So Close, Yet So Far.
Well hello again! Long time, no talk! Well, as we are coming to a close on our community placement, I thought I would just throw out a bit of an update.
Saturday did not turn out as we hoped it would. It was very cloudy all day, and rained on and off, so the pool idea was kind of scrapped. Therefore we all just kind of had a lazy day, and bummed around, as is the usual on Saturdays. Christy also did not seem to be feeling good that day, so she basically did what I did on Friday – slept. After having a few hours of sleep, she felt much better. Our group also met to divide up the remaining work on the report, as we wanted to be completely finished by the next night.
At 5 o’clock, the 4 of us Muzungos headed to our new Peace Corp friend’s house to have a semi-North American supper. On the way, we stopped and picked up a couple of bottles of wine, as it obviously isn’t a true North American supper without some type of alcohol haha. When we arrived at her place, the outside looked a bit sketchy, or I guess very similar to any other Ugandan house. However, after walking inside, we were pleasantly surprised at how clean and nice it was! There was laminate type flooring laid down, and she had a make shift kitchen that included 2 camping burner type things and a shelving unit, but she did not have running water. She also had a small living area space with 2 chairs and a small couch. The only other room in the house was her bedroom, which was by no means spacious. In total, the place could not have been more than 250 sq feet, but it was definitely cosy. Mary Anne is honestly the cutest lady alive! When we arrived, she had fresh veggies cut up for us (which apparently she had bought from a local organic farmer!) and none of us could contain our excitement at the opportunity to eat vegetables! She said that for supper she was making spaghetti, and making her own tomato sauce, and she had bought some lettuce to make a salad! It was like being at home again :)! As we visited while supper was being prepared, the other two recruits came back from a day of sight seeing around the area. Their names were Mary and Michelle, and they had only been in Uganda for a month as well, and were going through their 6 weeks of training before heading out to their communities for the next 2 years. 2 years!! I thought that was just insane – not being able to see family or friends for 2 years. That is dedication! After chatting with them about the Peace Corp., we learned that the process is actually quite involved. First, you must be an American citizen who holds a university degree in order to apply. Then once you apply, it usually takes a year and a half to find out whether you are accepted or not. Apparently there is a lot of paperwork to fill out, a few interviews, a medical to go through and a bunch of blood tests to do before you are considered. Mary had been a part of the Navy before deciding she wanted to go into the Peace Corp. So even though she was a bit older, she decided to go back to school, get a degree in Environmental Economics and then apply to the Peace Corp. Michelle was my age, and had just finished a Recreation Econ degree (I think?) and decided that since she really didn’t have many ties, and didn’t have any big plans for work after her degree, she would apply for the Peace Corp. to travel and try to help others. Apparently right now they are both in Kaboye with about 40 other recruits, and they are doing basic training and learning the local language of the area they will be stationed in. Trying to learn the language that is spoken here in 6 weeks seems like quite the feat, as I have been here for almost 4 weeks, and have barely learned 10 words! After hearing about their program, they asked us what brought us here, and we explained our program and what we hoped to accomplish. Once we had explained, supper was ready, and we were all starved! I must say, that supper that night was honestly the best meal we’ve had since coming here! The sauce was absolutely delicious and I could not help myself from taking seconds with the salad, as it is probably the last and only time we will have it while in Uganda! She even had little packets of Parmesan cheese that she had received from her family back home. It was heavenly! And when paired with a glass of wine – words cannot describe it! After supper, we all just sat in the living room, and shared our experiences. We asked them what their motivation was for coming, and they asked us ours. Then we shared our thoughts on the culture here so far, and shared some funny little things we have all kind of picked up on. It was also kind of nice because we were all able to kind of vent some of our frustrations (and there are many!), knowing that we would all understand since we have all seen it. I think that was one of the best parts of the night. I mean, I know I have people back home who I could email these things about, but honestly, unless you have been here and seen the things we are describing, you really cannot comprehend what we mean. Even myself before coming here thought I understood about the poverty, and the lack of resources, etc., but until you actually come here, and see and live it first hand, you really cannot understand. Being able to talk about it with other people, and having them not judge you, and understand where you were coming from, really was a great relief. As we were getting ready to leave our new American friends, Mary Anne even invited us back in the morning because she was going to make French toast and eggs for us all! It was all we could do from not start jumping up and down! We agreed on the spot, and I even offered to bring some real Canadian maple syrup that I had bought in the airport in Calgary! So we made plans to come back the next morning and headed back to the hostel. By the time we got home, we were all pretty spent so we all just headed to bed to either sleep, or just relax.
Sunday morning we all woke up and were so pumped to have an ACTUAL breakfast! I grabbed my maple syrup and we all walked back to Mary Anne’s house. When we got there, she immediately got right to cooking, and wouldn’t let anyone help her. She even had tea, coffee and hot chocolate out for us! So while she cooked up a storm, the 6 of us sat in the living room and started chatting again. We found out immediately that Mary and Michelle really had very minimal knowledge of anything Canadian, and they even admitted that they are taught very little about Canada in school. That kind of took us by surprise, as we are taught quite a bit about American history, and we know a substantial amount even from just our own research. They seemed quite surprised when we said our lives are very, very similar to theirs, as they seemed to assume that we were extremely different. They both said that Canada is one place that they would love to visit more though, so yay us! Haha Our breakfast was ready, so we all piled our plates full, and sloshed on the syrup and nutella and went to town! It was absolutely fantastic! We definitely ate like kings and queens for those two meals. It was so good; in fact, Christy and I said that once we get back to Mbarara, French toast is all we are going to eat in the morning. After breakfast was done, Christy and Stephan had to leave to go to a group presentation at one of the local churches, while Nicole and I stayed and chatted some more with the Americans, as we really had nothing to do until later in the afternoon. After another 2 hours of chatting, Nicole and I decided that we should probably head back for lunch, and so Mary and Michelle could pack and head back to Kaboye. We left our names and contact information with them so we could maybe connect via Facebook or something. We also promised Mary Anne we would stop by again before leaving on Thursday.
On our way back to the health centre/hostel, we stopped and grabbed some more peanut butter, seeing as it has been our life line while in Uganda! I literally go through a jar almost every week – probably not healthy, but hey, gotta get my protein somehow! We walked back to the hostel, basically just in time for lunch, which again consisted of matooke, rice and beans. After lunch we were scheduled to go back into the community to present to the community members that had not shown up on Friday. It was actually quite the interesting afternoon. We present to 2 different groups of 10 people, and at the first presentation I performed a condom demonstration on a banana, which everyone found hilarious 1) because a Muzungo was doing it and 2) because apparently the banana was not an accurate representation hahaha. Anyways, it was good because most of the people had never even seen a condom before, much less knew how to use one! At the second gathering, Nicole was honoured with the task of doing the condom demonstration. Also, during our second gathering, it began to pour! And when I say pour, I mean torrents of rain! Since the community members were not quite ready for us to do the presentation yet, Nicole and I had a brilliant idea!( Keep in mind we hadn’t been able to wash our hair in 4 days) We decided that we would take out our ponytails, go out into the rain and at least wet it to try and rinse some of the grease out. It felt amazing and within 30 seconds both us were drenched and we were able to do a bit of a rinse! All of our group members thought we were absolutely nuts for even wanting to go out into the rain, and began laughing at us and took pictures of us trying to rinse our hair in the pouring rain. Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do right?!
After the meetings, we headed back to the hostel to start to get ready for the night’s festivities! The plan was a pig roast, some booze, some music and just an overall good time. A few of us headed over to the nearby bar to pick up some alcohol. I opted for a few beers, while Nicole decided to indulge herself in a bottle of wine to herself. Then it was time to try and have a sponge bath to attempt to make ourselves somewhat presentable. Afterwards we even opted to get all “dolled up” and apply make up! We were girls again! Hahah It’s amazing what a little make up can do to the self confidence after not wearing it for how long. When we came out of our room, everyone was like “wow! You guys look different! You should wear make up all the time!” We weren’t really sure if we should take that as a compliment or an insult, so we erred on the compliment side. We headed to the dining hall where everyone was gathering, and the activities began. Our “hosts” Roy and Liz started off by having everyone introduce themselves with their name, marital status (apparently that’s always included in introductions here) and their hobbies. Once everyone had introduced themselves, it was time for food! The pig had already been roasted and cut into pieces – literally. There were knee joints, skin, fat, bones, everything – just cut into smaller pieces. Sometimes you even got the added surprise of having a hair still attached to the piece of pig skin! All joking aside, the actual meat was not that bad, especially because I think we were all pretty protein deficient at that point. After the food, the real party began! We moved all of the tables to the side, cracked our beers and one of the students had even brought speakers so we had our own little DJ booth set up! All in all, it was a pretty good time. One of the girls even showed us Canadians how to African dance ;). Then it was off to bed to sleep off the night’s activities.
The next day, we woke up and did ward rounds like every other Monday. And yet again, we encountered all of the same frustrations, but just tried to work around them the best we could. There was one lady who came in with an abscess on the inner portion of her foot and had caused it to have severe swelling. After Raymond asked her a few things about it, we learned that she had stepped on a fishbone 2 Fridays before, and the bone was apparently still stuck in her foot. Once we learned that the bone was still implanted in her foot, we knew that we would not be able to just do a I and D (incision and drainage) as that would not solve the problem. She needed to have a minor surgery on her foot to remove the bone, and since there is no staff at the health centre, the OR theatres are constantly locked and there is no sterile equipment. This meant we had to refer another patient to a different health centre, yet again. Sometimes it feels like all we can do here is take vitals and give NSAIDS for patients, because if anything more serious comes in, we have to refer them due to lack of resources. It exceeds the definition of frustrating some days.
After rounds, the plan was to get together as a group and go over the work that was done and then merge it all together. However, after going over the report as a group, and it taking over 2 hours, Nicole and I decided that we would just merge it all together, as it would be a lot quicker. After another hour or so of trying to merge everything together, we were finally done the report! FINALLY! The rest of the day after that was fairly uneventful, as we all were just waiting to present our findings to our supervisors the next day when they were expected to come.
Yesterday morning was a mad rush to get everything ready for our stakeholder meeting as all of the supervisors were supposed to be coming at 10 am. As a group, we bought pop and cookies for our guests and anxiously awaited their arrival, as this signified the ending of the placement basically. The supervisors all arrived, and in African fashion, everything was ready to begin at 11 am. Our group was the first to present our findings, and it seemed to go over well for the most part. There were a few issues when we gave our recommendations for the health centre and the future of the program such as when we said supplies was locked and no one had a key so we weren’t able to access it after hours. The in charge denied any of that ever happening, so she seemed a bit upset by our insinuation. But otherwise, it went pretty smooth. Group A then presented, and their presentation was also well received and Dr. Maling said that our groups were some of the few groups he trusted to not need as much supervision and was impressed with our findings.
In the afternoon, our group split into two and both groups set to the two secondary schools we had presented to with the hopes of establishing some peer groups to spread the information about HIV/AIDS. I was put in the group that went to the all-girls Catholic school, and was actually super impressed by the interest of the students in starting such a group. We had over 50 of the girls wanting to be part of the group, and we helped them pick an executive for their club, and laid down some ground rules and gave them our contact information so that if they needed resources, we could set them in the right direction. They all seemed super excited about it, so it leaves me hopeful that they will continue where we left off.
Again, the rest of the night was rather uneventful, just had supper and us 3 Canadian girls hung out in our room. One of my group members actually headed home last night as well, since she had a ride at the time. A few other members are actually leaving today as well, having arranged their own rides previously as to not have to ride the crammed bus home.
Tomorrow we are set to just pack and then get picked up by the bus to head back to Mbarara. Then Friday, the 4 of us plus a few other Canadians in Mbarara are heading to Rwanda for the weekend! I think that should be quite interesting. We are going to the genocide memorial, and I think it may be like a vacation from my vacation, as apparently Rwanda is a fairly well developed country these days. I am quite excited actually! Then on the 7th we are going to be picked up for our SAFARI!!! I literally cannot contain my excitement for our last 8 days.
Oh, I also wanted to just let everyone know that the huge landslide that occurred in Uganda is not anywhere near where I am right now, so don’t worry yourselves. I am alive and well, as is all of the other Canadians we’re with.
We have also had water since Monday morning, and have been able to shower and wash our hair everyday since! It’s seriously some type of record! This is the longest we’ve had water even if you combine all the other days since we’ve been here! Just thought I’d let ya know I am no longer a dirty stinky mess! :)
Also, to all my family and friends in Saskatchewan right now, BE SAFE! Didn’t think I’d have to be the one saying that to YOU GUYS while I am in Uganda, but with the weather you guys are getting right now, apparently it is necessary! Hopefully nothing is seriously damaged!
PS. I am going to try and blog tomorrow, depending what time we get in to Mbarara, and also depending on the amount of internet I have left, as I think I am getting down to the bare minimum now, and have to wait until we get to Mbarara to buy some more airtime. So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, it could very likely be due to me not having internet left haha.
Aaaanywhooo! Ta-ta for now! Miss y’all! xoxo