Geelong to Uganda

Geelong to Uganda
Google image of trip from Geelong (my home) in Australia to Karamoja, Uganda!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Fun times continue :)

April 15th 2012

In my fourth week! So much happens weekly that I have been writing things down in a very hickeldy-pickeldy manner, so I hope you can follow me :)

I'm been enjoying slowly getting to know some of the women here, usually a smile and a hug goes a long way to cross the 'I am sorry I don't understand what you are saying!' but I am excited that I can understand words here and there that usually I can get the gist of what they are saying plus they add some english they know in too which is good.

The manager of KACHEP (Karamoja Christian Ethnoveterinary Program) that I am helping out with while I'm in Nabilituk is actually not from Karamoja but from the city in the south and is a more organised person than many of the Karamojans inately are and so has been grating against the way things have been; people coming and going when it suits them and generally taking the easy way of doing things whether it is the right way or not. He seems to be excited I am here so we can "follow the program, keep to the schedule and be effective!" as he says haha. We had our first staff meeting the other day and I have been promoted to secretary, or rather he said something like "Melissa take minutes" and so there you go. He's great fun to work with and I am glad he is there to get everyone to do what they are supposed to and that it doesn't fall on my shoulders.

One thing that is important here is that anywhere we go we have to introduce ourselves very formally. They do not do anything here without making sure the correct procedures for their culture are taken care of. So we have all memorised some phrases in Karamojong to do that. My language learning has been centred around general greetings and important phrases anyone should know - one of my favourites is Apoopie iyong (I don't understand) hehe and then also some words to help with the vet work. Funnily enough many of the words sound very similar (sarcasm- all the words sounded the same to me when I first arrived)

e.g. Lomid (ear pus), Lopid (Anaplasmosis or more literally 'gall sickness' - a common bacterial disease here) and Lokid (East Coast Fever - another tick borne disease that's very common in young animals).

Dr Jean can speak almost fluent Karamajong, she's an amazing help, as is Miriam but we also have a few Karamojong guys who translate for us and help us learn; namely Joseph and Joshua ( I might mention them around story time).

Like right now :)

On Friday night we went to stay the night in a manyata (traditional Karamajong village) in Okotoot which is about 50 mins from Nabilituk where we live, us 'whites' and two Karamajongs; Joseph (our translator friend) and Valentina, who does not speak much english but works for KACHEP mostly with the chicken project, she's a lot of fun haha. So we got there and there were a few sick animals to see, mostly sheep and goats as the cattle are still down south for this dry season but will be returning soon as the rains start to come. One of the goats had swallowed a plastic bag! You could hear it when you pushed into it's rumen; sch sch sch was the sound. It was breathing really heavily, had a rapid heart rate and was visibly in pain; hunched over, grinding it's teeth, etc. Unfortunately surgeries here are rare because the people here simply cannot afford it and so Jean suggested slaughter. We were only able to do that surgery on the cow that had been attacked by the hyena because the owner paid for it with building supplies for us.

 Later on as the night started to come we sat around together in the centre of the manyata and were just talking. Valentina soon got a plastic jerry can/water container and two sticks and started up a beat and kids appeared from nowhere like she was the pied piper or something and Summer (one of the full-time mission leaders here from America- not a vet but my tent buddy for the year) started them all singing and dancing! It was amazing to see and hear. Soon we were surrounded on all sides and a circle forms. Joseph hops up and takes over singing leading which was crazy cool in the Karamojong language (very African sounding! So beautiful), it started to sound like a music concert and then people from all over the place who must have been outside of the manyata appear and join in. So after about an hour we heard another story from Tom; Noah's Ark, which seems really appropriate now because as I write this I hear thunder and rain pouring down. It is the first day that it has been not stinking hot :)

Afterwards, the music, singing and dancing start up again and Summer got up to dance with the girls. I was so tired, it was late as and we've been doing a lot of vet work walking the plains the past few days, but I got up to join in anyway and am glad I did. The traditional dancing in Uganda is to jump up and down in time with the music while clapping and singing and literally you jump as high as you can haha at first I almost fell over doing it a couple of times but then you get into a rhythm and it is so fun!

Next week, Tom and Jean fly home to the US for a month or two to treat Jean's ongoing sickness that she has been braving, she's so tough. So it will just be Summer, Miriam and I for that time and I have been given a lot of achievable work to do in that time working with, teaching and learning from the local people who work for the main organisation here KACHEP.

Looking forward to the challenge :)

On the 21st May there is a Pioneers International conference in Uganda for all the missionaries in East Africa and I get to go! I can't wait to meet more people working our here and here what they do. That goes from Mon to Fri and then we have around 2 weeks holiday before we get back into it. I am thinking of going to Kenya and hanging out at the beach or going to some wildlife parks/reserves, maybe I can shadow a lion or giraffe vet for a day!

But if anyone is interested in coming to East Africa in that time, feel free to visit me! Like seriously.

Also, there is a post box address they use in the 'city', I know some of you wanted to know if you could send me stuff. Letters would be amazing but also know that not everything you send me in terms of goodies may reach me, depends on who is sorting the mail that day :) That said I'm dying for some licorice.

Address: Box 2244 Jinja Uganda

All my love,


Saturday, 7 April 2012

I Love Easter, wherever I am.

April 7th 2012


A weekend of celebration and what a weekend it was! Full of fun; On Good Friday three of us went to join the local Catholic (called Lomission- a 'charismatic reformed' church that love to talk about Jesus!) church's Cross Walk - we walked through town for half an hour, stopping at 10 certain spots where a traumatic event in town had occured and all knelt down on the dirt road! I'd never done anything like it before haha and we couldn't really understand much of what was going on so we read through 10 different appropriate and wonderful Bible passages each time. On the way back we sang worship songs together, again surrounded by perplexed and curious faces. It's easy to feel like an 'alien of the world here' we sure look like it.

Saturday we climbed a mountain (see photos) and it was stunning, a fun time of getting to know some of the girls here too.

Easter Sunday/Resurrection Day was sooooo much fun, it consisted of an Easter Egg hunt (thanks for the chocolate Mum!), baking hot cross buns in a very difficult and laborious yet strangely fun and satisfying way using a solar oven- we made our own icing sugar for the cross! Then we listenened to a John Piper Easter podcast and then at 1pm started on dinner. We had a feast with 17 or so people from the community that are specifically involved with the vet mission here, and us. We had lamb! Or really mutten :) His name was Oscar, bought on Saturday and then honourably discharged from life by me. We got to do a post mortem on him too! Score. The Karamajong people eat as much of the animal as they can; head, feet, intestines, tongue, tail, etc. We were happy to let them take as much as they wanted! I'm not going to lie it made me feel a little sick during the preparation! But all in all a great mix of an African and Australian Easter.

One of the funniest moment I have experienced here was only hilarious in the safety of retrospect. During the meat preparations the two night guards for the two parts of the compound where we stay, James and Andrew (old Karamojong men) were hanging about, giving us tips and trying to take over because they knew they could do it better haha and then suddenly (they were talking in Karamojong the whole time) they erupted and were almost ripping each others throats out, one of them grabbed the spear I had used to slaughter poor but delicious Oscar and were threatening each other. We were all like ahhhh what is happening!? Jean started laughing and said that they were fighting over who gets to eat Oscar's male 'parts' haha. TIA

Uganda is on the equator and a cool thing that comes with that is that the sunsets and sunrises are quick and spectacular. Also, because we are on the equator we can see both the northern and southern hemisphere star constellations!!! So I can see the big dipper on one side of the sky (to the right of the moon) and then turn and see the Southern cross on the other side!

Hope you are all doing well!

Miss you

Love Melissa

Prayer Points:

l  Praise God that he loved the world so much that he gave us his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

l  Thank him for the wonderful things he is doing here in Karamoja, the land of people who feel left behind by the rest of Uganda, who feel like no-one cares. Help them to know that God cares more than they can comprehend.

l  Thank him for the times our fellowship and fun the team here was able to have over Easter, celebrating the reason for the season, celebrating the defeat of life over death that Jesus did on that cross that so much of the world hang aroud their necks, whether they realise the significance of that symbol or not.

l  Dr Tom and Jean will soon be leaving the team, leaving Miriam, Summer and I here alone. Pray for team unity and prayerfulness.

l  This also means the vet work and training the staff here falls mainly on me, pray that I can do my best to do this effectively, showing Christ's love as I go and praying with the Karamojan people about our God who loves us so much and has brought me to them.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Getting used to some differences

April 1st 2012

Hey guys, I have had an awesome 2 weeks in Uganda so far and especially since travelling up to Karamoja. It is such a different place here, it is hard on a person phyically and sometimes emotionally but it also has so many things about it that have made me feel at home here too. For example the sky here is massive and tells you exactly what you need to know and the unrelenting sun here makes me feel at home too.

There are also creepy crawlies here to watch out for! There are scorpians the size of your foot (see photos), Flying ants (you can eat these), bull ants, little ants with pincers on them, spiders (the flat ones are ok, but if it is not flat and it's coming at you, you better make it flat quick smart), ticks, ticks, and more ticks, water wasps that are big and black, bees bigger than we get at home, snakes and bats. But on the plus side, fireflies! At first I thought the stars were falling out of the sky, much to the amusement of Miriam (one of the missionaries here from Germany). I am such a nube here :) 

I have been asked by one of my most favourite persons in the world to describe some of the more every day things and I would love to oblige :)

Food: Obviously a number one priority in my case (I love food!).
Typically, Ugandans will only have two meals a day; lunch and supper, but when we do have breakfast it's good! There is an edible substance called poscho here and it is like wheat in that you can make many different things from it but it is a really starchy carbohydrate and it can be refined down into a soupy porridge that takes a while to get used to but put bananas with it for breaky and it goes doen a treat. Or a muslie bar or banana suffices. Another thing they have here that we have with dinner (supper) is called japarti and is like a pancake crossed with naan bread= delicious and can be made savoury or sweet. For lunch it is always the same thing, poscho and beans but this time the poscho is more like potato than porridge but with a much more cornflour taste to it. Another thing we have for dinner is called a rollex and it is a japarti with an egg inside and it's rolled up. They use a lot of oil in their food preparation which makes the meal heavier than I'm used to, that and the lack of fresh vegetables available to make a salad. They have three types of bananas here; sweet bananas (our regular ones), plantain (not as sweet but still with a banana-ish taste to it) and matoke a savoury starchy banana that they put peanut sauce with.
I have been surprised that I have not had anything here that I don't like, with the exception of a plant called tamourin that makes a sweet and sour juice drink. Can't stand that one haha but it is good to give to chickens to improve laying production so I can just say that I don't want to have all of it in case the chickens don't get any! I'm very conscientious towards chickens in that way ;)

Housing: tenting it at the moment, sharing with Summer (an American missionary who joined the team a bit before I did but had been here before, she will be continuing for 3 yrs here). In August, we move up north and I will get my own mud hut built for me. I think next week though Summer and I will move into one of the stone huts because the couple who were in it are flying home to raise funds to return as full timers.

Bathroom: hole in the ground, very simple and i'm sure you can use your imagination ;) Bonus is that I don't have to trouble myself with the laborious nature of flushing the toilet like back home, that can be a real drag.

Water: from a borehole, that you have to manually pump up. My biceps have never looked better. Don't worry, it's clean! Running water non-existant in these parts.

Alarm clock: my choice of a choir of roosters that never seem to be able to switch off no matter what time of day it is, or the local (across the road) mosque that megaphones 5 times daily prayers in arabic song, starting at dawn. This is something that we would never get at home with Australian's fear of religion but here whether they are muslims or Christians they literally shout their faith from the rooftops! Or there's the pumping of the borehole for water, or the night guard, James, who sweeps the dirt around the tent in the morning :) TIA = This Is Africa haha

Internet connection: patchy at best, inconsistent and again often non-existant
Telephone connections: non-existant for now, hoping to improve the situation next week.
In conclusion, it's a good thing I get along well with everyone here!

Language learning: going well, it helps that I am immersed in it, I like to spend some time away from the missionaries here actually so that I can learn more and not be tempted to talk English all the time! But at the same time it's nice to be around people who aren't watching your every move because you look normal to them.

Vet work: fun! A new case each day usually, often are tick related or respiratory/pneumonia cases but one cool (unfortunate and sad for the cow of course) disease is called heart water caused by the Amblioma tick (see photo) which results in the heart literally wasting/dissolving away.

Today we went to church and it happened to be palm Sunday! So one of the photos below are of that and at times it was a little hard to focus because the people in front of us were not looking ahead at the ceremony but at us! We tried to tell them to look forward but they didn't and I felt like that awkward situation in an elevator if everyone is facing the doors and then one person in front turns around and looks at the people behind them.

I have not yet met anyone here who cannot sing beautifully and passionately. I don't know how that is but the voices here just take me away to another planet or something. They sometimes sing in english but mostly in Karamojong and so i just make la la noises until I can follow a word I know haha but when we returned from lunch we walked back (bout a half hour walk) and there were people who had radio with some worship songs and everyone was just singing as we walked. So cool. Yesu Christo = Jesus Christ in Karamajong.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, please keep them coming!

Love Mel