Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The old and the new!!!

Yesterday we dedicated the new pediatric and maternity ward at Nyahuka Health Center. Scott Myhre has been working on this for about 2 years and it has finally come to completion. Here are a few pics from the occasion. I'll try to write more narrative when I have some more internet time. (This guy was so awesome...he could really shake it. He was a part of one of the drama groups that performed).

(The US Ambassador to Uganda cutting the ribon to the ward)

(This is the old Pediatric Ward)

(And this is the new one. Look at the shine on the tile!)

(Scott Myhre and a well deserved celebratory dance)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pics from Mweya

Here are a few pictures I took from the few days that we were at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It was an amazing adventure...like the discovery channel right outside your car.

(Dare me to do it!)

This is us before we hiked over the Rwenzori Mountains to Ft. Portal. Over 10km total up 6000ft and back down 2000ft to the other side. It took all day. We didn't look this good at the end :-).

Nighttime at the Health Center

It's late. About 10pm and the team has just finished cleaning up after a cultural discussion and a local meal (rice, g-nut sauce, beef and soupu, and sweet potatoes). There is plenty left over, more than we can store and eat the next day, but throwing good food out isn't really an option here. Pamela suggests we head to the health center and distribute the leftovers. Pamela, Karen and I hop in our white diesel chariot (really it’s a Toyota truck, but it's fun to think of it as a chariot) and rumble through Nyahuka trading center on our way to the clinic. Nyahuka is a scene on Saturday night at 10pm. Blazing stereos, harsh lights from motorcycle headlights, people wandering around and calling out at the vehicle. We quickly passed and made it to the health center.

The health center was a stark contrast to the town. There is an air of silence and sadness as we walked into the dark building. There were no lights other than the headlamps we were wearing. Dark faces darted in and out of shadows as we silently walked past those who had overflowed from the wards into the hallways. We made our way to the pediatric ward. Karen made an announcement and empty bowls, and cups quickly appeared inside the halo of light that surrounded us. In moments like these I forget all of my lubwisi words and I am left to spoon empathy and love silently into each dish amid soft "webale's" (thank you) from mothers and children. As my heart wells up with emotion I struggle with the reality and closeness of poverty. At the verge of tears I throw in the towel on trying to figure out the injustice of the world and focus on spooning one spoonful at a time into each bowl. I am left to take solace in pure faith that God is somehow glorified with small spoonfuls of rice and g-nuts and the small children in the pediatric ward.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Night Like Any Other

So tonight began like any other night. I had dinner with two of the other singles, Pamela and Stephanie and afterwards enjoyed good conversation and some Condole cookies. Afterwards I made my way by the Masso's house because I had heard a brief mention earlier in the day regarding some brownies to be baked…and I needed to check to see how the progress was going. The Masso girls were watching Anne of Green Gables 2 (Anne of Avenly?) on the computer and as exciting as that was I was temped onward toward the Myhre's with the promise of an episode of 24. As I was walking there I saw Scott Myhre headed down in the vehicle to Christ's School to pick up his children from clubs that evening, so I hopped in the car to join him. We sat in the car next to the football (soccer to you Americans) field and shot the breeze while we waited for the power to run out and subsequently clubs to end (you know you are at a school in Bundibugyo when something doesn't end at a certain time, but rather when the solar batteries die). We loaded the kids up and headed back up. When we entered the house the kids gave Scott and Jennifer a rundown of clubs which included a five minute math quiz courtesy of Luke Myhre (they had discussed some tricky math problems in his club and he wanted to test our wits…we were pretty unsuccessful, but hey we were trying to do it in our heads). Then began the tornado that is called: Myhre children getting ready for bed. It's quite an exhausting experience for an observer and I have no idea how Scott and Jennifer do it day after day. It's like they are conductors orchestrating a symphony of activity. And somehow after fifteen minutes and multiple threats of revoking Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King viewing privileges the next night everyone was ready for bed.

Somewhere in the middle of this whole process I stole away to the restroom to - as they say here - take a short call. Suddenly I started feeling a bit woozy. I was standing there looking at the back of the toilet and shapes seemed to deform and everything seemed close and far away at the same time and the whole room seemed to skew. It felt as if I was standing – yet not really standing at the same time. For a moment I thought I was loosing it and then I realized that everything WAS close and far away at the same time, that shapes were really deforming, and that the whole room was skewing and that I was in the middle of an earthquake. At that moment there was this unexplainable feeling – I was frozen in time. Only when I heard Scott shout: "Everyone out of the house!" did I realize that I was in any significant danger. I shut off midstream and bolted out of the house. At this point I would like to point out that everything that I intended to go in the toilet did in fact go in the toilet and not say on the wall or floor or my foot and that everything that belonged in my pants was back there by time I joined the Myhre's outside. So while you may now be laughing to yourself about how I one literally peed through my only earthquake experience at least I can say I did it like a champion.

Outside we could hear there entire community abuzz with excitement for about fifteen minutes as the night settled back into an eerie calm. Intellectually we knew that biggest had past any anything else would be something smaller…but it can be really hard to convince yourself of that emotionally when you are in the moment. Let's just say I slept with one eye open.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

4 inch wide Pythons!!!

So now that I have your attention by talking about dangerous snakes I'm going to tell you not to worry because no one was seriously injured. The only significant injury was that Michael pulled his back. If you're confused (and you probably should be) it's because these weren't real 4 inch wide pythons…it is what we named the plastic pipes that we were working on last week. Ok, so now that you're a bit sad that this might not be as exciting of a story as you thought. Think again! What can be more exciting than 10 Ugandans and 2 Muzungus wrestling 20 feet of 4 inch plastic HDPE pipe for about 3 and a half hours. Let me paint you the picture from my point of view.

We got an early start in the morning so that we could get everything accomplished in one day. We loaded up the truck with pipe fittings, wrenches, cement, and 20 Ugandans plus Muzungu. We rode for 20 minutes to the work site all the while I was praying that we wouldn't snap the truck's axels (for those who don't want to do the math we were way overloaded). When we got to the sedimentation basin (the place that we were working) we divided up the work and drained the basin. Some cleaned the muck out of the bottom of the basin…some broke a new 3 inch hole in the concrete for the new inlet (by the way – the concrete and brick wall was about 2 feet thick)…and some began breaking two 4 inch outlet holes (oh yes and Tim was filming). Kyalimpa and I began repairing a screen inside the sedimentation basin. Now the sedimentation basin is about 4 feet high on the inside. Last time I checked I was taller than four feet so I spent the majority of this time hunched or squatting. Time in the basin 45 min. By the time I had finished this work they were ready to install the additional inlet. We cut the new inlet pipe to the right length which was to the joy of the many observing children because this pipe was already full of pressurized water and it could not be turned off (we were in fact attaching the valve for that purpose). So as we breached the pipe water started going everywhere. And so did joy and laughter!

After this it was lunch time! A pile of rice, some Kahunga, and a small medallion of beef. Kahunga is a local dish that is a thick brownish-white paste that takes on the flavor of whatever you dip it in, which no matter what it is, is called soupu. You can't really chew it because, well, you don't really get anywhere. It also can double as a flat tire patching material when applied to the inside of the tire (you think I'm joking…it's a true story). Lunch is actually one of the most important parts of the work day here. No one messes with lunch. But I digress.

Now we turned our attention to the two the outlets. Slowly by slowly we chipped our way through the concrete. I joined in the chipping on the inside of the basin where there was a small trough where we had to also break 4 inch holes through solid concrete with minimal working space. Total time in basin: one and a half hours. We then attempted to hook up the HDPE pipe. We wrestled for a good 30 minutes before getting it in and aligned. I went back into the basin only to find that we had dislodged the inside fittings in the process!! We had to remove the whole thing and try again, this time with me inside the basin trying to hold everything in place. We soon realized that it wasn't going to fit without more chipping. We chipped. And chipped. This time I grabbed the fittings like the horns of a bull and held of for dear life while the 10 people on the other end tried to jam the pipe into the set of fittings I was holding. At this point I forget how long I was in there. All I know is that when we finally got it in there was a shout and a scurry of activity outside and I popped my head out of the manhole to see what was going on and found myself suddenly engulfed in a late afternoon downpour. Our workday was finished (which was probably a good thing because it was already about 5:30 and we had lost track of time. We wanted to work quickly on the sedimentation basin because the water supply would be off until we finished the work).

The next morning I taught preschool while the team went up to attach the other pipe (you have to wear many hats here ). I joined them in the afternoon to finish the work. I could tell you everything that happened in the second day, but by this time I'm sure you'd rather have the cliff notes. At the road junction the two big 4 inch pipes had to be split into 8 smaller pipes with four on each line. More fittings. More wrestling pythons.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Back to Bundibugyo!

Webale yo - welcome back, was the common greeting as I stepped off of the MAF Caravan that flew us from Entebbe to the Airstrip in Bundibugyo. There were many smiles, hugs, and much all around joy to be back. Even the crew of Ugandan's who I worked closely with on the water project with in the fall made the trip to the airstrip with the missionaries to greet me there.

Welcome back. How are you? How is your family? How was the U.S.? We are glad you have come back. And then again the next Ugandan friend asks similar questions. Greetings in Uganda hold a special place in my heart – they are the first thing that you encounter in the culture that reminds you that here relationship proceeds productivity –there is something deeper in the greetings that is easy to miss on your first trip here when you are busy wondering why you get the same questions day in and day out, yet so apparent when you have been gone for a while and have returned.

Our travels were difficult from the get go. Eleven people, two days of travel, and 24 pieces of luggage just under the 70lb limit each are a recipe for a logistical nightmare and plenty of stress and anxiety. I don't even want to recount the night and morning of getting to Newark and to the airport and check in. Let's suffice it to say that if we were are football team we threw the playbook out the window and were calling audibles the entire time.

God really blessed us with our luggage. We were two pieces over our luggage allowance, but BA gave Stephanie an additional luggage piece because she had a one way missionary fare. So we were faced with paying for the additional piece of luggage – no small thing at $250. As we were sitting there checking in (not a small work in itself), a BA representative who must have been managing the staff that morning came up to talk to us and see how check in was going if there was anything he could do to help. We said actually there might be something…we explained to him the extra piece of luggage and what we needed it for – a peanut grinder for the nutrition project here. He said let me see what I can do and came back five minutes later and said that today the peanut grinders would be on him!!! Amazing.

We made it through customs without much fanfare in the end…there were are few moments of worry when the Ugandan MAF helper walked us right into the line where you have items to declare – all of us were thinking in our minds…no don't go in there we don't have anything to declare. The official who met us was friendly. He asked us if we had anything to declare. We said no. He walked right up to one of the boxes with a peanut grinder in it and said what's in here. A peanut grinder. He asked is it remaining in Uganda. We said yes. He shot us a look like we might have to talk about this (paying duty and such), but Stephanie quickly chimed in – it is staying with me I live in Bundibugyo (she has a work/resident permit). He got a massive smile, you are all going to Bundibugyo? Yes. He chuckled – "you can take anything to Bundibugyo".

We are quickly settling in. The other interns have been wide eyed and asking many questions. I'm really excited for there time here. I must get this posted before internet time expires…soon I will write about church yesterday – "AMAZING." For now let's just say that there was dancing in the house of the Lord yesterday. It's so good to be back.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The first thing I did when I turned 24-

Sometimes in Africa you just don't know what you will be doing in the next five minutes. It was last night, about 11:55pm - five minutes before I turned 24. I thought well, why not stay up five more minutes and do something exciting like watch the clock tick. Just then, interrupting my wonderful and exciting plans we found Houdini III chomping on some of our bread on the counter (Houdini is the name I like to give any mice/rats that we have in the house). He had been running around for about a week evading us, but it was not to be so on this ill-fated night.

As the clock ticked away the final hours of my 23rd year Scott and I were armed with a broom and a piece of sugarcane (which by now is a verteran rat and bat killing weapon). The mouse ran into Scott's room which conveniently doesn't have a working light at the moment. We got busy setting up candles, kerosene mini-lamps, and barracades to block him in. There is still something very exciting about the moment that you try to make the first attempt to kill the mouse. Because you know the moment you move in he is going to bolt in some completely unrational manner. This one was no different. I made the first strike making him bolt out the other side of the cabinet, right into a 2X4 that scott tried to spear him with. He evaded the board and careened out at light speed toward the middle of the baracade. He quickly changed directions and jumped over the barracade. If I may pause the story for a moment, I am beginning to observe a trend that seems to happen at moments like this...all creatures invlovled seem to jump at the exact same time, like it's choreographed. Anyways the mouse, Scott, and myself all jumped at the same time (fortunately for me I was able to hold in any sounds that might be misconstrued as unmanly). We chased him to the other side of the room where I managed to bat him about 5 feet with the sugarcane...he them made his fatal mistake where I was able to pin him with the sugarcane in between the desk and wall and Scott was well...able to finish the job.

Somewhere in the middle of all of the - Scott looked at the clock and said, "Happy Birthday man."

Man points: +2

So this week I have earned quite a few "man points". What is a man point? A man point is bequeathed to you any time that you undertake and accomplish something that would be considered incredibly manly. For example, you could throw a really heavy stone a long distance, maybe you could build a really big fire or build a car with just a hammer and a screwdriver-something along those lines. That is how you earn man points. Girls like guys with lots of man points.

So how have I earned man points this week? By bending 3 inch metal GI pipe with my bare hands. Okay, well maybe my bare hands were holding a grinder for cutting the pipe and maybe someone else's bare hands were holding the welder to weld the angle shut once I had cut the notch out, but when it comes down to it we were bending big chunks of metal and on top of that - even though it's not a requirement for man points – we were actually building something useful.

I'm thinking about taking out one of those romance classifieds when I get back to the states:

SWMM (single white manly male) seeking SF (single female). SWMM can bend metal with his bare hands. Applications now being accepted. Please call Jenny at 867-5309.

On a more serious note, the pipes that we were bending are for the Ngite-Butogo GFS water project that Michael and I have been eagerly awaiting. Technically it's not really started for us yet, we are still awaiting some government approvals and planning, but in the meantime we've been doing some preparation work. The pipes that I'm working on will be mounted along a rock wall (c.f. previous blog: I love my job!) alongside an existing pipeline. This section of the pipeline has to be custom built out of metal piping so that it will sit snuggly against the wall (wait did I just use the word snuggle when referring to a 3 inch metal pipe?).

Early next week I face a challenge of fabricating a 'Y' joint out of straight pipe so that the water will split from the intake into the two pipes. (Insider trading tip: ladies - buy your Josh stock now – man points are about to go through the roof!). I'll let you know how that adventure turns out.

If you'll allow me to use a clich̩ monolog segue, I'm going to change gears (if you knew how long I spent trying to work the spell-check to figure out how to spell segue you would laugh for a long, hard time Рand I'm still not even sure I came up with the right word).

One of the joyful and sorrowful things about ministering to those around you is that you enter into their lives, both the good and the bad. This afternoon I went with Kizza, one of the workers in the workshop to visit his son, Innocent, at the health center. Innocent has sickle cell disease and was in the clinic to receive a blood transfusion. I sat across from Innocent on the bed next to his. It was a sorrowful scene. On his bed next to him were piled on his mother, Annette, his younger brother, Lucky, and the youngest, Hope. The clouds outside were dreary and gray threatening rain. I tried to make small talk as the children continued to shyly sneak looks at me when I was looking the other way. I prayed silently for Innocent. A chicken walked by (yes inside the hospital room). In my broken and hesitant lubwisi I told the chicken to go home – Coco, Ogende Eka (Chicken – you go home). Everyone in the ward had a good laugh at that. As I left Annette said, "Wabele Kovola" or thank you for visiting.

As I have been thinking about it afterwards, there is great joy in knowing that life won't always be so broken. The promise and hope that we have in Christ and in the restoration and redemption of life give us as Christians that joy. It is because of this comfort that we receive that we are able to comfort others as the Apostle Paul says.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Why I love my job!

So as many of you are sitting at home in the US wondering how I am doing (and wondering why I have taken so long to update my blog), I want to set your minds at ease. I am doing fine. In fact, I'm doing very well. The past few weeks we have been gearing up for a really big project that's called the Ngite-Butogo/Busolu GFS water line. However, it's kind of funny, because every week for the past few weeks we have begun the week saying, this is the week that we will actually begin work on the line. And then we find out that there is some other government stamp that we need or letter that needs to be written that someone forgot to mention to us at the beginning of the process. Today we sat in a 2-3 hour meeting discussing community sensitization about the project and how we were going to get the community to maintain the line long term, which is by far the most difficult task in any project. The local government does not provide funds for long term maintanance (it actually doesn't even provide funds for the project, a major donor does). So the communities are left to maintain it themselves. This translates into about 40 cents per family that uses a tap for minimum maintanence (i.e. a water tech and some spare parts.). However, even that money is incredibly difficult to collect. There is rarely much thought around here to the maintenance of anything...pretty much a run it into the ground mentalitly.

I don't want to sound all dull and dreary about the government meetings. Below are pictures of my working at my other office this week. In planning for the line there are some preliminary things that we have been able to do. Some of this work is at the intake which is the most exciting. Here you see michael and I running a string next to the current pipline where we need to add a second pipe to expand the flow to the sedimentation basin. It was a great afternoon! So when you are in your office and wondering what I am up to...just think, I'm at my office too