...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:33 AM [+]
As my time in Africa winds down and I feel a bit of a chest cold coming on (lucky me – hopefully they will let me travel) I’m taking a moment to reflect on this trip. I had a great time with my housemates who made for wonderful company. It was good fun exploring African beers (we found a new one - to us - worthy of note which is brewed in Kenya: Castle Milk Stout), cooking wonderful vegetarian meals for me even if it wasn’t a fasting day, marveling at T-Storms and hornbills, walking the streets of Nakasero after bloating ourselves at a local pub or restaurant, watching the first two seasons of “Deadwood” (sometimes while drinking a locally made Scotch clone in time with the characters and what must be their decidedly awful bourbon) on a hung bed sheet, and just sitting on the Veranda playing cards and listening to the night sounds of Kampala ( a strange mix of wildlife, loud parties, revival services, or Muslim calls to prayer) while we all intermittently chatted online with friends and families on the other side of the world.
As to work, I was here to train a new tech on both an old and a new method, and to train our stalwart tech Patrick on the new method. Plus we intended to update and revise all SOP’s. However, our brand new centrifuge had a serious electrical malfunction after its first full spin cycle and then died. Then the primary PCR instrument began to behave oddly. Not to mention two broken laptops. On that particular night my principle colleague and I were at the precipice of despair and could only laugh. But, despite the setbacks with instrument troubles, I was still able to train the new tech with our old method and get the primary lab SOP’s set up for when the time comes that the instruments work and the techs can switch to the new method. We really had an awful string of bad luck with things breaking. So, to some degree we were unable to accomplish all that we had intended, but we do now have a fully trained second technologist. And we all recognize that TIA.
On a more personal note I quite enjoyed seeing my friends that I have made over the last couple of years at the Infectious Disease Institute Lab, the Uganda Cancer Institute, the project driver, a new local driver named Hadji, and of course some of the people at the Orthodox Church whom I know less well for only having met them a few times. I enjoy spending time with them all – especially in the lab where I am more able to just be present with them and know them. I love listening to their conversations and by listening trying to get a grasp of what their everyday lives must be like. There are many cultural differences and sometimes it is hard for me to understand or relate, but I make an effort and I have some good associates at the lab who indulge my questions. I can only say that I truly do enjoy my experiences amongst them, I personally find it far more interesting and - I expect - rewarding than going on Safari
It was also nice to spend an afternoon and evening with Stacy. I arranged a tour of the lab here and then the UCI. No doubt, the African veteran that she is, the uncomfortable things to be seen there were not unknown to her, and even for myself I was more able to deal with it all. That being said, the facilities have definitely improved over the last year, so that was a welcome discovery. Still, readily treatable suffering abounds and is often untreated primarily due to lack of funds. Afterwards we went to an rendition of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the National Theatre put together by a mostly amateur mix of ex-pats and locals. Quite enjoyable.
Going to church was for me a contact point with home. The Ugandan Orthodox Church is, sadly, a mess. It is riddled with unspoken corruption the likes of which make the OCA’s recent problems seem trivial in comparison. It’s is, I believe, the devil’s use of poverty against the Church in the same way he likely uses our abundance against us with varying levels of success…but while I’ll not let the excuses cover the sin, I’m also not a Donatist. It is the Church in Uganda and being present during the Litrugy was a blessing to me and I often found myself singing along…well…at least singing along with the litanies: “Mukama Saasira.”
I will however complain that my last Sunday there I kept hearing an organ being played from time to time with the choir. It was apparently being used to establish the notes, but it played its chords throughout and it drove me nuts. Hated it. I was unable to find out why it was played this time and not others. Blech!
I’ve no idea if I’ll ever come back. The experience is ALWAYS enlightening and I never fail to find myself coming home with a changed perspective. Most of us are complete and utter pansies in America and this spills over into so much of our lives, in fact I would suggest no aspect of our lives is untouched by a growing sense of entitlement for ease. We not only expect that dealings of fate ought to be kind to us, but also that even our actions ought to never have consequences. People here are rather reserved to their perceived fates and this is arguably something akin to opposite pole of the same sin. Not unlike how self-loathing and self-absorption are intimately linked.
Anyway, I am nursing my chest cold and I’d appreciate prayers for my travel. It stands to be an uncomfortable 28 hours if I don’t start feeling better. Once I’m hope I expect to get some pics uploaded as well as some other thoughts I might have with regard to what may be my last time in Africa – for whatever they may be worth. I'm anxious to be back home with my family and what is no doubt a farm "come-to-life" since my absence. I’ll be home for 2 days before I head off to St. Vlad’s for the Diaconal Liturgical Practicum….assuming I don’t have ebola.