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!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


These pictures were taken around my house today. Some days feels it feels a little like I’m living in a subscription of HGTV.
I weeded around my pineapples and banana and orange tree. Then I made fresh squeezed juice.
Though more often than not it is actually more like Animal Planet around here.
These guys are perched on the grill, does that make it more like The Food Network?
Actually, Comedy Central might be the most accurate. 
These are all the girls in their undergarments doing their wash. Joyce has only boxers on, Janet is only wearing a slip and Vicky has men's boxers and my t-shirt because she seemed a little old to be shirtless. But they don't have enough clothes to wash and wear at the same time. 

The funnest part of all of this is that I haven’t seen any Food Network or Animal Planet or Comedy Central or HGTV  in nearly nineteen months. But who needs them when I live it day after day?!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ride for Refuge 2011!

It's that time again! That time when I write a bunch of times about some bike ride that takes place somewhere that raises money for something and I know, I know. I lose a lot of you about this time. 
This is an awesome way to really get involved in what I do here without a $2,000 plane tickets and a bunch of shots to travel!
At least consider it ok? 
What are you doing October 1st? I know, we are all busy but can't you make a few free hours?
Do you own a bike? Can you borrow one? 
Thats it! Come and ride!  
More info here! At least click the link and see the fun pictures. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I like being a nurse! I had the opportunity to remember that today. I was planning on heading out to the village this morning but just couldn't drum up the energy. So  when I got a phone call from the dutch nurse at Amecet I was free.  She said she had a couple of sick kids, and she needed to go with the one at the hospital so could I come over for the other? I got report- my patient today was Immaculate. She is a 12 year old girl who weighs about 21 kg from extreme neglect and TB. She is HIV positive and her CD4 count is 1.  Today our concern was based on her symptomatic hbg of 4.  When I arrived she was sitting in the bed is the treatment room crying.  Her IV just would not flush for me. So we dc'd that one and got her set up with a new one.  Then we got a unit of packed RBC's running. (This seems strange- Amecet is a baby shelter.  Not a clinic or medical facility. I was running blood. No IV pump, just mentally calculated drip rates. No charting. No recorded vitals, just observation. My nursing really has changed a lot in two years.) Anyway, got her comfortable in the bed, set up with some music and some chocolate that I had in my bag. She fell asleep and was still sleeping a few hours later when I reported off.

*Thanks to Ella, a volunteer at Amecet, for these pictures.

Well, that was fun!

It was going to be so simple.....

I had mentioned a week ago to a church leader in one of the village churches that I’d like a little video time of their kids worshiping. But as I didn’t want to be a distraction during church I asked if the following week we could just have the kids sing a little more after the service was finished.  They happily agreed and I was looking forward to it as the kids in this church dance, sing and generally have a great time when they are worshiping. I also mentioned it to Jim (a team mate) and he said he had a friend who donated this great recording equipment that we could use. Thinking it would give me a better sound quality than the little handheld camcorder, I said sure. We arrived to church on Sunday and discovered they had put together a 150+ child choir, 6 adults on instruments and another 20 or so adults directing and singing. They had rehearsed and there was choreography. Needless to say it wasn’t exactly what I was thinking. But as I’m getting better at rolling with the punches we just went with it. I video recorded outside then we went inside the church and had them do their program again so Jim could capture the sound. It is something alright and you can all look forward to seeing it when I come back to the states.

Only a little change

October 2009

Sept 2011
Two years, a few hundred miles and we all have better tans.....

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Stick a folk in me, I'm done"

or alternately titled  "I'm out like the deaf kid playing musical chairs."
It's been a really long day. I'm exceptionally tired tonight. But I feel funny going to bed as there is a muslim on our front porch slaughtering a chicken, John the guard is telling me his “pockets are dry” (but I've already advanced him his wages for the 15th and we haven't even reached the middle of the month so I'm in the house hoping he'll just go away) and my dinner is ready in the oven and I'd like to eat. It is just a sandwich as I was too tired to actually make something. But I'm hungry and I'd really like to be consuming it none the less.  However, I feel funny eating it with all these people around and I have nothing to offer them. So it is hiding in the oven. And the power just went out. Great. Some days I'm just ready to be done. Tonight is one of them. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I went out to visit Lazaro again today. He is doing as well as can be expected considering he is a 4 year old who will never walk and possibly never talk or even feed himself. He is as healthy as he ever is and was cleaned and fed when we arrived.  His mother informed me that his father left, married a new woman and is refusing to come back so she is alone caring for 12 children, three of whom are physically and mentally handicapped. She says there is  no food and none of the kids can go to school. When I look at this family in the midst of the whole picture of struggling families in Uganda, all those hungry kids, all the physically and mentally handicapped, all the fathers that have abandoned women with the children they have sired....
I pray and try to remind myself why I'm here. I'm here to spread the love of God and the hope I have in Him. I like remembering this story that I heard years ago.

A gentleman was strolling along the beach just at the waters edge.
After he had walked for sometime he came upon several starfish that had been washed up on shore and then left behind by the tide. The man stopped and looked at the starfish a moment and then shook his head when he thought of the fate of the starfish, for they would all surely die if left out of the water for long. He then continued his stroll along the waters edge. After he had walked a bit further he came upon a young boy. The boy was furiously picking up starfish that had been left by the tide and throwing them back into the sea. The man watched the boy for several moments, then spoke to him. "You can’t possibly save them all. So why bother ? It won’t matter."
The boy paused, a starfish in hand, and thought about the man’s words. He looked out at the sea and then down at the starfish in his grasp. He looked up at the man and replied "Well, it matters to this one." and he threw the starfish back into the sea.
 Maybe you too are feeling overwhelmed. What can you do today that will matter to one?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor day from Uganda!

I just thought I'd post at the end of the day today because I made myself laugh. To "celebrate" I made us a nice fish and chips dinner. It was a great American British meal. Then to be patriotic we watched Entrapment. Oh wait. Sean Connery is British isn't he? (or Scottish- google wasn't sure).  And the movie isn't set in the states either. So here it is the end of the day and I feel the need to somehow celebrate the economic or social contributions of workers in the United States.   So I'm posting about how much I appreciate the prosperity and well-being of my country of nationality.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Behold the power of the written word

Growing up in a society where practically everyone is literate and every thing we do involves reading or writing I had no idea how much I'd taken written materials for granted. 3 instances over the past couple of weeks have driven home for me just how powerful the written word is.
At the workshop on the narrative of the bible we were  not allowed to write or read. Yikes! I had no idea how hard that would be. Memorizing and trying to quickly learn as I'm taught orally.  I will approach how teach the VHTs (only two are functionally literate) with a different structure and more importantly a different attitude in the coming weeks.
Abella was sitting in our house reading quietly the other day. It was a chapter book that she was so excited about! Her school doesn't have text books for every student (often not even for the teacher) and the concept of reading just for enjoyment is very foreign. I'd like to think Abella learned to read for fun from me and Beckie's example and I'm really glad she is enjoying it.  I love to read and couldn't imagine my life without that hobby. Now comes the challenge of finding reading material to keep up with her....
A little bit ago I gave away my copy of the book Where Their Is No Doctor" to the VHTs. They poured over that thing for almost an hour. Without my prompting they used it several times when they didn't know the answers to my questions.  It is written fairly simply and a few of them can use the majority of the book. I know they will have questions and won't understand some it it (for example reading charts and graphs, anatomical names and most diagnoses) but I can't wait to go back up there and address their questions. I feel like a book really opened some doors for them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Whoa- I’m really backlogged again. I have at least 6 partial posts stewing in the depths of my blogger dashboard but am having a hard time processing. That generally means I’m not running enough. I blame it on my broken toe though that really isn’t an excuse anymore. Which by the way is feeling much better.  I’m just feeling really drained right now. Not sure where to pour my time and energy, who I should be spending time with and the seemingly constant demands for money is so wearying.   

Back to School!!

I took a few of the kids "back to school shopping" yesterday and others again today. This is blog worthy because never before have I considered soap, petticoats and smearing oil necessary school items. But they are.  We got a mattress for Abella who boards at school.  You have to bring your own mattress with you and up to this point she has been sharing a bed with a skinny friend. We picked up pencils, pens and books of course but also socks, black shoe polish and underwear. Kids can be "sent" from school for almost any reason it seems. Parents can't afford shoes? Child gets sent home. No papers to write on? Sent home.
Schools here are supposed to be free. But the poor can't attend because they can't get the necessary supplies.  Also there are PTA fees, which, can you have PTA fees if you don't have a PTA?! And they have to pay to take exams. Then pay again to have those exams "marked" (graded). They have to purchase a school uniform which includes shoes. Can't attend if they don't have the uniform. I just poled the kids who are here. 9 kids. Only two of them have more than one uniform. And Joyce is still wearing last year's uniform which is more than a little too short for her.
This wasn't going to turn into a tirade. The system needs some work.
But school starts next week and that can't really come soon enough. Joyce, Opio, Manuel, Kenneth, Janet, Vicky, Ivan, Betty and Abella are all set.