Tom and Gemma Withers are engaged in an eight-month Short-Term Experience Placement based at Kiwoko Hospital in Luweero Diocese. Having been in Uganda for just over eight weeks, this is their second blog update...
Hello everyone! Another wee update here from us in sunny Uganda. We have come to the end of February, some eagle-eyed readers will notice it’s actually March, but yesterday was my birthday so I took the day off. I’m sure you’ll manage. February has been an interesting month which feels like it has simultaneously moved very fast and very slowly, Gemma will say this is because I have been counting down to my aforementioned birthday for at least three weeks! Apparently having an excited 25 year old tell you how many sleeps it is until the end of the month tends to make time drag!
February has also presented us with our first encounter of “a quiet weekend”!
We have found that away from the hobbies and responsibilities of UK life, our weekends have become much more available and it has allowed us to explore ways of spending our free time. Here is an example of our forays into cooking/baking, something that we rarely made time for in the UK. Honeycomb made by myself, a most excellent pineapple cake made by Gemma and a loaf of bread made by me.
Gemma has also had a go at making some homemade soda bread! With a lot of 'western' luxuries at least a 3 hour drive away, it has encouraged us to do more baking for ourselves which we are definitely keen to continue when we return to the UK. These quiet weekends have also given us an opportunity to explore the local village of Kiwoko and surrounding areas, at the top you can see a picture of us with Becky our friend here who works at the hospital, she has been great at helping us feel settled in and at showing us the best places for the local street food and fruit and veg.
One weekend Becky took us on a walk to see the land she has bought, where she plans to build a house, and also to visit one of her friends (Grace) to try jack fruit.
Not many of you, I imagine, will have had ripe jackfruit before so I am going to try my best to describe it to you. It is unlike any other fruit or vegetable you have ever eaten (ok, good start), the texture is almost like a slightly unripe nectarine but more waxy (you’re losing them Tom…..) and it tastes like a mix between a tropical flavoured ice lolly and vanilla ice cream (lost them.). Like I said - unlike anything you have ever eaten! It was so nice to get outside of the compound that day and meet some local folk and spend time with them attempting to use some of our very very limited Luganda to talk and interact while Becky laughed at us for our poor pronunciation.
In terms of work, Gemma is continuing to do fantastic work on NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), and we have completed some physiotherapy training for the midwives on the maternity ward. I am continuing with my staff back pain project, which sadly has not taken off as quickly as planned due to needing time off work as I was ill. Nothing serious, just run down with some very severe neck pain. We have found it is very easy to forget that life and work here takes a lot more energy and that we cannot live life at the pace we are used to in the UK - I think the illness was purely a result of that. I am happy to inform you that this is now behind me, and I feel back to 100%. We have finally had our work visas approved - a 5 month long saga, so we are very glad to have those done and off our minds!!
Overseas students have started to return to the hospital, something that has not happened since COVID-19 limited travel for pretty much everyone! We currently have 6 medical students from Germany, the Netherlands and the United States - and we have been able to get involved in integrating and welcoming all of them. This has been really lovely, as it has confirmed to us that we are starting to get the hang of the lifestyle and living here, and we have been able to show them the local area, and take them to the weekend markets. Having new students coming gives a sense of fluidity and excitement to the passing weeks, which has been refreshing, and has helped us avoid a mundane working pattern.
Overall, life is ticking along nicely, work continues to be a challenge but living in Kiwoko seems to be getting easier and more enjoyable by the day. We believe that God will continue to speak to us about the next steps for life and work here, and we will continue to listen. Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for us and our placement, and for everyone reading and sharing the blog. It means so much that you read and respond to it and makes us feel so connected with all our friends around the world despite the physical distance!
I will leave you for another month with our top 3 “I’ve Learnt” from February:
▪ I’ve learnt that I don’t have the emotional temperament to be an Olympic Curler. (Gemma)
▪ I’ve learnt that eggless brownies do not work - (2 minutes and a telling off later!) I’ve also learnt that Gemma gets very protective over her brownies (that aren’t brownies). (Tom)
▪ I’ve learnt that a fundraising talent show in Uganda is insane and that contestant’s stage presence and confidence covers a multitude of sins!!
▪ To build closer relationships with our colleagues at the hospital.
▪ For energy levels and enthusiasm at work as we aim to balance life with rest.
▪ For God to work in us, and help us grow in confidence, as we begin to lead small bible study groups with the nursing students at the hospital.