Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ruth II

So today was an odd day but I feel like I learned a lot. Beckie and I drove our neighbor Ruth (for her story see 4/25: Ruth) up to Lira so that she could get her birth certificate to start the process of getting a real job. She is out of work right now and practially squatting in a shell of a building next door. The house she is in has no doors, no windows, no fixtures (not that there is any power anyway), no water. And that is her and her nine month old son's home. Anyway, we are trying to find a way to help her and this seemed to be the first step. So we drove her north nearly 2 hours to her family's land. She has not seen them in more than two years so in addition to getting the papers she could do some catching up.

Well, this is the deepest “bush” I've been in yet here in Uganda. We were miles off the beaten path- or more literally were were only on a beaten path. We left the paved road, then left the dirt road then left the two track and passed over some land that possibly had never had a car on it before. We were introduced to several of the family members and I quickly lost track of who was who's son and who followed whom but all I really needed to do was nod and smile. (This was a different language than Ateso so honestly I didn't even try to follow the conversation.) We got a little tour of the land and 3 of the family homes and then Ruth said that we needed to go get lunch to provide for the group. This didn't really surprise us- Ruth, coming from the city has to show that she is “wealthy” and coming with two white people means she is REALLY well off (no matter how far from the truth it really is!). So we headed back to the path, back on the two-track through the bush to the nearest “trading center.” Where were found NOTHING to buy. No rice, no beans, no posho, no onions, no tomatoes, nothing. We could get a little curry powder but I had nothing to use the spice on. So we headed to the neighboring trading center. And... you guessed it... nothing again. None of the above list that are considered staples here.  So, now we've been driving around about 45 minutes to find food after driving two hours to get here. The tiny “shop” ( I put that in quotes because it was nothing more than a shack with some things to buy) did have salt and flour. So we paid way to much for them and headed back to Ruth's. I was thinking that with the little bit of cooking oil we had in the car we could make chapati- a common flat bread in Soroti (picture a tortilla). So we got back and gave the food to the woman of place (women do ALL of the work here....) But we managed to figure out that this was going to be our project.... I'm going to have to figure this cultural thing out eventually because usually guest are given the red carpet treatment and they wouldn't dream of having us do any work. But today was different. I don't know if it was because this was a different language group so different norms or if there were so few women around to do the work or they didn't know chapati or because Ruth was family or if they just wanted to see what would happen to the white girls under pressure. So Beckie and I did the best we could. We asked for warm water and something to mix in. Beckie mixed the two kilos of flour (with her hands) the salt, water and oil and we made little balls. But then they needed to be rolled out. So I headed off to find Ruth. After much searching and some rearranging the flat lid of the water jar was given to us with a plastic mug. So we “rolled” out the bread. Then I asked for something like a skillet to cook on. I was given a big aluminum pan. I headed over to the cook house- the cooking fire is kept separate from the rest of the place, across the compound from where we mixed up the dough. I'm not sure how to describe my next 45 minutes- lots of smoke, a very deep pot with oil in the bottom, too much fire and my hands trying to cook this bread. And not even a charcoal fire- sticks, uneven heat, the whole nine yards. No pot holders, no spatual, no plate for the finished ones. As I type tonight I'm still feeling the burns all over my fingers from the oil, wrists from the pot and forearms from the fire. And at one point I had tears running down my face from the smoke so couldn't see a thing. I had snot running from my nose from this cold I've had and the smoke and I was sweating so hard it was dripping into the cooking fire. About 18 chapatis later the lady helped me get the fire to stop smoking so badly. She also found for me a long spoon to try to flip the bread but then after watching me struggle just did it with her hands- forget the stupid spoon. Anyway, as life here goes, by this time there were about 20 kids around (none in school) and many adults to greet Ruth and just see the entertainment so we split up the bread we had made and called it lunch.
 I really enjoyed the day but it all just reminded me of how hard life in the village is. This family had a lot of land and so a lot of crops but that really means a lot of land to dig by hand to plant, weed and harvest. By hand. Back breaking work in the equatorial sun. As substance farmers- they won't make any profit from their work. Just survive.
They can't afford to send their kids to school, besides it was a FAR walk, it felt far for me and I was in the car! They are dependent on the rain with no safety net. (In recent years there has both been drought that wiped out crops and then floods that also wiped out all that was planted.)They practically never have lunch. They had a lot of corn, some potatoes and some young rice plants. A field of casava and a mango tree. And they will live on that. I'm hungry but they were quite happy with their flat bread. And now Ruth has her birth certificate and we made home without problem. Seems like a good day.
The woman who took pity on me and took over the cooking of the bread.
Beckie "rolling" them out with a mug on the lid of the water jar.
Some of the kids that enjoyed the chapati.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quick update

So I'm happily back in Soroti and planning my next few weeks. I'll post again soon but I expect to be pretty busy over the next few days so I'll just apologize now for the fewer posts.  For those who are praying for me in the coming weeks I'm going to be working a lot with the mentally and physically handicapped kids that I've been meeting and and then in 3 weeks the whole team is headed to Kenya. I feel like I've got a lot to cram into this time and though I love being busy it is challenging. One other thing that I'm struggling with the suffering around me. It is not new and I even anticipated it but there is so much and I feel like I need to be processing more than I am. There are abandoned kids in the feeding program at the hospital that I want to spend more time with and a woman I've been spending time with who has end stage AIDS and then all of these hurting kids. It feels like a bit much at the end of the day....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Have been trying over and over to put pictures on facebook and just can't manage. So they are here instead...
First this picture because it makes me laugh. If you look closely through the windshield you can see two traffic police (white uniforms) and that explains why the kids are ducked down hiding. There are 4 in the front seat and 4 in the back seat. This is the day we spend in Kampala with the corona as our method of travel for 8 people.
These next two pictures are the Hindu temple in Soroti. There is a good sized Indian population in town (they are all middle class shop owners and there is a mutual dislike between them and the Ugandans) but we have been getting to know them and were invited to a celebration not too long ago.

These last two pictures are the pool in Soroti that I'm considering swimming in. The East African Flight School is located in Soroti and one of the thing that student pilots have to learn to do is swim. (Honestly, I really don't understand the logic so don't ask...)

But it is a little slimy and all of those little black spots are swimming tadpoles. So, lets just say I'm still researching treatments for Schistosomiasis and have not yet dove in....

Needs to be experienced to be believed

So a boda is a motorcycle that serves at a taxi in Kampala (in Soroti bodas are mostly bicycles).  Yesterday, we needed to get from where we dropped off our car back to the place we are staying. So we took our lives in our hands. Here are just a few of the thoughts that passed through my head while riding (for the sake of keeping it PG I've edited all of the graphic language out ):
Pothole! I wonder if anyone has fallen off one of these? Better yet has anyone died from falling off of one of these? Be realistic Kragt- most likely it won't kill you. Remember all that stuff that was taught in TNCC (trauma nursing).... crap!! Which ED in Kampala is best?! Well, which one is tolerable? The driver has a helmet. But I should have one too... really if there is a fatality in the wreck that we get in it is just more likely to be me. We are in the wrong lane. That's a really big truck... Oh! That was close! My knees hang out really far... This guy does this for a living- you're going to be fine. But he is really young- really all of these boda drivers are young- wonder where the old guys are? Don't think about it. Whoa, that was close! Wait, answering your phone? REALLY?! Can we slow down just a little more for the speed bumps? Hold on! Remember it is inappropriate to hold on to the driver. Screw inappropriate! I'm a mazungo. What part of the city are we in? You are asking me directions?! Where is Beckie! This was her stupid idea....

So we managed just fine and I still have all my extremities as I write this but I was too distracted at the time to take pictures (and honestly I was holding on far too tight to get my camera out) but from the safety of our car I've taken other to try to illistrate this story.
What these pictures just don't show is how crowded these roads are and how the bikes swerve in and out and use the shoulder and pass between big trucks and ignore lights and use the oposite lane and generally all maner of dangerous and mildly illegal things.
Lets just say that I don't plan on doing it again in the near future.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kampala part II

So we had today well planned and... actually none of it panned out. We were supposed to drop the car off at the shop before 9am and spend the day running errands with a rental car and be ready to head back home to Soroti early tomorrow.  Lets just say the plan seemed good....
After a late start and a very frustrating, long and unproductive  hour and a half at immigration the car didn't get dropped off until nearly noon. And no rental car to use so after a life changing boda trip (I'm sure that will be its own post in the near future) across Kampala and back to the guest house we are just resting this afternoon and waiting for the mechanic to call us back with what he finds wrong with our car. We have to go back to immigration tomorrow to try again to get Beckie's passport back with hopefully a legit visa in it and have not managed to do any of our shopping and there is a chance we will still be without a vehicle the better part of tomorrow and I'm really not feeling well on top of all that. Just asking for a few prayers...

Monday, June 21, 2010


Today most of the team is headed to the water falls for a night together and away from Soroti. Two of our summer short termers are headed back to the states so from there Beckie and I are taking them on to Entebee by way of Kampala to the airport. We also have to have our car looked at and get Beckie's passport back so we will spend a day (or two) before we head back to Soroti. We hope to be back to Soroti by thursday afternoon but that is if things go perfectly as planned. The car needs brake work and the electrical system looked at and Beckie has to spend some time at immigration. On the up side Kampala often has a faster internet connection so possibly I can post more pictures....

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I know that when I write about seeing these handicapped kids it is hard to picture what I'm talking about. So I'm going to try to give you just a glimps of what I'm talking about.

First- on our way out to the homes of these kids. To call it a two-tracking would be misleading because it implies that there is more than one track. Most of these homes are found at the far end of a not so straight foot path through the bush. But our little car took it like a champ.

This is Mary. She is 10 years old and was one of the kids that actually seemed happy to see me. Mary is able to feed herself and sit up on her own, making her one of the highest functioning kids that I saw the whole day.

This is David. Not so happy to see me at all! (White skin can be pretty scary if you've never seen it before.) David's mother told me that she was in labor a long time and that he is like this because "he was pulled."  David can't seem to hold things in his hands at all, though he can sit with minimal support.

At most of these homes I had only been there a few minutes when an audience formed. The blue outfits are their school uniforms as they just got home. Notice the huts on the left and the right. We are sitting under a big shade tree in the middle of their clan compound.

This is the house of one of the families (though it is just like the houses of all of them). The little girls are just siblings watching me, possibly the most entertaining thing that will happen at their home all week.

At all of these homes we were invited to come sit in the shade and occasionally asked to sign the guest book. Both of the men on the right came with us. Steven is in blue and he is the one that has worked really hard to help me to see these kids. Mike is in white and he is the coordinator for work with handicapped in all of Gweri. Both of these men are phsically handicapped themselves and have a big heart to share with parents that their child is not worthless because of their struggles. The back of the head in the picture is Lisa.  Once again- thanks Lisa for joining me on this adventure even though we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!
The last child we saw of the day was Lucy and her parents deserve an ovation for the care that they have given her. She is the 8th of nine children but when I asked if her siblings are around to help her aging parents her mother said that only 3 of them are still living. Lucy can't hardly even swallow but her parents have lovingly cared for her for 13 years. They asked for a little help from me- they would like a mosqueto net for her. In the states she would have a peg tube and diapers and a lift to get her into and out of her electric wheel chair and meds to keep her easy to care for. Here she has a mother who feeds her very carefully and a father who carries her because she is too heavy for her mother.
 I hate it when I've gone so long without blogging. I have too much I want to write about....

Gweri- this is big on my mind. On Tuesday I went to Gweri (a sub-county, I think) outside of Soroti. In about 4 hours I visited about 9 homes and 11 physically handicapped kids. They have issues ranging from severe epilepsy to mild cerebral palsy. So I clearly have a job to do now. Including these guys, in the past weeks, I've met about 20 kids that have special needs. I need to hunt for meds for some, bug nets for others. Talk to doctors, design chairs. I need to begin to in earnest educate myself on their different diagnoses and then figure out what it means in this unique setting. I want to come up with ways to encourage the parents of these kids and figure out what resources are available locally. It all seems daunting when I pile it up like this but I'm excited about the challenge. I know that working with these kids is going to be discouraging because even in the states there is very little that we can do. And a few of these families got so excited that I came to visit their homes and I'm afraid that they think I have a way to cure their child. I want to improve their quality of life and for some I'm not even sure I can do that. So, I'm asking for your prayers in this. I know many of you have been praying for discernment and purpose for me and I think God has answered that even though this isn't what I expected at all. Now, I'm asking for wisdom in this job that He has given me.
This was what we pulled up to at one of the houses we stopped at. Three families waiting for us.

The kids- I would like to write that now that school has started back up that many of the kids that were always at my house are here less but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. In the 3 weeks that school has been back on there have been two holidays without school. Another day Betty was here all day because she said that her teachers were all in meetings all day and she didn't have to be there. Around the middle of last week one of the government teachers was killed suddenly and so that day there was no school and the following day ALL of the government schools were closed. Betty has been “home” sick twice (so why was she at my house?!) and Abella and Dorcus have both been “suspended” until they pay their school fees. We have been forced to make the rule that our house is off limits during school hours no matter what, otherwise I feel like they would be find reasons to NEVER go to school. Most evenings they are all here to make banana bread or watch movies or just hang out. Last night after playing football (soccer) in the yard until dark I fed them supper. Sunday afternoon Abella's little brother climbed up our mango tree and harvested all of the ripe, nearly ripe and really not ripe at all fruit from the tree. 
 Opio up the tree to collect mangos.

The group waiting for me to eat.
From right to left around the circle- Betty, Joyce, Martin, Abella, Opio, Calvin, Emmanuel and Ivan
I guess that's what I've been up to for the most part and thats all for now. Until later.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A little Soroti wildlife

Just a few pictures today:
This spider was HUGE- the picture doesn't even begin to show it. And its web felt so tough and indestructible.
 This brown lizard was just chilling in the sun. These orange and black lizards are everywhere, not all that small and super fast. Usually, they are just a little startling.
These purple flowers grow in the fence on the side of our house.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My on going battle

So I go back and forth.  I go from being sure that God is calling me into working with handicapped Ugandan kids. He has given me teaching resources, placed people in my path that are already working with these kids, and keeps showing me more and more kids that have special needs (practically daily right now).  And still I waver. Yesterday I went to see Lazaro again. He has a bad infection under the skin on his head that is draining pus and has matted his hair to his head. We (thanks Lisa for joining me in another adventure!) shaved his head and cleaned all of the sores. Then just sat a little in the shade with him, his many siblings and his mother. There was no one along to translate this time so communication was very limited. We tried and tried to get Lazaro so smile without any success. He seems SO depressed and I just know he is neglected. The flat spot on the back of his head just keeps getting worse and worse it is clear that he is left laying on his back all day. He is possibly more nourished than his siblings but that still isn't saying much. I just don't know what to do to help him and his family. He needs to be held and smiled at and sung to and given fun toys and little treats. And instead he gets to lay in the dark inside the hut alone all day. He can't roll himself over and won't even reach for things. It is so sad it made me feel physically ill while driving away. So then I say to God "You can't possibly be calling me to this, can you?"  And I just don't know what He is saying to me. I'd only been home a few minutes when Amecet (the baby shelter) called to ask me to see a child that had just arrived there that the mother was trying to leave. A 3 year old paralyzed from the mid back down with limited shoulder movement but no elbow, wrist or hand control.  He is also blind and deaf. The mother seems like she cares for him but just doesn't know what to do. He is getting too big and heavy to carry on her back all day but he will clearly never walk, talk or even feed himself. He isn't really sick so can't stay at Amecet though the mother is convinced that he has malaria. And physically handicapped kids are hard to take care of in the states where we have tube feedings and nice motorized wheelchairs and special schools and day care programs and good doctors and cribs. What am I supposed to do for this struggling family?!

Makes me laugh

On a much lighter note I find it really funny that it is 95+ degrees in the house and still the little cat that I'm taking care of for a few days sleeps on the hot voltage regulator as if it were January in Michigan.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thats going to be a lot of bread

24 kg of flour and 50 kg of sugar... this may not bode well. They are going to need more bananas. What have I gotten myself into?!

*If you don't know what I'm talking about see the post on May 18th

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

(Deep sigh of relief)

So the travel visa that I entered the country on expired yesterday.  Well, sort of. I paid for a 3 month visa from the Ugandan embassy before I left the States but turns out that if when you have traveled for 36 hours and are too tired to ask and they scribble some hieroglyphics inside your passport you have to renew in two months instead of three. So anyway, I had to drive to Mbale yesterday. But yesterday the car wouldn't start and the mechanic who knows about the electrical system didn't want to start working until 4pm so I went today instead. And all went well. But it wasn't without some apprehension and just a little dread that I went. This is by far the longest drive I've done yet (thanks Lisa for being willing to go along so that I didn't have to handle this adventure alone!) and also with the worst roads to travel on (worse than going out to the village). Also last time this immigration officer gave the missionaries that I went with a really rough time because they wouldn't pay the bribe. He made them get two different stamps and it took far longer than it needed to. And we ended up just getting up and leaving. So I was fearful that we would have some of the same troubles this time. But I think some zucchini bread saved the day. I had made two loaves at around 6 this morning to give him as a “wedding gift” (last time he asked us for a wedding present even though he was married in January). Anyway, he laughed, asked me what date I needed stamped on it and let us go (still though he would only give me two more months instead of the standard three). But Lisa and I even managed to squeeze in an hour of triathlon training in a resort pool before heading back to Soroti. Thank you Lord for so many blessings!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


So this is just a little side project that I've got going on.... Angie found five, one day old kittens in her yard with no mother cat around. The next day when she checked on them and four of them were dead. So I rescued the last one and have been syringe feeding it and keeping it warm. (Who would have thought that necessary?! I live in the tropics right?!) I was afraid for a while it wasn't going to live but we seem to have made it to the one week mark and now it has a name. Trouble. It still gets me up several times a night.  Its eyes and ears are still sealed shut. But I think we are going to make it.

New opportunity?

I spend a lot of time praying about what I'm supposed to be doing right now. There is an opportunity to work with physically handicapped kids. Many of these kids are seen as useless and just a burden. Nothing is done for them and over and over I hear stories of how they are just left to lay on the ground all day with no interaction, stimulation or care. There are no expectations for them and some are even abandoned. But I'm learning that there are so many kids with physical handicaps here in Uganda. Cerebral Palsy is frighteningly common because there are so many things cause damage to the developing brain from poor prenatal care to malaria in the first months of life and little medical care as prevention or early treatment. On top of that there is Polio, genetic deformities, injuries that cause loss of limbs, the list seems to go on and on of things that cause handicaps. There are opportunities for me to encourage these families, to provide nursing care and resources (like specially made chairs) and increase awareness. This is the most apparent and open nursing opportunity I have had yet. There are several Ugandans I can partner with who are already involved in this work and I've encountered several of these kids already so I start to get a little excited about meeting this need. But then I think how poorly equipped I am for that particular job and I hesitate. This is not something I've ever worked with in my past nursing experience and I know so little about how to help. It also gets so discouraging as at times so little can be done.  I always pictured myself working with HIV/Aids or hospice care. I wonder if this is the driven side of me that needs to be doing something, anything task related with a purpose. Should I continue to wait? Am I supposed to be more patent? Why all these hesitations and reservations?  These kids are precious in God's sight and could use all help that they can get. I should just dive in. Right?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A kitten?!

Sorry all, I seem to be doing a really poor job posting lately. I'd like write about day to day stuff but time seems to just get away from me. I keep thinking that soon I'll get into a routine and life will level out but that doesn't seem to be about to happen. We have several visitors here, girls from Calvin college who are all here varying lengths of time but around a month each. I'm doing things with them each day and Beckie is still in Kampala (for more than a week yet). I'm without my car as Tim took it when he headed to Kampala. Today was a perfect example of how I just get to the end of the day and look back at the day and kind of shake my head.

I was up nearly every 45 minutes in the night with this little bundle of trouble last night. I should possibly have thought it through better before I “adopted” it but while watching it struggle over the bodies of its deceased siblings yesterday I wasn't really into balancing a pro/cons list.
Anyway, I finally managed to get us both up, bathed, and fed and met the group over at Amecet. Mid-morning we headed to I-team's resource room (a nice little library with resources for pastors and others to study. There really is nothing else like it here and it is a very needed place as most don't even own their own bibles let alone other resources) We wanted to clean and organize but on the way we received word that one of the ministry partners (and a lady who is becoming a good friend) was in the hospital possibly having a miscarriage in her 8th or 9th month. So back downtown to see her and pray with her. Then back to the resource room after the spending some time at the hospital. Lunch break at 1:30pm but first we needed to get lunch stuff so off to try one of the little shops- “none here- go just there”, “no- across the way”, finally with a little food in hand, lunch. Wrap up in the resource room and home by 3pm. Betty and Dorcus both arrived shortly after they got out of school. A little time with them, dishes that I hadn't done in days, to market quickly for potatoes- my contribution for food for game night. Peeling and cooking 2 kilos of potatoes and off to Rachel's house. Dinner at 7 with Ugandan, Canadan, Congo and American friends who live in the area. Then about an hour of games with them. Now I'm here at my computer. I can't help but wonder what I'm doing here in Uganda. Don't get me wrong- I love life here. But I spent the bulk of my day feeding a kitten milk with a dropper (every 2 hours) and going back and forth from town. What am I supposed to be getting involved in?! I know that I'm just tired and possibly should process some more before I post this.... Tomorrow I'm planning on spending a large portion of my day visiting handicapped kids (others like Lazaro and Abraham) with Steven. But chronically ill and handicapped kids?! I don't feel like this is within my scope of experience at all and I have so little to offer this kids. But this is the opportunity that is open to me now. And I miss nursing so I take what I can get. So... enough processing. The kitten needs to eat again and I should get some sleep while he does. Later.