Visit of a Hippo

16 July 2008

Ojee ojee what is it again a while ago, that I have written an update, but so much happens in my life and I think it would be a bit boring after my return from the Netherlands, but in the past few months I ended up in many adventures and of course dramas again………

After I arrived safely and fortunately passed through customs with a 60 day entry limit (amehoela….visa costs 100 eurie) I was able to welcome my girlfriend Elodie in Uganda the next day. Lovely when people come. After a last hot shower in Entebbe it was finally time to go home and look for my offspring. I was chased by my kids with great joy when we finally arrived at my cottage (also called a real villa for Dutch standards) between the banana trees after a long and of course overcrowded bus trip. Maureen had cooked for an entire orphanage and the volunteers from the school also came to have a beer. It was a warm welcome and yes then I realize again why I want to do this work and how beautiful this country is.

Because girlfriend also wanted to see some of the country and the children had a holiday we decided to make a trip to Murchison Falls, where they promised us lions, elephants, giraffes and other wildlife. So we with the whole family in a minivan for about 9 hours and along the way we saw a lot of baboons (monkeys), who were having hilarious tables (yes the human being is really not that different from the monkey). During dinner a hippo (hippo) came out of the water less than 10 metres away and it reminded me of the poster in the toilet. Every year a lot of people get bored by these hippo’s so stay neatly seated at the table and especially at night don’t come out of your tent because the chance of meeting a hippo or wild boar on the way to the toilet is big and it could be the end of a pleasant trip.
The next day we drove around the park and the children had their own ideas about the animals, for example the group of buffalo’s was named “You see the cows” and Babirye was completely impressed by the “big” dog which was actually a very dangerous lion. A far too hot boat trip behind it where we spotted many more crocodiles, hippos and other wildlife. The children were very impressed by all the animals and the beautiful nature that their own country has to offer. I loved it and can recommend everyone to come to Uganda, just to visit me and because it is such a beautiful country.

We decided to move further north to Gulu where most of the refugee camps can be found. The refugees have been living here for ten years and have rebuilt their lives here so in fact many of them do not want to go back to their place of birth because they have to start again from scratch. It was nothing I expected from a refugee camp, no sad, leaking tents with starving children and with fat bellies and flies allover, no dirty, filthy sewers and certainly not 1000 people crammed on top of each other. Of course these refugee camps exist because we see them on TV every day, but I was surprised when I found neatly built huts, with smiling children and excellent sanitary facilities. Fortunately, because that gives a completely different perspective and shows that it is not all misery. Of course these people have a terrible past and they have seen and experienced degrading things but it all looked very peaceful and kind of cosy. The refugees have built a new life and the situation in Gulu is now much less dangerous and the city is growing both economically and structurally.
After a night in our guide’s house we returned to our village. We survived a hundred thousand of those terrible speed bumps (no idea who made that up because the road was ‘in the middle of nowhere’ and I can assure you, the Ugandan speed bumps are high and come after every 2 meters) during our tour back and on the way we had to stop because the bus just stopped, because the gasoline was on…….( yes yes we are still in Africa).

Unfortunately the good times sometimes come to an end and my girlfriend had to return home after three weeks in Uganda and that made me sad. It is so nice to be able to chat about your feelings and all your frustrations sometimes because believe me the Ugandan is not so talkative, emotional, sensitive, spontaneous and understanding. Of course that’s a big cultural difference and that’s why it’s so nice to have people around you with whom you can pour your heart out, have a big crying fit or laugh so much that you almost peep into your trousers (family illness) and someone who gives you advice and teaches you how to teach children how to go to bed on time ( thanks elodie!!!!).
Rosah is now going to her litter at 9 o’clock and yes folks, at last I am allowed to have a normal night’s sleep, how wonderful…….only I don’t wake up anymore to let Saige pee, so still wet bed in the morning, but hopefully one day that will pass.

The holidays were over and the boys went back to school. All the time I was in Holland and the weeks I was back in Uganda Pinto (a boy who doesn’t live with me but who I take care of) was in hospital. He came to the hospital with an inflamed wound in the hollow of his knee (like he did when he came several times with a wound on his foot and his hand and almost had to undergo a foot and hand amputation. This boy ‘lived’ in the hospital longer than he went to school). In short, after 7 weeks in hospital, his wound was a bit better but resistance zero comma zero, he was allowed to go home. After three days the boy was so sick that we thought he was going to die and I was very worried. If we wanted to take him to another hospital (1 ½ hours from here) we had to arrange transport and find someone in the hospital to take care of him because here in Uganda you don’t get your food delivered to bed every few hours so you have to cook, wash and do other things yourself. We knew he had a grandmother, no idea of a name or address but a small estimate of where she could possibly live. So Sunday with the security guard on the road with picture of Pinto… a long search through mud and a lot of rain they found Mrs. near the border of Tanzania. She didn’t really need to take care of her grandson at all, so kind of under gentle pressure she told them that if she didn’t take care of him he would die.
When we arrived at the hospital the boy could barely breathe and the doctor was very worried. What turned out to be the boy had a terrible lung infection and had we waited another 24 hours it would have been his death. I was so happy that we were on time and even though the doctor was not really optimistic, there was a reasonable chance that everything would be all right. Now 5 weeks later Pinto is smiling again and he looks like a healthy boy. He has had plastic surgery and is rehabilitating. Grandma is sick and tired of the hospital and tries to use every excuse to be discharged. Hopefully they can go home in a fortnight. The 5 weeks of hospital including plastic surgery have cost me 30 eurie so far and then of course money for transport (we visit them 3 times a week and food and living money for grandma and Pinto, so I can tell that the money you donate has certainly saved a life…and can even make other people very happy.
Briefly….ik was at the hospital….. a girl came to me…told me that her little brother had been set on fire by her stepmother…… zero money, she sold her clothes and Pinto’s grandmother was so sweet to share her food with them…….. darling of a 4 year old boy (Bright) with a burned arm and leg ( yes heart melted)…… now discharged from hospital but a hospital bill of 5 eurie (which was impossible for them to pay) and no money to go home…….nou then I don’t think twice. I paid the bill and gave her money for transport, food and new clothes (20 euros). So everyone thanks….. they say “God bless you” to me but I wouldn’t be able to help these people if I didn’t get so much support from you.

At the end of May, another friend from Scotland came over with a friend. Kirsty volunteered last year at the same school as where I was and it clicked so great that she could not wait to come back and see how the children were doing. Nice to have two girls in the house and very nice to have some extra help. We thoroughly cleaned the whole house (polishing the walls, cleaning the windows, cleaning the furniture outside and killing all the bedbugs) which was very necessary but I got tired when I thought about it. Finally we have time in the evening to sit and learn individually with the children. To see what level they have and what they have problems with. After dinner we split up in different rooms and study with the children for half an hour to an hour. The result is fantastic and it is so nice for the child to have a moment alone and to be able to concentrate because it is always kind of crazy here. Between 6 and 9 it is ‘rush hour’, eating, bathing, crying children, screaming boys and a lot, I can call it, choatic coziness. That is why it is very nice to have that special moment for the child after dinner and we certainly see progress in the study.

For the rest, life goes on quietly here. Rosah grows fast, puts everything in her mouth and tries to stand and walk. She has the most beautiful smile that reveals her two adorable teeth. This lady has a lot of temperament and you really can’t tell her what to do, she is a huge tantrum frog and does everything her way.

Babirye loves her sister and has a lot of talking to her. Babi babbles the ears off my head all day long (to get crazy sometimes and she doesn’t ask for things once in a row but 6 times in a row) and wants to help with everything.

We went back to the hospital with Frank for a review and at the end of August he needs a mini surgery to cut the last tendon of his arm so he can stretch it completely (if he exercises enough because Frank doesn’t think it’s all that necessary) so another outing to a hospital.

Saige is still a special case. I still wonder if he isn’t a bit autistic. Sometimes he is far away from earth and his great behaviour can turn into an angry little boy who knows very well that we don’t tolerate that behaviour. Another difficult point with Saige is that we have found out that he wants to have sex with Babirye. Saige is 7/8 years old and Babi is 3. Maureen heard Saige talking (which wasn’t the first time) to Babirue and asked him what he meant by that. He was able to explain in detail what it means to be sex because he probably had to see it several times at home with his father. We couldn’t punish him because that was counterproductive for Saige. We talked about it and explained that his dirty language and the proposals to Babi are not wanted and are not normal. (I am always open to advice). In short, we can never leave him alone with the girls and this while he adores the girls (I mean his level of thinking and experience is more like that of Babirye than that of a 7/8 year old child). Eyes and ears open (which doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t understand Ugandan) but always watch out and accompany him.

Rosias and Frank are adolescent and so I regularly get mean looks and of course I whine too much. Sometimes it’s not easy and sometimes I really wonder what I have started…..and finally when I dive into my bed in the evening and see everyone sleeping peacefully I feel privileged that I am allowed to do this work and that everything is going well so far. Then I get into my bed tense and scared, if my security guard is not there, I sleep with the hammer as my partner, the mega knife and bow and arrow next to my pillow are ready to be used and I close almost no eyes because I always hear weird, unusual noises or, if my security guard is there, I get tired but satisfied in my bed, I just manage to read a page from my book and then fall completely into a sleep coma to start the next morning at 6 o’clock fresh and fruity a new day.