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It’s Ms. Mzungu, thank you!

June 5, 2011

            WE HAVE POWER AGAIN!! Well… at least for the last 5 minutes! It’s been about ten days since we have had any, but it’s forced me to socialize with my host family and learn all about my host sister’s thoughts on boys, love and Kanye West. I’ve been making an effort to get to know both my family and my neighbors. I now have a band of children that follow me home and a few that just walk straight into my body in search of hugs. I am becoming more accustomed to the attention. In fact, I have decided to pretend I am celebrity. I know it sounds conceded, but it actually has kept me positive when everyone is staring and calling out. I pretend my name is Mzungu (Meaning foreigner, but I mean Madonna, Shakira and Cher all rock the one name thing) and that I travel the world in search of cute children. I have mastered my casual wave and my “oh… you recognize me?” smile. As a result I have about a dozen little friends that act as very curious mini bodyguards.

            

             My walk home from town averages about 30 minutes and mainly consists of walking through confusing residential areas. My favorite part is meeting older women in Gomezes on the way home who are stone cold until I whip out my luganda greeting. They instantly open up and start asking questions. I’ve met Glenda and Janet, both over 80, and both have 6 children and Glenda has 23 grandchildren! Our conversations are brief but friendly, and it always ends with them laughing at my small posse following.

           

             Walking home yesterday I was walking through my favorite path and saw a prisoner (they all wear bright yellow and black stripped outfits) working in a banana farm right next to me. I was startled because honestly this is the path I always take a minute to bust out my favorite gaga tune when no one can hear me. Well, he heard me. I asked my host sister about it when I got home and she explained that some farm/land owners can go to the jail and essentially rent out prisoners to do manual labor. Now that I’m more conscience of it, I see them everywhere! On the main road carrying rice as Kate and I walk home, working in large fields and digging by the side of the road. It’s just so different from home. Also, you can’t just call the police here if you have any problems. We were advised against going near them because if anything were to happen they make you pay them, under the table of course! WHAT!? And ambulances only come if there is an accident in town. This kind of explains why I there is thick glass, steal bars and locked wood shutters over my windows at home. Probably also why my host mom always reminds me that “THIS IS AFRICA” and “People get raped here!”   Comforting isn’t it?

           

            Work has definitely improved. Aside from the first day, I am in the field every single day. I have attended the sensitization workshops given to local village leaders about counseling and helping traumatized children. I have gone to many schools that will be implementing HIV/AIDS counseling programs. And most recently, I visited the Kitovu and Masaka hospitals. This was quite an experience. The hospital is huge with many wards (Male, female, maternity, TB, etc) that are simply huge rooms lined with beds that have dense air filled with the smell of urine and sweat. It was really hard to take but as the doctors I was with talked to the nurses I made some friends with patients in each room we visited. In broken luganda and English I learned about how this government hospital is unable to afford medicine for all patients so they mainly go there to die. For this reason, most patients look for private organizations, like mine, to help them find medicine. This is great, but at the same time completely twisted! If any of the NGO’s here were to lose private funding, hundreds of people would be medication-less. The facility itself was unsterile, dirty, extremely unorganized and seemed to be understaffed. It was very tough to witness.

           

           The most difficult part of the day was visiting a Kitovu patient at the clinic in hopes to find a new regiment that would help improve is CD4 count (at 68… acceptable is typically between 500 and 1500). Upon visiting, I witnessed the doctors I was with telling him that there was nothing left that could be done. They gave him a bottle of morphine and explained to me that this way he could die without pain. He must have been about 20, my age.

           

          I am still up and down every day emotionally, but I am slowly making this town my temporary home. Visiting the rural villages daily has definitely helped me keep my reasons for being here in mind. The beyond adorable babies don’t hurt either! I have learned more about the “real world” here in two weeks than I have in the last 20 years. Just seeing how oblivious I was to such simple things as hot water (had my first hot bucket bath tonight…heaven), power, healthcare and food to eat. It is quite amazing how easy it is to pretend that poor people don’t exist. I have a constant reminder here and I know that these images will remain as constant reminders of the reality of the world and most of its people.

          

       I have tons more stories, but seeing as this post is getting lengthy, until next time! PS, just found out my host sister got malaria… off to shower in bug spray and repair my mosquito net.

Also, WEBALE (thank you) to everyone who has been sending encouraging e-mails, they have truly helped me: Mom and dad, all my sisters! Matt, Sarah (BIGBIG), Tina (BIG), Chris M, Gabby P, Taylor C, Co and Mrs. Wood! Thank you and love you all!!

 

 Sibba Bulungi!

 

 

Pictures: Some from my daily walk home. Others from village schools visited last week. Oh, and the cutest little girl who always waddles over when I walk home. 

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