Saturday, December 16, 2006

Health Report and Blog Restrictions

Invitation Only

I visited the PC office in Kampala this weekend for a medical checkup this week (more on that later) and was called into the office by the PC Director. It was actually more like “Have a seat,” then she picked up the phone, pressed a button and said 2 words, “Brian’s here.” I sat in silence, patiently waiting to find out what exactly “Brian’s here” meant and for who. Eventually the acting APCD came into the room and sat down.

We had an at length conversation about blogs and blogging. The PC has some guidelines about volunteers posting blogs. First, we’re not allowed to use the PC official logo anywhere on our blog. Second, there must be some disclaimer stating that the blog is our own and not the views of the US or the Peace Corps. Those things I’ve done. The PC is concerned about blogs for a couple of reasons. It can compromise the safety and security of the volunteer and perhaps even open the door to a terrorist act by displaying the exact location of the volunteer. As volunteers we are considered a ‘soft’ target for terrorist activities and it’s difficult for me to imagine the Taliban traveling to my tiny little village in the middle of Africa to kidnap me or to torture my cat until I reveal all of the secrets I know about the US government, but I guess stranger things have happened.

The main reason this is even coming up now is that a volunteer recently had some thing posted on her blog which were then discovered by her organization. I won’t go into details but in essence she was using her blog more as a personal diary where she unloaded her thoughts and frustrations, thinking that the PC or organization wouldn’t find out and they did. I don’t think that the people in the PC office here reads through our blogs frequently but they’ve said they’ll read through from time to time just to see how we’re doing at our site. They told me specifically that they found nothing on my site that would seem offensive but it would be possible that my organization could still misconstrue something from what I had said.

I hate to protect the blog on one hand because on several occasions random people have stumbled across it by doing a Google search and then contacted me. On one hand it feels a little like I’m being imposed on my freedom of speech, but on the other hand their job is to take the ‘safe’ approach. I agreed to try it and see. If I feel like it’s not working out then I’ll remove the restrictions. I just feel like it would be inconvenient for someone to be at a computer, looking for information about Uganda or the Peace Corps and have to send an email, which may not be answered for weeks, requesting permission to view a blog that they don’t even know is worthwhile to view or not…

So what’s next?

Beginning in January I’ll send out an invitation to anyone who wants it and to my regular readers that I know. I have no problem sending anyone the invitation. Google said that you have to have a email account or get one within 30 days of accepting the invitation, which is another reason I don’t like it. But I’ll try it and see how it goes.

Not Nicholas!!

Compassion’s digital camera was stolen this week. We leave things out all of the time and the kids never take them. It amazes me sometimes, really. I leave my laptop lying around and my camera and my bag without any worries whatsoever. Compassion has a new digital camera and Serinah had been using it that morning, she left her office for a few minutes and when she came back it was gone! There had been caregivers and kids there who were picking up some goats that had been purchased for them as income generating projects, so there were a few suspects. We looked high and low for it but it was nowhere to be found. We talked about putting a notice on the local radio about it too. Apparently, Nicholas’ Uncle, the Nicholas I love who I visited in Kampala Hospital who couldn’t walk or even sit up and the doctors couldn’t figure out why, that Nicholas, his Uncle, knowing that Nicholas had a fascination with phones and gadgets, went home and didn’t ask but demanded that Nicholas produce the camera. Within a few seconds he brought the camera from his room and the Uncle brought it back to us. I couldn’t believe that Nicholas had taken it! Serinah even cried when she found out it was him who took it. Apparently he had taken pictures of several kids and some dogs with it… I haven’t seen the pictures yet. I asked what would happen to him now and was told that because he’s still weak from his sickness, he probably won’t be caned, but he will probably have to apologize to all of the Compassion kids for what he did.

Health Report

I traveled to Kampala 3 times this week!!! That may not sound like much but it’s a 6 hour crappy bus ride each way!! The first time was for my organization the last two were for health reasons. I’ll spare most of the details but just say that it’s a ‘guy thing’. The medical term for it is a torsion and what I have apparently is called a partial torsion. The British doctor I visited said that if it were him he would go to a Russian surgeon in town and have a minor operation which would prevent it from happening again, however, the Peace Corps has a certain protocol and has decided that I should have this operation in South Africa instead. If it had been an emergency they would have permitted me to even have the operation in a small community hospital in Mbarara which is near my site, but I’m not going to argue with a trip to South Africa. To me it’s more like going to France to have my tonsils removed. So on Monday or Tuesday I’ll fly out by myself and have this done and then fly back. It’s very minor, more of a precautionary thing than anything. It’s certainly nice to know that this system is in place for medical situations that arise and that they go over the top to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

It was certainly a concern going into the PC that I might be lying in a mud hut dying of some rare tropical disease and that nobody would even hear my cries for help, but it’s certainly not the case. In fact, before I came to Kampala I was on the cell phone with the PC nurse and the doctor discussing my condition, I was then very easily able to make arrangements to have a personal vehicle take me to the nearest Hospital in Mbarara an hour away for a general diagnosis by a local doctor, where the PC convinced me to take my Supervisor, Japheth, who was more than happy to accompany me. The PC paid for my transportation, my night’s stay in the hotel there and my supervisors. They paid for everything and even sent one of their personal drivers to pick me up the next morning so that I wouldn’t have to take public means on into Kampala for further medical assistance. Everything was just taken care of and I was in contact with the nurse the entire time, all on the Peace Corp’s dime.

End of Poverty

I’m reading a book called “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs. Please, just put this book on your list of books to read next. Sachs is “internationally renowned for his work as an economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa.” It’s the 2nd time I’ve read it and it’s better now than it was before.

Random Factoid – Handshakes

There’s nothing quite like a good, firm ‘American’ handshake. Uh…yeah, we don’t have those here. It’s more like they’re offering you a wet lemming rather than a hand. There’s commonly no grip whatsoever. It’s like shaking the hand of a 97-year-old woman. A handshake is often accompanied by the opposite hand touching their own elbow as a sign of respect. What’s more disturbing and strange is that if their hand is dirty or wet then they offer you their wrist to shake!! What’s up with that?? There’s even the wrist on wrist shake if both parties have dirty or wet hands… Ah, Uganda!

So let me know if you would like an invitation to continue to read the blog. Don’t be shy, even if I don’t know you I’ll send you an invite, no problem…


At 30 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just Ugandan my fellow hoosier! I have shaken many a wrist in Burkina as well! Love your blogs:)


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