Saturday, May 29, 2010

Back Home in Indiana!

Although the last 10 weeks in Uganda were very memorable and gave me a great perspective on another culture, I am very excited to be back in Indiana. I didn't realize how much I missed people until I saw my parents at the airport! On the ride home my dad said he'd never heard me talk so much. I realize that while being in Uganda I had missed out on all the cultural things going on in the Developed World. For instance, my cousin was going on about the iPad when I said, "What's the iPad?" Her response, "Wow, you have been gone a bit." I found it comical. Although, some of you may think it was hard to live in Uganda, it was not so much in terms of my daily lifestyle and in all honesty, there are many things I will miss about Uganda: definitely the musana kids (I will be visiting again in a couple years), the children that always seem excited to see a muzungu, a cool shower on a hot day, the lack on constant media (tv, internet, cell phone) although these things are all present in Uganda it was nice to not have them constantly occupy my time, the ability to walk everywhere, taking a boda "motorcycle" ride whenever I wanted, eating rice daily or grabing a rolex from a street vendor ( this is a flattened, fried piece of dough wrapped around an omelette), the East African rain storms (it's amazing to fall asleep to rain pounding on a tin roof), and the other volunteers.
As far as Uganda goes...there are some cultural things that I experienced that I think it is time to share with everyone.
1) Pets don't work out so well there. The kids don't view them as something to take care of. They would rather throw rocks at them.
2) I saw more livestock there than I ever have in IN. There were chickens, goats, cows, and african sheep running around everywhere. Many nights I saw heards of goats heading home without anyone leading them! They just knew.
3) Uganda is a fertile nation! I've never seen so many babies (animals and people) in one place. You see children taking care of children and they are very independant at a young age. In the US you would never see a 5 year old walking around without an adult. To see a kid walking around with a machete is not surprising. When we slaughtered 2 goats for the musana kids on Easter weekend they all wanted to help! I would have never wanted to watch that at such a young age let alone now.
4) People there are very affectionate. It is very normal to see people walking around holding hands. I was very surprised the first day when I saw men holding hands. There is no romantic feel to the display just simple enjoyment of one anothers company.
5) The hospital there goes without power or running water a lot of times. The unit is comprised of several different wards all one level buildings. There are always people sitting outside the hospital on mats and sometimes preparing food. These people are the caretakers or attendants of the person who has been admitted. Someone is always there to take care of the sick. It's not the hospital's job to feed them and make sure they're comfortable.
6) I was very baffled to see so many kids walking around with shirts but not pants. My thought is I would rather have pants on my kids because they are constantly sitting and playing in the dirt.
7) You can find a soccer game anyday.
8) People collect all their water for cooking and bathing from local wells.
9) Books are a very valued item there. New books are extremely hard to come by.
10) Many government officials work on bribes. ( my whole being jailed and almost deported incident)
11) People are more secretive or shy. Personal information that we may think of as simply making conversation is from my experience not readily shared.
12) Lizards, mice, and bugs are extremely hard to keep out of a house.
13) A lot of people make a living as street vendors (clothes or food or random things)
14) Public transport consists of riding in a jam packed 15 passenger van (around 20 people) with a load of live chickens strapped on top, or on the back of a bicycle or motorcyle. Not many people have their own vehicle.
This trip was an amazing experience. I was blessed so much during my time there with wonderful children. I will miss them so much. I think that if anyone ever has an opportunity to see how a developing nation operates they should take it. It really does change your perspective on a lot of things. If nothing else it gives you a better perspective on the world. This trip has helped me to realize my independence. I've never spent so much time travel alone. At times it was scary but it is very liberating to know I can make it on my own. I even spent a night in London and mastered the subway system! It may not sound scary but it was. Luckily everyone spoke english lol. After this big adventure, next up is the move accross the country to Flagstaff, AZ where I'll be pursuing my Doctorate of Physical Therapy at NAU!
Thanks for following me on this journey!
Until next time...bye for now :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Time never slows down...

I can't believe that my time here in Uganda is coming to an end. It feels as though Andrea, Morris, and Pipiph just picked me up from the airport. I have gotten to love and know 80+ wonderful children. It is extremely hard to think about leaving them. However, leaving is inevitable. Sorry to everyone who has been following my updates about my departure through facebook. It seems I will be getting back to the US on Thursday May 20. I had recently thought I would be staying until the 30th but then British Air decided to go on strike so now my only options are Tuesday or after June 10th. As hard of a decision as it was to make I decided that this coming Thursday was my best option. There are so many wonderful weddings and graduation parties taking place this June that I wouldn't be able to stand missing! Needless to say I still wish I could bring some of the kids back in my luggage :). Sorry that there have not been any pictures posted to this website. It simply is unrealistic with the amount of time it takes here and how many of us need access to the computer. I will be posting pictures soon after I get home with a link to where you can see the beautiful children!
Well...I guess it's time for an update on what's been going on with me in Uganda and the kids at Musana.
1) I last left you all before I headed for my weekend getaway to Sipi Waterfalls. Sipi was gorgeous and hiking the waterfalls "in flip flops" was quite the experience. LOL. This was definitely one of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen. I was literally on top of a waterfall around 8 am above the clouds! I went for an overnight trip with my roommate Erina. It was quite the romantic atmosphere. lol. We had a candelit dinner and a bungalo for 2 :). If anyone ever decides to go to Uganda for some couples vacation this could be a nice, inexpensive spot. Our transport getting to sipi was not as plesant as our destination. We had to wait in crowded taxis that broke down and we had different boda men try to cheat us. It was a very frustrating experience, but also one that keeps me growing and helping me become more assertive. Erina is very assertive so she was a good person to travel with. Then on our way back to Iganga we had a mob of people flock us screaming about who to pay and which bus to get on! It was kind of scary. All in all the weekend trip was a good experience with gorgeous view and lessons on traveling learned.
2)We started an after school tudoring program with the kids at musana. The teachers gave us a list of which kids and what subjects they needed help with. This has been a great opportunity to get to know some kids better and really see the impact we are making. All our kids are great and giving them some extra individual attention seems to help I think. The older kids who were here over holidays took exams friday and saturday. Hopefully their study time over the last 3 weeks has paid off. It has been a bit rough for us volunteers have a limited terms of what we could do with them. They were required to do more studying and no playing over the holidays. However, when I'm done with this blog, I'm heading to Musana to get out the huge parachute Bryan brought with him thanks to Dana and my mom. I think the kids are going to love this. I am sure they've never seen one before. It should be a lot of fun and a nice treat for them since they've been so focused lately.
3) I took a trip with Emma, the boy with the leg disorder to Kampala a week ago on Monday. It was a fun trip for him to see the country's capital. We visited an orthopaedic specialist, Dr. Shirazi while we were there. The news was what I expected but not welcomed news for Emma. He has Bilateral Perthes Disease or Leggs Perthes. What happens is blood flow stops to the top of the femur (thigh bone) and the bone begins to die and crush away. The hip socket (acetabulum) is also affected. In Emma's case both legs are affected which is extremely rare and it is just as rare for an African to develop the disease. If it had been caught at a younger age corrective measures would probably been able to have been take, however, now it seems that it will be necessary for him to have 2 hip replacements around the age of 20 and again at about 40. Andrea was going to try and get another opinion while she was home in the US. It seems our next mission will be to raise money for his surgeries. Without the surgery he will eventually lose his ability to walk. He has had pain since the age of 5 and he is now 16! I can't imagine. He is pretty bummed about the situation but trying to stay positive. He is a very active strong young man. Prayer for a positive outlook for him is appreciated.
4) One of our older girls, Jucinta went home to her village today. She has been in extreme discomfort for the past couple of days. She went to the hospital the past 2 days and saw different doctors and had an ultrasound performed. They were not able to give her any answers. Hers is also a problem that has been going on for about a year. In her village apparently people know how to do healings with herbs! Please keep her in your prayers for a recovery. I simply sat with her for a while this morning as she laid her head on my lap and i rubbed her head. I hope I was able to console her somewhat. I know as a kid not feeling well that was something that soothed me. I love being at Musana and being able to just give these kids even if it's just a little glimpse of "motherly affection." Loving and caring for these kids just seems so naturaly. It is easy to forget how bad the conditions some of these kids have lived in before and the sadnesses that some of them have endured. They are such strong, courageous kids. Musana has provided them with a great home. Thanks Andrea and all of the supporters!
5) I witnessed 2 dirty little girls digging through a trash pile the other day as I was headed to the hospital. It broke my heart! Their clothes were all dirty and torn. They had little plastic bags in their hands as they dug through the garbage. I am not certain but it seemed that they were looking for food. I kept on walking, but in my head I was thinking "how are you becoming apathetic to poverty?" It was then that the scripture about Jesus saying "you fed me when I was hungry, gave me water when I was thirsty...and I replied, Lord when did i see you hungry, thirsty, etc" that came to my mind. I decided I needed to go buy them some groceries. Luckily when I got back the little girls were still there. I think they were a bit confused when I handed them the bag full of food, but I just turned and went on my way. I didn't want to cause a scene so that people realized what i was doing. I hope that no older kids came and took the food from them. It really bothered me that I even considered walking away from these kids as if helping Musana is doing enough. It is really hard to not become numb to poverty I think when it is all around you. It seems so normal. I have also had people tell me they don't give handouts to people because it somehow keeps the circle of poverty going...that in a way aid has helped to cripple Africa. I guess I don't know where I stand on the issue yet but I know that by having so much it is my responsibilty to take care of those with less. I hope the Lord continues to open my heart on this issue and what are the best ways to help.
6) Seeing as I am leaving in a few days, the 2 other girl volunteers and I decided to take a day visit to a village nearby that some of our younger kids live at over the holidays. This was such an amazing trip and it really gave me a picture of what the "true" africa is like that you picture in your head. Iganga is more of a growing town/'s not so much rural africa. We took house warming gifts of butter, sugar, salt, and soap to each of the 5 families we visited. They were so excited to see us and so welcoming. It was one of my favorite experiences here. Little Anania, the boy who i took to get stitches after getting hit by a swing, and his sister Faith took us through the village to all the other kids houses/huts. Our visit was a surprise to all the kids so of course they acted shy at first but it was so good to see them. They were so much fun. It did my heart good to get to see them again before I go. At a couple of the houses they gave us sweet potatoes and water. (We were a bit scared to drink they water, but went ahead and did our best to finish what they gave us. It would have been rude not too!) It's been 2 days now and so far none of us are sick! We also had one family catch a chicken for us and send it home. Annie named it the lusoga word for Dinner and Bryan killed it yesterday for our lunch. It was such a sight to see a whole family looking around in a jungle for a chicken and then chasing it once they found it. We took it home on the back of a motorcycle with us in a plastic bag. Then we forgot about the chicken and left it in our van overnight. When we remembered it was in the van we went to let it out thinking it would be dead from heat stroke but not this chicken. It flew out of the van and scared annie to death. It also pooped all over the van...Morris was not happy about that. lol. The chicken tasted good!
7) I ate pork at this hidden restaurant a couple weeks back with ryan, erina, bryan and emma before ryan left. It was the most meat I've eaten in a long time. The restaurant is pretty hidden because people around here don't eat Pork. This is a high Muslim area.
8)Erina and I made a mural to hang at the cafe that is made out of our used bottle caps. It turned out really good!
9) The cafe continues to be really busy. Especially Fridays nights. That has been a fun environment for us to meet locals and expecially Kenyans! I know way more kenyans than ugandans, you'd think i was in Kenya.
Well that's all the time I have for the moment and thanks if you've kept reading and followed me on my sporatic posts. I'll try to get one more up before I leave on just my random thoughts about uganda and the culture as I have not talked much about it yet.
Until then...bye for now.