There is always something going on in “Villa Vogel”

3 November 2008

People, I am deeply ashamed, I have not made myself heard for so long. Time just flies and I have had a sort of mini-crisis with myself. I always have to be in the mood to write an update otherwise it will just be a boring and depressing story and that’s no fun at all to read…….All sorts of things have happened again in the past three months so sit down with a cup of tea or coffee.
Lately I regularly wonder why all this happened to me (of course I was there myself) and if it is my destiny to be a 24 hour cleaning machine and mother and if I really deserve to be sponsored and get so much support (I mean a house mother in the Netherlands doesn’t get money from family and friends to do her job) and if I really do do enough to thank the people, Whether I’m really not gaining any attention and whether I give myself any attention at all (forgetting to wax my legs once a month) or whether the children really get the right amount of attention and why I can’t enjoy the moment.
My thoughts are always running at full speed and the moment I wake up in the morning the schedule is already in my head…..If my schedule is disturbed I am irritated and my day doesn’t feel complete….Short-that’s why I have found out that I am a control freak and I really mind…… there is never any rest in my head and so I’m not the type to play with my children for an hour at a time because I always have to do the dishes, walk to the next village for fresh cow’s milk, write another hundred thousand letters and make another six thousand excuses not to have to sit quietly and give myself some rest and think about the meaning of life (Lees:Eat, Pray, love by Elizabeth Gillart).

It’s such a shame that I actually let a lot of beautiful time pass by without really enjoying it. I think finding peace in yourself is incredibly difficult so I’ll keep struggling. Every day I pretend to sit on the hill (for at least half an hour and without children) and to meditate (as far as I know…something with breathing….) In the end (of course) it never happens because there is always something going on in “Villa Vogel” and I can be happy when the whole brood dives into bed at 9 o’clock and closes their eyes. Except for Rosah then, this rascal has an enormous stamina. Nowadays she walks and nothing is safe in the house anymore. This dragon is still babbling and joking when we are all lying on one ear. The lady doesn’t let the cheese eat from her bread and knows how to manipulate the whole household. At first I had dramatic crying nights, which seemed to have no end, now we have a delicious twiggle in its place and if the lady doesn’t get her way we all know (oh supernanny can a child of one go to the naughty corner?). She is a great actress, especially when it comes to squeezing out fake tears and fake traps (after which the fake tears always follow).
For Babirye she is not at all sweet but she loves the dog and the cats she loves to feed from her own plate and she regularly pulls her tail almost out of their ass. She demands a lot of attention and sometimes I feel guilty towards Babirye. Babi and I were always a team, always together and she went everywhere with us. Now I have to divide my attention and sometimes I notice that it drives me crazy when Babi walks behind me for 24 hours and interferes with everything. There aren’t many children around where she can play with and so she grows up between adults and loves to wash, iron, cook and do the laundry because she doesn’t see and do anything else. Once or twice a week she goes with the security guard on the back of her bike to his village and there she plays with her newly acquired girlfriends and comes home exhausted with beautiful stories. After some disagreements with the school where I worked I don’t go there very often anymore and Babi is not that much among her peers anymore and I think that’s sad. That feeling of guilt does gnaw…… despite the fact that I still believe it’s good for the children (not always for the mother) that the mother is at home for them and therefore always feels safe and protected (although I always shouted loudly that I wouldn’t become a stay-at-home mother).

Now that I’m writing like this I remember why it took me so long to write….Writing is also a confrontation with yourself and because there is such a lot of guilt and gnawing in me lately it’s hard to admit it to the outside world. Of course I can write an update about small talk, but my writing is also an outlet and so I keep it a bit personal and confronting with myself (I am of course always open to criticism and advice). Sometimes I am afraid that I will fall off my pedestal when I confess that sometimes things don’t go so well or now that I have sent a child back home.

I feel I have failed…..ik has to admit that I can’t help this boy. In February, Rosias was just standing at the door with a sad story (mum, dad dead, stepmum a dragon, zero food, house on collapse) and we decided to take him home. After research we found out that he had lied to us (mum, dad alive, stepmum no dragon, house ok and a bit of food) and we wondered why on earth he had come to us and how he could have lied like that. Of course in bitter times you do all kinds of things to improve your situation but his situation wasn’t that bitter and from his parents we already understood that it wasn’t an easy boy to live with. Still, try it because a challenge in his time is fun. In the beginning it went very well, he went to school, listened and got along well with the other children. But soon his true nature came to the surface and since he is already 13 you don’t have that much influence on his behaviour anymore. He preferred a life without rules and wasn’t that interested in school. We tried but he showed absolutely no respect for me or the rules we have in the household. I noticed that he started to irritate me and I always had to get angry with him before he did what was asked. Now I understand that you have to give him a chance and that his upbringing isn’t really the most wonderful one so you can teach such a boy standards and values in a short period of time.
He really doesn’t have to get down on his knees every night to thank us, but I think a little respect is in order. There are a lot of children who would like to be in his shoes and want to adapt to our rules and values. Now we put time, energy and money in a boy who doesn’t seem to appreciate it and only likes that we have good food, a movie on Saturday and light for the evening in the house, well sorry but unfortunately I’m not only good for that.
I was hoping to give him a feeling that he is part of a family and enjoys living with us but unfortunately I didn’t succeed. We found out that he brought strange stories into the world and that he is not motivated to adapt. I am so sorry and wonder if I have given him enough time and space to acclimatise. Yet I notice that I am much calmer and much less irritated. Frank and Saige are also doing much better without his influence and I’m going to believe it was a good choice. What good is it for the children if I am always irritated and if all the attention goes to his negative behaviour? This week his mother came begging if he could please come back because she couldn’t take care of him (well she should have thought of that when she got pregnant) the boy didn’t look happy to see us again and there was no sign of him wanting to come back to live with us. I sent them back together because I’m not ready to make a final decision but as it looks now I don’t think I will try again.

These days I am turning out to be a real farmer and scout. I am making a boulder with the wood fire and I collect the firewood myself from the dangerously impenetrable Ugandan forests. The family reduces with the number of children, on the other hand we have a real animal family expansion We have our crazy dog “George of the jungle” a bit on the skinny side but yes we have no ready-made Pedigree Pal here. Last week his hunting skills were clearly still visible in the front yard which was littered with feathers and a cadaver still nice and fresh. Then we have baby news from our cat called “Trouble”, madam had been charmed by the only male cat in the village and so she had a lot of inbreeding. Two cute kittens full of fleas which they spread around the house and your bed (even if you close the door 30000 times). In the morning they hang in my legs, mewing for milk……now mother is pregnant again….oh what a drama more of those flea bales. Unfortunately there is no vet around here ( yes only one for cows, goats and pigs, because who on earth keeps cats in the house????) so a chance of sterilisation is zero and I’m not going to risk it myself hence the appeal: give away…beautiful kittens from far away Uganda…they will enrich your life and bring the beautiful weather from Uganda…..Gratis to pick up! Well I can imagine you are all coming this way in droves…………
I should certainly not forget my latest addition, the goat called Gulu Gulu. Tied up on the back of the bicycle, she was delivered to us immediately. It was actually a purchase for Christmas so that we could eat goat meat but if I have an animal in the house for more than a day then I am already so emotionally connected to it that I certainly cannot eat my now dear little goat and chickens at Christmas.

Nowadays I also use my office. Yes, a real office with a computer that doesn’t work (the rat thought it was a suitable house and nibbles on the wiring) and a secretary who is breastfeeding her child and otherwise making necklaces. We did put up some nice posters about child abuse and child abuse but actually we weren’t really working yet. So every Wednesday I come to the city and as the news of a Mazungoe offering HULP goes like wildfire here, the whole office was full in no time. Many with the question “Can you please pay the school fees”, unfortunately I have to disappoint many people….I am not a rich Mazungoe and I don’t give money. I want to invest in something that will enable them to make money and pay their school fees or other costs. Because as long as I give everyone money (which I don’t have) and I die tomorrow they have a money problem again, so invest….
The most poignant stories, of course orphans, girls who have been raped and got pregnant, people who don’t have any food and their whole world has collapsed and therefore have no hope anymore.
We listen to their stories, take pictures and then go to research…..Sunday and the security guard brave the most impassable ways to look up people at home to find out whether they are telling the truth and what the best solution to their problem might be.
For example, we give pigs to people, which in turn benefits the sellers of foxes, and once a pig is owned, that pig can have new babies that can be sold and school fees can be paid from the proceeds. We also give seeds so that they can plant them and have some money after the harvest. Sometimes I take a child or mother and child in the house for a week or two to inform them and to pamper them for a while because yes some of them deserve that. It feels very good to do these kinds of things although we have to be careful not to expand too much because yes the whole of Uganda needs help and I would like to keep it personal.
With a very small investment you can help someone and make them happy.
We had the case of Nasejje, a mother of 2 children and a week in advance she was found to be infected with the HIV virus. No father of the children in the neighbourhood, zero money and therefore certainly no money for the future of the children or to get HIV medication. We made a kind of mini tree stand for her and made sure she could sell tomatoes, bananas, onions, sugar cane and fish. People it runs … of course no fat pot but yes we are only in the early stages. The female is overjoyed that she has something for herself and has faith in the future because she had little hope left.

Kato(12yrs) has epilepsy, many people do not know that it is a disease that can be cured with medication. No here it means that you are bewitched so nobody wants to take care of you and certainly not put any money or energy in you. He went to the office with his twin brother Waswa. I don’t mind paying for medicines once or twice but as I wrote I’m not a payment machine and it doesn’t help people when they depend on me. But Kato’s father doesn’t understand why he would pay for medicine for a child from whom he doesn’t get anything in return and who can’t do anything for him. He can’t go to school and he can’t work in the fields, so why invest? Kato’s medicines are 15 euros a month, ok not cheap by Ugandan standards but since he is taking the medicine he has only had one attack, that is great. We are still looking for a solution and hope that we will find a solution. Every time I get a big hug from Kato and I notice that he likes to get a bit of attention. Yes I would take him in but I also realise that it is not an option because it is a special case and since I already find it difficult to distribute all my attention and love fairly it wouldn’t be fair to him…….
So we now have about 25 cases. I want to try (but I’m a nerd with the computer) to make an overview with stories and pictures and put this on my website. Then you all know that your money doesn’t only go to a leg resin session once a month or only to the kids at home, but also to other people who appreciate the help enormously.

Of course a lot more has happened in the past three months…but I also get a day older and my memory sometimes turns out to be a big sieve. Birthdays, I’m sorry, I have a nice calendar hanging in the kitchen, I just never look at it. Things went bad for a long time between me and the school, because they were accused of stealing volunteers and other strange practices. That hurt me a lot. I worked my ass off for that school and this is my thanks? Yet I miss the children and the contact…as alone as Mazoengoe in a village is not pleasant. After a big confrontation and a conversation I have better contact again and I like that.
It’s a real tragedy with my work permit and I’m fed up with it all but patience, patience. My papers have all expired and they need to be renewed with the help of the board of our organisation HULP. Since the board does not get along very well with each other, I am losing heart. All that paperwork and then the people who do not want to cooperate. As soon as I enter immigration I spontaneously get nodding knees and the sweat drops crawl over my back. These people have power and can stitch you up even when you’re not lying in their street. As they say here “Let’s pray hard and everything will be all right” for Dutch terms “All thumbs up for me before I don’t know how long” (thank you in advance).
I don’t want to worry too much about it but I really don’t have to think about being expelled from the country (although I miss everyone very much and wouldn’t mind being in the Netherlands with a private jet for Christmas or Sinterklaas) and I am going crazy because of those dependent on others…..nouja enough complaining.

Yesterday we were startled by a crying Frank who came in upset at lunchtime. The teachers had hit him with a stick (nothing strange here) but so hard and not on the bibs no on his back and ear (you shouldn’t think that they accidentally hit his scars) and it wasn’t wrong what we saw. The teacher had threatened him (again) “If you come to group 4 I will kill you”. Well I was white hot, I mean Frank is not always the sweetest but he will never lie and the wounds on his back and his mega wars didn’t lie about it. So I went to school with Frank and did my story. The headmistress thought it was terrible and so teacher was called to the mat. He denied having hit Frank anywhere but on the bum and he certainly hadn’t hit him too hard. Yes, unfortunately people here don’t blush when they lie and it looks like he was very confident about his statement.

In the end he asked for forgiveness…well Amehoela with that forgiveness he doesn’t mean anything…I should report him to the police because this has been going on for a long time and threatening him is only getting worse, but then again I am not that bad… The case (Frank’s body) was shown to the other teachers as a warning. The lecturer now has to go to the director who probably won’t fire him in the end because yes where do you get another lecturer from so quickly and he will get rid of it with a reprimand. It will be nice if Frank comes to his class next year…..with all those threats. Luckily he is a strong boy but I can imagine that he might not want to stay at this school but where should he go, there is not much choice here. Well let’s not think about it yet. Soon first three months of Christmas holidays………..

Who knows, I might win the lottery, pay off all my debts, buy a nice place in Entebbe and open my backpackers/guesthouse where teenage mothers can come to work. I know it will work out, but I will probably have to be patient for a little longer.
It’s wonderful, the writing on……. is not at all as gloomy and dramatic as it sometimes is in my head. Now only the enjoying part and sitting on the hill meditating and then it will all work out.
I just notice the enormous influence our world has on us. Time is money and we have to be very busy because if you are not, you are labeled lazy. Well then there are a lot of lazy people here but they live by the day and are already happy when they have to eat and wake up tomorrow.
Why am I not allowed to be lazy for once, why do I always go on and on and on and to whom do I want to prove myself? Nice questions for the time to come…Hopefully an answer in my next update……………….

I am still looking for people who are interested in sponsoring us with 5 or 10 euros a month. This can very easily be set up automatically via internet banking. My Postbank/giron number is: 6156561 tav Kim Vogel/Oganda.

Of course I’m still happy with an email, text message, card, letters, fan mail and or other communication possibilities. The chain sale is going well and it might be a nice idea for a Christmas present, for more info contact mother Vogel. Then we also have the DVD and flyer which can be ordered or picked up for free at Huize Vogel Vlaardingen.

I would like to thank everyone, companies and individuals, personally because the whole day there is a list in my head ( yes there we go again) that I still have to write, I still have to thank them etc. But I just don’t get around to it…..sorry. Mother Vogel tells me again that not everyone expects a thank you and they just want to support me and really understand that I have other things on my mind. I am just very happy with the support and want to let them know in person but it is a lot of work and as I am now trying to learn to enjoy myself I sometimes have to wait…………

Enjoy every day!!!!

Big kiss