Our last week in Nabilituk, Karamoja, before heading
down to Jinja city for the Pioneers International conference next Monday.
The week was really fun and full, busy with many
moments of joy to wrap up the last month we've been without Tom and Jean. It
involved visiting friends in villages every second day; praying all together
squished in a mud hut (so great), storying as much as we could (our last
burst), continuing to study language at every opportunity and doing another animal
health training day - the second one I have lead now, it was a fantastic day of
teaching things like how to do a physical exam on an animal, about common
diseases here (how they occur, how to prevent and how to treat them, etc.),
about correct methods of drug administration and the biggie of not underdosing
animals with antibiotics, which seems to be an epidemic here. It was really
great to see the lessons learnt from the previous training had stuck as we
discussed all these things and the group was really interactive in discussing
through everything which was cool.
Tick-spraying on Wednesday of course which is always
an experience and treating animals during the weekdays too.
Visiting the villages in these last days, I cannot
properly describe how awesome it was. To be so warmly welcomed and cared for,
to share in their activities and just be with them. We were so blessed by the
hospitality of the women in the village who fed us morning tea (eshai) and
boiled eggs (from the chickens KACHEP had distributed to them) which was
actually a really generous offering to us considering that this is a village
who are constantly raided by enemy villages; have their animals taken from them
and so who struggle to feed themselves. We also received lunch too which we
weren't expecting but the main woman we were meeting with was so happy to have
us there we stayed until late in the afternoon with her.
Part of the day was giving out Ivermectin for mange
to 40 of their goats free of charge as a gift from us. We wanted to help in a
way that they would most appreciate during this time of insecurity and it was
just crazy great to be able to do such a small thing but which went so far for
them. It was also another great training opportunity and I got a local guy who
has just started working with KACHEP and has been attending the trainings and
everything, to be in charge of the weight tape and then we calculated the
dosage for each goat together and then I showed him how to administer it. It
soon became a fun community affair :)
The other village we visited, Okutoot, is an hour
drive from where we live and we went with three Karamajong friends to help us
with some language translation and the day was in one word... interesting.
I am beginning to see that every day I wake up here I should just expect it to
be a crazy day full of the unexpected. I've always been someone who loves a
challenge and even seeks them but being here I feel like I didn't know the
meaning of the word before now. There are so many layers to that statement that
is too much to try and write now so it'll have to be another time. Suffice to
say, it will be nice to be on holidays even though I'll miss this land of
Karamoja and everything that it is.
Packing up to leave for 4weeks (2 for conference and
2 for personal holidays) was exciting but also bittersweet to think of leaving.
I'll miss my girls, my dog (not really mine but I like to call her mine :), the
incredible night sky of 2 hemispheres combined that you can only get in
Karamoja, the crazy and sometimes frustrating animal owners (ok so I may not
miss them that much), the animals!, the funny looking billy-goats with their
beards, the beautiful, sweet, gentle & just plain cute cows who put up with
so much from the people here during ploughing season haha, the donkeys who have
now become my new alarm clock, now that ploughing season has come and our
kittens which have kept me awake by jumping on my toes during the night just
for funsies but who are soooo cute you just can't be annoyed.
I won't miss being stared at though :) Well stared
at less anyway and I am so looking forward to the conference, meeting new
people and going on holidays yewwwwww!!!
In two weeks I am off to Kenya for some time on the
coast in Mombasa (such a great African
name- reminds me of Mufasa from the Lion King!) and then some random jaunts
here and there until the team meets back together to go back to the land of
pain and toil for the simplest things but yet satisfaction and joy because you
have to work so hard to get what you want.
Things have been difficult of recent with the
abscence of Tom and Jean and of hearing that they will not return for at least
another 3 months. This leaves our team of three girls in a tricky situation as
we were planning to head to Lotim in north Karamoja and now there lies a huge
question mark over what the next few months will look like. There are many
factors and confusions to deal with at this time and worry over the future so
please join me in praying to God who is in control of all things and who knows
the future to give peace, wisdom and understanding on the difficult road ahead.
For me I am just asking for patience in not knowing
the details of the rest of my time here in Africa and that I can grow in the
love of Christ in this time, trusting and knowing that God has the blueprint of
my life and just because I don't know what is coming next doesn't mean it is
not going to be amazing.
Every day, without fail, an animal comes with
respiratory problems. There is a disease outbreak here that mostly only hits
cattle and goats, called CBPP (contagious bovine pleural pneumonia) and CCPP
(contagious caprine pleural pneumonia) respectively. However, lately because
the rainy season has started (hot, humid mornings which build into stormy rainy
afternoons starting at around 2pm daily) the fresh green grass has brought in
some bloat cases. With no veterinarian here anymore, this basically gives me
reason to say, eeeeeeeeeeep. A week ago we sprayed cattle for ticks here in
Nabilituk and a small black cow was brought to the car (where I treat animals
from- my office ha ha) clearly suffering from bloat. She had not eaten all week
and the rumen was extremely distended with gas. On percussion you could hear it
like it was a gas bottle you were tapping not a cow's stomach. I knew that it
was severe but I chickened out from puncturing the rumen to relieve the gas.
Olum, the local traditional healer suggested a plant to help relieve the gas
and to pour soapy water down it's throat. A week later it came back to us,
still with bloat but worse. She struggled to stand, had her neck stuck out and
was finding it hard to breath. Ok, this time I could not chicken out. I checked
the textbooks for guidance and they said a cow showing the signs above, about
to die, must relieve gas now, danger, danger! I gave some sedative IV (I
actually got the vein first time which, in a cow, usually doesn't happen for
me) scrubbed the area of the rumen, which felt like a bouncy ball by this
stage, and stabbed. It was pretty cool but I was so nervous that I'd do it
wrong, with no one there to help me! The first time I went for it, the trochar
(sharp pointy thing) just bounced right off again like it was a trampouline,
eeep. I stabbed a little harder the next go. Watching the trochar with the
plastic chamber thingy move as the gas came out I thought wow was I crazy to
have done that just then when it could have gone horribly wrong? A penicillin
streptomycin shot and a prayer for the cow later and we were finished.
I am not sure if I'm cut out for Karamoja, I'm not
sure if I'm cut out to be a vet missionary but I do know that God knows and he
gives me the good and the bad to wrestle with and grow from. Sometimes I feel
like arghh I want a proper bathroom and fresh vegetables and to be able to
communicate easily with people, I miss home people and I wish I didn't look so
clearly foreign so that people wouldn't stare all the time and if only I could
stay clean for 5 minutes!
But then other times, I am not sure I ever want to
leave. When I go for a long walks with Nakirion (the dog I have adopted) who is
wonderful and faithful and sweet and entertaining and I fall in love with the
landscape of Karamoja again and again, with the fresh green grass and flowers
blossoming, now it is rainy season to the backdrop of stunning mountains. I
think of the friends I have made here and the tiny successes made every day with
being able to say a little bit more to them. I see Nabor, a Karamojong women
who is a neighbour and friend of ours looking a little sad and I run over to
her and she tries to act all tough and I hug her and she erupts into giggles,
her nose crinkling up and she tugs my hair. I think of the people here who are
so tough, struggling every day in this environment and yet are the most
thankful people I have ever met. The men who stay awake at night protecting
their cattle, the women who look after their children, their homes and who also
work during the day as well (often carrying their babies on their backs as they
work), carrying 20L jerry cans of water on their heads or hoeing the fields in
the sun. One day Nabor came over and met Miriam and told her she had just
fallen off the roof of her house she was fixing, onto her back but she said 'I
did not fall on my baby, God is there'. Wow I would not be so faithful in such
a moment. When Summer was sick, they all came over and sat with us and prayed
for her and were in tears for her, seeing her pain.
I also love the animals here; they are everywhere.
I love the kids here, they run up to me and shake my hand (I think that's what
their parents tell them to do) and the ones I see regularly even know my name,
they call out Me-liiissss-a! they are just so cute. I think if I sacrifice some
clothes in my suitcase I can smuggle a few home with me ;)
I think surprisingly, doing the vet work is not
even the best part of being here, it is the time spent with the women here or walking
around the place meeting people you can just stop by and ask how they are
going, what is new in their lives. It is funny how you can be a novelty
attraction for your strangeness; the colour of my skin, what I am here for/do -
typically the men work with animals, that I am over 20 and not married with
kids, and that we often wear different types of clothes (although every woman
must wear a skirt longer than the knee here or you really will be an outcast),
etc. which can be bad because they make assumptions of you before they know
you. But the longer you hang around, the more people you know and the more
excited they are when they see you. You change from just being a strange entity
to being a person, with a name, who can speak to you (a little). It makes you
want to stick it out, even when it's a struggle to begin with.
the 2nd May was a great day. Miriam and I, with Joshua (a local guy and friend
who has worked with KACHEP for most of its time, with animal work, agroforestry
work and evangelism work, plus translates for us) and Olum (local animal health
worker and traditional healer) drove down to Lolachat, where we would be doing
the spraying that day. Summer had malaria (not a great part of this story) and
so had to stay home, sick in bed :(
each Wednesday spraying consists of three parts; tick-spraying cattle, sheep
and goats, vet treatments and a Bible story at the end. With Summer not there
she asked if I would like to tell the story. I jumped at the opportunity and I
told the story of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32). I love this story for what it
tells us of both God and humanity in the characters of the father and the sons.
I feel it's applicable to all ears that may hear it because everyone rebels
against God, whether they live in Aus or here in K'jong, just like the younger
son in the story rebels against his father. Just like in the story, as soon as
we ask for forgiveness and turn away from living life our own way, God
forgives. He loves us so much, he is waiting for this, in fact! He wants us to
come back into relationship with him just like the father in the story waited
for his son to come home.
people were very interactive with the story, in the usual Karamojong way and
although I wish I could be telling the story in their language without needing
a translator, I was also glad to have Joshua there. He often gets really
excited about acting stories out and so when the part of the story came where
the son returns home he got up and acted out the father looking out across the
land and seeing the son and then racing out to greet him, ha ha he is really
good value for that! Even as an older man he still gets youthfully excited when
it comes to telling people about God.
really loved sitting around with the people, sharing with them and then
listening to their thoughts on it afterwards. It just feels so natural to sit
under a tree here and talk about God together, I may look really different to
them but somehow they accepted me, listened to the story and were even interested
to know more. Afterwards the conversation took a really cool turn into
explaining how it is that God can forgive us, like the father does in the
story. How is it that God can forgive everyone's sins, every wrong thing done
against him, and all we have to do is ask for our record of wrongs to be
metaphorically wiped clean? What a great question and segue into talking about
Jesus. The Karamojans understand the idea of sacrifice probably better than we
do the first time we hear it because, in many ways the people here live like
they are in the pages of the old testament. When wrong is done, a price must be
paid, blood of an animal is shed, for justice, they “get” that, it's how life
is here. Like us they may not understand how it could be that God could love us
that much to send his son to take on the weight of such a sacrifice, all the
sins of the world paid, once for all but they can believe. Jesus died that
death so we don't have to.
we prayed to our powerful God for anything that was on their hearts. A lot of
the people there had lost cattle to 'enemies' recently and this is a massive
blow to them, their livelihoods, their sustainability and even their ability to
provide for their families. I feel so sad for them I can't even put it into
words. Some of them have people come and attack their villages and homes every
week. I cannot imagine how that must feel for them; that insecurity and worry.
But the crazy thing is when I talk to them about it they often repeat 'mam
nache, iyey akutch' to me, 'God is there, we do not worry', the faith of those
who believe out here is such an encouragement to me. It is true God is here,
God is in every situation and God takes on our worries and troubles. I also
asked Joshua to pray for Summer, who is really feeling horrible. Turns out
malaria sucks. Thank God he has given the world an effective and relatively
pain free treatment for it. If she had brucellosis (another common disease out
here) she would have to have 5ml of antibiotic injected into her thigh muscle daily
for 14 days! There's a silver lining for everything.
in the afternoon we returned home and got stuck into some language learning, it
is fun to be able to say more and more to the people around you each week. You
really take language for granted when you are back home and can speak to
writing the above, Summer has finished her malaria treatment and apart from
stomach upsets and remaining fatigue (malaria destroys red blood cells= iron
depletion= muscle weakness), she has recovered :) PTL
am a person who really doesn't like it when people are all up in my space.
However, it seems that you cannot survive as a white vet in Karamoja if you
stay with this attitude. Today a man came to our doors saying he had sick
cattle that we needed to see, all he could tell us was one symptom for each of
them. It was our day off, a day to ourselves when we don't treat animals, but
this man would not take no for an answer, every time we'd say please come on
Monday we can treat them then he would say, ‘ok I come at 4:30 this afternoon?’
Um… No. ‘5 o'clock then? Ok I'll come then’. No!
5pm he came and I went out to see that he had brought every cow he owns to us.
I waited for them to get a hold of the sick animal (we have no cattle crush
here so they just whistle and grab the horns) and then as I started the
physical examination and tried to work out what was wrong with the bull, the
owner wouldn't stop repeating the one symptom he knew. He could speak English,
which is a rare thing, but he wasn't the best at it :) I somehow also
suspected, as time went on, that he liked the sound of his own voice. It turned
out that the one symptom he was repeating, the cow did not have, changing the
addition to that, imagine trying to listen to lung sounds, the heart rate and
rumination noise while you have three to five men talking loudly around you.
However, as soon as I told them to be quiet, they were, which was good. I think
somehow they knew that you don't want to upset the young, white, animal doctor
girl with a rectal thermometer in her hand. Worst was still to come for me
though as I told the owner the treatment, saying the bull needed an oral
dewormer and then he replied "no you give vaccination for antibiotics".
that sentence makes no sense as vaccination and antibiotics are two different
things and secondly, the bull needs neither. I struggled to know how to tell
him this though. Lesson of the day, how do you keep your cool and stay
respectful when you are becoming frustrated to the core of your being?
haha, as I ignored the men all around me trying to tell me what to do I gave it
the treatment for intestinal worms, having to tell the boy holding the bull’s
head "quap, quap, quap!!!", which means 'down', maybe I had become
the one liking the sound of my own voice but I tried to explain to them that
you cannot hold the animal's head to the sky when inserting medicine into the
mouth as it may go into the lungs. It sounded better in my mind than when I
tried to explain it to them. Language can really be a barrier here, as can
owners, who do what this man did next.
We looked at the next poor cow that was
sick and it had severely laboured breathing and a fever, looking like a form of
pneumonia. So, as I am giving the treatment, injecting an antibiotic into the
hindlimb muscles, the owner actually tried to take the syringe from me!
Seriously! I was so shocked I am surprised I got all the medicine in. For the
first time in my life I had to defend my position and tell an elder man to back
away and let me do what I came here to. Miriam, who was watching, said she was
impressed, she said, you know that's what you got to do around here, you gotta
be tough, even when you don't feel like you are.
was honestly a very stressful half hour to hour long treatment time, and the
longer I was out there, the more people came to watch including a group of
shepherd boys who unfortunately did not knowing the meaning of personal space,
all trying to get a good look at what the thermometer says or 'where will she
stick that needle' or 'ooh what is in that hoof there?' So... it turns out I
need personal space. Who knew? ;)