remaining twin kid. It didn’t take long for a neighbour to tell us that Goretti was sick and at the local Health Clinic so we set off to see their tricycle parked by the clinic. There was Goretti suffering from malaria and recovering from a horrible quinine injection in her buttock. She climbed into the vehicle and took us to find Mary visiting a Mission Hospital and then we discussed what could be done for them.  First the tricycle needed an overhaul so tyres, inner tubes, spokes, grease etc were bought from a spares shop and a man was hired to repair it for us to collect later. I have to confess that I spoil these two as they are so hard working so we went shopping for posho, rice, soap, paraffin, beans, meat, sugar, salt as well as many other items. We stopped for a soda before picking up the tricycle where the man had nicked one of the inner tube s when inserting it into the tyre so already the inner tube is patched. With the tricycle tied to the roof of the vehicle, we returned to the clinic where Goretti had to have a further injection.  The bill was settled and we took them home where they were incredibly excited about unpacking the shopping.  Their house leaks through the thatch so we decided to help them patch it up. A Mission priest was going to build them a brick house but he died unfortunately.

 

Farewells made, we completed the day with 2 more home visits ; an 8 year old blind girl who was born normal but had a fever aged 2 which led to blindness. More next week about her, I hope, and Alupo Martha, a 1 year 9 month old cerebral palsy child.

 

Back home to find light but nothing’s perfect and I found that the electricians had disturbed the bats in the roof. I HATE bats but I had little choice but to change my attitude and say to myself I DON”T MIND BATS which wasn’t easy! One settled on the broken mesh on the door and I managed to knock it outside whereupon others appeared swooping from one end of the house to the other, almost brushing my face each time. Grace told me next morning how to deal with them which entails waiting for them to settle, swiping them with a brush made of grasses, taking them outside and killing them by smashing them with a piece of wood. I decided to think they were birds like swallows and I was pleased that I have had my rabies jabs as they can be carriers.  An early night under my mosquito (and bat) net was imperative  and I had to ensure that one didn’t fly into my room so a sequence of lights on/off followed and I was in for a peaceful night or so I thought. But thunder and lightening kept me awake for hours. Closing the eyes didn’t stop the flashes and the crashing thunder was deafening.  Sadly, by morning I found my bananas had been nibbled by the beastly bats.

 

Wednesday 18th October

 

An hour late for Sunday prayers is just the right time to arrive so I have got it right after 9 years! The congregation has increased considerably and the benches were packed with hoards of Christians. My neighbour was a girl around 7 years whose hand inched nearer to my hand until she was clutching mine and then her neighbour joined in until it was like happy families. The church was filled with rhythmic music and singing and the 2 hours passed by very pleasantly although I didn’t understand much of what was said. I did hear my name which was a prompt for me to stand and introduce myself as is the custom. On exiting, I spotted the man with diarrhea who had asked for some oranges in the hospital compound and I managed to rectify my refusal and tried to explain why I can’t give to one and not another in the hospital.

 

Home for a rest but, no, it was not to be. I settled myself under the tree with my book and coffee when Frances Okerenyang came to bring his wife, Grace, and to invite me to a wedding under a mango tree on Tuesday but it is a working day. They left just in time for me to leave for lunch where I was visiting the HIV/AIDS group. I was supposed to wear my traditional gomaz but managed the excuse that I couldn’t put it on alone. I shall include the Minutes of the meeting perhaps. I was given a splendid feast once more which we ate in the hut and I listened to many of the old customs which once abounded among the tribes. One was that the child was put to the breast while the mother was eating as they thought that the food went into their mouths and straight into the babies! The group needs a few items so I suggested Chairperson, Secretary and I went to Kumi Town to go shopping one day. Well, this was like suggesting we go to London for a day out and, in the end, we are going to Soroti (45 minutes north in a car) which is equal to flying to New York for a spree! Such excitement! They have never been so far! Will it be an enormous disappointment? Their food quality far exceeds what can be bought in town. We shall see.

 

I returned to find, guess what, my daily egg under the chair. I shall now be disappointed when/if my generous hen ceases to oblige. I called out Eyalama to show my gratitude!

 

I had received 3 phone calls while out and I made excuses for not being around but then Michael from Kumi Town called and saw me within so I had to admit defeat and sit outside. We didn’t have a conversation as his words flowed as though he was speaking in tongues and soon my eyes were closing so I said with fingers crossed that someone was waiting for me inside.

 

Peace at last and a very early night followed.

 

Monday - my first day of fieldwork. As the hospital has no money, it is up to me to fuel the vehicle and I was shocked to find that fuel prices have risen so high and 104,000/= was needed for the day. (3,000/- = 1 pound) (There must be a pound Sterling key somewhere on this keyboard). However, it is good to let the communities know that the hospital is still in existence and off we set to Soroti to pick up my very good friend, Ruth, who looked very well after so much mental illness. Finally we reached the home of Amos (CBR worker) where the AIPECITOI (struggling) Disabled Group had congregated. They had come to be presented with their 2 (pregnant) cows as I promised to provide one last year but I ran out of time. If they had been given one then now it would have been two so I thought it right and proper to give two which will soon be four!

 

The next port of call was to Kyere Early Child Development Centre, a long title for a nursery school for 3 to 6 year olds with disabilities. My son, Peter, sends his 2 baby girls, Laura and Isabel, to Happy Days Nursery in Dalkeith where the children took part in a sponsored Treasure Hunt and raised over 1,000 pounds sterling. They have asked for a cow named Happy Days and an energy saving project.  I am very happy with the nursery and the Programme Manager, Etoli Samson, and so tomorrow (Thursday 21 October) I will take a cow which will be named Happy Days to be bought today by Amos to the school. I have known one of the children, Okirior Moses Emmanuel aged 5 years with a TB spine, for some time.

 

We bought maize and chapatti from the roadside which was manna from heaven.  I once cracked a crown on a cob so I am very careful and I choose the softest.  These are not like our sweetcorn but what we give our cattle!

 

On to Zacchariah’s (a post polio paralysis paraplegic) home where we found that he was now attending school having been given a tricycle. They collected him from school and brought him on the back of a bike to see us (it would have taken him well over an hour to cycle himself which he does there and back each day). He is better motivated and even manages to do some garden work (which is not easy even when you have 2 good legs). The goat we gave him a few years back has multiplied and now they have 3 goats and a beautiful brown pregnant cow.

 

I wasn’t sure why we continued to Lake Kagwara but I think the staff were so happy to be out in the field after being so long confined to hospital barracks that they took advantage of the trip. The fishermen were burning their good nets as the Government has made it illegal to use small mesh nets as too many small fish are being caught. Rows of dug outs lined the shore and jerry cans were being filled with very dirty lake water presumably seriously contaminated for washing and, if boiled, drunk. Fish were bought and strung to the outside of the vehicle to keep cool by ropes inserted through the gills and out of the mouths of the fish. Now we could think of returning home very late. My eyes were red raw from the dust, my hair was like a mangy dog’s coat and I was covered in Murram dust from top to toe. I was exhausted to the core and I just wanted to get home but we were far. Darkness fell and the skies were illuminated by lightening stretching across the horizon. We passed herds of cattle with their huge horns reaching up like parentheses. We crossed the lake and the swamps where there has been recent flooding.  At last, I reached the Guest House where Grace had thoughtfully lit a candle. I had forewarned her I would be late as I was hungry and I asked her to cook an omelette. The water from washing my hair was thick but how good it was to be clean and have something in the stomach! But sleep evaded me and my mind was working overtime over so many issues.

 

Tuesday - and another day of fieldwork but very different from yesterday! Martin and I left by motorbike to go to Kumi Town where I took photos to be developed and managed to get money from the ATM. You see, things are becoming a lot easier here (when they work!). Our first visit was to the boy-with-tied-legs who I first visited last year and was appalled by the conditions. We can now call him Peter as his mother took our advice and had him baptized. Children with disabilities are often not thought to be worthy of baptism! The boy was so sick with a cough and runny nose and his ribs protruding and the skin of a sick 100 year old. The mother had tried with our programme and had managed to sow maize and cow peas and to plant potatoes. She had also started building a new mud hut and had made bricks and plastered them together with mud but she had bought no chickens as requested as her neighbours were thieves. More had to be done for this family so Martin and I discussed the issues and we decided to form a group whereby she would receive help from neighbours. Next Tuesday she will bring Peter to the CP (cerebral palsy) clinic at the hospital and Peter will be admitted to either the Children’s Village or the Nutrition Unit with the mother as attendant. She says she will have the hut finished by then! We proceded to the next home of Akol Moses, a 6 year old microcephalus with yet another enterprising young man for a father. They are here and they need to be encouraged to learn more skills. Martin had shown him how to graft orange trees and he had planted around 2 dozen. Last year we provided 2 goats which are now 3 and one is pregnant. This man is to be Chairman of the new group and has promised to help Peter’s mother in the completion of her hut. We will provide the group with a cow which will be bought next Monday in Bukedea market. I like this young man and so I gave him 20,000/= to buy a cockerel and 2 chickens which belong to me. I will want to see next year how they have got on with them.

 

On to Opus Ben, a 6 year old CP, who again has a wise father. The boy can barely stand so I suggested that the father make some parallel bars for standing and walking practice.  No sooner had the words come out of my mouth, than he had a panga in his hand and he was chopping branches from a tree used for making the frame on mud huts. A swipe of the panga and the branches were severed from the tree making my blood curdle as these are the tools used to slash people to bits. Two long poles, 6 forked uprights inserted into holes in the murram later and the boy was standing well and would soon manage a few steps. Last year the man was given a cow which produced a male calf which he sold to buy iron sheeting for his house. He had made the bricks and now the house was complete with rooms for sleeping. It is remarkable what some men can do and it is rare that I give the men any money but today was an exception. I was so impressed that he can now buy another goat and we will see where he has reached next year.

 

Then to Aisa Daniel, a 6 year old bilateral CTEV (club feet) who was first visited by Regina, the Italian physio who introduced me to Kumi). He had come as a  baby and had his feet treated with the Ponsetti technique which uses POP thereby eliminating the need for surgery. A man with 6 goats walked through the compound on his way to market to swap them for a cow. We called him back and bought a very beautiful and very pregnant tan goat with donkey-like markings. I asked Daniel to name the goat which is now called Male! Not my first choice of name! I also asked when the family had had a goat previously and they had never had any animal so they were happy. Difficult to understand what true poverty is like. The man then came to me as he had bought a second hand coat from town and it had had a pound coin in its pocket. He hoped he could change it for a few shillings and was astounded when I told him it was worth 3,000/=! I had no change so gave him the smallest denomination note I had which he was going to use to buy a bag of cement for the house he was building slowly slowly.

 

I’m very impressed with these men as you will have realised and perhaps the scene is changing and for the better.

 

I had done enough by now and my mind was over=burdened with what we had achieved so we decided to call it a day and return to base. Back on the motor bike and into a storm so we sheltered in a very small shack/shop where we enjoyed a Coke and banana. Storm over we proceeded to Kumi Town where Iw anted to visit North East Villa Guest House. Cordelia and Eileen from Wales were staying there so it was also good to meet them as I have heard a lot about Cordelia’s work as a photographer. Martin and I enjoyed a well-earned meal of goat and chips for him and vegetable curry for me with fresh passion fruit juice. Then the skies opened and emptied buckets of water falling horizontally in the gale force wind. It would have to be seen and heard to be believed. This delayed our return as there was no choice but to stay under cover until the wind and rain ceased. A ride through flowing waters followed and I was pleased that Martin had had the bike serviced and that his tyres had a good tread.

 

Back at the Guest House, dark by now outside but light inside as there has been a solar panel installed on the roof. It’s like a miracle! My room will be wired in today so no more candles (which I like but I’ll not say no to power). So my last night of washing by candlelight and now all I will have to do is manage to get from the light switch to my bed in the dark. Great!  Not enough power for ironing or boiling a kettle but one person can use a laptop or charge a phone! I am happy but then I think about little Peter in his conditions and all the others with leaking roofs and sleeping on the floor and no clean water etc etc.

 

Saturday 16 October

 

We’ll start with yesterday, Friday, which turned out to be an interesting day. At Morning Assembly, Dr Opolot who resigned earlier this year due to some interpersonal problems came to continue the hand over to Dr Ruth who is now Acting Medical Superintendent. He met me afterwards and seemed very subdued over everything but I hope to meet him and his wife Consolata while I am here.

 

I gave the pharmacist the money for 3 months supply of epilepsy drugs so there will be adequate supplies for Wednesday’s Epilepsy Clinic, checked up on the Gluteal Fibrosis kids who are doing well bar one and comforted a man who had severe diarrhea and infected ankle and explained why I couldn’t supply him with drugs.

 

Now I know how I can iron my clothes as I had tried putting them under my mattress but it didn’t seem to do any good. One of the physio rooms has an iron and, when the generator is on, then I can get down to some pressing business.

 

The morning passed and I had agreed to meet Francis Okerenyang at 2pm but then I was asked to attend the Closure of the Fuel Saving Training Course which took the rest of the afternoon. It started late with dry tea and chapatti under the tree and then we adjourned to the training school for a full agenda of prayer, speeches, drama, distribution of certificates and then closure. As Carol had left (and she should have been the Guest of Honour) I had to sit in her place and give a speech off the cuff. I managed to waffle on about energy saving factors in UK with walking and cycling being encouraged, turning off lights, tv’s etc, reducing central heating temperatures until I had said enough and could sit down. I don’t suppose they understood a word of it as they can understand pigeon English but not very well our native language!

 

No sooner was I home but Modesta, a dear friend with many home responsibilities, called with a 3 year old who wanted to see if I had got old since last year and announced that I was very old but I was relieved when she thought her mother was old also! Carol had left a pair of glasses so, as I could see Modesta was having a problem reading, I asked her to try these on and she jumped with joy tickled pink that the print was clear as crystal! So the glasses have a new home already.

 

I forgot to mention about the hen under my bed in the morning. I think it had come to welcome the new visitor because, by evening, there was an egg in the porch which I enjoyed for supper.

 

Francis Okerenyang followed and we discussed many issues including the school cows which are causing me a big headache. He left when it was well dark and with the sky lit by almost constant lightening.

 

Grace who looks after the GH wanted the generator on so I enjoyed the light until she left having filled me 2 Thermos’ to last me till Saturday evening. I started to prepare for bed which takes about an hour. I have a few luxuries here which I brought from home; a pepper mill, many toiletries and Andrex Wet Tissues. I brought far too many lotions but I enjoy using each and every one of them by candlelight! Cleansers, toners, moisturizers, soap I bought in Austria, Sun Screen (Factor 25), E45, hand cream and most useful, an exfoliating glove to remove all the grime. Grace knows I like a kettle of water which she warms on the charcoal stove for my shower and then the ritual starts, too lengthy to write down. When clean and dry following evaporation rather than using a towel, I crawl under my mosquito net, drink my decaffeinated tea (another extra from home), blow the candle out, tuck the net in tightly under the mattress and try to fall asleep in the heat.

 

Saturday and already my 3rd Saturday in Uganda with 7 more to go and a day off! There’s no need to rise at 6.15 which is the earliest one can get up without the need of a candle so, of course, I wake at 5 am. It’s better to get up when it’s relatively cool and do something so I decided that after breakfast I would unpack my second case which contains everything that’s not for me. I sat down outside with a cup of tea and the last of Matthias’ bread which was decidedly yeasty and very “off” and g-nut paste when Grace Girwhal (correspondent to Dil who lives in Thornton le Beans) came and we chatted for ages. Half the morning was gone but I managed to empty the case and I was disappointed to find my radio was not there so I will know nothing about the world news. It’s surprising how isolated I feel with no knowledge of the outside world. A quick change into an African dress as I was off to lunch with Ann Margaret, member of the HIV/AIDS group. I stopped at the butcher’s shack where he hacked at a hind quarter of cow to sell me a kg of meat which pleased her very much as she had not given her family meat for at least 2 years! (Chicken is different).  No wonder as it’s 4,400/= / kg ie 1.50 pounds (If anyone can tell me where I will find the pound sign on this computer, I will be very happy!) I also bought a bundle of lemons (3 lemons in the form of a triangle with one on top is a bundle). I have been drinking my tea black without lemon as Obwongo, my usual lemon supplier, doesn’t know I am here yet and I can assure you that tea without lemon and without Obwongo is preferable to tea with lemon and Obwongo!

 

Lunch was taken in Ann Mgt’s mud hut which had the floor newly cow dunged. I knew this as it was still wet round the edge of the hut and the odour reminded me of my Arkengarthdale summer holidays as a child. I did justice to the boiled rice, potatoes, pasta like spaghetti, cabbage and their home eggplants (aubergines) before going next door to visit the home of Mgt Asio’s family. She died this summer of AIDS following a severe stroke. She was a great friend of mine and it was tearful to see her home without her. Her eldest daughter, Priscilla, has given birth to her first child at the age of 17 so has had to delay her education. There are 6 children, all a credit to Mgt and now struggling to make ends meet. We walked to their family cemetery where we prayed. There were so many graves, tiny ones for babies who died at birth and going up in sizes to adult ones although Mgt must have been only a few kilos when she died. Then a polite time had come for me to take my leave and I walked home with the thunder rumbling. My washing was dry but the promise of a solar panel on the roof of the Guest House has not materialized so my hopes have been dashed!

 

Guess what! Another egg on my doorstep which will be hard boiled for breakfast. What a thoughtful hen!

 

Now I am completely up to date with my diary and I wonder what will happen next. Good night!

 

Thursday 14 October

 

Right! I think I’m sorted out now and a programme is forming so now I am feeling more settled and I return to Tuesday morning.

 

Morning Assembly: there’s no change and I got the usual African welcome. There is still much going on at the hospital and the staff are surprisingly cheerful considering they have had no salaries for 2 months. The physio department is very quiet apart from the club foot and epilepsy clinics and a trickle of children coming for treatment. The orthopaedic ward is closed but the rest are open. I walked through the children’s ward to find it more dilapidated than ever with the ceiling tiles falling off and dirty walls leaving the children and mothers to stay in such a dismal atmosphere which isn’t very stimulating. There are plans ahead for some improvement which I hope is soon.

 

The Gluteal Fibrosis children are doing well and I checked their progress and encouraged their stretching exercises where they are staying in the children’s village which is much quieter than usual. The trees which I saw planted a few years ago are huge and a cactus trails many feet with its prickly (leaves?) and flowers. There are 2 little children who have a syndrome in the form of tremor as has the father. Diagnosis has not been decided but I remember syphilis patients with similar gait.

 

I spent most of the day with Carol following the training of the fuel-saving ovens.  It’s perfect timing for the staff  as they are fully occupied and enthusiastic. An organization called GTZ has sent trainers up for the project and they are training some staff to be trainers also. It’s a good programme and the long term plans will bring much business to the hospital in the future. At least, that is the plan!

 

Carol and I got on a motor bike boda boda into Kumi Town as I wanted to check up on accommodation plans for the dental team at North East Villas Guest House. It’s way out at the other end of Kumi Town in an oasis of peace. I checked on the rooms and facilities and they appear at first glance to be so superior to the Green Top Hotel.  The booking had been mislaid so I agreed to meet the manager at the hospital the next day. We took a drink, I bought a Thermos (which doesn’t work) in town and we returned by boda boda.

 

A storm was brewing as I sat in the physio department and I thought I would make a run for it but, too late, the heavens poured buckets of water down, the skies flashed and a cracker of a storm started so I sheltered in the Eye Dept where they were watching TV. The Ugandan Parliament was discussing the floods which are here. I haven’t experienced them yet but Awoja bridge is blocked by floating islands making the road to Sudan impassable.  I really thought I would have to wade through the water to get home. Some areas as much as 6 inches had formed into flowing rivulets. However, I finally set out and a kind boda boda boy gave me a ride back for free!

 

A quiet evening followed and then early to bed as there is no power in the Guest House unless the generator is turned on but it is too noisy.

 

Wednesday and I was wondering what I was going to do. I was just about ready to take my sandals off and join the staff who were treading the termite mud and grass, as we would grapes, for the oven structure when I was saved by the hotel manager who had come to confirm my booking for the dental team. He is a very pleasant, obliging man and so I hope they will be comfortable there. I made provisional bookings for the plastic surgeons who may come later in November. A meeting with Moses, the dentist, followed and I delegated to him all the requests that I had been asked to do to prepare for the outreach clinics.

 

The epilepsy clinic was in full flow but the hospital has run out of drugs and the doctor asked if I would be prepared to pay for a new supply. I was given a list of drugs totaling over 1,500,000/=  (450 pounds) for an unknown time scale. Having heard at the UPMB Work Shop last week about counterfeit and poor quality drugs for sale even in pharmacies, I decided to investigate further. I have since checked with the Hospital Administrator and this is for 3 months supply and he insists they are bought in Joint Medical Supplies in Kampala so the pharmacist is to go by public means to collect the new supply. It would be hard to send the families away without such an effective treatment for their sick children. And let’s hope that, in 3 months time, there will be an improvement in the hospital finances.

 

Big rustle at my feet as I write, a moderately sized lizard has just waddled past. Better than a rat!

 

I was to have a meeting with Amos and Martin (CBR Community Based Workers [I will write this out only once]) at the Guest House so we sat under the big tree where once an owl deposited a bolus of mouse bones and ghekko legs and tails in my lap, and we arranged the weeks ahead. Next week we will go out every day either in the Land Cruiser or by motor bike to my families and groups. My friend, Ruth, will join us for the first time for a couple of years as she has been dogged by serious depression for a long time. I shall fuel the vehicle and pay the CBR workers so I am very grateful to have been given funding for my expenses which I shall use this year for these means. Michael, the eye CBR worker, will join us and use the opportunity whenever he wishes so the days will not be wasted.

 

Charles (CBR worker) also called on his motor bike to greet me and to ask me what I was up to!

 

After they had all left, I had a brief moment to take a shower and change into appropriate clothes for a Kumi Rotary meeting before Robert, the teacher, called with his 2 children. He had plans for me which I limited to 2 only. I declined the invitation to the wedding of his cousin at the PAG church as I have already experienced it! Once was adequate!

 

The vehicle came to take me along with many others to the Kumi Rotary Club meeting in Kumi Hotel. The Club was Chartered on 25 September so it is brand new. It was an excellent meeting chaired by our Hospital Administrator who was once a politician so he knows how to take a meeting. There was a District Governor Elect from Canada visiting and they exchanged banners, already Kumi’s second. He gave us an insight into Rotary in Canada and read us the story of the Stone Soup from a children’s’ book which was very relevant to here and which I hope to remember and pass on. Their project is going to be to continue with Carol’s baking project. On leaving, the reception had CNN news on TV so we could see that 17 Chilean miners were out. That is the very first outside news I have heard since I came so I have no idea of anything else. I have yet to unpack my trunk which should have a radio inside.

 

So it was a busy day indeed with more, I am sure, to come. Carol and I shared our last evening’s meal together; half an avocado each, Matthias’ delicious bread, tomato, onion and pepper washd down with borehole water.

 

Thursday; Carol was leaving this morning and I shall miss her company as I shall be alone until Steffie and her contingency arrives for one week at the end of this month.

 

We continued with the oven training, the Gluteal Fibrosis exercises and, as there was little more to do, I took the useless Thermos back to the shop where the Indian owner changed it with no problems except I noticed it went back on the shelf with the others! I also bought Doom, toilet paper, a carton of milk and a packet of biscuits. The boda boda boy suggested I rode like a man (astride) not realizing that I’m well in control when sitting side saddle. I washed my hair which is not so easy at home under the shower and dried it in the sun. Still my second case remains unopened but I was so hot that I lay down on my bed and dozed for a while. Modesta called and told me her problems which are insurmountable but she has confidence that God will solve them all. I’m hoping she doesn’t think that God has sent me! Then Dr Ruth called by after her day’s work and we sat and chatted under the stars until dark. Grace who looks after the Guest House had kindly cooked me an omelette which spoilt my good intentions to eat little. I was looking forward to a slice of pawpaw but it was covered in mould as I haven’t seen the likes of before so that was past it’s use-by-date! Two candles and a reasonable Internet connection allowed me to stay up a while but I soon succumbed to a thorough wash and bed around 9 pm. The thunder and lightening continued until I fell asleep in spite of heat.

 

Monday 11 October

 

Sunday morning 6.30 I received a phone call from Elizabeth (who lived with Sheilagh Williamson in Upsall Drive for a year or two) to say she was free and could we meet. I joined Matthias and kids at the German Protestant Service at the White Fathers and agreed to meet Elizabeth and her two children, Marie and John, afterwards. However they turned up earlier and, as I didn’t understand a word of the Harvest Festival, I sneaked out and, as the four of us hadn’t a clue where we were, I suggested we walked downhill as this seemed as though we may end up on a main road rather than going up. For once, I was right and we were able to board a public taxi to town where we ate lunch in a café in the old taxi park. Those of you who have never seen the old taxi park have not missed a treat. It is an unbelievable sight with surely no less than a thousand taxis all  vying to enter and leave with a dreadful cacophony of shouting destinations., people selling all and sundry, smells galore (some quite nice like roast cassava) and hoards of people squashed like a shoal of sardines all wanting to get through the same narrow gap. We ate in a rather downtown establishment with the children and Elizabeth enjoying huge plates of chicken and chips but then the children wanted to go to the loo. There wasn’t one but a kind waitress let us go through an iron gate which said strictly no one from the restaurant.  We soon found out why as it was full of men kneeling to Mecca although there was one who was out for the count in a supine position so probably a little the worse for wear from drink. The smell of the latrine surpassed the smell of the shoeless feet in sweaty socks and it was just all too bad for the children to relieve themselves! Another taxi ride to Elizabeth’s temporary home where she lives with her mother whilst her house is built in Entebbe.  We took tea together before setting out on my return journey. Fortunately she accompanied me half way as I had a slight lack of judgement when I thought I could find the right taxi in the taxi park. I kept getting directed to different corners and then I decided to ask for the Coca Cola roundabout which is the equivalent in Kampala to Nelson’s Column. No sign of recognition appeared on anyone’s face so I thought it could be my pronunciation so I repeated Cocker Coller which worked better but still I had many buses to choose from all unsigned. In the end there was a driverless one with a piece of card saying Makynde amongst other places and this was where I wanted to reach so I got on the bus next to it. Success; I reached Matthias’ house or almost.

 

Monday was Kumi day so, with my heavy cases in the boot of Matthias’ car, I went to CoRSU to await the departure of the Kumi Hospital bus with 10 children who had had Gluteal Fibrosis releases and their attendants. It was to leave at 10 but we set off at 2 pm.  It was important that the children changed positions regularly as they had incisions in their buttocks from surgery only 2 days previously so I was quite useful making sure they lay face down on their attendant’s laps, stood up and kept their knees together throughout the journey which was long and, once night fell, the skies lit up with sheet lightening in Cinerama dimensions. It was 9 pm before I reached the Guest House completely exhausted, pleased to find Carol (of oven, bread and incinerator fame) still there for a couple more days.  I fell into bed unwashed and thought I would sleep the sleep of the just but unfortunately I seemed to be awake all night. I must have dozed off as I dreamt, not only that designer shops had reached Kumi, but also that Christopher was staying in Soroti.

 

Saturday 9 October Independence Day

 

I shall return to Thursday morning when I left Sam’s (the Professor) house. Christine, his wife, had already left for work when I emerged from my room at 7 am and it was decided that Sam and I would go with the driver ,  Gonzago, to see their new venture. As Gonzago had agreed to take me to CoRSU Hospital which is nearer to Entebbe than Kampala, I hired and fuelled his car for the journey. I had visited Christine’s graduation gown factory last year but I found in what had been a green space a building site with a huge new building at first floor level. This is yet another enormous private enterprise by Sam and Christine and it is good to see such enthusiasm in a man supposedly retired but as active as one half his age. In fact from what I have seen so far, there is a lot of money being put into Kampala (impending elections perhaps?).  I said my good byes and continued to CoRSU where I swapped vehicles for the Land Cruiser with Alex driving. We had a full programme ahead so we wasted no time to make our way to the UDS (Uganda Development Service) office on the eastern aspects of the city to arrange the transfer of moneys to a Ugandan account or direct to schools or individuals. A sat-nav would make life so much easier here but we got there in the end.  The process is much easier than I had expected and we are having a trial run whilst I am here.  Happy, the lady in the office, was true to her name and made it all seem so straightforward.  Lets hope it is just that! We now didn’t have to open another bank account so the next on the agenda was to purchase a modem which allows me to go on line using the mobile phone network. This was not so easy as I was hot and bothered even before we got to the front of the queue in MTN only to be told to join another one a couple of desks to the left. I am not of the generation to understand the operation of these systems and I think she must have thought she had a geriatric muzungu in front of her. She would be right! I am still not clear but it works. A blue light means it will work fast, green means slow and cyan not at all. It’s only recently that I have learnt what colour cyan is. Hunger pangs overtook us so we took lunch at a café followed by a visit to Shoprite supermarket where we bought some items for Lawrence, my athetoid boy at Kampala School for the Disabled as we just had time to visit him before we finished our day. He was in the school compound looking very happy with life and was over the moon and almost out of his chair to see Alex and me. The school looked much improved; a bus load of the school children had just returned from their hydrotherapy session in a nearby pool. Lawrence attends once a fortnight. (I have just squashed a mosquito on my forearm and, hopefully, before it had its supper of my blood. Not often you catch them in the act!) I digress and now return to the matter in hand. Lawrence now has a girl friend who is assigned to push his wheelchair and feed him although his footwork in activities in daily living is improving well. She is physically able and I didn’t like to enquire after her disability but a pleasant young girl of about 12 years probably with slow development. He is now in Primary 4 and the Deputy Head reported that he was a bright young man although I am uncertain how he can have even got this far. I am indeed very proud of him and now I’m on the hunt for a wheelchair for him as his has completely collapsed.

 

The next part of the day was not pleasant; we were both tired and we got into an almighty traffic jam. Nothing moved, absolutely nothing and there we were outside Kabaki’s (the king) wall which extends maybe a mile whilst he was probably enjoying a local brew and with many servants seeing to his every need in his palace. I’ve said earlier that I quite enjoy watching the world go by as I sit in a traffic jam but not this time. Many vehicles did a u-turn so that the tanker I was watching did actually get nearer but neither of us had gone an inch, there were just less vehicles. Turning round became impossible as that traffic was also jammed in the other direction. Over 2 hours we sat impatiently, dusk fell and then darkness when we managed to inch forward little by little. Four lanes were squashed into what should have been a single, one-way street. It was hot in the vehicle but the fumes were overpowering making me feel sick so to open the windows or not was a problem. Motor bikes by the hundred accumulated all round us and all belching out black exhaust smoke. We reached a roundabout where the traffic was being controlled by the police incessantly blowing their whistles and deciding to let all traffic through but ours. Cars were squeezing through ridiculously narrow spaces and many times we collided gently with bikes and cars. Enough of that as we did finally make it back and I just had to wash my hair and scrub every inch of myself before falling into bed. On the bright side, we had achieved our objectives so it was, in fact, a productive day!

 

Friday was easier. I went to CoRSU with Matthias dropping the children off at the International School on the way. Domesticity prevailed. Today I was joining the CBR team on an outreach programme which was interesting to compare it with Kumi. Two Occupational Therapists and two Social Workers and I set off toward Lake Victoria where we found a boy, Frank, whose neglected club foot had had surgery. His mother was poor but elegant and they lived in a small , square house with an iron sheeting roof surrounded by plantain trees. The boy needed further review at the hospital but the main concern was that a rich man had bought all the land and the family was to be evicted. Whilst in the house, Anita phoned from home (UK) and it sounded as though she was just next door. It’s hard to imagine how different the 2 worlds are and yet we can contact each other so easily. The next child, Richard, was a cerebral palsy boy who was cared for by his grandmother as his mother had abandoned him. Her love for him was so great and she had worked hard to stimulate him so much that he was making some progress although his prognosis was bleak. He was standing in a frame (similar to a high chair but for standing for weight bearing through his feet) with home-made toys on its table The grandmother made mats and bowls from fibre so I was happy to buy a mat for Kumi and 2 bowls for gifts. The 3rd child had no Christian name as he hadn’t been baptized and I didn’t catch his tribal name. He was about 2 years and was wearing a yellow dress with blue necklace which, for me, immediately labels him as female but here who cares? He had a congenital testicle abnormality which required surgery but the mother had failed to come to the hospital as she lacked transport money. She lived with her 5 children in a hut no bigger than 6ft X 8ft. She will now bring the boy for surgery and we left leaving her a happy lady. Back at the hospital, I spent the afternoon talking with Florence (ex Kumi physio assistant) and Gerald (ex Kumi Physio). Who can blame them for leaving Kumi when there are no salaries? I also talked to Moses who I had been out with in the morning and showed him the website from which he could download the agriculture posters as he would like to improve the mothers’ situations by increasing their knowledge whilst their children were in-patients.

 

Saturday didn’t turn out as planned as Rebecca (Matthias’ wife) had had a phone call to say her mother had had a heart attack in Germany and so she was to fly home in the evening. Their day was spent in preparation whilst I repacked my cases for Monday and wrote a report for St Stephen’s Hospital. Believe it or not, this took all day! In the evening, I was left in charge of Noah, Joshua and Chiara whilst their parents went to the airport so we watched the DVD of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; scary for a 4 year old who refused to shut her eyes at the frightening bits but no nightmares ensued.

 

5 October

 

My base now is at Sam and Christine Luboga’s home in Mpererwe where I am visiting St Stephen’s Hospital to write a report for the Rope Trust.  Gonzoga kindly picked me up yesterday at Petrocity fuel station in Makynde Road in the hospital ambulance and it took us half an hour to go no distance at all. I never find it a problem sitting in a traffic jam as it is an education to watch what is going on. We were stationery long enough for me to watch 6 women clean the tiles and fences of the forecourt of the Hakuna Matata  Restaurant & Pork Joint and for a truck to deliver great trunks of trees presumably to roast the pork joints over.  We were on our way to the Pope Paul Centre where I attended Day One of a UPMB (Ugandan Protestant Medical Bureau) Hospital Management 2 day Workshop with Cathy and Olivia, Managers of St Stephen’s. Who should be there but Emukol and Dr Ruth from Kumi Hospital? It was an interesting programme but I decided to forego the second day as the purpose of my visit is to report on progress at St S’s. So it was back to Sam’s place where I had my first true taste of Ugandan hospitality for this year.  Sam and his wife both work extremely hard and arrived home around 8 pm bearing a beautiful bowl of colourful and fragrant flowers for my room. When we sat as a family at the table to eat a banquet, my lunch was still on my stomach so I could only eat small portions and they called me a paediatric case!

I don’t know how many children they have as it is all very confusing. I met Diana, their daughter-in-law, for the first time; she lives in Minnesota with her husband and she returns home every year for a wedding exhibition where she shows her imported wedding outfits. It seems she does wedding packages for affluent Ugandans. Different from Kumi! Sam was called out to a new patient in St S’s, Christine carried on with her paperwork (she owns a graduation gown factory), I took a hot shower (bathing in a plastic bowl, not easy but I’m used to it) and then I collapsed into bed under the mosquito net hoping for a good night’s sleep which could have been better. After a breakfast of millet porridge and milky tea, Gonzago picked me up and we went to St S’s which was so much cleaner than last year. I had opportunities to talk to the staff who are very happy with their employment and it was good for me to see the progress which has been made.  The dentist had 4 patients for tooth extractions as he has no other equipment until the Dentaid surgery is installed. Fingers crossed that they are selected to be donated one. I visited the ward patients who looked as though they would never recover and then I went out with the dental and immunization teams dropping off the latter at a “maternity home” in the slums where they were giving BCG’s for TB and polio drops to tiny babies, a weekly exercise. The slums were unbelievably bad. The smells and the sights are impossible to describe. A sick woman laid out on top of her produce stall, billions of babies in tatters, rubbish being sorted through for anything recyclable or edible, apologies for housing. I really can’t give you a good enough description. We continued for no more than half a mile to Ttula School. What a difference a short distance can make! Here was a private school with all the facilities one could wish for for one’s children clad in shoes, socks, perfect uniforms and with classrooms equipped with books and many visual aids. The playground boasted ingenious home-made items such as swings, climbing frames and see-saws.  These children came from respectable- looking homes and were very fortunate to be getting such a good education but surely it is the slums which need the help. I then realized that this school is supported by Plan International and I wished that they would go just a few hundred yards to visit the conditions in the slum areas. After collecting the immunization team and a bumpy ride, I returned to Sam’s for the night.  Supper is a family affair and probably hasn’t changed over the years except Sam’s phone rang time and time again and answering it seemed to have priority over eating so meals were somewhat fragmented. Up at seven am to find Sam and Christine had already left for work so I had breakfast with other family members before being collected by Gonzago. Today Catherine and Olivia had finished their workshop and so we had time together to review the ward and theatre conditions. Richard, the ward attendant, had tried to improve the standard of tidiness and cleanliness in the theatre since my last visit in 2009 but some things were just the same, for example the sterile materials rested on a commode, walking aid and bath bench! There is still much to be done in this area before they will be able to offer the theatre facilities to visiting surgeons. We made a list of the findings and agreed on dates for action to be taken by which means they are going to busy before I return in December to evaluate the improvements.

 

Farewells made and a group photo taken and it was time to leave. Gonzago invited me to his home and I wondered what type of house he had. I was surprised to see he had a smart home with kitchen, living, dining and 2 bedrooms as well as a bathroom. This was a man of means as well as being a driver! He explained how he had been given a bicycle and now he owned 2 new cars and 2 trucks which he hired out and was in the beginnings of making a good business so I imagined him being the Duncan Bannatyne of Mpererwe. It was dark before I reached Sam’s and after he had returned from the hospital where he works, we sat and passed the time while a meal was prepared by his many “daughters” in their smoky outhouse. Everyone works so hard that it’s not difficult to politely retire to my room.

 

3 October 2010

 

I am starting my diary sitting on the balcony of the house of Rebecca and Matthias in Kampala. Situated on the top of one of the many hills of the city, the balcony offers a fine view of the city and to the right lies Lake Victoria. At night, the thousands of city lights spread into the distance like the stars in the skies.

 

It’s been a busy year with lots to do at home to prepare for my return visit.

Appeals as far afield as Harrow, Hereford, Hinkley and Happy Days Nursery in Dalkeith have all produced much enthusiasm and support as well as talks to church groups, Women’s Institutes, Soroptimists and other organizations. We have packed bags in Sainsbury’s, served coffee after Sunday Masses in St Augustine’s Church, I’ve been to Macckesfield for the annual meeting of Christian Relief Uganda and there have been many more events. Very many thanks and appreciation to all who have supported the Fund and who have had the confidence to believe that everything will go to the very poor in Kumi District.

 

Many changes have occurred in Kumi and I will have to wait until my arrival to give my account of the events but I know that the Kumi Hospital I knew is no more. By the time I have written my final entry for 2010, I hope that I can give a positive report for a healthy future for the hospital and staff.

 

In the meanwhile, I have almost 10 weeks ahead of me which seems to be more challenging than ever before.  My plan is full and intense but time will tell all…

 

Last Thursday, I rose at 3 am and went to Durham Tees Valley Airport with Chris and was, for the first time, reticent about leaving. My flight was routine and as tedious as ever but I passed the time by watching two films; Letter to Juliet (?) and Alice in Wonderland. My arrival was enhanced by a welcoming committee; not only Matthias, but also Florence and Alex both of whom work at CoRSU since leaving Kumi Hospital. We passed by CoRSU where we called in for a brief walk round the wards and where the many children were settling for the night. It’s always a special time at the end of the day when the patients are washed and hoping for a pain free and peaceful sleep. Florence was dropped off at her new home, a small house without a bed, and through a trading centre and along a very, very bumpy road. It must be difficult for her to leave the relative “comforts” of Kumi where she could grow her crops, speak to her friends in her common language and be closer to her grass roots and elderly mother, a leprosy sufferer. Now she can only enjoy her work but with a language problem and with the rest of the day and night in solitude.

 

My room awaited me and all I wanted was a good night’s sleep. Waking late, I ate breakfast and was picked up to be taken to CoRSU Hospital with Joshua and Chiara. The hospital was buzzing with children waiting for plastic surgery and recovering from orthopaedic surgery. Lunch in the staff canteen, back home and a restful day if you can call getting engrossed in a 1000 piece jigsaw of the map of the world which is ongoing! Saturday, after Noah and Joshua had had their drumming lesson (it took a few minutes to identify the rhythmic banging if I may call it this) from a talented young Ugandan followed by haircuts all round, we had lunch in an Indian restaurant in Kisimento and then to a party where the outside caterers were Indian so we had a double dose of curries and spices! So I said I would have a relaxed weekend before I venture to Kumi! Quite a party in the large garden of the childrens’ teacher at the International School where the standard of work seems to be very high.  Sunday took us to Goretti’s Restaurant at Entebbe beach where the waves lapped the shore by the palm trees, the tiny islands dotted in the lake and all very different for my next few weeks in Kumi.