Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Zebras at Lake Mburro National Park

Email 3 from Kampala, Uganda

Email 3
Kampala, Uganda
February 20, 2008

“Jaybalay” (An informal hello in Luganda)

Once again, here we are and we don’t want to let too much time get by so that we have so much to write that it will be difficult to send to you because of the slow, on again - off again internet connections.

When we were here 4 years ago, we began to pay the school fees for the first two children – Herbert and Ivan - with AIDS that Reach Out began to help, and we have been paying those school fees every year since then. We have taken a couple of photos of them with us, and you can see how healthy and strong they now are. Herbert just finished first in his class out of 280 students, and Ivan has had some school problems but he is healthy. It was good to see them; we brought them T shirts from Seattle and a little spending money. Ivan had just had his locker broken into and all his possessions were stolen including his shoes, so we helped buy him new shoes.

At the daily morning prayers, there are three different kinds of drums, and Peter has now become the drummer that plays the major beat while the other two do the rhythm. He will soon graduate to the rhythm section!! (see the photo). Also Peter has done a few prayers in Hebrew thanks to Rabbi Beth of Temple Beth Am, and also a rabbi who just came to visit Uganda as a part of an AJWS delegation. Besides the interest in hearing Hebrew, Peter was teased a bit about now “speaking in tongues”. Many of the staff want to learn more about Judaism, so we are going to have an informal discussion with them next week.

We have been invited into the homes of several of the staff here and we are leaning quite a lot about tribal and clan customs. It is very interesting and very complicated with lots of taboos, rules, special relationships, etc. One of the good things we have seen here and elsewhere in Africa, is that families take care of each other, especially when a sibling dies, and then the remaining sibling or siblings take the children in, whether they can afford it or not. It is in our opinion a fine example of “family”.

Last week, Peter was standing outside where clients were waiting to be seen in the medical clinic and a woman asked to have her photo taken. (see photo) After taking a few photos, Peter sat down with her and they began to speak. She told Peter that she was very frightened that she would die from AIDS and could not sleep at night. She was at the clinic to get her first ARV’s. Peter assured her that the ARV’s would make her healthy and that she would be fine and she asked, “Sure?”, and Peter said “Sure!”. “I feel better already” said the woman. “I like you!”. So what does this little story mean? It means that hope may be the strongest medicine you can give and a kind word never hurts.

The miracle of Uganda is that when you wake up in the morning there is power – electricity. More often than not, we come home about dusk – here on the equator the sun rises around 7 a.m. and sets around 7 p.m. – and there is no power. While we are sleeping the power comes on, and then in the morning it is gone. We are becoming really good at shaving and putting makeup on in the dark. Now you understand the miracle of Uganda. We never used to believe in miracles, but this is one that we do believe in. We are also getting out share of religion: At 5:20 a.m. the Muslim muezzin chants his prayers which we hear loud and clear from a nearby mosque; then we go to work and attend a Catholic prayer service, and we are Jewish of course. Even though the words and prayers are different than what we are used, it seems a nice way to start the day especially with the lovely singing and drumming.

At our apartment we don’t get either CNN or BBC, but we do get Al Jazeera which we watch while exercising early in the morning. It seems it is just like BBC and CNN. The other day they showed a 20 minute film made in Israel with Israeli’s and Palestinians called “West Bank Story”. It is a musical with the same theme as West Side Story and of course starts with conflict; there is a love affair between a Jewish soldier and a Palestinian woman, and then they all get together as a result of a fire that destroyed both of their restaurants. Too bad it is not the real world, but perhaps it will be. Remember the story above about “hope”?

Right now it is raining so hard that our poor community of Kamwokya is flooding! Very bad!! And it is so dark that we can hardly see our computer keyboards. Our little office has one tiny light. The rain is so loud that even though we sit only 3 feet apart, we have to shout

Peter is teaching our boss to use the computer – “an old dog teaching another old dog that you can teach an old dog new tricks”

We spent last weekend about 3 hours from here at Lake Mburro National Park and had a nice relaxing time with some other American that we met here. Saw lots of nice animals – see the photos, and it was nice to get away.

Hinda is hard at work helping with Job Descriptions and trying to deal with the extremely crowded medical clinic and help figure out how to decongest it. The situation is the proverbial one of having a one kilo bag and two kilos of stuff to put in it. Unfortunately, KCCC cannot reduce the number of clients, and the only real answer is more space, so we are working on that, but it will be a difficult row to hoe. The clinic is very small and sees a lot of patients, there is no room for patients who are really sick to lie down and often when one patient is getting an IV drip, they need to be moved to a chair so the next sicker patient can lie down. This morning we heard a child screaming from the clinic, she screamed and cried for some time so we went to see what was going on. There was a 2 year old little girl who was becoming dehydrated as a result of diarrhea so they were trying to give her some IV fluids, because she was so dehydrated it was hard to get the canula placed. Last night we participated in a workshop on report writing and did a presentation on how to write a case study, and Friday night we will do one on Report Writing.

We are also sending a graphic photo of what AIDS can look like. She is 18 and looks more 12. She was living with a family and was being sexually abused, and then when she became sick, the family threw her out, and her real family would take her back. She has very little food and KCCC does not have money or food to give. USAID and the World Food Program have focused their efforts on the north of Uganda, and so this is a major problem. We are finding out how much it will cost to provide some special soft foods for these “desperate clients, and so when we get back perhaps we can start a small fund and hopefully you will help. It is not possible to see people in this condition and not help, and that is why we spent only $1.50 or so yesterday to get her the food she needs. The counselor that took me to see her yesterday is extremely kind and compassionate. Much of that comes from the deeply felt Catholic faith of our co-workers.

As you may know all of the clothes and shoes people wear here is second hand, but I must say they all look brand new and people are always very neat and clean. A woman who is a clothes buyer came to meet Hinda yesterday, looked at her, told her what size she is and said she would be back in a couple of days with some clothes. We will see what she brings.

Peace and love from
Katede Peter and Nabuuso Hinda

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Moher and Child at KCCC Clinic

PeerPaul's Family




Saturday, February 09, 2008

Email 2 Uganda 2008

Email Number 2
Kampala, Uganda
February 9, 2008


We didn’t plan to send this so closely behind the last one a week or so ago, but there are a lot of things happening, so we want to update you and also send a few more photos.

After we returned from here 4 years ago, one of our close friends from Reach Out had a child and honored us by asking us to name her, (Hannah), and then a year or so later, a second who we named Jesse, and just 7 months ago, another boy who we named Benjamin. So, we are their jaja, (grandparents), and we have now seen them for the first time. We are attaching photos of them.

It was also very nice to see all of the physical and systems improvements that we developed at Reach Out still in use.

We have been working quite hard and putting in long hours, but doing well. We have produced a number of templates, provided ideas, participated in helping to develop future courses of action, etc. Hinda is spending most of her time in the clinic, and Peter on the organizational development side. The medical clinic is extremely overcrowded, essentially like trying to put 2 kilos of stuff in a 1 kilo can, and so we are trying to come up with solutions ranging from establishment of satellite clinics to opening a new larger one. The clinic has been crowded for a long time, but CRS, (Catholic Relief Services) is requiring them to add 400 more clients in order to get more money, this seems to be the way things happen here. In order to get more money to provide services you are required to add more patients, no thought is given to whether you have the capacity to add more patients, but since there is always a need for more money, you add more patients, somehow. This is basically a physical impossibility, so Hinda and the staff have quite a challenge.

We usually eat local food at work provided by the agency, (matoke – boiled and mashed plaintains, posho – a porridge made of maize, rice, beans, a bit of meat or chicken for a sauce, and cassava. Lots of starch, a bit bland, not at all like West Africa where the food is quite spicy, but is fine. For many of the people at KCCC it may be the only meal of the day, so it is quite filling, and it gives us a chance to sit and interact with all levels of staff. Plates are piled high and people wonder why we only have a little bit. Peter is trying to keep his figure and for me, I don’t like it very much so I take only a little, maybe I will loose a pound or two.

The area where we work – Kamwokya as we mentioned before is basically a swamp, and from the main road descends steeply. There is no drainage, open sewers which people often use either as their toilet, or to dump their bodily and other wastes, and so last week there were 6 cases of cholera there, which in the simplest terms is really dangerous. But as in many places in Africa, little gets done to improve these poor communities, and KCCC is trying hard, but progress is very very slow. Don’t worry about us, we are fine and the office is at the top of the hill no where near the swampy area.

Since we can’t get CNN or BBC on our TV we watch Al Jazeera, which doesn’t really seem much different than the other two. Our other choices are 3 or 4 stations with evangelists, or some Ugandan language stations, so it is Al Jazeera and lots of reading.

We have probably told you before, but when you are the only two “muzungus” (whites) in a room or street full of M’afriks – blacks, you are reminded once again of how many African Americans feel when they are the only ones with white Americans, and it is good to be reminded from time to time, and help us to appreciate how other people feel by walking in their mocassins.

Our laptop had been acting up, so we had it serviced, and the diagnosis was that it was full of “pests”. Now there are no more pests, and it is fine, although we are not sure what these pests were.

Driving here – we rented a small car very cheaply – requires a daily dose of an anti anxiety pill. Drivers and passengers alike just hold on and open their eyes only occasionally. There are cars, motorbikes, bikes without lights, people in the middle of the road, passing on either side of you, pot holes the size of sink holes, etc., but being New Yorkers, we know how to push our way in and drive as aggressively as the Ugandans. I (Hinda) don’t drive, I just keep my eyes closed and feel relieved when we finally get to our apartment.

We have just started making plans to take a few trips around the country between now and the time we leave, and you will see some photos from there during the next few months.

Even though it is not the rainy season, it has been raining quite hard which floods communities as the one we work in, and increases diseases and also malaria mosquitoes which breed in standing water, so our clinic is seeing more malaria. For a while Uganda was in the lead in Africa in reducing HIV/AIDS, and unfortunately, it has fallen behind,

One of the unfortunate things about the violence in Kenya, is that many Kenyans who had to flee their homes and villages, (more than 300,000 now), have been living in refugee camps where those who have HIV/AIDS do not have access to their drugs and so they will soon become resistant to them, and then what? Not a good scene.

So, there are lots of problems left to solve, and we have a spare bedroom, so come on over. Uganda is a nice place and the people are great!

We have been following the primaries via Al Jazeera and the local papers, and so we are keeping up there.

Have you ever eaten in a parking garage next to the cars pulling in out? We have, and it is a little different than the places we normally eat, and of course there is noise and exhaust. So where did we eat? I Love NY, and we had pizza – good, and bagels – good, in Kampala of all places.

We will end here by saying that our power goes off several times a day both at work and at home, and because the fuel is so costly because it all has to come through Kenya, and not a lot is getting through, it is too costly to run generators. So as one of our Ugandan friends said, you eat dinner by candle light and then to bed.

So on that note, good night!

Love and Hugs,

Katende Peter and Nabuuso Hinda

PS I know this is really long but wanted to tell you a little story. We have befriended a couple of American physicians and a nurse who are here teaching at the medical school for a few months, one of them is an orthopedic surgeon. We had dinner with them after their first day at the medical school. The surgeon, Jim, told us he was very excited to be in the operating room, scrubbed and ready to give his knowledge to the Ugandan surgeons. Everything was ready and he could see many operating room lights on the ceiling, so he said, “ok, let’s turn the lights on and start”. Everyone just looked at him and then told him the lights did not work, so they operated with one ceiling light. He had a hard time but everyone else was used to it and did just fine. How spoiled we are to think the operating room lights might work!!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Email Number 1, Kampala, Uganda 2008

February 2, 2008
Kampala, Uganda

Hi all,

The photos are which relate to this email are: Entrance to our house in Bugolobi; KCCC where we work; Nabuuso Hinda and Charles, (who named Peter); A young boy peeking in our bedroom window.

Once again we have traveled far from home to volunteer for the next 3 ½ months and see if we can be of a bit of help.

We arrived at Entebbe Sunday night and because of some communication snafu’s there was no one to meet us at the airport. So we called the AJWS representative who happened to be in Nairobi, who called her friend, a taxi driver, who happened to be standing next to us, and so we got to our destination.

We just moved into our very nice apartment today, which is very close to where we worked when we were here 4 years ago, nearly to the day. And so we will be able to see our old and good friends frequently, and in fact we saw them yesterday, and all of us were hugging, screaming, etc. Some of them knew we were coming, but not all and when we all saw each other we had a great and warm reunion. In fact one of our friends had seen us riding in the car the day before and thought she was hallucinating, and another told us he had a dream that we were coming. In fact, the same day we left Seattle, I took one of my favorite caps to give to him because he loves baseball hats, so perhaps there is such a thing as fate.

Last night we stayed in a guest house and there was a party within 3 feet of our window attended by over 2,000 people, who were dancing, drinking, and carousing until 1 a.m., and then the clean up crew came and stayed until 6 a.m., so there was not much sleep for us last night.

Our new digs are very very nice: lots of art work, nice comfortable furniture, nice garden and landscaping, and once again, very close to very close friends.

We are working at KCCC – Kamwokya (pronounced Kamoja, with the accent on the Ka) Christian Caring Community. Kamwokya is a slum of Kampala, and KCCC was founded in 1987. It is basically a slum and floods when the rains come. Many people live their in very basic kinds of housing with “jury rigged” power, and no running water or toilet facilities. There are open sewers, and as you well know, that brings on a multitude of diseases and other bad things.

There are some 150 employees, who serve several thousand clients in a number of programs including a medical clinic, dental clinic, savings bank and micro finance, an elementary school, youth programs, vocational schools, mental health, and more. As we get to know more we will tell you more. Our initial assignments are to help develop a fundraising plan, and to look at how the medical clinic operates, and to help develop a photographic essay about KCCC which will be put on their web page and used for other PR purposes. As is the case with us, we are doing capacity building, rather than producing, although there will be some of that also. Suffice it to say that the staff is very friendly and nice to us and to each other. That seems to be a hallmark of Uganda and is one of the reasons we are so

We have been given Ugandan names: Katende Peter which means “praise him and Nabuuso Hinda, which means “small eyes”. Of course we have to be of different clans, for if we were of the same clan we would be brother and sister, and since we have now been married for 47 years, we would have to get divorced. Thus, Peter is from the Lugave (Porcupine Clan), and Hinda from the Mushroom Clan, and both of us, (we think) are of the Muganda Tribe, and of course we are Abayudaya, (Jewish).

Late Thursday afternoon, Peter was called down to the medical clinic to photograph a 10 year old girl who had been severely beaten by her mother because she was “roaming around”, and he also photographed the mother – both for documentation purposes. The dilemma however is that if the woman is arrested and jailed for abuse, who will provide for the this girl and her siblings. By the way, she was hit in the head with a large stone among other things, and after leaving our clinic was taken to the hospital. So, this is just one thing that is a part of daily life in Kamokya

Each day we come to work at 8:15 and join the entire staff in song and prayer. We know that you will think it funny that we go for prayers every morning, but the singing, accompanied by drumming is very rousing, and very enjoyable. Once a month, the prayer service is a mass, so you can now readily guess that KCCC is a part of the Catholic church. Four years ago, we were in a different Catholic church in a different slum of Kampala.

Our computer is acting up, and this is getting a little lengthy, so we will close for now and send hugs and kisses to all. We miss all of you, but we know we will see you again in a few months. We have added a couple of photos to show you some of what we have been telling you.

Katende Peter and Nabuuso Hinda