Waterfalls & Mystery; Learning & Dysentery


For the past few months, I have been on the Kapkwomboloi Construction Site in Kapchorwa district. It is one of the most gorgeous construction sites you could ever imagine. The site is set along a river that is hidden away by crescent shaped cliffs. Over the rim of the cliffs bursts Cheptui falls, spraying life to the valley.

I have been learning so much from everyone on site. I have been working alongside the carpenters, masons, and laborers. It has been wonderful to finally get my hands dirty. While working in America, I was not allowed to participate in iron works, stone masonry, or carpentry. However, here the masons are excited to teach and mentor me, and love showing off my progress under their tutelage to each other.

It has been a blast. I would eat lunch with the causal laborers to try to get to know them, learn their stories, and learn from them. I would get to help set out, grout and place stone and brickwork, place concrete, and mix concrete with a hoe and spade. The foreperson allowed me to help with quality control, creating create two week look aheads, reports, and daily schedules. I escorted visiting professionals from the Uganda National Roads Authorities, Environmental Impact Team, Geo-technical team, and a construction Contractor. I got to answer questions about the bridge design, construction standards, safety standards, and learn how to perform and environmental impact study.


I finally solved a burning mystery: All this time I had seen “spanners” on inventory logs but was not sure what they were. Were they spirit levels, since spirit levels are typically placed over multiple points to check if they are level? Were “spanners” cheater bars? Well after asking some of my friends for wrenches and receiving puzzled looks, I finally found out that “spanner” is the British English version of “wrench”. It is funny. While in Uganda I have learned a few words in Lugisu, Luganda, Sabin, and Swahili, but most of all I have learned a different English diction.

Everyone was so humble to teach me, so patient to listen to my millions of questions, and so kind in their endeavor to help me learn.

However, after having hypo glycemic attacks over Christmas, I lost control over my migraines yet again. I had also caught the flu. I was desperate for help. So my mamma, a local Sabin herbalist, made me some herbal medicine. It made me feel better immediately after taking the medicine, but the effect would wear off in a few hours. And then the final blow struck: I started having diarrhea. I had 20 stools in one day. I became too week to walk or even feed myself. I had a fever but couldn’t cool myself. I had one of the scariest experiences of my life, when I asked my friend Phyllis to go get help, but no one returned for several hours… I began screaming for help but no one heard me. With the last of my energy I rolled out of bed to fall onto the floor. And I drug myself to the door to continue yelling for help… and fainted. When I came to, finally people had come.  Our only way of getting water was by fetching it from the river, so cooling me was difficult.  The composting latrine was close to the house, but not close enough when you are having diarrhea.


***Side note: I love and usually prefer squatting toilets. They feel so much cleaner to me than throne style toilets, but when you are to week to squat over the toilet and are having diarrhea you start to wish you had a throne toilet.***

We did not have cell signal at site. And to get to town one would normally have to walk for an hour to get a motorcycle taxi and then grab two additional vehicular taxis (a three + hour adventure). Normally I really loved the isolation and seclusion of the site. I loved being able to see the stars without any light pollution. I loved being freed from my cell phone. I loved being immersed in nature. I loved telling horror stories in the dark with Annette at night. I loved living how the locals lived and feeling that I had finally found somewhere I belong.

Luckily, the head Engineer was at site with our truck while I was sick. And even more luckily, he has to travel to our other site (near Mbale town) so dropping me off at the hospital the nest day was on his way. Once at the hospital, I was given many ivs. I still have five bruises from the different ivs, blood tests, and injections I received over two days. I was first diagnosed with food poisoning, but after relapsing the next day, I was re-diagnosed with dysentery. Want to know the craziest part? I am temporarily lactose intolerant due to the dysentery!!! I am still not well. I can’t eat without the diarrhea coming back, but I am fianlly stable enough to travel.


One thought on “Waterfalls & Mystery; Learning & Dysentery

  1. Hang in there, Desiree! I know you are a wise woman, and I won’t tell you what to do, but know the world will benefit as long as your heart and mind are healthy and vibrant. I am sure it was not easy to share this scary story, and many may be very worried after reading it, but it is a strong reminder of how careful anyone working outside their native environment should be and how the unexpected can strike fast. I am praying and cheering for quick healing and a smooth transition back to your daily responsibilities. You are doing important, valuable work, and I appreciate you sharing your story with the world.


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