Friday, May 20, 2011

Nƙwaatikwa ni Ɲeriaŋi ('modern healers')-Part 2

After a week with internet problems, I've been able to load more pictures from the medical team's visit. I wanted to give you a glimpse of what our mobile clinic looked like.

Before leaving, we slathered ourselves in sunscreen, filled our water bottles, and loaded every available backpack to the brim. Then we hiked...and hiked...and hiked some more along well-worn Ik trails that lead to their various places of daily living. Below is Doug & Lisa on one of those trails. Hats & sunscreen? Check! On occasion, we would maneuver ourselves through these small entryways into the Ik villages. They make them small so it's difficult for people to get through, as there is a history of violence & thievery when 'enemies' come to their villages. One woman told me that the smaller the doorway, the better, because it gives her time to get out another way while the intruder is crawling inside. It's helpful that the Ik are small themselves and can easily enter/exit their villages. Because of our varying sizes, we asked the sick Ik to come out to us for treatment.
This is a sitting area (Ik: diyw) outside one of the villages where we held a clinic. They brought us hand-made stools to sit on as we parked under the only available tree. The Ik gathered around us and sat in a certain order while waiting to be treated. For some unknown reason, the women & children gathered around Buddy while the men & older people sat beside Lisa.
Each doctor had a translator. Louie tended to the 'pharmacy' while I sat by and took notes. The doctors would call me to one side or the other to look at abnormalities or give me a piece of information. It was a good environment for learning. Terrill was a huge help in the language department. We can now understand enough Icetod (Ik language) that we know when one of the translators is saying something incorrectly and we can correct their instruction to the patients.
Louie's pharmacy included something to sit on and baggies of an assortment of medicines. Before leaving home, we had bagged and written instructions on medicines so they'd be ready to give out.
This Turkana man was visiting from Kenya. We saw quite a few Turkanas who were staying in Ik villages and bartering with them for food. Kenya is even drier than Uganda these days so the Turkanas bring their cows across the border (legally) to graze.
I think she was bored...
Many times, children are left at home with the elderly while mothers & fathers go to work in their gardens. There are also many orphans who end up living with grandparents.
Buddy examines the ear canal of a newborn.
This happy lady has just been medicated.
After holding one clinic, we ventured into the near-by village to visit a lady who had just given birth. Her complaint: the child wouldn't suckle. I haven't heard from her since, so everything must have turned out okay.
This was our medical team. Kneeling are Joseph & Zachary who translated. Standing (L-R) are Lisa, Philip, Louie, Buddy & me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nƙwaatikwa ni Ɲeriaŋi ('modern healers')-Part 1

We just had an amazing visit with some friends from our Tallahassee church (Four Oaks). After months & weeks of waiting for them to come, the time had arrived and then...as time usually does...it busily vanished before our eyes in a blur of activity. We did so much in the eleven days together that I have to split the blog up (mostly so I can get more pictures in).

Our visitors, Doug & Lisa Jernigan and Buddy & Louie Doll, had quite the Ugandan adventure. It all started with a ride in a bush plane (thanks to MAF: a missionary flying service). I had told them to bring along medicines for nausea but I might have forgotten to tell them that north-eastern Uganda is one of the windiest places in world (so we've been told). The MAF pilots courageously fight the wind three days a week as they land at the airstrip in Kaabong on a regular basis. The airstrip is a sandy, flat area out in the wilderness some miles from Kaabong town.

I better keep this narrative moving or I'll have a book before I know it. We shared hugs of welcome all around, had a lunch of lentils and then drove up to Timu. It was still dry season when our visitors arrived. The rainy season was late but the weather pleasant. Everyone got settled in, our belongings put away, and then we trekked 100 yards for our first village visit. Our neighbors (Lojore & Esther) are kind enough to welcome our many visitors and expose them to Ik village life. Ik greetings were practiced and exposure was successful.

During our time together, we did a number of activities. First and foremost, we treated people. My clinic days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9am-1pm. Lisa, Buddy & Louie assisted me in the clinic and helped to expand my knowledge of a good assessment and treatment of illnesses. I learned so much from just sitting beside them and watching. I learned what a healthy & unhealthy ear canal should look like. I learned how to hold a baby still enough to look into their ear. I learned not to put Calamine lotion (for the many cases of chicken pox) on a child under the age of two. I learned that large lymph nodes around the clavicle are a sign of a systemic problem. The list goes on. My friends generously poured their years of wisdom and knowledge into my life. Thank you, Lisa, Buddy & Louie, for this gift.

Meanwhile, Doug was sanding rust off our gates and painting. We were the lucky ones to be inside shelter on those hot days. Poor Doug was working under an African sun and believe me when I say, we European-descended were not created to work under an African sun. It was humble work but Doug did it without complaint. Thank you, Doug, for serving us so selflessly.

On our off days, we decided to explore the Timu mountains a bit and hold a mobile clinic. This is something Terrill & I had wanted to do for awhile since we meet many people from these far-off villages but have never visited them ourselves. I'll expand more on the mobile clinics in the next blog. The child below was a bystander at one of the locations we visited. Many Ik were interested in what we were doing and I'll bet that some of the young children had never seen white faces up close before.
The Ik have well-worn footpaths that they travel every day. As we trekked to a distant village, this man got stuck behind us on the path. He is carrying a dead tree, most likely to be used either for his house or his outer fence.
Some of the best times we had together were when we simply shared life. It was a blessing to have others in the kitchen with me to share the load of cooking and cleaning. I tried to do dishes several times but was consistently shooed away by others who wanted to bless me. Doing dishes was a good excuse to clean our fingernails.
Another project worked on was putting together a solar oven. I must say with some embarrassment that I napped while this oven was put together. But I think the concept was pretty simple. All we needed was a cardboard box, some heavy duty tinfoil and glue. Lisa did bring a special pan to place inside the box. The test was to put water into the pan and see how hot it would get. I believe it got up to 120 degrees F....but that was after only a few hours, not all day. We still have much to learn about this solar oven, but hopefully we can utilize it for cooking & baking some day soon.
Here's Doug neatly painting the fancy spikes on our outer gate.
And this...was me learning to suture on a chicken. Hey...we didn't have any pigs' feet! Buddy graciously killed and plucked this rooster clean. Then Lisa sat with me and patiently went through the steps. It didn't seem that hard at the time, but I think I will sweat more when my first patient comes who needs sutures. I had asked them to teach me this skill because quite a few Ik come to my gate with lacerations of one kind or another. Guess what happened next? We skewered my patient in a teriyaki sauce over an open flame.
It's after hours and almost time for dinner but we couldn't help but give this child (Jacob) attention. He had a painful thorn in his foot. Buddy is looking for the culprit.
And Louie...was flying kites with the kids. Who wouldn't love a woman who shows up with the first kite these kids have ever seen. It had a lizard on it which is a very familiar reptile to the Ik. The past few days we've been back in Timu, the kids have begged to play with that lizard and it's seen more air-time in a few days than most kites do in their lifetimes.
Flying his first kite.
We spent Easter Sunday in the new Pentecostal church. It's a beautiful structure and the first permanent building (besides our houses) to be built in this area. Although the pastor and many of the congregation were gone for the day (visiting another church), a group still gathered. A special part of Easter Sunday was being able to read the Easter story to the kids.
And then a highlight of the trip: Doug brought his ukelele and played for the kids. He gave a concert on Wednesday night and then again on Sunday afternoon. They listened attentively to this new instrument. It was the first time they'd seen a guitar of any sorts. They do have instruments that look like a hand-held harp....but nothing like a ukelele. I know I've pointed out a lot of firsts but I guess that is the nature of things when westerners move into third-world countries. We are often the ones who expose people to those things outside their worldviews. As it happens, the Ik children want to remember the ukelele. I hadn't heard a word from them about it, but just today I saw a piece of wood that had been shaped into a guitar form with strings attached to the front. It was proudly slung over a child's shoulder and they proudly played a tune for me. Only eleven days, but our visitors have left a legacy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Peace Talks



In March I had the privilege of attending a peace gathering between the Karamojong, Turkana, and Ik. I don't know much about it, but apparently these talks have been held at various times throughout history, perhaps when the inter-tribal raiding and killing reached an unbearable level. This particular gathering was organized by an NGO who invited members of all three tribes, plus government officials of all kinds. According to the Ik, it was clearly a big day, something to be anticipated and definitely not missed.

The context for the meeting was that the Kenyan government had formally asked the Ugandan government to let Turkana bring their livestock across the border in search of water and grass. If they can't come across, as they've done for years, many of the animals and some of the people would die. Normally they just come, without permission, toting their guns to protect their animals from the Karamojong. But since the Karamojong have been largely disarmed, the Ugandan government is requiring the Turkana to also leave their guns in Kenya.


The meeting basically went like this. Six hours past the official starting time, the formal introductions began. Then, an Ik elder was invited to speak. He said the Ik don't have guns and the Ik don't raid. He said the Ik want the Karamojong and Turkana to make peace. Then a Turkana warrior got up to speak. He said the Turkana have stopped raiding for some time, but the Karamojong keep coming down to Kenya to raid. Then a string of government and military officials gave speeches. The Karamojong bore the brunt of the accusations. All the people were sitting roughly according to tribe, and the Karamojong section was defiantly silent (did they know that during the actual meeting, a group of Karamojong warriors had descended the escarpment to raid the less-guarded Turkana cows?).


With all the formalities out of the way, the dances began, with the colorfully dressed Turkana women leading the festivities. Since it was late evening by then, we had to go and so missed the big meal at the end (which, I confess, was one of the reasons I wanted to go!) It was good to identify with my Ik companions, though. Normally, as a foreigner, I am offered special treatment, such as getting food first with all the 'big people'. This time, I sat with the Ik as one of them and didn't get any food, just as they didn't. We drove home hungry but happy.

Will there be peace? Sadly, I have little confidence in that. As I said, the Karamojong raided the Turkana during the peace meeting, and a couple weeks later, some Turkana shot an Ik boy on the trail. But hopefully, with more outside exposure and more government involvement, the cases of violence will decrease.

One government official gave an impassioned speech, saying the only way to have lasting peace is EDUCATION. I can think of a few examples where that is not true (Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, to mention a couple). No, peace cannot come about merely through a change of mind, but through a change of heart. And that is not something we as humans can effect on our own.