Saturday, 16 May 2009

Sowe island

On Wednesday I got to put my nurse's hat on again as I went with the Hope Clinic team to Sowe island, to vaccinate school children. It has confirmed that I am not really an aid worker type. Call me a wuss, but I am rather attached to my clean, running water and electricity.

I was really looking forward to our trip because I have never seen anything of proper, rural Uganda. It was quite a shock. Sowe island is 45 minutes away from the mainland by boat, and about 1 and a half hours away from Kampala itself. Though hardly convenient to get to, it's not exactly remote - I was back in plenty of time to watch Angelina Ballerina with the girls before dinner at 6.30.

But Sowe is a world away from our cossested, urban life. The village we visited had no running water, no sanitation, no power, just lots of kids running around with distended bellies, alot of them caked in mud and with horrible skin diseases. They drink, wash and defecate into the lake. (It was like sailing on foul green soup, featureless except for the odd plastic bag.) There is a 'health post' - run by an enterprising individual with zero medical training, who picks up 'medicines' from Kampala to sell. There is a school, a 10 minute boat ride away - only the boat is broken. And the school has no teachers, books or other resources. The school is a recent feature, so let's hope the rest will follow. These people deserve better.

Injecting the kids was a nightmare. We were doing the standard infant vaccinations - DTP, polio and measles, which unsurprisingly, none of them had had at birth. It is one thing injecting babies, quite another a school age child who can and will hit you back because, despite careful explanation, the only thing they really register is 'strange white face about to stab me'. One girl was so scared, she peed all over me. (I added 'change of trousers' to my mental list of things I wish I'd brought. Already on it were: sensible shoes, key to the toilet, functioning tin opener. It was the inaccessible lunch, not the pee, that tipped me over the edge.)

The shiney, new school was a reasonable location, but the church hall less so, as every surface was thick with bat droppings. ('Cloth for removing bat droppings' - didn't have that either.) On the way back, our propeller got caught in a discarded fishing net ('pen knife'. Tsk! I would have been a rubbish boy scout), so we had to row into shore. I got home, had a shower, made myself a cup of tea, watched Angelina...and felt a lot better.

PS. By "pregnancy-addled", I was referring to my last three pregnancies. I am not preg, sorry..though I have chuckled hard at the fevered speculation!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Where to start?

Thanks, everyone for your lovely comments. It makes a girl feel loved when she's miles away from home! You are a kind bunch.

I am racking my brains for things to write about but they are not coming...except in a kind of panicy, jumbled mess. I said in my last post that I wasn't quite in the departure lounge - perhaps I am now. Hence the panic.

Topping the list of anxieties: where will Emma go to school? My pal Jo gave me the names of some good ones, so I parked that worry for a bit, thinking "I'll just go and visit each of them when we get back." (I couldn't imagine signing her up for a place that I've never seen. ) Then of course, I realised it'll be the school holidays. Great for assessing whether you think the children and staff are happy.

Another anxiety: how exactly do I go back to work? My nursing registration lapsed a while back, so I would need to do a Return to Nursing course. It's only three months, so not a big deal, but here's the rub - to get on the course, you need a job. How do I get a job without being registered? I'm sure there's a solution here, but my poor pregnancy-addled brain can't see it.

And here's another thing. R has applied for another job overseas. If he gets it, then all the above will be irrelevant. There are several more hoops to jump through, so this is by no means a done deal.

Maybe a cream cake will give me some clarity?