As Christmas approaches….

Tuesday 24 december 2013

It’s 11 o’clock in the evening, this time I’m not sitting at the kitchen table writing letters… Luckily (almost) all of them went out before the holidays and ended up safely in the letterbox in the Netherlands. I am in hospital, the mosquitoes are buzzing around me…. The only mother who was not allowed to return home with her child for the holidays is on our ward. Luckily not in a critical condition so that means we have to get rid of some emails and sleep a bit between feedings.
And I just witnessed a Caesarean section, had never experienced it before and found it very interesting. The doctor had warned me in advance that he was not the best person for this job but because no one else was available he had no choice. As a doctor you are an all-rounder here anyway, so surgery is still possible.
His wife will not have been happy with this “in between surgery” on Christmas Eve. He is barely at home and now Christmas Eve is in the soup but it had to be done quickly because mothers had been having contractions all day and that child did not come.
After a lot of cutting, tearing, pulling and especially blood the baby was finally conjured up. Not a sound, not even when she was mixed up. I was already convinced that the child was dead, but after a good 10 minutes, shaking, breathing, sucking and shuffling, a cry came and that was a welcome sound. Mothers were completely under sail and had no idea that her Christmas baby had been born. The woman was on the firm side (read thick) so it took some time before everything was stitched up…. and it was warm in that operating theatre. Of course I didn’t want to let myself know but thought “This shouldn’t take too long because otherwise I will get rid of my stick”. After about 2 hours of struggling we could deliver a healthy baby to the family members because mothers still hadn’t recovered. Fathers had arrived in the meantime but was not amused… Apparently he wasn’t expecting a daughter and the disappointment of his face could be read (this was his second one) Men like their wives to “produce” boys (yes as a woman you are like a factory here), boys are the heirs, girls cost (apparently) more money while growing up and go and live with their husbands when they are married so you don’t have much if they can’t take care of you when you get older.
And yes, a caesarean section also costs more than an ordinary birth, but the doctor said that prices are always negotiable here…. Even in the hospital you can haggle. The Christmas baby will be called something like Noelina because that is how all girls born around Christmas seem to be called, nice and original…. Welcome on earth Noelina!

The year is almost over and then I always get a bit sentimental. With days like this you miss friends and family more than normal and you reflect how the past year went. I don’t want Christmas to be like this and it never really feels like Christmas here. I first have to close all the windows and doors and turn on the battery if I want to see the Christmas tree lights at all, outside the sun is shining abundantly and it is very warm so you don’t have to sit in a pothole warm house all day to enjoy your Christmas tree.

Yesterday we all prepared a Christmas lunch and had a nice dinner together. Saige once chose Christmas as his birthday and so we also celebrated his birthday. Saige doesn’t like to be in the limelight at all, but every year there is a smile on his face when he opens his present. It hasn’t been a surprise for years… a radio. It will be demolished within a month or at least it won’t function normally anymore. First of all, everything here is China quality, so it is to be expected that these kinds of items will not last long. Secondly, Saige thinks he is a radio mechanic, just like a torch mechanic and carpenter, so the radio will be taken apart in no time at all, only to find out that he can no longer return the radio to its original working state. Well then, wait another year for a new one and it saves me a lot of sleepless nights what I now have to buy for him again…

It is nice to see how activity is increasing here as Christmas approaches. The barber shops are packed and sometimes start at 5am. The hairstyles here are a day job and if you have to provide the whole village with a Christmas haircut then you are busy for a while. The men just have to shave it off, they don’t have to wait that long.
The population has saved a lot for the holidays and buys new clothes, food and a lot of alcohol. Peter, Frank, Rosias, Saige, Babi and Roos have also been put in new clothes. I had asked Junior along. Junior is an old pupil of the school and always looks very nice. As I always get into fights with the boys about their clothes Junior was allowed to do his best this time and find matching sets because the boys are anything but fashion-conscious. They don’t necessarily have to be fashion conscious here, but a little fashion for Christmas is fun anyway. Babi and Roos both had a horrible doll’s dress (very hot here for girls, the popper the better) and for the boys a colourful shirt with a green or red turd catcher (apparently fashion here), they were very happy with it and gave away a little show at home. Taata Simon and Simon (temporarily living with us) had just finished picking out a Christmas outfit when Simon farted (of course diarrhoea), which was everywhere and nowhere. Finally after half an hour of cleaning, bathing, nappy (emergency case, I really don’t want to find that shit in my bus) we could pack and return home. Two more chickens and not to forget matoke (banana) for the Christmas lunch…..

Christmas music is coming out of the shops and the government has promised electricity this year during the holidays, which is very thoughtful.
The moped (boda boda) drivers are busy driving everyone from hot to hot. Many people come from the big city to the village to celebrate Christmas with family. It is a hustle and bustle in the shops and on every street corner cow meat is sold the day before Christmas. The taxis ask for three doubles for transport, and they also try to get out of the Christmas atmosphere. Tonight a lot of people will go to the church mass… We had been there last year, children in church, me and Sunday in the van… I don’t understand when Mass is in Ugandan. Yes, it is also Christmas here and that is certainly a stimulus for the economy.

Last year was a very good year and I regularly realise how special it is that I am allowed to live and work here. Even though I am now in an age phase (33) in which I am wondering how my life would have been if I hadn’t stayed in Uganda. What would I be doing then and where? House, tree, beast or travelling freely around the world looking for myself and happiness? And what can I not be/do….. I can no longer become a pilot or doctor (never wanted to be), I have done far too little with that dance training, I am now an outdated ballet teacher who can no longer play so much, I haven’t enjoyed my years between 20/30 where have those 10 years been? I can’t just go back to the Netherlands and pick up my life there and sometimes I ask myself whether I can still ground myself there at all. I feel that Uganda is always temporary… even though it is 15 years. At the end of the day we come from a society where everything is arranged and where at the moment there is still something like a pension…. here you have nothing and when you are 80 you still work in the plantation to make sure you have food…. I need that little grip, I can see that. It’s scary and insecure to have nothing at all and so in the end I choose for that steadfastness (I think, or I have to meet a very rich man). I try to adapt to the rhythm of life of the Ugandans and they don’t look too far ahead because you never know what will happen tomorrow.

In short, a little nostalgia during Christmas and a brief realisation of how incredibly good we are. We always have food in the house, all children get schooling, we have 2 successful projects and we are healthy…. What more do we want? (my parents are coming in January and they have received a nice wish list by email so there is always something to wish for) And it means a clean up moment, the past weeks were so hectic that it looked like a bomb had exploded at home. I can’t see a piece of floor anymore in my bedroom and the children also bring a lot of mess with them. I used to be very worried about it and would spend the night cleaning up. Now I’m older, I think I’m wiser and need a beauty sleep so I just let it be a mess for weeks, send all the children to family members for Christmas and have had a lovely clean up/cleaning day today.
All alone at home, radio at volume 100 and go with that banana. Result, spic and span house and it will stay that way for a few days because the children will not be back home until next week!

As I wrote to many in their letter, the projects are doing very well and it gives a lot of satisfaction to work with nice, motivated, local people and to see a growth. A growth that hopefully will result in total independence and independence. I can give them the push and they have to do the rest themselves…. At the moment I see it as very positive for the future… Let’s see how we think about it next year. I hope that this will be another year with challenges and associated frustrations.
I would like to thank everyone very much for the kind e-mails, messages, letters and the years of trust in our projects. We are going to have another year and next year I have the intention to let you hear more from me via the website.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Christmas has already started here, in the Netherlands we are two hours behind….. and of course a loving and healthy New Year!

Love Kim