Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Other stories

I need to write but without any large tasty rats or random adventures happening I'm low on material. So here are a few other blogs I follow that could be fun for you to read until I get back up to speed:

I mentioned that I ran out to LA for a quick bit and got to spend some time with a friend.  She is an amazing photographer and has some cool picts on her blog that I need to give a shout out to. That's me in the second photo- I'd almost forgotten about it but it made for a great picture. Check it out! Sailor RN

Terril and Amber are fellow missionaries in a different part of Uganda. This is a story that they shared that Beckie and I experience all the time! Schrock and Awe

And then there is the whole Soroti team that I'm missing right now. They look like their having lots of holiday fun. Shaarda News Not everyone in Mandy's pictures are team mates but about half of them are. I'm looking forward to being back with them!

One last one that is a great look at how Uganda's and American's think differently. (I don't condone the language but it is still a well told story.) Iganda? No, Uganda!  How he discusses fatalism seems so accurate to my experience.

I hope that is enough reading for you to stay busy with for a bit..... 3 more weeks and I'll be back in Uganda.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In the Desert

I'm struggling a bit, feeling disconnected and disjointed... possibly as evidenced by my lack of writing. Or caused by it- correlation or causation?  Anyway, I have four short weeks left in Michigan, though I'm in Indiana as I write tonight. Yesterday I was in California (all of this moving around may have something to do with my feelings of detachment) and had some time in the desert. It snowed, which seems strange as I was just outside of Los Angles but kind of appears fitting as I can't seem to get away from the cold.
I've loved being withso many friends and family and supporters but I'm afraid I've become more of an introvert than before I headed to Uganda (is that possible?!?) and I feel like I need to recharge and decompress or retreat and process but I just don't want to miss out on any time with people. I don't know how to strike a balance. Please just keep praying.  
* Addendum- turns out I was in Illinois. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. 


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Singing in church

I miss worshiping in church in Uganda!! In Soroti, when we sing "I will clap Hosanna"- we actually clap. When the song contains the words shout- you shout! When the leader begins waving- well, you get the idea. They have a song that is roughly translated "I'm going to the promised land". I have seen the women get up, tie on their babies, pick up the mat they were sitting on, put their bibles on their heads and dance their way out of the church because they are ready to go to the promised land!  The first time I heard it, it had not yet been translated and I thought church was over and we were all headed home.
This week in church we sang and no one clapped or even twitched.  I even had to look around to see if others were singing. We weren't standing and some were just sitting without even moving their lips.  Did anyone mean what they were listening to?!? We were in God's house but one wouldn't necessarily know it by  looking at us.  So, the good news is that I don't really care (as much) what others are thinking of me. I worship corporately to honor my Lord. I'm going to sing and put my hands up and clap and possibly even dance. For those of you that also attend Remembrance I considered apologizing to you. But I'm not really sorry. I want my Savior to be honored by what I'm singing on Sunday morning.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Catching up

Time to blog again…. it still strikes me as strange how many of you say you read my mental wanderings…. it makes me recommit to keeping this current and at least attempting to keep it relevant.

I have really enjoyed seeing so many of you guys over the last week. I love catching up with you but I find it makes me sad too because I realize how much I’m missing- friends having weddings and kids and struggles and major changes and just generally experiencing life and I don’t get to enjoy it with you. I find there have been many of you that we’ve met and hugged and caught up then we say "see you again in a few years". I know most of us have relationships like this and the only reason that these are different for me is that they are more…pronounced, maybe. We all have friends that we only cross paths ever few years and catch up then part ways again.
OK- I don’t know where I was going with that thought besides that I’m enjoying seeing all of you again.  Thanks for taking time out of your busy days to make me feel like I’m still…. well, still here. That I’m still part of your lives. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Driving in on the right side of the road

Yikes! I drove within a day of being back in the states so one might think I would be used to street lights again by now and wouldn’t be constantly scanning for livestock on the sides of the roads. I never need to swerve painfully to avoid things and don’t have to drive for miles on the shoulder because it is better than the road. I haven't been pulled over by traffic cops looking for bribes and I never have the need to take my half of the road out of the center. And I've only been on the wrong side a few times. But driving here is proving to be tough. I  don't even know what to do!! There are no giant potholes. There is no livestock in the road. There are no potholes containing livestock. (I'm serious- there is a pothole near our house in Soroti that the pigs love to wallow in so it is something we need to watch for) There are practically no pedestrians here (and when there are they are strangly on a sidewalk far from the road) and practically no bikes (and when there are they have a huge wide shoulder.) If I'm not trying not to hit someone or not fall off the road or not run over a cow, what is there to do while driving?! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Missionary Medical Intensive

*oops! this was supposed to be posted 11/4
I'm mentally overflowing with all of the lecture topics from the past two weeks.... I feel I could reasonably attempt a burn skin graft, extract abscessed teeth, replace a dislocated shoulder or recognize cholera before it became an epidemic, all in remote Karamoja with minimal medical supplies. (Of course I'm still praying that I don't need to do any of this stuff on anyone but at least I'm slightly more ready if the need arises.)
Some practice splinting. A skill I already enjoy using but more practice is always fun. 
Round table discussions? 

I knew how to do several of these IM, SQ and ID meds so  got be be on the receiving end ...


This is my super cute nephew who knows me as “Aunt Jenny came on an airplane?” which he asks me often. He is the only 22 month old I know who speaks in complete sentences and I know I’m not biased at all when I say he is the smartest and cutest kid I’ve ever met. This is the hardest part of working on the mission field. I spent the last few days staying with my brother and sister on the way home from the medical training and my favorite part was hanging out with this nearly two year old. I’m going to be able to spend more time with them around the holidays but I still find myself already grieving and abhorring the thought of leaving again. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Common sense vs. Faith

Our chaplain here, Barry, has more than 40 years of experience on the mission field and he has been telling us stories. One really jumped out at me yesterday and I want to retell it. In the early 1970’s he was in North Vietnam with his wife working at an orphanage. For those, like me, who don’t know their world history as well as we should, there was a war going on in North Vietnam at the time. This man and his wife were in an isolated place that was most easily reached by a 20 minute boat ride and they had to wait often for transport. Their mission director was there to visit when the Viet Cong came threateningly near. Their director returned back to the states and soon after sent $2,000 for them to purchase their own boat. Barry looked at the doctor and asked him what he knew about boats. “Nothing.” Me neither. So they prayed that God would show them which boat He wanted them to have. Then when it came time for Barry’s wife to give birth to their first child they headed into the city. Barry and the doctor took that opportunity to look for the boat they were going to buy so took a translator with them and headed down to the wharf. The first boat they came to was for sale! Barry sat down in the bow and the doctor sat down on the stern.  Barry knew right away that this was the boat they were supposed to purchase. The doctor expressed the same. Their translator interrupted them and reminded them that they didn’t need to purchase the first boat they saw. They should look around more. He told them there was a bigger boat down the dock a little that as also for sale. They went to see it and discussed that bigger would allow them to carry more supplies and people. They found out that it had a nice new motor. It was a really nice looking boat. And it was only $1,100 and they had two thousand to spend. Perfect! So they bought the boat. Barry went up to the hospital to collect his wife and newborn and happily told them they would be going back in their new boat. I’m going to cut out some of the story for the sake of length but picture Barry, his wife and newborn, the doctor and months’ worth of supplies headed out to sea having no idea what they were doing. Prayer finally brought them back to their home beach but a typhoon was coming.  They called the children from the orphanage down to the beach and all tried and tried to get the boat up above the tide line. After long struggles and to the point that the storm was so bad they had to get the children inside they still had not been successful. They only owned the boat one day before it was destroyed. The next time they went into the city the first boat they had seen was still for sale. It was $900 so with their remaining money they bought it. They saw that it was the biggest boat they could still successfully pull up the beach during storm season. Their common sense said bigger is better. But God said I told you which one you should have! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

I need something?

Medicine on the ground being sold at the Arapi market. 

I was sitting with some fellow missionary nurses over lunch commiserating about some of the struggles we face.  I was just sharing with them that it isn’t uncommon for a mother to bring me a child asking for medicine but after I assess the child it is pretty clear that they don’t need meds. They have a viral respiratory infection or colic and just need fluids, rest and time. But Ugandan mothers HATE to hear this. They want medicine for their child. They believe they HAVE TO HAVE medicine.  The one instance that I was thinking of in particular the grandmother came to me for advice. I rode my bike to their home and assessed the baby. She was 3 months old and had a little cough but nothing else. No fever, eating fine, lungs clear, etc. I reassured them that the baby was healthy and tried to explain that she was too little for cough medicine so they just needed to give it time and it would clear up.  I learned that a few hours later they took the baby to a local midwife who sold them medicine for malaria. I wanted to scream “You don’t need that crap!” (For so many reasons this kind of thing drives me nuts. This baby didn’t need any medicine and really didn’t need malaria medicine. It is too hard on her little kidneys, and just generates resistance.)  I was talking to the other nurses and they were saying they see the same things in places they work- Egypt, Haiti, Ethopia. People have this idea that they NEED medicine for something.  Then one of the nurses said “don’t we all?”.  She was speaking more metaphorically than medicine and she is right. I know there are times that I’ve gone to God and told Him I’m tired or worn out or frustrated and He tells me to just rest in His presence. That I need to rehydrate and take time. And instead I try to heal the struggle with food (chocolate!! ) or entertainment (I’ll just toss in a movie) or something else. And God is saying “What did I just tell you?! You don’t need that crap!” I am developing resistance to God’s voice and it is hard on my soul to seek to satisfy outside of what God provides for me. He tells me to  come rest in Him but I choose other “medicines.” I’m sorry Lord when I don’t listen to you and try to heal the hurts in my life with things outside of what you say. I know you are the great healer and have only the best in mind for me. Teach me to just take time and rest in your presence. To hydrate in the springs of life and to really understand that I don’t NEED those other things.  Amen.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

North Carolina

I’m here in lovely North Carolina learning more than I have since first semester of nursing school.  We start class at 8:30am and generally leave the classroom between 9:30 and 10 at night. (Longer if you want extra time with the teachers on a topic.) But I’m not complaining because I’m learning a ton and I’m sure this is going to help as soon as I head back to Uganda. No, I have a much different thing to complain about. I am not ready for winter!!

It sure is beautiful. 
But I haven't been this cold in a long time!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rats and traveling

*Several have asked for a bit of clarifying about the rats that were referred to on FB.  Here is the gist of the story....
Uganda has rats. It is just part of life in Soroti and we get used to them. Bec and I own a cat who does a lot to keep us from experiencing them but occasionally, like when they are bigger than her or when she makes a gift of their carcass, then we are reminded of their presence. The day before I left was one of those days. Like most cats, ours loves to play in suitcases and I have had several out while packing. Friday morning I noticed her playing in one but didn't think more of it. I should have. This was only a few hours after I'd seen her hunting and killing a small rat outside the house. Come to find out she didn't eat it but carried it in, played with it then left it in my suitcase. Saturday night I smelled something dead and looked and looked for why my bedroom would be smelling so bad. Finally I remembered seeing her playing in the suitcase and the pieces came together. I really only had to search the bag for a second or two to find it. It stunk! Tossed the rat into the garden, washed out the bag and the clothes but it still stunk. So I turned the fan on to air out the room. Then called it a night as I had to drive more than 7 hours the following day.
There is the little guy. Thank you so much cat for packing that for me. 
I was awake several times in the night, each time thinking how much the room still stunk. I even got up once and adjusted the fan. Woke up in the morning actually nauseated from the smell but it was 5:00 am and I had a ton to do and was too sleepy to really process. As the morning got underway I didn't notice it as much. Then I was taking my sheets off my bed before leaving for 3 months and found a much bigger dead rat in the bed. Wrapped up in the sheets and the mosquito net. Sick!! I yelled the cat's name in absolute disgust. She came running, jumped up on the bed, dragged the rat out then looked at me like "Oh, yeah. Forgot to tell you I left you a little going away present. Here is a dead rat."
Not a great picture but you get the idea. 
So then when a UK border control working dog sniffed out my bag in Heathrow airport in London I had to decide if I was going to explain this or not. I don't know why the dog selected my bag but it seems likely that it had something to do with it smelling rural Uganda. My bag got completely unpacked and I got thoroughly searched. They didn't find anything and eventually let me go on my way.  Maybe it had nothing to do with the rats but I think it may have. 

It was all a reminder of how security is a little different in the developed world. As I cleared airport customs in Uganda I didn't have to take my computer out of its case or even walk through a working metal detector. I figure I passed 9 security/customs checks and they became increasingly difficult. Chicago's were by far the hardest and the meanest and I'm an american citizen! I can't even imagine what it is like for foreigners.

Well, I've made it. It was several long days of travel (some funny stories there but I'll come back to that) and I'm having trouble turning my internal clock around but I'm really happy to be here. Ben and Cree brought their son up from PA so along with my parents, all my siblings made it to the airport. Even Levi and Shannon and their new son.   It was a really nice surprise. The whole family had dinner together- I had told myself that my family is busy, living in different states now, I would be content to wait until Christmas to have us all together.  But then we were the whole group again plus two babies. It was so nice to be welcomed back.   My nephew Izaac wasn't so sure about me but quickly warmed up. It was hard to send Ben and Christina back to their home last night but I'll get to spend some more time with them in PA in a few weeks.

I think I'm having a bit of reverse culture shock. I keep telling myself that I was away for less than two years but it still feels surreal to be here and strange thoughts pop into my head. I need to process yet but I'm sure you will get to read more about it in the coming days.

In two days I'll pack back up and head to a medical training in NC but then I'll be back and am looking forward to spending time with many of you!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Last night in Soroti

There I was, my last night in Soroti for a few weeks. I thought I'd be feeling sentimental or something. Instead I just felt mental and I found myself counting down the minutes. Power was out all day so when it came on that evening I was pleasantly surprised. I was making myself a milk shake for dinner after a very full day of getting a huge list of stuff done and feeling pretty pleased with the world. Then the power cut out again. I found the lantern in the dark and discovered that it didn't have any kerosene in it. So filled it and trimmed it and got it lit. Back to the blender to find that now all I had was some rapidly warming milk in a puddle of coco and sugar. Yuck. But that wasn't enough to wreck my evening. Heck, what was I thinking any way?! Milkshake in Soroti? Not likely. I could just wait until I got back to the states. It was then that the cat took off after the lizard that jumped out of the compost bucket that I was pouring my milk soup out into. The dog freaked out thinking that the cat was getting some food and she wanted her fair share so she jumped up on the chair to see what had the cat so excited. Well, the cat took off, knocking the bottle of kerosine off the table and all over the dog. While I tried to simultaneously blow out the candles, turn off the lantern and get the blasted dog off the chair the bottle of paraffin rolled across the floor spilling the remainder of its contents from one end of the room to the other. In the now very dark room I managed to get the rather worked up, stupid dog outside but not before she made three laps around the room tracking kerosine everywhere. Both the lizard and the cat had disappeared before I managed to find my one working flashlight. A few minutes later found me unsuccessfully mopping the floor. I tried adding omo (laundry soap) to the mop water but still felt like I was just smearing the paraffin around and it just made the mop harder to wring out. Besides I was getting a monster headache from the fumes and trying to hold the flashlight between my shoulder and cheek (have you ever tried to mop by flashlight?!) I eventually gave up and retreated from the overwhelming mess, outside to the gazebo with my book to let the house air out. The mosquitoes were eating me alive but I didn't want to try to find my bug spray in the dark so I decided to suck it up. I'd only been reading a few minutes when the flashlight batteries quit. So I just sat in the dark calculating how many minutes until I fly and wondering what I'd do with all that extra sanity I was going to have.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My last few posts have been pretty crumby and on top of that, as long as things go well, this may be my last post for a bit. I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that I want to do in the next few days. On top of that we are a big team again. I love it but that means we have things like team meetings that take a bit more time. And I want to spend time with these guys before I don’t see them again for another 3 months. So Friday and Saturday will be all the things that fall highest on my priority list, packing the car and getting ready to be gone for three months. Then Sunday I’ll drive to Jinga to pick up Beckie and then continue the rest of the way to Entebee. Then Monday morning I’ll board a plane! I have 14 hours layover in London then a few more hours in Chicago but eventually I’ll reach Grand Rapids. Honestly, I’m spending a really short time there before turning around and attending a medical training in NC. But I’ll be staying in Grand Rapids for most of November and December. I’m really looking forward to catching up with family and friends! See you guys soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quite a bit to do...

I think it has finally hit me that I only have about 4 days left in Soroti before I head back to the states for the next few months. I have so much left to do.  Besides the two half packed containers of stuff that people have given me to bring and a carry on that I've throw some things at as I remember odds and ends I want to bring back to MI, I have a mountain of stuff in my room that needs to be put back in its place. I should finish August and Septembers ministry expense reports and I have several people I want to visit, most of them kids that I want to check on one last time and a that meeting with Dr. Moses of CLIDE. There are a few presentations I need to work on, travel reservations to make, Christmas presents to wrap for Betty and Abella, last minute shopping to do…it all seems strange. I’ll be getting on a plane in just a few days. 

(Side note: Beckie and I had no problems getting our visas yesterday and we also got to spend an hour at the pool in Mbale. Thank you Lord!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Visas again...

Just sent out the newsletter.... I wish I knew how to put the PDF document here. But I don't. Sorry. E-mail me if you wanted to receive it and didn't. (kragtjen@yahoo.com)

One quick prayer request too. Beckie and I are minutes away from heading somewhere, Lira, Mbale, Mulaba, wherever,  to renew our passports.  I only need 10 days but Bec need quite a bit  more time. Please pray that my chocolate chip cookies (that are NOT  a bribe!) will show the appropriate appreciation and we can get the stamps that we need.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

You can eat that?

I love it when the kids bring me something new to try.....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Harvesting rice is fricking hard work! I found myself learning this lesson in a swamp just outside of Soroti around 7:15 this morning. For starters rice grows in mud. Deep mud. Mud that tries to swallow your legs like a stoned high school kid to a bag of Doritos.  This is a completely unrelated analogy but I blame it on the heat stroke I may currently be suffering from. The heat stroke is because rice stalks are a little like skinny green razors that have the ability to hone in on any exposed skin. You have to wear boots, pants and a long sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the sharp stalks. But you are standing in sun that is beating down on you like... sorry, no more random analogies.  And if you are in Uganda, which we are, you really should add a wrap over your pants to be more like a skirt, which is more ladylike. Though being calf deep in mud could be called a little unlady like in some parts of the world- but not here. That wrap makes the whole thing you are wearing up hotter. And if you are a weak white girl you have to add leather gloves too in order to protect your hands. Then you also should wrap your head. Not because you are with a bunch of muslim women, but because you have to pick up your full bucket of rice out of the mud and carry it on your head when it gets full and needs to be emptied and who wants all of that mud in their hair?!
That is a lot of rice. 
This is what ripe rice looks like. 
Beckie and Nuru harvesting rice. 
This is the foot and a half of muck that you stand in while harvesting. 
But, it was a nice day and the sun actually wasn't as relentless as it could have been and I didn't see any water snakes.  And being reminded once again of how hard these women work for just a little income is always good. One more note on the day: one of the women that we were working with was nine months pregnant with her due date 6 days away. She cut at least double what I did and carried her rice on her head.  One of the other ladies brought along her 2 month old daughter and did some of her work with the baby tied on. As if this work wasn't hard and hot enough as it is.

Monday, October 3, 2011


faintly remember in nursing school talking about measles for a few minutes during infectious diseases in pediatrics and again when we studied the immunization schedule.  That is about the extent of my education in this "eradicated disease". (In the states, even though some families decide not to vaccinate based on misguided trends, through community or herd immunity kids are well protected and we practically never see a case.) Here however, it is a different story. Immunization is done poorly and inconsistently consequently it is seen fairly often. So I’ve been trying to educate myself and be more prepared for the next fine, flat, red, full body rash I encounter.   Here, it is possible that up to 15% of cases die and even more result in complications like pneumonia, blindness and impaired mental development. This year our neighbors in the DRC (Congo) had a large scale epidemic and many died. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

God moment

Maybe some of you heard my 25 seconds at Remembrance Church this morning via skype. I was asked to share a God moment and I have to just give credit to God for how He works. Here is a little background. It seems like no matter how often I tell village churches that I’m not a pastor, that I don’t preach, that I am not prepared, that they still ask me to share a message every week. They wait until about an hour in (during the first third of the service) then call the “mazungo” (white foreigner) up front and ask for a sermon. They say “You just bring us a word.” And it seems like every week God has to remind me again how no matter inadequate and unprepared I am that He is able. All I have to do is be available.  Then He amazes me with what He speaks through me. This morning was the same. I had told Pastor Emedo yesterday that I wasn’t preparing to speak and wasn’t going to. But then this morning, just moments before the sermon is to start, he introduces a guest speaker. I looked around trying to figure out who it was. “Oh, it’s me.” I even got a little angry and from my seat in the congregation said “no.” But he said, “You come. They need to hear a word.” So instead of arguing more and making a scene I just got up. And then God gave me everything. Tell them how I am their bridegroom. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that it doesn’t matter that they have prostituted themselves with other things. Tell them that I will redeem them.  I shared from Hosea and talked about how redemption saves us from the punishement that we deserve. Then we had a time of confession that was Holy Spirit driven. It was all completely a God thing. I had gone with a bad attitude and was unprepared, but God somehow used the little that I had to offer.  After the service, two different women told me of how they had never heard of God as their bridegroom before. Even the pastor asked me to show him those verses. And I need to thank God that even though I've had no bible training, that 27 years of growing up in a faithful, God focused church has given me more quality education than the majority of pastors here. I'll try harder to be a more willing servant in the future. Thank you Lord for using me. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bike ride

The Ride for Refuge 2011 Soroti Edition was a tremendous success!
The whole crew that rode at our half way point. 
The Team Beyond team!
Bikes are a commodity so many shared one. 

Necessary repairs at the roundabout in Kamuda.
Resting in the shade after the ride. 
The day was really fun and made more impactful by riding half of it with these youth who are really  considered vulnerable. These are the ones that we are riding for!  Tim, Steve, Beckie, Jim and I started early from Soroti and rode about 16 kilometers into Kamuda where we were joined by the rest of our team and 20+  youth from the area who are impacted IT's ministry. Then we did another 16 kilometers with them to the lake and back.  Then the last 16 kilometers home. It was hot in the sun the last two legs of the trip and my two legs are about shot tonight but it was great. Thanks to all of you who participated in Grand Rapids or another of the 30 locations!!! Your ride was worth it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back in Soroti

The day started at 6 am.... lots of loading of 50+ totes onto and into 3 different vans. Then lots of travel. Then unloading a couple thousand pounds of stuff. I'm pretty sure there isn't enough motrin in this hemisphere to address how my back is feeling after all that. But just as I was ready to call it a night I find myself splinting the clearly broken arm of 4 year old Salumay. She fell (out of a tree?!) yesterday and they hadn't done anything yet but they found me walking home and asked if I could wrap it. This request was coming from her 6 year old sister. She was super tough and only flinched a couple of times as I put a splint on it. It made me feel like my griping about a little pain in my back was just whining.  Now at least I know what I'm going to be doing first thing- trying to get some plaster for her little arm.....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

That's a lot of stuff.

Just picked up 2 familes of 5 people and for a few hours our team numbered 20. We have some shopping around Kampala to do tomorrow and will begin the trek to Soroti tuesday with the Tiesengsa and Sliedrechts!
In the parking lot of the airport.
Loading their totes in the vans.

Unloading. That is a lot of stuff. 

Loading or unloading....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Little taste of Cheese!

We are on our way to Kampala to pick up Tim, Angie, Steve, Tanya and company. To break the drive a bit we stayed at a dairy farm run by a Dutch Hollander and his family who make fresh cheese and yogurt. Maybe not so many others find this as interesting as I do but I really liked it. Good cheese is really hard to get here and in  the near future I’m going to trying my hand at making it myself. It doesn't seem SO complicated. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

I which I try to hoe and eat too much food out in Obule

A good day to glimpse life in the village. No pictures though because the sun is getting hotter and unnecessary weight as I ride my bike is kept to a minimum.  Margaret (wife of one of the church leaders out in Obule) has been sick and thought she had malaria so I offered to come out and test her. As I arrived at their huts I found Charles milking their cow. Margaret said she was feeling much better and started making tea. Within minutes I found myself with a hot cup of chi (made with very fresh milk, of course.) They asked to use my bike to get their water for the day so I waited then we walked together over to the church. It was a work day meaning the women get together and work in the field that the church owns. There were about 10 women hoeing seriously while the sun beat down mercilessly on them. Their kids (maybe 12 of them under the age of 3) were sitting in the dirt on the edge of the field.  I spotted the pastor sitting amidst all those kids. This is both normal and abnormal culturally. Normal that the women are the ones doing the hard manual labor but abnormal that a man was helping out with the kids. I’ve been weeding my own garden this way and I know I’m not nearly as tough as them but I asked if I could help a little bit. When this was translated they laughed and laughed but got serious quickly when I picked up a hoe. There was no way they were going to let me! I insisted and clearly against all of their better judgment they let me. Margaret started working next to me and Charles when to join pastor Emmanuel in the shade. In about 30 seconds I had to wipe the sweat out of my eyes and Margaret asked me if I wanted to stop. I laughed and told her I was fine. Two minutes later I stopped to tie my hair back and again she asked me hopefully if I was finished. Needless to say I stopped after only about 10 minutes of work because I was worried that the others were going to stroke out if I kept going. We continued on to a neighbor’s house where they served more tea. I love tea so even though it was nearing 100 degrees I enjoyed my cup. Then I learned that we were having tea to give the women time to cook. I insisted they did not need to feed me (I hate it when I go out there to just visit and they cook this huge feast for me who does not need all that extra food when they themselves do need it but they want so much to share with me) but they insisted that I worked so I have to eat. I tried to explain that the 2x2 foot square of dirt that I hoed didn’t count was working but they weren’t having any of it. So I sat as the kids chased a chicken and then beheaded it. I talked in the shade with the ladies. As is becoming a regular custom they started asking me health questions and I willingly answer anything to the best of my ability. We’ve talked about a variety of things and today was no acceptation.  Malaria testing and treatment, fever in kids, what causes vomiting, pain during sex, what is best for newborns and the list goes on and on. I finally found a time after we’d eaten that it seemed like I could excuse myself and head home. It was about a 45 minute ride and I was more than ready to get out of the sun by the time I had reached my house. But it was a great day and I’m glad I went out there.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Candid pictures

I've spent a few days out at Elda’s place. She is the mother of the twins. It is harvesting season and she has a big field of g- nuts (peanuts). Because of the twins she is having a hard time getting her harvest in. The plants have been pulled up because if they are left in the ground too long they will germinate and be no good. So she went through and pulled them all up. But they are laying on the ground still attached to the plant so they are now being eaten by bugs and animals and will begin to rot if not picked and dried soon. Her kids are 5, 3 and the twins are 9 months. Because she has the added work of  “making milk” (she isn’t able to produce milk so she has to pasteurize cow’s milk, boil water to wash their bottles and gather lots of extra fire wood for all of this heating of things) she is having a very hard time keeping the harvest from spoiling. I thought I could help a little. Even if I’m a slow picker, I can feed and bathe the twins and do their laundry, allowing their mother to harvest. Neighbor boys who aren't in school were sent over to help (and watch the strange white girl) and they found my camera. I showed them how to use it and consequently discovered when I got home that I have some pretty funny shots. 
Maybe I should have been supervising more carefully. 
Clearly we have a future photographer on our hands as he so succinctly captures the moment.  
I don't know how they got her to make this face but it cracked me up! This is Achen Mary, one of the twins. 
The twins content while we pluck peanuts.
More peanuts.
These little boys kept bringing more and more from the field. Just when I thought we were nearing the end....
And then there is this guy. If you can't say anything nice.....
This is the father of the twins. He knew how hard his wife was working (since sunrise!)  and around 3 pm he came home staggeringly drunk. I wouldn't have taken his picture but he made the kids do it. So not only does he not do any work but be spends the little money on alcohol. I have to stop now before I say anything not nice. 

Art prize

Hey anyone around Grand Rapids who is going to Art Prize check out friend and fellow Soroti missionary's exhibit. It is called Orphans No More and it is at the big Lutheran Church on Michigan near the hospital.


"Orphans No More," by Timothy Sliedrecht at Immanuel Lutheran Church is a piece of "cross-world contributors'€™ hand and foot prints illustrating the impact the transformation and testimony of Ugandan youth who were child-soldiers."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Welcome back!!

Teammates, you are soon coming back! In celebration of your immanent arrival there are several improvements in Soroti. The the rolling power outs aren't quite as regular so we have power about 2 out of 3 days and nights and to add to the adventure we don't really know when they are going to be.  The rainy season seems to be over today as the high had to be around 100 degrees and it is still 85 degrees at 9pm. The ban on beef and goat has been lifted so we can get meat again. And they now sell chocolate chip cookies and spam at OM!! But as to assure you that you are still in Africa and that you don't get too comfortable right away we have been without city water for 4 days. Good news- your supply tanks should still be almost full and will last for a bit if you don't shower or flush the toilets. In what better way can the city of Soroti say welcome?!

I read something today that prompted this post. It said "When birds fly in the right formation they only have to exert half the effort".  I can't wait for you to come back so we have increased teamwork and I only have to work half as hard! See you in a few days!

*Not posted the day it was written

Right then- this one is going to be a pointless rant full of medical jargon and misdirected anger so feel free to just skip on to the next thing you want to do online right now. But I’ve got to journal about this so if you are still reading hang on. Yesterday, after spending the morning with Lazaro, I had a few other things I needed to do so planned to spend a few hours in town, checking some things off my list. Not to be. I got a cryptic phone call from the mother of little Adebo. The baby was really sick and they were at the clinic in town could I please come?  So, I dropped what I was doing and headed over to the clinic. I found them there and discovered that they have already seen the Medical Officer (MO) and were waiting for a malaria smear to come back. I joined them on the backless bench and tried to get a handle on the background. For more than the past week Adebo has had fever and is refusing to eat. She just cries and cries. They went to the clinic in the village where they put her on quinine drip. No malaria test, just straight to drip. I can’t stand that!! That crap is poison and no matter what the complaints or symptoms are that is what they use here. Anyway, Adebo got 3 doses over 2 days (I can’t figure that out either considering the correct way to administer it as a continuous drip so how did she have 3 doses?)    
As I take screaming Adebo from her mother I can feel her fever through her clothes. She is inconsolable. Her tiny body feels like it’s going to break she is so fragile and weak. She is nearly 11 months old now but I’m guessing she doesn’t tip the scale at 15 pounds. She isn’t hitting a single developmental milestone. (No response to her name, not sitting up independently, no sounds that resemble words, unable to eat anything besides breast milk…)  I knew when I first met her that she was going to be mentally handicapped but I had hopes that she would not be so developmentally behind. Add to that it is becoming apparent she is completely blind. 
Anyway, I looked at the paper she had been given and it was all incomprehensible gibberish. I asked one of the nurses if she would read it for me and she looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “I can’t read that!” So I tracked down the MO asked what he had written and what his plan of care was. Waiting on the labs. And in the mean time? A few minutes later he was back in his office and called them back in. An abrupt conversation took place in Ateso and then he yelled some comments out the door to a nurse. She guided us back to a room with some beds and told me the baby was being admitted and would get some medications while we waited. Good. Then I saw her drawing up, what’s that?, Valium?! Excuse me?! For the crying. Right. Not over my dead body. I was thinking a little acetaminophen. The nurse just walked out. I hadn’t even gotten an attitude yet!  With the baby on the bed I did my own assessment. Rales and crackles in all lung fields. Fever of 40.3 C (104.6 F). Unable to be consoled at the breast of her mother. Vomiting. Screaming and arching her back. Dehydrated. One more time I went to track down the MO. I asked him what he thought of pneumonia? How about bowel obstruction? Can we rule out meningitis? His response: Maybe I wanted to have the baby see the doctor?  Yeah. I think that would be great. Discovered that the doctor was out to lunch. Wonderful. So knowing that it was only 1pm and lunch break can easily last until 2:30 I tried to take a deep breath and remind myself that getting pissed doesn't help and waiting is a way of life. Amecet is next to the Dr's office so I walked over there to get the other nurse's opinion while we waited for the Dr. to come back. She didn't have much consolation for me but helped me put an IV in and start some fluids and give some stuff to bring the fever down. At least by the time the doctor got back from lunch Adebo had fallen into an exhausted sleep so he could wake her up and make her cry again. He confirmed with me that is probably wasn't malaria (though in the meantime we'd gotten a positive test back from the lab- ridiculousness.) He wanted to treat it as pneumonia and see what happened. It doesn't make me feel better when they say things that remind me that they have almost no quality education. An no resources at their disposal. 
Anyway, enough ranting. I guess I just ran out of steam.

*It has been a few days and I've gone out to see Adebo. She is eating again but still feverish. I've put her on Septra (Bactrim) for the rest of her life and we'll see what happens. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The gears just aren't meshing.

One of those days where life is just so much  more frustrating here than, well, than a lot of other places. I'd planned to go out to Obule but in the first 10 minutes the chain on my bike wrenched off three times. At that rate it was going to take me hours to get there so I called them then turned back toward home.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume this might have something to do with it. (I'm pretty sure the gear teeth are supposed to go in the chain, not next to it.) So I took the bike to the mechanic who said no problem, he could fix it. He then proceeded to hit the gears with a hammer to get the teeth to line up again. Right then, not what I was thinking. So after asking about replacing gears instead of just pounding on them and hearing that it was going to take more than 150,000 USH in parts I decided to wait and see if a better idea comes to me. The issue is that fixed gear bikes are the norm here. There are bikes around that have cogsets and derailleurs but they are pretty uncommon and most often they don't work well, probably because parts cost an arm and a leg and they try to fix them by hitting them with a hammer. So I went from there over to the electrician who is "working" on my inverter.  (With the power coming and going all the time it would be really nice to be able to charge things off our car battery again.) He has been "working" on it for more than a week now so I go everyday to see how it is coming along and I've never actually seen him working. Last week he was going to go to Kampala to get the parts. Today he was back in the shop but told me he couldn't work on it as he was too tired after traveling to Kampala and back and that I could come back again to check tomorrow.
So from there over to the bank- ATM isn't working. Then to the book store- no English bibles in stock. At this point I realized I was accomplishing nothing so I was just going to head back home. That's life here. One would think it wouldn't surprise or frustrate me anymore. But it still does. I just want one thing to take LESS time than I thought it would.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Went for a walk this evening with team mates and had dinner and worship on the top of the rock outside Soroti. It is always a bit of a challenge to get to the top but well worth it. Once up there we started a fire, grilled up some meat and veggies and had a great picnic dinner.
Show me a restaurant with that kind of view!