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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kampala Days

Life in the city:  throbbing, dusty, colorful, congested.  We’re in Kampala for a few days of errands.  A typical list might look like:
  1. Go to the bank.  All transactions in Uganda are cash.  The highest bill is worth about $30 and rare, mostly we deal with bills valued 50 cents to $5.  So spending thousands of dollars on construction, or nutrition, or training seminars . . . Means getting loads of cash.
  2. Buy medicine—we routinely supplement the government’s meager supplies of everything from gloves to antibiotics.
  3. Buy groceries—besides tomatoes, eggs, potatoes, and flour . . . Almost all our food is purchased out here.  So we load up on two to three months of everything from staples like pasta, butter, cereal, and baking powder to luxuries like frozen meat and fresh oranges and apples.
  4. Shop ahead for the next several months of team birthdays, gifts for visits, school supplies like paper or notebooks.  We have one FANASTIC book store in Kampala where we could spend hours. . . And usually treat ourselves to a few new good reads.
  5. Meetings—though we live and work in Bundibugyo, any other major organization we partner with bases itself in Kampala.  So whenever we are in Kampala a day here and a day there disappears to meetings with Ministry of Health, or Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, or UNICEF, or  . . . .
  6. Fix the car—whatever quirks and issues have jostled to the surface over the last few months.  This time it was the turn signals.
  7. Medical care—anything that requires labs, vaccines, or specialists . . The resources are ever improving in Kampala.  I spent most of the last two days trying to connect with an ENT doctor (I would get to the hospital, they’d say he had an emergency, come back in an hour, etc.) .  Finally today I had a hearing test and thorough exam with a very spiff operating microscope.  Evidently in spite of my continuing symptoms of fullness, mild occasional pain, echo, decreased hearing in my left ear since I perforated my ear drum with a bad infection in early May, there is nothing visible or measurable wrong with me now.  Scott is vindicated, who also has been examining my ear and declaring it to look healed and normal.  It was a day’s investment but I’ll continue to have patience and hope for full healing.
  8. Reservations—no purchasing plane tickets on the internet or by credit card over the phone . . . You have to go to the office of the airline.
  9. Paperwork—we almost always have some sort of passport or immigration issue to attend to.  This time I’m renewing my expired passport (another decade gone by!), and we had to get Luke’s pass renewed, and renew our National Park passes for another year.  Tomorrow Scott will be picking up finger prints and criminal records for team mates who are renewing their work permits.  Think lines, delays, bureaucracy.
  10. Miscellaneous:  everything from spare parts for the airstrip lawn mower to searching for a meter “yardstick” for school.

A super-efficient American might be able to knock all that off in a good long ten hour day with a Target, a phone, appointments on schedule, and a good car.  Here in Uganda we can spend all week and still leave things undone.  Traffic is horrendous as the city has burgeoned with unplanned growth and swarms of cars, potholed roads and non-functioning lights.  Lines are long.  One can easily be sent from office to office, or told to come back.  Essential parts are missing.  Every errand can generate two more.  We find ourselves frazzled and grimy and often grumpy by the end of the day.  But then the reward:  restaurants!  Going out to eat, something we can not do in Bundibugyo.  The day is redeemed by candlelight as we sample Thai or Indian or Belgian food, relaxing as a family, thankful for abundance.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing your wonderful explanations of your work and daily lives and faith. Your honesty is an inspiration as is your dedication and your relationship with God. I have been reading your blog for a few years now, and I feel as if I know you and your family as well as the Pierces at Christ School. My prayers are with you. Judy