Friday, March 23, 2012

A Normal Visit to the Doctore...................NOT

OK, so after a long, long search, I found a doctor who I think can help me with many, many issues.  He is an oncologist in MULAGO hospital at the Cancer Institute there.
I have had so many issues of different kinds since being here, so the decision was made to start with the things that worry me most.  Nothing is definitive, but just more suspicions more than anything.  Since I found a melanoma several years ago, I have not been checked again as I was supposed to, so decided, start there. 

Henry and I were given the name and personal phone number of  Dr. Obayo.  He is young, which actually I like very much because he will have been newly trained on so many things, and when we were discussing medicines, he knew all of the information I had been given by my friend Amanda Galiano, a pharmacist in the US.  He seemed to be as informed about orthopedics as he was in oncology.  Two for one, cant beat that.  So for now, I am trying a couple of different drugs for different things and will go back in two weeks to see Dr. HUNK again.  lol.  I may find many more illnesses if I get to see him all the time..................

OK..................................NOW LET"S BACK UP TO THE DRIVE INTO TOWN!!!!!
I always carry a few things with me: the flower designed bobble on the other side says :WISH IT, DREAM IT, DO IT, given to me quite a while back by my dear friend Lauren.  The little pink thing is a tiny black rhino, also I think give to me by Lauren, the small tube is a Traveler's Prayer given to me by my sweet sweet Rachel.
You have heard me mention many many times about the horrible traffic in Kampala.  Even if you leave the house early, you still end up in the jams that are so bad that you just turn off your vehicle to save gas. 

Hopefully you travel with people you know and like, that way you have something to do while waiting.  Well this particular trip, we were sitting bumper to bumper and all of a sudden a young man begins to bang loudly on Henry's side of car, that would be the right  It scared us both so bad, we couldn't figure out what was happening.  Then out of the corner of my eye I see a hand coming into the window on my side,  luckily it was only down about 4 inches.  The next thing I knew this hand had hold of my knee jerk reaction was "no way are you taking this necklace or anything else of mine"!!!!! In a split second, I grabbed his hand smashing it into my face, well my nose, my nose who I am happy with as it is...........this was even caused by me.  As fast as they appeared they were gone, and in my hand WAS MY NECKLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  a small chain part broke but it is in tact.  I had been told not to wear gold when going to Kampala because this could happen, so I quite wearing my fav rhino necklace, I began wearing a necklace that I felt would be not so important to others, but to me, meant so much.  It IS the coolest elephant necklace with a small disk and the tiny little elephant laying on the top of the disk.  SOUND FAMILIAR DAPHNE!!!!!!

 The nicest man in a vehicle passed very close to me and said over and over " sorry, sorry".  I still believe in the Ugandan people, there are bad people everywhere.............these were young little thugs just like we have in the USA!.  I did have a clear moment and quickly took off my earrings, I wasn't gonna have a ripped off ear...................WOW, the things I have to learn.  I had always been worried about carrying a purse, or camera, now I gotta choose my clothing elastic waist pants for me, I may be running Commando in the middle of Kampala............................

Yep, my humor is returning......................
my sweet little koala used to stay clipped to my bedside lamp now he hangs on the zipper of my purse and the sweet little golden item on the right of it, is my Travel Angel..........YEP you guessed it, all from my sweet Lauren ANGEL Britton.  You would think that with this much luck around you there would be no 
The beautiful silver guardian angel, who happens to have at least the purple for amethyst, my birthstone is always there too...............

I am going to add a couple of shots I took of just the area around the institute area.  So hard to understand where things are there............but compared to the hospital itself, it is very nice.  They try very hard to make their patients comfortable.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Insight Into Trials of Everyday Life

In searching for things all can appreciate, I located many pictures from my first visit and what I thought would be my only visit to Uganda.  I want you to see just what people have to endure here just to make life better for wildlife. 
water hose for cleaning
African Way of Walking: with friends Jennifer and Kate who is from Hungary

Tools for the keepers

There is one vehicle that delivers food to the mammal area, another vehicle that is used for birds and reptiles.  Primates is lucky, they have a fridge and a two burner hotplate to make porridge for the chimps.  I found it very funny the first time someone told me to put in about 4 kilos of something???????????? DO WHAT.  I don't know kilos.......I didn't tell him I didn't know, I tried what I thought might be it............he laughed and asked what I thought we were feeding, it was for several ostrich, it looked like enough food for parrots.  I decided than I would tell people when I didn't know, oh yeah and keep the phone handy for the conversion app!

OK one more fun photo then on we go, this is my first and only attempt to prepare porridge for the chimps.  They all get it daily in cups served to them thru the wire inside the night house. 

As all keepers know, no day is the same and sometimes the day really takes a turn for the worse. 

On Chimp Island, there is a moat keeping the chimps safe and away from the public, but the moat doesn't complete circle the island.  There is a very high, strong fence and door on the back side of the island.  The way it is set up you can only see a huge area looking very natural, with the exception of some tire swings and things necessary for enrichment.  The keepers noticed a weak area on the fencing and reported it.  Before anything could be done, one morning the alpha male found it too, and promptly released the rest of the chimps into the zoo.  They traveled toward the front entrance.  The keepers responded and to make a long story short, they were lured back to the chimp area, no one was harmed, however the alpha male did make a run at the then director who quickly locked himself in his car.   All found that very funny.  The connection between the keepers and chimps made, what could have been a horrible problem, it possible to get them back in, no chemicals, no weapons.  I am still in awe of that day.  Was I around for it.......................NO!!!  Never in the right place at the right time....

Since my first visit, there are very few I knew then still there.  The people I met made an imprint on my life, that I will never forget.  UWEC is an awesome place and like all places in need of financial help for the animals and staff.  You can help if you want.  Look at their meet my wonderful friends that made my first visit such a beautiful experience.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This is gonna be short and sweet..............I am happy that those of you reading are enjoying, but I would love to know who you are.  Please let me know who it is commenting, especially if you are close friends, otherewise I dont know who is enjoying.  Thanks.............feeling a little under the weather, so I will get back to work soon.......J Kica

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My African Adventure Begins

Part of my being in Uganda, and staying at UWEC is because they allow volunteers from around the world to volunteer and work side by side with the keepers.  They don't have the restrictions zoo in the US and probably Europe.  You are allowed any place the keepers are, you are allowed to be involved in Vet procedures, feeding, etc.  I was able to see work on a lion who had gone off food, ultimately discovering he had an abscess in a molar.  I was allowed to watch the amputation of a leg on an antelope, it had been badly damaged, but one of the most exciting was being able to care for and play with the young chimps.  The chimps at UEWC are all confiscated, and at present we have so many it is crazy.  People must learn...............CHIMPS DO NOT MAKE GOOD PETS.  Requirements are strict as to immunizations required to work at UWEC, therefore protecting the animals as much as possible.  One sweet baby chimp, before integrating into the group, chewed a bit of the tip of her finger off, from stress.  She was so sweet and shy, it took a bit but she warmed up soon.  As I was visiting the "devil bird" male ostrich, I felt the sweetest little hand on my leg, it was her.  So I picked her up and held her ever so close, our closest neighbor, praying for her a good life to come.

So now for the first week in Africa, I began working as a volunteer keeper at UWEC.  My first several days was with Mammals, where I met Alex Droma.  Along with me, a young lady from Hungary was also volunteering, her name was Kate Toth, to this present day, we are still communicating and good friends.

Day one working began at rhinos, where else.  After cleaning with tools I have never seen before, very little water pressure, if any at times.  Brooms made of sticks, shovels as for using in, and they do such a great job with so little. From there, we cleaned at the carnivores: serval cat, lion, hyena.  From there to the "food store" for the animals to prepare the diets for them.  WOW what an adventure, keepers in the US, specifically the Little Rock Zoo, have it so easy.  I know, because I have prepared diets for animals there!


                                                           Feeding in Kob Meadow Exhibit

Feeding time began and some of my new friends were a little more patient than others.  As we drove the tractor into the exhibit, the rhinos came to us, following closely behind, never aggressive, just waiting............there exhibit was huge and gave ample space for mud wallow and dung piles, just as in the wild..............well close to it anyway!

Sherino and Kabira were the
first two White Rhino to return to
Uganda in 20 years

The morning routine ended around 2pm, then we rested for the remainder of the day.  The next day was to be the same, however, anyone in the animal field, knows the next day is NEVER the same. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Arriving in Africa for the First Time

Landing at the Entebbe International Airport was not quite what I expected.  I thought it would be a very small building, with a dirt runway.  Good thing it wasn't because I was in a very large airplane.  The plane came to a stop on the runway, the doors were opened and we departed via steps down to the tarmac. 

Moved into the airport to get my bags..............this was to be an adventure.  I had come with 2 VERY large duffel bags, a large regular bag, a little smaller bag, then my carry on........I grabbed the dolly and the bags began to come.  Thank goodness they were all there.  No problems, just a pain to get the heavy bags onto the dolly.  On this trip the weight allowance was 70lbs! per bag......

I piled all the bags on and headed to security...........before leaving the airport you must go through security again and have your bags scanned.  I understood, but sheesh, with all I had it was going to be forever.......oh, in 2008 they were still mostly checking luggage by hand not scanners.  I got to the line and stood for a couple of minutes, I must have been smiling from ear to ear, I so remember the feeling that "I AM HERE, I AM IN AFRICA".  As I scanned the area, I looked toward a security guard, smiled and said "Hello, how are you" the next thing I knew, he waved me on saying "go ahead with you", no checking, nothing.....he must have taken pity on this short white woman with WAY too much luggage.  The next thing I know I am looking into a sea of black faces and look to my right and see a very familiar smile, there is Henry Opio waiting for me.  I went directly to him, hugged him, with many people looking in awe......and off we went.  The vehicle was small, but we were able to fit it all in.  Emma Owii, Henry's youngest brother was there with us.  This was to be the beginning of a very good friendship also.  Emmanuel would become somewhat of a babysitter, tour guide, etc for me. 

Henry had told the keepers at UWEC that I was arriving so we drove to the banda where I would stay for the next month, then to the restaurant on the shore of Lake Victoria, waiting were the keepers.  This would be my favorite place, I would write here daily in my journal.  This would be my special place - forever. 

I feasted on a fried chicken, salad which was basically slaw but with a slight vinegar taste, and chips ( french fries) and ketsup!!! YUMMY....This would be my last American food for the next month! Even though I would again and again have fish and chips, or chicken and chips.  Ugandans eat it too.

Not reading the rules of jet lag, it was early afternoon, but I was exhausted, so I retired to my banda for a rest. 

My first morning I was awakened to the sounds of chimps screaming, the roar of Kibonge the lion, an ostrich vocalizing, YEP I AM REALLY HERE!

The following morning I began to sort out the gifts for my new friends.  So  much, it is hard for you to see it all...............It's difficult to see what all is here, boots, rain gear, tshirts, flashlights, batteries, pocket knives, watches.......I cant even remember it all.
Soon my new friends would benefit from what I and many, many people helped me obtain for them.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

THE BEGINNING - Another Beautiful Day in Uganda

Well, this will be my first attempt at blogging. 
I have relocated to Entebbe, Uganda  East Africa and have so much to tell and show, I was advised the best place to do it was in a blog.....So I have created my first.  Since there have been so many questions about how and why I am here, I decided I will go back to 2007 in Australia, where I first met Henry Opio.  He is what ultimately led me here to Uganda, so what better way to explain it all.  It will take a long time and it is quite a story, but here goes nothing.....................Please remember this is not being used as a stand for conservation, for or against zoos, this is simply my story ...........

In 2007, I attended a rhino workshop in Melbourne, Australia.  I was happy to be able to go, since my dear friend, Lauren had moved to Sydney to work with elephants at the Toronga Zoo.  Here was my opportunity to mark off one of the "to dos"........visit Australia, not to mention see Lauren again. 

Attending the workshop with zookeepers from around the world was almost more than I could wrap my head around.  My mother always said I was unusual to love animals so much...........oh how wrong she was.  Here I was in the midst of people from every continent, almost, who wanted the same thing as I did, save the rhinos and make the captive ones the best possible homes we could.  On the list of speakers was a man from Uganda, Africa.............AFRICA, now to meet someone who lives there AND is trying to save the rhinos.

 When I was very very young, my father and I were watching my favorite actor in the world, John Wayne, in the movie "Hatari".  I didn't really realize at that time they were catching these beautiful creatures to move to zoos.  And what horrible places most of them were in the 60's.  Not to say the zookeepers didn't care back then, but so many improvements have been made to caring for captive animals since then.  Let me jump on my soapbox for a moment, IN a perfect world I would wish for no zoos to exist, meaning that all animals could safely live in their natural habitat.  This is not a reality for us my friends. To much greed and evil in our world to allow this. Someday, maybe Someday.  But until then, zoos are necessary.  We are killing almost to extinction, so many animals now, much is yet to be done.  OK, back to my tale, In the opening scene of the movie, they are trying to capture the black rhino.....................I fell in love right then and there!  Although my love of animals is very diverse, this beautiful animal crawled in my heart and did not leave me.  It was only almost 45 years later that I came to know just how much I loved this animal. 

Now to present day 2007, in Australia, I hear this VERY soft spoken man tell of bringing white rhinos back to the country of Uganda.  The plans they made, are already in the process.  The first two white rhinos back into the county in many, many years were housed at UWEC, Uganda Wildlife Education Center.  A male and female, with hopes of breeding, Kabira and Sherino.  Another step being taken in the country was a sanctuary called Ziwa, where there where there would be several rhinos with hopes also of breeding and ultimately releasing them into the national parks one day. While this very shy, but smiling ear to ear young man is talking( which for those of you who know me, I cant hear crap..........he has me captivated) I am leaning toward him to hear every word he has to say.   It was only until the next day as we were traveling to Healesville Sanctuary, did I get a chance to really visit with him.  Henry Opio, that is who I was glad to sit with on the bus and chat.  I had a hard time understanding him at first, but was captivated as we discussed the "pains" of being a zookeeper.  Only in 2000, did I first get my chance to be a zookeeper.

  I started in the education department at the Little Rock Zoo, and because I was so hungry to learn, was given the opportunity to then work in the primate department.   I worked many areas including the maintenance department, cleaning bathrooms, etc.  It didn't matter, I was at the zoo and by then full time.  But still I wanted to work as a full time keeper.  Finally, in the May 2004, my break, a position in the large hoof stock department.  It was a dream come true.  The work was hard, but even though I had just turned 50, I was determined I could do this job.  Here I was now, in the same department as the rhinos!!!!!! one being a young male black rhino named Johari.......who to this day is the love of my life.

This was just the beginning of an ongoing story, a love story I guess, funny I hate love stories. 

Oops, I diverted again.  Back to Henry Opio, we talked for some time.  He told me of how difficult it was as a keeper at UWEC.  They are the only rescue/rehabilitation center in Uganda.  They are considered a zoo, because they do educate as much as they can about the animals.  They go to the villages and teach.  Contrary to beliefs, not all of these children and adults have ever even seen some of these animals.  Many if they have it may have even been in a conflict situation.  So making them understand to preserve wildlife is difficult.  The keepers have to care for "Set on the shores of Lake Victoria, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, is a must visit for anyone coming to Entebbe for a leisure or educational tour. The centre, which sits on 72 hectares, boasts of over 400 indigenous wild animals, 500 plant/tree species and 250 bird species in large natural settings that depict three of Uganda’s major ecosystems: the wetland, the savannah and the forest. In this way, UWEC acts as a ‘Window to Uganda’ exhibiting the country’s attractions in a manner that encourages both local and international visitors to explore more of what Uganda has to offer"(taken from the website of UWEC). Not such a small place.  The good thing is that the area give the captive animals quite a bit of room.  But like all zoos, the keepers lack so many things, radios, rain gear, etc.  After our talk, I decided I wanted to try to help these keepers who are also trying to care for these beautiful animals.  So for a year, with the help of many, many friends, we collect work boots, rain gear, radios donated by the Little Rock Zoo AAZK chapter, knives, batteries, I cannot begin to name all we collected for them.  All of this with only one thing in mind, to help them do their job.  Little did I know that I would soon meet these keepers and see their zoo. 

Move on about a year, I have continued to communicate with Henry and he always says "you should see my country, Uganda is beautiful, The Pearl of Africa".  Frankly, as so many other people, I only thought of Kenya or Tanzania, maybe some others, but THAT was Africa to me.  All I had heard of Uganda was: Idi Amin!  I started looking online, checking it out, and after hearing of the travels in Kenya from my great friend Charity, I decided............I HAD TO GO TO AFRICA, more specifically UGANDA.  I started to save, check flights, you name it.  I literally drove Charity crazy talking about going.  Bless her patience.

Life took a good turn, and I was set to see the place I always wanted to see.  So with many, many bags, all for the keepers, and clothes for me I was set. 
4 large duffel bags, and 1 carry we go!

Having traveled internationally before, I wasn't too nervous.  However, heading to a 3rd world country was a whole new ball game.  I knew I would be safe, I had a friend there.  I would be staying at UWEC, so no problems there.  Every emotion possible was in my head and heart.  I am sure most people traveling to Africa have this idea of just exactly what they would see, people think of the mud huts (bandas) people live in, children running around in tattered clothes, adults walking with large, heavy things on their heads, then the other side of it............the absolute breathtaking beauty of the wild.  Of course we all assume we will see wild animals everywhere.  What was to come ?  My flight was to be 33 hours with a 12 hour layover in Dubai.  Not exactly a place where a single, white female can just hope in a taxi and go explore alone.  I left Little Rock for Houston, a very short layover, then on to Dubai.  The weather was horrible, terrible thunderstorms, but no big deal right?  WRONG, The first 2 hours of the flight were horrific, the huge plane bouncing around like a piece of corn in a popcorn popper.  I flew Emirates, which by the way if you get a chance USE THEM, wonderful airline even in economy.  No sooner did the turbulence stop, they began serving dinner.....yeah right.  But knowing I would be hungry later, I took it.  Great food!  Now time for a snooze, HUH...........not a chance.  I watched almost every movie available, including The Last King of Scotland (look into it, it is about Idi Amin).  I was so exhausted by the time we got to Dubai, but what to do????  I found they had sleeping rooms in the airport, with lounge chairs.  Problem was not so many chairs, people were laying on the floor ALL over the airport.  The airport was amazing, it looked like a mega shopping mall.  Shopped a bit, looked mostly, but once I couldn't walk anymore, I headed toward the sleeping room.........YEA a chair, so I grabbed it and kinda slept for about 3 hours.  It was a broken sleep because I was so afraid of my carry on walking out.  FINALLY, the time came for me to board the next plane for the last leg of my journey, a quick stop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia then destination Entebbe, Uganda.