Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lala Salama- song sung in Kenya meaning 'Peace, sleep well'

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: