I am back now from Africa and have been now for a few months. It seems like I was just there yesterday. Alas it's been a few months and it has taken me this long to get on here and finish up where I left off.
The last part of our Africa trip went really well. We had some good days hanging out in Jinja and visiting the shopping area to get some fun gifts. There was a lady who had a wood shop that was amazing. It was a touristy shop in the front but I heard some chiseling in the back. I walked back and she said I could go all the way back if I wanted to. So I did. And I found a man hand carving ebony and making these beautiful sculptures. It was awesome! I took some pictures of him and went through the building to his workshop to admire his previous work. Needless to say I spent nearly all of my souvenir money at her shop.
Everyone also told us that they never got rained on in Africa when they came in January. Well during our two/three days of shopping in Jinja it rained/downpoured on and off the entire time! I beg to differ that there isn't rain in Africa in January. :) It was good though and a fun experience for sure.
After getting some business things done in Jinga we headed to Kiunga. There we helped out at a sickle cell clinic for a bit and got to see Tender Mercies new orphanage. It was a really neat building. They even have a lavish garden started. Those kids will be eating right for sure! They had passion fruits, casava, other greens, not to mention a bunch of chickens.
We flew out after and headed on our way home. The flights went relatively well. On our second long flight towards the end I got sick. It wasn't the greatest of all experiences, but it was an experience to be had. I was thankful at that time that I was traveling with a bunch of medical professionals!
All is well back here in the US. It is always an adjustment to get back into the 'normal' way of life while putting into play the lessons you learned and experiences you have added since being away. I'm working on getting some photos edited to post here soon! I promise!
We arrived in Kalango on Thursday afternoon. It was a nice drive apart from
the fourth of a mile stretch that was quite possibly the worst stretch of road
I have driven on. Even the boda boda (motorcylce taxi man) was laughing at our
treck across this path.
When we arrived we were given a good lunch and then a tour of St. Bahkita
technical school. It was a great school run by the nuns of the Gulu order (I think
that is correct). Sister Tarsissia showed us the back enterance and the air strip
where people had to come, in order to reach the hospital during war time.
It was an interesting little city. On Friday we were given a tour of the hospital.
It was a sight to behold. For Africa it was really nice. Each patient there was
cared for by their care-giver (as far as the bathing and feeding went). It was
very interesting to see how they ran the place. We talked with the CEO of the
hospital. Stephano Santini was a tall skinny Italian man who had lived in Uganda
for 23 years. Coram, Canon and I all realized right away that he was the dopple-
ganger to Doug. It was crazy how similar they looked. We made sure to get a
picture of them together before we left for the remainder of the tour.
That afternoon we headed to Wipolo. It was a fun village that has benefited
greatly from the training and encouragement that Nadine has provided over
the years. We stayed and gave them things for village health and for their drip
irrigation of a second garden. Before we knew it, it was time to head out so we
didn't have to drive in the dark.
On Sunday, I was able to talk with Fran the Peace Corp. worker who is placed
in Kalango. She told me to look into the Peace Corp. because I would be perfect
for it. I told her I would think about it. It's funny because I have thought about
that quite a bit before. We shall see where life leads for sure.
We are now in Jinja and getting a little bit of adventure time in the markets to
pick up some gifts for everyone. It should be pretty fun. My goal is to find a
carved wooden giraffe :)
We have moved on from the farm and we
hit the ground running so to speak. We left and took a 'two hour'
drive to the game park. We ate chipatis and had some spreads on top
for lunch. Then we entered the park and headed to catch the boat. The
'forty-five minute' drive (aka two hours) took us through the dirt
roads of the park, ridden with baboons and exceptionally colored
birds. It wasn't long before the road t-d at the Nile river. We
caught our boat to Murchison Falls. It was much warmer and more humid
on the Nile. A group of us rode on the top deck of the boat and
listened to tour guide David as he explained all of the animals and
birds. There were trees with giant pods hanging from them, David told
us these pods fermented inside and the elephants eat them to relax.
If they eat enough they become drunk. Another tree along the river
was a type of palm that had bright orange fruits. These were also
treats for the elephants. They would eat these fruits and when the
seeds passed in their stool they germinated and grew another tree.
Needless to say, the park has many groves of these types of palms. On
a side-note, we got one of these fruits to try: they are stringy
inside with three giant seeds per each fruit. Most often they are cut
open, pealed and placed in water to create a juice. They are also
good for cleaning teeth because the string parts act as floss.
As we continued down the river we saw
much of the wildlife the park had to offer: hippos, elephants,
crocodiles, Goliath Herons, Red Throated bee-eaters, and all types of
David told us that the movie African
Queen starring Audrie Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart was filmed on this
part of the river and next to the falls.
Our group hopped off the boat near the
falls and hiked to the top. The water rushed with roaring force, we
all watched in awe. From there Richard picked us up and we headed
back to our lodgings for the evening. We stayed just off of the Nile
a little ways and had warthogs and baboons sharing the camp. In the
morning we were told that there was a hippo hanging out in the middle
grassy area of camp.
We awoke and headed to the Nile to
catch the ferry across and head off to see the remainder of the
animals of the park. We had a guide who showed us the Jackshom
Altabeast, Water Buck, cobs, giraffes, elephants, jackals and Crested
Cranes. Unfortunately we didn't see the lions, though we did see one
of their kills.
When we left the park we took the
'two-hour' (three and a half) drive to Gulu. We made it to a
restaraunt to eat 'lunch' around 2:30pm and ate at 4:30pm. After
picking up supplies we headed on our way to Kitgum. It was a long day
of driving on the dirt roads of Uganda. It amazes me how well Rogers
can navigate the roads and know precisely when to hit the brakes so
we don't bottom out or tip the bus. I would relate most of these
roads to the road that leads from Bridger, MT to the top of the
Pryors. I am thankful for my driving experiences out there because it
has well prepared me for these trips here.
After about 14 hours of driving we made
it to the hotel. We lived like kings, we had internet and running
Before I start this post I must correct something I said earlier... Once upon a time I said that Lake Victoria has 60 islands. That was most definitely a miscommunication. Lake Victoria in fact has about 16 islands. The lake may have more than that, but I think that is the number of inhabited islands.
Our Saturday here was a busy day, but
an extremely successful day indeed. We began the morning with a hardy
breakfast of the infamous African pineapple and g-nut paste. G-nut
paste is essentially homemade peanut butter but better because the
nuts are fresh... and we aren't at home.
It was clinic day here on the farm.
This meant it was all hands on deck at the clinic helping with
checking vitals, pharmacy duties, and organizing the masses. Our
group also had the final literacy class planned.
Ranae, Canon, and I headed to teach the
literacy class. We must have been running late, even on African time.
I know this because the regular teacher came up to me and said, "Yes
morning!" I responded, "Good morning!" He then said,
"The learners are here." I let him know we were on our way.
The three of us walked to the classroom. We found it locked with no
'learners' waiting for us. It turns out the 'learners' were all in
line waiting for the clinic. They soon came to class. It was amazing,
no one I know would get out of line for a free clinic day and go to
class. They were early to be in line for the clinic and each student
got out of line and came to our class. I couldn't believe it. We had
a great class. I was able to talk to some of the level 2 learners.
They didn't think they were doing very well with English. When in
fact, they were amazing. The greatest two things that happened in
class were this: bubbles and dancing. Ranae handed out little bottles
of bubbles to the class. The class is made up predominantly of ladies
over 60, none of which had experienced the joy of bubbles. When Ranae
blew the first bubbles the class went wild. Every lady was chatting
quickly and excitedly in swahili explaining their surprise.
Following this, the entire class played
a game. Each person had to choose something they were good at and
then repeat everyone else's actions. Most of our ladies chose
dancing. They shook their hips and moved their feet like nobody's
business. If each of these ladies came to America and taught dance it
would be a work out revolution! I will never forget those ladies
dancing. They sure know how to grasp their youth at all times here.
Following class the three of us headed
to the clinic to help. We spent the rest of the day seeing the
village. We began keeping count of how many people we saw. I think
that lasted about maybe an hour. I worked in the pharmacy and had a
great time filling prescriptions and shaking pills to distract the
babies. The doctors and nurses got tired but it was organized and the
stress was maintained. Susan helped weed out those who had simple
fixes. And we also had our village health care workers in among us
helping wash and dress wounds as need.
I would say it was a very successful
day here at Canaan farm. It was exhausting but I would do it again in
a heart beat, even if it was just to hear the ladies' reaction to
bubbles. It reminds me of the things we take for granted because we
have become calloused.
As time passes and we get knee deep in
projects and events it becomes more apparent that we have a lot to
learn. When you come to help others even if it is just in the next
state over, there are always cultural differences. Our group is
realizing cultural things about ourselves and about the people we are
working with here on a daily basis.
The first cultural thing is time. In my
sociology classes we distinguished it as sacred and secular time.
Cultures that run on sacred time get things done when they get done.
They arrive when they arrive and they leave when the event is over.
Rarely are there set times for events (and if there are set times
they are just a suggestion). People here run their lives this way.
Cultures who run on secular time have
set schedules. Events start at a certain time and end at a certain
time. If there is any variation to the schedule people get their
panties in a bunch. Most Americans run with this understanding of
While here we have made a couple of
schedules and we have never abided by the schedule. In many ways this
is a freeing experience, but it is also a learning experience. Most
of us have had to learn patience and push anxiety about being late
out of our heads. A common phrase in our group is, "It will all
work out". This tends to keep people at ease. I am quite sure we
will all have cultural shock when we get back to America and have to
adjust back to tight/rigid schedules.
Another cultural difference was
experienced today by our group. We carried out a project called "Love
Covers". This is an event in which we have a vacation bible
school for a group of kids and end the program by giving them all
backpacks with school supplies and uniforms. We had the uniforms made
prior to the event and spent many days packing the backpack with all
of the things they needed. It sounds like a fantastic program, right?
In theory this is an amazing thing. And it all did turn out today,
yet we had a few hickups. We had packs for all of the registered
children. Here is where the cultural difference comes in... In
America if children register for an event they will come and those
who don't register will not come or be allowed. In Africa if children
register they will come. And those who don't register still come.
This means when you have 100 kids registered in reality you should
prepare for 250 children. We were happy to have all of the kids and
we were able to treat them and teach them, but we did not have 250
uniforms or backpacks made. It was an interesting cultural difference
to face. For the most part all of the kids went away happy, and we
understand that it will all work out.
All is going well here. We have traveled North from Kampala and begun quite a few things. Here are a couple of posts that we have recorded so far....
Doug Parker, M.D.
On our first day in Africa, Nadine
informed us that we were going on something called 'Island Mission.'
The next day our bus dropped us off in the rain at a church mission
building on the shore of Lake Victoria in Entebbe. Nadine had other
commitments, so she turned us over to Diana, a feisty Ugandan nurse.
She herded all of us into a long, handmade wooden boat with a blue
canvas canopy and small outboard motor. Though I had no raincoat I
wasn't cold, just a little damp. Diana broke the ice with
introductions between our group and her staff members. In all there
were 17 of us hunkering beneath the tarp roof. Soon we were all
friends, sharing Ugandan flatbread and tea followed by peanut butter
sandwiches. The 90 minute boat ride went by quickly. We saw
numerous sea birds, including graceful white cranes and huge gray
storks like pterodactyls overhead.
The island came into sight, lush and
green with a small, round golden church looking down on us from the
first outcropping of land. We passed the church and encountered
numerous small, weatherbeaten fishing boats moored in front of a line
of wooden shacks and huts of random size and shape. The narrow
beach was crowded with people of all ages, but our true welcoming
committee was the flock of excited, beautiful children. They mobbed
us as we came ashore, and soon we were all carrying one or holding
hands with several at once.
The children followed us up the shore
to a small alley between shacks, where we turned to reach the clinic
site. This was a small open courtyard between buildings, with a
sloping dirt floor and overhanging awnings along the sides. We set
up makeshift clinic stations using our own chairs and card tables.
Soon the villagers lined up, and we worked madly for the next four or
We had a station for HIV testing,
another for immunizations, a pharmacy table, and a spot for clinical
exams. I was doing the exams at a card table with chairs for me, the
patient and the interpreter. My tools consisted of a stethoscope, a
head lamp, and my four senses. There was no privacy and no place to
have someone lie down for an exam. When older children had a
"personal" symptom that required some disrobing, we just
held up a blanket to shield them from the view of the others waiting
just a few feet away.
Soon all of us were coated with a sheen
of sweat under the African sun. We shared our clinic space with
occasional chickens passing through to see what we were up to. A
duck with a rope dragging off one leg kept us company for quite a
while. A kitten provided entertainment as he chased the duck's rope
and pounced on it repeatedly. Once a child started dragging the
poor duck backward by the rope. It quacked and flapped as its claws
tore grooves in the soft dirt. An adult yelled at the boy and he let
the duck go.
Most of the patients were sick children
with lung infections or diarrhea. There were a few newborns with HIV
positive moms. One mother just wanted her baby checked because he
was so much bigger than the other three-month-olds. I diagnosed one
phimosis, a few cases of pneumonia, one possible malaria, and a whole
bunch of "I'm not sure." We used up our supplies of cough
syrup and most antibiotics, but still the patients kept coming. When
Diana finally announced that we were closing up for the day, I sighed
relief but felt a little guilty for turning several people away.
At last it was time to load the boat
and bid our new friends goodbye. The children waved and shouted
until we passed out of sight, while we collapsed gratefully in our
seats and let the boatman do all the work. Once revived with water
and flatbread, we animatedly swapped tales of our experiences. What
an amazing, wonderful day, and what beautiful people of Lake
HEADING TO THE FARM
On Saturday, our crew took on the task
of heading to 'The Farm'. We were told that the farm was going to be
wonderful, it would provide solice and rejuvination. The group was
very much looking forward to this after a long day working on Island
Mission. But before we could do such a thing we had a few tasks to
accomplish in Kampala. We had to pick up fabric for our vocational
tailoring school to make orders.
Shopping for fabric in Uganda is far
different from fabric shopping in any other place. Richard took us
deep into the city where the buildings were tall and the markets were
numerous. The group headed into the cloth markets and had a great
time. There were tons of people and so much fabric. We then headed
across the city, down through the plethora of taxi-vans (where each
taxi driver was selling goods from the back of his van), and into yet
another market of fabrics.
Eventually, after we picked up
groceries, we headed on our long drive to the farm. We made a short
stop at a fruit and vegetable market. It was a great stop and every
vendor wanted us to purchase something from them. We tried to support
many of them and continued on.
The road progressed from well paved two
lanes, to well paved one and a half lanes and three inch drop offs to
dirt paths, to two lane dirt roads with many pot holes, and finally
our last road which was just barely a one lane dirt road. Rogers, our
driver, maneuvered each road better than any other driver I know.
When we got close to the farm we
started to hear drumming. Then the bus lights reached a large
gathering of people. They were dancing, singing, whooping, drumming.
It was the most amazing welcome I have ever received. We got off the
bus and were welcomed by each person and the dancing and singing
Once the welcoming had finished we
unloaded and had dinner. We ate dinner in the kitchen area, a
concrete platfrom with bamboo half-walls and a tin roof. There was a
building connected, brick walls with plaster and window holes without
window panes. Food was cooked out behind this building on fires. It
was unlike anything I have ever seen and simply fantastic.