Uganda Love This

Amy Scheel

Month: February 2015 (page 1 of 2)

The Pursuit of Happiness

 

I hope everyone is doing okay after “dress debate 2k15.” I hear it was really hard on a lot of people but hopefully you all made it through!

I don’t think anything I can say can possibly be as exciting as that BUT I’ll give it a go. On Wednesday night Dr. Twalib and I continued our weekly tradition and watched a movie. This week I chose one of the movies on the hardrive that Sarah gave me and stumbled upon the Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. I have to say that it was very interesting watching it with Twalib because he couldn’t comprehend that we have homeless people in the US. His solution is to send all homeless people in the US to Uganda because here not many people go hungry simply because they grow and eat their own food. Next time I chat with Obama, I’ll have to bring that up.

On Thursday a bunch of controls came into the clinic, which was really exciting. As I mentioned before, we have gone to the schools to recruit but we were not sure how many would actually show. Usually the families that have a child with RHD are more likely to come to the clinic because they already have a child that is sick. Nonetheless, I was extremely pleased with the turnout!

On Thursday night I went to my first “ Trivia Night” at BJs with Sarah, Ieasha, the girls from 31 bits and Sophie, a girl I met this week who is also working at Gulu Hospital! Your team can be as big or small as you want it to be, and I think ours ended up being around 8 people. For any of you Hokies reading this, it reminded me a lot of Sharkeys Trivia. There were 30 questions and they were very….diverse. I’ll give you some examples

  1. What is the nickname for the main landing strip in Namibia?….I know its surprising but we got that one wrong
  2. Who officiated the 2010 World Cup Finals? Also got that one wrong…Twalib gave me a hard time the next morning for losing and I tried to be a smart-ass and asked him this question….he got it right
  3. And finally the ONLY question that was multiple choice- “ The girl rides a bike”. Bike is
    1. A verb
    2. An adjective
    3. An object

Yes, I am proud to announce that we got that one right.

Twalib ended up staying in Gulu an extra day, so I helped him see patients on Friday morning. After that I went to St. Mauritz to finalize a list of students and appointment dates so that the project will keep rolling right along while Twalib and I are in Kampala. I spent the rest of Friday inputting the data that we have up to this point so that I am not overwhelmed when I get back.

On Saturday morning I went to the gym at Bomah with Sarah and it felt so good. Most of the local food is cooked with a ridiculous amount of oil so it was refreshing to do something that felt healthy. After that, a bunch of us hung out at the pool for a little bit. The sun is really strong here so most of us fair skinned people can’t stay out for longer than 2 hours. The rest of my night will be filled with packing and med school essays. Hope you all have a great weekend. Next stop, KAMPALA!

Fort Patico

 

I have decided that my morning walk to work is my favorite time of day. Its cool, the streets aren’t as busy and all the children are out walking to school. Most of them will run up and say hi to me or just walk beside me staring until we go our separate ways. I think its something about their innocence that I love and makes me want them to stay young forever. That and the fact that it is much more endearing when a small child is yelling hi from their front steps or beside you than it is when a 40 year old man does it, but I digress.

This week when looking over some of our intake forms I added up the ages in my head and started to put together how old some of these mothers were when they had their first child. I have run across multiple 10 year old mothers (with 20 year old fathers….) and it honestly took me a while to take it all in. I’m pretty sure I still believed that “when a mommy and daddy really love each other a stork will drop them a baby” at that age. Unfortunately, that is the norm here and if you can’t afford to go to school you usually begin reproducing even earlier, which continues the vicious cycle of poverty. Most of these mothers usually have between 6-12 children. I think the hardest part has been seeing how much older the fathers usually are than the women and how much they take advantage of women here. There seems to be a general consensus among the women that men get to do whatever they want while the women are supposed to take care of the children, house, and cooking all day. Now I know some of you guys are probably saying “hell yeah” in your heads but trust me, I would never wish this type of controlling relationship for anyone.

This week was also the first time I was able to witness firsthand what happens when RHD goes undetected. One of Dr. Twalib’s patients, an 18-year-old girl, is in heart failure due to the damage that this disease has caused to her heart valves. As much as I would like to be, I know I’m no doctor, but even I could see how extreme the damage was on her echo. Her heart valves simply weren’t closing (not even close), which, in layman’s terms, means blood can flow back from where it came from, in the wrong direction. I watched as she was admitted due to the swelling that she was experiencing all over her body and the moment she realized that this is a life or death situation. Her only hope is that she will be sponsored for surgery in Kampala, however Dr. Twalib says her chances aren’t good. Its moments like these that just reinforce why I am here and why so many people feel so strongly about the research we are doing. As I have mentioned time and time again, this disease can be prevented and detected early and it is heartbreaking to see it develop into such a life threatening condition.

Yesterday we worked in the clinic in the morning (enrolling 4 more families) and then went on our first field trip around 3pm. We went to Fort Patico, which is about 45 minutes north from here. What I took away from the history lesson we received was that Sir Samuel Baker was sent from Europe in the late 1800’s to defeat the Arabs who were controlling slave trade to, you guessed it, the United States (being the only non-Ugandan/American on this little excursion…that was nice and uncomfortable). After walking around a bit we enjoyed a heart healthy lunch/dinner of fried chicken, french fries and mountain dew (I can picture my mom cringing at the thought). Every day I am in charge of hosting a 30 minute de-brief meeting with all of the nurses on how the day went and what we can do better, so we did that sitting in the shade of Fort Patico. By that time it was about 5:30 and I have to say the breeze was very enjoyable. Although the Fort was very interesting, I think my favorite part may have been the drive. I have seen some villages near the town of Gulu, however this was 45 minutes of driving in the country. If you think that mud huts with straw roofs are just something you see in movies…you are very wrong. They are very much present and basically the only type of housing that I saw on this drive. Electricity is not present in these villages and you have to walk (sometimes a great distance) with huge plastic jugs, just to get water. I’m sure you are sick of me repeating myself but I don’t think I can reiterate it enough- be thankful, everyday, for what you have.

The entrance at Fort Patico

The entrance at Fort Patico

Part of the fort..thats about as much detail as I can give you

Part of the fort..that’s about as much detail as I can give you

Tomorrow is that last day that Dr. Twalib and I will be in the clinic helping to enroll cases/controls before we head to Kampala for 2 weeks. I feel like I am leaving my child by leaving this project but I have faith in the nurses and our team that everything will get done while we are away. For those of you that didn’t know, I will be headed to Kampala to meet with a team from Childrens National Medical Center in DC. A team comes every year to perform surgeries at Mulago Hospital, so I will be helping them organize throughout their trip and will hopefully get to scrub in on some surgeries (don’t worry M&D, I promise not to embarrass you by fainting this time).

Hope everyone is having a great week and happy hump day!

Rose brought her daughter into work today so I had my very own personal assistant. She doesn't know any english so that was entertaining

Rose brought her daughter into work today so I had my very own personal assistant. She doesn’t know any english so that was entertaining

 

23 years young

I had such a great birthday weekend and I can’t wait to share all the details with you, but first let me back up to where I left off.

On Thursday night I went over to Sarah and Iesha’s compound to have dinner. They live in a house off near some of the villages and they even have a functional stove, which I do not. During the week I usually just eat at my guesthouse but once you have the same 3 things about 10 times each they start to get old, so a home cooked meal tasted phenomenal. We aren’t exactly sure what we ate but we are calling it a mix between a quesadilla and a calzone.

 

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Ieasha slaving over dinner ( using a wine bottle as a rolling pin)

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Our candlelight dinner ( power went out)

On Friday mornings I help the nurses go through an online module, which teaches them about RHD and how to perform echocardiograms correctly. I like this part because a. I can tell that they are learning so much and b. because I am learning along with them. In the afternoon, I went to the Iron Donkey to enjoy some lunch with Sarah and Ieasha and then do some data entry. We didn’t end up doing anything on Friday night, which was completely okay with me. Last week was definitely a long week, with a few 12-hour days, so I was content with the R&R.

Sleeping in meant that I was well rested for yoga, which I actually made it to this week! A local Ugandan named George taught the class and I have to say that I really enjoyed myself. I did learn, however, that I’m not too great at yoga…there were about 5 other people in the class and you can tell that they practice every week, while I do it probably once a month (if that). Lets just say there was a 50-year-old woman behind me doing headstands while I was really pushing to touch my toes.

There is a deal at the hotel that puts on yoga that if you take the class/use the gym and want to use the pool you can get it bundled together for 5 dollars! Sarah used the gym and I did yoga and then we spent the afternoon lying by the pool. As you can see below ,the pool is very nice and it was about 85 degrees so it was perfect weather! While there I met a bunch of girls that are here long term working with a jewelry company called 31 bits ( check it out)   Sarah and Iesha will be gone by the time I return in May, so its comforting to make friends that I know will still be around when I get back. After staying at the pool until about 4 I headed home to have dinner and get ready for the evening!

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The pool at Bomah

I didn’t tell anyone at work that it was my Birthday simply because I know money is a big issue and I didn’t want them to feel like they had to do something for me, but Sarah and Iesha really outdid themselves and made me feel so special on Saturday night. I honestly could not have asked to meet better friends here. They decorated their house and even got us party hats to wear (as if we don’t already draw enough attention to ourselves) and hosted a pregame for me.

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Birthday Decorations…

After enjoying some drinks we headed to the local rooftop bar called Signature, which I think I’ve mentioned before. 3 of girls that we met at the pool even joined us to help me celebrate so we had a solid group all evening. After staying at Signature for about an hour we headed to an outside bar called BJ’s, where we stayed the rest of the night. They played a bunch of American music and we just danced all night. We all looked like we were leaving a high school dance by the time we left because it was so hot and we were all dripping in sweat (attractive thought I know). On the way home we had our drivers stop at a “rolex” stand so we could get some food. Yes, drunk food is present in all cultures. A rolex is egg and vegetables rolled up in one of the chipati tortilla’s. I’m not exactly sure how much I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t been drinking, but at the time it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

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Us at BJ’s sporting our party hats

I slept at Ieasha and Sarah’s place so I wouldn’t have to go home in the dark by myself (once again, you’re welcome mom) and woke up still wearing my party hat, so you know I had a good time. After we woke up we headed to Café Larem for a birthday brunch. After brunch we were all ready to be horizontal for the rest of the day so I headed back to my place to relax. I watched a few episodes of House of Cards and then spent the afternoon face-timing with my wonderful parents and  best friends. Its definitely hard being away on your birthday but everyone made me feel so loved, even from 7,000 miles away- thank you so much!

                       mary and tay                                IMG_1073

These two have always been there for me and through so many of my birthdays. So happy I got to chat with them yesterday (until the power went out). Love you both!

Emmy

Here it is, my new name. After a week of correcting everyone that I work with (besides Twalib), I have accepted my fate. The A in Amy is not a sound that is commonly used in Acholi, which is why I believe they are struggling with the pronunciation. I just laugh because if they think my name is hard to pronounce, do they think Obutomangwo is easy? When writing your name here you write your last name first (Scheel Amy), so most people go by their last name. I should have just started off as Scheel, since that is all I have been called for the last 4 years of my life anyway. I have come to find that all of the last names here are extremely “African” and hard to pronounce while their first names are very generic like Michael or Susan (with the occasional Shakira or Cinderella). It is also very common for names we consider gender specific to be assigned to both sexes. We had about 3 female Kevins’ the past couple of weeks and well, if you know my history, you know this is funny.

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Yes, even when I send an email and sign it “Amy” I get this back

We are up to 34 enrolled participants, which is awesome! In addition, I have been learning how to identify the markers of RHD, as well as other cardiac abnormalities, on the echo machine (merry Christmas mom!). Dilated cardiomyopathy or mitral valve regurgitation? I’m your girl.

On Tuesday afternoon we traveled to St. Mauritz again to search for our controls and they even gathered the whole school so that we could talk to the students about RHD. We only had to take a break every 10 seconds so they could laugh at me when I talked….I’ll take it. I can’t say enough good things about the teachers at this school. Everyone was so supportive and appreciative of what we are doing. Seeing as this is a Catholic School, their headmistress is a nun, and let me tell you- she has the biggest heart. I think we ended up staying an extra 2 hours just to talk with her. She expressed concern about her fellow sisters so we will be bringing an echo machine up in March to look at all of their hearts as well. For those of you that don’t know, my great aunt is a Maryknoll nun and she has been one of my main inspirations and one of the reasons why I am so passionate about serving in underprivileged areas. I couldn’t help but see Aunt Helen in this nun and I felt right at home.

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Some of my new pals at St. Mauritz

On Tuesday night, Twalib handed me two CV’s and said, “ I have to hire one of them, rate these and let me know who you would hire.” Although I was honored and more than happy to help I’m going to go ahead and guess that my BS degree does not qualify me to help fill a Physician position. He has even asked me to sit in on their interviews to let him know my opinion. I am so happy that he did because listening to the interviews helped me brainstorm potential questions for medical school interviews, so it was definitely good practice. Long story short- we picked the same person, so maybe I can just skip the med- school thing (am I sounding like my brother yet?).

On Wednesday, we screened children in the morning and then headed to Unifat primary school in the afternoon. We had originally planned to use this school to recruit controls, however we decided that it is not economically representative of the majority of those that are presenting with RHD. This was the school I previously mentioned that cost about 200,000 shillings. We returned to deliver results of a previous screening study and to find those children that we had concerns about. In a way, I am happy that we will be using controls from a different school, simply because I did not get the same accepting vibe that we received at St. Mauritz. In addition, all the teachers were carrying sticks to encourage children to behave, and if not, they would be hit. I think no matter what the situation that is hard to witness.

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Dr. Twalib talking to the students at Unifat about RHD

 Thank you to everyone that has reached out to me about the blog! I have really enjoyed writing about my experiences so far and I am glad that you all have enjoyed reading about my time here. I am going to aim to have about 3 posts a week because I think that is probably more realistic. Also thank you Ingrao for being my very own blog promoter!

Hope you all are having a great week.

xoxo

Emmy

Mzungu (ex-pat) Life

I had a really great time this weekend AND I didn’t get sick which is a definite plus. On Friday night we all went to an Indian restaurant down the road. I didn’t take a picture but it was absolutely delicious. We ended up just hanging at the restaurant and drinking a few beers until 11 and then decided to call it a night (is this what getting old feels like?).

On Saturday I didn’t go to yoga because the instructor was sick, but next week I am really hoping I can make it happen! During the day I went to the Iron Donkey so that I could get on the Internet and upload some data. That place is so homey and I’m pretty sure that a cup of coffee there will become a Saturday tradition. While there, I met a super sweet woman from DC who just moved here with her husband for the next 3 years. They just got here 4 days ago and you could tell that she just wanted to meet some people, which I can totally relate to. She even told me about a small hostel that has a gym that you can use for about $4. That is one thing that I have definitely missed while being here so I’m hoping to check that out this week. I thought that I would be able to go on some runs here but I’m starting to realize that it is not really an option. For starters its super hot, dusty, and the roads are really crowded. Second of all, it isn’t appropriate to wear shorts here and going on a run in a skirt is not really my idea of fun (there’s a reason I didn’t play field hockey..)

Even though they don’t celebrate Valentines in Denmark, Lars and I went on a Valentine’s “date” at a café called Sancofa on Saturday evening (yes, we are still just friends). It is the first place that I have been to that serves wine (and it was cold) so that was a nice treat.

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My wonderful company. Sad that he is leaving tomorrow.

The place is definitely very westernized and even had BBQ chicken pizza, which is what I had. We ended up talking with the Italian owner before we left and he decided that we were “good people” and gave us a 10% discount, which was a nice surprise. From there we met up with Sarah and Iesha at an outside bar called Diana’s Garden and then moved over to the new “rooftop club” called Signature. Lets just say we really know how to light(en) up a place. We spent the night dancing to the music they had playing, which included Call Me maybe, various Justin Beiber songs and local African tunes. For some reason (which I don’t fully understand) they love Justin Beiber here. Hoping that’s just a phase because I really don’t think I can handle a year of that.

Sarah gave me a bunch of movies and TV shows from her hard drive, so on Sunday I watched a couple episodes of House of Cards and really didn’t do much else. It felt just like I was back at 410.

This morning we went to the two schools that we will be using for the project and it was such an awesome experience! We talked with the “deputy” of each school, which is basically the principal, and set up a time to return so that we can talk to the students in an assembly. Both of these schools are private so I definitely got a glamorized view of some schools here. The nurses informed me that to attend public school it is about 30,000 shillings ($10) per term and at a private school it is around 250,000-300,000 ($100), which is a huge difference for the people here. One of the schools was far away enough that we had to take a car so I also got to seem some villages on the way, which I really enjoyed.

-1St. Mauritz- One of the schools we will be screening controls from

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Nurses (Agnes, Rose and Stella) outside Unifat, our second school

Hoping to enroll some more families tomorrow. Hope you have a great week!

Friday the 13th

 

Well…I have figured out why all the kids laugh at me when I say “ofoyo” (thank you). Apparently depending on what part of the word you emphasize you are either saying thank you or rabbit…. I’m sure you can guess what I have been saying to every family as they leave the clinic.

Dr. Twalib and I started a new tradition this week- Movie night. Since he is away from his family during the week and there is not much to do at night, we’ve decided we’ll get a movie every Wednesday night. This entails walking to the pirated movie shop about 50 feet away from my guesthouse and seeing what they have. This week he came with American Sniper and Machine Gun Preacher. We decided on MGP (American Sniper next week) because it is about an American in Uganda during the LRA. I thought it was pretty good but the sound was off so it was hard to hear some parts (I guess that’s what you get for $0.20 movie). Its funny that from the opening scene both of us could tell it was not filmed in Northern Uganda…not even remotely close. Twalib also kept cracking up every time he would see a fat American. He honestly thinks it’s the funniest thing.

We ended the week with a total of 24 participants, which is 1 away from our goal, so I am really pleased! Next week we are going to start visiting schools and looking for controls. I am super excited to see the schools here and I’ll try and take pictures if I can.

This week was the first time that I got a glimpse of a traditional family (in my eyes) and it made me miss my little dysfunctional group of Scheels. Here families play more of a functional role but you don’t see any of the love or affection that we associate with the term family in the US. When the families come in for the blood draw the father usually tells them where to go and they sit in silence waiting their turn. I have seen 5 year olds hold back tears when being stuck with a needle because their mother or father is scolding them for even thinking about it. Yesterday, however, I watched as a large family laughed with each other as they got their blood drawn and the older siblings laughed at the younger ones when they started to cry and called them babies. Reminds me of going to the doctor when I was younger, except Paul was crying…and I was laughing.

Although I have not seen many affectionate relationships here, I found out that they celebrate Valentine’s Day here!!!! THANK GOD. I was really concerned I would miss it… All of the nurses were asking me what guys in the US would do for me if I were home…HAHAHA k. Trying to meet them halfway between pathetic and a romantic I explained the typical Valentine’s tradition in the US (chocolate, flowers, dinner). I am interested to see how they celebrate here seeing as most of the traditions that we are accustomed to aren’t options here. I’ll keep you posted on my findings. The manager of my guesthouse was asking me what he should do for those staying here but most of the things I thought of revolved around alcohol, so I’m pretty sure I’ve been fired from the creativity department.

Not too sure of my plans this weekend but I am headed to an Indian restaurant with Lars, Sarah and Iesha soon and then I’ll see what happens. Hope you all have a great weekend!

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Are YOU thankful for your in-home water system?

Midweek Updates

 

So far this week has been very successful! As of this afternoon we have enrolled 20 participants in our study and we are hoping to have 25 total by tomorrow afternoon.

 

IMG_0944 Two families waiting for RHD screening this morning

It is always rewarding when we find a family member who has RHD in the early stages by doing this simple screening, knowing the outcome will be that much better. Today we found RHD in a 7-year-old boy, which means now that it has been detected it can be treated and he hopefully wont suffer the long lasting repercussions that may have occurred if his family had not been screened. Because we are operating out of the cardiac unit in the hospital, this also means that I witness some cases that aren’t as hopeful. Although my main role is to help conduct this study, Dr. Twalib also has his regularly scheduled patients as well. Today one of them was a 5-year-old girl with a huge hole in her heart that will require an extensive surgery. For someone from Gulu to be able to get a surgery like this it requires one of his or her parents to make a trip to the Heart Institute in Kampala. Usually once they make it there, their child can be sponsored for this type of operation. Unfortunately, this is a long trip, which requires an overnight stay as well as roughly $30-60 in other fees once they arrive. You could see the complete anguish on the fathers face when he was informed of his daughter’s situation as he explained his family simply could not afford it. Its times like this when my heart aches knowing that this is the harsh reality here and there is nothing more to do, wishing I could give $60 to every girl in the world who needs an operation like this.

Now that you are probably as depressed as I was this afternoon, I’ll switch the mood a little. Along this journey of mine I have come to the conclusion that sometimes the stereotype that Americans are ignorant…just fits. Yesterday, an older American woman came into the hospital and immediately walked up to me and goes “ oh thank god. I need your help.” Thinking that she actually had a problem, I gladly walked with her. She then began to tell me that she was helping increase standards of medical practices here (which doesn’t make her completely evil) and that she needed me to help her go around and remind doctors and nurses that they must roll their sleeves up when performing procedures. I happily accepted and then watched as she went up to every doctor/ nurse in the building and, in the slowest possible English say “ HELLLO MY NAME IS KATE. YOU ROLL UP SLEEVE.” She would then grab their sleeves and shout, “ SEE. YOU. LIKE THIS.” I know you can all picture this happening. Let me remind you that every doctor/nurse here is well educated and fluent in English. After working here for only a little more than a week, I can already say that I am blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people at work and it is so frustrating when I see or hear people like Kate that automatically assume they are better off or more educated than someone from an impoverished area.

Keeping with the theme of Americans- what kind of lawsuit do you think would occur in the US if you asked your nurse where she put the coffee sugar you brought and she whips out this container? (which is exactly what happened to me yesterday)

IMG_0911If you can’t quite see it, its an old Amoxicillin container. Not washed out, no bag inside, just poured right in there

PS- Happy Birthday to my favorite, most dysfunctional set of twins, Haley and Anne!

 

That time I made new friends…then threw up everywhere

But I’ll get to that.

On Friday afternoon one of the volunteers for our project, Steven, brought me to the main market so I could look around. I went knowing that I would want to buy some bananas not realizing that I would come home with $1’s worth….or 18 bananas. So to avoid turning into a monkey, I’ve been giving them out like candy canes on Christmas. Lets just say that at my guesthouse, I’m the employees’ favorite guest at the moment.

That evening Lars called saying that he had been put in touch with a girl from Denmark through a mutual friend and wanted to know if I wanted to join them (and her American roommate!!) for dinner. I of course said yes (before I found out they were going back to the Ethiopian place) and had a great time. Sarah is from Denmark and Ieasha her roommate, is from New York. They have been in Gulu since the fall so it was great to not only meet some girls around my own age but also get their perspective on life here. I learned that getting “in” with the ex-pat community here is like going back to high school and can be very exclusive. If I can survive 4 years at an all girl high school…bring it on. I also learned about some local places that I should check out and that one of the hostels even has yoga on Saturday mornings! I am definitely hoping to do that next weekend.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, I walked around the town for about 2 hours just so I could get myself more acquainted with everything. Steven used to play soccer for Gulu district and told me that I should walk and check out their stadium. I will use the word stadium lightly for it was more of a dirt field and a few rows of concrete steps. Nonetheless it was cool to see as well as the many small villages on the way there.

IMG_0919View of the Gulu District Soccer Field

On my way back I stumbled across this awesome coffee shop called the Iron Donkey. It seems like one of the “ex-pat” hangouts and it had awesome wifi for me to do some data entry.

IMG_0923This is from inside the Iron Donkey! As you can tell it is very nice and obviously a common hangout. You can’t just go up to people and ask them why they are white though…

Saturday was definitely the hottest day I have experienced thus far and you could tell that not many people were out and about because of it. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and made plans to get drinks with Lars, Sarah and Iesha during the evening.

Now if you ask any of my close friends or family members they will tell you that I don’t have the best luck. SO anyway I met my new friends around 9 at a near by bar. My stomach had been feeling a little off but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my first real night out in Gulu with new friends….first mistake. After drinking about a half a beer I knew something wasn’t right and then all of a sudden it was happening. I was throwing up at a Ugandan bar…with my new friends. After paying a taxi 5x the normal rate ($1.25 and totally worth it) I was home and getting acquainted with my tile bathroom floor. I have traveled to many 3rd world countries and realize that sickness is inevitable however I must say that this was probably the worst I have ever experienced. Between my high fever and 5 straight hours of vomiting (sorry for the details) it was definitely not the way I had envisioned my Saturday night. I guess I can go ahead and apologize to my mom for the email saying that I might die….Dramatic? Yes. Realistic at the time? Absolutely.

On Sunday I woke up feeling like I had the world’s worst hangover x10 and that someone had thrown me down a flight of steps. To bring everything full circle the power was out from 8am-6pm Sunday, which meant no fan, no wifi and no cold water. So next time you have a sick day…be thankful for your Netflix. I did absolutely nothing all day and read all of Gone Girl, which I really enjoyed.

Monday

I am feeling about 80% better today and even managed to eat something which is a step in the right direction.

I hope your weekend was a little more enjoyable than mine!

Achoma Bai

Achoma bai! That means good morning. I realize its afternoon here BUT I can’t pronounce that yet so this will have to do.

Just like that my first week at the clinic is finished! It has definitely been chaotic at times but I honestly love what I am doing here and I really think this could have a major impact on the lives of many people.

I decided I would dedicate this post to what living here has been like.

Weather

It is literally hotter than hell in the summer time here although I seem to be the only one phased by the heat. During the day it is around 85 but it feels so much hotter. When I walk to work around 7:30 in the morning, most people are wearing long sleeves or even light jackets. Meanwhile I show up to work looking like a just ran 7 miles to get there. This afternoon on the way home one of the volunteers goes “hopefully you’ll leave here a lot darker.” I’m just going to go ahead and take that as a compliment. Rainy season is supposed to start in March and it honestly can’t come soon enough. Yesterday it looked like it was going to rain and I honestly felt like it was from the movie Holes when all the boys’ hopes and dreams are crushed when it looks like it will but never rains.

Food

I have come to find that there really isn’t a Ugandan staple food. Everything varies from area to area. I am slowly moving away from rice, which I stuck to the first couple of days, and starting to try new things. I had dinner with Twalib on Tuesday and he let me try his Malakwang. It is essentially a jar of peanut butter heated up with some butter and leafy vegetables (definitely a lighter options for any of you watching your *~cals~*). It was essentially peanut butter soup. They also have about 5 different kinds of bananas here and I absolutely love every one. They are so fresh and you can also get one for about $0.05. For lunch at the clinic we have chipatis, which are basically a wheat tortilla with egg. They are sweetened and definitely very good. Last night I went to an Ethiopian restaurant with my two 30 year old pals (Lars included, so Nancy tell my dad he can stand down). I’ve included the picture from this dinner below but I honestly have no idea what I was eating (which is probably a good thing). Not going to lie, I really don’t feel the need to ever eat there again.

ethiopianThe Town

Gulu town is set up on a grid system which has made it very easy to get around and not get lost. Here is a picture of the road that I am staying on.

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I am staying in a guest house (up on the left) which has a proper bed and bathroom however most people live on the outskirts of the town in small huts and shacks down roads like these.

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The “motorcycle bikes” that you see in some of these pictures are called boda bodas and they are the taxis of Gulu. No matter where you are going you can get there for 1,000 shillings (30cents) as long as it is within the district. I’m not supposed to take them (hey mom) because they definitely are very dangerous so I can’t attest to how a ride on one of them is. I do have to say that if I don’t get hit by one by the end of this trip I will consider myself lucky.

Although the cost of living is much less here, the poverty is also extreme. When I was talking to one of the waitresses that works at my guest house, she told me she earns around150,000 shillings,  which is roughly $50 a month and she says that this is a great salary for here. Definitely helps put everything in perspective and makes me realize how fortunate we all are.

Not exactly sure what I have in store for my first weekend here but I’ll keep you posted.

PS- Happy Birthday Anthony and Connor!

Thankful

This is a day late but the power was out for most of yesterday, which makes communicating hard but more importantly, makes our work at the clinic even more challenging. The resources here are few and far between but luckily we have a small generator in which we can plug the echo machine into. Wednesday was definitely the day when I realized how challenging this experience is going to be both emotionally and physically. It is hard to describe the poverty that I have witnessed but I can assure you that you have a lot to be thankful for.

On Wednesday mornings there is a penicillin clinic run at the hospital for those children already diagnosed with RHD. I watched as around 85 children stood in line to receive a number and stand in the hot sun for 2-3 hours. Most of these children were between the ages of 6-12 and had walked themselves to the hospital because their parents had to work. Not once did I see a child complain. They simply got their number and waited their turn. It is such a difference from what we are used to in the US and how if an appointment is running 10 minutes late it is our “right” to complain.

As for the study we enrolled 4 more families today, which is awesome progress! In addition, some of the families we screened had members who were positive for RHD and had no idea that they were living with this condition. Thankfully this means that we can now put them on penicillin injections so the damage to their heart doesn’t worsen.

I have also expanded my Acholi vocabulary by two words!! I can now say come (“bin”) and thank you (“ofoyo”). The children still laugh at me when I say thank you but hey I’m trying. Still working on “hello” though. Not exactly how to spell it but trust me, it is by no means easy to pronounce.

These past three days have been very long and hot but it is so rewarding to see everything coming together. One of the greatest concerns was being able to finish in the 2 months that we have allotted but so far things seem to be right on track. More to come tomorrow!

 

 

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found this little guy in the nutrition ward this morning

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