House visits on the Boda

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Ola amigos,
(Got Spanish friends visiting…..My Spanish is going forward by leaps and bounds ☺)

Finally a new update after 7 months. With stunning views of Lake Victoria, a lovely Sunday afternoon sunshine and a cup of tea I am ready to write about all the beautiful things that happen here. Busy is the right description to start with. I barely have time to sit on the hill or keep up with my social contacts. Busy with all sorts of things. Helping Jeroen with be-more volunteers, the family, people coming to the door for help, but especially setting up the department for malnourished children. In my previous report I had written that my friend from Scotland (Kirsty) was going to write a proposal so that we could start a project to help malnourished children… here’s the sequel….

In April I was back in the Netherlands to celebrate Queen’s Day and see everyone. I have to admit that the first two weeks were tough. Crying, for what, I couldn’t say. Not including the girls again, all the emotions and impressions that you put away all year long and get out when you’re alone, a relationship that had ended and notice that you miss certain things very much. How wonderful to see my girlfriends and to find out how nice and easy it is to go for a chat and tell your story at any time of the day. These are real moments that I miss very much here, an outlet, a heart under the belt and sometimes being put on the ground with two feet on the ground. But I did find it difficult to find my twist. It’s wonderful that you can buy everything you need in a supermarket and that you can take the train from here to there in no time at all. That you can take your bike and move from one place to another without hills, have delicious meals, get drunk and not be seen as the “rich” white man who acts as the local bank.
It’s a society in which (in my opinion) you have to do a lot and I can’t satisfy all of them. Internet mobile phones with touch screen, an agenda full of appointments, getting there on time and a lot of social obligations. I had a similar life in the Netherlands and enjoyed it but now that I’m used to the simple life here I found it difficult to adapt. After two weeks I was back to normal and ready to enjoy myself.
On Queen’s Day we sold many necklaces in the sunshine and in the afternoon of course a beer at the harbour to see old acquaintances and finally falling on the bike home to sleep it off.

I visited schools that had held actions for Kim in Africa to thank the pupils/teachers and to tell them how things are going in Uganda, very nice to do. Visited family and friends, flew to Spain with friends who have been here and started an organisation and we even went on TV (see YouTube) and spent a day in Scotland. Kirsty got a call to come and explain the proposal and two are stronger than one, so on to Scotland. How cool to be able to do something like that. It’s great to be able to talk about your plan with dedication, without having to peddle, because even if you don’t get the money, that project will get off the ground, as long as you believe in it. This gentleman did not need much conviction. I had been back in the Netherlands for less than an hour and he had already given his pledge. We have received EUR 25 000 for the next three years to start the project for malnourished children and to make it a success, unbelievable! It took 5 months before I could open a Ugandan bank account to deposit the money, but yes that’s a small extra, we can start….
I have been on home visits in my region for some time and see that there is a great lack of knowledge about proper nutrition and that many young, uneducated mothers have sick children. It is a huge challenge to identify all these problems and to set up a successful project with the help of local people. I have seen a lot of distressing cases at the moment and you wonder how mothers/carers can make it happen. Those fathers here leave with the northern sun and don’t give a damn about their families, mothers who haven’t finished school and don’t know anything about HIV, TB or other diseases and they can only have children. I am not saying that they should not, but they are not thinking about the consequences. As far as that is concerned, we Westerners are much better prepared and, of course, educated. Frustrating yes, so it is also up to me to accept that you cannot help everyone and that you should not look at these matters through Western eyes.

At the moment we do a lot of house visits, on the boda from hut to hut, giving advice and food, I can tell at the moment that the patients are going in the right direction and that is very nice to see. The children who are too sick are admitted to hospital. In the room that would be made available for this project, deliveries are still done on a conveyor belt and so we have to use small private rooms, but yes, you have to start somewhere.
Last week a mother with a very sick child came to our house. Grandma had made small incisions in her stuffed feet to put herbal medicines in them with the hope that the situation would improve. She had no idea that herbs were not a panacea for malnutrition and the wounds had eventually started to infect. Mother and child have been brought to Masaka, a department we work with because I did not dare to take on that responsibility in our mini clinic.
Slowly but surely routine comes into the project and also concrete plans but also this is all African. In November Robin (old be-more volunteer) comes to live and work with us indefinitely, I am really looking forward to it, very nice to be able to do it together. The volunteers working on the be-more hospital project are also helping me tremendously with all sorts of things and also bring a lot of fun, two birds with one stone. The Scots will come by in a couple of weeks to check if everything is going as planned… well, a lot of administration needs to be updated but we can always use the “African time” excuse☺

Unfortunately, the chickens are not doing so well and I think we will sell them before Christmas, then you will get a good price for them. The start was already dramatic, 600 chicks, we were ready for it. Within ten minutes 250 critters dead and Kim panicking. Stress, chickens are quite stress-sensitive. Ok, about 300 new chickens bought…. unfortunately we have no chicken happiness, a nasty disease has made sure that we now only have 270 left where at least 70 chickens don’t lay but have to be fed every day. Expensive business, therefore, and we are more likely to make a loss than a profit. Let’s go out with these chickens and then the whole business in the Christmas pot before the end of the year. After that, of course, we can start all over again, don’t even think about the sleepless nachten☹.
After a year and a half of patience (African time, there it is again) I finally got the redeeming call at the end of May. The passports of the children were ready!!!! Fantastic… and now I hope they get a visa and in April/May they can finally visit the western world with cheese, real chocolate, the Efteling, gingerbread, lots of apple syrup, grandpa and grandma, friends and family.

Frank and Saige are doing well at school, the Christmas holidays are coming up and that means the kids will be home for three months. Busy, cozy and handy to have a few extra hands that can do the dishes, fetch milk, take the goats outside but above all very nice to be complete again because I do miss them. Nowadays Frank goes to his family for a few days during the holidays and has good contact with his father. It’s very nice that this family bond has been strengthened, despite the fact that his father abused him terribly, Frank has gained so much self-confidence that he can forgive him and is now part of his own family again.
Saige is currently receiving creative therapy from Nadine, who is here for 4,5 months for her internship. In this way I hope to get more information about his behaviour and how I can deal with him. He is now 12 years old and in group 4 but doesn’t get along well with his peers and is not social at all. He loves to play all day with Rosah in the pink princess tent with the barbies and to wash Jeroen’s car (even if you only have a drop of water left in the water tanks) and make the bikes shine again. Talking about cars, we bought a van. An awesome donation, only now I have to dare to drive and don’t forget to stay on the left side. In the Netherlands I regularly doubt whether I am driving on the right side of the road (yes, even on my bike) so I have to pay attention because the Ugandans have a different style of driving (hard, overtaking before a turn/hill, continuing after a collision, large light/no light and minimum number of passengers 8 in a 4 person car… impossible to take a picture of when you are covered by thick buttocks and happy to be able to breathe) At the moment the bus is very busy, we will sometimes rent the bus to cover the costs and it is very nice that we can now transport the whole family (safely), get chickens food ourselves and are mobile for emergencies.

Yoga on the hill shoots in (too) often and in the evening the bed calls out around 9 o’clock… Before going to bed, look at the beautiful starry sky and praise myself richly for being able to enjoy this beautiful country every day and help the local people (even if it’s a drop in the ocean) and for being an efficient one, (no time-wasting, control freak mzungu) will have to accept that here everything will always go in its “African time”… But that has its charm…

Until the Christmas cards!