Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last days and reflections

I am sitting on the balcony of my hotel room here in Kampala right now. The equatorial sun is beating down and “doing wonders for my sunburn.” Time to pause, reflect, and talk about the last few days here.

We finished our sampling and analysis with no issues. We got done in time so that the girls could work in the hospital on Wednesday and go to the Ibanda orphanage on Thursday. Alana said she wanted to adopt 10 of those kids. I can understand completely. Despite coming back filthy with scrubs covered with urine and other “stuff”, everyone had a remarkable time with those kids. Me? I finished up the lab work on those days, and assisted with some “handyman” duties around the hospital – helping “make whiteboards, hanging jury-rigged racks for the charts in each ward. Just a little bit here and there to help out.

The brief period of time I spent on each ward made me realize something. I do not think I would have been a very good MD. For those of you who don’t know, I was hardcore pre-med track until a few of the weedout courses at Wittenberg knocked me back a few steps. In listening to the nurses one night, I think Ashley asked how they dealt with the fact that they had to deal with sick and potentially dying kids everyday. They said “you have to try to get used to it or it will tear you up.” I don’t know if I would want to or could get used to something like that. By my count 6 kids died at the hospital during our stay. I know in light of the tragedy in Haiti, this number is small, even minuscule. To me it is still 6 too many.

The next question I am grappling with is am I doing enough to help the community here. Yeah, we test the water. Yes, we will probably get a publication from it in the future. We help small select groups get assistance to help their water problems. Seeing the hospital filled with those kids and you wonder if there is not a better way to help. Just some of the thoughts going through my head, as I readily acknowledge that I am not the right person to be here. They need a microbiologist with experience in quantifying bacterial and virus loads. I hope Kris becomes that person, but he will be starting a new job in the fall and getting ready for a Ugandan adventure in your first year as a faculty member borders on crazy…

I have some pondering to do in the next few months.

Well, we are now home. By the time we finished packing the bus and all that fun stuff, I never had time to sit down and finish this in Uganda. Our drive from Mbarara was uneventful in the fact that we survived. If anyone ever feels they need to find religion, I will take you to Uganda and let our driver take you around. You will probably pray more in that hour or so than you have in your entire life. Driving in Uganda is a mix of testosterone/machismo, Death Race 2000 (for those of you who grew up in the 80’s) where you get points for coming so close to cars and pedestrians without hitting them, and the chaos of Times Square at rush hour during a blackout. We got stuck in the shopping district of Kampala on a Friday at 5 pm …I have never seen so many people. Some of the girls wanted to get out, but no, that could not happen. Too easy to get lost, and too easy to miss the bus again. I know a few folks who went on the trip might disagree with me, but the chaos of the area and our lack of familiarity with rush hour and the layout of the streets made me say no.

Our nights back at Thomas Moore House – now renamed Bibiana’s Hotel – were calm with some poker, scattegories, and other games. Carrie beat me in our poker game on Friday night when she hit her two outer on the river to stay alive and cripple my chip stack. I let her bask in her glory and served her with a nice Nile Special (one of the local beers) on Saturday after rafting.

Rafting the Nile:

One word – WOW! We departed Bibiana’s about 8 am on Saturday for a 2 hour ride past Jinja to Adrift Adventures. We got organized into boats and I was together with Jen, Lilit, Mary, Michelle, Sara, Linh, Erin, and Caroline. The boat crews were named Alpha, Babe, and Charlie – we were the Babe boat, and we all ended up with knick names. Mine was “Babe Wrangler.” We had a good group for this adventure.

We departed Adrift about 10:30 am and went through training – how to paddle, how to get down and hold on, how to get back into the boat, and how to flip the raft over when we capsized. We were actually on the White Nile that originates in Lake Victoria. The water was surprisingly clean in appearance – it did not have the chocolate milkshake texture of the Rwizi River, and the water was clear to about 10 feet.

During the training to get back in the boat, I had my biggest downer of the whole trip. I lost my wedding ring into the Nile. I was an idiot. They had warned us not to bring things of value. I thought about leaving my ring on at least three different occasions that morning. Once before we left the hotel – but that is how my ring got stolen in Jamaica, and twice before heading down to the river from the bus. I did not feel it was that secure. From now on, the next replacement I get is never going with me on a field expedition. Not worth it…

I was able to set the loss of the ring aside. As I thought about it on the raft, I was thinking, I may never do this again…I had to enjoy the day for all it was worth. We had five major rapids to go through – 4 class 5’s and one that was a class 6 that we avoided the class 6 portion of the rapid. Our guide told us that even the experienced raft guides do not do that portion of the river. They may do it in a single kayak, but never with rookies like us.

The final score for our rafting trip for our crew – we completely overturned once and on one rapid, Michelle and I were thrown completely out of the raft. As we went down the rapids, we hit the left side of the raft on a huge wave and our raft nearly went to 65 to 70 degree angle, with Michelle and I on the far right side of the boat at the front two positions. It went into slow motion for me – we were down at the bottom of the boat, paddles tucked under the arm that was holding on to the rope around the raft to keep them from hitting others on the boat. When we hit, I felt my legs and butt suddenly flying through the air, going over my head, and I flipped around my arm that was secure with the rope. Suddenly there I was, under water still holding on to the raft. Michelle was hauled into the boat first and I was close behind because there was another rapid coming our way. I figure that Michelle and I getting thrown from the boat actually prevented the raft from capsizing, because the high side of the raft was now heavier, and fell back down as it came off the wave.

Our full capsizing adventure was another rapid where we hit a similar wave. This time I was on the high side of the raft as it went up the wave, and off I went, still holding on, feeling the raft come over with me. Of the 10 of us on the raft (including our guide Camo), 8 of us held on and got the raft flipped quickly. Lilit and Sara went for a ride down the rapids in their life jackets and got picked up quickly by the “rescue kayaks”. Adrift was amazing, being well prepared for any eventuality to make the trip as successful as possible. I highly recommend them!

Anita’s raft was not as lucky as ours – overturning 3 or 4 times during our trip. Anita was worn out at the end, and has decided that she has rafted the Nile, and does not have to do it again. Still, she did an amazing job! The only minor annoyance of the whole trip was the fact that each boat guide seemed to talk about how the other boats were taking the “mild” routes through the rapids and WE (he man – thump chest) were the only ones riding the ”5’s”. The truth of the matter is that the lines we took through the rapids were not very different from each other. I think it was mostly a matter of luck – like Michelle and I flying out before the raft could completely overturn – as to whether or not the raft capsized. I do think that our boat was lucky in that we all became strong enough paddlers that we were able to paddle through one of the rapids when we went over Bujagali Falls to actually make it over the falls where our guide wanted us to go. The other boats had issues in that they were not able to paddle strong enough and they got caught up on rocks around the falls. When we do it again next year, we will more evenly distribute weight, size, and strength to keep things more even. Anita’s boat only had 5 people in it, and it made paddling the long stretches of our 31kilometer trip more exhausting for them.

We arrived home, got dinner and most everyone passed out. My new poker student Lilit and I played for a little while, with other people coming and going from the game as we played. Believe it or not, she actually called me evil at one point when I bluffed her. Following the third bluff, she started swearing at me in Armenian! Way too funny.

Sunday was our trip to the craft market, packing and off to the airport. I think we supported the Ugandan economy for that day… We said our goodbyes to Fiona and Carol (two of the girls from Mbarara who came to Kampala) and got ready to go. Let me tell you, security is becoming no fun. The Entebbe Airport was its usual self with 2 x-ray machines, but the kicker was the fact that British Airways now only allows one carry-on bag! Apparently that changed since we left…thanks for telling us! My ticket agent would not give me my boarding passes until I proved to him that I could fit my backpack into my rolling carry-on! What really peeved me was that other folks got to take their two bags on with no problems!

Our flight to Heathrow was uneventful, other than leaving an hour late and everyone got a bit of sleep – I think I got 3 hours, the only 3 hours of sleep I would get between waking up at 7 am on Sunday morning and going to bed last night at 9 pm San Diego time (Monday) which was really 8 am Tuesday Uganda time! Instead of being able to just pass to our next gate at Heathrow, we had to go through Immigration and a full security screen again! I was screwed because I had repacked my carry-on as if I would not need it again – computer buried at the bottom, poker chips used to hold gifts in place. I got everything out of my bag (finally), and the security guy uses my bag to educate a relatively new scanner technician about poker chips and the scanners! Throw on top of that, the stone jewelry box I bought Emily showed up as an item of interest on the scanner. My bag ended up empty with everything, including dirty laundry being re-x-rayed individually! It is actually a good thing I had my backpack there. Audrey and Geoffrey had to use my bag to check the booze they bought in the Entebbe Duty Free! From now on, no booze purchases in Entebbe unless you have your own bag to check it in with in London!

Security in London was intense. My guess is the various intelligence services had some warning or other. Everyone was individually screened, frisked, and had their bags searched before boarding the plane. Due to this, we left more than an your late even though boarding started over an hour before departure! The flight home was long, filled with card playing and movies. I did not sleep, except for the last 20 minutes until we landed. The flight at the end was rough due to the weather over the western US. Otherwise, the trip was smooth and we got home to USD by 6:30 pm, which is amazing seeing as we left London an hour late. US Customs was in full profile mode. Any non-US passport from an Asian or Middle Eastern country went through a full X-ray of their bags and sometimes more. We got through quickly and were out by 3:45 pm (we landed at 2:30 pm!).

So that is it. It was an amazing trip from start to finish. We had our ups and downs all along the way, but it is amazing to watch people evolve over this two week experience. I would travel with any of these folks again! To the entire crew of students from the nursing programs, it was really great to get to know you, and I am glad I was able to be part of that experience with you. To Ashley, Denise, and Alana – thanks for all the hard work! I hope you got as much out of this experience as I did.

To those of you who read this, thanks! I hope we gave you a sense of what it was like and what we went through. I will be back again next year.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 – safaris, sampling, and support…

I know I know, it has been a while since I have written, but we have been busy and with limited internet access. This will probably be LOOOOONNNNNGGGGGG….

Safari –

We left Friday afternoon about 1 pm, on time! This means we left early by Ugandan standards. But…we did not account for stopping for gas and sodas…We finally got to the safari park about 4:30 pm. Bad news time…Father B did not make our reservations until late…No safari jeeps available for Friday evening or Saturday morning. We arrived too late to take advantage of the evening boat tours, and it was too late to make reservations for chimp trekking the next day…let’s just say the natives got restless, and this led to some of drama that ensued. Imagine a room of 25 highly motivated, successful, independent people…yeah…people started to try to make their own arrangements, which were confusing to the hotel staff because they had already given us all the information for all the safari companies. On the good news side of things…Anita was able to reserve 3 jeeps for a Saturday night tour and two jeeps for a Sunday morning tour, so all of us would get the safari experience.

We checked into our rooms and enjoyed hot showers and multiple beverages. Dinner was wonderful and we had a quiet night around the pub watching the bats come to the windows to take the gnats and other bugs that had arrived.

Saturday morning was a beautiful wake up to the sun rising over Lake Edward and a wonderful buffet breakfast. Anita was able to make chimp trekking reservations for 11 of us. Anita selected myself, Mike, Mike, Mary, Father B and Rosemary to go, the others were chosen in a lottery. I gave up my slot for the chimp trekking figuring I would be back next year. Ashley took that spot and had a great time. Me…I wanted to see lions…sorry, I like chimps and other primates…but the big cats are more of a fascination for me. I went on the 9 am boat tour and the 4 pm sunset safari.

The boat tour was great once again. Not many elephants but I have never seen the hippos that close to the boat. Near the end of the tour, one rose up out of the water about 5 feet away from the boat and gave a giant exhale…shower time for me…well, more of a light misting…The entire crew of 20 who were with me had a great time! I saw the biggest croc on the shore…probably 15 feet long…between the hippos and crocs, no one wanted to fall overboard!

Our sunset safari started with a bang. We were about 6 km from the resort and there was a herd of about 20 elephants with some very small babies. One of the mothers was about 15 feet from our jeep, and she snorted a few times to let her displeasure be known about our presence. They went about their business and we moved on for other adventures. We saw water buffalo, kob and a few waterbuck. The most excitement occurred (pardon the pun) at the mating ground for the kob. Several males were crashing heads and trying to win over the females. Our trip was nearing its end with no lions…well except for the time that Alana yelled “LION!” at the sight of 4 kob off in the distance. Vincent (our driver and guide – I have been in his jeep each of the past 2 years and he did not fail me then and he would not fail us now!) said that he had much better eyes and he would find us lions. And he did. I have no idea how he saw them. They were 300 meters or so off the track and the guide and UWA ranger (Uganda Wildlife Authority) could not see them with their binoculars. Vincent convinced the ranger that he was right and he would prove it by us driving out there, with the rangers permission of course (this is “illegal”). Off we went and after about 3 minutes, there they were – 2 females, 3 juveniles, and 4 cubs…amazing! We spent about 15 minutes there and the other jeeps from our group soon joined us. We did have a bit of an ugly American moment when several folks were making cat noises at the lions and one person was going “here kitty kitty kitty”. This ended up annoying the other people in the jeeps next to us who were trying to film the event. I think we were in the wrong when we started detracting from someone else’s pleasure. After all, I am sure they paid a fair amount to do this too!

We returned to the hotel for hot showers and dinner. When we arrived we found out that one of the other jeeps saw a herd of elephants near the same spot that we had seen them earlier. One big problem…it was dark. The mother elephant was in it’s defensive position again, and of course our friends wanted pictures. Take home lesson – NEVER USE FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY WITH AN ELEPHANT WITHIN 20 FEET OF YOUR JEEP! They got charged and had nowhere to go. The elephant ran down the side of the jeep within inches of it. I really hope the video can be enhanced, but they literally felt the jeep shake as she charged by.

Saturday night was the party in Mike & Mike’s room that led to more drama. One of the nurses wanted to leave early. She was one of six in one of the cottages that were “off site.” They were on the other side of the road, and to be honest, we were in the middle of the freaking Rift Valley! Lions, elephants, hippos all frequent the compound at some time or another. We never leave singly! She did, got scared and came back. This person was also in my jeep and paranoid that the lions were going to jump into the jeep while we were there. To make a long story short, she panicked and demanded another room within the compound at the front desk. The details are sketchy, but Anita was not pleased because she was not to be found until almost 11 am on Sunday!

I awoke after leaving the party (at some point between 10 pm and 2 am ;-) for our 6:30 am morning safari. I was lucky enough to get Vincent again as the guide of our jeep. We were barely 3 km outside of the compound and there comes this big lioness, straight at us…We watched her for a bit and Vincent’s phone goes off…500 meters up the road are two BIG!! Male lions walking right down the middle of the road! Talk about impressive! This safari was as good as the evening safari. We saw two more lions later and tons of kob and water buffalo. We ended our morning with a train of elephants (about 20) crossing the road right behind our jeep to get down to the river…amazing.

Sampling –

We returned to Montfort House that afternoon in an uneventful drive. The biggest issue and one we are still facing is that everyone is fighting some sort of intestinal ailment! At dinner on Sunday night, I knew that Ashley, Denise, and Alana were not feeling well, so I arranged for two nurses to come with, just in case. Monday morning dawned and Ashley and Denise were functional, but Alana had some issues, so she stayed behind then helped us in the lab later that day.

Our sampling went well and was completed 90 minutes faster than last week. That was because we did not try to hunt down our original site DS3. We got back and got organized to begin analyzing our latest samples. It was about 1:45 pm after lunch, and I was headed toward the shower to rinse the mud and muck from our 5 mile trek off of me, when Anita says “Father B just called – Brother Leonard will be here at 2 pm to take you to Water and Sewage.” All thoughts of a leisurely shower (which was cold anyway) disappeared as I went into sprint mode. The girls needed assignments and directions for the afternoon! As I was in the shower, my brain started going – ok, whom am I meeting with? I knew I wanted to get samples in the river upstream and down stream of the town, but would they be able to find me a driver/guide? After a quick 3 minute shower and putting on my Ugandan Sunday Best, which was dirty from the safari park, I headed on to Anita’s room to ask who I was meeting with and what we were doing. Anita called Father B and found out that I was meeting with Mr. David Opoka (Director of the Region) and we were then going sampling…needless to say, I was dressed for neither! I grabbed Denise and we packed my backpack with all our essentials – GPS, multimeter, sampling bottles, sharpies, etc. We got into Brother Leonard’s car and off we went. Obviously he was misnamed at birth. He should be Brother Leadfoot…I would have given anything for the panic brake found in drivers ed cars…

We arrived at the Water and Sewage building and we went in to Mr. Opoka’s office where we were greeted by his receptionist. I introduced myself and told her about Father Boneventure’s enquiries for us, and that we were to meet with Mr. Opoka. One tiny tiny problem…David Opoka was in Kampala for the week…insert explicative here…

We FINALLY met the CFO of Water and Sewage, and I went through the pleasantries that accompany these sorts of formal meetings in Uganda. When I suggested sampling, I told him I knew it was very short notice and that we would be happy to do it next year. He went for that, and that I have to submit a proposal for such work. We were done in about 15 minutes, but it was draining.

Support –

Monday was also the first day back for the nurses as well, and reality had not changed during our amazing weekend, and three babies from the previous week had died or were close to death. On top of this, deadlines loomed as the nurses began putting workshop materials together for the end of this week. Anita pulled me aside after dinner – it was pep talk time. We spent the better part of an hour talking about how they were benefitting the hospital and how this experience was changing them for the better as health practitioners. They needed it. Many had positives and negatives they wanted to bring up, but it was a cathartic experience…perhaps more important that the weekend away.

So that is a wrap for now. I am sure I left things out. The next few days will be busy at the hospital, but we are almost done with the water sampling. Ashley, Denise and Alana are off to the hospital tomorrow to help the nurses in any way as they wrap up. Hard to believe we will be home soon…but then again, I dreamt about a double double last night…time for bed

‘g’night all

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 8, 2010 – Bosco’s Pig Roast

Well, our first week is drawing to a close. Highlights:

1) We got our sampling and analysis done!

2) This whole group is amazing. This group of people, particularly the nursing students are so diverse, but get along so well, and are amazingly driven/lively/insane…I must admit, this is the craziest bunch of people I have ever gone on a trip with.

3) No one has gotten ill.

4) Bosco made his famous pig roast for us last night!


1) Reality…

The infants that I mentioned earlier are still hanging on, but without much hope. I was able to sit in on the hospital’s board meeting yesterday. They see 60-70% of their cases as malaria, with other endemic diseases making up a significant portion of the rest. They also get trauma cases ranging from burns to poison ingestions. Last, they feel that about 1/3rd – yes, 33% - of the cases that come in are infections caused by an overlying, undiagnosed HIV/AIDS infection. The laws here in Uganda indicate that doctors do not have to tell a patient about HIV infection unless a counselor is present due to the stigma still attached to that disease. Many doctors take the easy way out, no counselor present, they do not have to be the bearer of bad news.

In many ways, the hospital is doing amazingly well for only having opened in July. There are issues that need to be addressed – housing for the staff, getting rid of the standing water on the property, defining a true mission and aspirational goals. They could become the premier hospital in Uganda…the question is where will the money come from to do this and how will this become a sustainable enterprise?

Everyone here is holding up well. Our nightly happy hours allow people to vent and let out the frustrations of a system that we do not really understand, to deal with the experiences of the day, and to gear up for the next day. We are off to Queen Elizabeth Safari Park today…everyone is very excited for this trip. I am unsure which treks I want to do. I have not seen the chimps, but watching people experience their own Discovery Channel show is pretty fun to watch.

Mike and Mike leave on Sunday, and their enthusiasm will be missed. On that note, I am off to clean up the lab before we leave. Hasta Lunes!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1/6/10 Why we are here – a reality check

The past 24 hours have been a tremendous example of why we are here. It is very easy from our perspective as the “scientists” to get distracted away from the true issues at hand in Uganda. Seeing the amazingly cute little kids running up to you and saying “Mzungu! How you?” is disarming and gives you a sense of optimism. That is until you remember it is malaria season. I am sitting in my room enjoying an African thunderstorm as rainy season winds to a close. Any standing water is ripe with malaria bearing mosquitoes. We have nets, malarone, insect repellent, our neighbors don’t.

Monday ended with Geoff being present when a father stopped by to pick up his baby, with the baby’s coffin. He/she had passed away at the hospital that day. The little white bundle on the table was not the mannequin the nurses thought it was…it was the infant. Yesterday had two critical admissions of two infants with malaria or other endemic diseases. People do not come to the hospital until it is very late for any intervention. One infant had a two hour long seizure, and for all intents and purposes was brain dead. We assume he passed in the night, but we have not heard yet. The other toddler’s head and face were swollen from some unknown issue. This morning the docs were trying to determine if the infant’s airway was being compromised by the swelling.

Yesterday ended with the nursing students, faculty, and the doctors venting and discussing all sorts of ethical issues. The Ugandans put their resources where there is likelihood of success…meaning that for the infant with the seizure, there was no critical intervention as they waited for it to pass on. Our nursing students are indoctrinated into our fight at any cost mentality of medicine, giving the most resources to the most ill patient. It was amazingly difficult for them to stand there and watch this baby die. Does our neurosurgeon perform surgery on a baby with a neural tube defect? There is no follow up care, none of the special medications or treatments required for such a surgery. The patient will die without those treatments after surgery. The patient will die without the surgery. Should it even be attempted? A great deal of beer was consumed last night as everyone tried to come to grips with what they have seen and experienced….and this is only the 3rd day.

I wonder what more we can do. We can help by testing the water, but there needs to be funding to have a person do it weekly. Where will that come from when the hospital charges 5000 shillings for the doctor’s consultation – about $2.50, and many cannot afford that. The hospital has a monthly operating budget of $25,000. Most of it comes from the Holy Innocents Foundation and other organizations, but how do we help them make it their hospital?

Sorry for the rant. Just wanted to let you know that life here was not all hiking, poker, and shenanigans. The shenanigans are going to be important to keep everyone “sane” for the next 10 days. So much to do in so little time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Just finished lunch on our first sampling adventure. Been a while since I have done 5+ miles with several liters of water on my back. Gonna need the Flexall 454 tonight!

I left off when we were getting ready to leave Kampala. As usual, the ride was,….hmmmm, not sure how to put this politely….well, if I can’t say anything nice, I won’t say anything at all… Although I do think I saw the 7th gate of Hell at the bottom of one of the potholes we ran over. Yeah, I was an idiot, I sat in the front seat on the passenger side again. Guess I like to get the adrenaline rush as we play chicken with the oncoming truck running down the center of the road. I will drive in many places, I will NEVER drive in Uganda…

We stopped briefly at the equator for pictures and a bathroom break. No shopping this year. We are going to hit the craft bazaar in Kampala on our way back. As we passed the Zebra Park, we saw….ZEBRAS! They were off in the distance but we could see them well. We also saw a waterbuck in a mudhole by the side of the road.

We got settled into Montfort house about 4 pm, so it was only a 6 hour ride. The folks riding with John, the head hospital administrator ended up with a flat, and arrived a bit later. We chilled that night, although chilled is not the right word. Several folks passed out from the time change and rearranged body clocks at about 6 pm. There was trash talking running amuck that I was going down in poker…more on that later. It ended up a quiet night with most everyone in their rooms by 9 pm, except for Alana, who pounded on my door at 10:30 to celebrate her grade in Pchem!

Monday was our tour of the now functioning hospital and meeting the architects. We spent the morning getting oriented and then headed back for lunch. We spent the afternoon setting up the lab, and then Anita made a mistake…she sent me out to buy more beer…

We went into town with Dennis (the driver for the hospital) Fiona (one of the Montfort House staff), and Mike Lynch (one of the directors from the US). Mike tried to negotiate a discount at the two beer vendors where we stopped. I think, no, I know his sense of humor was lost on them. At the second beer vendor, we got a pint of Waragi, the gasoline, I mean banana gin of Uganda. It was gone within 20 minutes of our return to Montfort house! OK OK, remember, there are 25 of us and many of the “newbies” tried it to get a sense of local “flavor.”

The night ended with the first poker game of the trip. I taught a couple of the nurses how to play. Of course, I ended up winning. One nurse, Lilit kept yelling at me for folding when I knew I was beat. “How do you expect me to win any chips if you keep folding?” That was hilarious, especially when she started swearing at me in Armenian. Several other nurses had talked some trash, so expect more poker stories later.

We were out the door by 7 am this morning to do our sampling. The river was amazingly high, and the clearest I have ever seen it. We hiked to our farthest down stream site first and got our water samples. Along the way Ashley and Mike got into a discussion about religion in society. Mike is a conservative Catholic and Ashley is not…Let’s just say it was amusing listening to them going back and forth. At our DS4 site, we picked up a bit of an entourage. The really cool thing is that the local government has built a bridge for the locals to cross the river there. It used to be the site of the water taxi (canoe) service. Mike and Mike headed back to Montfort and we continued on with a young (16’ish) woman in trail, who spoke no English. We headed down the road to the right, hoping to find the trail to DS3. Nope! But what we did find was several new houses, and these are amazing houses…even for US standards! Our friend started laughing at us as I wondered around trying to figure out a way with our GPS to get back to another main trail. She started talking to me, and I have no idea what she said, but I am pretty sure it was “the crazy mzungu are lost!” One of the men who lives in that area directed us to a small side trail that got us back up to the road we should have taken.

Our adventures did not end there. We found the waypoints for site 3, and were promptly deadended by the tremendous overgrowth that has taken place. If I had a machete, we could have gotten through, but would you trust me with a large sharp knife? We back tracked to the alternate site that Matt, Joel and I found last year and were able to get our samples from there…it only took us an hour to get from site 4 to site 3…even though they are only 500 meters apart!

Site 2 and site 1 were pretty uneventful as was getting to our upstream site. But, I think all of us had screaming legs and sore backs by the time we got back. We have since taken a break for lunch and are ready to start a fecal filtering fiesta. Once we get that done, we will filter the larger volumes of water for nutrient and other analyses. Tonight, more poker, tomorrow lab time!

Take care all!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ugandan Arrival

We have arrived safely in Kampala, and apparently we have brought with us the first sunny day in about a month. The rainy season has held on, which should make water sampling an interesting proposition in terms of result. I expect the fecals to be high due to the runoff…gloves gloves gloves and hand sanitizer!

We departed San Diego about 3 pm on the 31st. We went to LAX on a SunDiego Charter bus, which was actually quite empty, except for underneath with all of our luggage. With 25 of us, I doubt we could haul all of our bags if everyone took one trip. We arrived at LAX and got checked in relatively quickly. Security was high, especially with any unattended back for more than 30 seconds had a security agent swoop down and ask whom it belonged. Our 3 hour stay at LAX passed by quickly in the restaurant/lounge area of the Bradley International Terminal. There was one waitress for about 15 tables and at least 50 patrons…talk about bitter!

We boarded our flight to London about an hour late – the plane had arrived at LAX about an hour late from its previous flight. It was full! I sat next to an English couple that slept for about 8 hours of the 9 hour flight! Oh, I envied them. I think I dozed in and out for about 40 minutes. I watched 3 movies (District 9, 500 Days of Summer, and Public Enemies) and listened to one of my poker podcasts. We were pretty well scattered through the plane, so I did not see much of our group during the flight. Immigration in London was straight forward, and we got checked into the Marriott by 6 pm. Dinner and an attempt to call it a night.

Geoff – one of the nursing students – is Australian and did an undergraduate degree in London, so he went out to catch up with some of his local friends. He made it back to the room about 1:30 am, and promptly missed his bed when he tried to lay down to go to sleep! Much hilarity ensued. Geoff seems like a great guy which is good because when Mike and Mike (the neurosurgeon and the contractor – both hospital board members) leave, Geoff and I will be the entire male contingent of our group of 23!

Our flight to Entebbe was uneventful and fast! The flight only took 7.5 hours! I sat next to Anita and we passed the time playing rummy (we are tied one game apiece) and watching movies. I watched “The Hangover.” I was either very tired or it was a surprisingly funny movie! My trips to Vegas are usually stuck in a poker room, but I know I see the guys described in this movie on every trip. I think that made it funnier!

Our only hiccup in the trip was when we arrived in Entebbe. We gathered all of our bags, and a Customs official asked to see our import permits for the meds that Anita was bringing in for the hospital. We have never needed import permits before, but Anita eventually got it figured out…it only cost us two blonde students…JOKING!!! Although Alana has already gotten a phone number from one Ugandan suitor.

So while this was going on, I led the troops to load the bus. 25 people, each with two large checked bags…each with a larger carryon and a handbag of some sort. There will be pictures of how packed the bus is. Let’s just say that if Father B had not been able to get another truck for today, it was going to be a very long 6 hour drive to Mbarara. The drive from Entebbe to our hotel room was uncomfortable, and let’s just say that the concept of personal space is long gone. But, it is all good. We are here and ready to start our drive to Mbarara after Mass. With the extra cars, we should have a bit of legroom and have some bit of comfort…for those Uganda trip veterans out there, the seats are thinner, the engine runs hotter, and the shocks are a distant memory…I hope the potholes are fixed…

Rmor has it that Rosemary has procured an international broadband card that works here, so hopefully we will be able to post more often. No promises, but we will see…

Take care and love to all. A belated Happy 2010 to you all!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane...

Well, we leave tomorrow. Things might get a wee bit crazy. Anita and I are concerned about the new security inspections and we are wondering if we have to leave earlier than 3 pm. We shall see.

My pretrip stressies come and go. Yesterday was pretty stressful. Kaiser (my health care provider) finally got back to me. They "thought" they had called me on the 16th. Nope...I spent about 2 hours yesterday getting my malarone (bring on the crazy dreams!), cipro (hope I don't have to use that), and getting 3 shots - H1N1, a new tetanus booster, and typhoid...who knew that only lasts 2 years. I could not get the seasonal flu vaccine because apparently you cannot get two live virus vaccines at the same time...at least with the nasal spray flu vaccination. I was talking to the nurses, and the one brings me a huge handful of masks...to avoid the seasonal flu. My kids say I am a schmoozer...hmmmm....

So my goal for the day is to finish packing - everything is laid out - submit a few last minute letters of rec, call my 'rents before I leave, and enjoy a bit of poker. I think I am going to get a nice big steak for the grill for tonight...that will be the last really good beef for the next three weeks or so...

So check this occasionally. I do not know how much internet access I will have in Mbarara. Last year there was none, the first year was pretty good. If I can put up quick posts, I will. If not, I will upload a whole bunch on the 19th during our layover in London.

Go Chargers! I hope the bowl games wind up in total confusion so the BCS has no choice but to actually have a national championship tourney. Have a safe New Year!