Friday, July 02, 2010

Last couple of weeks....

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to blog from Uganda. Unpredictable internet speed and availability is the main problem. It’s also difficult to keep up on my journal without electricity to recharge my computer every few days. So I’ll have to do a quick recap of the last couple of weeks.
Most of last week, I was anxiously awaiting my MCAT scores. I had my parents check the day they were out, but didn’t hear until the following afternoon due to time difference and cell service. I was so relieved when I found out I had exceeded my goal score by a point, but also immediately wished the score was better. But that’s usually how it goes…never satisfied.
We had our Safe Water/Sanitation outreach Thursday of that week and I think it was a success. We prepared and made visuals the few days before, mobilized the community by putting up posters at the boreholes and then went house-to-house as well, which was somewhat inefficient as we only have 2 lusoga/luganda speakers on our team. However, we had a pretty good turn out; even if we had to wait about 2 hours after the posted meeting time, but that’s African time. You say 2pm and people show up at 4, 4;30 or even 5pm. We may consider it rude in America, but that’s just the way it is here. I had made an outline of our lesson of sorts and we tried to make it as interactive and interesting as possible. We had one rogue attendee who enjoyed asking absurd questions. One example was when we were introducing waterguard as an option to treat your water. It is a chemical based treatment and you pour a capful into a 20L jerrican. The man asked, “ you say it kills and cleans everything, what’s not to stop someone from using it to clean their clothes, or eye, or maybe they’ll just pore the whole thing down the borehole….” I thought he was rather entertaining and made the crowd laugh, even if he was a bit unruly. We sold a few bottles of waterguard, but most of the women didn’t bring money, so hopefully they’ll be back.
That weekend we went to Jinja for the day on Saturday to indulge in a mocha and use the wireless at flavours café. I started looking over my AMCAS (med school) application and freaked out a little about all the information I have to input about courses and what not. I wasn’t able to spend much free time as I was focused on emailing out about letters of rec and transcript requests. We left Jinja feeling refueled and recharged for the week ahead and excited about watching the US/Ghana game later that night in the village. Transportation in Uganda is a bit sketch and unpredictable. In order to get to jinja (about a 45 min drive from iganga) our team has to walk about 10 minutes to catch a boda boda in our village marketplace to get to iganga (about a 20 minute ride). We then go to the taxi (or matatu) park where we wait for a van-like taxi to leave for Jinja, sometimes you wait 10 minutes, sometimes you wait an hour. We could catch one en route off the main road, but when you travel with a larger group it’s better to wait in the taxi park. This is because Africans don’t abide by obvious car safety standards…like how many people can fit in a row of seats. You would think you would have one person per seat, but that isn’t very profitable so they tend to squeeze one, maybe two extras in. You can imagine this makes for a fairly uncomfortable ride, especially when you factor in all the stops as people get off at different stages and then conductors frantically wave at passerbys to see if they need a ride. It can create a jerky and long ride. On the way home from Jinja that day our matatu actually stopped about 10 minutes outside of iganga and everyone except the Americans got out…we were confused, thinking we would continue on, but after waiting about 10 minutes, being harassed by vendors to buy everything under the sun…one teenage boy even asked Sean if he could buy one of us girls…..what??? Anyway, after we put up a bit of a stink we were shuffled onto yet another matatu that finished the drive to iganga. Later that night we went to “the barn,” a random building in the village that broadcasts the world cup games. It was heartbreaking watching the US lose to Ghana…I feel like the African audience was exceptionally proud and rowdy with a group of Americans in their midst.

The next week we spent preparing and mobilizing for our malaria outreach, meeting with the Namungalwe health center management committee and building a tippy-tap in the primary school after teaching about sanitation and handwashing. The malaria outreach went well on Thursday. We put up posters on Wednesday and Nina and I rode bikes around the village reading off one of the posters in lusoga, inviting people to come. It was fun to try to communicate on our own without an interpreter and people were surprised we were able to ride bikes and were excited we had come to tell them about the sensitization. There were about 50 people that trickled in from about 4:30 to 6pm…over 2 hours after it was supposed to start. We shared about transmission, dispelling local myths, talked about what types of treatments are effective and how to prevent mosquito bites…we pushed using long-lasting insecticide treated nets and sold about 25 after the outreach. I was distracted by the neighbor kids after our presentation and ended up having a photo shoot with them instead of interacting with the adults. Mpulu…a cute little boy who cries if a white person gets too close, was especially adorable and I was able to get some great pictures and play Frisbee with him…one time accidently hitting him in the forehead…oops. I think though he is on his way to overcoming his fear of white people…although the Frisbee incident probably didn’t help much at all.

Yesterday (Friday), we came into Iganga for a mid-trip debrief. Teams were able to share about their work so far and talk about what they hoped to accomplish over the next couple of weeks. We also talked more about what the Village Health Team will look like and heard from the health care team, which is working with the health centers and the follow up team, which is looking in on last years VHT’s. I’m sure I’ll have more to write about that after I process all that was said. I had a great conversation with our Ugandan team leader about the health care and political system here in Uganda, which I’ll share more on later. For now, I just hope to be able to post these couple of blogs and latest pics!
Iganga shoppers...where i buy my yogurt I drink with a straw and apples...imported apples

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