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  • Tom & Gemma Withers

March Memes from Uganda

Greetings from Uganda after another month has passed in the blink of an eye! March was kind to us with our first week off work, a successful job interview and more culinary triumphs just a few of the highlights.

Unlike in the UK, March began as most other months begin here, baking hot and dry! We were and are still experiencing 30+ degree heat every day and awaiting a rainy season which should have arrived late February. Our Ugandan colleagues assured us it was only a few days away. Sadly, this seemed to be the answer when the rains didn’t come, and you asked again a few days later. I am glad to say the rainy season seems to have appeared at last by the end of March, but the rains are still not as frequent or torrential as they have been in previous years. We are told that the rains have never been this late before in living memory, and it has significantly affected farmers future livelihoods and potential crops with seeds sewn into the ground, that have not received any of the water they so desperately need. It has reminded us again quite how lucky we are both living here, being able to travel to Kampala (capital city) for supermarket food but also at home in the UK where we rarely feel the effects of such droughts. However, fortunately for now food availability seems good and there are no immediate concerns.

Work life has been pretty stable this month with both of us in relatively good

health and having both found a good working rhythm. Overall, patient caseload size has stayed low but there have been some complex presentations that have been a great source of teaching and clinical stimulation which has been nice…… for us more than the patients I can imagine! It was interesting to find that some work related feelings however stay the same wherever you are in the world, including the run up to a holiday feeling!

As mentioned, we had our first week off since being here in the last week of March and we definitely felt like we were in need of a break and a few lie-ins by the time it finally arrived.

In our week off we went away and explored more of Uganda with Becca (another medical missionary) and her 2 daughters. Initially we went to a town called Jinja which is where the source of the Nile is found from the waters of Lake Victoria! We had a wonderful time swimming and kayaking in the Nile despite our parent’s protestations, the words crocodiles and parasites definitely occurring multiple times!! However, we are happy to report we have neither been eaten, maimed, or riddled and our parents are breathing freely once more!

We also took a few days to travel on our own another 250km west of Jinja to Mt. Elgon and a region called Sipi Falls where we were able to relax and switch off from the world whilst also taking in the beautiful scenery which you can see below. These photos were taken on our trek to see the 3 waterfalls that are found in Sipi.

Returning from Jinja and Sipi left us exhausted especially as I was driving for the first time in Uganda and for some reason, I thought a 3 hour drive on dust tracks was a good place to start…… smart. However, there was no time to rest as I had a job interview 3 days later!

For context, a post had been advertised in the second week of March which I had been preparing for ever since. The post was a Specialist MSK physiotherapist in Sheffield and it was also a permanent post which is a bit of a rarity for this role. So those 3 days post holiday were not only filled with continued practice and preparation but also trying to ensure that we would be able to maintain internet signal for long enough for me to have the interview! I have to say Gemma was wonderful. Patient, constructive and a firm motivator when needed and was probably the main reason that the interview went without a technical hitch, and I was offered the job and will start when I return from my career break. Exciting!

As hinted at above we have explored more new cooking experiences in March, we have dived into Ugandan cuisine trying our hand at chapatti’s and trying cassava for the first time. Cassava is a root vegetable and is often boiled or steamed wrapped in banana leaves, it has an interesting texture similar to both a parsnip and a potato. As you may have found from my previous jackfruit explanation it is tricky to accurately explain food in writing!!

I have also journeyed into Indian cooking making naan breads which are surprisingly easy to make,

Good Food has a great recipe, I can send anyone a link if they want to give them a go!

One sad blip in our time in Uganda has been saying goodbye to our good friends the Parks, who left for home assignment in Northern Ireland for 5 months, which means we won’t see them again while we are here. The Parks are a missionary family (Stephen, Linda and their 3 boys) who have been our next door neighbours since we arrived, and have been a constant source of advice, laughter, support, and encouragement. We will miss them very much but are very grateful for the times we have had!

Other than this April is looking very nice for us at the moment, Uganda is continuing its love for a bank holiday, with, in addition to the 2 around Easter, another this Friday as well! So, there will be plenty of time for rest and more cooking adventures then! We also hit the halfway mark of our time in Uganda this month, life feels like it is just flying by, and we are sure that will continue through April into the following months as well. We also have plans to meet Bishop Eridard and his lovely wife Jane in St Mark's Cathedral, Luweero on Easter Sunday to share our greetings from the UK, our churches and CMS Ireland.

Finally, here are our favourite 3 “I’ve Learnt” from March:

o I’ve learnt Gemma has a natural Irish ability to transfer a potato into lovely bread

o I’ve learnt that there is a ninth wonder of the world called Funz Video store which will sell you any movie or TV series for 20p (questionable legality….)

o I’ve learnt it’s impossible not to get sunburn on holiday in Uganda, no matter how much sun cream you put on!

Prayer Requests

▪ For God to help us to adjust to life without the Parks and for the provision of new relationships.

▪ For energy levels and enthusiasm in life and work at the hospital. Specifically, confidence in the delivery of staff training and presentations (NICU and A&E).

▪ For God to work in us as we continue to lead bible study small groups with the nursing students at the hospital.

▪ For God to bless the planning stages of our trips in May to visit other healthcare projects in Uganda (Chilli Children & Fort Portal) and He will provide finances and stress free travel.



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