Friday, May 15, 2015

Jinja part 1

It has been more than a week since we've been home and I had really meant to continue to post all this time but I tell you what, I have had a TERRIBLE time with jet lag!  I've been going to bed by 8pm almost every night and some nights I would even fall asleep earlier. My afternoons would drag me around.  
I've been trying to get caught up on all the things that I left behind. 

But I do want to tell you about our last 2 days in Uganda before our 34 hour journey back home.  It will come slowly though as I have so much to catch up here at home on the farm.

On Saturday morning, May 2nd, we had 3 friends arrive at the house to pick us up so we could head to Jinja, Uganda. This is about a 2 hour drive from where we were in Kampala and only because of traffic.  It was an adventure of a day!

As we headed out of town the weather was gloomy and rainy.  

We drove through some beautiful countryside.  Here we have tea fields.  We asked what kind of tea and Dianna just said it's just tea, but they call it chia.  Chia=tea. We drove by a tea plantation.

We also drove by some sugar cane fields.
Patrick said, "Here is the forest!"
We stopped off at one of several places where you can get refreshments along the way.  It isn't like your typical Quickie Mart. We didn't even need to get out of the car, nor could we even if we wanted to.  Look at them surrounding the car...they are vendors.  They rush at your car as you pull in. Tapping on the windows and thrusting their goods through any and all open windows.  I didn't even dare open my window.

We arrived in Jinja and the clouds broke for a bit!  We went to a place claiming "The Source of the Nile". It was on Lake Victoria which is truly the source of the Nile. 
 Fishing boats above, out on Lake Victoria.  Below, if you click on the picture you can probably read the description of the Great Nile River.  That's Dianna and me in the picture.  She is one of the lab technicians at the UCI lab. 

We had to duck in out of the rain a bit.  We found our way to a pub called "Rumors of the Nile".  
We bought a few souvenirs before leaving this park and heading back.  
We headed to have lunch before going home though at a place called Kingfisher Resort.  More on that in another post.

A jack fruit tree and a mango tree.

Sunday, May 03, 2015


Today I have been preparing for our departure from Uganda. It's been a laid back day. James has been somewhat ill the last few days and so we stayed home from Church. We ran quickly to grab a few more gifts for family and friends back home, packed and took a nap. Now I'm just waiting for the final touches of packing and Isma to arrive.
I realized though that I've had a VERY full and exciting 2 days to talk share, well one full day and one awesome evening. I also have quite a few random thoughts I'll probably be sharing for days.
On Friday, May 1st it was a holiday (Labor Day) so the offices were closed. We stayed at the house until evening. James did work from home because it wasn't a holiday for him. I just sat around. It was kind of boring. :) I know, I shouldn't use that word. But really, I didn't even have a good book to read.
We had plans for the evening though. We were headed out to NdereCultural Center to see the Ndere Troupe preform. What a show! I thoroughly enjoyed and so badly wished the kids were with me. Patrick and Michel picked us up at 6pm and we headed out.
Here we are by one of the display huts at the center.
We did get a few gifts at the center for ourselves. Some art for the walls. I've fallen in love with the african wall art.
The dancing and music were so wonderful. They take you to various places around Uganda and share a traditional dance and the meaning behind it. Pretty impressive.

 The picture above is the opening song.  It's just a musical introduction of sorts.  Then man down on the ground below the others is the director.  He was truly AMAZING to watch!  He directed them with his WHOLE body.  I could have just watched him all night!

The last dance was from the Acholi tribe which happens to be where Patrick is from.

I have some videos and will try to upload them to YouTube and link them here tomorrow.  You'll enjoy them!

Sitting in Amsterdam now!  1/2 way home!! (Yes, my posts can span a couple days before publishing!)

Friday, May 01, 2015

My Last Day at the UCCF and UCI

I arrived at the UCI Thursday morning and delayed heading to the UCCF because I knew I'd have to sit around for a bit. So I hung out with James for about 30 minutes.
When I arrived at the UCCF it was quite quiet. Moses greeted me and introduced me to a couple high school students who were waiting for the rest of their group. The UCCF has a campaign called 3C: Children Caring about Cancer. They go around to all the schools promoting cancer awareness, hygiene and getting children involved in helping and caring about those who have cancer. They have organized groups of high school students who rotate coming in and bringing the cancer patients needed supplies. This particular group that came in today was about 6 girls and they had bags and boxes full of supplies.
Tons of fruit, porridge, milk, toilet paper and soap. Moses told me that toiletries are a huge need.
While the girls waited, I waited. I did spend a few minutes buying t-shirts to take home, UCCF t-shirts. They were only $5 each!!
After a short time I finally told Moses that I really could do something. Maybe I could make room on a shelf for the supplies from the suitcase to go (since I needed to take it with me today anyway). So I did that. I was then told that it was very possible Becky may not be able to come in at all today because of a sick family member. So I decided to grab a coloring book and go make copies somewhere. I told Moses that I was going to make copies so that I had something prepared for the children in case Becky didn't come.
I went and asked Patrick if he knew where I could easily make copies and he said, “Sure.” He took me over to the clinic offices and Lydia (IT tech) helped me make copies.
I made 3 different pictures (15 each). I am so glad I did because when I got back to the office I was told Becky wasn't coming in. Ben said, “You know more about it up there than I do now since you've been up there 3 days.” So Moses and I headed up the hill to the UCI children's ward. He helped me get all set up and then headed back down the hill leaving me with the children!
I was completely comfortable with this! They all knew me now and were so excited to receive their shading pages. We had Hello Kitty today!
Just as I was starting to hand out crayons a woman came running from the ward, screaming and crying. She stopped right outside the doors. Right in front of me. A few other women came to her assistance and she fell to the ground, crying and shaking. People were walking by saying, “Oh, sorry.” It was completely heart wrenching. All I could tell was that she just lost her child. Moses was actually still here at this point so I asked him about it. He said she THOUGHT her child had died, but in fact he/she had not. But she did spend the next 2 hours crying and I so I was thinking that the child really doesn't have that much time left. I'm not sure what child it was so I don't know if I knew the child or not. This was very difficult to see.

The children thoroughly enjoyed the time they had for shading. I was so happy to be able to come in Becky's place to provide this time for them. There were many familiar faces and some new faces. Here is a young girl,
maybe 13 years old or so, with her niece. Her name is Prossy. She told me that this was her sisters baby, but the baby often called her mama. Her sister doesn't look much older than she does and at some point came to get the baby who became quite fussy. Prossy's nephew was the one in the cancer ward. He looked to be about 4 years old. With him so sick I'm sure Prossy helps take care of baby quite a bit!

Soon Moses came back with Winnie and the high school students.
We sent all the children to their beds to receive their gifts. Winnie asked me to help. I mostly followed along. We handed out soap, toilet paper and a bag full of fruit. Each family was so grateful.

While the children were still in their beds we cleaned up all the crayons and paper and got the chairs and mats ready to bring the TV out for the afternoon. As the children came shuffling back in they sat to watch their movie for the day.

I started to say good bye to some of them. I specifically made sure to tell Douti that I was going back to America. Abednego was sitting next to him. I described my plane ride and that I was leaving. Abednego asked me, “Can we go with you?” Heart broken I had to say, “I so wish I could take you with me but I can't.” 
This is Abednego, Douti and me.

I said my good byes. 
I wish I could have done so much more!

I want to remember these faces forever. I can't remember nor actually understand what all their names are but I will try.  Here are the children of God:

(L-R)Abednego, Sam, Thoms (in back shading), Faith and 2 young ladies (the older one was always so beautifully dressed, the younger just as lovely but the one fighting cancer)
This is Frida!  Tall and beautiful.  Always with a smile and willing to help me understand the other children.

This beautiful little girl I never heard her talk.  But she giggled to no end when I placed this "crown" on her head!

This is Mercy Grace!

This quiet little boy has Burkitts Lymphoma, a completely curable cancer.  No child here in the US would die from it.

Christine.  Quiet and lovely.  She loved to shade.  Wednesday and Thursday she was always with another little girl, Annet.  I loved the smiles they gave me when they completed their shading.

This is Sheena.  She was packed and ready to go home when I saw her Thursday!

He stole my heart, Daynese.  On Thursday he never came out to the play area.  He wasn't doing very well.  I missed his smiles.

Little Lucy.  Poor little Lucy with leukemia. Her momma said she is getting worse.

This is Peace holding baby Grace.  Holding this baby put smiles on Peace's face.  She also loved to draw.  The little girl in the yellow dress was just visiting for the day.  Her mother worked there.

This is Stephen. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My days at the UCCF

Hmmmm.  Three days I have spent playing with the children in the cancer ward.  Each day has been full of emotions, up and down.  Some of my time went at a snails pace and other times moved very quickly.  Sometimes I think I can't do this anymore and other times I feel as if I don't ever want to leave.   Part of the difficulty has not even been the children but rather the “TIA” mentality.  (This Is Africa:  it's just the way it goes here)  I arrive at 930am and just sit and wait for things to get started.  Just sit.  Everyone else moves about their tasks or sits on FB, yes, FB!  Sigh...I wait.  It's just that they need a bit more structure and organization.  It really would go a long way!  When I first arrived Becky showed me the "Timetable" she created with the children.  It has never been followed. 
Once we get up to the UCI children's ward we'd have to clear the play area because inevitably it would fill with families camping out.  Mats are a huge deal here.  The family would be laid out on their mats with all their belongings with them.  I feel bad having to make them leave.
I've learned mat etiquette in the last few days. Never wear your shoes on the mat.  Even the littlest of children take their shoes off before stepping on the mat.
Once we pull all the chairs out, the tables, crayons, books, papers, etc. all the children just start flocking in.  Some are very, very quiet, I've never heard them utter a word and others will chat your ear off in lugandan!  Some of them sit and color (or “shade” as they say it) so meticulously and for the entire time.  They love it.  Here is Stephen, he might be Nicho's age or so, he colored these simple pages but SO meticulously.

And then he used templates and created his own scene and again very meticulously shaded it in.  Anything to take the monotony and pain of what is going on off his mind. 
Today there were 2 little girls, Christine and Annet, they took such joy in what they did. Here is Christine.  (I didn't get a picture of Annet until the last day. )

About 1130am on Wednesday, many of them got called away.  I was told they were having chemo treatment.  I saw a distinct downward spiral in Annet's energy level. 
These are the sort of things that are so hard to see, but can be relieved just by seeing the joy fill their eyes with the simplest of things. 
Daynese, poor little boy, legs with tumors he can hardly walk, received some pipe cleaner jewelry and was completely and utterly giddy with excitement. Giddy! 
Just look at him!
Then we have poor Lucy.  I'm told she has leukemia.  And she is very, very sick. 

Sitting and watching this beautiful little girl is very hard. 

The simplest of things though, bring great joy to these children.  A smile, a compliment, anything to help them take their minds off of what they are having to face.  

Let me tell you, they love!, love!, love! when you tell them their drawing or shading is beautiful.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Playtime at the UCCF

Today I began my journey at the UCCF Playtime in the Uganda Cancer Institute children's ward.
We arrived with this stack chairs that a cash donation from our home parish bought.  Our parish had a Lenten drive to collect a suitcase full of arts and crafts for the children at the UCI (I mentioned earlier).  We got some cash donations as well.  These chairs were very badly needed. And when we arrived the children began filing out of their rooms to see what it was all about.  They loved the new chairs.
We supplied them with pictures to color ("shading"is what they call it), which Becky copies from the coloring books we brought.  This assures that they have pictures to color for a long, long time.
We ran out of coloring pages and Becky couldn't run to make more copies so we started handing out blank paper for drawing.  This little girl, Peace, drew a picture of a church.  She used her pencil as a ruler to draw the lines straight.
Peace is holding baby Grace and the other little girl I am unsure of her name.  They just looked all so cute together.  And they absolutely love to see the picture of themselves when you are done taking it.

This little guy is Douti.  He was one of the first to come out and inspect the chairs.  Immediately he was at my side wanting to play.   
After a long time of coloring and while we were drawing pictures he handed me a sheet of paper and said, "Draw for me."  So I drew these flowers for him.  After awhile many of children lined up and wanted me to draw flowers and shade them!   


 Here we have Abednego, Sam and Fayo.  I drew flowers for all of them (just some of the ones I drew for).  After awhile I decided I needed to draw something new so I drew a VERY simple line drawing of a hen.  They were all so excited about it and asked me to add it to all their flower pictures.  Sam asked me to draw many, many hens on blank papers and he would spend time meticulously shading them in. 

I introduced Douti to the selfie.  Here is the last selfie we took.  He was just the sweetest boy.

Sunday the 26th of April

I slept in the longest I  ever have here in Uganda, 7am. We woke to a very cool and cloudy Kampala this morning.
More than I've seen so far.  (I actually wore my fleece in Church, they always have all the doors and windows open and it gets very breezy in there.)
Peter was picking us up at 9am to drive us to Bbira where we would attend St. George Orthodox Church again. I spent my 2 hours leisurely getting ready for Church.  At home when I only have 2 hours it is very rushed.  With no outdoor chores and animals to take care of and no children to make sure to get ready and no other chores to speak of, it's pretty quiet and stress-free.  This sense of calm is something I need to capture in my heart and mind to take home with me.

Today is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women and the Noble Joseph.  I was a little homesick this morning, not just for missing Joseph's Name's Day but because I love to sing the hymnography for the Noble Joseph.
Dn. James decided to serve today and so I got to hear lots of English, mixed with the Lugandan. 

I also love that even though I can't understand the words I really do know what is going on in the service because it's pretty much just like my service at home.

There were many more children this week than last. 
First term of school is out. They are so cute!  There were 2 girls in the choir this week along with the 3 men.  They also must be home from school.
We handed out the rest of the coloring books, but I ran out.  This broke my heart as one little boy came up to me after he saw his friend have one and I didn't have anymore.  He was sad and I was sad. 
On the way home from Church we stopped off to see Henry, the young man we sponsor through St. Nicholas Fund.  He lives in a very poor area.  Peter parked the car in an empty building parking lot and we walked down a little narrow alley between tiny little houses.  Little children running around and peek out doorways at us.  We had to duck through hanging clothes along the alley.  It wasn't too far and we see Henry, his house at the end of the alley.  As we greeted him there were many children peeking and waving.  A tiny little girl, no more than 3, came rushing up to us to shake our hands.  She grabbed my hand and said “Hi!”  She grabbed James hand and said, “Hi!” but then didn't let go of his hand.  She swung it around and around.  She was so cute, very regretfully I did not get a picture of her!  I wish I had, especially since as we were leaving she rushed towards us for a round of hugs, wrapping her tiny little arms around our legs, even Peter. 
Henry had us into his home.  His home is smaller than our cabin (14x14) back home, so maybe it was 10x10, maybe!  Five people live in this one room.  Henry, his brother Alex who has sickle cell anemia, his older sister Prossi (she is the guardian of them all and the breadwinner—she cells mobile money/minutes for a living), his sister Sharon who is about 14 and his nephew (Prossi's son).  Sharon is in boarding school most of the time but when on break they are all there.  There was one bed a small sofa and part of the room blocked off by a curtain.  Henry said he and Alex sleep behind the curtain and the girls and nephew share the single bed.
We brought them a grocery bag of non-perishables (rice, beans, sugar, oil, and a little treat) and some cleaning supplies (dish soap, bar soap and toothpaste).
It was so nice to meet Henry, Alex and Prossi, his older sister.  Henry gave me a hug good-bye and said, "Say hello to the children."

I can't wait for the children to meet Henry.