About Me

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I teach abroad and continue to pursue the life I was given as if it was my last. Many people think it is. In my spare time, I enjoy lapping up ice cream, reading spy novels, and euthanizing manta rays.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A week in November

Hospital anyone?
I hadn’t been feeling all that great this week and needed to see a doctor. Why not add a gash the size of a milk dud while I’m at it?

But this is east Africa and I’m supposed to be fending off wildebeests and adders with fangs the size of John Elway’s front teeth. If I had to go the hospital, I wanted it to be for a crocodile fight or a suicide dragon fly attack, not a coffee mug exploding into the fleshy part of my left palm as I washed dishes. But there it was.

Dan and I walked across campus as dusk fell on Kampala. He insisted on coming. My left hand was wrapped in an orange towel, gushing with fresh blood, soaked in cold tap water and wound tightly against a cauterized bandage that needed replacement.

The Medical Center on campus reminded me of a World War I Army hospital. A nurse with stringy black hair and a marigold house dress walked down a dark corridor with a faint light at the far end of it. She had Gary Shandling’s lips and the gait of John Goodman. There was no doctor. 

“You need one stitch but I can’t do it here. You can go to Banda for it.”
“Banda?” I asked with the fear of God. Going to Banda for anything medical was like going to Pyongyang for a Peace Conference. Dan just shook his head.
Twenty minutes later, I waited for my boda by the back gate as Dan burned brush and mango leaves next to a rotting tree. The sun had just set but already my night was over. 

I spent the next two hours at a British Medical Clinic. Two Serbian men sat to my right, one of them shaking with symptoms of malaria, the other smiling furtively in my direction. 'Be still…’ I thought. 'Be very still.'

An Italian doctor with speckled gray hair talked plainly in her office as I showed her the damage. Minus the peroxide burn, things went smoothly. But smoothly is a relative term. Compared to the convulsing Ugandan women in Bed 4 and Aussie Guy walking in and out of the room with an IV, white slippers and a nightgown, yes. It went smoothly.

By the way, I still teach 

The week of class went well. Owen Henry, a thoughtful, conservative man in his mid forties, opened up to the class about squandering his village’s wealth in his first three weeks in the capital city. He was the first in his village to make it to college and they had a collection for him before he left. Apparently, he went hog wild on candy and electronics. Before he knew what hit him. POOF! If you know Owen Henry - a man old enough to be his classmates' father - you would have died. A gentler man you could not meet.  

Rachel and Ismail continue to write nearly flawless essays. How many smiley faces can one teacher put in the margins. 

Saida, a Muslim girl with gap front teeth and a weave, showed up for the first time on Wednesday. Do I admit her? Should I kick her out? Is there even a precedent for that here? I rang my boss but got no reply.
Two days later, I saw Sister Frances ended the mystery.
“Dr. Okaka is in Thigh-land, Mattayo.”
“Thailand?” I repeated.
“Yes. Thailand. That is how I should pronounce it. How are youuuuuuuu? Are you okayyyyyyyyy?

Sometimes I feel like I'm eleven years old when I talk to Sister Frances. 

(Psssssssssssssst: I'm not)

I had students “teach” their classmates Thursday to review key terms and the vocab they have been studying. Really got to see some talent in front of the class. Many of them are going to be great teachers. Some already have that presence. That it factor. That magical aura. Others shyly approached the board, fumbled the chalk and needed reassuring glances to continue. I would really like to do more of that next semester. Turning these students into teachers is a lot more exciting than lecturing them on the precepts of a five paragraph essay.


Drebin walks in and finds Jane in his kitchen. She's boiling a steak.

Jane: How hot and wet do you like it?
Drebin:  Very hot....and awfully wet.

It has been very hot and awfully wet here too. Thundering as we speak. 
The rainy season is mercifully winding down though, or so the calendar states. The spiders and geckos are out in full force, especially in my kitchen. The very same kitchen is bloodied and battered with cracks and holes and cobwebs and other living things that come out at night. Barking frogs live in the rain puddles next to my porch. Crickets and grasshoppers lie furtively in the elephant grass and maize stalks.

My inner Forrest Gump
I went for a run yesterday morning to get my mind off things. It was overcast. The first real overcast morning without rain in the time I have been here. By the time I had reached the apex of my climb, the city was awash in sunlight. With the slums of Banda and Kireka in the distance, beams of sunlight bounced of the corrugated iron roofs and dust clouds and shards of red granules flew into my eyes as dark Mercedes and taxis sped by.

The last leg of my run, through the shortcut dirt path between campus and Ntinda Road, always brings out the kids. Boys with empty jerry cans run with me until their little legs can’t keep up. They yell, they shout, they smile, the wave sticks trying to get my attention.
“Mzungu, BYE!”
I run past a hut and a garden. Two women stop their hoeing to gaze up at me. I can tell they don’t see too much of the city.

I smile. They smile. I run past them, waving as I turn the corner. 

Then I count to myself: Three…two….one..... 


1 comment:

  1. Oh,awesome. Maybe next time learn to do your own stitches? (hee hee kidding)