Greetings from Bangkok

1 January 2007

Hello, everyone,

Here is an extra long edition (Christmas Special) from Bangkok…..You must think Bangkok….You flew over for a week to visit my girlfriend (Helene) and celebrate New Year’s Eve. Luckily there is also a friend (Jurjen) here who came to pick me up from the airport, because I got scared by the thought that I was standing all the way to Remi at the airport in busy Bangkok and had no idea where to go….It all went so fast, last week I booked a ticket and then I sit the tuktuk instead of the boda boda and tear through the streets of Bangkok. New Year’s Eve was great fun. All tourists on the streets with an alcoholic refreshment and at noon everyone out of the roof because the new year had started. Unfortunately no fireworks but a lot of balloons. Around 11 o’clock we were told that some bombs had gone off, but we didn’t really worry too much about that. And now I am still sitting here in one piece, without a hangover, and healthy to enjoy Bangkok for a few more days. What a glorification running hot water (they call this a shower, I hadn’t heard of it for a couple of months), a king-size bed and good food. I could use a little holiday. Have zero comma zero money left but sometimes you have to do crazy things in life. And it’s also a good thing that I take some distance from all the impressions I get in Africa because my heart sometimes breaks several times a day….

Back to Africa…We had a wonderful Christmas outside. Had a tarpaulin hung up and put about the complete furniture outside. Everyone was cooking a bit and we had all bought presents. The Christmas tree was more of a branch of a don’t know the name tree than a real pine tree, completely decorated with Christmas cards they received over the years. Had some garlands and balloons hung up (with many thanks to mrs. miranda molhoek) and freubled a lot. In between I did my laundry and everything went nice and relaxed. We had a great Christmas lunch and after that several people from the village came to have a nice chat. In the evening it was packed and everyone was enjoying the lemonade or the beer. Of course the music was way too loud so it’s impossible to have a normal conversation. At 9 o’clock I went to the nest and then at 3 o’clock at night I woke up from the music and the party (those Africans don’t know how to stop). The next day I would go and see Frank again.
In the meantime I bombed Frank as my son so I am the proud mother of a 10 year old boy. I found this boy in the hospital (a few days before Christmas), totally burned. Of course we ask how that came about. Frank had sold his father’s coffee beans with his nephew and his father was so angry that he tied him to the tree and set him on fire. Terrible and disgusting story but these things happen regularly. I promised to get my special medicine from the local medicine man and bought his mother some cooking utensils so they could eat (you don’t get any food in the hospitals so there must always be a family member to prepare your food). After Christmas there was no Frank…The sisters told me that Frank had gone home for Christmas (home means to his father). A few days before Christmas his stepmother (his real mother died) had left him alone in the hospital (what a bitch) to do other things (prepare Christmas dinner?). I was furious, how can you send such a boy back home to have a merry Christmas with a father who wanted to kill you. They said that Frank would come back to the hospital the next day.
So I went back to the hospital the next day, and no Frank. We (director Dominic and I (holy maria) went in the school truck to Frank’s village. On the way we asked for directions to the village and everyone we talked to in the surrounding villages knew about it. After an hour and a half we reached the village. There all the old men are sitting there drinking a beer and they know all about it. We explained the whole story and said that we were coming to get Frank. They told us that Frank had gone to the hospital with his father on a bicycle (4 hours cycling). But we knew that Frank was not there so someone was sent to his house. This sweetheart came on the back of the bike with a much too big jacket and he looked very bad.

After the jacket was removed there was a smell of rotting meat in my nostrils… It didn’t look like it. They hadn’t even washed him. His bandage was still on as they had applied it a week before in the hospital. His hand was hanging there dead and I had to restrain my tears. I was really furious, I put the child in the school truck, we had something written down and drove him away to never come back. They wanted to get the father first but I didn’t know what I would do to that guy if I saw him. It is really awful. We took Frank back to the hospital. I bought clean clothes, clean sheets, radio and food. Little man didn’t know what happened to him. Normally he would just sit on the floor and had nothing to do…..Day after that he brought colours and pens, notebooks and balloons and he smiled when he saw me. This baby has been used his whole life and has been mentally abused by his father. He has no idea what love is. As soon as he is discharged from hospital he comes to our school and we try to give him love and education. We don’t know if he can ever write because his arms are so burned (4th degree) and maybe the tip of his finger needs to be amputated. There is no physio around so I have to improvise, but everything is better than with that disgusting father. Luckily the director and his wife are also very sweet and open, they are very caring and help me with everything. I felt very guilty to leave but I know that they are looking for Frank and give him security and attention….

Because it is holiday time I have enough time to go from hospital to hospital to see where I can help. A few weeks ago we found Derrick. A little boy of 15 months who likes porridge (kind of brintapap) very much. When his mother had the porridge on the fire and he didn’t even look once, he started to stand on the firewood. The piece of firewood came up and lifted the pan of porridge so much that it finally came over Derrick. Totally burned (tongue and throat as well) this little guy came to the hospital. The director’s wife had not been able to sleep for one night when she saw him. Her children, especially Rhonna, who is four years old, are sometimes so careless with tea water or other warm things that you need to pay a little more attention. We also took the children to Derrick to show them what can happen when you do these things. Rhonna was completely impressed and really learned from it. Now she asks us to help her instead of her being able to do it all on her own…
Derrick’s mother was hopeless. Her husband was very angry with her because this was his only son and he was accusing the woman the whole time. The mother was really desperate, of course she didn’t do this on purpose and her child was in mortal danger, if there is an angry husband, what do you do…?
I went to the local medicine man (uses herbs and things that are all very secret but really work very well), got some stuff and used it for a couple of weeks. Of course I also bought clean sheets, mosquito net, cooking utensils and food. The parents had 3 more children who were all alone at home (village 2 hours away) because the parents had to be with their child. After a few weeks Derrick was finally allowed to go home, a little emo of course but be sure to visit him….

I have to say I can handle it very well, I can really do something here. I don’t give money because they do the wrong things with it but I love to shop and then make people happy with the stuff. In the end I spend far too much money but I don’t care because I can really help people (especially children).
I am also a member of a clan here and my clan had to sacrifice to the church….Ben not a fan of the church services because they always last 3 or 4 hours so most of the time we ski the church service but this time I couldn’t get away from it. I bought an Ugandan Gomes (traditional dress) for this special occasion. Very clumsy dress especially when you have to pee. I put some curls in my hair and the children went crazy when they saw me. They loved it a lot. Of course we were all packed up in the school truck (and it rained very hard…day curls) to church. It was mega busy at the church because about 500 children also had their communion that day. All heads turned straight around when I got out of the truck. A “Mazungoe in a gomes”, it’s that people just didn’t faint but it looked like I came from another planet. The children were very proud because I happen to work at their school. After a lot of waiting, rain, waiting and rain, we finally sacrificed. Chickens, goats, lemonade and money…well that’s it.

After 2 minutes I stood outside again and took off that dress as soon as possible when we got home, to walk around in my trousers again. And less than an hour later I was back in the school truck because suddenly there was a funeral…well then I’ll go again because a “Mazoengoe” at your funeral is a blessing….

Only 4 boys of my group are still sleeping at school because it is now holiday time…So we moved our mattresses to a smaller room (is much cozier). We put the mattresses on the floor and went to sleep peacefully. Luckily one of the boys had to pee at night (in the huge bucket I bought now so they can’t aim next to it anymore) because he discovered a (poisonous) snake that was finding its way to our mattresses so deliciously. So my bodyguards jumped out of their bed and grabbed a stick and killed our friend the snake. I am never that aware of these things but next time we have to be careful because these snakes can really kill……

We also went to the SSE islands for 4 days. Nice to hear but money stolen from my cabin, so there you are on an island with no money and no bank. Eventually daddy and mummy Vogel arranged everything so I could pay the bills and not have to stay on the island forever to do the dishes.

I would like to thank everyone very much for all the kind messages, cards, packages and text messages. It is always nice to know that people think of you. And I certainly think of you too. Hope you received the Christmas cards (with special thanks to Mrs Yvonne Vogel for financing and sealing the cards). You can always come and see me, Uganda is a very good country for holidays and offers a lot of possibilities to travel. It is not that big and has beautiful nature, waterfalls, animals and people. So don’t hesitate and book that ticket!
Sweetheart I wish you all a very healthy and happy New Year and we will mail, write, call or see each other (you never know).

A very big kiss from Bangkok