Easter - Ugandan style...
Hi Everyone from Kiwoko Hosptial in Uganda,
We trust everyone has had a happy Easter and that you are all enjoying the arrival of Spring! April has been the month of public holidays here in Uganda, we haven’t had a single week without one! This month has also brought us over the halfway mark of our time in Kiwoko which seems crazy, time feels like it is speeding up exponentially!
I’m sure you will all be glad to hear that the rain has finally come to Uganda, we have rain probably 5 out of 7 evenings which, as you can imagine, has been well received by our Ugandan friends and colleagues. However, it may still be a short rainy season with the rains normally ending at the end of May, but there is hope! Moses (lead physio at Kiwoko and my personal weather forecaster) has reliably informed me that there have been some wet seasons recently which have continued into late July or August. We are praying that this happens so that food stocks and the local economy are not affected too harshly by the initial lack of rain. Another benefit of the rainy season arriving has been that at least twice this month we have been cold!!! I know, how exciting!! We have had one day where it rained all day and we even had to put our jogging bottoms on to keep warm! It’s the small things………. Sadly, for most of the time it is still around 30 C. I’m sure a lot of you are rolling your eyes and dreaming of hotter climates, but for a very warm blooded being I cannot wait to be back in the cold.
Celebrating Easter was very different this year, as is the case for most things while we have been here in Kiwoko. We are used to seeing our families at Easter time which of course we couldn’t do this year, but we were well looked after. Easter Sunday was spent with Bishop Eridard and his family. Bishop Eridard is the current Bishop for Luweero Diocese, and he very kindly invited us to the Easter service at the cathedral in Luweero, followed by lunch. We certainly felt very welcomed, especially when we were brought to sit at the front of the 500 strong congregation and given multiple shoutouts throughout the service!
We also had our first experience of a Ugandan celebratory dinner, which consisted of mashed matoke (very similar to mash potato, maybe a wee bit waxier), cassava (similar to parsnips), boiled potatoes, chicken and pork, this was followed by dessert as well! We haven’t eaten since….. We are so grateful for Eridard and his wife Jane who were incredibly hospitable, they welcomed us warmly to their hearts and home and we found that it did feel like we were with family over Easter after all.
Our second experience with Ugandan celebrations came shortly after Easter when we were invited to a “Wedding Meeting”. Some context for people not familiar with Ugandan wedding traditions, couples will often have a wedding meeting, a wedding introduction and a wedding. The wedding meeting is effectively a meeting between the families of the bride and groom, where the logistics of the wedding are discussed, those being dates, location and finances. The role of a guest to a wedding meeting is to sit outside, eat some food and wait for the meeting to come to an end when a small celebration takes place as the families leave the building the meeting was in. A wedding introduction is pretty similar to an engagement party that you would have in the UK and a wedding is self-explanatory. The wedding meeting, we attended turned out to be a mixture of a meeting and an introduction, we arrived, and sat chatting for about 2 hours before food was served . At this point the groom’s family arrived to begin the meeting, which should have started 3 hours ago by this point! A typically Ugandan level of time keeping which can be a challenge for people from a very different culture!
Overall, it was a lovely and very joyous occasion and after we had been rolled home, we were ready to attend the next wedding of the month! This however was via livestream, if COVID-19 has helped with anything it has brought us closer together when we are further apart, and we were lucky enough to still celebrate the wedding of my old housemate, and Gemma’s old childhood friend Conor Crooks and his new wife Rosie, which was delightful! With all of this food we also are trying to keep exercising. Gemma achieved her goal to run 10km, which is no small feat in the African heat (see bottom right photo with Dr Becca). We are also attempting to do 100 press ups a day in May, inspired by my friend Mike, who is doing the same challenge in the UK, in aid of Cancer Research.
As I mentioned at the start, we have been off work almost as much as we have been in work this month, and this has meant that nothing has really changed on that front! As with March we have found that we are now in the rhythm of working so day to day work is not a challenge at all, we have been able to implement a couple of new ideas which have been really beneficial.
Strap yourselves in………. we now have a brand new training and case study timetable, along with monthly team meetings to discuss areas we can improve as a department!! I know, riveting. We have a few things left to complete at work, I will be doing some monthly training in A&E and training sessions for all departments about staff managing their back pain. Gemma has delivered some training with the nurses on NICU which was well received, and she will be joining training herself in NICU in the next few weeks, as a team from USA are due to arrive for some teaching and discussions about further improvements In care. Gemma is also hoping to experience some community rehab with the charity ADARA.
Our next big plan and adventure is coming at the end of May (15th-28th), as we have organised to go on a 1000km road trip to visit 2 different ‘community based paediatric neuro rehab clinics’ situated in the south/west of Uganda. We have taken 2 weeks out to do this and we are so excited to see a different culture, experience true community working in rural locations, a new patient caseload, and how other healthcare teams work to provide care. You may be in for a long read in the May blog, but your prayers for this will be appreciated!!
Finally, here are our favourite 3 “I’ve Learnt” from April:
o I’ve learnt how to accidentally make a lemon cake.
o I’ve learnt that when you’re an adult you can choose to have dessert for dinner.
o I’ve learnt what happens when you go on a 15km walk in Uganda and you forget to put on sunscreen.
▪ For energy levels and enthusiasm in life and work at the hospital. Specifically, Toms staff training on back pain and in A&E
▪ For God to develop more patience and grace within us for each other and those around us
▪ For God to bless our trip in May to visit other healthcare projects. Keep us safe on the roads, confidence for meeting many new people in a short period of time, and for God to take away any nerves we have as we put our faith in him and his plan for us in these 2 weeks.