Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 15, 2012 – Part One 
The twelve hour flight from Dulles to Addis Ababa was grueling to say the least.  Everyone was extremely friendly and I actually had a two year old Ethiopian girl climb into my lap and rest for a good thirty minutes.  It was pure heaven as many of you would expect me to describe the experience.  What can I say, it just felt right.  There were actually a lot of children on the plane so quiet was not something experienced plus it was only dark for about four hours of the flight, thus I found it impossible to sleep.  I just could not get comfortable and my lower back is bothering me more than I expected, but I get immediate relief when I stand. Disembarking from the plane was glorious, fresh cool air to breathe in as we walked down the steps to the tarmac.  As I sit here at Gate 10 (these chairs too are hard as rock) waiting for my flight to Entebbe, Uganda I feel amazingly alert and would not describe myself as exhausted.  There is an indescribable beauty to Addis Ababa and the people who live here.  It is hard to put a finger on what it is that causes such awe in me but I think it must be the unfamiliar terrain and the grace with which the Ethiopians carry themselves, men and women alike. I am sorry that my stay here is only three hours, contained within the confines of the airport.  Ethiopia is a place I would like to explore further, but Uganda is calling.

March 15, 2012 – Part Two
Arriving into Entebbe did not meet with the glory of my arrival in Addis Ababa.  Why you may ask?  Well, Entebbe was the end of the road and my bags were to be there with me.  However, as I watched the various bags disappear from the carousal along with their owners there came a point when I had to admit that my bags had not arrived.  I consulted with the “lost baggage” personnel and was told they had no record of my bags, but not to be concerned they usually just send the bags ahead without scanning them as they are checked in.   My only guess is that my flight out of Charlotte was so delayed that my bags were unable to make it through security and onto my international flight with Ethiopian Air.  The woman asked me to make a list of everything I had in the bags, which would take quite a while to think through all the while as Ben waited for me outside of customs with no idea what had happened to me.  Once the partial list was made and she asked me to put a value on each item, I lost it.  No, I didn’t fall into fits of rage, I simply started crying.  I told her I was too tired to do it and that I had great faith that they would indeed find my bags and if they didn’t I would then give her monetary amounts for each item, many of which could not be replaced. They then informed me that when the bags were recovered they would only deliver them as far north as Kampala (two hours south of where I am staying). 
Once I connected with Ben and got on the road my perspective perked up and I was able to let the baggage go and concentrate on the ride to Luwero.  Well, that was a wild and crazy ride.  First of all they drive on the opposite side of the road than us and they have no road markings so just about anything goes.  There is a cow in the road; no need to slow down the owner has to pay any damage expenses.  Go ahead pass that car on a hill, chances are you won’t get hit head on, and it’s okay to speed down all the hills even if there are cars, boda bodas (motor bikes), bicycles and yes the many people on feet…………..don’t worry you can slam on your breaks if the need arises.  A lesson in learning to be the side seat rider, the fact that I was on the side of the car I was use to did provide some sense of security.

When we got into Luwero we stopped at a market and I met Edith the owner who helped me gather water and some other short term items such as groundnuts, coffee, water and wine.  We drove to the volunteer house and were let in through large solid iron gates connected by 15 foot high thick brick walls that enclosed all sides of the house.  The power had been out since 11:30am in the morning.  It came on for twenty minutes at around 7:00pm and is now off again. .

Sadie hires a sweet young woman names Jamilia to fix dinner Monday – Friday nights and she prepared a ground nut sauce with sweet potatoes and pumpkin, cassava and a wonderful rice dish with fresh ginger and an array of vegetables including my favorite – eggplant. A cold shower and off to bed, mosquito net tucked in tight under my mattress.  I wish I had brought my battery operated fan, it is rather hot this evening, never mind take out the word “rather”.

March 16, 2012
I slept so well last night.  I only woke up once in the night however the early morning hours are very noisy as the children prepare and head off to school.  The nights are so quiet compared to the days here in Luwero.  It is as if everyone is on the same schedule.  The night time sky is unbelievable.  It reminds me of the night time sky I was able to view as a child at the beach.  That nighttime sky is a scarcity now in the states as light pollution has dimmed the brightness.  Here there is NO light pollution and the stars embrace you in light.  I was able to get back to sleep after the village children had left for school and didn’t get up until 11:00am, a well needed good night’s sleep!
After breakfast we went into Kasana town.  We went to the bank to exchange dollars to Ugandan shillings, a task that took about 45 minutes.  Did I mention that time is very different in Uganda, much more laid back, no one in a hurry, so Sadie and I got to visit while waiting in line?  Sadie is 29 years old and has lived and worked in a variety of places and traveled extensively.  Originally from Ontario, Canada she majored in theater and received a master in history.  She has taught school in Korea, interned in a public hospital in Masaka, Uganda and has been the program coordinator here at Shanti Uganda since August of 2011. 
After the bank we went to buy a cell phone for me to use during my stay.  You can buy a phone for about $30 and a SIMS card for $1 then purchase minutes as needed.  The good thing is the phone is an international phone and can be used anywhere, so I will be able to use it the next time I (we) travel abroad, so I figured it was a good purchase to make so that I can keep in touch with family while away.  The glitch in getting a phone is that you have to give them a copy of two forms of photo ID, which would be driver’s license and passport for me.
We visited the Birth Center this afternoon.  It is about a 30 minute walk from the volunteer house and when we arrived I had to stop at the front gate and take it in.  It was like a dream coming to fruition before my eyes.  All I had seen were photos and it was wonderful to see it in person.  It is a beautiful building (really a home) surrounded by a garden. 
Sister Mary (not a nun but a medical professional) took me on a tour.  I really like her a lot and she has a wonderful sense of humor.  She has caught over 3,000 babies and has been a midwife for over 30 years.  The main house has the office and a room with 4 antepartum (after the birth) beds where the mothers stay with baby for 24 hours after the birth.  It is solar powered and all the materials used to build it are from the region.  The center’s central room of the home is open and welcoming with concrete floors, seats and alcoves made of stone and the most unique stone designs in the floor.  Connected to the main house by a breezeway is a building with two birthing rooms and the lab where they are able to do their own blood test.  The two birth rooms are connected by a small room with a large tile tube for laboring and birth.  The beds are full size platform beds to give the mother plenty of space, no uncomfortable hospital beds here!

March 18, 2012
Yesterday I hung around the house in the morning waiting for Ben to return from Kampala with my luggage, yeah!  The airline agreed to pay his petro to come and get the bags and then return to Kasana town.  It worked out well for Sadie and the one other volunteer here, Margot. They were headed into Kampala for the weekend for a break from the “going ons” at Shanti Uganda, so they were able to get a ride in with Ben instead of taking the overcrowded public transport.  My first goal was to get rid of the fruit flies, a silly goal, since I awoke this morning to find those “sweet little beasts” back in the kitchen.  Yes, I have decided to embrace them as they are going nowhere and I will be leaving much sooner than they will.  I also did some organizing of supplies and cleaned some items.  Washing dishes (or anything for that matter) is very difficult here.  The sink is very small and we cook on a single propane burner.  One thing I have come to realize is that no matter how lacking it may appear I have all that I need and I can make do without any problem, it may just take longer.  The simple items we take for granted do not even exist here: aluminum foil, saran wrap, Tupperware, cereals, oatmeal, screens on the windows, warm water, to name a few.  I watched as Flora (a woman hired by Shanti Uganda) wash clothes on Friday.  It took the entire day.  She had 5 small plastic tubs for the process and it was quite a process then she hung them to dry on the line and you could smell the freshness with a new appreciation. 
In the afternoon I went back into town with my copies of ID to get my phone activated only to discover that Medina (the store owner) needed a copy of my passport picture.  I assured her that was something no one carried around and she said I could have another passport picture made.  She instructed me where to go; now that was a laugh.  First of all I was the ONLY white person in the town so I stuck out like quite brightly.  Although most of the store owners speak English, few of the townspeople do.  I went were Medina sent me and then proceeded to be bounced around 3 more times to a portrait studio.  The woman there was wonderful and sent her friend to escort me as to where to go.  The gentleman gets out a point and shoot digital camera, sticks in right in my face and snap takes a picture.  By now, this has aroused the interest of many of the locals, so they now huddle around to watch my photo being printed on the printer.  Then the electricity goes out. The owner hooks the machine up to a battery and again the machine begins its printing. The photo comes off the machine and it is passed around to everyone to admire, it was the ugliest photo I have ever taken!  Hey, I didn’t care; I was just trying to adhere to the government’s policy in regards to getting a phone.  I took the photo back to Media, my phone was turned on and she told me as I left that I need to return on Tuesday to confirm that the government would indeed allow me to keep the phone activated.  It was great to get to call home and talk with Wake!

During the evening I fixed my own dinner, macaroni and cheese with tuna fish mixed in (I had brought it from home) had my first decent glass of wine and worked on getting the photos on my cameral and computer cleaned up and organized.  I went to bed around 9:30pm and read.  It rained during the night and it was the heaviest rain I have ever heard.  I am amazed at how heavy it rains here!  The heavens just open up and dump, forget rain drops, they don’t exist!  I didn’t have a restful sleep; I guess I am still getting adjusted to the time change.  I was shocked when I awoke to find out it was 1:00 in the afternoon. I had to check another clock as I could not believe that I could sleep that long………..but I did.
Well, I will close for now and attempt to get this blog posted.  I will go to the local internet café and hopefully get on line.  In Gratitude and Appreciation more from Uganda soon!


  1. Glad you got there ok and your luggage turned up. I love this blog and feel as if I'm right there beside you. :) But, I have to say I'm glad I wasn't in the car. Ha! What a ride. Too funny! Take care of yourself and embrace everything. Can't wait to read more!

  2. Wenda, It is so nice to get more of the details about what you are doing there since the phone calls are by nature short and general in nature. The photos are a great addition, the interior of your room and kitchen are nothing like I imagined them to be. Thanks so much for posting. Keep 'em coming!

  3. Can't wait to hear more about your adventures mom! Love and miss you!

  4. I feel like I am there with you! Looking forward to reading more. Glad you are safe and having a grand time! Love ya, Phyllis

  5. It was so nice to see your post and to know that you arrived safe and sound to your destination. When I first read your acount of not seeing your luggage, my mind flashed back to the Key West saga(as I am sure you did too). I was relieved to read that it finally arrived all in one piece :)
    It seems that you have adapted well. I hope each day continues to amaze you and fulfill your calling. Be safe and I look forward to hearing more.
    Much Love,Sharon

  6. What an adventure. Can't wait to hear more. Love you. Cindy

  7. Hi Wenda - It's fantastic to read about your adventures over the rainbow. What lucky Moms to have you there as their children enter the world! I'm sure Jean will want to connect with you about your experiences, as she's teaching natural childbirth classes here in Mass.
    Lots of love, Tim

  8. Wenda, I love reading all of this! It makes me remember all of the details from my trip over there! I'm so glad they found your luggage! Can't wait to read more and talk about it when you get back!!

  9. Oh my gosh, I love this... so happy to hear from you. I've been sending you good vibes since the minute you took off. Sorry it didn't help with the luggage. Mom and I will go toast your safe arrival at Caminos tomorrow. Please send more pictures!
    MUCH love, E.

  10. Mary Anne ParrettMarch 22, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Wenda, so interesting to hear what the conditions are like. I know Wake has really appreciated hearing from you as well as the kids. Thanks for keeping us posted!

  11. Hey, Wenda. Keeping up with you from Fort Lauderdale. Are all so in awe of the courage and determination it takes to follow a dream like that. So glad you are embracing and enjoying this once in a lifetime opportunity to be of service in another part of the world.

    Lots of love,