Laughs.Giggles.Play.

I must admit I don’t understand. Primary and secondary schools are still on break until after the presidential election. That means the kids have been home since before Christmas. In fact, it may be March before schools begin. No one has been able to clearly tell me why. One of my sisters is a high school principal. I wonder what she would think. The university I am working with here is in session so they were not impacted. I enjoy the atmosphere of an active campus. I even makes me miss being on my campus a bit….

That leads me to think about the neighborhood just beyond my patio door…IMG_20160209_184208

Do you remember the long evenings of summer playing with the neighbor kids until we could barely see each other and our moms finally called us home? Catching fireflies, playing hide-and-go-seek or kick-the-can? Rolling down the hill until we staggered or shrieking as we ran through a sprinkler? Laughing, giggling, sharing secrets? Our moms could take for granted we were safe and would come home dirty, tired, dropping exhausted into bed. They are good memories from a long time ago. But summer vacation always came to an end and as the hours of daylight shortened a new school year once again began.

Each evening as I begin to prepare for the night ahead I hear the giggles, laughter and shrieks of joy just beyond my patio. It makes me smile and remember the long days of summer. Perhaps that is also why it is so quiet as I drink my coffee early in the morning.

I suspect evenings may change whenever school finally resumes.

Advertisements

Coffee.Coolness.Contemplation.

Good morning.

Last night the internet was not working. I wish I could take for granted that when I open my tablet it will be functioning. I have paid good money for a hot spot so shouldn’t it? The internet coverage has greatly improved over the past three or four years here but at peak demand times it still can be iffy.

Anyway, if you want to know a bit more about where I am staying let me begin with describing this morning. In our second floor apartment we have a small balcony with an amazing view. I love getting up early when the city is quiet except for the sound of birds chirping and the occasional rooster crowing in the distance. That quiet will soon evaporate  as the city comes to life. My favorite chair at the patio table faces east and I love to watch the sun rise over the trees and hills of Kampala. I am still amazed at a world where the sun shines for exactly twelve hours, 365 days every year. A cup of coffee, my devotional, a cool morning breeze and the sunrise – what more could I ask for? IMG_20160210_071957

Let me conclude with a quote from my devotional reading this morning, “Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go.”

May you find a time of solitude today! Blessings.The sun has now risen and is hiding in the clouds. Back to my coffee….

Think.Say.Do.

For those wondering, the vinegar was not successful and a version of Doom for crawling insects resulted in only limited success. Our intermediate survival strategy is baggies for everything edible. But tomorrow the big guns are supposed to arrive. We are supposed to have the apartment fumigated! We are waiting in anticipation! Wish us luck!

Today was quite productive with my colleagues at the university but I want to focus on this evening. Let me preface this with -the food at KFC is the same in Kampala as Des Moines but I dIicovered that you must carefully articulate your order at the drive through speaker.

But I digressed…

My fellow Rotarians will be glad to hear that I have been faithfully making up my absences from my home Rotary club while here in Uganda. In case you are not familiar, you can find out about this amazing civic organization at Rotary International. Three Rotary clubs, Kampala South, Kampala Sunrise and Des Moines AM  have been incredible partners in our work here in Uganda. This evening Carly and I attended one of the local clubs. We listened to an interesting talk on Islamic Finance. Carly asked if all Rotary clubs are the same. So that led me to think about what can be taken for granted no matter which club you attend. From my experience I believe you will:

  • be warmly greeted upon arrival and introduced during the meeting
  • a sergeant will collect ‘fines’
  • there will be an interesting guest speaker
  • some type of meal or refreshment will be served
  • and at some point you will recite the four-way-test

Let me conclude this evening with the Rotary four-way-test. It really does succinctly state why I believe in the club and goes as follows:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

 

Avacado.Ammunition.Ants

Carly has waged a battled… against ants. Ants in the bed, in the bread, on the fruit. They are a formidable foe but thanks to the wisdom of Google the battle is on. You can see our ammunition.

Weapons of choice.

Weapons of choice.

We favor the weapon ‘Doom’ (or the bravery of Timba) for the bigger opponents like spiders but a spray bottle mixture of vinegar and water is our choice for those pesky tiny ants. Wish us luck! I will be bring an update.

I don’t typically buy avocado, mango or pineapple at the store back home as they often are disappointing.Yesterday as we returned from the village we stopped to stock up on produce.

The amazing bounty!

The amazing bounty!

After fourteen trips to Uganda I can take for granted that the avocado, pineapple and mango will be absolutely juicy and ripe as well as inexpensive. It really is amazing! This morning it was fresh mango and pineapple for breakfast before heading to church and at lunch Timba prepared potatoes with onion, tomato and green pepper. Yum!

Life is good in Uganda. Just hoping the ants have met their match!

At a loss for words…

Today was an overwhelming day at Kikandwa Health Centre!

I am SO blessed! I am the proud mother of a son and a daughter. They are both healthy, well educated, pursuing careers they are passionate about and mostly beautiful, inside and out! When I was pregnant I did not want to know if I was carrying a boy or a girl. I just prayed they would be healthy. Would they have ten fingers and ten toes, eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that beats steady and strong? I was so fortunate that they were healthy and strong. I also could take for granted that I would receive the best prenatal care that insurance would buy. Vitamins, ultrasounds, regular checkups, expert advice, safe, well-equipped delivery room – all for granted.

Today I stood in front of a room of women with tears stinging my eyes knowing they could not take for granted the same. Rural Uganda. In Uganda (both urban and rural) in 2014, 356 mothers died per 100,000 births versus 14 in the United States. The infant mortality rate was 39 deaths per 1000 in Uganda versus 6 per 1000 in the US. The rural death rate is undoubtedly higher than in the city. That is compounded by the preventable transmission of HIV from infected mother to baby and those that end up with complications causing life-long dependencies.

I had the joy of looking in their eyes, briefly speaking to them and distributing about 120 Mama Kits. A Mama Kit contains everything they need to have a clean and safe birth. Most Uganda hospitals require Mama Kits and the mother in labor is often turned away if she does not have one. Thanks to Shining City Foundation for supplying the Mama Kits! We will need a new supply after today!

When we started our project to bring together an amazing team to build KHC four years ago, the village elders said the priority must be given to mothers and children. As of now, the facility is not capable of caring for women during labor and delivery. The staff is handling pre-natal care well and has had one emergency delivery but there is still so much more they want to do!

So our students that have traveled to the clinic over the past two years are working to raise the $60,000 needed for the next phase. So far they have about $5500. If you are touched and want to help, please see their site at Connect Uganda or contribute through Shining City Foundation. Our goal is to have a building dedicated to mothers in labor and overnight staff housing very soon!  The staff and the mothers need it today!

Oh, and by the way, they did HIV screenings, immunizations and took care of ill patients as well today. I am so proud of Isaac and his amazing staff. They humble and inspire me!

I am SO blessed…..

 

 

 

Kikandwa Health Centre

KHC 6Feb16

Arriving at Kikandwa Health Center – a huge crowd!

KHC - Isaac

Isaac – KHC Health Officer

KHC - Mamas

At least 120 pregnant Mamas!!

KHC - Mamas2

An overflow crowd!

KHC - Ill Child

In the meantime there was still other work to do. This baby had a very high fever and was waiting diagnosis.

Carly & Timba

Carly and Timba – you two are amazing!!!

 

Mama Kits3

What an honor to hand out Mama Kits – Thanks Shining City Foundation!!

 

Friday.Family.Friends.

It is Friday evening, the sun is beginning to set and there is a breeze coming in through the open patio door. It has been a good week and I feel settled here. It is time to look back over what I have accomplished thus far and consider the week ahead, then enjoy rest and weekend activities. Supper will be ham and beans and corn bread (if we can get the oven working…). I picked up some bread at a bakery earlier today so we will be okay either way.

Nothing profound today, just a good day. I am coming to take for granted the ability to communicate back home. I just finished a string of emails to my colleagues, it is morning there. The blog keeps me connected and reflecting. The days are flying by.

I like hearing from family and friends so if you have a moment drop me a line!

Food.Fuel.Freedom.

Today was productive in multiple ways. I had an extensive working meeting  that ended with a late afternoon lunch of luwombo and matooke and my favorite, ground nut sauce. Luwombo basically means ‘cooked in banana leaves’ in Luganda. Today the choices were chicken or beef. Delicious!

Then to make a productive day even better I had my mosquito net installed and gas connected to our stove! I am now officially settled in!!

Given our new freedom to prepare our own meals instead of dining out, we headed to Nakumatt, the Hy-Vee of Kampala this evening! I appreciate knowing where to find everything in my local grocery store and take for granted they will have everything jotted down on my shopping list. But today was different, we had to ask for help over and over again. Ground nuts? Are these the right beans? Ryoko seasoning? Is the milk on the shelf just as good as the one in the refrigerator? Is the beef fresh?

What an incredible adventure, actually lots of fun! The evening ended with a warm home cooked meal of beef with taco seasoning, onion and pepper on bread and a side of fresh bananas.

Today truly has been productive!

Ohms.Amps.Oh My!

It is a beautiful morning here in Kampala. There is still no hint of rain as it has been since my arrival. I am excited for what  lies ahead today but for now I will dwell on one small part of yesterday.

Electricity! How we take it for granted! No matter the weather, we expect our lights to illuminate our rooms, our curling irons to heat, our furnace or air conditioner to warm or cool and yes, even our technology to be at our beck and call. Yesterday started out well and I did get my cup of tea brewed but then it happened! No lights, no power, no storms, no apparent earth shattering event, we simply had no electricity.

On the last road trip I took with my dad and mom to see my dad’s elderly uncle we traveled our usual route across the two-lane roads of west central Illinois. Now hands down, my dad was the smartest, wisest man I ever knew. He was an electrical engineer, starting his career in the days of the rapid expansion of transmission lines across the Midwest. He retired as a district manager of a large utility company and was an amazing dad. As we traveled across the rural countryside I asked him to explain to me one more time how we get our electricity. Just like microprocessor technology, electric power transmission amazes me. So when it went out yesterday I thought of him…. Ohms, amps, volts, watts…… Something so complex that really seems to us so simple. Today be grateful and enjoy your electricity thanks to a host of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs!

Interestingly, when it came back on early evening, all was well once again.

Talk.Tech.Text.

It is snowing at home today. Not just snowing but one of those ‘cancel school and stay home from work’ snowstorms.

I will get back to that in a minute. If you did not know, my first real job was with an amazing semiconductor processing company. I am very grateful for my first part-time work at a local grocery store which mostly paid for my undergraduate degree but with my freshly minted degree in Industrial Engineering I headed west. Not all the way to silicon valley but stopped in the desert along the way. I loved my first company and am still quite proud to tell people about it. They are more diversified now but back then we were pioneers in the field of technology. Though I was in production I am still amazed at miniaturization and that this tablet I am using even functions!!

So how does this relate to my first sentence? Be patient… A few years into the job I was asked to travel to Malaysia, the ‘pearl of the Orient’ on business. My son was an infant at the time, tough to leave, compounded by trying to communicate back home. It was miserable and a catalyst for my decision to ‘retire’ for a few years.

So now if you have stuck with me thus far, I will try to tie it together. Here I sit in the ‘pearl of Africa’ just about as far from home as all those years ago but yesterday I talked to my mom, and a little while ago I heard my daughter describe just trying to get out of the drive and just a few minutes ago I had an email from a colleague saying he was thinking of me while he struggled with the snow covered roads. How technology has changed and how I take it for granted!!! I am so grateful to be able to simply text or talk to those back home. I like this much smaller world!

Stay safe and warm family and friends back home!!!

Shops.Students.SnowDays.

Good morning from my new residence where I woke to the morning calls of the nearby roosters.  This is an easy ‘take for granted’ morning – my red Keurig and pod of coffee with fat free, sugar free creamer. I think my first purchase at Nakumatt will be a coffee pot! But enough of my whining. It will be a good day as I know the locations of several coffee shops!

Yesterday was quite productive. In addition to my big move I met with several of the staff in the department I will be working with. We have outlined a number of projects to complete together and will talk more about them as the work progresses. They are wonderful people and it will be good working with them. Yesterday was the first day of classes at their institution. One of the lecturers noted that attendance had been QUITE poor at the first class meeting earlier that morning. So my second ‘take for granted’ is the dependability of my students. I can expect them to be there and attentive (mostly….). I really try not to be boring. We are blessed with some amazing young people. Okay, so maybe I miss being in the midst of the start of the new semester just a bit.

I hear that there may soon be a deep blanket of snow covering my hometown. That I will not miss, unless it is a snow day. I live for the abrupt halt that snow days bring in winter in the midwest! Today should be  sunshine and about 30 degrees centigrade as it has been since arriving. I will let you look up the conversion. :-). Have a good day!

Rested.Refreshed.Ready.

As today draws to a close this will just be a quick update.

This morning I worshiped with an estimated 1200 others in a large church here in Kampala. The energy and enthusiasm were high and the message excellent. But I will admit that I missed being at my home church where my church family knows me and the hugs are abundant. They are wonderful people!

This afternoon I had the opportunity to meet an amazing young man that I plan to work with on a research project. He is from Colorado, here on a fellowship. We met at a great little coffee shop not too far from where I am staying. One of the amazing changes in Kampala is the rapid growth of coffee shops! No Starbucks, yet….

I am rested, refreshed and ready for the adventures the next week brings.

Mosquitoes.Malaria.Meds.

So I have my first mosquito bite. The mosquitoes greet me warmly each time I visit Uganda. Even with unscented lotion and bug repellent I still seem to be a favorite. But I take for granted that the prescription malaria medicine I dutifully down each morning with my breakfast will do its magic and keep me safe from malaria. It has been troubling to read of the spread of the Zika virus, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito first discovered in a very dense forest in 1947 not far from here between Kampala and Entebbe.

Yesterday I spent some time at Kikandwa Health Centre. I will share more about the centre and their good work as the weeks progress but it was good to see that all is well. Our students, in partnership with some amazing others here in Uganda and in the US, brought to life 1 1/2 years ago the dream of the village elders. Isaac and his team have developed a sustainable model that is proving quite effective in treating dreaded diseases such as malaria, typhoid and yellow fever. We went with them in the afternoon to an outpost where they were conducting HIV tests.

We will be back soon for an antenatal (prenatal for my American friends) clinic and I will get to help pass out Mama Kits. (Thanks Scott, Emily and Shining City Foundation!!). Our students have begun working hard on raising funds for the much-needed next phase of the health center, a maternity ward with overnight housing for the staff. Mamas and babies don’t seem to know to arrive during regularly scheduled center hours. If you would like to know more about the work and/or contribute please go to Connect Uganda.

Enjoy the pictures from yesterday at our Kikanwda Health Centre.

Culture.Contrast.Cold

Can they even understand? After ten years of travel to Uganda I take for granted what I will experience upon arrival and the ‘culture shock’ is pretty well gone. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term as “a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to”.

This afternoon I met with several of the amazing students that will be heading to my campus late next week. As we talked I wondered how they even begin to anticipate the cold they will face, the dinIMG_2264 (1)ing hall food they will eat, the cultural differences they will encounter or the likely stares they will notice as they move as a group? Our team of students (pictured with those traveling soon) experienced culture shock this past summer but quickly became friends. Can they help minimize  with their Ugandan partners. Can they help minimize the shock?

I want to think that in those in the Midwest heart of America and particularly those on our university campus are open and accommodating with embracing smiles. After all, we continue to be the epicenter of election coverage. But it will be very different for these wonderful young people nevertheless.

Bon voyage to these amazing young people! They have enriched my life in so many ways! If your path crosses theirs, go out of your way to make them feel welcome!! I know you will!!

Mexico. Matooke. Movies.

Perhaps it is an understatement, but Kampala is not what it was ten years ago and my day yesterday was a testament to that! For a decade I have been traveling to Uganda and have watched the country develop. The rural economy has not advanced nearly as rapidly as the urban economy, more on that later. So my day yesterday was very ‘American’. A taco for lunch, and an evening of Star Wars in 3-D and a chicken wrap at KFC… No matooke yet!

Mexico?I remember returning to Uganda in January 2014 to see KFC in the newly constructed Bugolobi Mall.  Interestingly, they had to import the chicken to meet KFC standards. Today a bucket of KFC sells for about $20 (70,000 Uganda shillings) and last evening there were many families enjoying the familiar fried chicken! I believe KFC has grown to six locations here since late 2013. Why am I surprised? I really did see it coming but thought McDonalds would be first. To my knowledge there are still no golden arches in this beautiful country but I expect that will change soon as well.

Oh, by the way, when you are sitting in a movie theater wearing 3-D glasses eating popcorn, you might be in Uganda or the US – you can’t really tell. My new friend (and driver) Denis found great delight in our ‘American’ day. So I guess I would say I can take for granted that I can find the food or movie I want here in my second home town – something I could not say ten years ago. Oh, and yes… I am working.

Summer.Sunshine.Smiles

The adventure has begun. I love being in a land of eternal summer. In a conversation yesterday we discussed heavy coats, boots, mittens, wool hats and how we take for granted in the US mid west that we will need those while here they are only imagined from pictures.

The changing seasons back home present many challenges from the ‘low tire’ light frustration each time the temperature drops, to peeking around snow drifts at intersections. I am in awe of the golden autumn leaves or the daffodils and tulips as first signs of spring. But an escape from the cold is wonderful. I understand those that flee to the warmth of Arizona and Florida this time of year.

I look forward to what today will bring and to sharing what I see. My work has begun and I look forward to the friendly smiles I will encounter today! Blessings.