Moving on

My days left in Uganda (and as an SP intern) are rapidly diminishing, meaning I should probably conjure up some final insightful blog post. Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye or final words. I’m really good at counting down to transitions that I often forget to stop and take the time to enjoy the present. So while there are many things I’m looking forward to, there are just as many things that I’m going to miss about Uganda and my job.

I’m going to miss:

-The pace of life here. The pace of life could also be added to the list of things I won’t miss, but as a slightly OCD time obsessed person it’s been nice to know that even though I may have a million plans and things to do in one day, most days never go according to plan. Instead of being focused on results, I find myself focusing more on experiences, processes and most importantly relationships.

-Fruit. While Karamoja is severely lacking in the fruit and veggie department, the rest of Uganda more than makes up for what Karamoja lacks. Juicy, sweet mangoes that grow in the wild, giant avocados, pineapple that tastes like candy, and bananas of more varieties than I knew existed.

-Weather. If you know me well, this is an obvious aspect of Uganda that will miss. Since I’ve been here and even while traveling throughout the country, there is no part of Uganda that has bad weather. During rainy season in the mountainous areas, it can get chilly but never too cold and even in areas where it gets hot, it’s never unbearable. The perpetual cold and rain of the Netherlands is not exactly beckoning me.

-Starry skies in Moroto. I’m now back in Kampala, but I was gifted with two breathtakingly last starry nights in Moroto. Looking up at a sky filled with bright twinkling dots inspires me and also leaves me feeling like a tiny speck in a massive universe.

-People. This is an obvious aspect of any move that is difficult. I’m extremely thankful for both the interactions I’ve had with Ugandans and how I’ve learned and grown, but also for my expat friends who I can effortlessly feel like myself around, have insightful (and not so insightful) conversations with, and who inspire me with their travel and life stories. I’ve almost taken for granted all well-traveled my circle of friends is here and it will be a difficult adjustment to perhaps be around people who haven’t spent their lives globe-trotting.

I’m already missing life in Moroto, although very much looking forward to the next stage in life. Like all places I’ve visited and lived in, Uganda will have a special place in my heart.

Juma

I have yet another reason to feel blessed: access to good healthcare. Since I wrote last about our trusty driver Juma, he was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with meningitis. As I’m sure you are all aware, meningitis can be quite serious. Like other public services in the Karamoja region of Uganda, hospitals are very quality. Juma was doing well at first and seemed to be responding to the drugs, but on Friday he went into a coma and Sunday was finally airlifted to Kampala to receive emergency surgery to reduce pressure that had built up in his brain. I believe he had a stroke simply because the staff at the hospital in Karamoja failed to monitor his condition regularly (they were understaffed when I visited the hospital) and his blood pressure rose causing a stroke. Today (Monday) he will be flown to Nairobi for further treatment.

For those of you who pray, I would appreciate your prayers for Juma’s recovery and healing. I am thankful that he was brought to Kampala in time and hopeful that he will eventually recover, but who knows what damage has been done. Meningitis is a very real problem in Uganda (particularly in the north), and unfortunately most adults have not been immunized. Pray also for the health of our other staff and Juma’s family. I have my vaccine, but of course there is a slight risk of contracting a variety of meningitis that is not covered by the vaccine.

As I mentioned in my last post, Juma has a large family and his wife is expecting end of the month (another real problem in Uganda—family planning). Juma is fortunate to work for Samaritan’s Purse because his insurance would not have covered all the costs associated with all his treatment. It’s sad to think about how his condition might have been prevented with better medical care, but even sadder to realize that most people in his situation would have received no treatment due to lack of proper medical care and no money to pay for it. This experience further confirms my belief that healthcare is a basic human right. I am thankful that I received quality healthcare growing up and I pray that my country would find a way to provide quality healthcare to ALL its citizens at a price tag that people can afford.

Please keep Juma and his family in your prayers, and prayer for wisdom for his doctors as they continue to work towards his complete recovery.

Simple Pleasures

Since my last blog post much has changed, but I’m still going with the flow. After an unexpected and hasty departure from Kampala, myself, my one duffel bag, backpack, and laptop bag (all of my belongings) are safely in Moroto, Uganda. In a few more days I will break a record for sleeping in the same bed for consecutive days, and in a few more days I will be over the ten week mark in Uganda. To clear up any confusion on my whereabouts and the project that I finally selected: Moroto is the main city in the Karamoja region of Uganda in the northeast. I am working with the Second Northern Ugandan Social Action Fund (NUSAF2) project, a partnership with UN World Food Program and the Ugandan government. NUSAF2 is in simple terms an effort to reduce the food dependence of the Karamojang people. Communities select projects related to public works, agriculture, and reforestation and in exchange for their work they receive food rations from World Food Program (or cash depending on the area and project). This article summarizes the project nicely: http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2010/jan/11/nusaf-developing-north-uganda

While NUSAF2 sounds great in theory, of course it is far more complex on the ground. A project cycle is one year (starting theoretically in January). However, Samaritan’s Purse did not receive budget approval from WFP until beginning of April, meaning we’re about three months behind schedule. While the deadlines have become slightly more lax because of the delay, it still means rushing through things that shouldn’t be rushed. For the first time in my working life, I feel like I’m actually doing work—working occasional evenings, long days, and Saturdays. After spending most of last year finding ways to entertain myself in front of a computer it’s nice to be actually doing some work. For the time being my job description includes errands woman (not so often), LOTS of excel work (I seem to still remember my 4 years of excel knowledge from school), and brainstorming. After the initial craziness of project planning wears off, my plan is to collect information on all of SP’s (and the many other NGOs in this area) projects, take GPS points and assemble this information in google earth for easy future access and sharing.

Besides the business of work, life has not been (too) dull around here. Living in the shadow of a mountain means hiking, watching the sunset from a vantage a short way up the mountain, running up hills (with my new fun Irish running buddy), and enjoying watching rain clouds form over the mountain. Besides the pleasure of the mountain, the expat community is close knit and fun. We accumulate our resources and create delicious meals with the limited supplies up here, so I’ve been practicing my resourceful cooking skills. Bananas are the one thing in abundance here so many recipes have been created from bananas. Banana peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies anyone? Yes, they are divine as they sound.

Besides creating our own fun and cooking tasty but simple meals, life in Moroto seems to daily present new and unexpected challenges. When I started writing this post on Saturday I was interrupted by the news that one of our vehicles had washed 200 meters down the river in a sudden flash flood. Someone had decided to wash the vehicle then just leave it by the washing station. A few hours later torrential downpour started (as it does most afternoons now), and the car was washed (with someone in it) down the river. Most of the town was around to watch the spectacle. If it hadn’t involved an expensive and nearly brand new vehicle, the incident was rather humorous. The next day with help from prison labor the vehicle was pushed out. Never a boring moment in a seemingly boring town.  

It occurred to me the other day how polar opposite my situation is now than last year at this same time. Last year I had my own apartment in a city filled with millions of people next door to another city filled with millions more people. I spent half of my day yelling at young children who had no idea what I was saying, and I spent weekends and evenings exploring nooks and crannies of one of the world’s largest cities. At any time of day or night I could get most any convenience I needed without walking more than ten minutes. I could freely walk by myself at 3 am and I didn’t depend on a vehicle to get anywhere. In one word my life was about convenience. Although I’m just now starting miss much of life in Korea, I’m also now enjoying the simple pleasures of hiking up a mountain with unexplored and unmarked trails and no people, running on mostly un-crowded streets and paths, having bugs in my room, hearing birds sing and watching them fly, having an oven, reading my bible in the sunshine in the shadow of the mountain, depending on the fact that almost every day the sun will shine for at least a few hours, and finally having the hope that as frustrating as the work can be, it may be providing food and livelihood to at least a few individuals.   Image