Sunday, December 30, 2007

Of Days Gone By

Bundibugyo, Uganda
Volume 2, Issue 27
December 29, 2007

-Of Days Gone By-
…Kampala, Christmas, Children Dying…

I was in Kampala for Christmas and had very limited access to the internet. As such, I have not been able to post in quite some time, so I will try to bring you up to speed.

Christmas was a charming affair as I joined the rest of the WHM missionaries in a large house in Kampala. There were 18 people of various ages living side by side in a beautiful home on a hillside. I had the luxury bathroom suite, meaning I had a small foam mattress splayed on the floor between the toilet, shower, and sink in a small bathroom near the rear of the home. Though hot and sticky, it was not too bad. We celebrated Christmas Eve with a traditional Norwegian white dinner, and then on Christmas day had a massive barbeque with meats of all flavor. Quite delightful. I even had the pleasure of meeting my friend Marilee at a coffee shop in Kampala. She is currently doing an international elective as she finishes her clinical rotations for PA school at Arcadia University.

I have been back in Bundibugyo for three days, though it has felt like three years at times. I am glad to be back, away from the noise, congestion, and traffic of Kampala. But as soon as I got back, the reality of this place knocked me off my feet. I went back to the pediatric ward on Thursday to learn that five children had died so far this week! Most were very anemic and required blood transfusions, but the hospital had run out of blood, causing the children to run out of life. Also on Friday I saw a 10 year old child that had been in the ward for nearly two weeks. She originally came in with malaria, but there was something else going on inside her little body. She would seem to get better, and the drastically worse. She could no longer walk or talk and had developed sores around her mouth. The father was such a nice man, very hopeful, optimistic, but on Friday the child died. I am still not sure what was wrong with her, even after several malaria treatments and antibiotics she continued to decline. So as it now stands, six children died on the pediatric ward this week. There are many possible reasons – families waiting too long to bring in their sick children, fearing that they will contract Ebola if they come to the hospital; running out of blood available for transfusions; Jennifer and me being gone for several days; hospital staff not showing up for duty, it has been over two weeks now with both the evening and the night nurse refusing to come in, but yes, they are still collecting their pay. Whatever the reason, six children dying in a five day period is horrific.

I need an extra dose of patience these days, as so far today there have been over thirty knocks on my door and it is only 4 pm – children wanting the ball, asking for water, asking for bread, asking for candy, people asking for money…the list goes on. I appreciate these people and their kindness, but today I feeling worn too thin.

The past two days a student from Miami University has been staying with me. This past summer he did an internship with some film/publication company and was hosting the PBS show Road Trip Nation. Through a seemingly random chain of events he found himself in Uganda. While he was here he interviewed Scott and Jennifer Myhre, Pat, and me. The whole premises of his filming was not to focus on Ebola, but to highlight individuals who have found their niche on the off beaten trail, working international in unique roles. Though intimidating to have an hour long interview with him on film, it was nice to interact with a young, enterprising individual who is trying to figure out what to do with his life, while at the same time encouraging young 20-somethings to follow their passions.

I’ll be in Bundibugyo until January 2, and then I’ll be headed to Murchison Falls National Park in Northern Uganda. While there I hope to see some wildlife whilst enjoying the massive falls and scenic beauty.

I hope this note finds you well,

Scott J. Will

p.s. An update to an earlier letter: I had mentioned that I had a snake in my ceiling some weeks back, and even after trekking up into the rafters of my home with flashlight and stick in hand, trying to find the long, deadly snake, it had somehow escaped through a hole in a vent screen. After patching the hole I had hoped the problem was over. Not so.

Two days after the Ebola epidemic was announced I heard a bat in my ceiling (I have killed a few bats in my home previously), but could see it no where, so assumed it was right outside my home. Yet I continued to hear slight movements in my ceiling every few minutes, which I attributed to lizards – I see lizards every day in my home. Then to my surprise, about 30 minutes later as I was sitting on my couch reading I looked up to see a large black snake hanging down from my ceiling looking directly at me doing that little tongue thing that snakes do. Surprisingly, I did not scream like a girl, though I did swear like a sailor, and told my friend that was visiting to go get some help while I continued to watch the snake to see where it would go. What ensued next was 30 minutes of great snake-o-pade adventures, involving me, twenty other people including some women and many children, climbing up into my dark, hot ceiling/attic in search of the deadly reptile, frantic screams (not by me!) as the snake went flying through the air, people running, grown men cowering, sticks flying, curse words rising – all culminating in one very dead snake!!!

Though I wish I could say my snake-o-pade days have ended, I think they may just be starting. In the past month there have been 10 snakes seen within a 30 meter radius of my home, of those 10, seven have been killed, including one two days ago in which I was involved with – broom in hand as fury was unleashed (think Tasmanian devil, tiger, and pissed off person combined - that was me).

I have had labored sleep over the past month, often dreaming of snakes of different sizes, shapes, and color. Though I am trying to conquer my fears in terms of reptilian entities, I still have a long way to go. Please pray for protection for me and my neighbors, that our steps may be wise and the sight of snakes few.

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