it's hard to believe that in just 13 days i will be back in the States! three months has gone by so quickly and i find myself reflecting on my time here. when i ask myself what i have accomplished, i'm uncertain that any one accomplishment is noteworthy in a major way. i do know that yubu and peter and soldier and robbie (and a whole team of volunteers) have served thousands of meals, and bandaged hundreds of wounds and bought hundreds of pairs of shoes. we are watching the progress of the construction of the house of hope in the village of hope in bujuuko, we have taken children and adults for traumatic medical treatment, we've bought school supplies and arranged for scholarships.....so many things that take up our day to day world. the other day, yubu said "you have made so many people happy and you have so many friends who will never forget you." then i had to turn my head so he wouldn't see the tears rolling down my cheeks. he says i talk too much and when i am silent, there is something wrong. this time i was silent because something was so right. all in all, this is what my journey is about....making people (and in many cases, just one person) a tiny bit happier and letting them know that even though their world is a world of relentless struggle and poverty, people care and pray for them. it is not an easy journey, no one has made more mistakes than i have....but it is one i walk feeling blessed every step of the way. i've learned so much about the people in this country that i dearly love. some are grateful for the smallest offering...a piece of candy or a slice of bread, some don't understand that even though i am an American, i don't have limitless resources, and unfortunately a few have used and abused my trust to only further themselves. i guess, the truth is, people are the same all over the world. i've learned to love matooke and 'charm' security guards and be patient (well, am still working on that!). i've learned that horrible internet and phone service aren't the end of the world and that any meal with a friend is a great meal.i've learned that people of all religions can live peacefully together and that racism exists everywhere. one thing's for sure, my comfort zone surely has expanded...i am probably more comfortable in the slums of kisenyi than in a 'fancy' restaurant. on that note, let me also say i have not been in a 'fancy' restaurant in a very long time! :)
yesterday our team went into kisenyi to distribute some 300 pairs of sandals to the barefooted people who call this slum their home. foot injuries are so commonplace in kisenyi and even treating them is pointless because bandages won't stay on and infection quickly makes its way into even the most minor wounds. our generous donors in the states supplied funds for these sandals, costing about $1.25/pair. we had already given sandals to the children at RUHU and in the community of lusazi, but we weren't prepared for what was to happen. yubu, patrick, soldier, peter and i entered the "playground", which is really just sort of a moderately clean, flat area with mountains of bags of plastic bottles. when people saw the van (which always means some sort of help), they came in droves....men, women and children all desperate for a $1.25 item! soon the crowd was out of control. some of the local men tried to maintain order as we gave out as many pairs as we could as quickly as we could....but when it became apparent that the need was greater than our supply, the crowd went out of control. people were fighting, men were hitting each other and children with sticks and we knew we HAD to get out as fast as possible. people attacked the van, opened the tailgate, tried to pull off our mirrors, pulled things out of the back and yubu was afraid someone would set fire to the van. yubu and i escaped but poor peter and patrick and soldier were left behind running after the van and out of the slum. fortunately none of our team was hurt, but i have no idea what happened after we left the playground. george and i had experienced something similar to this in peru once, but not nearly as savage and dangerous. we went to a local restaurant where the guys said the chaos was FUN! i decided it was quite possibly the worst idea i had ever had. i don't know how i expected it to run smoothly. patrick smiled and said..."now you know the real kisenyi". i am still stunned. i wish my internet was fast enough to put the video peter took on facebook, but you know, internet cuts off and on every couple minutes lately, so this isn't possible. recently the city of kampala has been putting concrete borders everywhere (even where not needed) in an attempt to put some sort of order to the most disorganized city on the planet. i'm left wondering how many pairs of sandals could be purchased for all the money spent on concrete borders. $1.25! less than a coke could stop infection and pain and these people are left in need. this is maybe why i continue to return to this city which is full of huge NGO's (charities) paying high salaries in beautiful buildings with lush grounds while people are still needing sandals and a million other things. one small charity can do wonders with the help of generous people. i want to extend a huge thank you to every church, every business or company and every person who has donated to help these people. you will never know how much your donation means to the homeless, the hungry and the forgotten people of this city....THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES.
it is always so difficult for me to say goodbye to the children. they always know auntie kathy will be back. the team will carry on with some of the projects while i am in the states enjoying the 'good life'. they are a great group of young people, most knowing poverty first hand growing up. all are talented in the arts and all have a knack for talking to the children in a very special way. all are caring and giving and absolutely precious to me. i will miss them so much.
thanks guys for walking beside me and holding me up when life gets me down. i love you........"if words could make wishes come true..............but there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do".
Photos from Kathy's last three months .....
cannot believe it is september already! when the temperatures vary little and there are no changes in foliage or types of plants blooming, the seasons just aren't distinguishable. someone is always saying "ah, it's the rainy season" but after almost 2 years here, i'm still not certain when the rainy season is. i do find myself wearing sweatshirts and saying it's cold out when it's 70' and that is starting to worry me a bit...hahaha i have been climatized! (is that a word?) i was so happy to have company for a week. Naresh stopped by to pick up his work visa on his return from the states and quickly found himself stuck in immigration hell, a place i know all too well. after a week of "come back tomorrows", he gave up and returned to rukungiri (s.w. uganda) to get back to work setting up hospital emergency rooms. (one would think that immigration would find this a noble and needed service and would quickly grant the visa, but, unfortunately, we all know how that goes.) i enjoyed his visit as he was eager to help with the children, is a fellow vegetarian and a true humanitarian, and loves mexican food and music. he introduced me to rudimental and in exchange i favored him with the soulful voices of needtobreathe and john denver's 'some days are diamonds', a song which pretty much sums up my entire african experience. i consider myself blessed to have this wonderful person in my life and i will dearly miss his quiet manner and gentle presence in this house.
my hair is green-ish and i'm still looking for a pleasant way to remove pool chlorine from it. a google search suggested many items which simply are not available here or a 30 minute treatment with tomato paste, which i somehow can't bring myself to do. surely as soon as i apply it to my hair there will be a knock on the door and i again will be looked upon as the crazy mzungu! it is worth the green hair though because we have taken children swimming several times recently and they love it so much! they want to learn to swim and are quite disappointed when they are not immediate experts. we try to explain that swimming, like everything else, requires practice and patience..the latter not being an adjective that describes 30 kids after i've hyped them up on fanta and said "everyone into the pool'! they do have the best time in the water and are quite careful about staying out of the deep end if they can't swim or are not wearing floaties. yubu is a good swimmer, fortunately...and that cool water sure feels wonderful on a hot ugandan afternoon. it costs about $1.25/child and is worth every penny. last week yubu said that the water will be dirty after the kids swim but the kids will be clean....he then suggested that i not drink the pool water. hahaha, good advice. the water was not so dirty, but the kids were very clean.....all wore the snazzy boxers we bought them last week...it really was fun and something we hope to do once a month.
construction of the first residential home in bujuuko is underway. we are all excited about that though completion of the home will not be possible until october when more funds are available. as always, if it's not one thing, it's another. we stopped by naguru to say hello the other day and were informed that although they had posho and beans, they were out of firewood and had no way to cook the food. seriously, this is a government run facility....!! thanks to a generous donation from george, we were able to purchase the much needed firewood. now they are requesting clippers because the boys are getting lice.....the needs of this residential home for youth offenders are endless....there is always another important request which i can't seem to ignore! guess this is why i am here.
on a personal note, the rats have chewed through the wiring in my washing machine again! dang! another 60,000ugx down the drain (pun intended). i asked the electrician what i could do and he replied "nothing". musa is a man of few words! it sort of reminded me of the time i asked patrick why there were so many fruit flies and he said "because there is fruit". the simple truth...haha this country is a land of simple truths that i appreciate more and more. excuses and explanations are sometimes just not necessary because things are the way they are......poverty is real and personal and tragic, children die of preventable and curable diseases, hunger exists, witchcraft exists, day to day life is a struggle, and any meal is a good meal. i never tire from seeing a smile and the word 'mzungu' mouthed from the children in villages or local neighborhoods, i am always uplifted by the praise of His children at sunday prayers, i am always secure in knowing that any day that i have made even a tiny bit easier or happier for even one person is a good day, and that my purpose here is definite and real........"some days are diamonds.......some days are stone". blessings my friends....may this day and everyday be a day of diamonds! miss y'all mucho!
You can help..... no donation it too small. Kathy continues to need funds for shoes, food, medical supplies ..... and many other things. Can you spare $5..... this small donation will purchase THREE pairs of rubber sandals (the kind all children wear in Uganda) .... just $5.... or more, if you can. Thank you to those who sent money last week..... you are providing 312 pairs of sandals to children....
wow, it has been a very busy couple of weeks. yesterday was my first day 'off' in ages and it was wonderful...i jogged and facebooked and video gamed (even beat my nemesis candy crush level 65 for the 4th time) and cleaned house and did laundry and watched a few 75 cents sons of anarchy episodes. perhaps it wasn't the most fun day off ever, but it sure felt great to be caught up on chores and have some down time. yubu said he didn't know what to do with himself because the tv networks were off, said he just sat there all day! haha
i was so happy to have allison, a volunteer from north carolina, here for 10 days. it was as if i had known her all my life. we went on a mini safari, worked projects, went shopping and to church AND enjoyed a traditional Ugandan introduction ceremony and a traditional church wedding. my good friends pastor bukenya william and esther were wed during the most amazing ceremonies ever! allison and i wore gomesis (traditional Buganda dresses) and yubu even wore a kanzu. i was william's "older sister" so had the honor of presenting flowers and gifts from william to esther's family. we even carried some of the gifts atop our heads. the food was awesome.....matooke (steamed mashed green bananas), rice, steamed pumpkin, boiled potatoes, chapati, ghee, greens, a millet porridge, beef and chicken (yes we are both vegetarians but ate the meat that was served to us) and some sort of millet beer (ok, not my favorite)! i ate more last weekend than the entire time i have been here! allison became a real local while here, eating 4 or 5 bananas a day like the rest of us along with chapati at least once a day! i was so sad to have to take her to the airport on sunday, but i know she will be back because she immediately fell in love with the kids and had an open mind about everything here...whether lack of water or power or food...she was a trooper!
candy crush......i was captured from the moment kaleigh told me what a jelly was. yes, i had to be told. i have it on my ipad, which is not connected to the internet here in uganda, so i cannot buy lives or bombs or assistance in any way, shape or form. it's just me and a silly assortment of colored candies and my very unskilled attempts at clearing board after board i was sorta stalemated at (i think 32 or 33), but level 65 is like one of those big concrete road barriers all over kampala....! yewwww! i searched for helpful hints and have actually beat the level 3 times but i am made to repeat it, not unlike bill murray in groundhog day. a woman on the plane from atlanta to amsterdam highly suggested i just give up or buy some bombs or lives. when i told her i couldn't, she got a strange look on her face like 'oh, you poor thing!' it's ok, i'll keep trying. i think at some point the red hots will align in my favor and i will move on to 66. in the meantime, it is a way to pass free time!
i've been fortunate to have visitors in the past 2 weeks. george's friend, naresh, is setting up the very first hospital emergency room in uganda. he came through kampala to re-apply for a work permit (ah, yes naresh...been there, done that......immigration hell). we spent a delightful evening eating indian food and chatting about how to solve all the world's problems. i wish he could have stayed longer, i hope he comes back again...maybe he will have better luck than i and get his work permit soon! this past week, victor, spent a day in town before heading back to portland, oregon. he and angie, his wife, and i have been facebook friends for some time but had never actually met. their ngo recently built a school and victor brought a water purification unit with him for installation. it occurs to me that i am in the company of some very awesome people.....intelligent, generous and giving individuals....who are also vegetarians (haha). there is something comforting about spending a few hours with a fellow american....you can use slang and contractions and just be yourself. i am reminded how much i miss that! next week, allison, the cousin of a friend, will be arriving and working at raising up hope for two weeks. (i hope she takes her energy pills). it's all quite wonderful (unlike level 65!)
i've been busy....pizza parties with the kids at ruhu and patrahill school.....trips to kisenyi to bring food, soap, whatever is needed....working with the construction engineer to ok the final plans for the ruhu home in bujuuko.....and as always, lots of shopping to buy lunches, soccer balls, etc.....even had a lesson in brick making. i have reunited with most of the kids (even a few i had to track down in the slums), have talked to new volunteers and old friends, and was happy to learn my old seat at miracle center was 'waiting for me'. life continues to be a struggle for the impoverished living in the midst of challenges. every day i hear of family members dying of malaria, and kids returning to the slums from the relative security of a safe house or shelter. every day the streets are full of armored police vehicles fearing more riots will erupt. i spoke at length to the brick makers....they work 12 hour days, in the intense heat, mixing, molding and carrying 600 20 pound blocks a day for the salary of $1/day. yeah, sorta sets you back on your heels, doesn't it? someone here once asked me: "do you help everyone who asks for it?" unfortunately i had to say "no, only when i have the money." wish i could, what a blog i could then write!! i met the american ambassador's wife the other day...she is delightful and friendly and we are eager to hook up for coffee soon. she told me that her husband (the ambassador), is so proud of the work americans do in uganda. he believes americans are the most generous people on the planet! to that i shout out AMEN....i have the most generous friends and family in the world, no doubt about it! now.....if one of my generous friends could just get be past level 65, i will be forever indebted! blessings from kampala to all y'all!
i can't explain why gene autry has been looping through my brain today....i'm not even sure about the words to that song, except i think there is something about sagebrush! maybe it's the extreme jet lag which i can't seem to shake or the thick layer of red dust covering counters and beds, etc! YEP, maybe not back in the saddle again, but definitely "back in kampala again"! the flights here were tiresome, delays everywhere and another episode of a misplaced suitcase. i can't blame the airlines this time, seems a passenger from my flight took my bag with him...guess Kathy Houk in black sharpie on the luggage tag didn't mean much to him....kinda, sorta hope he was embarrassed when he tried to brush his teeth or change his clothes and he couldn't get into MY locked suitcase! but, thankfully i have all my 'stuff' and am ready to start this chapter of the book of life.
i have seen a few of my friends and acquaintances. :) yubu and peter picked me up at the airport....thanks guys, you're the best! yubu says he wants to get on facebook but he has never touched a computer in his life. the thought makes peter and me laugh because then the rest of the world would get to hear his superstitions and nicknames for things. (he once told us that if a squirrel bites you and someone laughs about it, you will die! he swears this is true!!) i made the rounds the other day and saw julius, the young man at nakawa market who helps me carry my purchases, evelyn at the office supply store, moses at the shell station, and robbie and soldier at an after church lunch. the lunchlady from mulago market, mae, called yesterday. i asked her how she knew i was back and she said she didn't really know, she just had a feeling. i'll start getting back into the swing of things tomorrow....I have a pizza party to arrange for RUHU and a meeting about the building project and a treadmill to buy (not exactly sure where but don't think i can walk the 7 miles/day on these roads! i'm really looking forward to seeing the kids! mack and umar say they have another song ready to record and im certain the days will fill in as busily as they always do. usually plans go out the window because something more important (or interesting) presents itself....and after all, this is africa where schedules are useless because time keeping is virtually unheard of. i'm still not certain why ugandans wear watches, i think just because they like them as most assuredly many people's watches don't even run.
everyone has asked about my family and friends and America in general. i've told them about visiting washington, dc and everyone i know! many were fascinated by the notion that kaleigh, ben and i went to a shooting range and that kaleigh plays a form of baseball, a game that no one here has ever played. they had questions about bonnaroo and what i ate and was it cold there and how long am i staying this time....lots of questions. i told everyone that i have much to do....but this trip i do not feel the pressure that tormented me the previous trip, as i have engaged 'plan B'! but as for now, time to deal with the jet lag....a brief nap and a few gene autry tunes might be just the thing! blessings from kampala.....something something longhorns and whoopie ki yi a.......!