Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ostrich steaks?

A chart I found today... the value of raising ostriches compared with cows:

Gestation/ Incubation period
42 days
280 days
Offspring per year
Period from conception to slaughter
407 days
654 days
Meat (kg)
Leather (m2)
Maximum breeding age (years)

Funny that the chart doesn't mention that ostriches don't produce milk.And who knew they had so much more skin than a cow?! It makes them sound pretty good. Possibly a different income generating activity? 
(Disclaimer- Just in case anyone any one didn't catch on to the sarcasm- there is a lot of it in this post.)

Money Issues

Couple of things on my mind that I'm milling over today, both having to do with money-
"Tata" (Grandma) with the twins.
  •  I went out to see the twins, who are doing really well. They are growing and looking healthy. Lack of milk is still their biggest issue. I was talking to their mother about milk for next month and doing a little math.  Milk from the cow is sold at 400 shillings a cup (about 20 cents). The twins each need 4 cups a day. So eight cups times 400 shillings equals 3,200 shillings a day. Times seven days a week.  That is 22,400 shillings a week and 89,600 for the month (if their amount of milk doesn’t go up, which it will.) So 89,600 shillings for just milk in the month of April. The average monthly income for people with a good job receiving a regular wage is 50,000 shillings. And Apeo and Ochen’s father is a drunkard and their mother cares for them and the other kids, works in their garden, gathers firewood, carries water… all good things but none of them income generating.  
  •  Dorcus came over to the house yesterday and said she wanted to talk. All of her money that she had made on banana bread had been in her bag and had been stolen out of it.  She has a little sugar and eggs left but needed to get more oil and flour. She had 38,000 shillings saved (about 19 dollars), now nothing. She was so worried that I would be mad at her. I’m not mad- I know that kind of thing happens here. But frustrated and ticked. This girl is trying so hard to make this work. Who would steal it from her!? It has to be someone that knows her, knows this project and knows that she would have money. Possibly someone on who is better off than she is because you can’t be much worse off. She had used some of her profit to get food for her younger siblings and a mat for her grandmother to sleep on.  
So much of what we do has to be a hand up, not a hand out. But it is far easier to just give money and not try to figure out how to create something sustainable. And then when we do the work and come up with something that seems sustainable,  we discover we have to rework it and rethink it all several times. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lake Vic Tri

The competitors were all supposed to arrive at 6 am for sign in/ registration. So knowing better and in good Ugandan fashion Jillian and I set our alarms for 6am and arrived at the venue around 6:30. There were a few other athletes milling around but clearly no one registering.  This is a bit of what we saw. 

This was the venue so the chaos didn’t surprise us at all. 
No, all joking aside, there had been a bad storm in the night and the tents blown were all over the lawn of the very nice hotel. They were working hard to get it all put back together. The race was supposed to go off at 7 and even under the best conditions, this is still Africa and that wasn’t going to happen. The first competitors hit the pool around 8:00. The race used to take place in Lake Victoria (hence the name) but due to schistosomiasis it now takes place in chlorinated water. Jillian and I were in the third heat so after a lot of waiting we finally took the pool. There were 5 people in our lane which was about 4 too many. So being exceptionally motivated to get the heck out of the pool I swam harder than I’ve ever swam before. 
That is me there in the yellow swim cap
Out of the pool in record time and headed for the transition zone. I’m so embarrassed to admit it but somehow between Soroti and Entebbe I lost my running shoes, however sandals go on quick. Helmet and singlet on and out of the exchange zone while others were still struggling with socks and wet feet. As I hit the bike course I found myself right in the pack of fast men who had started with the earlier group of the Olympic distance and had finished their first lap and just beginning their second. Using their momentum I swung in behind them and figured I’d just hold on for a little while. But one by one they dropped back and I didn’t feel like I needed to down shift quite yet. Before I got half way I found myself alone on hills (parts were REALLY a mountain bike course!) behind the airport.

52 minutes minus exchange zone for a 20 K ride
works out to roughly fifteen 3 minute miles!
Having no idea what kind of pace I was holding (Uganda killed my watch months ago and there were no mile markers or aid stations) I just kept pushing. My legs were burning and I was really ready to let up but I figured I’d just push a little bit more then allow myself to recover in the second transition and the first kilometer of the run.  Finally, I was back within sight of the transition zone. I heard my number called out then “first female”.  Huh?!? I had no idea! Come to find out I’d been one of the first three females to leave the
I was covered in mud by the end of the ride.
 pool and we all got out within seconds of each other.  I’d been out of transition before any of the rest. I just figured there were others ahead of me who’d gotten out of the water and on to the bike before me. Crap! So that shot down my idea of recovering in transition. I tossed the helmet and was back onto the course before the wheels of my bike were done spinning.  Then the mental games began. What if I misunderstood? Do I really want to push this hard? How far back is second place?  The legs are already toast after the fast swim then the hills on the bike, can I really even hold a pace?!  But why not give it a try. So I buckled down and figured I’d see what I could manage. Running is the part I’m most prepared for anyway right?!? Well, I passed a couple of Olympic distance men (kind of fun to blow past those guys if you don’t think about the fact that they are running twice the distance you are) and I think I was holding about a 7 minute mile pace. I would have liked to pick it up but the wear of the sandals and a little buildup of lactic acid in the calves was holding me back. Then was passed by one little Kenyan guy who looked like he was taking a walk in the park and I decided I had to let up a little. I’m guessing mile two was around 9 minutes. The last couple of kilometers were a little better and that’s it. Three guys finished ahead of me so fourth overall and first female. Crazy! One hour, twenty eight minutes.
Wow, I'm going to hurt for the next few days.

 * I huge thanks to Jillian's awesome friends for taking these great pictures and being the best cheering section I've ever had! Stijn, Jessica and Iliara- you guys rock!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Roughing it

I’ve done some backpacking in the late fall/early winter of Michigan. We carried at least 40 pounds on our backs, had to pitch our tents deep within the dunes to stay out of the freezing wind, get water from the lake and filter it, gather enough fire wood in the day to keep the fire burning all night and generally really rough it. I loved it. 
One would think I would be prepared to “rough it” here in a village in Uganda. But I’m learning it is a very different kind of rough. I have no problem referring to living in the peace village as “roughing it” even though someone else will go get water for me and carry it on their head for a kilometer or two. Someone besides me will gather our firewood, food is even mostly prepared for us. (They made a very fine meal of a little rabbit that was killed for dinner last night.)  So why is it rough? We sleep on the ground in a grass thatched shelter. We bath by the light of the moon. We don’t have a table or chairs with backs. We smell like campfire smoke at the end of the day and use a lantern at night. Well, we could use a lantern if we can tolerate all of the bugs that swarm. But none of this really makes it rough in my mind. What is the difference? Dr. Val says (and I'm sure she is right because she always is! ) it is hard because it is frontier living.  But the frontier is of the mind. In the village it is the mental challenges that make it hard to cope. For me it is always being stared at, watched, scrutinized- ALL THE TIME. From 6 am to 10 pm. It is the language barrier. I have no idea why people are yelling, what they are saying when they are pointing at me. I'm here to do a job but I can't communicate!  There is a cultural barrier- for example the fear of violence all the time. Being grabbed, shoved, pushed or worse if I do or say something they don't like. They jump when they are happy and wear clothes that well, make me feel uncomfortable (mostly it is the lack of clothes actually.) So it is roughing it in one sense- challenges that leave me weary at the end of the day and seeking solitude in a community that has no idea what being alone means. And roughing it in another sense- the backpacking/national park sense. Fun for a long weekend or week but kind of hard over the long term. 
For me, I can still think of life in the village as camping. Because at the end of the time, however long it is, I pack up and head home. I can go back to a place where life is easier and more comfortable. More protected. Soroti has mental challenges too but they are not as intense and I have a retreat.  But I must keep in the front of my mind this is life for the people around me.  They aren’t camping and they are frontier living.  In the most physical sense. So I need to continue to think of it as “roughing it” with the regular reminder that it is life for them. Life is hard. But more than because they sleep in the dirt of the ground. They get sick from their water. Their diet doesn’t have enough vitamins. Human defecation is all over the ground and many of their children will die before they reach 5 years old.  I'm roughing it in one sense and they are in another.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I love how God uses things I’ve learned in the past. For example I was involved in camp in the summer for so many years I’ve lost count. (17?) Some afternoons in Soroti I feel like I’m at camp again. 20 kids (occasionally more) in the yard, I find myself using many of the skills and things I learned while doing camp. My experiences in NICU, fundraising in high School, struggles in Burkina Faso, so many of these events in my past- I see the lessons that I learned and now I see myself applying them. Some of those experiences, at the time, I couldn’t help but wonder a why. Then I open a new chapter and see how God has used what I was learning in the previous chapters.
So that makes me look at  life now. What am I learning at this time that I’ll be applying down the road?  I spend an awful lot of time hanging out with veterinary doctors and eating rats. How do you think this will play out in later life chapters?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


We’d been here in Nakyot for about 2 minutes when asked the first time for medicine. We are about 26 kilometers from the “main road” (a washed out dirt track) and hours from a reasonable clinic that will have supplies and a doctor. Especially considering these folks travel on foot most of the time. So the nearest place is days away.  There are thousands of people who live in 8 villages, all within sight of where we’re staying. Parasites, malnutrition, malaria, and diarrheal diseases are all prevalent.   Some times of the year there is no clean drinking water. There are no sanitation facilities, no schools and certainly no clinics. Why am I surprised that I’m already being asked for help and meds? While unloading the truck a woman came up to us with an obviously displaced shoulder and asked for help. Judging by the atrophy of the bicep I’m guessing it’s been displaced for a while. Kids have painfully distended abdomens, festering wounds and a tremendous number of other issues.  The felt needs are so intense that to start to treat only causes riots.
This evening, as the sun set we sat down with 6 village health workers from the area and discussed what could be done. These VHW’s have been given medical boxes by the government and are stocked with a few doses of amoxicillin, a very little Artamether, several packages of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), and some zinc tablets. That’s it. And all for children 5 years old and younger. They have been taught that if the child has a cough give the amox. If a fever give the artamether (for malaria), if diarrhea give the ORS and zinc. Dr. Val and I had brought a few other meds so they were divided between the VHWs to give as people need. But it seems so discouraging. I brought quality malaria treatment but I expect most of it will be misused.  They don’t have a way to test, they just figure if a person is sick it must be malaria. There isn’t much critical thinking- like no fever and the pt has a cough so it is probably something else.  I would have liked to test people for malaria and evaluate to use the meds so that they have the best impact. But there are so many reasons we just can’t do it that way. The mindset of the people is the biggest issue. If we started to test and hand out meds 100’s (literally) would come and demand help also. They wouldn’t understand if we tried to tell them that they didn’t have malaria. They see their needs as just as great and how dare we help another but not them. They quickly tend toward violence, both with each other but also toward us. We didn’t hand out any meds and I was still grabbed and had people demand help as we walked through the village. I put a dressing on the foot of one of the men who helped unload materials from the truck and before I could even finish I had 6 others shoving their sores and wounds in my face. One mother snatched the tape, seized my arm and tried to drag me from the truck. Later she brought a child to me with a wound on his face. I’m sure she just wanted me to help her son but it is so hard not to just throw up your hands when they start yelling, grabbing and get so physical. I want to badly to have compassion on their situation but they can be hard to love.  
This trip was simply to lay some ground work. I’ll be teaching and supplying the VHWs so that they can begin to better meet the needs of the people a few days a month. But I feel like that is so meager. They really can’t assess, they have practically no education. How is this going to make a difference in the health needs of the community?! And then I begin to feel so overwhelmed….

Friday, March 18, 2011

Enjoying being home

So, I was planning to head to Karamoja yesterday. It was kind of a let down when I got a phone call that there were some issues in the peace villages and it would be better if I not go right now. But, as I like being in one place for more than a day a half, I got over the let down quickly and it is refreshing to be home in Soroti. Because the rains have started I planted all sorts of things in the garden, mucked out the chicken coop and did other fun projects. Betty came over after school and did some addition flash cards.  She tries so hard but...                      "4+5=?"
"Nope 9"
Betty and I feel about the same way when it comes to math. 
Today, I'm running low grade temps and feeling like I was hit by a cement truck so doing mostly nothing except catching up on e-mails. Really, this is a pretty useless post except to say I'm not really doing anything. Thanks for checking though.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Quick update:

  • I got a visa for 3 more months!!! We had to go through immigration 4 times (out of Uganda, into Kenya, then back out of Kenya and back into Uganda) and though I wasn't really fearful that getting out would be a problem, I did anticipate some hassles. And I really expected to have some difficulties getting back into Uganda. But all 4 times Dr. Val just walked in with our passports (Heidi's too) and while we stayed out of sight, she got the stamps that we needed. This makes very little sense to me as one would think I would be less likely to get the paperwork that is needed if I'm not there but both God and Uganda work in mysterious ways and I'm all set for a few more months.
  • We are traveling out to Nakayot (the peace village) later today! We'll spend at least one night there, probably more. It's going to be great to make some plans for the future, meet people and of course spend more quality time with Dr. Val! :-)
  • The triathlon is 10 days away. I'm looking forward to it with some serious trepidation!  I was able to get in 3 good swim workouts while in Mombasa but that brings me to a grand total of 7 swims. Crazyness. The running should be fine but the bike is "in the shop" as I type... my will is current. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mombasa in March

Well, this is another one of those adventures that I could spend days writing about but as I'm planning on leaving for Karamoja tomorrow you don't have worry about reading all of that. Mostly I think I'm going to use pictures to describe our adventures.  Worth a thousand words right?
We drank out of coconuts quite a bit...
Dr. Val and Heidi. Notice their straws are sticks.
All of that quality time together in the sun produced some pretty funny evenings.
Treating sunburn with freshly picked aloe leaves.

Meals were varied and plenty interesting.
Juice in a little produce shop in Mtwapa.
Fish, octopus, chicken, vegetables and bananas cooked in the fire and served on a palm frond table.
The cooks of that meal.
Our days were spent wandering on the beach seeing what kind of trouble we could find.

There were of course other things we did during the day-  like befriending the beach combers, hunting/gathering food, sitting by the pool and learning Swahili. 
I wonder if this can be eaten?
Overall, I think we all had a great time. I really didn't want to say goodbye to Heidi but it was time for her to head back to the states.  Heidi- I'm going to miss you!!!
I head back up to Karamoja with Dr Val tomorrow.  So the blog may be quiet again for a bit....
(* if you really want a play by play of our trip Danielle did a better job than I did. Her blog post is here-

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh Nairobi, to think, just a few days ago I was so impressed with this city. It is still in a third world country. We are sitting in a little restaurant after having serious difficulties finding a bus that is going into Uganda in the near future (the next few hours) We need to hit the border to clear immigration before 7pm. And we are about 8 long hours from there. Then Heidi and Val will hurry on to Kampala then Entebbe to get Heidi to the airport in time for her flight home and I’ll try to find a means to return to Soroti. However, that breaks one of the team rules of traveling after dark.  But what is worse, staying in a city I’m not familiar with or trying to push on home?  Right now I have a few calls out into the “missionary network” looking for possibly a private hire I could take safely or another missionary who has a place I can crash on the floor for the night in either Busia or Mbale.….

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Oh where to begin… this has not like any vacation I’ve ever taken. But, by now I’ve traveled with Dr. Val enough that it shouldn’t surprise me! J It is hotter by far than Soroti so at least home will feel cooler when I get back. We are staying in a classy resort but living in the dorms, on the budget plan with a 15% discount because Val is amazing when interacting with Ugandans. The up/down side of the budget plan is that it doesn’t come with meals. And we don’t like doing the tourist thing. So we’ve befriended some beach combers who sold us some fish, an octopus, a coconut, and a chicken and then built a fire and killed, cleaned then roasted it all for us last night for supper.
I have so many other stories but internet isn’t great… I promise more in the near future with lots of pictures.
One more time I’d like to ask you to pray. God has richly blessed us up to this point in so many ways.  Tomorrow we travel again- back into Uganda. Please pray for generous immigration agents. Also it has been so restful to be on vacation but I feel like I’m not spending the time with God that I should. He has so much in store for the near future and I need to be drawing close but I allow myself to get distracted. I’m reminded over and over again it is about relationship with Him. It isn’t about what I do or my plans for the future or about how I ask or about being good enough or about anything else except getting to know Him and allowing Him to work in my heart. But that takes time and if I’m not setting aside time to be with Him then I’m not being faithful to what I’ve been called to.
Thanks again so much for praying for me! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Kenya

Sitting in Nairobi right now. Feels like I’m not even in Africa. Tall, well-kept buildings, nice food, internet cafes.  We are just waiting for the night train to continue on to Mombasa. Travel up to this point was uneventful by Ugandan standards. Around 11 pm we hit a police check and the whole bus emptied. We stood outside, in the bus’ headlights in quiet, single file lines men and women.  They searched the bus, then patted us down and checked everyone’s travel papers. Then we all got back on. We stopped to change a flat tire around 2 am and arrived around 5:30am. I had no trouble at all in immigration (Dr Val took all of our papers up to the counter and Heidi and I stood where we couldn’t be seen while she talked nicely to the folks.) Piece of cake. Thanks everyone for praying! On the 13th I'll cross back into Uganda. I would love to get a 6 month visa at that time.  It will be asking for a miracle. For now I'll  just enjoy hanging out!  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Headed to Kenya!

I'm sitting in Mbale, waiting for my travel companions and the next bus at a restaurant called “Wimpy Hotel”. (Can’t make this stuff up.) They have power and a place to sit so I’m going to try to catch up. This trip will be with Dr. Val and Heidi before Heidi leaves to head home to the states. The timing was necessary for me to be leaving Uganda anyway and I jumped at the chance to travel with them. The evening/night bus will take us to Nairobi where we will spend part of the day and then get the night train from there putting us in Mombasa by Thursday morning. We plan to spend a few days enjoying the beach and relaxing before heading back into Uganda.  I’m looking forward to planning more with Val about the work in Nakayot (the peace village), swimming in preparation for the tri, hanging out with Heidi and her friend Danielle and just being on one of the most amazing beaches God made. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Headed to Kenya!

I’ve had this nice update in my head but I’m currently typing in the dark with less than 10 minutes of power on my computer battery. So here is the down and dirty-
I head to Kenya tomorrow morning. I would really like a Kenyan visa to travel to Mombasa with Dr. Val and Heidi. However, more importantly I need to re-enter Uganda to get a new Ugandan visa. I remain on a tourist visa while working on a work permit. I’ve been here a year now under this situation and they don’t really like it. Will you pray? We’ll be doing a lot of traveling these next few days and needing to pass through immigration points and security checks. 
Stay tuned for pictures and stories (when I get back- possibly early next week!)

Friday, March 4, 2011


Finally! After some challenges we have one oven finished! 
This is Dorcu's home. The oven is the cement structure on the bottom left of the picture. She plans to be gin making banana bread tomorrow
We sat together this afternoon for about two hours, talking about expenses, profit margins, buying and selling. We set up an account book and then went through a variety of scenarios and discussed costs and quality. I think she is ready to start her business.  
I've got high hopes...

A look at their charts

My usual source of inspiration for blog material, my journal, had been decidedly uninspiring these past few days. So today the blog material is coming from my charting. That’s right; as much as I hate it, for the past 6 or 7 months now I charting a little when I go out to see the kids. Mostly it’s because I can’t remember who needs me to bring meds when, who had malaria last and when I need to follow up, that sort of thing. I have absolutely no fear of a HIPPA violation so here are two kids from the past week: 
3/1/2011 Routine check. Angelia along to translate. Job and his mother sitting outside when we arrived. Job looking well. Responsive to his mother. Per mother seizures fewer. Tolerating meds well but needs both phenobarbital and phenytoin for March. Discussed giving shillings for transport but mother requesting that I pick it up and bring. Reports that pharmacy won’t give more than a month at a time. Will attempt to get three months. States no other needs at this time.  

3/3 Meds obtained without difficulty (Awoja Rx) for March/ April/ May. Delivered. Mother away at market. Child being care for by aunt. Phenytoin 50mg BID, Phenobarbital 30 mg in AM. Asked to see old meds to confirm dose. Pt's aunt brought me an unlabeled bag of small while pills cut in half, a bottle of ARVs and a bottle of Tylenol Arthritis. Asked for any others- she states there are none. Asked to see record from hospital- states that she doesn't know where it is. Asked when Job's mother is coming back- also unknown. Left sugar and soap and promised to return. 
3/4 Angelia along to translate. Job sitting outside in chair with his mother. Tolerating chair well. Looks like strength is improving. Asked mother about meds and to see hospital record.  (Hospitals, clinics and offices here don't keep a patients' record. It is the responsibility of the family to keep all papers. Most have a 50 cent note book that they keep that medical personal write in- lab results, prescriptions, receipts- everything. Sometimes helpful, most often indiscernible.) The book confirmed the doses. Asked the mother where the meds were. She states the dilantin comes as 100's so she breaks them and puts them in in the ARV bottle. States that she is HIV positive with a CD4 count less than 400 so the bottle was hers. The unmarked bag is phenobarbital. Confirmed doses and times of medications with her. States no other needs at this time. 

3/1/2011 Routine check. Angelia along to translate. Arrived to find no one home. (No one under the age of 7 at least.) He is not looking good. Pale and losing weight. Found in the hut, wet in urine and old stool caked on his legs. Sores on his backside, open wounds on his legs.  Large puss filled ulcer on left side of his head. Wound on head looks bad. Gave him a bath and debrieded the sore on his head. Cleaned legs, backside and head with iodine. Packed head wound with abx ointment and dressing applied. (I’d like to start abx but no one to give directions to).  Neighbor arrived. Reports that Lazaro’s mother is “away” looking after her husband. Has been gone since Sunday. Young boys caring for Lazaro. Lazaro fed with glucose/protein biscuits. Clearly hungry and thirsty. Ate well and attempted to feed himself. Considered admission to Amecet. Called Else (director) and she said without an adult to sign she can’t admit him but willing to come out in the afternoon to follow up.  

3/3  Arrived to find an older sister around the home. Lazaro alone in hut. Dirty bandage still on head. Wounds draining. Dressing removed. Wounds cleaned and re-applied. Pt appearsnto have been fed and bathed. Attempted to explain abx but no one around who spoke English. Pt remains afebrile.  Given beans for children.

3/4 Angela along to translate. Lazaro outside with his mother when we arrived. Wounds again cleaned and redressed.  Wounds on buttox and legs looking better. Head ulcers still open and draining. Started on Bactim. 8mg/kg/day q 12  hrs for 7 days. Discussed with his mother to clean twice a day and keep flies off. Also attempted to discuss leaving him alone for days at a time. Pt’s mother says she doesn’t have anyone who will care for him and she can’t tie him on her back. Asked if there is a neighbor or anyone she could ask. She says she will try next time.

*Pt’s father also present. Looking good considering he was demon possessed two days ago.  (This is the reason that they told  me the mother was not around.) Complaining of right sided back pain, pain with urination. He was able to produce a urine sample. No frank hematuria but cloudy and foul smelling. Given course of cipro. Instructed not to let children take it and go to a clinic if doesn't improve. 

Lazaro, Angela and I. Not a picture from these visits but a visit a few months back. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anyone around Soroti looking for a sweet little pet?

I have no idea why I'm such a sucker for cats. I love all animals but cats are possibly my favorite. A few neighbor kids and I heard a dog fight going on outside  my gate and upon investigating we found a kitten clinging to a tree inches above a pack of jumping dogs. There isn't a doubt in  my mind that these dogs would have literally torn the kitten to shreds. As a matter of fact, as hyped up as the dogs were I suspect that this little one's mother or siblings.... but I don't want to think about that. 
I'm estimating he is about 5 weeks old. He is still a very messy eater so I'm thinking that he is just now weening. (I'm pretty sure he is a he but I've been wrong once before and when they are this young...) He can't stay here though because  I think if Beckie comes back and finds another cat I'll find that we're both thrown out!

How can you say no to this face?!
He is the sweetest little thing ever! He loves being held and he is in the process of being house broken right now. He has a few cuts on his face from the dogs but they will heal. He is really playful but pretty uncoordinated- lots of fun! I've given him meds and a bath. No ticks or worms. He is looking for a good home- Jillian? Sherry? Andrea? There has to be someone who wants him!