On our second day we had an early start to head to our clinic at Kiyunga Health Centre near Luuka. The day hadn’t been terribly well organised, with the OCO expecting our own driver to travel off and fetch the children to the health centre, which wouldn’t in itself have been a problem had the varying schools not been a good hour away in varying directions! This had both up and downsides – it was incredibly frustrating to be sitting and waiting for the next batch of children to arrive – Uganda is so woefully short of eye care that we were itching to see as many patients as possible – but it did mean we had time to play with the children and take photos.
Testing in Africa requires a lot more flexibility than when you have a plush consulting room all to yourself. We invariably had just one room at our disposal in which we set up 4 testing stations alongside each other. Certain tests require bright lighting, whereas certain tests require very dark conditions. When 4 of you are all testing side by side, obviously the lighting can’t be tailored to suit the individual, and in any case the room we were given never had any form of lighting or electricity, so we blacked out the windows (generally open holes in the wall with bars across) with black tarpaulin, left a shaft of light falling across one wall on which we taped letter charts, and used torches for near charts. We had 2 letter charts outside for pre-screening – 1 with letters, and 1 with Illiterate Es (the patient gestures to show which direction the fingers of the E point in).
It was on this day that I first caught sight of an African toilet. I enquired of the location, and duly padded out to what I thought might be the correct building. I wasn’t convinced, so walked on to the next building….and knew I had the right place several feet from the door due to the number of insects buzzing around! I pushed open the door, and was hit with….well…quite an aroma! In front of me was a hole in the ground with a foot shaped imprint on either side, insects galore, and a very sodden floor. It took about 2 seconds for me to decide, do you know what? I can wait! My bladder of steel and I lasted another 6 hours (Since I don’t take a camera to the bathroom, there is, fortunately or unfortunately, no photographic evidence of the “facilities”! I managed to survive the entire fortnight without cause to utilise an African toilet. It’s alright for you men. As Victoria Wood so aptly puts it, women have the engine capacity, but not the steering.)!
Once the clinic had finished we had to wait whilst our driver took a busload of children back, so we wandered into “town”. It was incredible to see all the stalls – there was a flour mill in operation, stalls with fruit, cooked chicken, petrol!! (in a shack not too far from the barbeques no less!). Clothes were in a huge pile on a tarpaulin sheet, and stunning fabrics were hanging from washing lines.
We saw one teeny little lass of around 2 years of age trotting around with a tray of neatly arranged lightbulb boxes looking incredibly pleased with herself, until she suddenly caught sight of 5 ghosts wandering through town. The boxes went flying in the air, she started bawling her eyes out, and ran in terror! Her reaction was in the minority however, and we were more like the Pied Piper of Hamlin with a group of children following us throughout the market, especially once we’d taken a photo of us with them, and shown them the photo. In the first photo we took of Ugandans, they never smiled…because they’d never seen a camera before. We’d then show them the photo on the camera screen, which would be greeted with shrieks of surprise and delight, and then they’d be clamouring for more photos!