It's all in a day...
Today the air quality is very poor. My eyes are stinging and my throat and lungs are burning from all the smoke in the air the last few days. I feel a bit like I am choking. It is the hot, dry season so there is virtually no air movement, no rain and so the exhaust fumes from the heavy traffic and the smoke from the fires all just sits over and around us. It is a bit oppressive today and I am feeling like I want to move away from it only there is nowhere to go.
I spent a bit more time in the pediatric cancer ward at the hospital yesterday. It is so hard to see. There are at least two children to a bed and the families sleep with them and on the floors near the beds. There is no air conditioning or fans like in the hospitals at home so the air is hot and thick. These wards are just big concrete rooms with several rows of cots in them. The windows are open but often covered so the children can try to sleep. The smells are potent and it is difficult to pretend not to notice and smile and offer comfort with your eyes. I try to keep my eyes free of shock, pity, fear or any other unhelpful or condescending emotion. I am really trying to learn to offer help with grace, to not feel separate from what I am seeing but a part of it. To learn to inhabit this world and be at peace with it. I think that is the only place from which I can help.
I went to visit a non-profit organization yesterday. It was amazing and so inspiring! The most exciting part is that now I know I can make my non-profit work, I know it is possible to do. There is still a lot I need to work out but I am so excited about it. I have found several resources here that are willing to offer support and guidance and that is huge! I have also come to the decision that I want/need a partner based in the US to work with me. The lady I spoke with yesterday has two partners in the US and I think that is the way to go. So, now I am going to have to go on a hunt to see if someone is interested in working with me from their home. I am SO excited.
A cockroach ran over my foot as I was drinking my morning coffee. I am going to have to learn to make friends with bugs. There is just no getting around it. No matter how clean your house, they are still there. They are everywhere. As a pampered girl, I generally associate them with camping or uncleanness; they are just a fact of life here.
Ok, I had accepted the fact that power goes out here frequently which I hate but as I said have come to terms with. I was prepared for it. There are mandatory rolling power outages here; generally every other day you have no power. You can buy a battery thing that will give you extra power, maybe 6 hours worth so you only loose maybe ½ day. So, it is not too great but not the worst thing either. However, this morning we woke up to no water, only to find that this is not too uncommon either. Water is a MUCH bigger deal to me, no shower, no toilet. YIKES!!! It is too hot and too dusty not to shower every day. In fact, showering feels sooooo good here ☺
This afternoon was my first moment of really feeling some fear about my ability to live here. We were driving to the CDC for T to have a meeting. I went because their location is on a hill over looking Lake Victoria. T told me it is a beautiful spot and the drive would afford me new views of the countryside, old Kampala and the villages along the way.
As we were headed out of town on one of the busiest streets in Kampala there was a man sitting naked in the street, scooting himself along the ground slowly through a busy round-about and looking ill either physically, mentally or both. It was so sad to see and I was terrified he was going to be hit. I guess it must be relatively common because no one seemed to be paying any attention to him or offering to help him out of the middle of the street. I was shaken and sitting in the car thinking about him and feeling guilty and awful when we were stopped by one of the few lights in town.
I noticed a woman sitting in a chair on the side of the road with a small infant in her lap. We were in a SUV and obviously Misungus (foreigners). She looked at us with an expression of both boredom and something between indifference and dislike. She stood up and casually swung the infant up by one of its arms and walked toward the car. She stood next to my window and held the baby up to me, gesturing to her mouth and holding out her hand for money. The baby had a head wound that was healing and didn’t seem to be well cared for. I wanted to give her something but both T and our driver told me no. That only encourages the behavior and it isn’t really helpful. It was the longest red light of my life! I kept looking into her eyes and looking at the baby and I felt small, powerless, and guilty for not being born into her situation. She didn’t even try to approach the men in the car; she was appealing to me as a woman. My heart was aching for the baby, which she didn’t really seem to have much regard for, it was almost as if she was just using it as a tool. Honestly, the way she swung it and held it, I don’t think she was the mother.
As I waited for T to finish his meeting with the CDC, I sat on the steps and looked out at Lake Victoria and I wondered how in the world I would ever get used to the suffering and learn to set boundaries. To the mixture of emotions it brings to my heart. I have to say, it was a trip low point for me and I am still struggling with it. I hope that by starting the non-profit and working with the children, helping and making a difference I will begin to feel more at ease with refusing to hand out money as I walk down the streets.
On our drive home from Entebbe there was an accident, which has dramatic effects on already bad traffic. It took 3 hours to go 4 km!! You can't get out and walk because there are no sidewalks and the traffic is very dangerous. It is even more stressful because people start yelling and hitting the car in frustration. I could feel the tears that had been threatening throughout the day stinging my eyes.
We finally got to our destination and met some friends for dinner and DRINKS, which helped sooth my frayed nerves. After dinner I started to get really ill and as we had no water it was a problem. I am still shaky and nauseous as I write this but it is a new day. It is day 5 and I am hoping it will be a better one. I woke up to running water and had a shower and a bug-free morning coffee. It is a better day already!