Friday, February 23, 2007

A Few Weeks Later

Once again, it's been a while. Sorry!!! The past weeks have been chaotic, and there hasn't been power for several days. The lack of power means that all internet cafes are running on generators and are even less reliable than usual...if that is possible! I have been both busy and relaxed in Gulu. Here, you "hurry up and wait" and then run around like crazy once things fall into place.

Can you believe that this is Joyce? These pictures were taken early last week, and things have changed even more since then. I promised to tell you what I have been doing and how I became involved in her care, and I haven't forgotten...

The first week that I was in Gulu I found myself taking Philomena, a one year old baby to the hospital for severe malnutrition. Her mother, living in one of the IDP camps, was severely depressed and had stopped caring for her child and producing breast milk. I was asked to accompany them to the hospital, in what would become an extended process of connecting mother and child to the appropriate long-term assistance. But this is a different story.

After several hours at the "best hospital in Gulu" (more on this later, too!) we sat outside waiting for multiple test results. Knowing that this could mean another few hours, I went to settle myself under the nearest tree when I saw a familiar face -- Jimmie Briggs!

Jimmie and I met when I was living in Cambridge. He came to Harvard for a brown bag lunch discussion of his book "Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War" and we hit it off immediately. We have been corresponding since. I knew that he would be in Gulu, but I didn't know why, and we hadn't yet connected. Yet here we both were, with small, sick girls in our arms, at the hospital. It is a very small world.

And so I met Joyce. She was accompanied by Ryan , Adam, and Jimmie, who were determined to help her to the best of their ability. They had met her earlier that day with her caregiver, Patrick. We spent the rest of the afternoon waiting for results, singing Acholi children's songs, and talking about the beauty and pain that is Gulu.

Over the next few days, Adam, Jimmie and Ryan committed themselves to Joyce's full and extended care. The problem was, they had to return to the US immediately. I, however, had just arrived. I was committed to working on Schools for Schools,and some personal research, but I didn't have a firm 9-5. I was flexible. I had just been in Arua working on family and community oriented, culturally appropriate psychosocial services. I was also quickly falling in love with Joyce.

So here we are, a couple weeks later. I work with Joyce's family, essentially as a liason to Jimmie, Ryan and Adam. I work with the doctors and nurses, meet with HIV/AIDS NGOs, ensure Joyce's care is up to par, navigate Ugandan culture and health care, and plan with her family for her extended needs (school, clean housing, food, medical services, etc). Oh, and I also play. A lot. Joyce has transformed in the past few weeks, and we color, drum, dress the African baby doll, and somehow communicate despite the fact that I don't speak 3-year old Luo and her English is limited to "baby" and "I am fine". She loves sharpening the colored pencils, playing clapping games, and putting her "baby" to sleep. She is a three year old girl. I hope that as soon as I am back home and have faster internet I can share video clips and pictures that show you this and really introduce you to Joyce. Tragedy does not preclude joy or possibility.

I am so grateful for support I have received from friends who have been here much longer than I -- friends who have known her family, friends who know Uganda. They make this possible. I will be leaving Uganda in less than one month. The thought moves me to tears, but my ultimate goal is to be unnecessary and unneeded. And to return. To visit Joyce.


ron said...

You are certainly making the most of your time in Gulu, sweetie. I wish I could give you a hug. Love, Dad

Daniel said...

Wow Aimee! Your dad sent me the link to your blog almost two weeks ago, but with so much to do I waited until this morning to read it. I wish I'd read it right away. Your adventure in Uganda is very interesting, and a little scary. I wish I was your age and that I was in a position to see what you have seen, and to do what you are doing. I will send the link to your blog to my kids, although a part of me already fears for their safety if they followed in your footsteps. Ben, in particular, talks about going to Africa alot. Take care of yourself, and keep up the good work!

Dan Grunbaum

Lisa said...

I miss you! Your blog is so beautiful, and I can't wait to read more of it... When are you coming back? Minh keeps me updated at work about you, it sounds like you are having an amazing experience!
A big huge hug from me (and MIss Moppet too) cant wait to see you...

marshall6301 said...

I am so happy that you are writing this blog. I look forward reading what you are doing. We are most likely going to be in Washington the second week of May for a wedding, hopefully you will be back and we can get together! Stay safe.


vi said...

Such bright smiling faces! I love it. You've always had the ability to bring out that brightness in others, the same way I know you look for others to inspire you. They were right to nickname you the One Who Loves A Lot.

scott said...

Hi Aimee, thank you so much for sharing your experience in Africa. I love the picture of you and Joyce. Every time I read your blog, it gives me so much to think about! It's raining here in Seattle. I moved into a beautiful apartment. Love, Uncle Scott

Alexandra said...


Love you, miss you, love your blog. I can't get over how wild it is that you ran into someone you met in Cambridge.

I'm so proud of the work that you're doing!