Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Full Circle

Since we were unable to get home from Rwanda in a timely fashion, I missed the first day of the neonatal resuscitation training. It felt right to be finishing off my year at Mulago in the same way that I'd started. Following our recent 3 day programme, we had cut the training down to 2 days.  We planned to run 3 courses back to back.  Domalie and Agnes were willing and eager as ever, and so my missing the first day was no great shakes, especially as only 7 candidates turned up for the training.  The numbers on the first of the 3 sessions were very disappointing.  Fortunately by the end of the week, they had picked up significantly, and we trained a total of 60 midwives in a week.  Several midwives from outside of the hospital attended for training, and so hopefully this will help spread knowledge to other clinics and healthcare centres outside of Mulago.  While Domalie and Agnes delivered lectures, practical demonstrations and critique, I had my head down, wading my way through the maternal death audit case files, determined to finish before leaving Kampala.  It took a lot longer than anticipated, and I was still beavering away the morning that my flight was leaving Entebbe, but I managed to collect data from all of the files available.  I felt guilty that I had not spent my last remaining weeks doing clinical work, but was also determined to tie up my loose ends and fulfill a numbers of pledges.

We had BP machines attached to the walls on Ward 14 and also ordered and took receipt of 17 mattresses, which were bought with money raised by Heather, Lorraine and Rebecca, and their friends and family.  I met with the matron to discuss her vision for the future of the department from a midwifery perspective.  I had a good nose around the new labour ward too, which is a fantastic use of the space available to put it in,  and a much more pleasant environment than the current labour ward.  The medical students finished off their SSM project. 

I bought enough African souvenirs to sink a ship, and then realised that I might not be able to get them all home.  I decided that I was going to sacrifice many of my clothes in order to get them home - I was prepared to abandon all of my possessions entirely to get a painting home which I had bought, by an artist named Edison Mugalu.  It typefied for me everything about the year I had spent in Uganda, and more broadly East Africa.  The easiest thing to do was to divvy up the spoils between Alan, the Boda guy, for his wife, and Doris.  Now, I'm not a waif, but Doris is a tad larger than I am.  She managed to wedge herself into one of my poisoned pink bras that had seen better days, and over the following few days turned up to work in a selection of my clothes.  My possessions almost became a free-for-all, 'Your bag is nice, can I have it?'.  Doris was fantastically happy.  My Mum asked me to give Doris a small gift from her, to thank her for looking after me.  She was overjoyed.  When I asked her what she would spend it on, she exclaimed 'Laundry and shoes!'  By that, I think she meant clothes.  I hope that she enjoyed it.

I spent time with the boys in the house, chilling, eating, chatting - although not about our impending leaving dates.  It felt strange that time had suddenly crept up and I was in my last week of being in Kampala.  I caught up with friends and bid them farewell.  Frequented my favourite haunts for the last time.

My last day at Mulago was Tuesday July 28th.  I took in a couple of cakes to the morning meeting, as is customary.  I was unable to say very much to accompany the cake, other than thank you.  There was too much to say to too many people, and I was choking the tears back before I'd even opened my mouth.  But I think the sentiment was understood.  I was then presented with a number of very unexpected gifts - baskets, bowls, pestles and mortars, straw mats and carvings.  Having already packed my stuff, and with a modicum of concern about the weight I was already trying to take home, I had to pass them on to Shireen and Amelia, and Carol and Louise to take back for me.  I said a lot of goodbyes.  There were some people that I missed, that I really wanted to thank, and bid farewell to.  But I also wanted to leave quietly.

I spent the next couple of days finishing off the audit.  On the Wednesday, I was invited to the launch of the Ugandan Parliamentary Scorecard, the project that Adam had been working on throughout the year.  There were rumours that the President would be there to launch it, however he was unavailable, and so the Prime Minister came instead.  We sat through several lengthy presentations before Adam stood up and said his piece about what the scorecard actually means.  Then followed another lengthy speech before the Prime Minister stood up to speak, prompting a fit of giggles from me as he attempted to clear his throat while shouting the word 'capture', at the same time. The presence of several TV cameras didn't do anything to help matters, and I was helpless for a good ten minutes.  It is not uncommon for me to get a fit of giggles in inappropriate places -weddings, masses, first holy communions, funerals, formal dinners - but rarely have I done it on camera.  We were on the news.  I just hope that the Prime Minister didn't see me.  My giggling was avenged by one of the heaviest rainstorms I've seen in Kampala, and the heavens opened, as if on cue, almost the second we left the hotel.  By the time we got to Garden City, we looked like drowned rats.  I was so cold I had a hot chocolate.

The day I left was hard.  I had some photos printed for Alan, who insisted on walking to the mall with us as it was our last day.  I wandered through the go-down taking photos, trying to capture the place in all its glory, and not succeeding.  Maureen came round to say goodbye.  I showered and changed.  James, the driver, arrived early, as predicted.  I said goodbye to the dog, who put his head on his paws as we loaded the cases into the car, and he whined.  I couldn't speak to Adam, we just hugged each other.  We didn't need to say anything, it was hard enough already.  I will always be grateful to Adam and Elizabeth for their unswerving friendship and support.  Without them, I am sure that I wouldn't have lasted the year.  They were my rocks.  I said goodbye to James and Maureen, and George the guard, and after cuffing Pasha round his ears one last time, got in the car and headed to Entebbe...

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