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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I have come to the realization that my life here in Uganda could be one of the books from the Lemony Snicket series. 

Seriously…think about it.

If you don’t believe me, let’s review the events of a “normal” 24 hours in my life, shall we?

It’s Friday, I’ve eaten breakfast and am waiting for lunch to be served in the staff room. I munch on some PEZ and other candies to keep my stomach at bay. A couple Skittles into the snack, I notice my tooth is slightly hypersensitive. Now, over the past few weeks I’ve noticed the same tooth has been intermittently hypersensitive, but on this particular day, the sensitivity doesn’t seem to go away. Even during lunch (which is your standard Ugandan posho, beans, and greens) I notice my tooth is fairly sensitive to the meal. So, like any normal human being who has the wonders of Peace Corps Medical Services at their beckon call, I call the Peace Corps Medical Office to hopefully see a dentist and figure out if it’s a cavity or not. I am told I will get a call back as soon as an appointment is made since the medical office has to call different dentists and find out who is available. Satisfied, I hang up the phone thinking I should be seen fairly soon, at least by the upcoming week.

So, I go about my normal Friday (consisting of reading on my midget couch or in bed, napping, making up rap lyrics, and basically spending the day enjoying myself). Around 6:30 pm, I decide it’s about time I figure out what to make for dinner. I decide on a vegetable bullion broth-type soup with some tomatoes and green peppers. I also decide to add some pasta in the “soup” to get some carbohydrate action (Becs and Ginger, judge away). While I’m cooking, I use one of my pot holders to hold the handle of the pot so I can stir the soup (because heaven forbid the pasta get stuck to the pot and everyone judge me again, which happened anyway) and guess what happens…the pot holder catches on fire. Yeah, no joke. The fire wasn’t huge or out of control, but it made me a lot more conscious of what I was doing (because cooking on a flame isn’t hazardous enough). After getting everything back on track, I get very excited because it smells amazing and after a few taste tests, it tastes pretty good too! I put on some music, log on to the internet, and enjoy my supper. 

Not two bites in, I notice a jagged, sharp point on one of my molars. I quickly realize it may be one of the molars which had a filling in it. I rush to my tiny mirror (by this time the power is out so I have my head lamp on trying to position it in such a way that I can actually see myself in the mirror) to check out what is going on. I find that there is a hole in my tooth.

That’s right, a hole…in my tooth.

So, I panic. I come to the premature conclusion one of my fillings has come out (not really sure if that’s even possible). I frantically text and call various people asking if this is a valid reason to call the Peace Corps Medical After-Hours phone (which is supposed to be for fairly serious health issues). After what was probably only 10 minutes but felt like an hour, I decide to call (it’s only just after 8 at this point). One of my favorite nurses answers the phone and we talk for a few minutes and decide I should travel into Kampala on Monday to hopefully be seen on Tuesday or Wednesday. After hanging up, I continue eating my dinner (very slowly, chewing only on the opposite side of the hole, which coincidentally is the side of the potential cavity). I finish my dinner, clean up the dishes, and get myself ready for bed.
While I’m throwing away the scraps of my dinner (which really means just throwing them outside for the livestock to eat) I notice one of the staff members sitting outside listening to the radio. I decide to be social and sit outside with him. We talk for a bit and then when the power comes back on he decides he is going to turn in for the night. I say goodnight and begin walking to my place when he calls me back asking me for help answering some questions for some students. I take the questions and go into my place in order to look them up on the internet. This is probably an hour or so after I have finished my dinner. So I’m sitting down, looking up things in the internet, when my stomach decides it wants to chat. It must have been angry because it was grumbling and screaming like it was being tortured. After going for a long call I felt much better and finished my work. I gave it to the staff member, did my little workout routine (up to 135 push-ups, say what?!) while watching Flight of the Conchords and settled in for a quiet slumber.

Or so I thought.

Around 5:30 am I woke up with the sharpest pain in my stomach I’ve ever had (and trust me I’ve had pains in my stomach before). It felt like someone stabbed me, twisted the knife, took another knife, stabbed me, and was twisting that knife while continuing to twist the first knife. The last time I had a sharp pain in my stomach, I had a moderate case of pee butt, so I figured I should see if this was the case. A few minutes later, and feeling slightly better, I go back into my room and the pain begins to return. At this point I have nothing left in my stomach (or probably in my body for that matter) so I have no idea what to do. I’m standing by the door when all of a sudden I feel weak at the knees, nauseous, and have a cold sweat forming all over my body. I am fairly sure I will faint so I slip back into bed while fighting back the urge to vomit. I drink a little water and try to go back to sleep, to no avail. The pain continues, the cold sweat persists, and I have the vague inclination I may die (I know, very dramatic, probably unnecessarily dramatic in fact). At some point I must pass out because the next thing I recall is hearing my phone jingle indicating I received an SMS. I take a peek and see that it is one of my friends letting me know she too has been sick and wouldn’t be able to go into town as we had discussed the day before (though at the time she obviously didn’t know about my story). Another friend sends an SMS asking if I want to go into town for the day and I regretfully inform him that I was sick during the night and would like to rest (and at this point OF COURSE it is raining, which is good since I get my water from the rain, but it definitely makes me not want to travel anywhere). I sleep the rest of the morning until around noon. When I finally get out of bed I feel fine, no residual pain or discomfort. 

Apparently my health being okay makes the universe think something needs to NOT be okay because as I’m getting up, the power goes out…as I’m plugging my phone in to charge. 

And now my phone is dead…another win for Uganda (and UMEME, the Ugandan power supplier we use, I suppose). Luckily my computer is charged, so I decide to check my e-mail and find an e-mail with the subject line GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL TO CLOSE OPERATIONS.

…and add a fly at the bottom of my coke…which was in a sealed bottle…


I definitely foresee the next 18 months being a series of unfortunate, and potentially extreme, events.

On a completely tangential note I find I always get the most interesting stories when I travel.

Case in point: The day the conductor got beat up by a small village mob.

So I am on my way to Kampala to visit the dentist. I got into a mutatu (the bigger van taxis) thinking it would be the most comfortable option (of course 45 minutes later I thought it’d be quicker if I had just gotten into one of those Corolla taxis). Eventually we got on our way, only to stop twenty minutes later to see the conductor step out and try to get yet another passenger, only to be met with fists.  Another conductor was apparently upset that the conductor of my taxi was trying to get the same passengers. This led him to take my conductor by the collar, throw him into some bushes on the side of the road, and continue to pummel him while a small crowd gathered, egging him on and holding the drivers back (who wanted to either help beat each other up or stop the fight, I wasn’t quite sure). Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small child pick up a large piece of lumber, which an adult soon took from him and started walking towards the two conductors fighting with the body language of someone who was ready to beat someone else with the said piece of lumber. Luckily, the fight broke up before the lumber could be used to potentially kill someone, but it was quite an event nonetheless. The driver got back into the taxi and drove a few feet ahead and stopped to let the conductor catch up and come inside. The conductor was covered in grass stains and had a very sad, disheveled look on his face. I guess he lost the fight…

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

In more serious news, my World Malaria Day event was canceled. It was starting to sound too good to be true, which should have been my first hint I suppose. I talked with a few of the students early on in April and we thought of some good ideas, such as skits and dramas, education sessions, bed net distributions, clothing donation distributions, and even a blood drive. Everything was confirmed the Friday before but apparently the Monday before the event the school decided the students were to go home, meaning no students would really be available to participate in or carry out the event. Now when I brought up the idea I knew we were about to break off for the semester break but I asked many times if there would be students around and if they would be able to participate and even if they would be interested and given the plan THAT THE STUDENTS CAME UP WITH, they seemed to be all for it. There was little hope that anything would happen on Wednesday, even though my supervisor was a little helpful and tried to get some students interested (before he left on Tuesday). I guess in the end it wasn’t meant to be. It was such a letdown, I thought I really had initiated something that could be good and different (compared to the HIV/AIDS outreach we’ve been doing in various schools around Rakai District). If I had known everything would fall through, I would have gone to Gulu to help with the youth camps, like I had originally planned, but I thought since the students seemed interested, I should stay to see it through. I could have been doing something useful and effective. 

This disappointment put me in a foul mood until Friday…and then everything just crashed and burned.

My life should be a cartoon series.


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