Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 10 - Mosquito Net Distribution & Women's Health Day

Well, last night wasn't my best nights sleep. The mattress was thin and creaked every time you moved. The pillows were rock hard. I think they actually might just be tightly rolled up clothes or something. And that sleep sack - I should just call it a sweat sack! That thing sucked, but I couldn't bring myself to get out of it. Oh, except to pee at 2:30. I had held it as long as I possibly could. So I found my headlamp, struggled out of the sack - was sweating even more after that - wiggled out under one side of the mosquito net, found my sandals and shuffled in to the toilet. By the time I got back in bed, back in the sweat sack, and re-secured the mosquito net ... I was wide awake. I'm not really sure I ever went back to sleep after that. So, yea, I was already up when my alarm went off at 7:45.  

I was too tired to bother with anything so I just put on the same clothes I wore yesterday, used my iPad for a mirror to put some mascara on, and walked out to meet everyone for breakfast at 8. Bananas and some sort of chapatti bread. I put butter on it and sliced up a banana on top and it really was pretty good.

Chugged a liter of water with another re-hydration packet in it and was feeling half alive so I decided to brave the shower. I balanced the headlamp on the toilet handle and got my bar of soap out. Turned the water on and stood there waiting for the trickle to get warm. Oh yeah. No electricity means no warm water. Ugh. Cold showers are the WORST! I held my breath and screamed and danced my way through it. No way could I get all the way under, so no hair washing. Haven't touched it in 3 days now. Going to be a rats nest when I actually do deal with it. But I did wash most everything else - one painful section at a time. 

Got dressed in my "Malaria Kills" ThinkHumanity t-shir, used my iPad for a mirror to put some mascara on, and sat out on the porch. It was somewhat cool - for Uganda anyways. Overcast and looked like it could dump rain any second. Nice to have a block for the sun, but a mosquito net distribution in the rain would be pretty awful...

We had a little meeting about how things would (or should) run today, and that's when I found out they had moved the free Women's Health Clinic Day to today, too! It was originally scheduled for next week, and all I said a few weeks ago was, "Oh it would have been cool to see that too!" And they moved it for me! I just didn't know it until now. So that should be interesting. 

...More waiting...  I don't even remember who or what we were waiting on.  It's just what you do here.  But I noticed church was starting just across the dirt lot in our little compound.  So I high tailed it over there, drug Sean with me, and told Jim and Beth that's where we would be if we ever decided to move out.

Church in Uganda.  Wow.  Those people know how to do it.  Or maybe it was just because it was Palm Sunday.  But either way, it was quite the experience.  People from all over came walking in in their best outfits.  Babies to the elderly were all dressed up.  

It was so fun to walk in there.  Alllll eyes - and I mean ALL eyes - were definitely on the two crazy haired white kids.  And the priest ushered us, of course, all the way to the VERY front row.  

They knew we were aid workers, so they were treating us like royalty.  (Which is always really weird / awkward.)  A couple of the kids handed us their very intricately folded and braided palms when they saw we didn't have any.  Sean spent the next hour trying to figure out how to do it, to no avail I might add. ;)

After a song, everyone got up from the pews and walked across another lot to another building (not sure what it was?) for more singing and some words from the priest.  Then the procession went back in to the church - complete with the waiving of the palms and some crazy singing/dancing/whistleing.  It was so awesome to get to worship with another culture.  To see the similarities and differences.  The Ugandan Catholics definitely get way more praisy than the catholic churches in the US, I'll say that. ;)

Shortly after church had started, Jim and Beth had mobilized the crew and we were ready to go pass out nets.  Welll...kind of.  Really, they were just tired of waiting, too, and we decided to start walking towards one of the distribution sites.  It was supposed to start at 10 in three different locations through the camp (it's quite large and very spread out).  It was 11 by this point...  The whole always late thing and "Africa time" is still really hard for me to get used to.

Those horns look like they could do some serious damage...

As we were walking, Emma pulled up in his car, and Joshua on his bike.  We were trying to figure out who was going to go where - which of us to which site.  Sean and I both looked at each other and said we weren't separating.  He was going to help me take pictures for all my friends/family who donated for this...and I just wanted him with  me.  So we kept going to the closest location with Joshua.  Jim went to the one further down, and Beth went to the one furthest away...with plans to switch and/or meet up later.

When we pulled up to the location, there were hundreds of locals standing around - mostly under the sun, partially under a tree - just waiting for us.  Ugh.  I felt so bad!  They had probably been there for hours already, all for a mosquito net.

There were a set of buildings just off to the side - maybe an old school? - and a dilapidated Unicef tent that was falling apart.  Women lined the entire three buildings - just sitting and waiting for a chance to see a doctor at the Women's Health Clinic Day later that morning.  I couldn't believe how many there were already... But this is their one chance a year to see a doctor.  Not many other NGO's work in the camp, and health care is non-existent if you don't have money.  Which they don't...

Okay so the nets.  They were already there, what looked like thousands of them, all wrapped up in a pile under a tree.  One guy - some sort of camp director was there with a hand written sheet with names and family members on it, showing which family got how many nets.

Without further waiting, I told Joshua we were ready and we got going.  It was a slow process because we had to take each bag out of the plastic packaging and hand it to the person.  I'm not sure I fully understood why, but I think it was because they didn't want them to sell the nets -- which they would probably do if they were still packaged.

I got my signs out (with friends names on them) and Sean snapped pictures for me...and we just kept passing out the nets.  For a loooong time.  Hours.

I eventually needed a break - snack, water, and a bathroom.  Sean found a building out back to go in, but it was so gross, I just couldn't do it.  So I snuck around back - behind the building, and squatted there.  Much better than squatting over feces and holding my breath/gagging.

We continued to pass our more nets, and Beth showed up around 2.  She was already done at her distribution site, which just happened to be the smallest one.  And she probably knew what she was doing and had some way to run it more efficiently than Sean and I.  We had no idea what we were doing!

With her arrival, they kicked off the womens' health day.  Which consisted of one nurse and one doctor.  for hundreds and hundreds of women lined up.  No joke.  They walked us around to each room and showed us the process.  First they sat down with the nurse, and she wrote down what w as going on with them in a little notebook.  From there they waited again to go see either the doctor or the tech working the scanning machine.  All of this was going on in a dirty cement room with no electricity.  

The nurse/lab

The doctor

The scanning machine

It all just kind of hit me at once when we walked out and there was a woman sitting there, who had been waiting all day, and she was just throwing up and visibly so sick.  No one even batted an eye.  It's just normal here.  You just can't do anything about it.  It's such a terrible injustice and makes me so so so mad I could just scream.  The worst part is feeling so helpless. There isn't really anything I can do about it.  What is the answer?  How can we fix this?  It's not okay for thousands of people to be living this way.  In filth with no medical care.  No clean water.  No education.  It's JUST. NOT. OKAY.

Beth could tell I was a little disturbed by the whole thing.  I mean I've seen a lot of bad stuff throughout the world, but this just really made me phsycially sick for some reason.  All these women - one had been bleeding for a year, one had a sick toddler that she couldn't even pick up because she too was sick herself.  Just tears and sadness galore.  And it got Beth to crying, too.  It's just a hard situation to be in.  They look to us for help.  They think we are some magical white people with endless money who can fix anything.  And it's just not reality.  Which sucks.  I wish it was.  I want so badly more than anything else to have the capacity to help them all...

Okay, okay.  I'm going to stop with all of this for now, because it gets me way too worked up and I could go on and on and on.  BUT - moving on with the day...  

After I had had all I could take of the health day (which I don't mean to sound negative on - it was very successful and brought a lot of help and healing to hundreds of hurting women) - we all drove down to the final net distribution site where Beth's husband, Jim, was.  (I got to drive a car with the steering wheel on the other side!)

We hadn't heard from him yet, so assumed his net distribution was still going on.  And boy was it ever still going on!  There were still TONS of nets and hundreds of people waiting around for them.  Jim was inside a small mud hut ripping the bags open - just drenched in sweat.  We felt so bad for him!  

I had kind of had it by that point.  Late afternoon/early evening.  5ish.  It was a physically and emotionally draining day.  One of the harder ones I can recall.  (No food and we ran out of water early afternoon!)  So after talking with Beth and Emma, I decided to head it back to Hoima that night.  There was a big storm coming, and when it rains, the dirt road from the camp back to town is impassable.  I HAD to get back to Kampala tomorrow to catch my flight out late that night.  So instead of chancing it, I said my goodbyes and we hit the road. Moses drove (he stayed in the camp with us and even helped pass out nets), and we took Joshua and another random guy we picked up who needed a ride. 

Of course just as soon as we were pulling out of the camp, the wind picked up, the clouds turned black...and it started to pour.  Not just a nice little rain.  A real Ugandan downpour.  We were going as fast as we could so we didn't get stuck in the mud slides on the road...but we weren't fast enough.  Someone else had already beat us to the whole getting stuck thing -- and blocked the entire road.  

Stuck Vehicle Number One

We had no choice but to just sit there and wait for the big truck to try and make it out.  Joshua eventually got out to help, too.  It was a huge mess.  Oh, and I had to pee.  Of course.  They wouldn't let me go in to the bush - too dangerous with the gorillas.  So Moses said, "Sorry, you go right here."  HA!  Yeah, I definietly just squatted in the middle of a mud slicked road in the pouring rain.  I couldn't tell if the liquid splashing on my ankles was my own pee or the rain hitting the road...and didn't really care at that point.  I just wanted to get going before we spent the night stuck on the side of a road somewhere!

The truck eventually moved far enough out of the way that we could slide by -- in the ditch.  I held my breathe the entire time as we slid down in to the water.  We made it -- but not far down the road...same thing.  Another stuck car.  Another wait.  Followed by a THIRD stuck vehicle.  Each time we managed to eventually get by after some waiting and sliding in to the thick mud in the ditch.  It was quite the experience.  Quite the LONG experience.  And I don't think I've ever been so happy to get back to a paved road in all my life.  And then back to civilization in Hoima.

Stuck Vehicle Number Two

Stuck Vehicle Number Three

Hit the paved road right as the rain ended...

I put Moses up for the night at the Kijungu Hotel, and requested my same room I had before when Sean was with me.  But it just wasn't the same without him!  I sat in our spot to type this up and missed his company.

Showered, re-packed everything, and SLEPT.  I was too drained to even eat.  Long, long day.  A good day.  A successful and productive day.  We definitely did our job and helped tremendously.  But it's never enough.  Just hard to wrap your head around sometimes...

Anyways - I'm off to Kampala with Moses tomorrow morning.  Going to hit this crazy guys art studio and chill at Red Chilli before taking off to the airport for my 11pm flight.

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