Monday, April 30, 2012

Conspiracy theory or reality?

So I have this theory that I can’t prove at all but I really wish I could. Almost two weeks ago I was called early in the morning by Betty. She said that many in her “home” (the twenty or so rooms in the compound where she lives that house upwards of 100 people) were sick could I please come? She was really anxious as several in her house and many others near her were sick all night. The whole place smelled of vomiting and diarrhea. A few were feverish, some weak and dehydrated. Many complained of stomach pain and almost everyone had either diarrhea or vomiting or both. The one thing that I held on to while trying not to think of a cholera epidemic was that several had it a day or two already and were getting better. There was only one little kid looked like he needed IV rehydration. So I blanket treated everyone with metronidazole and ciproflacin (my go-to meds for anything diarrheal) and handed out packets of oral rehydration salts like they were candy. Then I took Betty aside (as she was not one who was affected) gave her a bottle of bleach, several bars of antibacterial soap and a disinfection 101 lesson. Following up later in the day I heard that two more had become sick but everyone had stopped vomiting and most were feeling a bit better. I kind of chalked it up to too many people living in too small of a space, all using one filthy latrine and I know for a fact that almost no one uses soap when washing their hands. Then my team started getting sick. Same kind of symptoms. Other ugandans that I know asked me if I could give them medicine for “running stomach” too. Tuesday afternoon I got a gut ache like nothing I’d ever had before. I’d had some success with mebendazole in those I had followed up with and at least when the symptoms were my own I could really start to narrow things down. I diagnosed GiardiasisAnd to affect that many it people seems like it was in the city water supply. But I had no way to confirm what I suspected. So I just encouraged everyone who talked to me to boil their water and told them that a 5 day course of mabendazole or metronidazole would help.  Then, when I get back from Kangole yesterday I hear that the city water has been shut off and that they are cleaning the main tanks and that it will be a few more days before they turn it back on.  Soroti's water comes from a large swamp and technically it is cleaned and chlorinated but I’ve learned that bleach doesn’t kill Giardia. Of course, there is no news. No one is telling anyone anything. No one is being told of Giardia or to protect themselves or if someone one has found something.  So I just still have only suspicions. But there they are. A strange bunch of coincides….

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The roads are still passable... for now.

I spent the weekend in Kangole. Betty and Abella are on school holiday so they came with me. I was honestly very fearful of the roads this trip. The rainy season has started in earnest in Soroti and I had heard that the rain had also come to Karamoja. Here are a few pictures of the road from past seasons: 
This bus (the best mode of transportation) got stuck on the way on the main road into Karamoja. 

That orange piece of equipment in the back ground is supposed to be helping the bus get out.
This truck got washed off of a bridge that seemed passable. 
At the time the water was over the bridge but only a little way up his tires. 
Thats a lot of sliding around. 
Which causes things like this. 
Which leads to traffic jams like this because the guy in the front  is either flipped over or in beyond his axles and  so no one else can pass either. 
See why I had some trepadation?! But this time the road was still easily passable. I even managed to drive it in 3 hours. (I REALLY need to stop trying to drive it faster every time!) It was nice to arrive in the afternoon to a supplied house waiting for me. We fired up the segeri and cooked up some pancakes. Betty and Abella are well used to my strange American eating habits now so they jumped right in. And they are clearly teen aged girls- the condition of my hut was quite a sight to behold. 
What a mess.

 We did get a bit of rain while there when we were fetching water from the bore hole. 
But you do what you've got to do. 
 Overall it was a nice, pretty low key weekend and I'm back in Soroti gearing up for another week. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A day in pictures

 I was going to do a week in pictures but today has enough of it's own. Besides, its Friday!!
The day started with this monster in my kitchen. This picture doesn't do it justice but he is as big as the bottom of this quart jar. 
Went out to visit Lazaro and give him this nice new sweater and blanket.
Discussed school for a while with his sister Sara, who was busy making baskets to sell before school holiday is over.
This monster I found while dropping off my translator. Killed by a 7 year old in a compound full of blind people

Then back home for some schoolwork with Betty while Solomon reads over her shoulder. 
Found myself adopted by the neighbor's cat this afternoon. As I have a rather large bug problem (see first picture) this is mutually agreeable.
Then over to the hospital where the youth pastor's child has been sick for too long.  This is Emmanuel and his son Abraham. I suspect that he has Schistosymasis so please pray for them.
Then home for dinner where some of us vigorously attacked a bunch of bananas.  Others of us ate more civilized. 

That's my day. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What am I doing here?

I’ve found myself wrestling, again, with what I’m doing here. It seems that this question rears its ugly head whenever I’m feeling discontent or like I’ve got the cruise control on. I’m coming to really see this question, this lack of focus, this mental disharmony in my mind, is from Satan. That seems a bit extreme but I know that it is true. The question implies that my calling was wrong or that God’s purpose isn’t right. Satan whispers this to my mind in order to take away my trust, because when I even humor the question I’m allowing myself to say there is a bit of truth in it, when in actuality there isn’t.
The good news is that I’ve begun to recognize it for the lie that it is and you counter a lie with truth. So I’ve been going to God and her has reminded me some things lately:
1.) Once again I’m being Martha instead of Mary. I’m too worried about doing, accomplishing, and being productive. I need to just sit at the feet of my teacher. 
2.)  I’m just here to live life.  In the words of my favorite author: “I believe that, at its simplest, a missionary is one sent by God to live a Christian life, usually amongst people other than his own. It is the living which counts. This may include formal preaching, but it will certainly include personal relationships, and these often have to be worked out under trying conditions.” – Dr. Helen Roseveare

So that’s it. Today I’m just trying to live. Tomorrow, just living honestly before God too. This will include living in front of people like Betty, who selfishly I don’t want to invite into my home day after day. It includes going out to Obule and having tough conversations. It includes loneliness and homesickness as my family plans a wedding and prepares for another birth. But it also includes this relationship with my Lord that I can’t even begin to explain. He answers when I’m struggling with something. He reminds me of His presence all the time. He shows me the wonder of His promises.
Well, now I’m rambling. That’s all for today. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fun times in Karamoja

Here is a fun antidote from my last trip to Karamoja:
This is a guinea hen
These are the three we were going to catch
Picture this- about 9pm Anne (CLIDE staff) and I remember that we need to catch Dr. Val's guinea fowl to bring them back to Soroti with us the following day. Chickens are far easier to catch at night so it seems logical that these hens will be too. We toss some sandals on and grab my flashlight (Anne doesn't have one) and start looking for the birds. We locate them fairly quickly considering how dark it was and find them roosting with the chickens in a thorn tree. Together we managed to grab one but one took off and the other flew higher in the tree. We knew we didn't want to try to get them in the morning so I agree to climb the tree to try to catch that one. Anne held the flashlight pointing at the bird so I could climb up. Climbing a thorn tree isn't easy, especially in skirt and sandals. I really almost had it when it took off. As they don't actually fly it had to run along the ground so Anne took off after it. Leaving me up in the thorn tree.  In the dark. Really dark. Really thorny. I actually stepped on several chickens on the way back down. And maybe I'm actually thankful that it was so dark because then no one could see every time I snagged my skirt on the way down. I'm sure if a light had been present my underclothes would have been reveled.

And a here are a few signs that made me laugh when we were visiting schools in Karamoja:

These signs were at many different schools. No wonder parents are confused!

Just in case you were wondering. 
And seeing as how we are already on the on the topic: here are some other things I saw at schools in Karamoja.  Paper/posters/diagrams tend to get spoiled quickly when chewed by rats or eaten by bugs. So they are painted on the outside of the school walls to be used as often as necessary.
Life cycle of some kind of bug

Diagram of a tooth and a uterus

Germination, water cycle and parts of a leaf

Human anatomy and two other things I couldn't identify

Last picture- How would you like to say you had gone to LOKODIOKODIO  Primary school?

A huge shout out to my awesome team!

I just have to do a post about my amazing team. While the RRC group was here Karen and many others went out of their way to help us out. Tanya made an amazing meal for our very large group. Ronnie did several sinks full of dishes and Margaret and Jim cleaned my house (which did more to improve my mental well-being than anything else I can think of!) Easter Sunday we all worshiped together and even though it isn't quite the traditions I'm used to it still feels familiar and comfortable (check out their blogs for stories and pictures). I love Team Beyond and I thank God for you all!!

The ongoing visa saga

Wow, I’ve neglected my blog. And I hate it when I’m this far behind- where do I even begin? I guess I’ll work backwards. The biggest thing on my mind is getting my visa renewed. Last week Thursday I expired so on my way back from Kampala I stopped in the Lira immigration office to get the stamp. When I was in the States 3 months ago I purchased a 6 month, multi entry for $100.  However, for some obscure reason when entering the country in January immigration only stamped it for 90 days. So, even though I have a valid visa until July I still have to get a new stamp. So Thursday I tried. The officer seemed like he understood and was going to do it until he paused and asked for $50 for 3 more months. “But I’ve paid already $100 for 6  months.” “Just $10 then. You paid them in Entebbe, now you need to give us something here.” Actually, I paid in Washington DC but not wanting to confuse the issue I didn’t say that out loud. He called his boss and after a very short conversation in Lugandan he told me he didn’t have the stamp as his boss had it in her purse and I should come back Monday. This was a crock of lies as I saw it right there on his desk. But as it had been a very long week and I still had nearly two hours drive to get home I just said fine. But I pointed out to him that by Monday I would be expired. He gave me his phone number and told me to call him if when I came back I had problems.  I also pointed out to him that Monday was a national holiday. He said he was ALWAYS in the office. It was getting deep in there so I left. Monday morning as I was loading the truck to begin the more than 3 hour round trip trek to Lira I was inspired to call him. He didn’t answer and the person who did pick up refused to give me her name or give the phone to him but kept insisting in broken English that immigration wasn’t open. “I KNOW immigration isn’t open but he gave me this number and told me to come today for the stamp. Is he around?” “Immigration isn’t open today.” “Right then. Tomorrow?” “Immigration isn’t open today.” So I made the prudent decision to not go and just ask for forgiveness on Tuesday. Which leads to today. I drove all the way up to Lira and went into the office reminding myself the whole way to keep my opinions to myself, just be nice, ask for forgiveness even if I’ve done nothing wrong, etc… I entered the office and they were all there.  There were all talking to each other over tea in a language I don’t speak so I just sat down quietly. Eventually, I got the eyebrows from the boss (a very Ugandan communication) so I passed over my passport. Without pausing in her conversation boss woman started looking over my passport. No joke, 15 minutes later they finally paused long enough to make eye contact with me and told me to go to Mbale. (Easily a 4+ hour drive) “Why?” "Can’t give you the stamp." “Why?!?” “You have to pay.” “I’ve already paid.” “Go back to where you got this and tell them.”  “That was in America!!” “You shouldn’t have gotten this type.” “A 6 month? Why?” “You have to pay every time you come.” “I’ve paid already, I didn’t even want to come.” “We can’t give you the stamp.” “Why?” Let’s just say that after 30 minutes of this conversation the boss lady picked up her purse, put the stamp in it and walked out. Then the second man in the room did the same. I just sat quietly looking at the third guy. He refused to make eye contact. I pulled out the $50 that I keep with my important documents and passed it across the desk. He left the room (presumably to get the stamp back) and finally came back and gave me back my passport. The whole thing makes me mad. It costs $50 every 3 months. $100 for 6. This is fine. But why do they insist on changing my expiration every time I enter? Why this additional bribe every time I go into that stupid office?! I guess it actually isn’t a bribe. Maybe it is more like extortion but it is still corrupt and still makes me mad. But now I’m good until July 10th when I‘ll have to leave the country again. So for now the saga continues….