this is a difficult blog to write.....sort of a goodbye to my dear friends here as well as a thank you for all the moral, physical and mental support rendered to me these past 4 1/2 months. 4 1/2 months? how is that possible?i don't own a watch or a clock or a calendar, so i rarely know what day it is here. i'm quite good at guessing the time, it's relative to how loud my stomach is growling. sometimes i 'miss' entire days and say things like 'wait....what happened to wednesday?' it happens. george says to use the calendar app on the computer but i like paper ones that u can clip notes and receipts and 'to do' lists to. but i digress.....as usual.
this trip has been so stressful. to those unfamiliar with life in africa, it might seem as though i have accomplished little. i leave the continent with the same issues i had when i arrived...still no ngo renewal and still no work permit. can't begin to say how many sleepless nights this has caused....not to mention the money, the hours wasted impatiently waiting to see someone, the times i was 'reamed out' for being rude, arrogant, stubborn, strong willed and unappreciative. it's ok though, the issues will be waiting for me when i return and an old tom petty song plays in my mind...."i won't back down". and, thanks to a suggestion from someone who actually works at the ngo board, i have a plan B.
sometimes yubu will ask me what the program is for tomorrow and sometimes i say: "it will be a short, easy day". then we laugh because it seems as if every short, easy day becomes an emotionally charged marathon day filled with surprises and challenges. we never expected to spend last saturday at Mulago Hospital, a government owned facility offering 'free' services to the people of kampala. i had toured Mulago several years ago, but certainly was not prepared to witness first hand the treatment (?) rendered acceptable to the people who can not afford an alternative private health care facility.
the day started pleasantly. yubu arrived early, we loaded the van with portable chairs, a table and first aid supplies and headed to watoto suubi village to pick up gus, a desana uganda volunteer and (thankfully) a nurse by profession. we then started making our way to kisenyi slum. along the way both joash and katamba phoned to say they would be meeting us there to assist cleaning and bandaging wounds and injuries. we parked in a corner of the playground because some of the kids were exercising amidst a mountain of plastic bottles in preparation of a soccer game. everything was going smoothly, people were polite and asking if we would provide food later. both seka and shanitta stopped by to say hello and thank us. i gave seka money to order the food and shanitta told me she had made kabalagalas for me. (her pancakes rock!) all of a sudden there was a huge commotion and a mob was rushing toward us.
WHAT? food poisoning AND the flu AND a meeting i cannot possibly miss.....what else? oh, of course, no electricity so all appropriate clothing looks as if i slept in it (which i did not) and no hot tea to help clear my oh so stuffy head....! seems as if breakfast will be a glass of room temp coke zero with 2 cold tablets, a malaria pill, a heart pill and a stomach pill! let me say i am extremely grateful for the coke zero and the sharpie marker to 'touch up my pedicure'!
a package just arrived from the states (THANK YOU GEORGE).....jelly beans, yellow, stale peeps (stale candy in uganda is infinitely better than no candy), gummie savers, some medicines, lotions, batteries and flashlights...all sorts of good stuff tucked inside my BOOTS! i have seriously missed my boots and i will wear proudly them to my meeting because Texas cowboy boots go with anything and are always appropriate! guess i didn't need to 'sharpie' up my nails after all.
can it really be april? 3 months in uganda have flown by.....my birthday, valentine's day, president's day, my anniversary, st patrick's day and Easter....all history in 2013. all passed quietly, with little fanfare. well, except for Easter and our "annual" picnic at Lake Victoria in entebbe with 37 kids ranging in age from 10 to 14! yes, it is approaching insanity to many people, but to us it is so much FUN! games and food and most importantly, SWIMMING! truthfully, very few ugandans can swim. for the most part, they fear the water. (my son, josh, asked if there were crocodiles in the water! haha) these kids LOVE the water and stay where they can touch the bottom. ok, unless they are riding on you piggyback. somehow peter and zhanna and i couldn't stay out of the water and had the best time swimming in our clothes. (nothing like a pair of heavy, wet jeans!) the kids loved the fact that we joined them in splashing and dunking games. eventually we all dragged ourselves out of the lake and i buried 3 kids in the sand. onlookers thought that was hilarious and were taking movies, etc. maybe that isn't normally done in africa, but the boys loved it and all the attention that they received from strangers!
It has occurred to me that i have met many 'characters' in Uganda over the past year....most have, in one way or another, made me smile and many have certainly brightened my days! One of my favorite is Yubu, my driver. When i first met him, i thought that he was way too quiet and how would I spend so many hours in the van in the company of someone who never spoke unless spoken to. I have known him about 6 months now and each day he breaks out of his shell just a little more. We often find ourselves lost and laughing about it...like how can we not find an embassy or a mall. He often argues with me that he has not been somewhere before and in my complete confusion regarding the streets in Kampala...I will say "oh, you know, next to where we got the good samosas from the man who looked like Buddha and asked if we were gooda" and eventually Yubu realizes he knows exactly where to go! He has been stopped numerous times by the traffic police because no one believes he is 31 and not 13. He says that i am Americanizing his speech...haha...he now says "UH-HUH" and coke rather than coca cola. He has a really funny sense of humor....last week when i asked him the name of a crunchy sweet snack, he said they were called chewchew-whys. i said surely not, but he insisted. However, no one had heard that name and i finally found out they are called 'daddies'. He appreciates anything you do for him or his family, especially if it concerns FOOD! His daughter, Bridgett is adorable and likes to go to church with the mzungu because she knows it means donuts or ice cream afterwards! I love the way unlikely friendships develop, making your life just a little more interesting.