Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Past Six months...

As I look back on my 25th year of life I am happy with what I accomplished. I had a job I loved and enjoyed traveling to many races to run, and was happy. Yet something was missing. It was like a part of me was left in Uganda in 2009. It was not until around February of last year that my dream of going back to Uganda was finally coming into place, and a spark came alive in me. In September it became reality as I left America for Uganda. I have been here now for almost six months and although there have been many struggles along the way and sometimes days when I question what impact I am making when I look back I cannot believe where the time has gone. The past six months have flown by. Anne and I would like to postpone our orignal return flight from May to a later date, yet we are struggling to choose the date. This place has made me so happy and taught me how to love and be loved. I appreciate the little things here so much more (I don’t think I can ever get tired of having a small child rush up to hug me daily on my run as though she had not seen me for months when in reality she greeted me just the day before) and feel at peace here in this place that I did not feel in America. I would like to stay six more months, and although that may seem like a long time for my family back home to me it just seems too short. Sometimes we have to leave home to find home, and I think I found it here. Now the question is where do I go from here?

My 26th Birthday

This year I celebrated my 26th birthday in Africa. It was unlike any birthday I have ever had. Although I was not home celebrating with family and friends, blowing out candles on my “cake” of chocolate chip bars, and listening to my parents and siblings sing about 5 different versions of happy birthday to me, I was surrounded by friends who are like family here in Africa and felt loved and blessed on my special day. Celebrations began the day before my birthday on Friday, March 7th. Since my birthday fell on a weekend the clinic staff celebrated with me on Friday by singing Happy Birthday to me twice and eating a cake that Anne made. Celebrations continued when I visited Moreau School and my co-teacher immediately wished me a happy birthday. I had not mentioned my birthday at all to her so I was surprised to hear her say this. She then had my primary one class sing happy birthday to me, and throughout the rest of the afternoon I got well wishes from many of the teaching staff.

The next morning I woke up to decorations on my door before heading to mass where I received a blessing from two newly ordained deacons. This was followed by a birthday run complete with a  short stop for a breakfast of milk and bread at my friend, Eva’s, African hut with her one year old daughter, Irene. Oh, and as a birthday gift we stopped at her shop where she gave me a bunch of bananas.

After my run the Sisters took me on an outing to Nyakasura caves where we saw stagmites and stalactites and took a nice hilly walk to a crater lake. It was a beautiful sunny day and with the Rwenzori mountains in the background I felt like we were straight out of the Sound of Music…well it probably helped that I started to play the song “climb every mountain” on my iPod as the Sisters and I climbed the hills. Our outing was followed up by a delicious lunch- American food(!), cake, a birthday prayer, and presents at Mountains of the Moon restaurant. When I returned home I opened my birthday box and was excited to read so many beautiful letters from my family. (I had received my package about a month before my birthday, and it was hard to resist the temptation of opening it up- I had to push it farther and farther under my bed!) I feel so blessed as I enter my 26th year of life to be surrounded by people I love in a country that has become like home. Webale muno for all the birthday wishes!

Oh and did I mention that two of the kids I like to play with from the village each bought me a chapatti for my birthday…which I ate after riding on the “backseat” of the bicycle driven by Living, one of the children.  Now that is what I call a good birthday!

Jinja Trip

So this past weekend Anne and I took a trip to Jinja, a city about 7 or so hours away from Kyarusozi. As has become our routine Anne and I planned very little for the trip yet God seemed to make things work out, and subsequently our time in Jinja was extended a few days longer then planned. We stayed with the OLMs (oversea lay missionary volunteers,) two of which are Notre Dame graduates. After living in a convent for several months it felt like I was back in college again as Anne and I stayed in the garage which had been converted into bedrooms. (Warning: always bring a fan if you plan to stay in Jinja, the equator sun is HOT especially when there are no windows in the room you are sleeping in.) The OLMs made sure we enjoyed Jinja, as the first night we ate dinner at sunset overlooking the Nile River. The next day I went on a run with an OLM, Colin,…which ended up being quiet the adventure as he got us lost along the way and being the typical man afraid to ask for directions soon enough we ended up in someone’s sugarcane and banana plantation ankle deep in wet dirt and burrs. After creating our own path through the swampy area we made it back to the house…a half hour later then planned. Luckily I had a nice shower in the Nile River as the five of us went tubing down the Nile River. The sun was shining strong (don’t worry dad I applied and reapplied sunscreen about three times during the course of two hours) and the water was warm as we enjoyed ice cold drinks drifting down the Nile. I am not good at being lazy for long so I enjoyed having the chance to kayak down the Nile for a bit as well. After being in the kayak under the hot sun I had dried off a bit and was ready for the boda ride home, but unfortunately I was thrown into the water and my plans of staying dry were ruined. Don’t worry though eating a banana and peanut butter chapatti rollex on the back of a boda made up for it. Anne and I decided to split up on the trip home as she extended her stay in Jinja a bit longer then I did, which meant we were on our own to travel back to Kyarusozi. I have gotten used to travel here, but I have always had a partner to rely on and talk to during the trip. I was a bit worried starting out the journey on my own, but I am proud to say I made it home safe and sound. Unfortunately for me the first person who saw me was if you recall from previous posts my “admirer” who decided he needed to blow a kiss to me across the street. Great. Only in Uganda.


The mother feeding her baby with a medicine cup
At outreach this week a malnourished baby came to receive immunizations. The child was almost two months, but weighed only 3kg. We wanted to supply the baby with a milk powder formula, but we did not have it with us so we told the mother to come to the clinic the next day. Sure enough she showed up. While she was there I examined the mother breastfeeding the baby and noticed that despite the baby’s good latch and sufficient sucking ability no milk was being released. The mother was dry in both breasts, and therefore the baby was getting little to no food at all. No wonder the child was so underweight. The mother herself was poor and malnourished and there was concern as well of if she had a mental issue. We had a powder milk substitute that could be used for babies 6 months and above, but nothing for those under 6 months. After a few phone calls confirming it was okay to administer this milk to the formula I spent over an hour syringe feeding the child and teaching and demonstrating to the mother how to mix the milk and feed her baby. Unfortunately, the mother could not get the hang of drawing up milk and releasing the plunger slowly into the child’s mouth. Despite numerous demonstrations and practice every time she syringe fed the child the baby would gag. Therefore, I tried option two- showing her how to feed the child bit by bit with a medicine cup. She seemed to do better with that, but I still had many concerns over her ability. Although it clearly was not the ideal resolution for the problem I was very concerned about the life of the baby if she was left in the mother’s hands. Therefore I asked the mother if I could take her baby home for a month or at least a week to feed and care for the baby in order to help it grow. The mother had already had three of her children pass away at a young age, and I did not want to make this the forth. Although the grandfather agreed to let me care for the baby, the mother refused. It was clear she loved her child very much, but I could not get across to her the fact that the baby was in danger if something did not change. In the end we ended up giving the mother a month’s supply of milk powder, some clothes for herself and the baby, a bar of soap, and a little food for the mother. The situation made me discouraged and left me wondering what more could be done. Please pray that the baby is slowly gaining weight and the mother is taking better care of herself as well.

Update: The mother and the baby showed up to immunization outreach this past week! I was hopeful as I weighed the baby, but unfortunately the child was the exact same weight- 3.2kg as the previous month. Although it weighed the same I took courage in the fact that the baby’s face seemed to be a bit fuller, and one of the nurses felt as though the child had more muscle in the leg while immunizing then it did previously. The mother said that she had been feeding the child the milk we provided, and subsequently we were able to provide her with more milk powder that we had brought in hopes that she would be there. This situation has still left me at a loss of what to do for this family. They live far from where I stay, and it is not possible to visit everyday, but I still worry about them. Oh…by the way I asked the mother again if I could take her baby home for a week…the answer was still no.