Here we go again, Michele, Lynne and I set off on our hitch free journey to Kumi Uganda. The flight went according to plan, the food was tasty and my neighbour spoke about his involvement in albinism. We paid a porter to rescue our baggage off the carousel and transport it through yet another x-ray screening. Gonza, St Stephen’s Hospital driver, was waiting for us and, with the baggage aboard, we set off down the new Exress Highway to Mpererwe where we were to spend the night at Professor Luboga’s home. After a luxury breakfast and a brief visit to St Stephen’s Hospital, we left with Charles, our driver from UDS, who could only crawl through the appalling Kampala traffic having to stop in jams which caused endless disruption and delays. The skies were black and we passed through frequent downpours with rain drops the size of 10p pieces. Extreme patience was needed and we must have breathed in enough toxic fumes to ruin our inner being. Although there are many road improvement works in progress, the city is a nightmare and I can never wait to emerge into the more open countryside. The traffic was heavy with lorries laden with sugar cane and petrol tankers crawling up the hills at a snail’s pace with black smoke belching forth from the exhausts.
At last, we reached Kumi town and the familiar road to the hospital. Our first impression was one of darkness and, through the open door, we could see the supper table laid for thirteen and lit by two candles. The power was off and the solar panel was not functioning! Five little children stood in the puddles to greet us warmly with their big grins thinking about the possible gifts which may be inside our cases. Oh, we are no longer used to groping in the dark since the solar panel was installed and so we were not prepared for the need of our torches deep inside our cases. The eight Dutch medical students and Dr David, the gynaecologist, piled round the table and, before we could do anything, we were enjoying our first meal in the hospital Guest House.
Wednesday morning came all too soon and we were wakened by the cockerels, cows and the delightful dawn chorus of the local birds. The idea of attending Morning Assembly soon passed and we started to sort out our cases bulging with everything but the kitchen sink! I left to walk to the hospital along the path I have trudged for 18 years, usually in the baking sun even at an early hour, but today was overcast and decidedly cool. My thermometer read 22 degrees C and I had goose pimples! First, the workshop where I met Benjamin who has recently undergone training to make prosthetics for amputees after which he emerged as an exemplary student. Now he awaits materials supplied by Rotary Jaipur. I needed the volleyball I had brought for Adesso sports day on Friday. Dennis was working in the X-ray department with a queue of patients waiting outside, Rose in the Nutrition Unit, brought me up to date with their activities. I met two young mothers, each 16 years old, and Rose told me their stories. One girl had been at a primary boarding school when her mother failed to pay her fees so the girl was sent home but, without money for transport, she had to walk. Along the way, she was raped, kept her pregnancy a secret for six months and subsequently gave birth to a baby with cerebral palsy. The girl mother now suffers from epilepsy and what future does this hold for her? At least, she can remain in the hospital Nutrition Unit assured that the Kumi Community Foundation (KCF) will settle her bills. A visit to George William, the Hospital Administrator, concluded my visit and, carrying the inflated volleyball, I jumped on a boda boda (motor bike driven by a rider who you pay) and was taken to the GH where I found Lynne and Michele had completed the unpacking. Gonza and John came on their motorbikes to take us to Adesso P/S to confirm the sports day arrangements and then into town to North East Villa to check the arrangements for the Interplast team which was to arrive tomorrow. Back at the GH, I had time to start on my diary or so I thought as James, the Manager at NEV, turned up followed by Sam, the dentist and Paul, the social worker. There was much to talk about regarding Sam’s situation and the Interplast visit and it was soon dark and they needed to return to their home. Power went on and off throughout the evening and there was little time to recharge our batteries. We had been joined by two Dutch visitors who were visiting primary schools throughout Uganda with regard to science education. A storm raged throughout the night with constant rain flooding the land and lightening lighting up the room. Soon sleep overtook my enjoyment of the thunder and lightening and hence the end of Day One in Kumi.