Oh vertigo. What a wonderful thing. Mixed with jet lag it makes for a nasty cocktail. My first morning in Masindi and I was not feeling it. But, wait a second, I was in Africa and only for ten days. AFRICA! No, I was not about to let anything get in the way of ruining this trip for me. Breakfast that morning was at 8:30. With little sleep under my belt, I figured the least I could do for myself and the rest of my team members was to shower. En route to the bathroom I discovered a very large following of ants carrying a dead grasshopper the size of a snickers bar in the middle of our floor. Seriously?! Ugh gross. If I step on the thing… the crunching sound… not now. Shower first.
Feeling refreshed after my extremely cold shower, the best solution I could come up with for the ants was a huge pile of toilet paper and the stomp of my right foot. Eew. With that, I ran out the front door. Stopping on the path to breakfast, I took a deep breath in, knowing that I was not going to be given any more than I could handle on this trip. There was a solution to the vertigo and it certainly wasn’t to be a hero. It would all work out. All I had to do was ask for help.
On my walk to breakfast, I could hear roosters and vervet monkeys in the trees behind the hotel. Monkeys! The whole Masindi Kitara Hotel compound was gorgeous. It was a beautiful morning in Uganda.
Breakfast was all laid out for us. Bananas, toast and little omelets. Don’t even get me started about the coffee, the love affair began that very morning. Nothing had ever tasted so delicious. Hope, our fearless leader during our time in Uganda, gave us a rundown for the day.
Our first stop was the Family Spirit Orphanage to visit with the kids. In my mind, I wasn’t sure what to expect? How to act? What to say? How would the kids react towards me? So many thoughts were rushing through my mind as we piled into the vans. When we pulled up, they were all standing outside awaiting for our arrival.
We received a brief introduction from Isaac and Susan who run the orphanage and then we all ventured off to make new friends. I have four words: love at first sight. It is so difficult to put into words. Holding hands is a sign of trust and friendship. Hold out your hand and you have three little hands in yours. All the kids care about is your love. They don’t care about what you like, how tall you are or how much money you have. The moment one little hand grabbed mine, all of my worries literally melted away. All of them very well versed in using your iphone and camera and the moment they saw a picture of themselves, they giggled and smiled bigger than you could ever imagine.
We were given a tour of the school and the dormitories by Isaac and Susan who run Family Spirit. They showed us their kitchen and where they wash their clothes. One of the kids even took me to see their pet rabbit (though I’m not 100% sure that it was just a pet, if you know what I mean.)
Sitting outside the dormitories was Family Spirit’s newest member Moses. When they found him he had jigger bites so bad on his feet that he could barely walk. He was being tested for TB and confirmed HIV+. The poor little guy was also severely malnourished. But he was in the right place being well taken care of now.
After our tour and playing with the kids for awhile, we sat out front and watched some of the kids sing and perform skits. One of the songs they sand was Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World.’ Ask any of us about that part of the day and we will tell you about Patrick. This little guy had it all. He stood in front of everyone swinging and showed us some serious moves and attitude. When he didn’t know the words, he lip synced. No fear what-so-ever.
Some of us has two and three kids in our laps while watching the others sing. Some of the kids were our photographers. One little girl just sat in my lap with her head on my shoulder and her hand in mine. Those kids touched my heart in a way I never knew possible. All of them take care of one another. They laugh and play and they are happy.
And then it was time to say our good-byes. In my heart I knew that it really wasn’t good-bye, it was ‘see you later,’ as they say. I know that I will be back. Hugs all around. Roll call and back in the vans. Everyone waved good-bye as we pulled away and headed back to the hotel.
After enjoying a delicious lunch – one which has me in LOVE with an Indian dish called dahl fry (ohmygoodnessdelicious!) we set off on foot towards the Masindi Kitara Medical Centre. It’s fair to say that the most ‘dangerous part of our walk was crossing the street. Maybe I was the only one that felt like a little Frogger, dodging bicycles, pedestrians, motorcycles and other vehicles? It didn’t help that the traffic patterns are reversed so when I initially looked both ways, the coast was clear. Then I looked the ‘other’ both ways as I was already crossing the street and realized that the coast was SO not clear. Somehow, I managed to forge the Masindi roadway safely with the rest of my team members.
The walk to MKMC was breathtaking, very rural and through a little village. Kids were coming from every which way and would stand waving as we passed by. At one point, a group of them came up, grabbed our hands and escorted the remainder of our journey to the medical center.
Walking up to MKMC it became very clear to me how amazing PMI as an organization is and where the money from all of our fundraising goes. The facility is beautiful and their newest addition is an ambulance. Upon arrival, there was already a line of people that the surgery team was screening. We were given a tour of the center, briefed on it’s history and introduced to many of the staff. One thing I learned that BLEW MY MIND… Guess how much it costs to have a child in Uganda? $12.00. Unfortunately, for most of them, that is very expensive – so much so that many woman deliver without any medical assistance.
Once we had all safely returned to the Masindi Kitara Hotel, there was work to be done; bins to be organized, supplies to inventoried and a pill packing party to be had. It was also a time for team members to begin getting to get to know one another. A little bit of relaxation before our big week ahead.
Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but notice how I was still feeling ‘off.’ Turning my head too rapidly caused me to become extremely dizzy and I was just feeling Blah! So not how I wanted to go into clinic day #1. After dinner, shout-outs and life stories, I enlisted the help of PMI veteran Claire. By doing a few simple ‘tests’ – mistaken for ‘planking’ by some of my teammates, she figured out that I had BPV or benign positional vertigo. Good thing there were meds for that 🙂
Malaria meds: check. Shower: check. Valium: check. Sweet dreams: double check.