Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Two weeks back from the land of blood red soil, still feels like I'm there. Africa has such a rich culture, it isn't easy to put it in the past and move on with your life. It has become a part of me, a part of who I am and I will forever be affected by it. It immediately became clear to me that all of my assumptions and presumptions about Africa were just that and they would be replaced by the beauty of what Africa really is. Every experience, every interaction has made a tremendous impact on me and I remember every detail vividly.

We landed in Entebbe, Uganda on the 3rd of September 2010. The first thing that struck me was the wonderful aroma of burnt wood all through the city. Our driver gave us a quick lesson in Luganda as he drove us to Kampala. Our hotel in Kampala, The Aponye, was wonderful as it offered both hot water and wireless access, both rare commodities, we later came to realize; it explains Carol's excitement as she was privy to the conditions we were headed for. Kampala had an inherent chaos associated with its organization. Despite the chaos, there wasn't a sense of disarray or anxiety about the citizens of the city; they all seemed to be relaxed. I fit right into this sweet mess. We experienced most of the city, short of taking a boda-boda ride; I even got my cell phone unlocked in the midst of all the drama; Carol was impressed!

Once the "A Team" was gathered (Dr. Kay, Dr. Karen, Carol, Jetaun and I) we headed for Gombe. The ride was bumpy, I was glad I had on comfortable clothes! Gombe offered us the bare minimum; basically a few hours of electricity and tubs of water. It was a real, "welcome to my country" moment (please see Karen for an explanation of that line). Despite the scantiness, the hospital staff were enthused and ready to work. Also, the food was delicious even though it was sometimes hard to see what exactly it was that we were eating due to the darkness of the night; hey, they say, mask one of the senses and the other will sharpen to compensate, bon appetit! There was a beautiful funeral ceremony in the village and we got see some of it as we were leaving.

Next stop: Kayunga. This was an interesting place, a lot happened during our five day stay. The hospital staff was overwhelmed which affected their abilities to devote their full attention and energy to PINCC. Meeting and discussions took place in an effort to fix these issues before PINCC's next visit. We were lucky enough to witness a political gathering, and voting polls. It felt like Kayunga doesn't get many visitors because no where else did I hear "mzungu" uttered more. Mzungu
is the southern, central and eastern African term for "person of European descent" Literally translated, it means "white person".

The Katikomu Hotel in Kayunga offered running water, cold showers, great food, and comfortable beds. I think the entire town of Kayunga had but one computer, with dial-up internet service that would lead a person to the brink of madness before it started.

The long ride to Jinja was gorgeous; we left a day early because it was a holiday and the clinic was going to be closed, however Dr. Kay was guilt stricken for leaving and having fun, but our presence there would have served no purpose without a functioning clinic. Jinja was very different from the other cities in Uganda, because there were many tourists visiting the Source of the Nile the city was better accommodated for tourists. We ate at a restaurant which offered cheese cake and brownies for dessert!!! It was like we were in the twilight zone, after such scarce conditions, we were being offered cheese cake!

Enter Fandi! Our host during our stay in Kenya. What a place to stay and what a great host! We didn't want to leave because everything was so wonderful! We spent a few days in Kitale District Hospital, finalizing that site. Dr. Kay donated the equipment, I interviewed the staff and we had a farewell dinner, granted one of the nurses wanted to keep me there to wed her son, but I begged and kindly refused; I must say though, I was quite flattered as mothers-in-law aren't usually supposed to be so kind. We spent a few days in Kapenguria District Hospital in Pokot with Dr. Lydia. It was a brand new site, but it ran so very smoothly. We celebrated Jetaun's birthday, played pop the balloons and ate banana cake, yum, thank you Fandi! Our last night in our guesthouse we watched "Karate Kid" and bid Jetaun and Dr. Karen adieu in the wee hours of the morning and a few hours later Dr. Kay, Carol and I flew to Nairobi.

Like the iron that makes the soil so very red, the women seem to be made of iron exuding extreme strength and resiliency, I was humbled by their capabilities.

What an inspirational trip, what a rewarding experience, what an amazing organization!! I am honored to have had the opportunity to join this group.

Shogik Abramyan

Segment B PINCC East Africa Trip, September 4-September 18, 2010