LOLAFRICA journey to Uganda

Glory to God, who's power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or Imagine....

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Location: Kalagala, Uganda

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I have met many new and interesting insects, bugs and spiders while here in Uganda. Large cockroaches, big black shiny beetles....(beetles of all shapes and sizes and colors actually), Dangley-legged wasps, giant spiders, stick bugs, brown crickets with long and long legs, sugar ants by the millions, multiple types of massive millipedes, super-sized snails, filthy dung beetles, beautiful butterflies and these teeny tiny insects that come by the trillions to "clean-up" anything in no time at all!! BUT... past week, I met a bug to top them ALL.....

.....i met the Ugandan JIGGER (known in other parts of the world as the CHIGGER)...kind of a cute name for a bug right? well....don't let the name fool you! The JIGGER is a tiny insect, kind of like a flea....only this insect burrows into your feet and settles in to start a family...

My JIGGER burrowed into my 4th toe (the toe next to the baby toe) and snuggled in just underneath the edge of my toenail. I didn't notice it right it cozied-up and began to grow....and prepare top lay eggs!!

One morning I said, "my toe is paining?! I wonder why?" .....I examined my toe to find that it had been bleeding, and I wondered how I could have injured it without having felt any pain...confused...I began to carefully clean the area...Expecting to find a wound... instead, I found a swollen, whitish bump about the size of a pencil eraser...he bump was surrounded by what looked like infection...inflammation....
Really confused now, and a little worried, my mind raced through information, details, and facts about Uganda before resting on one word... JIGGER!!

Panic filled me as I ran to ask a friend if what I expected was look and he confirmed my fears!! I definitely had a parasite keeping house in my toe!! I immediately told him to get the branch clippers or panga (machete) and take the entire toe OFF!! Of course he refused...and a safety pin was used instead to dig out the JIGGER. It took about 15 minutes f digging around and opening the end of my toe and rooting out that nasty bug...FINALLY it was successfully pulled out!! PHEW!!!

I was expecting to see an ugly creepy crawly...but instead what came out of my toe was a fleshy cacoon of some sort...very disgusting... yuck!!
I was left with a large crater at the end of my toe and partly under the toenail...where my JIGGER had been happily raising it's family..but after cleaning and bandaging...It was pain free and I was happily on my way to recovery. :) I cannot describe the relief to have that parasite out of my body!! Thanks to my good friend Roger for being willing to dig it out for me!! I am hopeful that no eggs remain behind...and that this initiation will be my ONLY encounter with the dreaded JIGGER!!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

"I cannot believe that the purpose of life is merely to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honourable, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have it made a difference that you lived at all."
-Leo Rosten

Over the past ten months here in Uganda, I have applied many band aids to skinned knees, cuts and scrapes...given medication for Flu, headache, back pain, stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation, and various muscle pain...i have healed toothaches and supported sprained ankles with tensors...eased joint pain, helped to heal in-grown toenails, dealt with acid indigestion, ulcers and cough and cold...I've even "fixed" up a Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) driver after an accident while I was in Kyayi. Because of all these things, i am now known as "Doctor Lola"!!
This past week, however, I faced my biggest challenge yet! One of my students - Kaziro Patrick - fell into some deep grass while playing football (soccer)..the grass happened to contain some old discarded barbed wire! He came up with blood pouring from his left hand...immediately he was brought to me - "Dr. Lola - first aid!" The fleshy part of his palm was ripped wide open...a three-inch gaping gash which was deep and deep (very deep) Blood was rushing down his arm..brave and stoic, Kaziro merely asked me to hurry so he could get back to the game!
In my heart I was praying hard...the wound was deep and maybe needed stitches - and that was a line I did not want to cross! On went my trusty latex gloves...and Dr. Lola got to work...
I irrigated the wound and doused it with antiseptic wash, cleaning as deep as possible...once the bleeding had stopped, I applied antibiotic ointment before using butterfly bandages to seal the gash as tightly as possible...then a non-adherent gauze pad and I wrapped the whole hand in gauze to secure everything in place giving strict instructions for Kaziro to keep the hand dry and dry (very dry). To Kaziro's dismay...I also told him he should not go back to the game....reluctantly..he agreed. :)
That night, I began to worry about that wound...i hardly slept, fearing infection. I was only praying hard that the hand would be fine. In the morning I gave serious orders for Kaziro to travel to see the local nurse...he agreed to go. That evening however..i saw that he still had the same bandages on and asked him about it. He said he had not gone to the nurse because he fears injections! Without delay, i took him to my place to inspect the wound!
I was nervous as I began to unwrap the hand...but my anxiety melted away into pure JOY and Thanksgiving as i uncovered the long thin line of a closed wound! It was healing nicely and with no signs of infection! It even looked like any scar would be almost imperceptible once completely healed. The human body is an amazing creation!
My smile was big and big (very big) and so was Kaziro's as we gazed together and laughed at our success and the blessing of this healing wound.
I cleaned the area again and put new gauze and sent him on his way. I cleansed and bandaged that wound for three more days before declaring it safe!
All I have to say is: GOD is GOOD! I have never seen such a deep wound heal so fast. A miracle? Maybe....God is the great Healer...and he is always good - because that is His nature. :)

"Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place you are." -Nkosi johnson

"Where Love is, there is God also." - Leo Tolstoy

"It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters." -Mother Theresa

It has been a LONG time since I made a journal entry here..and for that - let me apologize! Not only have I been very busy...but i have tried! The computers here continue to be uncooperative and stubborn and have refused to accept the work! Also, I was out of the country for awhile! i was blessed with the opportunity to zip up into Egypt to meet with my sister and her husband who were there visiting family! The journey was a great success and i was blessed to meet many wonderful people and make some dear new friends! Egypt is a beautiful country...mysterious and wonder -full... there is so much to feast one's eyes on....that we did not even scratch the surface! One day, God willing, i will return to that desert treasure-chest of beauty, art and lovely People...

"Like all travellers, i have seen more than i remember and remember more than i have seen." -Benjamin Disraeli

It was, however, wonderful to return to Uganda. I arrived back at Entebbe airport at around 5:30 am - the same time as my first arrival back in September 2006. :) This time, instead of all the nervousness, confusion and excitement of the unknown - I was calm and happy for the familiarity and joy of returning HOME. I had my work Permit/ Entry Visa, so the officer just stamped in my return and said "Welcome home." Wonderful. :) What a good feeling.
Since I've been home life has been BUSY! Midterm Exams, Inter-house football Competitions and the election of new Prefects at the has been an interesting term... and all the students are studying hard!
It saddens me to know that I will not be around for their third Term...which means i won't be able to support them through their final exams of the year - the most stressful and difficult time for them. I'll only have to cover them in many prayers form the other side of the ocean!
For now, however, we continue to prepare their young minds for the task ahead...and I am only proud of them for their hard work and dedication. Proud and Proud.

"Work is Love made visible." -Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the village of Kyayi this past weekend...the home of my dear friend Roger. The journey was around 3 and 1/2 hours crammed like sardines in a minivan-taxi..bumping along dirt roads, leaving a cloud of red dust billowing behind us.
We passed through many small towns and villages as we made our way steadily West. As we neared our destination, we entered the "Savannah Corridor" a scrubby area with low shrubs, termite mounds and short scraggly trees..monkeys raced around and chased each other across the road chattering at us as we sped past.
We arrived in Kyayi in the early evening...a teeny, tiny, dusty town that you could miss if you blinked while driving past...we tumbled out of the taxi, happy for the freedom to stretch our legs!! Roger said, "Welcome Home." and I was instantly greeted by his brothers and neighbors and all of them welcoming me home. We entered one of the blue wooden doors of a rowhouse into a cozy two-room home...and eased ourselves into some chairs in the front room. Home. It certainly felt like home - which may seem strange since I'd never been there before- but the warm welcome and tangible love that surrounded me, held all the qualities of home.
After settling in, Roger took me for a tour of the tiny village...meeting the villagers and viewing the banana, coffee and sweet potatoe plantations that fill the surrounding area. We passed folks busy building, slathering red bricks with cool grey cement...stopped by the local Clinic and greeted the village priest, local elders and swarms of laughing, giggling, mischievous children, before heading home for tea.
Hot tea, instant coffee and some bread nourished us after our long journey...we sat and conversed and enjoyed each other's company as many friends and neighbours popped in to welcome and meet the Muzungu.
One of the neighbors, a jolly lady named Enid cooked us a hot meal of Matooke and G-nuts and we were thankful and satisfied.
We were picked up, like royalty, in a friend's vehicle and drove through fields and pastures and over hills and through the trees to the place where we would spend the night - dear old friends of the family who welcomed us with open arms, offered us more tea, showers(bucket baths) and cozy beds. We stayed up late into the night talking and listening to the goats, sheep, monkeys and bugs fill the night with their chorus to the African moon.

After a short but sweet sleep, we were up early to be sure not to miss the morning ritual of milking the cows, and drinking fresh milk! So, out to the pasture we went! No, the cows here are not like our cows at black and white dappled dairy cows here...these cows are large, deep coffee and chocolate - browns, with impossibly huge (gigantic really) long, intimidating horns!! There are, however, calm and docile and stoic...looking at you lazily as you trudge past. The calves were let out one or two at a time to feed...they were then made to "pause" for a few moments while the people took a litre or two of milk for the family...then the calf could resume its breakfast. The people here LOVE milk and can be fully satisfied by milk and fore go food!! To watch them take their litre of frothy, creamy fresh milk is like watching happy babies with a big bottle...drinking without taking a breath until it's all gone!! Then, licking their lips like happy cats..they are satisfied...MILK- it does the body good!

After taking morning tea and taking many photos with everyone...we were on our way, this time "footing" back to the village, past goats, stream of ants crossing our path, herds of cattle, termite mounds, flowering trees, and of course curious monkeys scampering everywhere!
In town we spend the afternoon lounging outside on Papyrus mattes, weaving hemp and trying to find reception on an old radio. In the afternoon, Roger and I hopped on his brothers Motorcycle and zipped down to a nearby river where we found men bathing, washing clothes and rinsing jerry cans. It was great to feel the open - air -freedom of a motorcycle ride.

We zipped back to pick His brother and we sat three on the motorbike and headed up into the hills to visit the homestead of another old family friend. At the top of a large hill, we found several earthen buildings with thatched roofs and children everywhere. Again tea was served and we were taken to a small room to rest while we waited for the man of the house to arrive.
When he arrived, beer was served and everyone settled in to relax, laugh and enjoy each other's company. I had brought some books and pencils with me and gave them out to the kids (thanks to Garth Goodwin for the donated books!!!).... some of the kids could read, so we crowded around to hear stories like Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Delightful!!

After some games and fun with the kids, we needed to be on our way - a mile and 1/2 journey through the bush to our next destination and rest for the night. As we walked through the wilderness, past smoldering campfires of local hunters, and stoic bulls silently chewing...we sang songs by Bob Marley and watched as the stars came out.
Long after dark, we arrived at out hosts' home and were welcomed with much laughter, many big hugs and it was again time for photos!! We were blessed with the gift of fresh apples to enjoy - a real treat! Ahhhh...much joy, good company and good conversations...then showers (bucket baths) and sleeeeeeep!!!

We slept in, enjoying our beds and the freedom to do as we pleased...we were up by 7am having tea and coffee. Our last full day in Kyayi. The day was a lazy one - mostly spent talking and enjoying the great outdoors of Uganda. The family was gracious and kind. I felt kinship despite language and cultural barriers. There were two wives in this household and their love for each other was like that of sisters - they ran the household as a team and were both wonderful, beautiful and happy. Before we left they blessed me with the gift of beautiful traditional clothing and giggled and cooed as they dressed my up like a doll for some photos!! Big hugs and well wishes..thanks, blessings and blown kisses and we sped away on our motorcycles!
I was surprised at the long journey back to town...I had now realized how far we had come! The ride was a joy - wind in my hair, red earth speeding past under our tires and blue, blue skies overhead!

Back in the village we resumed our lazy matt-lounging ways until evening when many folks came by to sit around with us and talk late into the night.
The generosity of these people overwhelmed me, as I was given the gifts of three goats, a hen, some and a supply of natural local honey!! I am blessed beyond!!! My beautiful tan-colored goat that they've named "Lola" is pregnant and will give birth in August...a good excuse to revisit this lovey village, these warm delightful people and this beautiful land.

We slept only three hours that last night and were up at 5am to jump back into our sardine tin for the ride back to Mpigi., As we left Kyayi behind us in our cloud of dust, the sun was rising over the mist covered trees and my heart was singing. Is it possible for one person to be so blessed as to have many places on this earth that they can call home? Places where they will always be welcomed with open arms and warm hearts? Yes.

Many deep and heartfelt thanks to the lovely people of Kyayi, may you be blessed beyond.

The environmentally friendly means of transportation...a simple,practical thing...even a luxury for the odd joyride every now and then...but herein Uganda, the bicycle is a marvel, a wonder, a is gold.
To own a bicycle means you have some way of making a living...strap on a cushioned seat behind the rider and you are now a bicycle-taxi. You can carry men, women and children and their cargo through congested streets to their destination in relatively good time. You can haul everything from Matooke to lumber, charcoal to bails of banana leaves, spare tires, steel poles , rods, car parts, firewood or boxes of goods piled up to seven feet high!!
As long as the tires are full and the chain well oiled, a bicycle can carry almost anything to anywhere. If your load is too big, you just jump off and push the bike to where you need to go. Balance is a key ingredient in this scenario and great care must be taken not to topple over with your heavey load - as re-loading is time consuming and dangerous in the middle of traffic!!
Given that a bicycle has can be fashioned into almost any human-powered machine for sanding,grinding or mixing! As scrap, the bicycle is useful in making homemade wheelchairs, tricycles or reinforcing existing machinery or vehicles.
I have never seen such resourcefulness, such imagination, or so many uses of a bicycle, than I have been witness to here in Uganda.
You name it - a bicycle can be the answer to the problem. A mere means of transportation? Hardly! In fact, the Ugandan bicycle is rarely used as a simple means to get around...the option is just an added bonus. IN Uganda, owning a bicycle can mean life, hope for the future, food on the table.

I think of all the bicycles in Canada- Yes, they know the joy of laughing children, the glee of riding down a hill, the simple pleasure of an easy ride on a fall day...the energizing speed of an athlete training...wind in the wheels....or the noisy fun of a playing card or piece of plastic in the spokes. The frivolity of streamers, bicycle decorating contests, handlebar bells, baskets and lunchbox holders.... the classic scene of boys racing or jumping their BMX bikes...
My memory brings to light my first bike..a surprise from my parents...a beautiful blue shining wonder! Fast as a bullet -I never even needed training wheels!! I loved that bike - it felt like freedom. Now,imagine how precious the bicycle that can help you pay your rent...feed your your life...
I have taken for granted this wonderful, strong, ingenious invention...the simple yet amazing Bicycle.

"I have come to realize that it is the small simple things that are the real ones after all." -Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last Friday I was walking around Kampala sharing a little Love and as I came up to Kampala Road...there, in his old spot...and to my hearts delight...was FRANCIS!! (I told you about him in my Blog back in December)
Around mid-December, Francis went missing...I was worried and have been looking for him ever since! And now, here he was!

The smile that lit up his entire 2'x3' frame told me that he remembered me...and I happily greeted him and we talked and talked!! As it turns out, He was given the chance to return to his village in Mbale, where he was staying with some relatives for the past few months. Unfortunately, he had become a "burden" to them and so, was sent back to the city, where he is now on the street. I welcomed him back and told him I was happy to see him. He asked me if I could do something for him. I asked how I could help.. "a blanket" he replied. I told him I would return with a blanket. When I returned however - he was gone! I would have to come back another day...I did not see him again last weekend.

This week, on Friday, I was walking around the city again...many of the people I am used to seeing were not around, maybe because it was good Friday...but the city was BUSY!! My main goal was to reach Francis and give him the blanket I had I struggled to weave in and out of the JAM to cross the street and start my journey up to Kampala Road... I came around a vehicle and I bumped into someone being pushed in a ramshackled homemade wheelchair(ply-wood and bicycle parts)...It was Francis!! I told his friend that they should move with me to the side of the road so we could talk...I told him that I was on my way UP to find HIM and here we meet in the middle of downtown, in traffic!!! we laughed and laughed at our good fortune and the hand of Providence on our meeting!! I gave him the blanket and he gave me a dazzling smile and wished for me God's blessing! we talked and talked and laughed and smiled...and knowing with certainty now, that we will meet again, we parted ways.

As I continued up the hill my heart was singing and I was overwhelmed and feeling unworthy of this gift of pure JOY...and once cup runneth over.