Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Gift of Life

This morning, as the sun was breaking through the early morning clouds, throwing a golden light on the ground, Ana, our cow, gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After an hour and a half of heavy breathing and strained mooing, Camille was born. I did not watch the birth, but I did see the calf shortly thereafter. She is a much smaller version of her mother, with the same coloring and build, and absolutely adorable. The gift of life is a glorious thing.

This week has been full of adventures. On Sunday, Kristen was diagnosed with malaria and so she has been staying in Mukono with Georgia and Njeri. She has recovered now though she is still very tired. Heidi and Raymond left on Wednesday morning to meet Heidi’s family and travel. I have been left to hold down the fort, feeding the chickens, making yogurt in the evening and morning, in addition to my daily activities at the schools.

At St. John Bosco, we, the students and I, have finished the gardens except for actually planting the eggplant and sukuma wiki (collard greens). However, I have led the students in planting the seeds in make-shift nursery beds made out of cut water bottles. Once the seeds have germinated, we will transfer them to the gardens. I have left a few members of the P5 class with the responsibility of watering the plants and storing them at night. Some of the seeds have already sprouted and so we are all very hopeful. I have also been teaching the P3 class at St. John Bosco. It’s amazing how different the schools I work with are. I feel that the 70 students in this P3 class understand my English better than the 47 students in my P5 class at Katosi C/U. However, all of the students I work with are very bright and we all recognize the difficulty my accent poses for them. Patience is virtue.

Tomorrow is Keep Katosi Clean Day. I have been spending much time preparing for this event. The Katosi C/U Sanitation Club is hosting a community-wide cleaning day where groups of students, each led by a teacher, will go around the community cleaning rubbish and promoting good sanitation and hygiene. This week we have made posters, students have written short speeches that they will read to the audience at the end of the ceremony, and a group of students have even created a drama production on sanitation. Christopher, the head teacher of the Sanitation Club, and I have delivered letters to key officials in the community asking for their support. We have also gone around to local businesses asking for donations. The Headmaster wrote an announcement that has been read over the community intercom everyday since Thursday advertising our activity and encouraging all citizens to join us. This day will also mark the end of the Inter-class Sanitation Competition. For the past month, P1-P7 have been competing to be the class with the cleanest classroom, compound area, and personal hygiene. As the judge, I have randomly gone and judged the classes on these three areas, awarding points based on how clean and sanitary they are. Yesterday, Christopher and I went to the market and bought prizes for the top two classes who will be recognized at the Keep Katosi Clean Ceremony tomorrow. Every term, Katosi will continue the Inter-class Sanitation Competition in order to maintain a healthy school ground and to improve the health of the students.

On Monday, Heidi and I visited the Nakisunga women’s group, the newest of the thirteen KWDT groups. We taught a group of twenty members how to bake the basic yellow cake. It is quite the ordeal considering we baked it over a three stone stove with the wind blowing around it. The three stone stove is made with three large rocks creating a base for the cooking pot. Firewood is placed under the pot and between the stones to heat the pots. To build our oven, we put a second pot facedown on top of the first. It took over two hours to bake the cake instead of the typical 40 minutes, but this did not stop the women and few men from being extremely excited. Once, as we took the top pot off to check on the progress of the cake, the women tried to put on the icing! Once it was ready, it was thoroughly enjoyed by all members.

Heidi and I stayed the night with Ester Margaret, the treasurer of the Nakisunga group, and an absolutely lovely, hospitable lady. I admire her for her strength and her devotion to her life. Ester Margaret has been married fourteen years to a kind, understanding man and yet she has not born any children. In a society where children are the symbol of wealth and prosperity, Ester Margaret and her husband have remained strong together. Five years ago, Ester Margaret was in a vehicle accident, and since then, she has been having pains in her chest and stomach. Although her chest pains have been relieved, her stomach pains are getting worse. The results from a scan reveal a spot in her side, possibly in her uterus, which may explain why she cannot get pregnant. The pain prevents her from carrying heavy items, including jerry cans of water. She is thus no longer able to fetch water, an activity crucial to survival in the area as it is the only way to access water. (KDWT has graciously allowed her to take out a loan to build a water tank at her house. The tank is finished and has been helping her enormously over the past year or two.) Now, she is faced with making a decision about surgery. The surgery would be quite expensive and finding the money will prove difficult. Additionally, she is also afraid of the surgery, but she values her life and desires to have children. I know that she will do what is right for her, and if she chooses to have the surgery, she and her husband will find a way to make it happen. She left us with a phrase she holds close to her heart: “Don’t tell people your problems because 1/3 will laugh at you, 1/4 will not care, and the rest have more problems than you. Tell God, He will listen.” She was not telling us her problems, she was asking for advice and support of which she received both.

Ester Margaret is a woman who fights every day for her health. She is a role model for any woman. She recognizes that life is a gift and that sometimes the choices we have to make are not easy.

I end this blog with the lyrics from a song that we all know but one that has come to have a very dear meaning to me:

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘til I’m going to need somebody to lean on.”

Life is the most precious gift that a person can ever give or receive.


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