….. baking in Kibaale

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In Kibaale, I have a propane stove with an oven. It is like a gas stove in that you must lite each burner as well as the oven. There is a difference, however, in that this oven is either on or off…. There is no way to regulate the temperature. In fact, there is no way to know what the temperature is. If I want to bake something I use the top rack and hope that it does not burn; or use the lowest rack to brown foods like making crispy potato wedges. Baking, roasting or cooking in this oven is a BIG challenge and always an adventure.

When I think something will be easy to make; it frequently becomes more complicated. I have had to adapt every recipe after numerous burned offerings. One of my favourite recipes is banana bread. Bananas are very inexpensive, readily available, and frequently given to me as a gift. It seems that I always have over ripe bananas. In “Jungle Camp Cook book” by Wycliffe Bible Translators, there is a great recipe for banana bread. I have attempted to make this loaf many times only to discover that the top and bottom are burnt while the inside remains raw. I now made banana bread muffins and they turn out perfect if I bake them for exactly 22 minutes. At 25 minutes they are burnt.

I tell you this because one of the Kibaale teachers is interested in purchasing an oven… Patricia wants to learn how to bake fancy decorative cakes. To help me understand exactly what type of cakes she is looking to bake, she showed me a 200 page cookbook with the most beautiful and elaborate cakes I have ever seen. This could easily be a cookbook created by “Martha Stewart”. I told Patricia that she had the wrong person if she wanted to learn how to bake such cakes. BUT then again, I am the only one in Kibaale with an oven.

Patricia and I have had many discussions about the stove, how it works, and the recipes in her cookbook. Much of our conversations have been around the ingredients; Patricia did not know what raisins, almonds, dates, icing sugar, candied cherries and mixed peel were nor had she ever tasted any of them. She did not know about measuring cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. Nor did she understand that there is a process when baking a cake… like when they say cream sugar and butter together. All this was new to her.

So, before she and her husband make a final decision to purchase a stove with an oven, I thought it would be a good idea for her to do some baking. She wanted to bake a fruit cake like those we enjoy over the Christmas Holidays. I have made a few in the past but quickly realized the store bought ones are almost as good. Unfortunately, that is not the answer. This teacher, Patricia, wants to learn how to bake.

Our first cooking lesson was a banana bread which of course turned out acceptable. Her family liked it. Then a few weeks later, she arrived with all the ingredients for a fruit cake. I have to say that our first attempt was a complete failure. I put the cake at the top of the oven and after less than half the baking time, it was black on top, sides and bottom. I carefully removed as much burnt cake as possible before sending the rest home. As she left….. I started to cry. I had just cost her a significant amount of shillings. It does not matter how much it cost in Canadian dollars; I found the price of the necessary items expensive. Here is a teacher on a limited income spending her shillings on costly ingredients which I just burnt. I felt terrible! It was a disaster! So, for the next few weeks, I thought about what I might do to make the next cake a success….

The day after our burnt disaster, Patricia came and told me her family loved the fruit cake much better than the banana bread and they wanted her to try again.

On our second attempt at a fruit cake, we did many things differently. First of all, we added extra liquids, then we put the cake on the every top rack of the oven just after I lite the oven… and finally I put a two inch stick at the top of the oven door like a wedge to keep the door open and lower the temperature. We also checked to see whether the cake was done every 10 minutes. After 45 minutes we had a magnificent cake…. SUCCESS at last.

Now my story about the “princess cake” begins. Over the Christmas holidays, there were a number of family members visiting from Canada including Carina’s mother and father better know as Mormor and Morfar (Swedish for mother’s mother and mother’s father). Mormor pack one of her suitcase with all the ingredients to make a Swedish princess cake for the Christmas festivities but this suitcase got lost in transit and did not turn up until a few days before their departure back to Canada. I have never heard nor tasted a princess cake but have heard many stories of how it is made and how over the years bakeries are making a simpler version since it takes a long of time and ingredients. Of course, this only added to the mystery of this very special cake.

So, last Friday morning as I was preparing to leave Masaka for Kibaale, I remember that I needed to say “Goodbye” to Mormor and Morfar since they were leave in a few days. Just as I was getting ready to walk up and say goodbye, I received a phone call inviting me to coffee…. I thought that it was nice to say goodbye over a cup of coffee…. but little did I know that Mormor had made the princess cake.

Out from the fridge came a cake almost exactly like the one in this picture but more beautiful. The mint green marzipan icing had three pink marzipan flowers on top…. It was truly a work of art. How could anyone cut into a cake that majestic!!!!! BUT Mormor cut the cake and gave me the first piece of princess cake. I am challenged to find words to describe the delicate taste of the layers of mouth watering sponge cake with fresh raspberries, custard and whipping cream. You have to research this cake to appreciate that this cake would be impressive by Canadian standards but to think that it was made in Uganda with an oven like mine……. what words can I use…. Well done, Mormor.

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…. what have I learned in my first year of living in Uganda.

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QE park june 2012 070>>>>>>> what have I learned in my first year living in Uganda……………..

I have learned that even though I live south of the equator, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. But what I have discovered is the night sky is something very different…. I love to stand in the middle of the soccer field with no lights for miles around, and stare at the night sky full of brilliant diamonds which appear to be so close that I could reach out and grab one. The sky is covered with a new set of constellations to explore; comets and satellites to watch out for.

I have learned that I took many things for granted in Canada which do not exist in Kibaale. If I am going to do more than just survive…… I need to remember to pump water when the generator is on; remember there are no lights in my bathroom except when the generator comes on; and that sometimes the generator does not come on because there is no fuel. Therefore, I need to ensure that my solar panel flashlights, and lamps are always ready and charged.

I have learned that not everything in Canada is available in Uganda…….. like mushrooms, feta cheese, red wine vinegar, sour cream, cottage cheese, apple sauce for example… Some of these may be found in one of the grocery stores in Kampala, but then maybe not, or maybe not on the day you are there. I am still learning to live on what is available…. all recipes have to be adapted. Here is an example, I wanted to make some cookies. I went onto the internet in search of a recipe where I had most of the ingredients. I found a cookie recipe with a glace. The glace required one tablespoon of lemon juice. Well, I cannot buy a lemon in Kibaale; a might be able to buy one in Masaka and definitely I could purchase one in Kampala. What was I going to use?… I looked around my house and found one lonely passion fruit and decided to try it in this recipe. To my surprise the cookies taste great.

I have learned that even though the clinic is suppose to be open at 8 am … it may be after 9 before the clinic staff arrive and this is especially true when it rains during the night or in the early morning hours. If at 8 am, it is still raining then I am unlikely to see anyone clinic staff or patients until after the rains have stopped. Why you may ask…. it is because everyone has to walk to the clinic; no one owns a car, very few own a raincoat or jacket and only a few own an umbrella….. this is the way it is in Africa.

I have learned that sometimes you can barter over the price of bananas, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and anything else which is sold in the market place. I am fairly certain there is a mzungu (white man’s) price and an Ugandan price. The staff at the clinic get very upset and even angry when I am over charged. Therefore, to keep the peace and the staff happy I frequently ask them to purchase certain items for me….. It is not that I am lazy but it helps build relationships.

I have learned the folks in Kibaale town and on the compound frequently greet me with “good morning my mzungu.” The first time I heard it I was shocked, confused and even upset. I was not someone’s property. But I quickly learned from the staff that it is a term of endearment. They are giving me respect and acknowledgment for living and being part of Kibaale and Kibaale Community Centre. You need to understand that I am the only white person for at least 20 to 30 kilometers in any direction.

I have learned that Kibaale is an extremely beautiful place…. One of my favourite places to sit is on the porch at the entrance to the clinic where I can see for miles, the rolling hills, many types of trees and watch the various birds fly down the valley at eye level…. like the national bird of Uganda, the grey crested crane.

I have learned there is a big difference between how time is used and understood in Uganda…… Time has a different meaning for each person and in each new situation…. the Ugandan frequently use the word “now now” which we might translate as immediately. It can mean anytime within the next few hours to anytime in the next few days. They are not trying to be disrespectful but the exact opposite… they want to please and do the right thing and it may take some time.

I have learned even when I say what I mean and mean what I say…. it is almost always misunderstood… it seems that it has a different meaning for each person. I have worked hard to teach those who wish to travel with me that when I say I am leaving the gate at 12 o’clock I mean that I will be leaving at 12 o’clock. On Dec 22, I was going to be traveling to Masaka… and I told everyone that I would be leaving from the front gate at 8:30 am…. …… Six people asked for a ride…. I spoke to each of them, repeating the information and ensuring that each one of them understood the departure time………. And still on that day, I arrived at the front gate at 8:30 and no one was present. At 9:15 three people arrived and told me they were on time…. then 10 minutes later two more arrived and finally at 9:30 the last one called to say I could pick her up on route out of Kibaale. I would have normally left at 8:30 but this was a special day since everyone was trying to get ready and travel to his or her village for Christmas. I waited patiently.

I have learned the people of central southern Uganda are from the Baganda tribe….. Now, here is a story. It is the week before Christmas, I asked one of the nurses to check and let me know if there are vaccines available for our outreach the next day. He came back and stood in my office, I asked him if he needed anything but he said “No!”… nevertheless, he remain standing in my office. Finally, after a number of minutes, I asked him if he need some airtime to make the calls; he took a few minutes to respond with the answer “Yes!” I could not help myself, I had to ask him why he did not tell me immediately that he need airtime. He gave me this response….

“A friend will come to your house and he will sit down and talk with you. You will ask him if he is hungry and he will say “No.” He will continue to sit and wait. You will make some food and you will offer him some but he will say “No, thanks.” But you will ask him again and again if he would like some food. Finally, very reluctantly he will take some of your food and you will be very surprised at the amount of food he has eaten.”

This nurse leaves and I am totally confused…. It just so happens another nurse has been sitting in my office and she had heard the whole story.. I ask her for an translation or an interpretation………………… After a few minutes, she starts “The Baganda people like to play the game of pretense….. Of course, the person was hungry but he was not going to tell you the truth. It is part of how we are brought up… We have learned our lessons well from our mothers, and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandmother and grandfathers. No one tells you the truth. It is especially worse with the cell phone (as she points to mine). I heard a person talking, telling the person on the phone that he was just about to arrive in Nairobi and was not sure if his phone would continue to function and then he rang off…He was not in Kenya but in Masaka, Uganda only a few minutes from his friends village.”

I would say I still have lots to learn but I think it has been a good beginning. I have spend the year working to build relationship with each member of the clinic staff and many in the school and in Kibaale town. I know that even a few months ago, neither one of the nurses would have helped me to understand their culture in such as interesting way. At least we are talking and I hope this helps us work together to move the clinic forward in the coming year……..as well as help me become the person I need to be to help support these changes.

….Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda

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It is New Year’s Day and I am still trying to write this blog…. I have had one challenge after another. I wanted to write and post this blog from Queen Elizabeth National Park which is in the western section of Uganda about 4 to 5 hours drive from Kibaale but the network stopped working. Then it was time to travel back to Masaka; once again the network was not cooperating. Each time I start working on this blog…. I would get company. Now company is not bad; in fact it is good… but I truly wanted to complete this blog before the end of the year. Well, it has been a busy week, I have traveled to Lake Mburo and stayed a night in what you would think is a typical safari lodge… Each room was an independent thatched hut with a four poster bed and windows overlooking the savannah grasslands. It was an exciting adventure traveling across the wet grassland following an imaginary road to get to the lodge. Then there was the trip over good paved road to get to Kasese and visit Queen Elizabeth Park. Now, my vacation is over and I am back in Kibaale only to figure out that I had run out of airtime for my internet to work…. So off to downtown Kibaale I went to buy airtime. Of course, all this takes time….

So, what was so special that I had to blog….. I had this amazing trip to see the animals of Queen Elizabeth Park. The park is almost 2,000 square kilometers in size boasting 95 species of mammals and 612 species of birds. It is an awesome place…. you are right in the middle of a real life game reserve…. this is where the animals live; cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, Ugandan Kobe, baboons and hippopotamuses to name of few.

On December 27 just before 6 pm we had arrived at one of the gates to the park….. after paying the entrance fee we asked the park rangers if they had heard any news about lion sightings…. Yes, four lions had killed an antelope that morning and the kill was close to the road. They explained exactly where to go.

The park opens at dawn and closes at dusk which is around 7 pm so we did not have a lot time to travel the dirt roads of the park to the exact location with great hope that one or more of the four lions were still in the area. An antelope is a good size kill and it is unlikely that the lions would be able to eat the whole animal in one “sitting”….

We were about half way to the location when we came upon an Ugandan riding on a motorcycle with a back flat tire. He was riding on the rim when he stopped. It was clear that he was not going to be able to ride it any further. When the park was established in 1954 there were 11 village within the newly created park boundaries. These villages continue. The village where this young man lives is about 10 to 15 minutes past the location of the kill…..So, what were we going to do? Could we leave him to fend for himself and push or walk through the park to his village? It was decided that we would lift his motorcycle into the back of the Toyota pick up and those who had seen a lion before would travel in the Toyota to the village whereas the visitors from Canada would squeeze into the Noah and try and see lions.

It did not take as long as expected to arrive at the young man’s village… even though the motorcycle almost slipped out of the back of the Toyota a couple of times… Once in the village, the young man had friends to help him unload his motorcycle. We waved goodbye and turned around and headed for the location of the lions. We had high hopes to see something before the sunset.

We arrived back at the last sighting of lions to be told nothing was happening… a lion was about 200 feet from the side of the road hidden by the tall grass. As we came parallel with the other vehicles, she became restless… she would stand up for a few seconds then lay down …. she was hardly up long enough for a photo….We stayed and watched her for at least 20 to 30 minutes and we were about to leave when we heard from some other folks that there were two or maybe three more lions hidden by the tall grasses less than 300 feet to the right of the first one…. We moved our vehicle passed the bushes and watched…. Sure enough I could see a head pop up at two different locations and the swishing of a long black tipped tail. It was exciting to see heads and tails of three lions in one location….

It was getting dark; too dark for photos… I was putting my camera away when suddenly the second lion stood up and with an amazing grace moved quickly towards a large thick clump of trees. I guessed that she was heading into the trees to get away from our prying eyes….. but that was not the case. The third lion was on the move… he or she was moving so gracefully that within seconds he or she was beside the second one. They were now active…. racing across the savannah, jumping and bounding with powerful ease….and out from behind the bushes came the first lion. It was time to play…. or that is what it looked like… the game was on…. and who was going to win the race as they vanished into the darkness….

It was dark and it was going to be at least 30 to 40 minutes before we were back at the lodge……..the safari for the day was over but what majestic beauty, what amazing power ….. my mind was memorized by these three lions…I did not want to leave. I wanted to somehow be able to stay and observe their activities even though I knew that it was not possible.

The road to the lodge is paved if you can call it that… there are potholes every few feet and some of them are so deep that a vehicle could be swallowed up…. We were still within the park when we came upon a very large snake on the road… It had to be somewhere between 6 and 8 feet long and at least the width of my upper arm in the middle…. It was moving fast and we had only seconds to see it. No one has been able to discover what kind of snake we saw…

I cannot help but think that the sighting of the snake reinforced the fact that we were in a park… and not at the zoo. Queen Elizabeth National Park of Uganda is a real life habitat for hundreds of wild animals, birds and reptiles. It is their home and we are the visitors…..

Now, you know why I had to write this blog…. what an amazing and exciting adventure!!!!!

…and now this is Christmas

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It is Christmas and I am in Masaka…..

Everything is different here. The sun was shining brightly, the birds are singing, it is a warm day with temperatures in the high 20… it is T-shirt weather. How can that be Christmas? Christmas is suppose to be cold and rainy with snow occasionally.

When I left Canada, the plan was for me to be gone one year so thoughts of bringing Christmas decorations did not cross my mind…. Therefore, I do have any Christmas decorations… I have no tree to put up, no decorations or ugly angels to put on the tree, no snow flakes for the windows, no poinsettias to enjoy. How can it be Christmas? I do have some Christmas Cards given to me my a few of the clinic staff, some teachers, and friends. I have taken these and made a display on my coffee table along with a small wooden African Nativity set. But these are in Kibaale….. I did not bring anything with me to Masaka. But some dear friends of mine came prepared and their house is decorated with a Christmas tree and lights, angels, stockings and presents under the tree. ……………….. But that is not the case for most of Uganda I am familiar with.

The stores in Kibaale have no decorations, no Christmas carols, no displays, no place where parents can have a picture of their child taken with Santa, no last minute sales, no folks running around trying to find the perfect gift for a certain someone, no traffic jams….. It looks like it could be any day of the year.

Some of the stores in Masaka have decorations but not all…. You may see a plastic or metal Christmas tree with a few miss-matched Christmas decorations at the entrance to one of the shops…. The trees look like they just came out of the box as if the person putting it up has never seen a Christmas tree. No one is greeting you with the familiar words “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”…………. There are no displays to check out…. things like Christmas cards, wrapping paper and ribbons are not out and easy to find. It just does not feel like Christmas.

No one I know owns a TV ……so, there is no count downs to Christmas, no Christmas specials to watch, no school Christmas concerts to attend since school has been out since the beginning of December….. Can it truly be Christmas?

A few days ago, I went to Kampala to do some shopping. I bought a few extra things like lamp chops, liver paste and sausage all of which are not available anywhere else in Uganda…. I bought a few presents for the five kids I will be spending Christmas with. Kampala was into Christmas… the big grocery store was filled with many big displays, people shopping, carols, and cashier greeting you with “Merry Christmas”…… In the mall was a small hut with a Santa sitting in the middle of it…. but there were no lines of small children or parents wanting their child to have a picture with Santa…. no one appeared to be interested. Could it be Christmas?

I have asked everyone from the clinic staff to many of the Kibaale teachers and students as well as the security guards in both Kibaale and in Masaka…….. how do you celebrate Christmas?

Without a question of a doubt, I received the same answer….. It is a time to celebrate. The day starts early in the morning with the preparation of the festival of food. It is the one day in the year when everyone will have meat to eat. After the preparations are completed; everyone goes to church. After the service is over, it is time to feast with family and friends. “It is the best day ever!!!!”….

It seems that if at all possible …. family members travel back to their home village to celebrate with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. It maybe the only time in the whole year when everyone gets together.

This morning, I went to church and found this little church full of Ugandans men, women and children all dressed up in what looks like new clothes. The service was very simple but participatory from the youngest child to the oldest father. It was a loud, joyous, exciting, with amazing music ………we were all there for one purpose only and that was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ…. for his birth is the true reason for this celebratory season..

So….. I came to realize that Christmas in Uganda in many ways is the same as in Canada…..It is not so different after all.

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2013.

…. a comedy of errors

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A few weeks ago, it was Sunday morning and I was still not feeling very well. I was not sick enough to stay in bed; and not sure if I wanted to get out of bed…. I was very tired with a lingering cough from a cold. As I was laying in my bed, I noticed that my daniadown quilt I brought from Canada has a few small holes and a large number of goose feathers had escaped. My little mosquito net tented bed was nicely decorated with small white feathers….. and I wonder if the reason I was not getting better was that I was breathing in some microscopic fibers from the feathers……

So, I made a plan to change the sheets, and air out the bed; repair the small holes then hang the daniadown quilt on the line outback and let the hot sunshine give it new life. As I was putting the quilt on the line, I noticed that the cleaning ladies had done a large load of washing and left the linens on the line. I decided to be kind and take the linens of the line when I took in my quilt…..

With some found energy, I made myself a good lunch of roasted chicken with rosemary and lemons, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes…. this is a real treat for me because it takes too much time and more often than not the various items are not available. Lunch was delicious……and as I was enjoying my meal, I was answering emails.

Suddenly and to my great surprise… I heard thunder and lightning and the gentle falling of rain on my tin roof…I ran out to collect the linens. I quickly decided since it appeared to be a gentle rain that I would leave my quilt on the line and it could be lightly rinsed. I got all the linens in when the rains came pouring down…..

For the next 2 hours, I watched from my open front door the thunder and lightning flashing across the sky; rain driving horizontal with such thickness the hedge in front of my house feet away became invisible…. it was truly a show of nature’s power……. and as the storm continued to rage, I watched the water level at my front door slowly raising with great possibility of my kitchen and living room also being flooded… I already had a light covering of water in my bathroom and bedroom….. and in all this I wondered about my quilt.

The storm ended, the rains stopped …..with the water level less than a half inch away from crossing the sill into my house. I waited and watched the water quickly disappearing wondering if my quilt had survived the storm and what was I going to find. I walked to the back of my house to find my quilt on the ground. I went to put it back on the line but did not see the large army of “red” ants or biting ants which had survived the storm under my quilt…. Within seconds they were climbing up my legs, on my arms and moving quickly over my body…

I ran as fast as possible over the wet soggy ground into my house were I stripped out of my floor length caftan…. I watched hundred of ants ran in all directions while I was pulling them off my neck and face and out of my hair and….. oops, they were also in my panties and bra.

I cautiously slogged through the 1/2 inch of water into my bathroom and quickly removed my underwear; turned on the tap to wash any remaining ants away………………but I had NO… NO…. NO water…

The only way I have water is to collect the rain water off my roof into a very large reservoir; then when the generator is on pump water up to a 50 gallon drum on the roof… this gives me running water.

With no running water and in desperation, I used the water off the floor to dislodge, wash away any of the remaining ants….

Now, all I could think about was having a hot shower… I felt dirty..

As I was thinking about the hot shower, I realized that for some reason the generator was on. I could pump water!!!!!!!!!! The switch for pumping is in the adjoining guest house. Very carefully, I stepped around the thick red mud and opened the door…. I may have taken 5 or 6 steps when I slipped and fell hitting my head and back on the tile floor. I slide crashing into the bathroom door with my right foot. As I lay on my back looking up at the ceiling, I realized that my screams would not be heard since school was out, and my next-door-neighbours were in Kampala for the weekend… So, I prayed and prayed. I was not willing to lay of this floor and have someone find me… It was not going to happen!!!!!……. Slowly, I tried to get up and on the third attempt I was successful.

With great care, I walked across the floor and flipped the water switch…. It normally takes 30 to 45 minutes to pump the 50 gallon drum full of water and i know it is full when the water starts to pour out of the pipe at the top of the barrel. I guess I was not counting the minutes because the next thing I know the water is streaming down on top of me… It was only a few seconds before I was out of the way moving cautiously to turn of the water.

A few minutes later, I was back in my house enjoying a hot shower. Normally, I am very careful not to use large amounts of water because I do not want to run out during the dry season BUT that Sunday, I did not care; I just wanted to be clean and warm. As I was enjoying the hot shower, I realized that my back, and toes did not hurt. I was absolutely sure that I had at least two broken toes…..but when I looked down I saw healthy pink toes with no swelling or bruising. The only thing I had was a slight headache.

Then I heard knocking at my door…… and a lovely voice calling out “Margo, are you home?”

Patricia, a teacher who has been talking to me about learning how to bake cakes in an oven had arrived. She was hoping that I had time to teach her how to bake a cake. She saw the mess my house was in due to the water on the floor and hundreds of ants scurrying about and she helped me clean up. After a refreshing cup of hot tea, we baked.

Later that night, I realized, I was not alone…. Father God was watching over me and keeping me safe…… Patricia stayed until dark, about 7 pm baking a cake, then banana muffins and finally caramel icing.

After Patricia left, I had two more visitors each coming to check and see how I had survived the storm…..

PS…. the quilt, my back, toes and head all have survived the comedy of errors….

…… applications for the first grade

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On Monday and Tuesday of this past week, the compound was full of screaming excited 5 and 6 year old boys and girls. The energy level was outrageous…. Kibaale Community School was accepting applications for the first grade… or for those in Uganda, Nursery 1. In Canada and in the USA the new school year starts in September but in Uganda the beginning of the next grade or the start of school is the last week in January.

At 8 am on both days, there was a line up at the gate to enter. All the mothers came dressed in their finest goma (an Ugandan dress)….. there was a bright array of colourful dresses covering the grassy lawn just outside the sponsorship office. Each mother had to speak with one of the office staff since many mothers do not read or write but know the importance of a good school…. Kibaale has a very fine reputation since many of the students are able to pass the various exams which allow a student to continue their education as far as university.

The reason why I am writing this blog is because after two days of craziness….the sponsorship office staff were able to complete over 500 applications. Yes, over 500 mothers wanted their little James, Janet, Joyce or Johnny to get one of the possible 45 seats available in Nursery 1 at Kibaale Community School….

The sponsorship staff will spend the month of January going over every application carefully; then going out into the community and seeing which ones of these 500 plus students are the most needy…. because the hope is that each one of these new students will find a sponsor who will help them with their education….

In this rural part of Uganda …. education of one child is very expensive for the average family…. and no family has just one child. Many families in this area have more than 4 children. Beside their own children, it is not unusual for a family to take in one or two or three children who have been left, abandoned for a variety of reasons: death of mother, father departed and left the mother with all the kids to care for, lack of family ability to support all the children and family members with AIDS, poor crops, and abuse to name a few…..

Education gives the child… the family…… and the community hope and the opportunity for everyone to move forward and grow. There are presently four members of the clinic staff who were born and raised in Kibaale area, completed their education in various cities across Uganda with financial support from sponsors and now have chosen to return to Kibaale and give back to their community….. I think it is amazing!!!!!!

….. December 1, 2012

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December 1 is World AIDS Day…..

A few weeks ago, in late November, Rakai District sent all clinics a notice that they were a little short of funds for the events plan for World AIDS Day. After much discussion with various people, we decided to help support the event….. as I was handing over the shillings to one of the coordinator, I was graciously invited to come and see what was happening…. I had not thought about going until that moment.

The theme for this year is “Re-awakening leadership against AIDS”. Rakai District was going to have there celebration at Kasensero (Ca-sense-ee-row). Now, I have never been to this village but was told it was a very small fishing village on Lake Victoria near the Tanzanian boarder and the trip from Kibaale to Kasensero would take anything from 2 to 4 hours… This would all depend on the road and security. I understood that most of the trip would be on a single lane dirt road… what I mean is that only one vehicle can travel on the road at a time. The first vehicle has to move over and hang off the side of the road to let a second vehicle pass. What I did not understand was security….. everyone believed that the President of Uganda was coming to this event. I could understand why anyone was going to travel to the far end of Uganda to this place in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, I was interested in finding out what was happening with AIDS in Uganda. The clinic has the ability to test for AIDS and we counsel every patient who has been tested…. but we do not have or prescribe antiviral medications this is done at a government clinic.

The clinic was closed and seven of us left Dec 1 at 8:30 for Kasensero. We got as far as Ssanje (sand-gee) which is on the main road leading to Tanzania. We stopped for a few minutes which turned out to be many as one large white vehicle with black lettering stating UN passed us by. After the UN convoy passed by, I moved in behind the last truck and headed off down the road…. but by the time we reached the turn off… they were long gone. I was surprised at the speed they were traveling down this rugged, narrow dirt road.

Less than 30 minutes later, a dark blue police jeep pulled up behind me with sirens on… I pulled over to let at least 20 large, black, shiny impressive cars passed by….. Once again I moved into behind the last one and tried to follow them down the road but I was uncomfortable traveling at those speeds….. I may have gone a 3 or 5 miles when another dark blue police jeep pulled up beside me this time and told me to move over…. and another long convoy of big, black shiny cars passed me by. By now, the clinic staff were positive the President was coming to this AIDS Day events but I had my doubts.

Finally, at 11 o’clock we arrived and found parking in an off the road field; went through security where I was told I could not bring in my camera…..and was directed to seats under one of the six or seven large tents set up for various dignitaries. The next 2 1/2 hours was one set of amateur entertainment after another…. I made me think we were waiting for some… It was truly local talent from numerous school music and dance groups to a high school marching band to two young boys doing acrobatics…… Finally, the activities changed and became more like the start of the program… it was because the President of Uganda had arrived…. He walked into the small circle of tents and passed by the many booths promoting various items, programs or agencies for the fight against or supporting those with AIDS.

Once the national anthem of Uganda and AIDS had been played the speeches started…. I asked the staff what was being said but no one was willing to translate…. after numerous speeches, a little girl come up to the mike and just by her actions I guess that she was telling the President about her life with AIDS…. The clinic staff finally translated her story… she was an orphan, both parents and grandparents had died of AIDS…….. she asked the President for the necessary medications to kept her healthy, a new house and a new school since both were falling down….. It was just then that I understood the everyone’s speech as really a request for money.

There were two English speeches…. the first one was by an UN representative, Janet Jackson, presented the following information…. today, Uganda’s is one of two countries in Africa where the rate of AIDS has increased. In the beginning, Uganda was the example to all countries and governments how to educate about the ABCs for the prevention of AIDS, (A = abstinence; B = Be faithful during marriage; C = use condom); how to ensure that those affected receive the necessary antiviral medications; and how to support those living with the infection. But over the past few years things have changed….now 50% of those tested are positive and only 50% of those infected will receive antiviral medications. Unprotected sex and mother to baby transmission accounts for 99% of all cases…..

The second speech was from a gentleman who represented the international partners…. he expressed the deep concerns the foreign partners had as to why things had deteriorated over the past few years to cause a significant increase in Uganda’s rate of the infection.

By 3:30, I was hungry and the speeches were continuing… I had obtained the information I want… so we walked down the narrow vehicle filled street to see Lake Victoria and find some lunch which was fresh fish…. I would not call this village picturesque in any way…there was no motels, no hotels, no gas stations, no restaurants overlooking the lake with patios where you could enjoy a cup of coffee or tea… the village was made of old broken down wooden huts which look like they would fall down with the next wind storm…. it was foul smelling and dirty. I could not understand why a large event like this would take place in this village…. I later learned that the first case of AIDS in Uganda was from this village of Kasensero.

My plans were to leave at 4:30 so I could be home before dark… I do not like traveling on these road after sunset which is around 7 pm, but at 4:30, I quickly learned the President had just left…. Now, I had to wait for all the police vehicles and all the other support vehicles to depart before I could even think about moving my land cruiser.

I was expecting the trip home to be faster and easier but I was truly wrong…. first of all, many of those who had attend the event were impatient and wanted to get home immediately and therefore demanded that I pull over and let them pass… So it was stop and start most of the trip into Ssanje. We had to stopped to check and see if everyone was O.K. for two accident where the vehicle had rolled over but each time we were told everyone was alright.

I was less than a half mile from the turn off to Kibaale in Ssanje when I saw a very large military helicopter surrounded by the same vehicles who had just passed me minutes ago….. just then one of the staff informed me that the President had two appointments that afternoon. They did not say where the second one was…. I thought it must be in Ssanje… and I was wrong.

I was half way to Kibaale when I came face to face with a dark blue police jeep coming straight at me… I quickly pulled over and learned that the President had gone to the small village of Mannya to open the school and new health clinic. Now…. the various police and military vehicles were not coming from behind me but were coming towards me…. and once again I had to pull over and wait for them all to pass….. I saw the President a second time.

Once I got to Mannya….. the narrow dirt road was filled with crowds of people and I was not able to pass for sometime….. the trip back to Kibaale was extremely challenging…. I did not want to hit anyone and everyone was in very good spirits celebrating the fact the President of Uganda and come to their village….

Yesterday, I spoke to all members of the clinic staff about the events of December 1, World AIDS Day and I expected the discussion to be about the fact the President had come to this remote village but the staff talked for sometime about what we as a clinic can do to educate the community about the AIDS epidemic and the ABCs (abstinence, be faithful and the correct use of condoms); the importance of testing and receiving counselling of the results and making sure the person who is infected receives the antiviral medications….

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