Waiting on terror…

IMG_20130704_173200Geology class. Indiana University. Someone beside me said, “Whoa. I guess a plane or something was hijacked and crashed into a building this morning.”

We all remember where we were when we first heard about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I’m pretty sure every moment of that entire day is burned into my memory like it is for most Americans.

Terrorist attacks aren’t common in the United States, but we do know what it’s like to live through one. We know the fear, the terror, and the aftermath of such a vicious and heartless crime. And we never want to experience it again.

We didn’t see September 11 coming. There wasn’t any fear or anxiety leading up to the attack. It just happened, and we reacted. Now, I’m living in a country on the other side of the world and I’m basically being told to stay home until further notice.

I am in Uganda, where police have raised the terror threat to red- the highest it can go. The US Embassy has sent out multiple emails warning people of a possible attack. Some say it’s imminent.

A few of my European friends here in Kampala think Americans are a little too paranoid about the terrorist threats. But if they had terrorists crash planes and blow up buildings in their home country, I imagine they’d be a little paranoid as well. They haven’t lived through a September 11 like we have. Our fears are legit, and they bring up emotions we’ve tried to bury since 2001.

Yesterday I talked to a friend who was going to run to the store with her family. Her husband ended up not letting her and their child go with him. It was a risk he didn’t want to take.  My friend asked me, “Since when did a trip to the store require thinking about whether or not you’ll come back alive?”

Another friend of mine told me today that they were debating on whether or not they should go to church tomorrow, because theirs is the largest in Kampala. Her husband works there, so he has to go, but they weren’t sure about the rest of the family. “Then we thought maybe we should all go, and if something happens, we’ll die as a family,” she told me.

These are the conversations that have become normal here.

The city of Kampala has become my home.
The city of Kampala has become my home.

The sad reality is that some people live in countries where this is all they know- a consistent fear of terrorists. They live each day wondering whether or not it’s safe to go to the store or go to church. We are getting but a small taste of their lives.

There isn’t anything we can do to divert an attack. Right now we pray for peace and to shed the fear that comes along with all this. I believe that God’s will is what’s best, and if something were to happen to me, know that it doesn’t reflect on anything God did. His reasons are bigger and better than what we can imagine. So if He allows something to happen to me, there’s more to the story than we know. And I’m fine with that.

The best case scenario is that the governments, both Ugandan and American, are paranoid. Hopefully their information is wrong, and no one gets hurt in the coming days, weeks, or months. In the meantime, I refuse to hide in my closet and cry in terror, but I’m also not going to take it so lightly that I make poor decisions regarding my safety.

As Americans, we may know terror on a scale that some people from other places don’t. And then there are also people who know it on a much larger scale than we do. Either way, we all need your prayers right now in Kampala. I have grown to love the smiling faces here and would be devastated to see anyone get hurt.

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Bloody mornings and impending terror…

Between spitting up blood each morning and the likely terrorist attack that will occur here in Kampala, it’s been quite a week.

And we’re only halfway through it.

It’s common for me to wake up each morning, go to the sink, and spit up a bunch of phlegm. My sinuses are constantly draining junk. But when I spit on Monday morning, it wasn’t phlegm. It was blood. Not blood in the spit, but straight blood.

My CT scan from today's hospital visit.
My CT scan from today’s hospital visit.

I quickly examined my mouth, thinking maybe my gums were bleeding from something, but they weren’t. I spit again. More blood. This went on five or six times until eventually it wasn’t blood anymore.

If you know me well, you know I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Needless to say, spitting up blood while living in Uganda wasn’t exactly the best of feelings in the entire world. I have God to thank for keeping me calm through my phone call to our personnel director who said she would escort me to the doctor.

My blood pressure was fine. Temp was fine. Chest sounded clear. They took blood- all of my counts were good. I wasn’t in any pain. It was quite perplexing to both me and the doctor. She determined that maybe I had a cut in my throat that bled, and that would be the end of it.

However, I woke up Tuesday morning and spit up even more blood. Back to the doctor I went. This time they did a chest x-ray to rule out something like pneumonia. Chest x-ray was fine. She referred me to an ENT.

Today I was at the hospital from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., waiting to see the ENT doctor, seeing him, and then waiting even longer to get a CT scan. When I first saw the doctor, I showed him the pictures I’ve taken of the last two mornings and the blood I spit up.

“Whoa. That’s a lot of blood,” he said.

After the scan, the doctor did an initial review of the film. He didn’t see anything wrong, but said that doesn’t mean my sinuses aren’t irritated, possibly from the change in environment. What I find odd is the fact that I haven’t been in any pain, nor do I feel any sinus pressure.

He said the complete report might show something different, but that whatever it is, it isn’t that serious or it would have shown in the scan. Still, I’m a results girl. I don’t like not knowing the exact reason why I’m spitting up blood every morning. He prescribed me some antibiotics and a steroid, as well as nasal spray, and I’ll wait to hear what the full report says.

My mom wants to know why I’m handling this so well. To be honest, I haven’t had much of a choice. What good is freaking out going to do? I did have a few breakdowns today, just simply from feeling like a lab rat with all these tests and not knowing what’s wrong with me. But I definitely have faith that God is with me, and that I will get through this, whatever it is.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about this week.

It started with a few discerning emails from the American Embassy stating that Americans should avoid shopping malls, festivals, large gatherings, and other places frequented by white people, until further notice because of the attacks in Nairobi (which is around 400 miles away from here).

Sure, we can do that. We don’t go to places like those very often anyway.

The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.
The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.

However, the American Embassy also has visited our school for the past three days. We’re a clear target for terrorists. While this is true even on a day-to-day basis, it’s never been more imperative that we increase our security at school.

I know, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere. They happen even in the United States, and violence occurs at movie theatres and elementary schools and shopping malls. But when your own government (both U.S. and Ugandan) flat out tell you that you’re a prime target for an inevitable attack in Kampala, it’s kind of scary. It’s more than kind of scary.

Ugandan police have increased our security at school until further notice. Luckily, we’ll be surrounded by armed guards until things settle down.

Today my roommate and I went to the grocery store. As we pulled into the parking lot, soldiers not only took out our backpacks and searched them, but they also went through the backseat as well as the trunk of the car. While it’s reassuring that they are thoroughly searching every vehicle, it’s a little unsettling to know that it’s come to this here in Kampala.

But what breaks my heart more than anything right now, is the fact that one of my Kenyan students lost more than a handful of friends in the Nairobi attack. The attack there not only occurred close to us physically, but it has broken the heart of a student I love dearly. I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.

Please keep us all in your prayers. I’m not the only one dealing with confusing health problems, and there’s an entire school and city on edge right now just waiting to see if our home will be the next victim of senseless violence. I’m learning to have faith like I’ve never had to before.