Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Last Words From Jinja

First things first…Erika’s back! She’s a nurse and was here from October til the end of December last year; she’s here for a year so if I come back, she’ll still be here. Given the turnover in this place, it’s particularly wonderful when a familiar face returns to the house.

A couple weeks ago, there was a rat in our bedroom…we get a fair amount of them in this house. I got home just as a couple of the volunteers had seen it and subsequently hid themselves up on the top bunks. I moved suitcases around, peered under beds, but couldn’t find it. I convinced the girls that it most likely went out through the hole in the screen (where it likely came in) so they’d be able to sleep; although I did have to switch bunks with my current bunkmate so she was as far from the floor as possible. J I store one of my suitcases under my bunk and a couple days later, I opened it to find two little beady eyes staring back at me. We shared a little moment before I closed and zipped my bag up, rolled it outside the gate (as per everyone’s insistence) and let it go. The little bugger ate a granola bar and pooped on my Sunday dresses…

I’ve been trying to knock things off my Jinja bucket-list this past couple weeks so last Tuesday Emily H, Erika, Erica (a current short-term volunteer) and myself went on a 2 hour horseback riding “safari” along the Nile and through some local villages. At one point, we were given the opportunity to split off into two groups: those that wanted to go fast and those that didn’t. The former was a small group consisting of a guide and…me. I’ve cantered on horses enough to feel relatively confident, but I expected a bit of a heads up - maybe a progression from a walk to a trot to a canter - but before I had even enough time to sufficiently gather my reins, he shouted “Let’s go!” and took off. My horse, naturally, followed suit causing me to flail around while I tried to tighten the reins and pull back, all the while yelling “Whoa!” at the top of my lungs. Luckily my guide, Charles, had the sense to stop…at which he informed me, “If you want to stop, just call my name.” “Thank you, Charles, I’ll try to remember that while I’m holding on for dear life…” is what I thought, “Ok” is what I said. Not willing to let the first go scare me off, I asked that we go again. 3 more times we took off running and apart from a brief section of cantering along comfortable, each time I ended up being thrown around, barely staying in the saddle, frustrated but assuming that since cantering is a rather bouncy gait it was simply error in my form. Our last attempt, I was thrown forward so hard that I ended up flat on my stomach, gripping my horse’s neck with my left arm and trying to pull back the reins with the right. It wasn’t until just before that moment that Charles looked back at the right time to see what the problem really was…my horse wasn’t cantering; he was bucking…repeatedly… Shortly after, the other girls caught up and Em asked me quite sincerely if I was ok; I didn’t really understand her concern until I realized that they had all seen the whole thing and that it looked terrifying and that they couldn’t believe I hadn’t fallen off. I suppose I can be proud of that.

Thursday afternoon, Em H and I hopped on a matatu to go to Kampala to hang out with Annelise. She’s the one I know from home and who was here for 6 weeks back in February; she’s returned to work with an organization called Watoto for at least a year. She’s a nurse and she’s currently in the process of getting certified to work as a nurse in Uganda which entails an 8 week rotation at a local hospital. This was her second week in the special care unit at Mulago hospital for preemies and really sick newborns. Despite the sign on the door saying “No Visitors, Do Not Enter”, Annelise ushered us right in and we were graciously welcomed by all the nurses. The place was full of crappy old incubators (some held together with duct-tape) and there were so many babies. Not only were we able to walk around, peer in and read all their charts, but Annelise even showed us a newborn that was born with his intestines outside of his body. I even “helped” Annelise with a tiny newborn who, we found out the next day, didn’t make it through the night. By help, I simply mean putting on a glove and adjusting his oxygen tube so that it was snug inside his tiny little nostrils, but it was still staggering to me that I was able to do that.
After hanging around for a bit, the three of us walked back the swanky Watoto volunteer apartment where Annelise is currently staying (and we’d be staying the night) to drop off our things and headed back out to get a tour of Bullrushes, one of Watoto’s babies homes. The place was beautiful and since it was only meant for babies under 2, we got to cuddle some pretty precious little kids; I actually spent a fair amount of time holding a preemie named Precious. Watoto doesn’t do adoptions; they send all their kids to Children’s Villages to be raised in Uganda. I don’t advocate for this but, in this case, it was probably a good thing because I could have lost my heart in that place.

It was already a great afternoon but we proceeded to a cafĂ© called Mish Mash; Em had had it recommended to her. We sat outside on oversized couches around a stage that was clearly being set up for some live music and we weren’t disappointed: 2 great friends, steak with mashed potatoes, a big oversized glass of white wine and 3 Brits doing a set of old familiars…altogether one of the most relaxing evenings I’ve had in the last 10 months.

The rest of our time included a cold boda ride home through Kampala at night, all three of us squeezed together, a wonderful sleep (waking up to something that is rare and precious…silence), a quiet morning in the empty apartment reading, writing and drinking tea and a stop at Garden City to see a movie. We were planning to FINALLY see The Hunger Games, but 30 minutes before the showing, they crossed it off the schedule because “It hadn’t arrived”. They’ve been telling us that since April 13th when it was originally supposed to open here. We were so irritated we complained and got ourselves 2 free passes to The Avengers instead. 

Those two days weren’t actually meant as a vacation, but it turned out that way and has kind of increased the anticipation of my holiday in Amsterdam. Friday is looming and I’ve made myself quite numb as I busy my way through these final days. I said my first goodbyes on Sunday and was also part of a group that was called up to be prayed over. Everyone is invited to come up and join the prayer if they’d like to and the whole Ekisa crew came up and stood around me…and if that wasn’t enough, we had a talent show for the staff this afternoon and a number of the mamas said kind things and dedicated their dances to me…why do they have to make it so hard?? I feel I’ve been fairly strong about it so far, but it’s becoming clearer to me every day how hard this is going to be.

On Friday, Erika and both Em’s are planning on coming to the airport with me. We will hopefully be able to see The Hunger Games and then eat dinner together in Kampala before heading to Entebbe and saying our final goodbyes. I’ll be flying overnight to Amsterdam where I’ll be catching the train to a city an hour from the airport and meeting up with my friend, Kyla, and her family to spend 5 days exploring Amsterdam and the surrounding areas. I actually think it will be a really good transitional period before having to adjust to life back in Canada.

So, here goes…

Just a couple keepers from the photo shoot I did with Christine and baby Janet (the one I saw delivered)

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Concert and Other Fun Stuff

First off, our new sign is up and looks great.

In the last week and a half, I have gone from having the room to myself to having 3 roommates. To be honest, it’s quite different this time around. There a number of factors why, but I find myself feeling a deficiency in the energy it takes to build meaningful relationships with any of them. I suppose I’m just tired of the turnover; it’s kind of exhausting. Don’t get me wrong…all 3 of them are lovely girls and they’ve been very enthusiastic and helpful and I’m enjoying getting to know them, I’d just rather spend time with the people I’ve grown to love over the last 9 months. If that makes me callous, so be it. J

So, the concert…what can I say? The volume in the room made it really hard for Benji and I to hear ourselves or each other so it felt like kind of a mess but I suppose it was a success based on the feedback we got. A highlight had to be Emily W doing the rap in Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with our friend Kate beat-boxing…oh, and she changed the lyrics of the rap to be about me.  The important thing is that I had an absolute blast doing it and I have no regrets and everyone who came seemed to have enjoyed themselves too. Technically, this was a professional gig since cover was 3000ush per person and Benji and I got all of it. A whopping 90,000ush each…about $36.00! 

 Benji's not actually mad, it just looks that way...

The morning after the concert, I weirdly woke up really early and after some deliberating decided to get up, go for a walk outside the compound in my pj’s and watch what was left of the sunrise. It was worth it.

Yesterday afternoon, Maggie (one of our mommas) came rushing in to tell Em that there was a black mamba in the store room. Just to clarify, a bite from a black mamba snake will kill you in about 15 minutes and the only place with an antidote is at least 15 minutes from our house. We deliberated for a minute or so about how best to deal with the situation before going outside to find that Nam, our 17 year old, had taken it upon herself to take a stick to it. Despite much translating, given her mischievous little smirk throughout the lecture, we have little faith that she is fully understanding how serious we are when we say…”That thing could kill you, don’t you ever do that again!” When we got outside, it was laying in the dirt clearly immobilized but still twitching so Emily H took a paddle to it. Its post-paddle injuries were, in a word: severe. Once we were satisfied that it was dead, we thought it best to dispose of it by throwing it into the latrine…Nam beat us to that too.  

Notice Maggie cowering in the back behind the post? And Nam looking quite proud of herself beside Emily?

Heading to the latrine...

Last week sometime, Emily made use of a fancy enclosed boda called the “New-Style Boda”. We’d been meaning to try it out for some time and I was quite upset that she’d taken it without me so when she got back, I grabbed the other Emily and the 3 of us took a wee cruise around Kimaka. Given the sight of 3 white girls squished into the back and the fact that the driver was blaring his Mzungu mix-tape which included songs with questionable content and colorful language, we drew a fair amount of attention.