I had my first driving lesson today

Leave a comment

There is no way for you to truly appreciate the condition of the Ugandan roads without being here or seeing a picture but I have tried numerous times to insert a picture but without success.

I was in Masaka over the weekend checking up on the girls in the Timothy Centre. I spoke at length with the matron and checked out a number of clinics in the area closest to the centre….. I was surprised to find one I think will work. Took one of the girls to a clinic for treatment. Did some shopping for essentials like coffee, cookies, mops and brooms etc….. I also spent a large amount of money and bought medications at a local pharmacy and all this was done because I had a driver taking me to all these various places.

Each time I have been in Masaka…. someone suggests I learn to drive…. I have a driver’s license from the province of British Columbia, Canada but I have never driven on the left side of the road. Which is the way they drive in Uganda. I have gotten as far as booking a date and time but it has never worked out. This morning we have a van full of people, medications and baggage. It is a very full van…. we are only a few minutes out of Masaka when Mark pulls over and gives me the wheel. The first few minutes were somewhat unnerving…. I was driving too close to the side of the road where the people, bikes and motorcycles travel….. it was a fairly quiet road and the pavement was good with yellow lines down the middle…… after some minutes I started to feel very comfortable….. but I realized I needed to focus…. because it would not come naturally to be driving on the left… my mind is use to the other side of the road…. I am however driving a van with left side steering wheel which makes it a little easier…..

The road to Kibaale has a big problem….. the last 10 miles is a dirt road and just a few minutes into the dirt road is an area which is covered with water…. it has not helped that we have had rain. The two large puddles or lakes are so deep that it comes above the wheels. I have heard stories about how the transport trucks have been stuck in the mud below the deep waters….. This portion of the road has been a problem for years …. from small puddles to large lakes….. the water does not drain off the road but remains causing deep ruts of mud. If there is a road department they do not know about this problem….

We heard that there is another route into Kibaale…. there have been many questions…. the condition of the road, how much longer will it take, are there signs to indicate the way…… nevertheless, it was felt by all that we needed to check out this alternate route … and I did the driving…. The road was well paved and great. The sign directing us towards Kibaale was covered with someone’s jacket and it was only because someone in the van knew the route were we able to turn at the correct place. The last 21 miles or is it kilometers was dirt road. The condition was better than the other route into Kibaale….. but it was a narrow road with just enough room for two cars or vehicles to pass….. the little of the scenery I saw was breathtaking…. it was a few miles or kilometers longer but we arrived in Kibaale earlier than we expected and came in a back route to the surprise of all.

It was fun to finally drive in Uganda ….it gave me some freedom and confidence in the fact I can drive these roads…..

The rest of the day….. many of the locals…. teachers, clinic staff and a few of the older students asked me if it was true that I drove the van from Masaka…….this maybe the first step in me driving the road from Kibaale to Masaka and back on my own….. only time will tell.

Something I never learned in nursing………. how to buy medication for a clinic

1 Comment

It has been a very busy week and I am stilling learning…… it seems that over the past 6 or so months various individuals have traveled to Kampala to order and pay for what was hoped to be the correct medications and the correct amount. After looking over the pharmacy shelves and the store room shelves …. it appears that we are over stocked on many non essential medications and lacking in many of the essential ones. The problems is what are the essential medications…. the seasons change and so does the need for certain medications….

I spent one whole day…. doing an inventory of the medications we had. Another whole day…. reviewing the little information I could find on how much we are using of each medications such as quinine, cough syrup, cannula, syringes and the various antibiotics. I headed for Masaka to buy some of our needs instead of traveling many tiring hours to Kampala. I had heard the buying in Kampala is crazy and strange and exhausting with a great possibility of significant losses before leaving the parking lot…..

So, with a significant amount of money in hand…. I headed out for a pharmacy in Masaka…. I calculated the amount of each medication as the sells person gave me the amount….. I would have loved to know the cost before hand but that is just not possible….. Having spend all the money I was given I did not buy all my needs. I thought for sure I was going to come out with money in my pocket. It seems to me that medications in Uganda are as expensive as in Canada. But the patients can not afford to pay the prices never mind the dispensing fees. The price of one tablet of quinine is .56 cents…. not a lot of money to many of us…. but the treatment for malaria is two tablets two times a day for three days…. so 12 tablets or $6.72 Most of our patients cannot afford even the $2.00 to come to the clinic…. the $2.00 includes the consultation, the lab work, any treatments and all necessary medications. No one has been turned away…

But here I am trying to buy the most medications to treat all these patients for the least amount of money. I prayed and checked my list over and over again…. and finally paid the bill and left with 8 boxes of medications and other medical supplies. I has just finished packing the van and leaving when I got a call from Kibaale letting me know that they were out of a certain medication. Yes, it was on my list. It was not in my boxes…. and I did not have any more money.

I headed back to ask for more money to go back to the pharmacy and buy more medications….. later that afternoon I was back in the pharmacy ordering more medications which were just as expensive as the ones I bought in the morning…… and as I was heading out….. I got another call from Kibaale asking me to buy another medication.

I headed back to ask for more money to go back to the pharmacy and buy more medications…. but this time…. the medication was not on my list and was specific needed for one of our workers…

I am exhausted from just trying to buy the right amount of the right medications at the right price for the right reason…. to help keep the community, staff and students of Kibaale healthy….

It is too late now….. the boxes are packed and I am heading home to Kibaale tomorrow morning….. I am looking forward to getting back to what I know ….. which is not how to figure how to buy medications for a clinic.

I am excited to go home and look down into the peaceful trees of the area and not try to deal with the craziness of Masaka.

What a marvelous gift………. a baby goat!!!!!

Leave a comment

Last night it was after dark before I headed out for my nightly walk around the Kibaale Community Centre compound. It is usually very quiet except for the few birds, and the crickets saying farewell to the sun…. and then the silence sets in….. but for some reason there was lots of noise and activity down by the front gate….. I headed that direction with the use of my flashlight…. I can see nothing in this darkness…… I was coming close to the gate and was hearing the sounds of many sheep…… but I had not seen any sheep in Uganda. I continued towards the gate wondering if someone was sick or hurt and needed medical care…… and out of nowhere a large man stepped into the light of my flashlight. I had not heard him …. but he was at least 6 feet tall and was wearing the garb of someone from the middle-east….. he grabbed my hand and started to shake while saying something about good evening and that he had finally arriving with the goats……Once my shock was quickly over….. I scanned the ground around us and saw three of four other men working to loop a piece of rope around the neck of a goat and then attach the piece of rope to one of the trees lining the roadway……. I counted 12 baby goats. I thought they were sheep by their sound…. Nevertheless, one baby goat was tied to each tree. There were black goats, and black and white goats, and spotted ones and brown ones ……. they were so cute. BUT who were the goats for?

Finally, the gentleman left and I was wondering if I was somehow responsible for the goats……. what was I going to do…… I ask one of the security guards at the front gate about the baby goats….. he said that the gentleman was suppose to have delivered the goats a few weeks ago and they were for the KFC office (the Kibaale Sponsorship Office).

This morning there were still 12 goats, each tied to a tree and all of them were peacefully eating the grass quietly by the side of the road….. Sometime in the middle of the day….. I noticed there were a few less goats….. and then finally in the late afternoon there was only one…. I watch a young boy tightly holding the piece of rope and walking his baby goat out the front gates….. I wish I had my camera…. The little boy walked so proudly down the red dry dirt road and it looked like he was having a talk with his baby goat….. The goat was a gift from the child’s sponsor. What a marvelous blessing….. a baby goat.

Yes, the rains have come and ….. so the mud

Leave a comment

Yesterday morning most of the roads and pathways in the compound of Kibaale Centre were covered in large dark red murky mud puddles….. I watched as everyone tried to step around these large beautiful puddles….. I could not help but think of a dear friend of mine 2 1/2 year old Isaiah… I could just see him walking then jumping in each and every puddle over and over and over again…. It had been a very stormy night with thunder and lightning and pounding rain…… and all of a sudden the rains stopped just before 7 am just one hour before school was suppose to begin. I wondered if the students would be late.

I got dressed into my jean skirt since pants are frowned upon…… part of their culture, a long sleeve top and a rain jacket. I headed off to the clinic to see how things were and to check and see how many and whom of the staff had arrived….. It appeared all were present…. shivering from the cold. It was about 70 degrees but the dampness from the rain made it feel even colder. I watch as the students arrived for school in their cotton tops and skirts for the girls or pants for the boys….no one was wearing a sweater or jacket. The jackets or sweaters were wrapped around their school books and papers……I could not help but laugh silently.

I had a meeting in an office across the compound from the clinic so I carefully headed out watching out for the puddles but missed the mud…… I slipped and fell. Both my legs were covered in the red mud from the tops of my crocs to just above my knees….. my hands and parts of my arms were covered. I had jarred my back and was not sure I would be able to get up….. two lovely ladies came to my rescue. My back, neck and left leg were sore but it was my dignity which had the most damage……looking down at me….. one of the two ladies made this comment…. “now-now you are no longer coloured.” Did you get that…. I, a white Caucasian female was concerned coloured until I was covered with the mud and became dark skinned. This was not the first time I had heard that comment but was not sure if they were talking to me or about me….. Yesterday, I knew what they were saying. I am considered a coloured person to these people in rural Uganda….. I am coloured and I am white.

It is strange to be considered or thought of as being a coloured person….. I am not looked down upon or treated with anything but total respect. I am a part of this community and I am treated as such…..

I wonder if there are any coloured people in God’s eyes……

The rains have come…

Leave a comment

Yes, the rains have come finally…..

A few days ago mid morning there was thunder and lightning and finally a gently rain fell. It was like a warm spring day in Canada. It was so nice and refreshing ….. I decided I had to take a walk in it, so I slowly wandered over to Samalie’s office. The next day was very similar…. the majority of the staff were not sure if it was going to rain…. the sky was filled with high white billowy clouds. I watched them moving quickly across the sky and suddenly the rain fell and everyone ran for cover. It was not a gently rain but a downpour which lasted about 30 to 45 minutes and then out popped the sun and everything dried up quickly as if there had been no downpour.

Now, last night the thunder and lightning started around 11 pm and then the rains fell…… on my bedroom metal roof. The darkness was everywhere…. I could not see the mosquito net surrounding my bed nor the window just a few feet from my bed or the door… all was dark and the rains hit the metal roof…… the strangest sounds could be heard. It sounded as if making types of creatures were walking over the roof….. the rains pounded and I was wondering if the roof would hold. I watched the clock as the minutes and hours passed and wondered if my little house was going to float away …..I thought about Noak and the ark and remembered how God protected Noak and all the animals…. I prayed that God would protect me. I was safe in bed and once or twice I checked to see if any portion of my bedding was wet. I was nice and warm and dry, so decided that I could wait till the sun came up to see what damage was done….. To my surprise all was well this morning….. I had not floated away around the Ugandan lands in my little house but was secure to the ground just where I was last night. The land looks the same but I have noticed that the grass is no longer straw in colour but has a fresh new green tone…… The blue skies have given way and are filled with large fluffy white clouds. It is a new season and I will be learning more about it as it continues.

Over the past few days, I have noticed that there are fires everywhere….. I thought that the land was so dry that they were nature fires….. I just learned that the farmers burn the land in preparation for planting a new crop…. they have two planting seasons in Uganda. One is at the end of Feb and the other is at the beginning of September. There are two rainy seasons and the crops are planted according to the rains….. It is good to know the rains have come…..now the people will have food to eat…… In this part of the world, most of the people life on what they grow. It is a hand to mouth lifestyle…..

For those who prayed for rain…. I thank you and so do the people of Kibaale.

The ring tone of a cellphone never to be forgotten

Leave a comment

It has been a very strange week……. I was sitting in the counseling office trying to made some sense of the papers and papers of documentation…. I think I should start at the beginning. Last Friday, around 4 pm, one of the nurses presented me with a two page list of medications. He told that they needed them as soon as possible…. they use the expression “now-now.” I had been informed that the clinic was ordering a lot of medications and were they all necessary. I had no idea but decided I had better find out….. The nurse was insistent that I hire a driver, and leave on Saturday morning for a 12 hour round trip into Kampala with at least 10,000,000 shillings to pay for the necessary medications. First of all, I was not going to hire a driver and second of all…… I did not have any money to spend on medications. 10 millions shillings is too much money for me to be carrying around. 2,500 shillings is about $2.00 US. I will let you do the calculations. In the meantime…. did we need the medications….. I had no idea.

After the discussion with the nurse, I decided to check out the pharmacy and the storage room (which I have never entered) to see what was available. There was no way to discover if the request was valid or not…. the medications were piled on top of each other and in no order that I could see. Now, that was the pharmacy. The store room was filled to the roof with boxes and boxes and more boxes of unopened medications. I worked all day Saturday putting the medications in alphabetical order in the pharmacy. Sunday I spend the day, opening one box after another to discover we had a lot of some medications and very little of others. Monday and Tuesday, I got some help from two of the senior students to help me lift down the 50 pound boxes of out dated IV solutions……then to help me put all the medications in alphabetical order. It was finally done and the two rooms look wonderful for now….

I could see that I had two problems…. one was how much of each medications was there in the pharmacy, and storage room (a count needed to be done) and the second was how much were we using….. there was no use in ordering the wrong medications or not order enough…….. I remember hearing the receptionist telling someone about how she was not able to do her count. I wondered if she meant the count of medications in the pharmacy.

Sure enough… she was talking about how she counts the medications. It took me some time but I finally got the books…… I was sitting in the counseling office trying to read her numbers when I heard the strangest ring tone……… we are in rural Uganda. There is no electricity for anything. The people walk miles and miles to come to the clinic. There is no indoor plumbing except for a few places like my house…. oh yea…. back to the ring tone….. It went like this ” Hello, hello, hello, hello…. answer your phone….. hello, hello, hello, hello… answer your phone”. The voice was that of a male with a British accent. The phone was in the hands of an old village gentleman who looks like he has worked in the fields all his life. He was sitting on the bench outside the Laboratory waiting for his results. I could not help but watch and see what he did….. he sat and listened to the phone…. and finally a young teenage came running over and made a comment, then answered the phone.

You could say ….. that made my day….. I had been tired, frustrated and up set over the whole situation with the medications…. I did not know what to do… except to pray and I believed that I was to count all medications, to take stock of what we had and try to estimate our needs. The ring tone….. brought me back to reality…..it made me laugh and remember that I am here for the people.

I am back home in Kibaale

Leave a comment

Once again I have tried to add a photo to my blog but I was unsuccessful.

Walk into your kitchen and look at your fridge…… my new one looks just like yours except for two things…. one it runs on propane and does not need any electricity and the second difference is that it is at least two times the cost of most refrigerators in Canada and USA.

I left Kibaale last Thursday afternoon ….. Ken had come down to Kibaale for meetings and was going to drive me back to Masaka. It was going to be the start of my commute between Kibaale and Masaka…….. but things went sideways. The dry season in Kibaale continues and is hard on everyone. The numerous individuals I have spoken to tell me that it is very strange for the area to have no crops. There is no fresh produce and the little kiosks in town have no canned goods or fresh produce. Last Tuesday, a group arrived from Masaka with lots of fresh vegetables: potatoes, avocados, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, pineapples, passion fruit, carrots and fresh bread. I was over the top and looking forward to lots of good food. On Thursday morning, I opened the freezer to take out the bread and everything was rotten…. the fish has thawed and …. the smell caused me to gag and gag and gag….. everything was gone…. all my fresh produce was covered in a layer of fur. It was a terrible sight and smell. There had not been enough electricity from the solar panels to maintain my fridge and freezer.

So, in stead of going to Masaka for a few days to see how the girls were doing in the dorms….. I was going to Masaka for an indefinite period of time…. I would not be going back until a solution could be found. I need food and there was none to buy in Kibaale,  and any food I may have would be destroyed by the intense heat or by my fridge because of lack of power. There was a possible solution  a propane fridge but could one be found in Kampala. Karl and Arleen were going into Kampala for a business meeting Friday and Saturday and when they were there they asked around and discovered that a store called GAME had just received a shipment of propane fridges…. from South Africa by way of Mombasa, Kenya.

Ken and I drove the  2 1/2 to 3 hours into Kampala to buy me a propane fridge at Game. It was an all day trip. The fridge was secured to the back of the double cap pick up and we headed back to Masaka. We left at 8:30 and arrived in Masaka at 6 pm. It was a long hot day. I have never been to Kampala and in my mind it is very similar to many large third world cities. There are the very affluent store like Game (similar to a Walmart or Zellers) just a few block from a small stream where the women were washing there clothes and collecting drinking water. The availability of items is amazing but the prices are extremely expensive.  I spend over $100 on four small pieces of meat, two small portions of cheese, plus one round of cheese and three medium cartons of yogurt.  Then when we were almost back in Masaka, I bought 10 tomatoes, fours very large avocados, a very large papaya, 8 red onions, and 6 mangos for less than $10.  If you can get produce it is inexpensive but all everything else cost more than in Canada and the USA.

Today….. the fridge arrived in Kibaale……. to make it work they had to bang holes in my walls to put the line from the fridge to the propane tank which have to be outside…… my little house was a mess….. for most of the day. BUT now…. all is well…. the freezer is now cold and the fridge is now cool. It took most of the day for the fridge and freezer to work….

I am so happy to be back at home in Kibaale……. there were lots of you praying for an answer and Father God came through. It is good to be home…… I will wait until later tonight to put the vegetables in the fridge. I just want to make sure all is well and it works.

Thanks  to all of you for your prayers….. it still do not have any electricity and need to say good bye as my computer battery is almost dead.