Saturday, October 31, 2009

Water, Water, Everywhere...... Except In My House

So, ever since around end of May/early June we've had a water crisis of sorts in my house. First it was because the landlord was still paying the water bill and had forgotten to pay it. So, the whole flat was turned off. And being that this is Uganda it was some time before it was turned back on. Around that same time was when they were giving each apartment their own water meter so that we could begin paying our own bills.
When they did this, suddenly I had no water in my apartment. We tried and tried and no one could figure out why. Finally, the plumber decided that it was because I am on the top floor so there wasn't enough water pressure. OK, so fix it. He tried on numerous occassions but each time he tried I had a new water problem. I could tell you lots of storis on that but for the sake of time and space, I won't.
Then it was discovered that it wasn't the water pressure just for me but for our whole village and surrounding areas. No one was getting much pressure if they were on a hill or above the second floor. OK, so as in Uganda, if you are patient it will eventually work itself out.
Then on Tuesday, they announced on the radio that our village and surrounding ones would have no water anywhere from 3 days to 3 months. No problem. We've not had water anyway so what's the difference.
It's actually been pretty funny. I say funny because all of us around are in the same predicament. So, you see people at the well that would have died if they had known that they were going to be fetching water! You know big people like pastors! So, the well has become a social area. You go there to catch up on what is going on in everyone's lives. It's sort of like going to a hairdresser in the states! Also, when water miraculously appears in the middle of the night for 45 minutes or so and whoever has woke up for a toilet run finds it there and alerts the neighbors! Or when it rains and everyone runs outside with every available bucket, bowl, saucepan, etc. to get as much of this precious free water as they can!
I've really gotten used to it and don't much mind since I know that the water in the well is always there and it's also free. And Jackie is loving it because she can more easily convince me that she shouldn't take a bath when water is off!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Opiyo and Okello

This is Opiyo (on top) and Okello. They are brothers who have had a life that has not been in any one way easy. I met these guys a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with them. They are two of the roughest kids that I have ever met but have the sweetest hearts at the same time. They have never been to school. The reason is their father has eight wives and over thirty children. He only earns about 40$ a month. This means it is impossible for him to support his children.
These boys have had to make their own way of survival. The whole village knows these boys. They sleep in an abandoned building. If it becomes "unabandoned" or if the authorities chase them out, they find another one. For a while, they were sleeping in the house next door to me while it was being built. When the family moved in, they had to look for another place. They spend the days looking for food. Sometimes they look for scrap to sell. Other times they look for people to wash clothes or cars for.
They both desperately want to go to school. They understand that without an education there isn't much in the future for them. This school year is almost over (just 3 weeks remaining for most boarding schools) and obviously they will need to be in a boarding school. I think they will do great in the same school where Tracy is.
Opiyo is a twin and would like for his brother to go to school with him. I've told them that I'll take all three of them to school next year.
They are excited about it and I'm again stretching my faith. None of them are yet sponsored............

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meet Tracy

One day while I had my little kids outside on break, Tracy showed up at my gate. She was dirty, barefoot, and begging for food. I asked her if she was in school. Her answer was an elaborate story, obviously to me she was lying. I asked her to take me to where she sleeps. She agreed and took me to a nearby bar. This is where Tracy and her family sleep. Good enough, one of the village leaders was nearby and I was able to ask him to give me more details on Tracy's story. His response was if I could help the girl to please do so. I didn't immediately agree to take her back to school. I wanted to know her better but she definitely had a pull on my heart.
For weeks after that, I would find Tracy, still dirty, on the streets begging. Sometimes I would find her begging far from where she slept. She was usually with a rough group of boys. She was always excited to see me and would run and jump into my arms. I also spent time getting to know her family better.
Tracy's father died of AIDS a couple of years ago, leaving her mom alone with three children. Tracy's mom is unemployed and drinks a lot, frequently disturbing people around while in her drunken state. Different men come in and out of the house. This has left Tracy to find ways of feeding herself and her younger siblings. Frequently, Tracy would disappear from home for weeks at a time.
At times, I would find Tracy begging with her younger sister, Michell. I decided that this term I would take Tracy back to school. It would definitely need to be a boarding school. I knew that if I took Tracy to school and left Michell at home, I would be leaving Michell in a problem. Michell would be the one to have to look for food.
I decided to take both of the girls back to school. The younger brother was too young to go to school this year so a neighbor agreed to look out for him, making sure he was safe and had something to eat.
When taking the girls to school, I had no sponsor for either one of them. I did it completely on faith. I believed I wouldn't look long for a sponsor for them. Shortly, after the term began, Michell was being sponsored. Not long later, Tracy was being sponsored!
Both girls are doing well in school. I was a bit nervous about taking Tracy to school. Would she stay at school or escape from school to go to look for ways to find money? So far, she has remained at school. Teachers say that she is a bright girl and does well in class. she has just a few behavior issues.

Tracy’s younger brother, Brandon, will be old enough to begin school next year at my school.

Pray that this opportunity will continue to make a difference in the future of the lives of these children!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Butt Is Growing Big!

Since Jackie came home she has been steadily gaining weight and growing taller. When she came to live with me she was wearing clothes for an 18 month old baby. Now those clothes are too small for her although some of her favorites she still insists on squeezing into.
Yesterday was one of those days. She wanted to wear her jeans. Some things I don't see the point in arguing with her on and what she wears is one of them. I figure as long as she's taking her medicine without complaining, other things can be left alone. So, I allowed her to wear the jeans.
I had to go to one of the boarding schools to check on some of my kids. I rarely move anywhere without Jackie tagging along so we headed to the school, Jackie in her too tight jeans. Taxis are almost always overcrowded. They are supposed to carry only 14 passengers. I've been in one with 30 before. Yesterday, we were squeezed in with 20 other people.
Along the route, Jackie decided to let everyone in the taxi know that her jeans were too small for her. She's not in the least bit shy. That was embarrassing enough but then when they asked her why they were too small, Jackie proudly announced to everyone that her butt is growing big. Everyone laughed. I wanted to crawl under a seat. Too bad the taxi was so crowded. I had no where to go.
This proves that although Jackie has been really sick, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her mind. She understood all the comments people made about her size and how she looked. She is too excited that she is growing big!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No More Chemo!

I can't tell you how much my heart is soaring in joy right now. I went to the hospital this morning full of dread. I think I was expecting the worst. The last couple of months have been so hard that I didn't think I could dare hope for good. I was praying for it but once again my faith was really weak.
Anyway, we've spent most of this week at the hospital with Jackie having various test done to see if the cancer had spread, disappeared, or if there was no change. Today was the day we were to meet the doctor. She seemed to be the one holding Jackie's fate in her hands. Would there be more of the dreaded chemo?
we waited for almost 4 hours before the dreaded meeting. First, this was a doctor we have never met with before. She is the SENIOR doctor there and knows more about cancer than probably any doctor in the country. She was amazingly nice. She was so friendly to Jackie and very good and explaining answers to all of my (probably really dumb) questions.
Good news! No more chemo for Jackie. The doctor liked the way things looked. She said while this cancer never really cures that the ARVs keep it suppressed and for the most part there is little risk of Jackie having problems with it again.
She encouraged me to keep doing what I'm doing and said she has seen a huge change in Jackie. I didn't even know she had even noticed us there before. She said she appreciated my diligence even when things weren't easy. Apparently, most people give up quickly.
Basically, everything looks good. Jackie has to have a couple more tests run, nothing major, just some precautions. They will be monitoring her over the next few months/years to watch her progress. This I am very thankful for.
One of the things that they are not too happy with is Jackie has a really bad cough. It started about a week ago when all of us at home had colds. I immediately took her to the doctor which she was immediately given medicine for it. However, due to her weak immune system things just take a long time for her to get over. I've not really worried about it as this is the norm for her. When she came home, she had pneumonia so I suspected it this time as well.
One of the tests that she had done this week was a chest x-ray. Well, it doesn't look like it should. The doctor today said she suspects pneumonia but also wants to test for TB to rule it out.
One thing that I have been warned about is that the first year on the ARVs is the hardest. All the hidden diseases/illnesses in the child's body start coming to light as the body becomes strong enough to begin to fight back. So, there is a possibility that it is TB, but I still think it is pneumonia. It doesn't hurt to check it out though.
The good thing is that all the testing can be done through PIDC (the AIDS clinic) for free as well as any treatment needed (all still free). And, if it does happen to be TB, the clinic will test and treat everyone living in the home, also for free.
While I'm not really looking forward to be treated for TB or always testing positive for it in the future, I do have consolation in knowing that it is treatable and would have been caught really early.
And the good thing is: I'm not worried about it. Even if she has TB, I believe the worst is behind us. NO MORE CHEMO!!!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Pebble Up Her Nose

In the past few months, there have been many times when I've asked myself am I a missionary or a nurse. I've been puked on, cleaned I don't know how many bloody knees, and yesterday removed (well, helped) a pebble from Doreen's nose.
We got moved into the new school building over the weekend. A little side note: I fwas really pleased that all of the parents to the children that will be in the building, some of the parents to my big kids and even some of the big kids themselves showed up to clean, paint and help move things in!
Yesterday was our first day in the new building. The kids were all really excited. They love having a big open space to run around and play. There isn't any playground equipment yet so they pretty much are left up to playing on their own. Usually this is ok.
But, I have one little girl, Doreen, who we have to watch closely. She likes putting anything in her mouth and eating it. This went a step beyond yesterday when she proceeded to stick a pebble up her nose. It didn't seem to be bothering her too much because she came to me and proudly showed me what she had done.
I was like, uh...... you have a pebble in your nose. Great, now what do we do? She then started digging in her nose pushing it further into her nose while we're all shouting for her to keep her finger out of her nose. This is when she started crying. I think she had pushed it a little too far and it was starting to hurt.
I didn't see anyway of get it out. Luckily after me telling her to blow her nose for about five minutes the pebble flew out. We will now be watching that Doreen to make sure that she not only doesn't eat things but that she doesn't stick them in her nose as well. We probably should also be watching out for her sticking things in her ears!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can You Fix Your Hair Please?

So, my 3 year old boys at school are a trip! I've got one that if he was about 30 years older would have already claimed me for his wife. But, since he's just a baby, he'll have to wait and find another one at a later date. I'm sure by that time he'll have forgotten all about Aunt Cari.

Bashir is always very free to speak his mind to me. This is the kid that if you look back a few months you can see the post about the clothes he gave me. The gifts have continued: a purse one day, a CD the next, air time on most days. Now, they are not always new. Of course, the CD was picked up off the side of the road some place along his walk to school and the air time is already used. But, it's the thought that counts!

When I first came back last year, I had almost no hair. It was like an inch long. Not it is just about touching my shoulders. If it wasn't so curly, it probably would touch my shoulders. Anyway, today I combed it and threw it in a ponytail. I was rushing to take Jackie to the doctor so I wasn't minding too much how it looked. I thought it was decent, not wonderful, but at least decent.

Upon walking out of my bedroom into the school room (which is still in my sitting room), Bashir promptly informed me that my hair was really big. Not smart (which in Ugandan English means I wasn't looking good). He then told me to go and cut it. When I asked him how short, he told me to cut it completely off!

Tempting. It's been so hot recently that I have thought about going back to a really short hair style. It would be much easier! But, then again, I get bored with short hair so I guess I'll be keeping it long for a while. I'll just try to make sure my ponytail is not so big, at least when Bashir is around!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not a Mzungu Anymore

I'm not a mzungu anymore! At least to people who know me. So, what is a mzungu? It's what foreigners in Uganda are called. A lot of people (most especially those that are here for a few weeks to visit) enjoy having this shouted at them. But, frankly, I hate it. It's annoying and feels quite racist to me. Maybe it's just me, but it seems rude to just go shouting at someone. If a Ugandan were in the states, and we shouted at them "Hey, Black!" I think he/she would be just as offended.But, over time I have grown accustomed to it. What else can I do? It's so widespread that you can't tell everyone to stop it. I've grown so used to it that I rarely even hear people shouting it anymore. I'm that good at tuning things out and entering my own little world in my mind!
Anyway, back to the point of the story. Jackie loves seeing a mzungu. It doesn't matter young or old, male or female. A couple of weeks ago we had a new "mzungu" arrive in the country. I let her go to the airport with me to pick him up. She quickly claimed him as her mzungu and no one can convince her otherwise.
One of my friends asked her about me, wasn't I her mzungu. Jackie's response: "Aunt Cari IS NOT a mzungu. She's brown like me." All the kids laughed. And I've noticed that none of my kids call me mzungu. They all run to me shouting, aunt Cari. But, they sure do get excited when the see a new "mzungu"!