Wednesday like usual starts off at the Bbira Health Center where along with either Sam or Nicholas, I give a presentation to about 20-30 women regarding pre and post-natal care. At first it seemed kind of pointless togo through so thoroughly all the things to consider prior to childbirth when every women there had their young newborn in their arms coming to get vaccinated! My “words of wisdom” about morning sickness and trying to do the best they can to meet their nutritional needs seemed a little silly until I realized I was thinking like a Westerner; first of all, most of these women were young. Young like 18-22 young. Many have probably never been advised at all on what to do when pregnant especially if they don’t have the funds for check-ups at their local clinic. Secondly, there is probably a 95% chance this will NOT be their last child. On average, women with no education have 7.7 children while women with secondary education have 4.4. For simplicities sake, the general countrywide statistic is that the average Ugandan woman will have 6.6 children in her lifetime. (uh WHOA?!? Anyone with me on this one?) Compare this to the United States; on average a women gives birth to 2.3 children! If you’re really interested, there is also a large discrepancy between different ethnicities and income levels but I will leave something for you to Google yourself.
I can testify to the large number of children here by what I have witnessed on home visits. I do think it’s important to note however that while women may give birth to 7 children, it is not uncommon for one or more children to die of complications or disease. So getting out of my sheltered western thoughts, I do see the value in educating mothers for future births or even perhaps to act as counselors or advisors to others and their future daughters!
Along with the presentation, we leave enough time for questions. One question I had today was a really good one posed by a woman with a very young baby. Her question; “what doI do if my neighbors smoke all the time and it is impossible not to breathe the fumes?” I was really impressed with her because for most parents, this is a trivial concern. Cigarette smoke? Falls somewhere far after meeting nutritional needs and before sending their kid to Disney World. It was also obvious when I responded with the only suggestion I had (try to explain to these young men the danger to a young child’s developing lungs and do your best to avoid it) that my answer was far from sufficient. I thought her look of "ok foreign born speaker with no children of your own" look was quite the acceptable response. I don’t think she could see herself requesting them to find another spot to smoke so I decided maybe another solution would be better and I left it at this; “just tell them the crazy mzungu told you it was necessary.”
My afternoon was spent at the orphanage and today I brought some of the materials I came to Uganda with for the kids anddecided today would be a great day to color! The kids not surprisingly agreed! I have brought some coloring book pages before but today was met with what I later came to view as a coloring Olympics; everyone was out to make THE BEST DRAWING EVER!Great for the kids, a little
insane for me. I had the idea to tape up their pictures on the wall to allow them to show off a little and to put some color up. This was before I realized I was in the coloring Olympics. About 15 minutes in, I was already overwhelmed. I couldn’tkeep up with the demand for tape and decided to delegate. Delegating to 6 year olds is a point I never thought I’d reach. I began cutting tape and just handing it to outreached hands yelling, “and me!” I did that until I thought of how when I taught English to the Spanish kids, I would make them say “please” before they could get/use anything and so thought I would incorporate it here. Please is rarely a used word in Luganda and in Luganda, the command form is used much more than polite form. For example, a child will tell a teacher “give me the paper” and that is not rude at all. It was hard trying to get across the reason for them to say please but they certainly enthusiastically said it! So enthusiastic that for some, one time was simply not sufficient. In fact half a dozen times was not enough. A chant of “tape please, tape please, tape please” (you get the picture) ensued for the next half hour. My favorite part was when I got so fed up when they all needed 4 pieces that I put a piece on a kids nose instead of his outstretchd finger. Apparently this was HILAAARIOUS and from that moment on, I would get kids reaching their noses out to get tape.
The other moment that really stood out was talking to some of the older kids. Carlos, perhaps the only child in Uganda taking an active interest in Spanish (hence, why he is obviously one of the coolest kids I know) mentioned to me the other day how he wantedto learn about Dinosaurs. I have 3 books I brought with me including one from the Ms. Frizzle collection (if you don’t know this woman your childhood was slightly less wonderful than it should have been.) and brought them to the orphanage for the kids to check out. For over an hour, Carlos was completely occupied and could not be bothered. He sat on a chair with one of the books and read it from front to back. He is a quiet and shy kid around me already and I have a hard time judging if he is excited over something or having a good time but his attention to this book left no room for doubt. It was awesome to see someone who really wanted to learn and provide the tools for them to do it! Like I mentioned, his love for spanish already makes him awesome in my eyes but being a book nerd too? If I was 13 he would be my best friend! They have a pretty good collection in their classroom of books so I was also amazed when he told me he has read every one. I don't doubt it. This is one person who is inspiring me with a love for reading and learning and I can't wait to see what other books I still have that he might be interested in!