Saturday, December 26, 2009
"Calm down, release your cares, the stale taste of recycled air" -Postal Service (yes, that's a band)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Since January I've been teaching this wonderful woman of 34 how to read. She was in school until...preschool. She was forced to drop out of school when her mother fell ill. In order to provide for the family she had to find work. Now she is providing for not only herself but her husband and three children. So, she never learned how to read. This woman was hired by my mission in the past few years and my boss soon discovered her inability to read. What we didn't know is that her reading level really was...completely illiterate. She didn't even know the letters of the alphabet! The funny thing about living in Kampala is that you really do need to know a lot of languages- your tribal language(s), Luganda, and English. She already knew English well, so that was no problem.
As a Christmas present last year, my boss suggested that I invite Susan to learn how to read. She jumped at the opportunity and since then so much has happened. We meet once a week after she is done working at my apartment. She is really shy about her reading, so if anyone is ever around we sneak into my room and study together. You should have seen her light up at being able to read labels on food containers!
Last week I gave her a test. I wanted her to feel really motivated. At times it was hard to get her to study due to her frustration at feeling she would never learn. So, I put together a list of the words we've worked on in the past 11 months and quizzed her. In my mind, I had decided that if she got 75% of the words correct I would reward her with a bag of sugar (it may seem silly to Americans, but Africans LOVE sugar in their tea). And guess what? She totally exceeded my expectations! She got 80% right! I was SO excited for her! To think that in less than a year she's gone from not knowing her letters to taking interest in the signs that she sees all around her! She's really trying to put an effort into reading! Granted, we've still got a long way to go and are working on vowel sounds right now, but it is so exciting to see the joy in her eyes when she finishes a little book.
She's learning to read while I'm learning more about education here and adult education. The ability to read is so freeing and something that every eye reading this can easily take for granted. Reading can put dreams in our hearts and minds and bring us to new worlds! Just one more thing to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day in the states!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
The little things I see on a daily basis crack me up. People think it’s silly how excited I get over small occurrences, but I just can’t help it. Last week when we were sitting in traffic for 2 hours (yes, there is crazy traffic here too) I randomly saw a black cat walking across a hot tin roof. I could not control the laughter that came pouring out of my stomach. It was just so funny to me! I’d never seen such a thing, but heard the song, heard of the play and heard the book referred to. So to actually see it taking place was just beyond amusing.
Every time that I pass this one particular clearing which contains a collection of garbage I look for monkeys. I was told 3 ½ years ago that monkeys live in the forest just beyond the clearing. Seeing as I love monkeys…I naturally turn my head towards that lot when we stroll by. Well recently I saw these little movements down in the ground and urged the driver to set the gears in reverse to discover what was causing them. Sadly it was not monkeys, but mongoose instead! These little scavengers also bring me delight. When I was in a park over the summer they came running all around me feet looking for food. They are not the most friendly but also quite cute. The first and ONLY time I’ve ever seen monkeys in that site was about two months ago. My surprise and excitement filled the car as my friends saw how elated I was to have finally seen those adorable little creatures in that dump.
Another animal that makes me laugh is the chicken. The joke "why did the chicken cross the road?" makes so much more sense here. He simply needed to get to the other side! One of my friends and I created a joke to counter-act it: "Why didn't the chicken cross the road? Because he didn't want to get hit by the boda-boda (motorcycle)!" Take note that we did that while laughing at a chicken frantically turning around mid run after seeing a boda come flying his direction and ran back to his starting point safely. The noises they make in those instances are hilarious. My roommate knows me well enough by now that when she hears me giggle randomly in the kitchen, it's probably due to a ridiculous sound that a chicken just produced.
A new thing I’ve discovered in the past week or so is the sun. Yes, the sun has been around for centuries, and so has the grass that it glistens on, but I’ve seen them both in a whole new way. There’s this one turn by a police post right after the quarry that I notice something small covering the earth at dusk. There are those pieces of grass that are different from others- I don’t know what they are called but the almost look like miniature wheat. When the sun is at just the right spot in the sky, they turn red and glow. It’s just gorgeous. How can something so minute bring such joy to my heart? Only a God bigger than this universe could conjure up that sort of happy delight.
I love nature and the small creatures that our God has created. The word creative is not vivid enough for what I see in the world that surrounds me. That just means the ability to create something, and obviously God has that! There is one definition of creative that fits- "making imaginative use of the limited resources available". How true is that!? God had NOTHING and made EVERYTHING! Talk about limited resources. How about words like artistic? I see an artistic God in the colors are thrown at my pupils on my morning walk. Or ingenious? I see an ingenious God when I turn a freshly picked flower upside down (while checking for ants after being handed to me by a student) and see instead a fascinating pattern on a part of a flower that not many people pay close attention to. How clever is that? He put that there just for those people who take the time to glance at his effective originality. Keep searching for those moments that make you laugh, even if those around you don't realize why, God does :) He made them that way.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
This past weekend was a unique experience for me! I had the wonderful opportunity to join a group of over 100 Kenyan, Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Sudanese University students on an island retreat! It was put on by the UFC (United Faith Chapel) AGC (African Gospel Church) that our mission started at the local university, KIU (Kampala International University). My roommate and I joined them late on Friday. We went to the Palace (the building we hold meetings in by the school) to meet up with a few other students who were also joining late. It was 5 pm by the time we went out to catch a matatu (van taxi) to the Ggaba landing site. When we got down to the water we did some small shopping to stock up on drinking water, candles, etc.
We eventually loaded in a long skinny boat and started on our way with the sun starting to set through the clouds. It was already such a joy to be with people who really knew how to laugh! Just look at them all laughing!
It only took about half an hour to get to the ‘island’ (we are still not sure whether it was actually an island or was a place that would have been too long of a drive to get there otherwise). When we arrived we were lead to our dorm rooms to drop our things off. There were about 10 little houses on the property like this one where we all slept.
Then we headed down to the pavilion where the sessions were being held. As we walked down the path towards the water we were met with an influx of all the people heading up to eat dinner. It felt almost like a wedding line where everyone wanted to stop and hug Teresa and me- such an amazingly warm meeting! We all headed up for a dinner of Ugali (cassava or corn flour cooked in water), rice, beans and stew. After dinner we all headed back down the hill to the pavilion for an evening session which lasted until 9:30ish. After the evening meeting we all hiked back up to our respective rooms to prepare for bed. I happily fell asleep at around 10:30pm (when the power went off- it was only on from 7pm to then). This is where it got interesting for me-all throughout the night I was awoken by girls getting up to shower. And while they were up…why not sing at 4am??? Wow! Many East Africans shower 2 times a day or more! One of the ladies was SHOCKED that I shower every other day. She also thought it was funny that I like warm showers as she thoroughly enjoys her cold ones. Culture is so fascinating! Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much this weekend! We were pulled out of bed at 6:15am because we were all to do morning quiet time devotions down by the lake at 6:30.
While this is a wonderful blessing, I did not want to be awake earlier than a weekday on my Saturday. The Lord used it for good however…look at how focused this student is!
After quiet time we had whole group devotions until breakfast at 8am. For breakfast we had bread with blue band (veggie oil butter), a hard-boiled egg and chai tea (slightly different than American chai- the base is boiled milk with lots of sugar and black tea leaves). We then sat down for the next sessions, which lasted us until 2:30 pm with two 10 minute breaks. Lunch was rice with tomatoes and some stew. After lunch we went back down for more sessions until dinner at 9pm! That was some intensive learning that was just soaked right up by rigorous note takers! The only time they seemed to struggle in concentrating was when the half-dollar sized spiders dropped down from above! We had a two main speakers, a Bishop from Kenya and a Ugandan pastor, both quite talented speakers! Dinner was matoke and meat (which I did not partake of). That night was a bit better in terms of sleep. The next morning we again woke up at the crack of dawn for quite time. I took advantage of this and took lots of pictures around the water. It is so relaxing to walk around during the sunrise and snap away freely in peace. I’ve really missed nature living in the big city and soaked up the chance to take pictures of anything!!! Here’s some of my findings! This was a real gift to me!
After devotions we had breakfast: Sweet potatoes and matoke with chai…an interesting, but actually quite tasty, combo. We all journeyed back down towards the chapel and had a great church service of healing and restoration! Such a blessing for these hard working university students. Lunch oddly enough was porridge, which I really did not want to try at first and there was bread available so I opted for that. However, one of my friends pulled me over (someone who has been giving me HUGE portions all week) and convinced me to take a taste. He cooled it down for me to taste, and I sipped at it, finding myself really enjoying the gritty drink. It’s so healthy too! So he gave me some more and I drank it down. Here we are enjoying the deliciousness!
I’m amazed here how quickly some people can eat. I know that I am a slow eater, but wow! Some of my friends were telling me that when they were children either their mom would beat them if they did not eat fast enough or their brothers and sisters would come and eat it. Thus, they’ve learned to scarf down their food!
We started to gather up people to head down to the dock so we could begin our journey back to the big city. My roomie and I put my pack in the pile and loaded the boat expecting to leave fairly soon. An hour later we were being shoved off of the dock with water already leaking into the boat. You put 120 Kenyans in a boat who don’t know how to swim…and it’s quite an experience! There were not enough life jackets for everyone, so only people who had no experience swimming got one. Funny thing is, I had to explain to someone that if they are in water with a life jacket on, they don’t need to panic- just sit still and they will float. Imagine! They would have panicked, dragging those of us who do know how to swim down with them. The boat ride back was much longer, seeing as this was the ‘mini titanic’ and the motor was the same size as the small boat we came on. The time was well spent enjoying those around me, laughing, talking and singing all the way! When we got back to the landing site we slowly off loaded, and some of the gents rolled up their trousers and carried some of us ladies off so we wouldn’t get wet! Then some of the other guys went and bargained with several matatus to take us back to the Palace. We piled in and rode rather quickly down Ggaba road. The three of us (me, my roommate and her brother) got off at the main hostel of KIU and caught boda-bodas back home. I was warmly greeted by my little askari (guard- really, his son Benti) and threw down my things to lay down. I emerged 2 hours later, sun burnt and still exhausted to go to a meeting. As you can guess, I slept like a ROCK that night…my solid foundation laid.
It’s been so exciting even in the past week to see how those relationships have grown and to have really multiplied my friends over in Kabalagala. I’ve even learned more Kiswahili thanks to them! I am so grateful for their gift of friendship and it is such an honor to be teaching them what God and his followers have taught me.
If you want to see more pictures of this camp, go here to enjoy: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2037435&id=30200100&l=8c098bc837
Friday, September 11, 2009
When my enemies draw near I pray that they will find that I'm protected and secure...I can lean against your throne and find my Peace-Jennifer Knapp
The short of it is that one of the tribal Kings was coming into the city without proper permission to attend an event by the central government. People got upset, and there's been clashes between the Buganda and Government since Wednesday night. Rubber bullets are a clear mark of riots, as are the thick dark clouds of smoke rising from buildings and tires. People have already been killed downtown and on some of the outskirts. Luckily nothing has come that close to us- I have heard some things that I would rather not hear such as sirens and a gun shoot off. However, apparently sometimes the police here shoot off rounds up into the air during times like this. We were on lock down today at home, not being allowed to travel anywhere at all. Tonight my mission has said that we are allowed to go down the road, which will be nice to spend some time with some other people.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The contraption that was added to mix the cold water with the boiling water so that it would not scald us. So we lived with a shower that we were constantly turning the handles of to just get a shower that would go through cycles of hot, cold, hot, cold.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
This became evermore clear to me after my Owino experience this week. My one and only pair of jeans that I brought with me have two giant holes right above the knees and are not appropriate here. So, considering that I LOVE wearing jeans, I needed to find a new pair. Being that new clothes are a rare find here, and when they are found are really rather expensive, I ventured to the giant open air market known as Owino with 3 of my friends. This is a place that is very difficult to describe to someone who has never been before. It is also well known that you don’t take your camera there, or else I would have a picture. Truth be told, it would be difficult to capture the chaos of this place through a lens. I just went searching for a picture on google images, but nothing does it justice. It’s massive and easy to get lost in. They sell everything there! It’s a dark maze struggling to find your way through stacks of shirts, pinned pants, hanging winter coats, chains of shoes, and steaming matoke. I was happy to be with friends especially this time as I looked for jeans. I found one pair that seemed to fit me from holding them up and I was thinking about moving on because they seemed a bit long. But then I looked at the name brand: United Colors of Bennonton. Wow. The only reason I knew that this was an expensive brand was because I saw their stores all over the place in Europe this summer. I bargained with the man to bring down the price to around $7 and walked away feeling alright. I showed my friends and they were amazing saying that in the US they would have cost $150!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I never paid more than $25 for a pair of jeans! African just don’t have that sense of name brands and think only of what it looks like. I do enjoy that most of the time, but I am also looking for quality- so sometimes it is important to know what you’re looking at. However, I wasn’t quite sure that they fit me. So walking along I looked up and saw another stand smothered in jeans. As usual, the owner reached out his hand and grabbed my arm. I gave in this time because the jeans hanging on his makeshift wall looked pretty nice. He asked quickly started pulling some off the wall for me to look at, asking me if I wanted skinny jeans or boot cut. He asked me how big of a flare I wanted on them. He did at one point go to a few stalls over and borrow a tape measure. A lot of the things in this market come from Europe and I didn’t know my size, only in American numbers (which don’t really make sense). I watched amusingly as he measured my waist…backwards!!!!!! It didn’t really matter however, because he seemed to know exactly what he was doing (kind of). He suggested over and over again that I try them on. I looked around and laughed. How in the world was I going to try on a pair of jeans at Owino? The man wanted to hold up a dirty sheet with a few holes in it to cover me from the masses of people. I declined, but he insisted. I don’t know how he convinced me, but I instead got my roommate, Teresa, to do the holding of the curtain. It was so awkward. I peeked around as I slipped my capris off making sure that there were no gaps between the thin boards that made up the walls. I didn’t see any eyes, so I figured I was somewhat safe. I did however pull down my shirt as far as it could stretch, just in case. As I attempted to put first pair on I couldn’t help but smile and laugh the entire time. These trousers were a disaster. I put back on the linen that I came in. Then he found another pair that he was CONVINCED would fit me. So, back I went into the changing room made of a block with cardboard (on which I had to remove my shoes) and a coffin sized box on the side. This pair failed to slip over my thighs. He handed me one more to try and BINGO. Perfect! I couldn’t believe how well they fit! I did however have to curb my enthusiasm. If you show too much interest in a product, it is much harder to bargain down to a good price. The process began. He started at 45,000/= (around $21). Wowzers. That is just crazy- they see a white face and instantly think money and stupidity. Luckily, I know better. I explained that I could get new jeans for cheaper than that in the US and that I had just gotten jeans of good quality for a third of that price. He thought I was saying his jeans were not good quality- I quickly explained to him that his were, but that different makers means how long they will last. Plus, I asked Agnes (the assistant teacher in my class) how much they should be. Luckily, without too much haggling, I got him down to the same price as the other pair. I was happy to pay that because of the fact that I had never had a pair of jeans fit me so well since my pair that gave out in grade 8. It may have been an incredibly awkward experience changing in the middle of that market, but I am SO happy I did J
I can’t even count the number of times that I was tagged, grabbed, or cat called. I can’t recall all of the countries that people called out to us (“Hey Russian” “Hey Scottish” “Hey Obama! How is he doing?”, etc.). But it was worth it this time around.
I went with the intention of buying jeans. I got 5 shirts of all types, 2 pairs of jeans (that both fit amazingly), 7 oranges, a pile or tomatoes, a pile or potatoes, 2 packets of seeds, 4 mandazi, and an interesting story all for under $25. Amazing.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Guards here in Uganda are kind of essential for people who live in actual homes, especially if you are a foreigner. I’ve had lots of them pass through my compound over the past year. From what I know it is due to the small amount that they are paid by the land lord. I can’t imagine what our guard gets paid. People quitting over a small amount being paid is a pretty big deal here. They are grateful for any job, and even the lowest of the normal amount that guards are paid is pretty dirt dirt cheap. The guard that we have now has been here for several months. I don’t know much about him, besides the fact that he is from the DRC and speaks Kiswahili and French. Neither of which language I am any good at…so hence the lack of knowledge. Along with him is his wife and what seems to be a 3 year old boy living with him. The set up for him is actually not that bad in terms of how housing goes for guards- he’s got a bedroom with a big bed in it (that’s all that’s in there I think), a room on the other side of the house-like structure where a refrigerator is held and there are some stools, then around the back of our apartments is an outhouse with a drop toilet and a bathing room. It may not seem like home to you or I, but it’s not all that bad. However, the wife does not have a job either. I’m guessing that they are refugees here- at least that was the story of my last Congolese guard.
I feel bad for them and wonder how much they are actually eating. The only time I ever see them eat is late at night sitting outside of their house on the ground with a little coal stove things and a pot. It’s really not that uncommon for people to only be able to afford one meal a day here. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when I feel like I can do something about it. The hard part about that is what happens when I leave. I mean, while I’m here I can go out once a week and bring them back some bread, blue band (like butter), sugar and some soap, but once I’m gone, they are stuck again. And then…that is what they will come to expect, and won’t be able to find it. I know one woman in a village who worked for a mzungu that paid much higher than the normal house worker (and more than a normal person could afford here), then the mzungu left and since then she has not found a job because her standards have been raised and won’t accept less. I don’t want that to become true for my guard and his family. So, when I do bring back food it is sparatic and a surprise. Tonight I came back from a dinner with a team that is here to build for a school out on the island we work on, and I had some extra cornbread. So, when I came into the apartment I went to the kitchen, pulled out a napkin and placed the 3 remaining pieces on the red paper. As I walked outside to give it to them my mind scrambled to think of the words in either French or Swahili to convey the message of what this odd thing was that I was handing over. All I could come up with (as usual) was a mix of the two languages-“Bonjour, pour tu, maize…karibu sana, la la salama” A rough translation is “Hello, for you, corn…you are very welcome, peace sleep well”. Yeah…not the best, I know. When I steped out my door and closed it behind me so the mosquitoes wouldn’t seep in, I noticed that they were not eating. Now, I’m not sure if they have already eaten their meal, or are going to eat it later (people generally eat dinner here around 9:30ish at night). As I walked over the man sat up from his prostrate position on the gravel with child and reached out his hands while his wife got up from her stool to kneel and extend her own arms, as is the traditional way to receive. To give you some what of a better idea of these people…I’m guessing that the parents are younger than me. One of the pieces of corn bread slipped out onto the rocks below as I handed it over to the gentleman. Instantly the little boy picked it up and started saying repeatedly “asante, asante sana (thank you, thank you very much)” over and over and over and over again and stuffed the crumbling morsels into his mouth.
Sometimes life here becomes normal. Then there are moments like this that makes you beg and sit here dialoging with God about the best thing to do. Sometimes I wonder if there is an answer.
I know that people are hungry here right now. Especially in the northern part of Uganda, spread all across where there is drought which has lead to famine. Arua has not had a good rain fall since September of last year! It’s one thing if people are going hungry because they are too lazy to plant (which is the case sometimes), but quite another when there is not enough rain to plant, so the cycle continues. Then if you factor in the fact that the World Food Program has deserted the people they have been helping in Soroti & Gulu to move to the Karamajong area boardering Kenya, it gets complicated. I was told just yesterday that some people who have $300/month jobs are quitting because they see they can get free food. Please pray for rain. Pray with me that as God is seeking out the hearts of his children in Uganda that he would fill their stomachs as well. May God give us wisdom in sharing our blessings!
Friday, July 24, 2009
On the other end of it…that has also been 31,536,000 seconds with the simple eyebrow raise to say “yes”. 525,600 minutes with uniquely creative minds. 8760 hours with irreplaceable children. 365 days of God revealing His wonder in new ways.
Half way through! Wow. I’ve done so much, but there is also SO much left to come. This year will be completely different from what I can tell already. I’ll be continuing to work at Heritage as a 1st grade teacher, living in the same apartment, tutoring people, etc. However, many of the people around me will be different: new 1st graders, new roommate and some new teachers, and the prospect of even some new minds to tutor. I’ll still see many of the children I taught last year sitting up smart in their 2nd grade room with Ms. Margaret, stay in touch with my friends from this past year, and continue tutoring and mentoring people of many different tribes and even nationalities.
The prospect of a new year is an exciting one. I’m ready to get back to work with 5 and 6 year olds. There is such an innocence to their moldable minds. I’ve been slowly preparing as I’ve got a few random teaching help books with games, lessons, dramas and activities to look through and plan out. This has gotten me more excited as I will get into my classroom this coming week to actually clean and set up!
Over the past 2 months I’ve done quite a bit of moving around. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Germany again, meeting my cousin Elizabeth there and traveling across Italy and Spain with her. What an AMAZING BLESSING, which I have yet to share about in detail, brought to me by a gift from a relative. I’ve been at my apartment in Kampala delving not only into 1st grade curriculums (making math games from index cards) for the up and coming year, but also getting into the word of God and stories that have revealed Him to me in new ways. I’ve gotten into my classroom a few times to work randomly, continued tutoring, and have showed some passers-through around this city. I also took a bus out with a friend to visit another cousin, Sarah, who is working in Western Uganda. While I was only gone for 5 days, I had a wonderful time seeing the hospital, living in a small home with a trek up the hill to the squat toilet, and fellowshipping with Sarah’s host family. The land out there is absolutely breathtaking. This past weekend I was up in Northern Uganda in the city of Arua where some great people, Billy and Joanna Coppedge, live. They are fellow missionaries with WGM. They recently had a new little girl, and Billy ventured into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for an exploratory trip. So, while this was probably the last chance for me to see Arua while they are there, I took the opportunity to help out Joanna with her two beautiful girls, Elsie Jayne and Lucy Mae, both under the age of two. This was also a sweet time of being out of the hustle and bustle of the city and getting to see another side of WGM ministry in Uganda. Joanna is great to bounce ideas off of, so we had many good conversations as we hung out with the girls. I’ve really missed the sight of majestic mountains and the sound of a clear trickling brook living in the city, so this summer has been so refreshing for that!
All of that to say, while I have had a wonderful summer of seeing new things and ministering in ALL sorts of ways, I am ready for the school year to begin. Please pray with me as I get ready that I would be open and prepared for whatever is coming my way as a new term begins.
How has God been ministering to you in these summer months? For that matter, this past year?! I’d love to hear from you all on how this past year has been for you, and what new exciting things are coming up in the next year!
Here’s a quick verse that has touched my heart the past few weeks:
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” –Zephaniah 3:17
Praying you realize this is true in your life!