Tuesday, December 25, 2007

(I can be reached at Glen@FocusOnNewfoundland.com)

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December 25, 2007

I will now attempt (again) to post some pictures. They can be enlarged by clicking on them. I hope this works, and my apologies if it doesn't, or it may have some alignment issues that cannot be corrected with such a slow connection. Well, lets see how it goes! The first one shows Jacqueline learning to do laundry the old fashioned way, on the
patio of her grass-roofed cottage. Her fingers resembled prunes by the time she was finished!

The second one is of Allyssia dispensing ARV's (anti-retroviral meds), a powerful life prolonging drug for HIV/AIDS clients, at the clinic. The other woman in the photo is Fatuma, the clinical officer.
The next photo is of a redtailed monkey outside our window a few days ago. We have many of these monkeys all around our cottage every day, and they are very entertaining to watch.

The fourth shot shows Ezra performing the wedding ceremony for Fred and Beatrice that we attended, along with 1,600 other guests.
Fred will be driving us to Queen Elizabeth National Park in a few days.

The fifth one shows Paraa Safari Lodge in Northern Uganda, where we spent a couple of days last week. Note the Nile River and fifteen elephants in front of the lodge. The last is a shot I took of a male Rothschild giraffe,
of which we saw so many that we lost track. Seeing them in the wild and from such a close vantage point sure beats looking at them on the Internet or TV!

December 30, 2007

Hi everyone! Just a quick post today, as my back is acting up and not allowing me to get out of bed. I am hoping you all had a great Christmas. Ours was wonderful, and I can hardly wait to tell you all about it when I feel better, hopefully in a day or two, but I can tell you it was a day full of much singing, traditional dancing, and lots of food. I will post photos soon.

Also, Wednesday we spent the entire day visiting with the rest of our supported children, taking photos and video. We met three of the new children for Linda's brother's family too, and hope to visit with the remaining two in a few days. I just wish we could scoop them all up and bring them back to Canada!

Keep checking back for more stories. We wish you all a Happy New Year!!

January 6, 2008

My apologies again for taking so long to post, but things have been very chaotic here, and it seems that the journal keeps getting pushed to the back burner.

My back is a bit better now, after spending some time in bed. I knew that I would have some bad days on this trip, so being out of commission for a few days was not unexpected.

As mentioned in the last post, we had a great Christmas here in Kitojo, with many friends and colleagues coming to spend the day together with lots of food, singing, drumming and dancing. It was so exciting to be in this tropical paradise, and be able to learn how other cultures celebrate the special day. Even Linda and the girls were up dancing with the Ugandans, (yes, I videotaped the monumental achievement of getting Linda on the dance floor… or front lawn in this case… for its historical significance!!) and we ate so much beef, chicken and goat, that we thought we were going to burst at the seams at any time! We even had turkey, something that is unheard of here in Uganda, as it is not affordable. Ezra gave a rousing speech about all the good work that my family has been doing for this community. By this time, with our egos soaring, and feeling very proud of our accomplishments, out came the food, platter after platter. Kids came from all around to partake in the enormous feast, and we made sure there was plenty of soda for everyone, something that is only consumed on very special occasions because of its high cost. I will never forget all the fun, laughter and music that day, and of seeing a priest (Ezra himself!) banging away on an African drum, and dancing and clapping to the various tribal rhythms.

On Boxing Day, we drove to a friend’s house at the top of a big hill on the edge of Kibale National Park (one of the last refuges of the chimpanzee), with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside of banana and coffee plantations. These friends were some of our guests for Christmas Day. Their son had, through the night, created some incredible paintings which he presented as gifts to us, for which we were very grateful, and are looking forward to having them mounted on the walls of our new home in Newfoundland soon.

About a week ago things here in Uganda took a turn for the worst, all a direct result of post-election violence in neighboring Kenya. As of today, over 300 people have been killed in that country. All of Uganda’s fuel supply originates in the port city of Mombasa, Kenya, and because of the violence there, the supply trucks have been unable to safely travel through Kenya to filling stations throughout Uganda. As a result, there is no fuel available, in particular gasoline, diesel and kerosene. This has caused total chaos here, as not only is there no fuel for transportation, but now shops are running out of all essentials. We have been unable to buy pop, or even bottled water, though yesterday a case of pop was found in the trading centre of Rhaihamba, (at a very inflated price) but with the lack of fuel we were unable to hire a boda boda (motorbike) to deliver it to us, so one of the kids went by bicycle to get it.

We have been planning to travel to Southern Uganda this week to spend a few days with Marjorie and Ezra on Bushara Island in Lake Bunyonyi (they have never had a holiday before, and our Christmas gift to them was a short stay on the island) and though we are to travel tomorrow, it remains to be seen as to whether it will happen. Ezra’s truck is in Fort Portal right now getting repaired because of a rollover on a bad road (mercifully nobody injured), and even if the repairs can be made today, we have not yet been able to find enough gas to get the truck back home, let alone to Lake Bunyonyi and back again. If we can just find enough fuel to reach the halfway point, a friend of Ezra’s has promised to drive to the Congo border to buy some gas that has been smuggled into Uganda, though at a very premium price. As if things were not already stacked enough against us, Ezra received a phone call yesterday saying that his Dad is in a coma. He managed to find transport by boda boda at a ridiculous cost to visit his father, but it broke down, and another had to be hired at an even higher cost, to get him back home again.

By this morning, any fuel still available is being sold (illegally inflated) at about 6,000 Ugandan shillings per litre (almost $4 per litre!) The Kenyan government has agreed to supply a military escort for 155 fuel transport trucks, but so far only 35 trucks have made it through to Uganda, so it seems the situation is only going to worsen in the coming days. All domestic air travel has been suspended due to no available aviation fuel. We are hoping that things will return to normal by the 18th, when we are set to travel back to Kampala, when we are to fly back home to Canada; otherwise, I have no idea what we will do, or how we would be able to get home.

Another of our friends has offered to support a vulnerable child!! You cannot believe the excitement and joy we feel at this great news. Deann, we have been unable to reply to your wonderful email message, but hopefully you are able to read this, and will know that we (and KIDA) are truly grateful for your generous offer. We will travel with Marjorie (when we are able) to visit the girl, take plenty of photos and video, and gather any other info. We will pay the support up front now, to enable the child to pick up all of her supplies before the beginning of the new school term begins next month. These items include kerosene (lights and cooking), soap, petroleum jelly (for raw feet), tooth paste and brush, shoe polish, all school books (text, exercise), pens, mathematical set, reams of paper, school uniforms, school bag, and all tuition fees. Each supported child also has any medical costs covered. Every child’s needs are different than the next, but all receive the same basic supplies, and any other costs are evaluated and dealt with when they arise. We are always looking for other ways in which we can help these children, above and beyond the basics, and our goal is to see that all the kids one day will have a mattress, mosquito net, bedding, clothing and enough food to eat. Deann has offered more than just the cost of basic school support, so if the child may need some clothing or perhaps some cooking utensils, etc, we will see that she gets them. At this point, we don’t yet know the condition of her latrine or kitchen hut, but hopefully we will see firsthand next week. If she lacks these, or they are in poor condition, she will be put on our list of those requiring repair or replacement.

On Friday while we were sitting on the veranda having our breakfast, a very forlorn boy of 18 years appeared in the driveway. It turns out he had gotten up very early in the morning and began the long walk to the KIDA office to speak with the reverend (Ezra) about his problems. After a three hour walk, Edward arrived at the clinic to discover it was still closed, and someone pointed him in the direction of Ezra’s house, so there he stood, looking so sad and lost. Ezra invited him to sit with us and have some breakfast, and over time, we were able to slowly learn about his situation. His mother died from AIDS last year (she had been a KIDA client), and his Dad just lost his job as a security guard for the Ugandan High Commission office. He has just completed his senior two studies, but because he was unable to pay the term fees, he was not given his report card, and thus was unable to enroll in the new year’s classes, even though he is an exemplary student, with the dream of one day attaining his engineering degree. It was indeed heart wrenching to see the anguish and despair etched on his face and in his soul. How could we not help this boy? Linda and I, and the girls, looked at each other and we knew he would be our next supported child. We told Ezra that we wish to support him, and Ezra was so excited to tell him in his vernacular that he would no longer have to worry about the past-due school fees, or not being able to continue with his education. You could just see the worry and sadness drain away from him as he sat there eating his toast. Ezra headed down to the clinic and we stayed at the house with the boy for most of the day getting to know him better. As it turns out, he speaks very good English, and became very interested in learning all about our family and what Canada is like. (he has a basic knowledge of Canada through his geography and history classes). Later in the day, and after another hearty meal, he was on his way back home. He was a changed person for sure, and was very grateful, saying he was “very happy now”, and “I cannot hardly wait until I reach home to tell Daddy about my new family from Canada!” All in all, a great day for us, and also for him!

I have just this moment, as I write this in my office at the clinic, received word from Ezra that the truck’s repairs should be completed later today, and that 20 litres of gas has been found in Fort Portal at 6,500 shillings per litre, meaning enough fuel to get the truck delivered back to us today, and then to get us to where the smuggled gas is located at the Congo border, so we just may get to Lake Bunyonyi tomorrow after all! A boda boda driver has been dispatched to the clinic (from Fort Portal) to pick up my money for the 20 litres of gas, along with his payment for the boda boda ride. I never thought I would ever be paying about $90 for less than 5 gallons of gas!! What an adventure this trip has turned out to be!

Last week, before the fuel shortage, we stayed at Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park for two days, and again saw many elephants, hippos, kobs and other beasts. I came out my door and nearly ran right into a big, ugly warthog, which was not too happy to see me, and he was quite intimidating with those big tusks protruding from both upper and lower jaws. There were many cute little critters called a mongoose (not sure if the plural is mongooses, or mongeese?) They are all over the lodge grounds, and they look friendly until they open their mouths, revealing very sharp teeth! The temperatures at Mweya were even higher than here, but thankfully they had a nice pool to cool off in, and at least it cooled down at night, unlike at Murchison Falls National Park in the north of the country.

Well, I had better stop here, as I have to walk back home to get the payment for the gas and the boda boda driver. I will write back as soon as I am able. (you should hear my daily cursing of this terrible Internet connection!) Michael, we wrote to you and hopefully you received it; let us know otherwise. To everyone else, the Hendersons in Armstrong, Carol Penton, Margie Lynch, Shannon and Martin, cousin Dawn, Katelyn in Armstrong, Pamela in Kampala, to name just a few, I have tried writing to you, but don’t know if the messages were ever able to be received. But just so you know, we are thinking of all of you, and although we can receive your messages, we have much difficulty in replying, so please bear with us. Tell everyone we say Hi, we are doing well here in Africa and look forward to seeing them again soon!

Bye for now!

January 18, 2008

Yesterday we arrived back in the capital, to prepare for our long journey back to Canada.

But first, to get things back up to date, we did finally get to Bushara Island Camp on Lake Bunyonyi with Marjorie and Ezra. We took a big gamble and left their place early in the morning with the hope that we would be able to find gas in Kasesse, enough to at least get us to Bushara Island. We found some available, but at a very high price of 5,000 shillings per litre, or about $3.00 Canadian! We bought some jerry cans to fill up also, so that we would be able to get back home. Anyway, we finally got to the island, where we had a very relaxing time, with a lot of food and laughs. The scenery was spectacular, and we awoke every morning to the songs of many very unusual birds. At night, we sat around a big fireplace in the open-walled restaurant. We introduced Ezra and Marjorie to pizza, and now they cannot get enough of it! On the drive back home, the truck broke down about 5 miles from home. We found a mechanic to work on it at the side of the road, and it turns out that the gas that we bought was contaminated. We were soon on our way again.

Yesterday was a very sad day for everyone, as it was time for us to head back to Kampala after 7 weeks. It was so hard to say goodbye to all of our dear frs again, where the food and service is outstanding. Last night we all went for a walk to an Italian restaurant, as they wanted pizza one last time.

We visited with many morone shortly. We have Marjorie searching for a house rental, as one of the families is about to be kicked from their home. Ezra has offered to hire the mother for some work around their own place, and we have pledged to get a better and bigger house for them close by. Also, one newly supported child has a growth on her face which could be cancerous, so we are planning to get treatment for her, possibly in Kampala. She has a younger brother who is having seizures, so we will see that he gets medical attention too. Margret's oldest grandson has begun work on their home addition, and we have pledged funding to speed up the construction, as there are 9 people living in a very tiny hut. The list of work goes on and on, but I have to stop here, to prepare for our voyage.

A special note to Pamela; we are so sorry that we missed you last night. We must have just missed each other by mere minutes, as you mentioned the rainstorm, and we were at that moment scrambling to get to dinner before we got rained on. We had so hoped to finally visit with you face to face. But rest assured that we will return as soon as we can, and will make a point of getting together with you and your family first thing! Take care. We are always thinking of you.

We will leave for the airport in about 3 hours, and hopefully the return trip will go much better than getting here! I will post again when I am able.

Bye for now!

January 25, 2008

We are now in Canada, safe and sound! We flew back via Entebbe Uganda/Addis Ababa Ethiopia/Rome Italy/London England/Vancouver/Kelowna, arriving in Kelowna on Saturday night, in the middle of a snowstorm. Our friends came to pick us up at the airport and allowed us to stay at their place for the night. In the morning we packed up some of our things and mailed them to Newfoundland, so that we would not be too crowded in the car for our long journey across Canada to our new home. Friends of ours (with the horses) offered to let us stay a night at their place, which was welcomed, as we were suffering from extreme jetlag (from passing through 13 time zones in a day or so) It was nice to spend some time with them again, and we talked all about our trip, and showed many photos.

First thing Monday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we were on our way. We have no time limits, so we decided ahead of time that we would only drive during daylight hours, and would pull off the highway at the first sign of bad weather. We were concerned about getting through the Rockies in one piece, but as it turns out, that has so far been the easiest part of the trip. Road conditions were great across most of the prairies too, so we just set the cruise control at 155 kph, and covered a lot of distance in no time at all. We spent the first night in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Tuesday night in Brandon, Manitoba, and Wednesday night in Thunder Bay, Ontario. On Thursday morning it was 32 below zero when we started the car! Later in the day, it was still -32 in the bright sunshine.

We were driving along at a leisurely 113kph, when sure enough, the OPP clocked us at 23 kph over the posted limit. Ontario is just crawling with cops. Everywhere we go, even way out in the boonies, they can always be found, whereas we went all the way through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at 155 kph and didn't see even one! The good news is he let us go with a warning!

A little further along, we ran into snow squalls coming off of Lake Superior, and the visibility and road conditions became much worse in no time at all. There were many truckers on the road (all driving like Mario Andretti!), and to make matters worse, our windshield washer fluid (which is rated at -40 degrees) froze solid, so we had to keep stopping to splash some onto the windshield by hand to see where we were going!

We made it to Sault Ste. Marie by late afternoon on Thursday, and settled in for the night, after a feast of some of the best Chinese food we have ever tasted. We watched the weather forecast on Friday morning, and discovered that the squalls were to continue throughout the day, (this highway had actually been closed for two days prior to our arrival) so we decided to stay put, and see what tomorrow brings. If we are able to (safely) travel tomorrow, we should be in Oshawa by evening, where we will visit my parents. If they are calling for snow, we may just sit here in Sault Ste. Marie for another day. Until today’s delay, we have made very good time, and have reached the halfway point to Newfoundland in four days.

Dawn, we have received your emails, and will write back as soon as we are able. The same to you, Aunt Elizabeth, and thanks for Mom’s new number, and for letting her know that we are OK.

Will post again soon.

February 28, 2008

We have been living in our new home in Newfoundland for three weeks, and are finally starting to get things organized. Our friends have done an amazing job of renovating the entire home in the past few months, including plumbing, wiring, all new paint, ceiling tiles, leveling the floors, new staircase, all new flooring and baseboards upstairs and in the living room, and many little cosmetic touches such as replacing the old-fashioned light switches and outlets with the new "Decora" style, to give the home a fresh new look. There is still some more work to do, but it will have to wait until the warmer weather comes, such as replacing the porch roof, shingling the entire house, and building a wrap-around deck overlooking the ocean.

Our new refrigerator, chest freezer, washer/dryer, and beds have been delivered, and we will soon travel off the island to Gander to buy dressers, desks, bookshelves, and other items that are not available locally. We have purchased a very large BBQ that will be great for entertaining in the summer months.

We have certainly experienced our share of problems, such as trying for two weeks to get our satellite system up and running, waiting two weeks for the phone company to send out an Internet installation kit, Sears shipping the wrong beds, as well as some issues while installing the washer/dryer, but I think the worst is over, and we can stop and catch our breath now. I have tried to take it easy because of my spinal injury, but I seem to have overdone it, as I have been in bed for much of the past nine days with severe headaches and neck pain, which has been an ongoing problem for the past three years, but had settled down a little until recently. I used the T.E.N.S. (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) machine on my neck and back today, so hopefully I will get a little relief tomorrow. It is so frustrating to not be able to do any physical activity at all; I figured that I was taking it easy, but even moving a few boxes, or lifting grocery bags from the trunk of the car has proven to be too much for me. I can only hope that I will not require another surgery to relieve the increased symptoms.

Linda and the girls are just as happy with the house and location as I was when I first came out here last fall. We have the best neighbors in the world, and everyone that we have met is very friendly and welcoming. Our daughters took no time at all in meeting some neighbors and kids of their own age, and they have already been snowmobiling. Last weekend we were over to our friend's house for the evening, where we feasted on crab's legs, a first for Linda and the girls.

The sunsets out our front window each evening have to be seen firsthand to be truly appreciated. It is a breathtakingly beautiful sight to behold as the sun appears to sink right into the frozen Atlantic Ocean. Most days one or all of us can be seen running down to the shore with cameras in hand, in an effort to catch the vivid reds, oranges and purples before they quickly disappear. Here are two shots from a couple of days ago, taken right in front of our house.

We miss Africa and our friends and supported children in Uganda terribly. We wish we could go again soon, but the high cost of airfare will keep us from returning any time soon, however our work there is continuing as always. Right now we have two kitchen structures in the final stages of completion, with the roofing to be finished this week. A latrine for Maureen's family should be finished this week as well. Moses Asaba has received his brand new bicycle (see photo at left) so that he will no longer have to spend over four hours per day traveling to and from school. Margaret's new home construction is almost completed, and Happy's family is looking for a home, as we have offered to cover the monthly rent. Two new volunteers have started working at the clinic to aid with data processing and the daily operation of the clinic. Two weeks ago, all the orphans received their school supplies for the new term. Here is a photo showing some of our kids with supplies.

I have been either too busy getting our new home in order, or too sick, to sort through the thousands of photos and many hours of video that was taken while we were in Africa. I am far behind on my correspondence, including this journal, and would love to post a thousand photos on here today, but until I start feeling better, everything is in a holding pattern.

Hopefully none of you will think that we have forgotten about you, because this is not the case. I will write to everyone as soon as I am able, including getting the orphan info, photos and video to Micheal and Sue, and Glen and Deann, who have graciously joined us in our quest to help vulnerable children. To Pamela, Shannon and Martin, Dawn and Ron, Aunt Elizabeth, Greg and Leann, Nathan, the Hendersons, Carol Penton, Shirley, Katelyn, Margaret Burtch, Loni, Otto and Edna, all of our dear friends in Uganda, and all of the rest of you for which it would take forever to list all names, a big Hello to you all, and we will be in touch very soon.

March 1, 2008

I have just learned that in a landmark agreement signed on Thursday, Kenya's president and the opposition leader have agreed upon a plan to create a power-sharing government, ending the violent post-election crisis that plunged the country into turmoil, claimed some 1,000 lives and left thousands displaced since December. This violence, which erupted when the opposition did not agree with the outcome of the election results, crippled the entire Ugandan economy as well, when petroleum trucks were unable to safely travel through Kenya on their way to fuel stations in Uganda, meaning there was no fuel to be found anywhere in the country, which quickly snowballed into astronomically inflated prices for all goods, to the point where people could no longer afford even the most basic staple items. While we were in Uganda, we saw many stores almost completely emptied of stock, including bottled water and other daily necessities.

The only gasoline that we could find by the first week of January had been smuggled into the country from the D.R.C. (Democratic Republic of Congo), for which we were forced to pay over $3.00 per litre. And we think the price of gas is high here in Canada! Anyway, we hope that this new shared power deal will last, so that Kenya, as well as Uganda (and other neighboring countries affected by the two months of violence) can begin to return to normal. The prices of mosquito nets, mattresses, blankets, lumber, metal roofing, etc. had all risen to the point where we were only able to purchase small quantities of these items to give to the most vulnerable of the families, until the prices stabilized. Now we should soon see the costs begin to decline, and have wired more money to Ezra and Marjorie so that we can help more families, especially with more mattresses and mosquito nets, which are so desperately needed.

Jacqueline participated in her very first ever snowmobile poker run today, and the first ever for the community of Island Harbour, and took home second prize!! She had the time of her life, and the weather could not have been more cooperative for the big event. There were about 150 participants, quite an accomplishment considering the population of the town is about 200! My spinal issues kept me from taking part today, but I am looking forward to next year... hopefully on a new Ski-Doo!

We are battening down the hatches for a big snowstorm expected to hit sometime overnight, and dumping 15 to 25 centimetres of snow, with very strong winds. Tomorrow is Allyssia's 19th birthday, and we had planned to take her out for a birthday dinner, but we may have to postpone if the roads are bad.

March 13, 2008

We can say that we survived "The Blizzard of 2008", or at least we have so far!

Today we experienced the absolute worst storm of our lives. This morning our driveway was absolutely bare, and Linda even took the car out ... but here is a photo of our driveway taken at 8PM today. The car is close to the middle of the photo (right behind Linda's face!) We estimate that there is about three feet of snow over the top of the car's roof, meaning a total depth of well over seven feet of snow, where this morning there was not even a trace. Hard to believe!

At present (10:30PM) it is still snowing very heavily, with sustained winds of 107 kph, gusting to 133 kph. (winds of 130 kph are classed as hurricane strength) Our house is shaking and vibrating fiercely from the strength of the intense wind, especially on the second floor; I am unsure how the roof doesn't just fly right off our house! The forecast has been calling for 50 cm of snow to fall, but we will have to wait until morning to see just how much is on the ground.

I don't have a clue as to how we will even begin to go about clearing our doorways of snow in the morning, let alone removing all of this from our driveway, and getting our car out. A neighbor assures us that help will be on the way tomorrow, and not to worry. At least we are well stocked up on food. I think we should have stayed in Africa a little longer! More later.

March 15, 2008

Today we are counting our blessings. Were it not for the heroic efforts of the very professional and dedicated volunteer firefighters of Island Harbour, we would now be homeless. And were it not for my sleeplessness, we very well may not have lived to see another day.

As you might already be aware, (if you have been following this journal) we have been experiencing the worst blizzard in recent memory here on Fogo Island, with over 60 cm of snow driven by winds clocked at 137 kph, making for dangerously high wind chill values, impassible roads, and zero visibility. Today the municipal councils have declared a state of emergency for the island.

(Note: At the end of today's posting is a news story from CBC regarding the Fogo Island blizzard and subsequent state of emergency)

Being well aware of the importance of keeping a wood stove fire at an absolute minimum in strong winds, we went to bed last night, feeling as though the roof would be lifted from our house; the upper floor was actually swaying. I could not sleep, and kept coming back down to check on the fire, and ensuring that both exit doors were kept free of snow, which was constantly drifting against the house. By 3:00 AM, and convinced that the fire was small, I headed to bed. Again, sleep didn't come easily due to the shaking of the house by hurricane force winds. I lay there for no more than ten minutes, when I became faintly aware of the smell of an over-heated wood stove and chimney. I ran downstairs to discover that my nice small fire of just a few minutes earlier had grown to the point where we now had a full blown chimney fire sounding like a run-away freight train, with the stove and stovepipe glowing bright orange, a house full of smoke, and a ceiling and walls too hot to touch. I ran back upstairs to awaken the family and ordered them dressed with coats, hats and boots, and ready to make a mad dash out the back door if necessary.

In the meantime, Linda was on the phone to the next door neighbors, as well as to members of the local volunteer fire department, who by some miracle were at our door within just a few short minutes, even though the roads were impassible, and we were in the midst of a brutal blizzard. Our next door neighbor Lar arrived first with a ladder, and chemical retardant to be thrown down the chimney, but he had to wait for the firefighters, as the winds were far too strong to enable him to get up onto the roof. Meanwhile, I was in front of the stove with oven mitts on, applying pressure to the air control knob, in a feeble attempt to allow even less oxygen into the stove to slow down the intensity of the fire, while Linda and the girls stood ready to exit the house at a moment's notice.

I cannot even begin to explain in words here, how we felt at that moment, knowing how close we were to losing everything we have; all of our personal belongings that we possess, and also the home we have lived in for only five weeks. Knowing just how close we came to losing our lives if I had fallen asleep sooner. But soon four firefighters were here and up onto the roof, even though they could have easily been swept off instantly in a single gust of wind. Their vehicles, and even their snowmobiles, were deeply buried in huge snowdrifts, so they had to run all the way from their homes in these terribly dangerous weather conditions, two of them from quite a distance.

It took well over an hour to bring things under control, and during that time, there were a few moments that we were only seconds from abandoning the house altogether, but the firemen kept reassuring that they could get it under control, and if not, were prepared to physically pick up the wood stove and throw it right out the door, if it should come to that. You can imagine our immense relief when, finally, they were able to announce that the fire was indeed out, and the home had been saved.

Our most heartfelt appreciation and thanks go out to the volunteers of the Island Harbour Fire Department, as well as our wonderful neighbors Lar and Margie, who were first on the scene to help us, and comfort us, throughout the horrible ordeal in the midst of this terrible blizzard. We consider ourselves very fortunate indeed, to be here today, to live in such a wonderful and close knit community, and we can safely say that we have the best neighbors in the world!! Thanks again to everyone. You have saved our home, and renewed our faith in mankind. We are forever grateful!

By midmorning, more help had arrived to dig the snow drifts from our doors, which had again drifted in, trapping us. And thanks to whoever plowed out the end of our driveway. Where would we be without such wonderful neighbors and friends! We love you all!

Here is a CBC news story from today:

State of emergency declared on Fogo Island after two days of blizzard

Friday, March 14, 2008 - 2:54 PM
CBC News

Municipal councils on Fogo Island declared a state of emergency Friday after two days of severe blizzard conditions dumped more than 60 centimetres of snow on the island.
Municipal officials said roads are blocked with snow and the ferry between the island and the mainland is out of service.
The deep snow even caused an avalanche Thursday evening, sending tonnes of snow down from the hills around the town of Fogo. The cascade of snow hit one house, but there were no injuries.
Edna Brown, whose house was hit by the avalanche, said she was surprised by the amount of snow that came down from the hills.
"We heard this big bang and we thought it was the wood stove chimney," she said. "We went out … and couldn't get the door open."
Brown said the force of the snow tipped over a pickup truck and snowmobile on their property and knocked the rails from her back deck.
Gerald McKenna, the region's mayor, said most of the island's small communities can't put their snowclearing equipment on the road until conditions improve.
"We want to declare the state of emergency so everyone is on guard," McKenna told CBC News. "We have hospital workers at the health-care facility that have been there since yesterday and into today."
McKenna said the hospital workers will likely have to continue to stay on guard at the hospital until the weekend, when relief workers are expected to arrive. He said some people have begun to get low on fuel, but so far no one has needed emergency rescue.
Officials hope to lift the state of emergency by sometime Saturday, when conditions clear enough to open the roads.
More snow is forecast for the region on Monday and Tuesday.

March 16, 2008

After two days of terrible blizzard conditions, the snow has finally stopped falling, the hurricane force winds have diminished, and people are digging out of their homes. We had some help clearing the drifts from our doorways and car, the fire fighters stopped in to check on us and our wood stove and chimney; also our neighbor brought over some Newfie soup. (delicious!)

Our nerves are starting to return to normal, the wood stove is again back in operation, and I even managed to get out for awhile to take some photos of the storm’s aftermath. The first picture is taken from the end of our driveway shortly after the plows finally got through to Island Harbour. The next shot shows the depth of snow at a neighboring home.
Finally, a photo of a plow attempting to open up the main road leading to our town.

I have just learned that there is now another winter storm warning for Monday and Tuesday, which is expected to dump a lot more snow on us! I don’t think we will be boating any time soon!

March 17, 2008

These photos of the past week's blizzard were sent to me today from a friend in Joe Batt's Arm. It gives a good indication of the magnitude of the storm. (they are quite small and cannot be enlarged by clicking, as are the others posted on this journal)

We have just learned that another big storm is heading for Newfoundland and expected to hit our area sometime Monday night and continuing right through into Wednesday, again bringing very strong winds of over 120 kph and heavy snow with accumulations in excess of 50 cm, meaning zero visibility, impassible roads, and extremely high wind chill values... in other words, a repeat performance of the dangerous blizzard of the past week from which we are still cleaning up!

Most locals will agree that the last time Fogo Island was hit with a storm as big as the one we just experienced was twenty years ago. The blizzard of 1988 left roads on the island closed for five days. I had just yesterday mentioned to Linda and the girls that we may never again experience another storm of the magnitude we just had, (Thursday & Friday) yet now another storm with the potential to be every bit as powerful, if not more so, is almost upon us. I am beginning to think that all of this talk of global warming may be a hoax!

We are preparing for the worst. Today we went out to the store to stock up on some essentials, purchased new batteries for all three smoke detectors, and we all agreed to stop using the woodstovealtogether, should the winds again reach such a dangerous strength that we could have difficulty controlling our fire.

I will likely soon be posting more photos, of even higher snow drifts!

March 19, 2008

The storm is still blowing hard here on Fogo Island. This is believed to be the worst winter ever, according to our neighbor. Our car is buried again, and there is nothing we can do about it until the storm runs its course.

Ezra wrote today to say that all of the supported kids are doing well, except for Stella, who was a little under the weather when she came to visit the clinic a couple of days ago.

Work on the clinic addition is progressing nicely. The painting is for the most part completed, and even the curtain rods have been installed. Ezra's former office has been partitioned to make two small offices; one for the microfinance division, and another for the accountant's assistant. He will send us photos of the clinic progress once he has a better Internet connection.

The digital camera which we donated for the clinic's new savings and loan office is working fine, but the battery charger has yet to arrive.

Jane's father traveled from Rwebisengo to pick up the support funding for both her and Grace's family. He told Ezra that Jane has now been enrolled in a private school, which he believes has higher standards than the public school she was in. We originally sponsored Grace and Jane through World Vision, but have since been supporting them directly through our own Treasures of Africa Foundation, once it had been discovered that both of these families were still suffering, and had not appeared to be benefiting at all from World Vision.

Ezra visited his eldest daughter Natugonza at her boarding school in Bushenyi last week, and says she is doing very well with her classes, and is already studying for her final Senior 4 exams in October.

As I write this, it appears as though the wind is actually intensifying. It has switched over to freezing rain now, so I suppose it is just a matter of time before we lose power.

March 25, 2008

Today Ezra emailed photos to us showing some of the finishing work of the clinic's interior. It looks so different from when we were there just two months ago.

The first picture shows the entrance to both the new Savings and Loans office aswell as the accountant's assistant's office. The facility is now functioning as a full service bank, the first in this region of Western Uganda!

In the next photo you can see the new central corridor that runs the length of the building.
The clinic is now about ninety feet long, a far cry from the 18 by 24 foot structure of just a couple of years ago. All of the doors and windows are now in place, the painting is completed, and new light fixtures and trim are being installed.

What a thrill to now be so close to the completion of this huge undertaking; transforming a tiny, basic four room clinic into a large, full service medical facility and multi-service banking institution rolled into one, in such a short time.

Back here in Newfoundland, the severe weather appears to be behind us now, and we are anxious to see the huge piles of snow disappear.

Here is another shot taken last week that shows our neighbor standing at the peak of his roof. I hope we will never again see this much snow!

March 30, 2008

Yesterday the Island Harbour Firettes put on a fundraiser BBQ. About 150 pork chop dinners were served, and later in the evening a dance was held at the fire hall, with a good time being had by all.

In appreciation of the support we received from the local volunteer firefighters at our recent chimney fire, we presented a thank-you card with a cheque enclosed for two hundred dollars to fire chief Barry Bailey, to be used toward new equipment, supplies, etc., to help our dedicated volunteer firefighters continue to protect our community. Many thanks again to the Island Harbour Fire Department for saving our home on that frightful, stormy night. Above, is a couple of photos taken at last night's fundraiser dance.

On the Africa front, here is a shot taken yesterday of the now completed exterior of the AIDS clinic. All that is left to do is a bit of landscaping. The photo below shows the clinic just two years ago. What a difference a couple of years, and a lot of hard work and dedication, can make!! It has gone from an 18'X24' basic four room structure to a large, fully equipped and staffed 4,000 square foot medical facility, and a savings and loan institution, rolled into one!

We spoke with our friends in Uganda by phone a few days ago, and they assured us that all of the supported children are doing well. This week Marjorie planted all of the seeds that we had brought to Uganda in December, and the family will be anxiously waiting for the sweet corn to grow, as it is not available in that part of Africa. Since we introduced the Musobozi family to the fine art of pizza-making, they are admittedly hooked on it, and have made it several times since we returned to Canada in January. Linda and Marjorie talked at length of all the good times we had together, and especially of our very memorable Christmas, with lots of friends, feasting, cultural dancing, drumming and music. We hope to return to Africa in 2009.

March 30, 2008

Here's a couple of interesting photos taken earlier today. A polar bear decided to come to Fogo Island for a visit. He took a stroll around the area of Seldom, just a short distance from where we live in Island Harbour. A neighbor fired his rifle in the air in an attempt to scare it away to no avail, so the decision was made to have wildlife officers fly to the island by helicopter to tranquilize the animal, so it could be placed in a large net and airlifted back out onto the ice, and away from civilization.

Not a common site here on Fogo Island, though there have been more sitings in recent years. I will definitely think twice the next time I decide to go for a walk!

April 22, 2008

It's been quite a while since my last entry, so I thought I had better write something here, before you believe that I have left permanently!

We are still waiting for the snow to finally go; shouldn't be long now, as we have large patches of bare ground on our lawn, where just a few weeks ago we had several feet of the white stuff. I've been busy with my camera, as usual, and have been taking hundreds of sunset photos, and other interesting shots in and around Island Harbour. Here are a few of my favorites from the past few weeks. (FYI, high resolution prints are available in any size, either framed or unframed, with the proceeds going to our work in Africa)

Ezra called last week to say Hello, and to let us know that Jane is sick with malaria, but responding well now to her medications. Also, the HIV infected baby's health is failing. (whose mother died during childbirth) They are about to try a new drug on her at our clinic, with the hope that it will give her more strength, and boost her weakened immune system.

Yesterday we received a letter from Ezra's adopted son Stephen, who mentioned that he is studying to be a teacher. He says the whole family misses us, and are hoping we will come back to Uganda again soon.

Tomorrow we will travel to Bay Roberts to pick up our new puppy, a six week old shih tzu named Chrissy. We were to get her a few days ago, but have all been sick with the flu. Here's a photo of her, taken at five weeks.

May 7, 2008

Here's a photo that we received today from Ezra, showing Hadadi (one of our supported children) and his family standing in front of the new kitchen hut that we constructed for them. All that remains is for the doors to be installed, but they are already cooking in it, and are very grateful. You can see the cute baby who was born with the AIDS virus, and has not been doing well lately. (her mother died during childbirth)

The next photo was taken yesterday in the newly completed director's office at the clinic. This is the clinic staff attending a meeting; you can see one of our donated computers on the desk. (Fatuma, the nurse, is absent from the photo)
Next are a couple of new pictures of our new Shih Tzu named Chrissy, at eight weeks of age. She is getting bigger and stronger every day, and is always looking for attention!

I have spent much of the past week in bed with more spinal pain and headaches, but I feel a bit better, and am looking forward to getting back outside to get some fresh ocean air into my lungs. It's not much fun sitting in the house now that Spring has sprung! I did manage to get out for a car drive a few days ago, and saw plenty of caribou; we even had to stop the car at one point to let them pass by.
On the way home we got pulled over by the police. I think they were curious as to what a car with BC plates was doing here! (no worries, we are leaving the island for Grand Falls on Friday to pick up our Newfoundland plates!) I guess next time they stop me, it will have to be for speeding!

Keep checking back for more postings!

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