I am beginning to adjust to life here in Namungalwe; pumping water from the borehole, peeing in a small hole in the ground, washing dishes and clothes by hands in basins, eating rice and beans, the name mzungu, lusoga greetings and African time…always late. The week started off with a visit to the schools, a primary and secondary, just down the road. We introduced ourselves to administrators and then were able to talk to the students. The primary school kids were adorable. They were so excited to see us and after introductions went crazy for a picture. The older students were a little harder to impress and wanted to know how old we were…typical. I told them I was a science teacher and two of the boys quizzed me yesterday to make sure I knew my science. Question #1 – What is an atom…apparently my explanation satisfied their curiosity because they looked at me like I was speaking over their heads.
A mouse scurried into our house the other day and made it’s way into our room. I kicked it out of my backpack once and then heard it again around midnight after it had made its way into my computer bag. So I kicked the bag around a bit hoping it would run out…nope, nothing. So I continued to move the bag around and pushed the computer out and saw a fleshy, pink blob…a closer look revealed, baby mice; two of them, definitely dead. Eew. Elina and I didn’t know what to do about it because we were half awake and I’m pretty sure at some point she said, Sean will help us in the morning, which I seemed satisfied enough with because I fell right back asleep. However, by morning, the mouse was gone again and we still hear it at night…I might try to make a food trail out the front door…or buy a trap in jinja this morning…I guess a mouse isn’t quite as bad as bats. The boys have a bat that screeches all night long next to their room…scary. I don’t know why Simon Peter ever wants to shower at night.
Monday night we had chicken for dinner, which is quite gourmet by Ugandan village standards. A typical meal for us usually consists of a carbohydrate (rice, potatoes, cassava, posho), beans (always) and a vegetable. If we’re lucky we have goat, beef, chicken, fish or eggs. Coming up with daily menu’s has definitely been the most stressful and disliked job of the house. So Monday, I helped Helen go cut down some Matooke from the garden. She is skilled in the machete department; with one swift blow she cut down an entire tree and when I tried to cut down a single leaf I had issues. On the way back to the house, we came across my favorite part of the trail…the ant path. It is seriously just like out of planet earth. Parts of the trail across the path are covered, large soldier ants stand guard, while ants scurry along carrying goods. It is fascinating how efficiently they work. Back to dinner though…so we get back and Mutesi starts showing me how she prepares Matooke and then I see Nicholas holding a chicken and I asked him…are we having that for dinner? Sure enough…we were…so of course I asked if I could watch it all go down since I’d never seen a chicken killed before. So we took it out back, behind the kitchen, he held it down and slit its throat, drained some of the blood, then took off its head. His two sisters joined him after and pulled out all of the feathers. That’s when I left and we met again on the dinner table. There isn’t as much meat on the chicken here, and it’s a bit gamey, but not bad; probably the freshest meat I’d ever tasted.
On to business…this week our game plan was to make ourselves known in the community. I felt I was doing a fairly good job making myself visible – going on bike rides, runs, fetching water, walking around – just making sure people saw us and saw how friendly we are. Definitely, had a lot of opportunity to work on our lusoga greetings and know I’m realizing we need to move on to more advanced language skills. Hmmm…not sure about how that will work out.
On Monday afternoon we visited two of the schools in our village, the primary (elementary) and secondary. We just showed up and the administrators were excited to meet us and held impromptu assemblies so we could introduce ourselves to the students. Each school has near 1,000 students and the schools share 1 borehole (well). WOW! A major issue they deal with is access to water…and then I don’t think they treat the water before consuming it…hmmm. Something to propose. The little kids especially were thrilled to see us. They were so respectful and quiet and then when we took their picture they erupted with energy and excitement, practically rushing us! Loved it! There was a music class going on in the background as well…so good. The high schoolers were typically high schoolers…a little more guarded and more interested in knowing how old we were. The headmistress of the school is awesome, she reminds me of my sister-in-law and is a great leader and works well with the students. We are going back this week to meet in focus groups with the high schoolers to get some more information about health issues.
On Tuesday, we stopped by the health center, which is a level III and provides services for HIV and malaria and has a maternity ward and offers laboratory services. They were very busy when we stopped by so we plan on going back at a scheduled time to meet more of the staff. It was interesting though, during our community meetings last week one of the major issues people brought up was lack of assistance from the center and lack of medications. It seems as though there is some corruption in the handling of medications and most doctors maintain a private practice outside of their work at the health center in order to make enough money to get buy. They also sell medication from these clinics/pharmacies and recommend patients to them when they come to the health center where they expect to get medication for free. It’s kind of tricky.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we met in 3 different areas of the community to introduce ourselves to village members and explain our goals for the summer and how we want to work with the community. Our Ugandan team leader, Simon-Peter did an amazing job as our speaker/interpreter and was able to convey our goal to create a village health team made up of volunteers in the village that would be able to provide initial primary care/resources to members of the village. We also explained we would be gathering information over the next couple of weeks to identify major health challenges in order to know what to center our interventions on. We stressed partnership and ownership, as we really want to empower the community and help them to find solutions and create sustainable programs. It will be interesting to see how our work unfolds. I’m researching nutrition and eye disease and hope to provide some valuable education and resources to the village health team and community members. The people seemed extremely supportive and excited about our plans for the summer and UVP in general. At one meeting location we were even given giant papayas as a thank you!
Overall, the summer will be a challenge, but I must realize that our work is only to get the village health team formed and off the ground running…establishing a distributer for waterguard, condoms, mosquito nets, and train the members on identifying health issues and giving them resources for continued education and treatment. It will be a challenge though because we are dealing with African time (no one shows up on time…really like 2 hours late) and limited resources (internet, communication, etc). But, I will count our time as a success if we are able to motivate the community and help them to take ownership of their health issues and excitement to find solutions.