Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 - Nest building by the storks


A very large tree is immediately outside of our apartment.  We watch as from 6-11 LARGE Marabou storks are building nests and preparing for new additions to their families.  These birds must weigh 20 pounds and when they take off in flight it sounds like an airplane taking off.  They are a very unattractive bird and local lore says they cannot be eaten as they will “kill or at least bewitch” you.  Consequently they tend to live and rule the area with no fear of humans it seems. They are somewhat "protected" by local authorities as they clean the trash on the streets by eating it!

September 6, 2014 - Teaching and Work

Noel and I have been teaching for a few weeks now.  So much work and preparation to be ready for the classes.  To say the first week went well would be a gross exaggeration.  The class timetable did not come out until the night before the classes were to begin.  No one knew where or when they would teach.  This was equally, or more difficult for the students.  For us we had no idea where the classes would be held, how many students or what would be available in the classrooms.  A rough and humbling week.

 We just finished our third week and things have settled into a rhythm.  So different to have to find and take your projector, your chalk, writing paper, masking tape, and absolutely everything you will need for the class with you to every building.  We are getting better but I forget at least one item every time.  The students are respectful and serious.  Engagement and trust takes time and we must be patient. Resources are so different and sparse.  We still struggle with power outages all day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  This makes for an entirely different type of preparation for class.  Some buildings have a generator which helps greatly.  Interestingly the classroom may have a generator but the hospital does not.  Rationale is that it is a different pool of government money (department of health vs. department of education).

August 7, 2014 - Arrival at our new home in Mbarara

We packed all of our stuff for the third and last time before our work begins.  The apartment is nice, no real sheets or other essentials the first night but so good to be in the place we will call home.  The weather here in Mbarara is absolutely beautiful, in the low 70s with a nice breeze, and with many less mosquitos than in Kampala.  We still sleep under the mosquito net each night but somehow if feels less threatening.

Swearing in officially at the US Ambassador’s house in Kampala

We finally finished our pre-service training and had an absolutely beautiful ceremony at the Ambassador’s home.  Interestingly, many of the Ugandan’s thought that Noel was the Ambassador (as they felt the resemblance was uncanny), and took their picture beside him.  The Ambassador was out of the country and so the assistant presided and did an excellent job.  We joined 39 Peace Corps volunteers that were sworn in the same day.  They were so excited and almost all of them wore clothing that was of traditional fabric.  They also played the Ugandan drums and did a traditional dance.  The speeches were brief but inspiring and Noel and I could not help but feel proud and excited about our impending experience. 

Time will tell for all of us.

July 2014-A visit with the “bonesetter” and the “traditional healer”

A truly amazing day as we visited a very respected family of “bonesetters”.  They offer an alternative to the public health system and it was absolutely fascinating.  We all agreed that the facility and the care given surpassed what we typically have seen in the national hospitals.  The bonesetter had his own small facility that the clients could, and do, live in for many days.  He was extremely knowledgeable, very willing to answer questions, and very proud of his lineage as a bonesetter.  We have an orthopedic surgeon in our group and he too said if he broke a bone he would trust the bonesetter over the standard hospital care.


The “traditional Healer” was a woman of 82 who sat on her reed mat and had an assortment of plastic containers with herbs in front of her.  She had inherited the practice from her grandmother. We were all were asked to remove our shoes before entering her little room as she said she wanted to avoid infections. She talked about being able to treat: syphilis, infertility, uterine fibroids, pneumonia, and other common ailments.  Herbs that she spoke about included: garlic, ginger, onions, nutmeg, and several roots and flowers. She had been a healer for over 40 years and states she cares for between 40 and 50 people per day.  We have so much to learn from the innate knowing of these healers.

Monday, August 4, 2014

July 2014 - The beginning

It already feels like we have been away from our friends and family for a very long time. I left Knoxville on July 7th to begin this year in Uganda.  After 10 days in DC for Global Health orientation Noel joined me and we flew to Kampala, Uganda.
Kampala Uganda is everything you would imagine a very large city in a developing country to be.  The streets are crowded, the market is flourishing, the space feels strange and unknown to us as travelers. It would be hard to differentiate it from a large city in Malawi.
We are tired and a little unsettled as we repack for several days in the home of our future, Mbarara.  The homestay family is kind and open their home to us without reservation. We have been warned and try to protect our electronics from the overwhelming power surges.  Noel had his “volt” protector totally burn up.  We will learn how to plan and protect our electronics as well as we can.
I flew to Hong Kong on the 24th to present at the 25th international nursing research conference.  Another time change and an attempt to reset my circadian rhythm.  Moving and resorting of personal luggage again and attempting to look professional.  It was an amazing conference as nurses from throughout the world came and presented their work.  It is humbling to see the amazing work that many colleagues are producing to answer some of the health care issues throughout the world.  Again I am reminded of what a small speck I am in the world. 

It is fascinating to watch and observe the behavior and routines of people. I feel like a fly on the wall observing the world.  I realize I am not invisible but feel that way as I am unable to communicate with those I sit and stand beside.  Hong Kong-big, very busy, many tall buildings, people rushing everywhere. The masses flow and move with minimal personal space around them.  I, as a westerner, am often overwhelmed by the close proximity of the people around me.  Standing in a line to go to the peak that overlooks Hong Kong was a continual reminder of just how large I prefer my personal space to be. Will this change for me?  Will  I lose some of my need for my western habits?

So today I fly back to Uganda after a 9 hour layover in Dubai.  Another culture that is so far from my known space.  An absolutely beautiful and modern airport with buzzing activity and all stores open even at 4 AM.  If feels like its own city at the airport. I am surrounded by voices that share every language of the world.  We are all so similar and yet we are so different in how we approach the day to day life and routine.  My comfort is greater in Dubai than in Hong Kong.  My internal rhythm seems out of timing with life in Hong Kong. 

So now I wonder how will I acclimate to Uganda?  Will I fall into a natural rhythm with the life, the students, and the faculty?  It already feels like I have been gone a very long time yet in reality it is only three weeks.  For today I celebrate and marvel at:
·       The wonder of people of the world
·       The absolute beauty of people that share our world
·       The sense that we are all so very similar in what we need and value in life
·       How fortunate I am to have this experience and a renewed look at life.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Here we go again!

After being home from Malawi for 3 years, Noel finishing a project in India with Doctors Without Borders and working at Apple, and Kaye teaching at Lincoln Memorial and Georgetown universities, we have accepted another joint assignment to travel to Uganda for a year begining in July 2014. Our project will be in support of nursing programs at a university in Mbarara; Kaye will be teaching Masters level nursing programs and Noel Informatics and computer systems for nursing.