Saturday, June 5, 2010

Highlights of the past few days

Tuesday: We barely spent any time at TASO on Tuesday. The person with whom we need to meet isn't available until Monday, so we were mostly killing time. We did so by going to the market with Regina. It was slightly less overwhelming with her there, though only slightly. We then bonded with our UBC colleagues over not having anything to do and spent the evening hanging out with them at our house. It was nice to have the company of a few other people and not just be reading and being bored all night.

Wednesday: We went on our first real outreach, though our pseudo-outreach on Monday was better. We made sure to arrive at TASo at 8:30 on the dot, but all of the TASO vehicles were already full. HR managed to arrange a vehicle for us, but it took over 2 hours to pick us up because it got a flat tire on the way to meet us. When our chariot finally arrived, eight of us piled into a minivan that normally seats 6 or 7. This seems to be the style around here. We drove for an hour on ridiculously bumpy roads, weaving back and forth to avoid potholes. I think our top speed was around 15 or 20 kmh. When we reached the hospital, we took some tea, then spent about 45-60 minutes sorting pills, before we pilled back into the van in time to beat the rain. About 20 minutes later the TASO land cruiser, which left a bit after we did, zoomed by us since it can better navigate and withstand the potholes. In the evening, we hung out at our house with the UBC kids again and then we all went to dinner at this descent Indian place. The food wasn't bad, but the service was. I think it was a mixture of being in Africa (where time is not of the essence) and a power outage, but it took 2+ ours for our food to come once we ordered (Jared would certainly have complained). Then when it did, they messed up one of the dishes so Nrupa and I ended up with only one of our two dishes (which they finally did give us when we were ready to leave, so we took it to go only to find it covered with ants the next morning). Best thing about Wednesday: I tried my first bite of sugar cane. It's delicious!

Thursday: Thursday was a national holiday in Uganda (Martyr's Day, though I don't really know the background behind it. Something about Christian missionaries and battles), so we didn't have work. We spent the morning lazing around and fending off ants. Somehow they've gotten into our fridge, so that morning we found them in our juice, milk, bananas, and leftovers. While recovering from the bought of homesickness that this situation brought on, I finally organized my room and put my clothes away. I also hung my new bed net, though I still wind up with about 3-5 new bug bites each day. In the afternoon, we met up with our UBC friends to explore our surroundings (environment, as they call it here). We were trying to get boda bodas or a car to take us up part of the mountains right by us, but the road was bad because of the rain and it was too expensive, so we walked around town instead. Then we spent a quite night at home with no power.

Friday: The power still wasn't back on this morning, so I took a freezing cold shower after my run this morning. At work, Nrupa and I spent the first part of the day working on a PowerPoint presentation about toilets and toilet hygiene for the staff meeting on Monday. In the afternoon, we went on home visits with some of the staff. We mostly spent a few hours driving around trying to find community nurses to take us to clients homes so that we could check on them. Community nurses are usually retired nurses whom TASO employees as liaisons in distant villages in which the clients are unable to make it to the center. Unfortunately, in the two communities we visited, we had trouble finding said nurse. The first we abandoned for now, but in the second we were able to find a community volunteer (an HIV person who helps distribute drugs and monitor clients, but who has no formal medical training). She was able to lead us to the home of two clients, one of whom was there. The client we met was living with her son and several grandchildren in a small, two room house. I'm not sure of the time frame of her story, but at some point she was sick, so her husband took her to the hospital. There she tested positive for HIV, so her husband left her at her son's house and took a new wife. This is actually better than a lot of stories. At least he took her somewhere safe, and he still supports her. We're not sure of his HIV status, but most likely he's the one who infected her. The medical staff counted her medicine to make sure she was taking it correctly, and then she had a brief visit with the counselor. To worsen matters, her 6 year old grandson most likely had malaria (the doctor/nurse (not sure which she is) didn't do a test, but the symptoms pointed to that). He shook our hands and just from that you could tell that he had a raging fever. TASO's policy, however, is that they will treat dependents of clients who are under 5 years old, so this boy didn't make the cutoff. It was heartbreaking to know that you have the medicine to treat this boy, but because of legalise and policy and funding issues you can't do anything for him. As we were leaving, however, the grandmother said that she had malarial symptoms, so we did leave her with a supply of anti-malarials. I'm not sure about this, but I think (and hope) that she was lying about the malaria symptoms and just said that to get medicine for the boy...

Interesting Things:
- Exploring villages today was amazing. We went inside the community volunteers home, which I think was probably on the nicer end. It was nice one room house with thick mud walls and a tin roof. She had a bed, a small bench and table, and the bicycle given to her by TASO to carry out her duties. There were also a small cat and several chickens going in and out of her house, even jumping on her bed! The client's house was similar to that of the counselor, though even farther out. We drove on what is normally a single-file walking path. Apparently we were only the second car to drive on this "road." At her house she ran around and grabbed chairs from who knows where so that all six of her guests had a seat before she finally sat on the floor. I was trying to offer her my chair but she wouldn't take it. In the front yard, beans, cassava, and laundry were drying.
- While driving through the villages, we bough pinepple and maize without even having to get our of our vehicle. Much like on the bus, sellers came storming up to the car with grilled maize and bags of fruit. We bought three pineapples, one of which we had the man cut for us to eat right then. Even though it looked unripe, it was very juicy and good. We're going to leave the others for a few days hoping that they'll be even better. The maize is interesting. It's much harder than corn from home and tastes almost like unpopped popcorn kernals. It's good, but I don't think I could eat it every day.
- We saw some of the cutest children. It's crazy how 5 year olds are put in charge of their younger relatives, even though they are barely able to care for themselves. They carrying their young siblings and cousins on their backs. Also, pants seem to be an optional piece of clothing, particularly for young boys. We saw several young children today running around with their tiny members flying in the wind. We also saw one baby with what we think was a hernia. When he sat down, a large protrusion came out of his stomach/groin area.
- I can never tell if kids are excited to see us or making fun of us. I think sometimes it's a bit of both. Many in town or nearby villages will yell "Muzungu how are you" and then burst out laughing. Others, especially little girls, will come up to us, shake our hands, and curtsey. It's actually very uncomfortable and I wish they wouldn't do it.

Language Lesson:
Lugisu--Malembe = Hello; Urienna = How are you?; Weebale = Thank you

On that note, I'm going to go finish getting ready. We're going out with our UBC friends and one of their host-brothers. Then tomorrow we're going to Sipi Falls, this waterfall on Mt. Elgon, and Sunday we're hiking Mt. Wanale, which is a small peak of Mt. Elgon. Should be a fun weekend! (Awesome night out!!! I hope I can actually wake up in the morning...)

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