Mar 3

We’ve already begun a new month…the time is going so quickly!

I guess I need to provide an update as to what has kept us away from the internet (or as they say here, intranet) for so many days. As I mentioned last time, we skipped Friday at the hospital and went in search of souvenirs instead. The craft market we were planning on going to didn’t actually exist so we visited a couple others instead! The first was near the National Theatre (a good 30-40 minute walk from our place) and there were many many stalls where people sell various crafts. Some things are just silly (like t-shirts with Mzungu on them) and some things are beautiful (wood carvings, soap stone carvings). The prices aren’t fixed so you have to bargain to get a better price. However, even the prices they first offer are really not outrageous for what you get. Since I love a good deal, I want to bargain for the lowest price I can and also because if you just pay what they initially ask I feel that it just perpetuates the impression that white people have unlimited cash and they tend to look down at you and mock you a bit because they ripped you off so much. I don’t actually like the process of bargaining apart from getting a good deal though and I’m not very good at it either! Sometimes they even make you feel bad for asking for a lower price even though they know they’re charging us more than they would a local. Example: we’ve been given examples of how much it should cost to take a private hire (taxi) certain distances and even when we say how much we’re willing to pay, they try to guilt us into paying them more. We tell the drivers local people have told us how much it should cost but they do whatever they can to get money out of us. Sometimes it’s more frustrating than other times, especially when we actually need their service!

Anyway…the craft market was nice and of course I bought some gifts for my family and then we moved on to the second large craft market which was essentially the same as the first. In fact many of the stalls are nearly identical to their neighbors on either side! It is good to go around and ask prices at different stalls because they’ll all tell you something different and then you get a better feel for how much you should actually pay. I’ll be glad to get back home where you go to a store, look at the price, and if you want it you just pay for it. It’s exhausting having to argue with every seller. We did end up with some good stuff though and now I just have to hope that it will all fit in my suitcase and not weigh more than 50 lbs! Jon is very glad we got our shopping done because now he doesn’t have to go back with me!

One funny story about the shopping…we were trying to find safari hats (we’ll actually need them to prevent ourselves from being scorched by the sun) and at our favorite coffee shop (1000 Cups) they have really nice ones that are inexpensive. However, some of them were used and the man was trying to sell them to us as if they were new! None of them fit Jon’s head, so we’re going to go back later to see if they’ve gotten any new ones and hopefully the new ones really are new!

Friday night we went to a restaurant that is known for it’s wonderful steak…and it really was wonderful! You get appetizers, soup, a main course, and dessert for only 12,000 shillings (roughly $6). All of it was really wonderful and fresh. Two of the girls staying at Edge house left on Saturday, so it was their good-bye dinner. Really, we just like to think of excuses to get everyone together to go for dinner.

Saturday was fairly uneventful. We went to the mzungu mall (Garden City) to go to the big grocery store and in search of safari hats. We got some groceries, but no hats. 😦 We went in search of fans as well to get some airflow in our rooms, but they were really expensive so we decided to just be hot. Alison found soy milk at a natural food store, Jon found pickles (and apparently he was the first person to ever buy them!), and I bought a box of Duncan Heins brownies to attempt to make for Jon’s birthday (I haven’t had a chance to make them yet, so I’ll let you know later if they turn out). We even got a special hire on the way back whose car wasn’t falling apart, was clean inside, and the driver was reasonable. We got his number for future excursions.

Sunday was a bit more interesting. We started the day by going to church with Susan at KPC downtown. This is the church with the Canadian pastor and the church is quite large. The music is really good and the pastor is pretty good too. They do a lot of really great things here in the community. One group is called Watoto (look it up if interested) which is a group of young people, who previously were on the street/orphaned/destitute, they bring together and form a choir which then tours all over the world. I’m not sure what they do about education, but their must be some sort of education given to these kids. Their hope is that these kids will become leaders in their own communities. We met one guy who seemed to be around our age, who had been a member of the group, and he was definitely well on his way to achieving great things! They also help orphaned children to be placed with families here and support the family financially so the child can go to school and have basic necessities. Their goal in all of this is to get the local communities involved and to get them to take care of their own orphans. However they’re organizing these things, they seem to be doing a good job!

So after lunch, Susan took us to her house and made us lunch. She made way too much food and complained that we didn’t eat enough, but we both had 2 plates full of food! She made ‘American’ matoke (she put spices in with the bananas and then didn’t mash them up) and it was actually much better than any other matoke I’ve had! She also made the staples of rice, beans, g-nut sauce (also better than the hospital’s), potatoes, and chicken (which was really good!). One of the best parts of the meal was definitely the freshly squeezed pineapple-passion fruit juice (we watched her make it). Delicious! After we ate, we just sat in her living room and talked for quite some time. Susan likes to tease Jon about being single and relentlessly tries to set him up with someone. Now she has even started praying for him to find a woman! She doesn’t think he should be single any more I guess…we’re not really sure why she’s decided this, but there is no changing her mind.

She gave us her opinions of Americans and says we are so confident and although she admires our confidence, she thinks sometimes we are too confident to the point that we’re annoying and egotistical. She has said several times that Americans act like they own the world and that we can push other people around. Sadly, I’ve seen several American students try to do this and it’s really frustrating to watch. I think sometimes they forget that this isn’t America and things will be different here. Obviously we all get frustrated when we’re put in a completely unfamiliar circumstance, but there’s really no reason to be rude. Thankfully, Susan doesn’t seem to think Jon and I are like some of the Americans she meets (she says we’re very quiet and calm no matter what the situation and for some reason she calls me ‘the Queen’! I haven’t really figured this one out, but it is funny) and there are things she really likes about Americans too. She thinks our dedication to work and generally being places on time is good and she wishes the opportunities for education that we have would be something attainable here.

There really isn’t such thing as school loans here to my knowledge, so it’s difficult for people to get an education beyond high school. Many children don’t even get a high school education because their parents can’t afford the school fees. Although there are plenty of Americans in the cycle of poverty, we still hold on to the belief that if you work hard enough you can make it. Here, I think this concept is much more difficult to attain. It’s not impossible, but in some cases I think it’s pretty nearly impossible. For starters, the opportunity for a good education isn’t free and good healthcare really only exists for the wealthy. It’s not that the doctors and nurses at Mulago don’t try, there are just very limited resources and the government doesn’t seem to put the money towards preventative medicine or even basic health needs. As if the lack of money isn’t enough, they struggle with communicating with patients due to a lack of education about medicine specifically. There is still a lot of witchcraft practiced and we are told these ‘doctors’ often specifically tell patients NOT to seek western medicine or their loved one will die. There are also a lot of people who believe evil spirits have given them HIV or whichever ailment they have. Imagine trying to explain pathophysiology to patients to encourage them to understand their illness and therefore take care of themselves, while the patient is convinced the hex their neighbor put on them is the reason for the illness to begin with!  It makes everything so much more complicated.

While I was on the sickle cell ward, the doctor explained to me that people don’t understand that sickle cell disease is a genetic condition which is passed on to a child from both parents (the average person in the US doesn’t know much about sickle cell either, but here 6% of the population has it and even more of the population are carriers).  Often one parent will blame the other because only one side of the extended family actually has the disease.  What they don’t realize, is that each person contributes 50% of the genes for the disease.  To put this in perspective, it’s a similar mechanism to how Cystic Fibrosis is transferred in families.

I digressed, but now back to the weekend.  After lunch and conversation with Susan, we went back to Edge House and got Alison and then headed for Wande Geya (although I haven’t mentioned this before, this is the area of town we live in) to get a special hire to the Ndere Cultural Center.  There’s a dance performance there 5 nights a week, but the best shows are on Sundays.  Alison’s family knows the man who is the director, through another friend, so we got to meet him at the end of the show.  The whole evening was wonderful.  There was a buffet for dinner and while we ate we were entertained by traditional Ugandan music and dancing.  The performers were really good (at one point, the women each had 7 pots balanced on their heads while they continued wiggling their hips back and forth and dancing around the stage!!) and the director (who acted like an MC), was hilarious!  While the performers were changing their costumes, he would give anecdotal stories, nearly all of which were very funny.  One of the first things he talked about was the lengthy Ugandan greeting process.  Instead of just walking in and asking a clerk at the store what you are looking for, you have to greet him/her for 30 minutes.  You must ask about his/her children, parents, siblings, goats, cows, pigs, the farm, and anything else that comes to mind.  He also said the reason Ugandans are so poor is because they spend all of their money on phone bills!  Instead of making the calls quick, in order to get the information you need, you first have to greet the person on the other end for several minutes at which point you may have run out of money to ask whatever it was you needed to know, so then you have to buy more air time and start the whole process over (including the greeting again and now adding an apology for being cut off!).  We thought this was particularly funny because we’ve noticed it so often!  A child may be convulsing, but before anything is done, you better make sure you greet each nurse and physician and even medical student!  This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I assure you, it’s not much of one.

I’m talking so much through this blog that no one is going to want to listen to anything I have to say when I get home.  In fact you’ll probably all be able to tell the stories to each other so I really won’t have to do anything!

Did I tell you about the toilets that are literally holes in the ground?  Well, that’s really all that needs to be said about them.

Yesterday I went to St. Stephen’s again with Dr. Holt and Jon decided to take the day off because he’s getting so old he needed some extra rest.  I think many people would call this being lazy. 😉

Today we both went to the cancer ward and rounded with two doctors who seem very great.  Let me tell you what distinguishes the ‘great’ doctors from the ‘not so great’ ones in my mind.  The great ones are those who talk to their patients, communicate with them, and also communicate with us whities who can’t understand anything that’s going on unless it’s in English and spoken at a fairly loud decibel.  We actually even got in trouble a couple of times for not paying attention!  Although at home I’d be mortified, here I was kind of glad because at least they cared enough to notice we weren’t listening.

Obviously the cancer ward isn’t one of happiness and joy, but many of the cancers are treatable and especially if they’re caught early.  Of course they’re not often caught early, but they do the best they can.  Still, it’s great exposure and there are cancers here that are very uncommon at home.

Sam, the director of the Ndere Center, has asked me, Jon, and Alison to join him at a rural site where he has a project to help children.  We’re not entirely sure this is definite, but we’re hoping.  Apparently this rural site would be a great opportunity, so great, that Susan told us to stay the whole week and work at the hospital there!  We were a little surprised by this, but it should be fun.  Dr. Holt told us the hospital is terrible.  Worse, way worse, than the government hospital in Kampala.  A medical school was started there 3 years ago, and the hospital is so terrible that the medical students actually had a strike against it.  I don’t know if anything changed after that, but by the way he made it sound, it doesn’t seem like much was improved.  There is also a private Catholic hospital he said we should tour and another hospital which is supposed to be state of the art.  He’s not sure if it’s been kept up, but some philanthropist from Europe built it thinking it was a good way to make money (he must not have been very smart to think a hospital would make him money, and especially a hospital in a developing country!).  There is also a displaced person’s camp there which will be heart breaking, but yet somehow still a good experience.

We may also have an opportunity to go to a remote village on an island in Lake Victoria.  It’s a couple hours south of Jinja and it’s called Lingira Island in case anyone wants to look it up.  In order to get on the boat to get to this island, we have to be carried on a man’s shoulders through the water!  The men charge 500 shillings per person (roughly 25cents).  I’m worried about keeping my pump dry, but I’ll talk to Dr. Holt and make sure he thinks it’ll be ok.  I’d really appreciate prayers about it though as I don’t want to miss this opportunity.  Thanks!

I don’t think I have any more news (sure you’re glad for that seeing how long this is!).  Hopefully we’ll know more about our trip to the wilderness soon!

Until next time,

Katie

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3 Responses to “Mar 3”

  1. Mom (Erin) Says:

    Wow, Katie, such a lot of information for all of us to absorb. I will be googling the things you mentioned. Take your extra pump and use it, then go back to your “good” one when you are sure to be dry. I think Americans are confident because we don’t know how else to be, we are told we are the best and strongest country and just believe it. We don’t ever know how blessed we are until we see how so much of the world lives and then think they should all be like us. Maybe they don’t even want to be like us! Don’t think we won’t have questions because we haven’t even seen any pictures yet. I volunteered you to talk at a dietetic meeting next year and show pictures of malnutrition in Africa!! Want to come Jon? You are always in my thoughts and prayers, every minute! Lots of love, Mom PS Thanks for all the food info!

  2. Kyom Says:

    hey Katie so glad to finally get some new stories.. had been checking… you and Jon are very different from those other students… you are friendly and confident but still down-to-earth… Midwest living, i guess… oh and Suzan calls me a princess (i take my time…apparently ;))

    am glad you went to Ndere centre.. i really wanted to take you there.. remember the bwindi weekend.. glad you went either way…

    its good that we can hear you talk thru the blog.. its good for others to get a good description of the warmth of UG; even with the draw-backs.. cant wait for you to come…

    was in clinic today.. was interesting.. i think i got the hang of it.. ❤

  3. Kyom Says:

    i hope that you’ve had a chance to eat at Javas,,, i guess its the steak plcae u talked about.. i love that restaurant!!!

    hhhmmm.. Jon… what happened to the lady friend? should i start to pray?

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