Abby’s Post: Settling in, seeing patients, soccer, socializing

This blog post was penned by Abigail Dalke (a high school senior):

“After 22 hours of traveling – filled with airplane food, a variety of movies we didn’t really need to watch and uncompromising bumps in the road, we made it safely to our home for the next two weeks! A much needed slumber in a bed, complimented by a Portland-esc rain storm with some added thunder and lightning, gave us the energy we needed to conquer our first day in Kamwenge.

Our first stop was to the Kamwenge Secondary Vocational School (KSVS). There we found a new dining hall, a three story stem cell learning facility in it’s beginning stages of construction, and a very welcoming community.

Spencer and Kathryn helped build this teacher cottage on their previous trip to Uganda.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) building going up


Once we got the lay of the land, we dropped off our supplies for the school and the clinic, including books, crayons, medical supplies, and an autoclave (a large sterilization device for medical utensils), and then we took our respective posts. Kathryn, Midge and my mom, Kathleen, worked in the clinic and began seeing patients right away; some visits were uneventful, some announced pregnancy, some addressed abdominal pain caused by the horns of a cow. On the other side of the school, Spencer, Chris and I were tasked with distilling water to power the autoclave which we found to be a very slow and tedious process.

After our orientation in the school and clinic, we made our way back to the inspiration center (our home with a view of the rolling green hills speckled with long-horned cows, five foot tall ant hills, and palm-like trees of Uganda. We had a yummy lunch of rice, beans, chapati (a Ugandan tortilla like bread), mango, chicken and the best, juiciest pineapple I’ve ever had, followed by watching the semi-final district playoff game of the high school students from KSVS.

At least 500 people lined the perimeter of the soccer, or futbol, field. Some people were even tasked with patrolling the sidelines to make sure people didn’t encroach on the game. After socializing and boiling under the sun, the KVWS girls and boys team won the district game and will hopefully play in the regional competition in the next few weeks.

Socializing at the soccer game

Overall, a long exciting few days and thankfully the only trouble we’ve had is some swollen feet from the long travels and minor miscommunications. However, we are looking forward to helping out in the community and meeting new people over the next two weeks! We will keep you updated whenever we can!”


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Crossing the Equator

We stopped on the way from Kampala to Kamwenge where we crossed from the northern to the southern hemisphere.

L-R: Spencer, Grace, Midge, Kathryn, Chris, Kathleen, Abigail

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Airport Chuckle


Very brief detail from Sarah Van Haeften about the group’s experience at the Portland airport: “Everyone received TSA Pre-Check…except their fearless leader!”

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Uganda Medical Mission Trip Begins!

The FPC 2017 Medical Mission Team left for Uganda on Saturday, March 18. Here we are – from left to right: Grace Babatunde, Midge Birnie, Kathryn Hill, Spencer Parks, Chris Rasmussen, Kathleen Dalke, Abigail Dalke – at PDX with our luggage. The big box is an autoclave we’ll be using for sterilizing instruments. We appreciate your prayers for our work and our safety. More photos to share our journey coming soon!

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Sheep Shearing

It’s been over a month since we returned from Uganda. The jet lag has cleared (it took a week for me to feel like I was on West Coast time again) and we have begun sorting through our experience there. Mike, one of our crew, put together a short video. (you can view it here) and is working on a longer version. It really was a wonderful experience. We have already begun thinking about the next trip (probably in a couple of years). We’ll make the full report to our congregation after worship on June 14th.

I was back in the office for only three weeks (just long enough to almost catch up on my work) before I left again. I spent the first full week in April attending the Washington State University’s Sheep Shearing School in Moses Lake, Washington. They started the school about 40 years back in response to a lack of knowledgeable sheep shearers in the area. Back then they imported their instructors from New Zealand and other far flung corners of the world. Our instructors (and they were excellent instructors) were a bit more local, hailing from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. They made it look easy. In fact, if you watch someone shear a sheep, it most always looks easy (take a look at this youtube).

It’s not as easy as it looks.

IMG_0919Most of my classmates (15 others) were a bit younger than I am. They were, on the whole, probably a bit more fit than I am as well. In the end we learned that, while brute strength can be helpful, it’s technique that wins the day. A really good professional shearer can shear a sheep in under 2 minutes. I’m not that fast (I think I’m under 10 minutes now…but I’m improving).

It was a great week. I met some really great folks. I learned a lot about shearing and about sheep in general. I can shear my own sheep now (and I did the week after the class) and have even sheared some for other people (although I don’t think I’ll give up my day job and go pro with this). It took me about a week for my body to feel normal again, but it was a blast and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Below are some before and after pictures of one of our sheep.

Shearing Day 04 16 15 (47)

Purl and I on Shearing Day

Other farm news….

We’re raising turkeys again. We’ve got four (2 broad breasted whites, 1 Narragansett, and 1 Bourbon Red) that will be ready to live outside in about a week (the new electric poultry netting arrives tomorrow). We also made the decision to raise a few chickens for the table. The ones we have are a hybrid, but not the kind you normally find in your local grocery. They’ll be ready for the freezer in about a month. I am currently not impressed with what you find in the grocery, so I’m excited about how ours will turn out.
More sheep seem to be in our future as well. But that’s another story….

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Saying Goodbye and Coming Home

March 14, 2015

Posted by Mike Starosciak

Uganda Team 2015 last day

Last day with our Ugandan hosts. Left-Right, back row: Mike Starosciak, Rev. John Mulindabigwe, Rev. Spencer Parks, Emily, Rick Lee, MaryKay West. Front row: Jolly Mulindabigwe, Kathryn Hill.

Our last morning in Uganda began with our first little shot of rain. Rain is welcome here as they are worried about drought, and welcome for us as it reminds us of home. After breakfast we stopped in at the local Partners in Mission (PIM) retreat center and stopped to do a little shopping.

We left Pastor John’s house in Mbarara around noon for the drive to the Entebbe airport. We made a couple extra stops and arrived around 8pm for our 11:30pm flight. Saying goodbye after an intense two weeks was emotional. We had an intense and wonderful experience. There was back-breaking work, cultural exchange, spiritual growth, and making new friends. It is hard to say goodbye but good to be headed home to friends and family. There is, “no place like home.”

Our last day, or days really, looks something like this: from breakfast at 8am Saturday we wind up at the airport for an 11:30pm flight. (It’s still Saturday.) The first leg to Amsterdam is about eight plus hours, a three hour layover, another eight plus hours to Atlanta, a three hour layover, and finally a five plus hour flight to Portland arriving at 7:30pm on Sunday. From breakfast to Portland 46 hours; that is one long day.

Thanks to the miracle of wi-fi in the Entebbe airport, I am writing this as we wait to depart. This is the last planned blog entry for the trip. On behalf of the Uganda Mission Trip team, we thank you for all your prayers and generous financial support. We all stayed healthy throughout our journey and had a very rich experience. And on behalf of the staffs of the Kamwenge School and the local PIM West Africa office, they send you at FPC in Portland warm greetings from their hearts and thank God in the hope that we and others might return.

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Lions! Elephants! Wart Hogs!

Thursday March 12, 2015

Posted by Kathryn Hill

We had an EARLY start this morning. Up at 4 am, packed and in the van a little after 5 am to go to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Conservancy. MaryKay commented this was the only time on the road that we didn’t see people walking, bicycles and bodabodas. As Spencer said: the hard work is behind us so today is a “fun” day. And was it ever. We arrived at the park around 6 am. There was a snafu about our admission tickets and after1 hour of negotiating on Rev John’s part, we were allowed in to pay the entrance fee. We then met our guide Robert who took us on a 3-hour tour of the savannah. We arrived as early as we did in order to have a chance at seeing lions. We were not disappointed. Towards the end of the 3rd hour we were able to observe a female lion stalking an antelope and then make a chase for it. The antelope was too quick for the lion…at least this time. The cactus trees I saw intrigued me. I’ve seen large cactus in the southwest part of the United States but never as large as trees.

Elephant pair at Queen Eliz ParkWe had a nice relaxing lunch at one of the lodges in the park and then headed down to the water front (Lake Edward) for a 2-hour boat ride with our guide Sam. We were treated to elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo, wart hogs, hippos, more antelope and a dozen or so species of birds. Upon leaving the park, we saw a dozen monkeys up in a tree. It was an extraordinary trip and something I will never forget.

I have developed a love/hate relationship with our van. We are fortunate to have our driver Apollo and a van at our disposal to transport us but it is dusty, hot (no air conditioning), windy due to the open windows and the seats are uncomfortable. We have spent l-o-n-g hours in that van. Today our 3-hour ride back to Mbarara included an hour or so stretch with pot holes like I’ve never seen and in places the road was simply missing. We bounce around in there like kernels of corn in a hot-air popcorn popper.

However, during the ride we were treated to some absolutely beautiful vistas. At one point there were hillsides full of tea estates with rows of plants that would remind you of vineyards in the Willamette Valley.

Tomorrow we are going to the refugee camp. It will be a very different day than today.


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