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Monday, July 29, 2013

Food, Math, Computers, Mosaics, Elephants and Mountain Climbing . . .

 . . Or cousins, part 2.  Last Friday we spent a day in Nairobi, crowding along with a thousand tourists at the Shedrick Wildlife Trust's Elephant Orphanage, doing our part to save the wildlife of Kenya.  The keepers introduced each young elephant (This is  . . . . . who is 2 years old, and was rescued from poachers, and is still milk-dependent . . ) while we watched the 300 pound babies suck down bottles of milk and roll in the dust.  After a half hour or so, the front-row hundred identically suited primary school kids filed out, and dozens of tourists with them, enabling us to get a much more enjoyable view of the bulky, playful, wrinkly beasts' antics.  These oversized orphans are eventually habituated into family groups in Tsavo National Park.  A beautiful picture of caring for the fatherless, and for creation, and for restoration.

After a fun lunch at a very authentic Ethiopian restaurant (where we were the only non-Ethiopians) and where our cousins gamely tasted goat and injeera for the first time, we spent the afternoon at the National Museum and Snake Park, learning about archeology and anti-colonial movements and pythons.  And meeting up with another RVA grad who was coming to stay with us for the weekend.  I love witnessing the kids from far reaches of the globe settle back into the comfort of Africa.

Saturday saw us climbing Mount Longonot, the extinct volcano in our valley.  Up the side and around the rim, narrow ridges, gritty dust, friendly fellow climbing Kenyans, scudding clouds, brilliant sun, glimpses of wildlife, spectacular views.  For the cousins, an African peak and a day of glorious outdoor air. And for me, gasping lungs and leaden feet, vowing never to climb with Scott and a bunch of fit kids 30 years younger than me, especially not within two weeks of blood donation, again.  I felt really really old.  When the fastest sped ahead, most of the group who gamely held back with me decided on a short cut that turned out to be a very very long cut, winding by a giraffe and zebra until we finally found the park entrance.  We all survived, a 15-20 km hike and a great day.

After church Sunday, the project of the afternoon was to arrange broken tile pieces on the dome of the pizza oven as a globe-like mosaic.  Scott and Luke pressed on to the bitter end, the caustic mortar stinging their hands.  We were pretty happy with the result, which both beautifies the oven and hopefully improves heat retention.

Today, after a brief morning in the hospital, I took advantage of our visiting help to get the cousins OUT of Kijabe, and arranged to accompany an RVA teacher Mark D to visit one of the 25 schools in the Kenya Kids Can school-lunch and computer center program.  A previous teacher, Steve Peifer, started this program in response to chronic child hunger.  The idea is simple:  provide corn and beans to the neediest schools, who agree to provide a cook, kitchen shelter, and fuel.  Feed 17,000 kids so that they have the energy to learn.  Later he added simple computer centers so that even the poorest and most rural children can engage in the 21rst century.  You can read the whole story in the excellent book Steve just published, A Dream so Big.  Having known the Peifers, and having worked quite a bit with schools and kids and nutrition in Uganda, and having a great respect for Mark and Sherri D who are the new directors, it was a privilege to get to sit in the classrooms, chat with the teachers, and see the whole program in action.

Two more days in Kijabe, trying to give my dear nephews a full view of Africa from spectacular scenery to hungry curious kids to the challenges of elephant survival to art to independence.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Cousins

The cousins have arrived. Our in-house family now consists of four boys all between 6' 2" and 6' 3", Julia, and Luke's Yale research colleague M who is a petite cross-country runner.  Six kids, massive chocolate chip cookie consumption, lots of laughter, long hikes, and constant motion.


Within hours of arrival we headed out to Maasai Mara to catch the annual wildebeest migration.  Two million of these unlikely animals with curving horns, subtle stripes, fringed beards and sloped backs move en masse from TZ to Kenya at this time of year.  So Friday we squeezed all 8 of us, 4 tents, two coolers of food, a kitchen-in-a-trunk, sleeping bags, mats, firewood, segilis (jikos), and many liters of drinking water all into the Landrover and headed south on dusty rutted roads.  Extremely gracious missionaries with homes a stone's throw from the park gate prepared a fenced, private acre of their compound for free camping for colleagues, and there we pitched our tents and cooked our first gourmet chicken tikka and naan-over-charcoal meal.  Saturday morning we were in the park as the sun rose pink through the dust behind us, scouring for wildlife.  First treat, a whole family of hyenas, pink-faced with blood, on a kill in the tall grass, pulling entrails and quarreling.  Next treat, a lioness slinking through the grass, big paw footprints in a bog we barely cleared.  Hippos in the river, the massive crocodiles waiting.  Then a pack of adolescent male giraffes with their classic neck-whapping fights.  A secretary-bird, tall, stalking, serene.  The churning Mara, wildebeest entering then pawing a foam of water, rushing back, jittery.  Carcasses floating, bloated, while vultures perched on their flanks and soared above in climbing circles.  The tiny Tommies, delicate gazelles; the plump zebra.
But I think my favorite park was watching my oldest son, back in his element.  He drove most of the day, deftly navigating the tracks.  He spotted animals.  Stopped to chat with the Kenyan game-guide drivers in Swahili and exchange tips on animal sightings. Found us a pair of large-maned male lions lazing under a bush.  He was finally at home, in the game park, on the trail, fully himself.  Wonderful, but poignant, when one realizes the stretch that he makes to fit in a northeastern, competitive, inner-city university.
Since returning to Kijabe Sunday evening, the week has unfolded well.  All cousins are thriving as they play basketball and enter into service projects together.  Various kids or pairs of them have shadowed on rounds, observed surgery, tagged along with the chaplain playing with sick kids or praying for families.

They saw our incredible case of the week, twin boys joined at the chest sharing a single heart, otherwise perfect and beautiful, who tragically died after being transferred to the national referral hospital.  Work continues, busy, team meetings and new visitors, policies and protocols and admissions and decisions.  I've spent most of the days in the hospital, with Julia in charge of the home front.   In the afternoons they've gone to a local primary school for tutoring reading and math.  One morning the boys accompanied our local brave conservationist on forest patrol, arresting an illegal charcoal-burner.  Today I declared sleep-in and free time, and after lunch we went on a long hike through the eucalyptus scrub, down ravines and up steep pine-shaded paths.  There has been pizza making and a Lord of the Rings marathon.  Book reading and discussions of essays and applications.  In African culture, my sister's children are my own.  I feel that way with them here, and I'm thankful.

In spite of twenty years on different continents, these cousins have slipped seamlessly into our family.  I suppose that is a small comfort for younger missionary families.  The ties that bind do stretch, and pull us back together again.

Surprise! Do Not Be Surprised!

1 Peter 4 tells us not to be surprised when fiery trials come to test us, as if something strange were happening.  Because this is the NORMAL LIFE of a person following Jesus.  Instead we're supposed to see the trials as evidence that we are sharing Jesus' path, and therefore rejoice.

So here is a double reason to rejoice.  First, we know that health and life and nourishment and safety for the babies of Bundibugyo will never come without a high cost, the kind of Jesus-sharing-suffering that Peter talks about.  So the fact that Monday Julius (see posts below) was dismissed from medical school in the last week of his five-year course, unjustly, should not surprise any of us.  The forces of evil are at work to prevent a competent compassionate doctor from arriving.  And to sideline those that do arrive, like Travis with his cancer.  Rejoice, Peter says, because this is the path of the cross, and it leads to redemption.

But rejoice again, today.  We got news that the University Senate read our letter and met, and decided to reinstate Monday Julius as a student, provided he repeats one year.  So yes, we have to pay for an unnecessary extra year.  But for one extra year's tuition we get a doctor for Bundibugyo, rather than five years' tuition for nothing.  We are grateful that your prayers changed hearts, that a semblance of justice has been done.  We also got news that Dr. Travis' cancer has responded to the chemotherapy, and his recent CT scan is clear.  Two excellent gifts from God, answers to prayer, that will allow these two men to bless others. 

We thank those who have given to the Kule Memorial Leadership Fund (see sidebar).  You are also suffering as you sacrifice to make these funds available.  This is an extra 4 thousand dollars that we had not budgeted, but we trust God will provide through you.

And while we're on the subject, when we asked for prayer for Monday Julius, we asked for two miracles.  Still waiting on the second.  Caleb's knee is not doing well.  But perhaps he understands 1 Pet 4 better than I do.  On the phone he always says he's doing OK, even when it hurts.  Life is dangerous, he told us, so he is learning to buckle down and push through.  He does not complain.  This past week he's been sick, been gassed with tear gas (part of his training), learned to take an M16 apart and put it together again quickly, practiced warfare, and studied survival tactics.  I don't think that trials surprise him.  But I'd still love for that knee to be healed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bundibugyo - home to 66,000 Congolese refugees

-water courtesy of our WHM engineers
-photos courtesy of one of our summer interns (Jeff Hosan)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Refugees enter Bundibugyo

The ADF, the rebel group that chased us out of our home in 1997, is back in action in our old neighborhood, supposedly with new support from Khartoum and links to Al-Shabbab and Al-Qaeda.  Thursday they attacked a town in Congo across our Bundibugyo border.  In response, the Ugandan army has moved to protect the border in force.  And the Congolese population has moved over to the safer Ugandan side.

It is odd to see the same lines of refugees with kids and pots and mattresses and chickens that we walked in 16 years and one month ago, moving in the opposite direction.  Only this time the road, newly widened and graded, is a lot nicer.  Our team in Bundibugyo is safe on the Uganda side.  But they are overwhelmed with work to assist the district in hosting tens of thousands of refugees.  In a place with minimal infrastructure, when ten or thirty or fifty thousand people arrive, water and sanitation, health and food, shelter and safety, have to be constructed out of nothing but space and grass and air.  Josh our engineer spent 15 hours today setting up a camp on WHM/district land along the airstrip where he could pipe in water from our mission's water project.  The same project Michael Masso finished only a few months before the first ADF crisis.

Please pray that the people would be spared the disasters of measles and cholera.  That the Congolese forces would restore order that would allow their people to return home.  That the Ugandan officials would act with wisdom and charity in caring for their cousins.  That our team would have stamina, safety, creativity, and even joy in serving as the hands of Jesus for the neediest.  

permission to suspend time: thoughts on sabbath

I believe the Burundi team recommended this book to me (The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath way of life for those who serve God, the Church, and the World).  This week I hit a wall of weariness and sickness, and when the fever ebbed I started delving into the pages.  Marva Dawn is a thoughtful scholar, a beautiful writer, with the credibility of a person who has suffered.  I first read her book about Revelations and strength in weakness when my Dad had ALS, and have been a fan ever since.  I'm only on the third chapter of this one, but it comes at the right time.  Spain and back with the whole mission, son #2 come and gone all-too-quickly, Uganda and back with crises there, the end of the school year with goodbyes to staff and students, impending changes in our department as people move on, and a two-day bout with a nasty infection, well, it is just all a bit too much.  What is God's call, in all this traumatic mess, and can I possibly follow?  Dawn takes us into Scripture to look at the concept of sabbath:  ceasing, resting, feasting, and embracing.  Taking a step out of the confines of accomplishment to taste the timelessness of eternity:  no pressure to perform, no schedule, a day of being.  Of restoration and refreshment, of community.

She looks at the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah, one which has been central to my heart since it jumped out during preterm labor with Caleb in remote Bundibugyo and the possibility that faith and calling meant hard, permanent, disastrous outcomes for our kids.  Dawn sees the story as one of provision:  God will provide.  God took Abraham right up to the climax of horror, right into the heart of common religious practice of his day, to show him that the LORD did not operate that way.  That our God provides the sacrifice, requiring the ultimate only of Himself.

Because faith in God's provision is the necessary foundation of sabbath.  Six days of labor, six days of collecting manna, six days of scramble and struggle and thoughtful hard work, plowing and reaping, reading and diagnosing and meeting and teaching.  The only way one can cease and rest on the seventh is to believe that God can provide beyond what another day's labor can accomplish.  That in fact, He ordered things this way, and wants to.  "Not by our own efforts will we best serve the Church and the world.  Sabbath ceasing teaches us how useless are our society's exertions, money, power, fame, gimmicks, and glitz.  Sabbath ceasing instead immerses us in the presence of our benevolent and extravagant God and in the LORD's provision for our future." (Dawn)

Today is Sunday.  And I am on call. This is one dilemma of medicine, the inability to completely set aside a specific day. So it is not exactly a full Sabbath.  But after a much-interrupted night, and an hour of problems in the early morning, even an on-call Sunday has offered some rest.  Worship and coffee cake with the family (in which I made them listen to a handful of pages from this book).  Nothing more restful than a dog and a blanket and a Psalm, this time 50, another reminder that God does not need my Paediatric skills to save patients just as He doesn't need more cows sacrificed.  He can be pleased with both, offered freely, but He can raise up cattle and doctors at will.

This truth about God's independence from our sacrifice must be held in tension with the truth of God's call to us to sacrifice.  The generation following mine is all about boundaries, rest, rhythms, saying no.  I learn a lot from that.  But I honestly don't completely buy it.  Abraham got the provision AFTER he climbed the mountain and raised the knife.  I know I have been grumpy and faithless and discouraged, but I don't think the solution is to risk less, plan safety.  I still think we're called to the edge where we are thrown upon God's provision or death.  And that we climb Mt. Moriah all-out six days out of seven, then take a complete breathing rest.

Which is easier said than done.  At our WHM conference, friends Joel and Cindy Hylton led a seminar on sabbath rest.  As we met in our small groups I got this mental picture of why our life can be so stressful.  Four competing massive good circles of life, all with their own independent agendas and schedules.  The tiny darkened overlap is where we try to live, the place where Kijabe Hospital Medical Life, RVA School/Kid Life, WHM Teams and Colleagues Life, and USA family and supporter Life, all intersect.  I take Yale's and USAFA's and RVA's school schedules and put them into my calendar, overlapping 7 Africa-team locations, central mission requirements, and then try and plan coverage for three Paediatric services at the hospital 24/7.  Sometimes it isn't pretty.  I think my prayer this year is to live in that small dark center with a six/one rhythm.  To climb up for sacrifice when called in any of the four spheres, in faith that God will provide time with my kids, and sleep and food and exercise and joy.

Sabbath is essential to life, and yet we can't stay in sabbath all week long.  Like everything else in life, truth is in the paradox rather than the compromise:  The four spheres will spin on without me while I am called to sabbath rest/ The way of the cross is to lay down our life in each of those four spheres.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Re-enter, re-adjust

**NOTE that Scott put photos on Flicker--click on the sidebar to see the changing landscape of the road work in Uganda, as well as some reunions with familiar faces**

We're back in Kenya after a full and strenuous and wonderful week in Uganda.  The first thing I noticed, in the taxi from the airport, was the sky.  The sky in Kenya is endless, distant, blue, clear.  Perhaps because the landscape has less to distract one.  After the jungle green profusion of Uganda, Kenya seems muted.  But the sky is amazing.  And it's good to be home.  Or sort of home.

Because this life is continuously a journey of the paradox of belonging and alienation.  We embrace Kijabe and are embraced by this life, these students, this hospital, this work, these friends.  But I also feel the rub of being outsiders in a way that I didn't in Uganda.  Not easy to explain or put one's finger on.  A matter of time (we've invested less than 3 years here now, out of 20 in Africa), or of sheer complexity (so many more families here, more activity, that one is inevitably out of sync).  Of an ordinal matter, does it become progressively more difficult to bond with each new home?  Or is it just the melancholy of graduation hitting, the fact that alumnae are back and seniors are leaving and life just feels transient in this season?  Only one more year until our next child leaves us, and my heart crumples a little more.

We pulled in Thursday evening and went to work.  A week away felt like a month.  A missionary friend had moved in to be near the hospital while recovering from severe Dengue Fever.  Luke's friends pop in and out, alumnae here for visits, sometimes there are a dozen kids around the table or draped over couches making popcorn and watching sports.  The weekend has been filled with non-stop events, Rugby finals and alumae friendlies, Junior Store food and art shows, concerts and church services.  The entire MUN group is about to come over for pizza.  Goodbyes loom.

So we turn from the malarious majesty of Uganda, from the teens we have nurtured as best we could for two decades, from the school we helped found, from the hospital and nutrition programs we helped build . . to the dry highlands of Kenya to more teens and a long-established school and hospital where we know God has called us for this season.  And we keep trying to hold both places together in our hearts.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Requesting two miracles

Requesting two miracles for two young men, and for the unknown future impact their lives can have.

Monday Julius completed all five years of medical school successfully. He passed all exams, ran for office, was well liked and competent. In the last week of his last semester, the last set of exams, a student asked him for help. He said no, but the proctor only caught a glimpse that Monday was speaking. In spite of the fact that there was no evidence of cheating by comparing papers, in spite of the fact that the other young man was repeating an entire failed year and re-failing three classes and subsequently committed suicide while Monday was passing everything with good grades, in spite of a request and plea to explain .... Monday was dismissed from school. Within days of completion, after many thousands of dollars and hours, his results were invalidated. Of course we only heard his side of the story, and can be wrong, but we believed him. There were some political reasons he may have been targeted. And after Dr Jonah and Dr Travis we know there are spiritual forces in the heavenly realms that constantly try to keep competent dedicated doctors out of the district. We tried to make phone calls, have meetings, and write letters. We have been advised to appeal to the University Senate. This is in process. PLEASE pray for a miraculous reversal of his dismissal.

Another young man dear to our hearts called us today, after an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon. Caleb is back in Colorado and wanted to be cleared to participate his scheduled summer survival course. Instead the doctor was very concerned that there is too much abnormal movement in his knee due to laxity of his MCL ligament, one of the three that was repaired. A surgery and year of recovery seemed hard enough, now be may be looking at a second surgery and second year. We and he though he was processing well. He has tried so hard. The PT had not picked up on this problem so we wonder if it is new and due to his travel to see us. PLEASE pray for miraculous healing. He is back in a brace.

Monday could save hundreds, maybe thousands of lives as a doctor in Bundibugyo. No one knows what plans God has for Caleb, but he has also laid down his life in willing service. Some trust in chariots or lawyers or surgeons, but we trust in the name of The Lord our God whether he works through human means or through supernatural ones. Please pray that God would be glorified by a major turn-around in both these stories in the next few weeks.


Leaving home, going home

Therein lies the dilemma-- a week in Bundibugyo felt like home. Yet the eastward trek towards our children (mostly), our work, friends, dogs, bed .... All feels like being homeward bound too. Perhaps a reminder that reality lies in a different Kingdom dimension, interweaving the deep green warmth of Uganda with the crimson sunset joys of Kenya.

Actually in the last 24 hours of travel, heading to a Heavenly home seemed all too near.

We rose before 6 to gather the summer interns/ visitors ( 8 of the 9, plus us made 10) for the epic Bwamba pass hike over the northern shoulder of the Rwenzori mountains. Josh drove us to the foot of the path, and we embarked on the quest to walk to Fort Portal. I've done this probably I a half dozen times now. But I was a few years younger, and always with a few fellow slowpokes rather than Scott and a bunch of college aged cross country runners. The day dissolved into bright clarity as we climbed, greeting each little cluster of homes as we passed, chatting, breathing, pausing to sip water or catch breath. The path is Bakonjo style--straight up about 5 to 6 thousand feet into the old growth forest and bamboo on the ridge, then straight back down about 3 to 4 thousand feet into a ravine on the other side. A distance of about 20-22 km. It is incredibly steep, and spectacularly beautiful. And I was gasping.

After the fist hour I said to myself " I have given birth to four babies and lived 20 years in Africa I am strong enough to do this, the kids may be fast but I have endurance". After the third hour I was praying " God please help me make this hike alive and I promise not to overestimate my abilities ever again."

In spite of extremely high heart rates it was a lovely day, and we all made it without any disaster. Which led to near death experience number two: five bodas for ten of us into town, about ten miles of exhilarating speed and fear for the responsibility for all our interns. We downed juice and water and food and rested, then spliT off from the group to go visit with Pat for the night.

Pat has truly brought beauty from ashes, resurrecting a home from the burned shell in Fort portal, gently empowering art and creativity in her projects, lovingly raising two orphan girls for whom she is guardian, rescuing and advising and persevering. What a taste of goodness to eat and talk and rest. But almost 11 pm the third threat arose: a rumble, a vibration, building into shaking and we knew we were in an earthquake. Woke Scott, he ran to unbolt the door while I tired to raise the kids out of bed. It lasted a long time. A second one awoke us again a few hours later.

And just to complete the return adventure, we missed the Link bus and ended up taking a matatu back to Kampala. Spurts of crazy speed, endless stops, trolling for passengers, dozens of people getting on and off. A rooster who was unhappy with his mode of transportation occasionally protested loudly from the seat behind. I dozed and prayed for survival. Near the end we relaxed enough to share an ear of crunchy charcoal roasted maize for breakfast. At the taxi park we wound our way though the crush of humanity and insistent hawkers and blaring vans and buzzing bodas for a few blocks until we found a taxi to hire to the airport. Last near disaster was our driver swerving to narrowly miss mowing down a pedestrian who ran into the road where he was driving at extreme speed.

So here we are, sipping Ugandan coffee after a caffeine deprived morning, about to say goodbye to this country for another while. But also about to hug our kids. Loss and gain, the paradox of the kingdom.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Nostalgia and struggle

BundiNutrition lives. After a dormant period due to general team overload and lack of personnel, the BBB (local plumpynut) is flowing. Mothers, babies, grandmothers, the rope basket, the spring hanging scale, the length board, the MUAC tapes, the tattered books, the hopeful crowd. Only now the worker behind the table is a CSB graduate. We accompanied Jessica for a quick hello before we went up to Bundibugyo town this morning to advocate for better supplies and supervision at the health center, and the hour before we left gave us even more reason to be passionate : no doctor present the whole week we were here, unconscious trauma patient arrived and no nurse to receive them, a nearly dead from dehydration and sickle cell disease baby on the Paeds ward. After watching Jessica admirably triage and get care rolling, we hiked back to the mission and jumped in her car to sail up the superhighway of mostly leveled dirt to town, a drive we have made countless times. Only now there is no real worry of being stuck in the mud, or detoured for a bridge out, or puncturing a tire on the rough rocks. Amazing.

In town, the new DHO politely received us and managed appropriate comments and protestations of shock and dismay over the situation at Nyahuka. He seemed to have a fairly good grasp of the situation already. We reminded him of the Kule students whom he should expect over the next six years, and introduced Jessica. Later we walked through Bundibugyo hospital, again introducing dr Jessica. It was gratifying to find two of our MCSP nurses whom we trained more than a decade ago there working hard. And all the nurses Scott worked with on the Kwejuna project were genuinely delighted to see him, their faces lighting up.

Interestingly that hour brought back three memories of some of the hardest days of our lives. First a helicopter landed bringing the Inspector General of Police (head of the force for the country) due to the weekend threat of insecurity (parenthetically Uganda is becoming a bit of a police state with ever-growing-presence and power of police). This was the very spot from which we evacuated by helicopter in a war in 1997 . Then we peaked in the operating theatre where Caleb had a traumatic middle of the night emergency surgery in far-from-ideal or even safe circumstances in 2001. Then we visited Dr. Jonah's grave, a very stark reminder of the Ebola epidemic's darkest hour in 2007.

The afternoon found us in a four hour ceremony at CSB for handover of student leadership from the previous year's students to the newly elected group. We shook hands and helped with swearing in, and Scott spoke about servant leadership. The school is in strong hands with Isingoma, and his wife Christine. They exude parental care, firm no-nonsense standards, academic excellence, order and calm. The school seems to be in the best place ever. We are so grateful.

And the day ended with a walking tour of Ndiyezika and Juliet's new garden, a rich riverside half acre or so verdant with bananas and corn and cassava. Two if our other foster-sons, and josh, came with us. We then gathered in their house where Juliet served us all sombe and chicken and rice and matoke. Juliet lit candles as the darkness gathered in that little room, and we reminisced about how God had brought each of them (and a neighbor from my old cell group) into our lives. Ndiyezikas cute energetic little four-year-old played with his friends under our feet, while everyone talked about their futures and plans, and I prayed for each of them. Five or ten years ago we might have had the same meal with the same people at our house. Now we were guests of this new generation carrying on.

There are trying moments of course. A week long visit is just enough to hear the main financial problem of almost everyone because when your friends live in poverty and you drop in unexpectedly it is natural that quite a few hope for a break. We pushed back against some of the health center issues, and engaged with people about big picture progress. We had hundreds of conversations and felt drained by the end of each day. The road has cut the water lines and the rain tanks are nearly empty. Our team here soldiers on against the odds, day by day and year by year. It was a privilege to join them for a week, and it will be hard to leave tomorrow.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Road blessing

Mid day sun, walking home, the trucks are rumbling, cranes digging, the road is part thoroughfare and mostly a massive construction zone. People line the banks watching the show, commenting. There is mud and dust, confusion and destruction and the emergence of order, slowly. Unlike most days walking as three bajungu women, no one hassles us. And Jessica says "The only good thing about this road construction is, finally there is something more interesting than us."

Monday in bundi

Hugs, smiles of delight. Down to the health center, greeting our friends. Nurses we trained still here, serving. Over a hundred deliveries a month, good statistics being kept. Dr Jessica and PA Anna seeing patients, volunteers translating. My Lubwisi comes back, old patterns and memories, words that are a struggle in Kenya flow here. Two moms of the 40 are familiar. The others are new to me, but the problems are not. Scott and I poke heads into every building and greet every staff before I settle down to see patients and he dresses a new burn, a child who tripped and fell into boiling kahunga in a pot over a fire. The wards are dirtier, grungier, darker than I remember, and the store room cleaner and more organized. Many problems have not changed, have become worse, with poor morale and supervision, lack of supplies and accountability. But maternity and paeds are still very functional, and the patients throng for care,

Visits with former neighbors, it takes the old grandmother a while to realize who I am, and I listen to the others explain, then she exclaims "muka doktor" and her face breaks into a grin. Scott has a long meeting with the csb headmaster our friend Isingoma who has made the school better than ever. Josh returns from a water line inspection after rumors run wild in the middle of the night that one tribe has poisoned the water to hurt the other ....there is evidence of a pipe bring hacked open, but no poison, and the water flows again. I assist in the kids' club admiring the energetic songs and play instigated by our interns. Then teach other interns how to make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes for pizza.

The day ends with team pizza at our old house, sitting on our old porch swing. Up until to moment the visit has been very much about reconnection, the aligning of the universe that occurs when you are back where you should be. But seeing our old books in the library, and sitting on our old patio, suddenly becomes so familiar that the loss is felt afresh. The stars come out, the insects chirp, we talk into the dark coolness of night, Nyahuka an electrified glow on the horizon. And I miss this place, my kids, our life, fiercely.