Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am so glad...I wanna thank you Lord-Third Day

This last Thursday in November is a bit different for me than other Americans in the world. Any US citizen living outside of America at the moment would agree with me that our day is not viewed at the same. However, just because the location that I am in is not celebrating Thanksgiving does not mean I can't! In fact, even though I was teaching in school, I did teach the kids what it was. This year, I have looked up all of the holidays from the different countries that we are all from and we are going to learn about and celebrate them all! I'm really looking forward to it all.So, from an American living in's some of the things that I am thankful for:
Family: you really realize how much they are each worth living away from them all
Friends: who are so amazing in the blessings that they provide on a daily life
Teachers: Just now, as I was typing this, a fellow teacher from school called me to tell me that there was a rainbow in the sky! 
Little friends: when we got outside to check out the rainbow we showed our little ascari's son (Obeti) the rainbow and said "Range" (rahn-gay) which means colors in swahili. We went up on the balcony and took a snap with him.  Can you see the rainbow in the background? I'm also thankful for the little kiddos that I teach and am impacting- what a privilage!
Rainbows: it's just one of my pet cleeves. THEY are a-maz-ing. :D I started jumping up and down sceaming- in fact my friend who is visiting me thought someone had given me a gift I was so happy. Someone had- GOD!
God: He is my everything. My comfort, my provider, my shelter...yeah...He's great!
Flowers: i've kept my dying roses from my kids, which a neighbor finds silly, but they still bring me joy so why get rid of them? I'm thankful for the children who bring me flowers EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Music: I don't know how I could live with out it. I sing constantly and am so thankful for the ability to express myself through it. 
Food: I've been trying new things and finding new things that I can eat...maybe I'm on my way to eating normal? Now that would be something to be THANKFUL for!
Chai Tea: Such a filling and comforting snack at the end of a day of teaching.
Skype: I am so thankful for the ability to actually communicate with people. 

This list could go on and on... I pray that you have a blessed Thanksgiving and remember to be thankful to our Lord for the little blessings in our lives. 

I’ve learned to trust in you…in this place dreams are made- Hillsong

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

In this secret place I'll hide away that I might hear a simple word- Jennifer Knapp

It's funny how telling a Bible story that you've heard since before you were 4 years old (the youngest age of my students) can have new effects on you 20 years. For instance, the story of Moses. That's the story I told my story 2 weeks ago in class. Last year, it's the story that my kids acted out in chapel. But this year, seeing as I have incredibly squirmy boys, I decided to take those kids out to the stream on campus to have a look at the papyrus! 

I dramatically pretended I was putting a baby in the reeds, then jumped over pretending to be Pharoh's daughter, then jumped back pretending to be Miriam. The kids seemed to enjoy it and were really intrigued in the papyrus. It's something they pass on a daily basis, but never really thought about what it was. 
We paused for a photo op before returning to our room:

It was good that we had this small exhibition, because more recently, along with our new recycling project (a blog will come soon about this) we had a man come in and teach us about paper. When he whipped out this huge dandelion like green twig, my kids knew what it was (compared to the high schoolers who were stumped)! 

Will you pray with me that as I continue to teach these time-old stories, that they would sink into their minds and teach them something useful to their own lives? I am often trying to think of more and more creative ways to present these topics as they hit me in new ways as well. It's so neat to think that just 2 hours from here in the source of the great river that Moses hid in. 
The lyrics to the title of this post are from a song that has been going through my head a lot in the past few months, and it's just such a reminder to take time to hide away...but not from someone like baby Moses. Hide IN the Lord! Just to hear that simple word that he is trying to whisper gently in your ear.

Monday, November 23, 2009

So we build, we build, we clear away what was and make room for what will be- Nichole Nordeman

There's a new noise that is a major part of my daily life at school. At times, when this noise stops, it's deafening. The noise? Construction! I've been living with the sound of construction from the slow progress of building the un-funded chapel for the past year and a half, but that was rather quiet and we had the little kid playground in between us. This, however, is much needed bathrooms for the Elementary students and is moving rather quickly. It's usually something that we can handle, as God has gifted me with a voice that can become quite loud, but becomes a struggle during tests.

A view from my window:

One of my students is so fascinated by this whole process that he's often late to class. Here he is peeking inside of the cement mixer: 

Beginning Infrastructure: 

More progress:

The most recent- you can see my classroom right there- the one room school house :)

It's fascinating to me how building happens here with the long sticks holding EVERYTHING up!

The lyrics of the title of this entry come from a beautiful song. It doesn't really have all that much to do with the building of the bathrooms, but it does talk about a hammer and climbing up a ladder. Not that I fully understand all of the lyrics, but the ones that I do grasp, I love:
"the lie that we tell says it's better somewhere else. as if love flies south when it freezes. what I'm trying to say in some clumsy way is that it's You and only You for always..." 

Friday, November 13, 2009

This cat’s on a hot tin roof-Brian Setzer Orchrestra

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

The children lift up their hands to Yeshua-10th Avenue North

This semester's first grade chapel was a doosie. This year has been a stretching one so far. It's really different working with 15 boys and 4 girls. Most of them are Ugandan so even the parental involvement is surprisingly different. 
So when it was time for me to get 1st grade ready for their chapel, I picked something that they really loved telling the story of...Noah's Ark! 
We've also been learning about some of the different names that God has. One of the children in our class is named Emmanuel, which means "God with us". Earlier this year they had a homework assignment to find out what their name meant which really interested the children. So, this brought to mind a song that 10th Avenue North used to sing at camp called "God with us". As most of you know, I sing all the time. So I've been teaching the kids lots of songs through out the year so far. I have also been teaching the children some signs when we learn our word wall words to help them remember them more. So, combining these efforts I taught them to sign out the song "God with us". One of the lyrics is "The children lift up their hands to Yeshua, God of love, Emmanuel, God with us". Here's a picture a friend took of the kids signing that song.
The kids went on to move outside while I stayed inside the chapel. Just outside the door sat a small child squatting on the ground ready with the microphone. I started off by singing "The Lord said to Noah..." and he chimes in singing the wrong words- "to build me an archy archy." The crowd erupts in laughter. My kids all start screaming and standing on their tip toes to get a glimpse of how people were reacting. Oh my. I got the crowd and my children calmed down and corrected my student so we could start again. This time around things went much smoother with the lyrics, but the kids were still their rambunctious selves! In the process of me stepping out to get the weather people to come in for "it rained and poured...", the other children were in the ark singing "So Rise and Shine" and the animals on the ark decided to climb up onto the risers for some fun. Never a dull moment with these kids. 
We ended by singing the chorus "I will cast all my cares upon you" and had one my students tell the audience what that meant which was really rather endearing. 
While the chapel didn't exactly turn out the way I had originally intended, for the rest of the day I did have people walking up to me telling me how funny of a chapel it had been!
I am glad that week was over, as all in the same week was my class chapel, my assembly (where I taught the elementary school the song "He's my rock, my sword, my shield..."), report cards due, parent-teacher conferences and a special fellowship night with my KIU gals. Needless to say that Friday night I relaxed, but looked back on the week as a real experience and one where God was very VERY very present in my life! Praise the Lord for all of his goodness :)

Caught up in the crowd a million faces reaching for the stars that lost their places- Mending Point

The glamorous side of Uganda is a fascinating one (not that I know much of that life in the US). One of my friends here found out about the Miss Uganda pageant and proposed that a bunch of us go to it. Some of us joined in when we found out that they had lowered the price to an affordable rate. The day of the event 3 of us hopped into the matatu taxi vans and went downtown to Owino to find some random dressy things to wear. Success! I wore a black top with sequins ($2) and black heels ($6) along with my designer jeans that I had bought the previous time around. We went early and hung out on the balcony of the hotel until the doors opened. I was happy we got there early because we were able to get seats that were fairly close to the cat walk. The whole event was really rather entertaining and another fascinating cultural experience. They had traditional dances, talked about the pride of their country, and even had a traditional dress walk. Just in front of us were the VIP tables. One of the guys we went with is casual and when no one was sitting at the table he went up and sat there. Soon there were 3 girls sitting at his table- Brenda (who designed the swimsuits for the competition), Angela, and the previous Miss Uganda. Before we knew it we had scored free tickets to the after pageant VIP dinner with all of the contestants! WOW! While it may have happened at 1am, it was so neat to meet these women and learn some more of their stories. My roommate and I even got our picture taken with the newly crowned Miss Uganda! We've stayed in contact with Brenda and Angela, even going to Brenda's wedding dress show the following night! Since then we have gotten together with the two of them several times. It's really neat to get to know someone with so many connections. They are both from Uganda and have fascinating stories of growing up through war, but rising above it and they both lived and learned in London for some time. One night when we got together I got to sing with Brenda's cousin's band in a hotel lobby! And I'm getting some more connections so I might get to sing some more! How exciting is that? Brenda called me the other day and said she was being my agent here :)
People all over the world live such different lives, even across the city from each other, and I consider it a privilege to get to learn more and more every day!