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 five hours.
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 Victoria, Uganda.
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 continued.
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.