Monday, September 4, 2017

Trip to Uganda for Supplies (and a safari story)

September 3, 2017 

Thank you to so many who have generously given to the needs of Nyankunde Hospital!  We have be blessed and humbled to see the interest and concern of others, some of whom we have never met but feel connected to the work in eastern Congo.  From the depths of our hearts, THANK YOU!!!  

We currently sit in Kampala, Uganda, awaiting an autoclave to clear customs!  We have visited medical warehouses and pharmaceutical companies, looked for various office supplies and are
preparing to travel by road back to Congo this next week.  We have been able to purchase some new vital sign monitors, sat monitors, surgical instruments, surgical supplies, a new autoclave, suction pumps, an infusion pump, and various medications.  It has been a been frustrating to wait and wait, but really nice to have down time together as a family.  

We pet a few days exploring western Uganda on safari with our friends the O'Brien family.  We had a lovely time together!  Emmanuel's favorite animal was probably the elephant and the crocodile.  There is something surreal about seeing elephants walking along the plain while eating breakfast.  It was a special time however both Warren was recovering from malaria and in Emmanuel's case probably typhoid fever.  At one point early in our vacation I had two febrile, miserable boys away from home....it did not feel like a vacation!  Emmanuel's appetite has returned and he is putting on weight again.  These are all the potential complications of living overseas.  I am thankful for my medical knowledge and experience to know what to do in these situations-it would be overwhelming otherwise.  It is not like getting sick in America!  

Partway through our vacation Warren had the opportunity to recover a digital X-ray plate in Iraq!  He came to me saying this was an answer to prayer, as the plate was no longer in use in Iraq and our exact imaging system.  Indeed.  So within 48hours he was on a plane to Iraq, on the ground for 36hours to assemble things, and then back to Uganda for the remainder of our time in Kampala.  Recovering from malaria, off to Iraq, then back to Uganda.  Such a blessing to have been given this piece of equipment!

One of the highlights of the time in western Uganda was chimp trekking.  I wish I could adequately describe the experience, as it was unreal. At one point we were following a troop of about 30 chimps and we were a equivalent number of humans.  They just started jumping out of trees all around us and screaming and it wasn't clear what was going on.  It was a little overwhelming.  The alpha male was arriving and all the male grunting was an acknowledgement of his superiority.  It seemed that the females were present, but not central to these troop interactions.  They often had their young somewhat to the periphery.  It really felt like we were in the chimpanzee's home and I wondered it they wanted us there.  This particular group was used to humans and there was no problem with our presence...yet I could truly understand that these could be aggressive animals.  Our ranger was telling us about the social structure of this group. led by the alpha male Totti and how he had become the leader of the tribe.  Just as he is explaining this, up comes Totti with the previous clan leader Machezi.  He started walking directly towards our group where I am standing at the periphery.  Then Totti gets about 6 feet away and turns walking directly up to me, full speed ahead.  The ranger is behind me and says "Stand still.  He will find his way."  My heart accelerated (and probably skipped a few beats) and I had to turn my body 180 degrees to let him pass by.  The ranger let out a chuckle and said that he was exerting his "dominance."  In the past he used to be fairly cheeky, and had been known to take people's shoes and generally be mischievous.  Well, I almost danced with this chimpanzee!  Still processing through that.  I have it all on film which is the crazy part....I didn't imagine any of it.  Later in the day the O'Briens went trekking and followed the same troup of chimpanzees.  Their guide had heard about this close encounter and wanted my friends to get close too.  They were able to do some amazing filming of Totti.  He was quite photogenic and seemed to like all the attention.  In the orientation we were told to keep a 15 foot distance from the chimps and to back up if approached.  This is all fine and good until the chimp walks right up to you.  It happens pretty fast.  He broke the rules!  

Other than obtaining equipment here in Kampala we have had time to do household shopping, and spend time together as a family.  We celebrated Emmanuel's third birthday with cake and ice cream in the company of friends.  Warren and I went out for a date which we have done only a handful of times overseas.  Emmanuel has loved swimming in pools and is getting more and more confident.  I did absolutely no cooking for two weeks!  I can't remember the last time this happened.  Now I consider a vacation, not having to cook and having uninterrupted time together.  It is pretty incredible and a bit overwhelming to shop in Kampala.  I can only handle so much shopping in a day...it is sensory overload and I just want to find a quiet corner of the store.  We are missing the village life we are accustomed to...all fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fresh milk, nothing processed.

I have changed in the last 5 years we have been in Congo.  I wonder what it will be like to visit the US again in only 3months.  We are looking forward to many things, namely reconnecting with friends and family.  Although I love NYC, I think that might be too much for me these days.





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