Saturday, July 11, 2009


I have found much love in Africa. Love has many shapes, sizes, forms, and personifications. I have known this, but am finding the experience of this truth to be infinitely more meaningful than the knowledge alone.
I have seen love in the shining eyes of the nursery students whose recitation of the alphabet I praised.
I have heard love in the voices raised in a language I do not know, in praise of a God I do.
I have felt love in the gentle impact of a little body colliding with my kneecaps in a child’s fierce hug.
I have tasted love in the countless hardboiled eggs, pieces of bread, cups of tea, and bottles of Coke offered by kind hosts.
I have smelled love in the dirt roads after the rain while walking hand-in-hand with a friend.
Yes, I have found so much love. If only I can learn to give half as much as I have received. Oh, to pour out my heart the way I have seen hearts poured out time and again. I have found much love in Africa.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bits of Life and Such

Mere hours after I somewhat proudly blogged that missing things is mind over matter for me, I found myself nearing the point of tears over the lack of fabric softener here, all the time realizing how incredibly silly that is. I'm doing just fine though, really. Homesickness comes and goes, and when it comes, I pray that God uses my weakness to show me His strength. He has been more than gracious.
This weekend I went to another give away ceremony. I went to this one with my friend Viola, who is from central Uganda, and she brought a traditional outfit for me to wear. I should point out that I was way more excited about this than any "grown up" should be. My eight-year-old-dress-up-loving dream. It is called a gomesi, and has seriously pointy sleeves, and wraps and pleats and tucks around you in an impossibly intricate manner. Despite my gallant attempts an camoflauge, I was still quite obviously the only mzungu (white person) at the give away. :)
I'm loving being back at daily life in Kabale. Blessed routine. Actualy, though, this is my last true week of it. I am trying to cherish the little bits of normalcy that will, I'm sure, seem strange once I am back at home. I think I am equal parts anxious to see my friends/family and extremely sad at the prospect of leaving the ones I have here. Whether I feel more bitter or sweet about goin home changes from day to day. (Today it is bitter.)
Anyway, I realize this is not much of an update, but I just thought I'd utilize whatever internet time I had. I'll go back to Trinity soon for my Bible study- which I am having a great time with. It is a very awesome group of people that I am getting to know through fellowship over the Word. Right now, I'm at the Edirisa where, at this very moment, a baby mouse is sitting inches away from my foot. I should probably move my bag. Cute as he is, I do NOT want any stowaway rodents coming back to California with me.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The past few days vacation were wonderful, but if feels great to be home in Kabale now. I keep confusing people with my references to “home,” but it’s easier than saying “Joab and Connie’s” every time. Besides, if I say that, it doesn’t seem as personal. Anyways, it was nice to come home to “my” family and sleep in “my” bed.
That all being said, the last few days have been epic! Between Saturday morning’s safari and the evening’s boat tour (elephant, hippos, crocodiles, etc.) it was a great day. The Queen Elizabeth resort is beautiful. Also, they have the top rated restaurant in all of Uganda. The passion fruit mousse is to die for. The next day, we drove to Kampala. Looking at a map, it doesn’t seem that far. If you forget to take into consideration the extremely poor roads, that is. Seven hours later, we arrived. Kampala is madness. People, cars, busses, bicycles everywhere. As far as I can tell, there is no apparent method to the madness, either. It is just all one giant mass of humanity and automobiles. It was nice to get to our hotel and relax a bit. That evening we watched the Confederation Cup final at the hotel- USA vs. Brazil. It was fun to watch a soccer game in a place where people actually care about the sport. Wish you were there, Luke!
And then came Monday. Quite possibly the single most terrifying day of my life. Before I go into detail about what all happened, let me just say: I whitewater rafted on the Nile River, AND THEN I BUNGEE JUMPED OVER IT!!! Clearly, I’m not excited or anything. Ok so, I have that out of the way. We were on the river by around 9:30, and rafted until 5:00, stopping for lunch on an island in the middle of the river. There were ten rapids in total, the highest being class five (six is the highest). The total distance was 32 k. I had done this on my last trip in 2007, and this time we actually had the same guide, Geoffrey. The guy is awesome. He talks like a California surfer. Whenever he talked about the possibility of being thrown from the raft, or it tipping over, he would say, “Relax, enjoy the Nile.” He also made it a point to make the group sport be “throw Susanna overboard.” Being a rafting veteran of sorts, I would like to say that the second time is easier. This is not so. It only makes it easier to anticipate the terror of your raft capsizing in the churning, building-sized waves, and to imagine being trapped underneath said raft as it is thrown helplessly amidst the raging waters of the Nile. But that only happened twice. Seriously though, it was great. I loved every minute of it. Please, please, ask me to show you the video footage of it when I get home, and I will gladly oblige.
Sometime that morning, I agreed to bungee jump with some of the others after we were through rafting (this was, of course, before I had the chance to see where the actual jump would take place). After conquering the Nile, I found myself climbing the 145 foot platform from where I would jump. I was super excited and only marginally nervous. I did fine as I was being tied in (with what sounded suspiciously like Velcro). I even had the guys working up there disbelieving that it was my first jump because I was so calm. Everything was great, until I wrapped my toes around the edge of the platform and looked out. The only words I could manage were, “I can’t do this.” Let me tell you, it is the most unnatural thing in the world to consider hurling yourself over a river from such a great height. Eventually I did it, though, and I loved every terrifying second. So, between both of the day’s activities, I think it is safe to say that the adrenaline junkie in me is placated for a while. Or maybe just awakening…?
On the way back, we shared a shuttle bus with a group from England on a mission trip. They found out I had family in the South, so the whole evening I was addressed as “Virginia” and spoken to only in southern accents. Lovely, no?
On Tuesday, we had a relaxed day, went souvenir hunting, and finally to the airport. It was strange to see the team off, as I have never stayed behind after one of these airport farewells. It also means that my trip is drawing to a close. Already, I've had people (here and in the USA) asking me "Aren't you going crazy?" or "Aren't you bored to death?" The truth is, I only miss things as much as I tell myself I do. If I dwell on the fact that the only meat I've eaten in a week is goat or the last time I had a real shower was six weeks ago, then of course I will start to become disontent. For me, it is all a matter of mindset.
These past few days in Kabale have been nice, and pretty routine. There really are a lot of things for me to do before I leave, though, so i don't think I have to worry about being bored. Time and again, I am struck by the openess of people here. I've heard some amazing stories from very dear friends. Not because they are looking for handouts, but because they want to share what God has done in their lives. It is a humbling thing to witness so much faith in the midst of tremendous heartbreak. I am both anxious to be home (my official home in California, not Kabale) and extremely sad to leave. I am praying that much can be done in these last few weeks, that I do not grow weary of serving, and that my relationships here can continue to deepen.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lions and Elephants and Warthogs, Oh My!

I'm still here! Well, here being Uganda. I am no longer in Kabale. I am in Queen Elizabeth National Park for the time being. I shall explain all...
So, the past week has been great. Last Saturday, I went with Joab and Joan to Mbarara, about a two hour drive from Kabale, to his neice's give away ceremony. A give away is a pre-wedding ceremony where the bride's family formally recognizes the groom and his family as being part of the family. It felt a little like a wedding reception: there was an MC, entertainment (traditional musicians and dancers), and food- but not silverware :). All of the women present wore traditional dresses. It was very interesting, even though the entire thing was in Rukiga.
Sunday night, the team from Modesto came over for dinner. It was a fun afternoon, hanging out with the family, getting ready for the guests. I made the chipati- fried in a pan over a fire. It is also worth noting that there was another Spider Incident that night. I was just getting ready to "shower" when a spider crawled out from under my bucket of water. This time I just tipped the bucket over and drowned the hateful thing. So, I guess Joan was right: hot water is a very effective spider killer. The week was pretty normal, pretty routine, with the exception of friends! from home being here. I've really enjoyed seeing familiar faces around and being with friends. I spent a day working at the farm the school runs with the team from Modesto. It felt good to to some work where the results were immediately visible.
I've been having a great time with the kids at Akanyajuka (the orphanage). I think I enjoy teaching the middle (ages four and five) best. They are so adorable. Every morning before classes, they have a few minutes to share news with their classmates. The student with "news" comes up to the front, and says "Newsey-news" to which the others respond, "Tell us, tell us please." Usually the news is something like "Last night I ate beans an matoke for dinner." Shocker- you eat beans and matoke every night! So yeah, they are a lot of fun. The girls from the Modesto team came and visited the other day to play with the kids. We were hanging out, having a good time, when a little guy named Brian crawled into my lap and just started crying the biggest tears I've ever seen, without making a sound. It was adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. I never found out what was so troubling, but apparently it was nothing a Jolly Rancher from my pocket couldn't fix.
I've been having a great time with Trinity students, as well. I'm also making great friends among the staff there. Sam, one of the English teachers, is giving me Rukiga lessons. That is the local language. I can now count to ten and am learning the days of the week. Yay me! Mostly, I spend my days there grading papers, going to classes, hanging out with students, and doing Bible studies. Thursday was the team's last day in Kabale, and KTC had a goodbye cermemony for them that evening. At the very end, the entire student body sang God Be With You Till We Meet Again, and I got so incredibly sad just thinking about it being my turn to leave soon. I may feel differently in three weeks time, but the thought of leaving is quite the unhappy one. Of course, I miss my friends and family at home, but that does not make saying goodbye to Kabale any easier.
The team was doing a few days of touring after they left Kabale, and invited me to join. Insisted, that I join is maybe more accurate! Not that I mind at all; the few days off will be, and have been so far, very nice. I think it will be a nice way to step back, evaluate the last month, and prepare for the next one. We traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park on Friday, which took pretty much all day. The resort is absolutely lovely. Hot showers! Yummy food! Gorgeous views! As much as I enjoy this taste of familiar things, it's also true that my cravings for familiarity are only as strong as I let them be. I only "need" Wheat Thins as much as I tell myself I do.
So, my "vacation" began with an early morning safari today! It was fun. Epic fun. Basically, I sat on the roof of a Land Rover driving all over the savannah this morning. We saw elephants, which I was insanely excited about, because, this being my third time in Africa and all, you'd think I'd have seen one before now. That was very cool. There were also plenty of water buffalo, gazelles, warthogs, water bucks, and deer. The hilight of the trip was definitely the lion, though. He was there maybe 50 yards off the trail, sitting on top of a termite hill overgrown with foliage. We convinced our guide to drive around him so we could see better. Just below him was his morning's kill. Even from our vantage of about ten yards, he was quite intimidating! He looked quite the king of his domain. So, that was quite the experience. Also, there are mongooses (mongeese?) that run around the resort like squirrels. You can pet them, too. This evening we are taking a boat tour of Lake Edward, where there are lots of hippos. Tomorrow we travel to Jinja, where we will white water raft on the Nile River. I'm super excited for that. This is quite the adventurous weekend! As much fun as I am having, it will also be great to get back to Kabale, and continue my work there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Spider Saga continues, and other stories

It was back the very next night. The very same spider, that is. It was bigger than I remembered, too. I think it was waiting for me. This time I was seriously concerned. I had no acceptable killing implements. I couldn’t just ignore it. Was this to be a nightly thing? I left the bathroom to consider my options and ended up doing what any logical female would do: I called my boyfriend. Never mind the fact that he was 5000 miles away. Despite the advice to “just kill it” I decided to wait it out and hope another family member would stumble upon the spider. A few minutes later, I heard the definite sounds of arachnid assassination coming from the bathroom. Later I found out it was Joan. How did she slay it? By “pouring hot water on it.” The way she said it, it was the most obvious thing in the world. And that is how I shamelessly and remorselessly made an eight year old kill a spider for me.
(Ok, so before you think I’m completely ridiculous, I DIDN’T call Erik for the sole purpose of seeking spider advice. Seriously. I promise. Although I may or may not have asked him to come take care of it for me.)
I am having a great time with the Bible study- something I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet. There are twenty or so students that I meet with weekly. I had wanted to have smaller groups, but logistically it would just be too tough to work out. This term (the second out of three) is the busiest for the students, what with district exams and competitions. So, we’re going through I Peter. I’ve been learning a lot, and have been challenged a lot by the people studying it with me. As expected, I did most of the talking the first time. I would love to move away from the whole teacher/student thing, and hopefully that can happen some more as we get more comfortable with each other. I am really excited about this, have been getting lots of positive feedback, and hope that it keeps going well.
On my walk through town today, I was struck by how many scenes of everyday life here are so tragic. I saw a little boy, maybe seven, holding a half empty bottle of alcohol. Kids playing beside overflowing bins of rotting garbage and algae filled ditches. Men spending their days in bars while, just outside, women sell old, worn out pairs of shoes on the roadside to earn some money. I’ve only been here for a month, and it’s easy to just glance at these things and see them as “just the way it is here.” That’s not right. At the same time, I don’t want to look at these things and see tragedies; I want to see people. I want to love people like Jesus loves them- the little boy in the ditch and the drunk in the bar alike. I am praying for fresh perspective and a renewed heart each day, and hope that you might pray for me, too.
The group from Modesto has just arrived (“the Rick’s” as they are referred to by Connie), and it’s been fun having friends here. And thank you, Mom, for the unexpected box of deliciousness!! I was also sent several boxes of macaroni and cheese, one of which I made for the family last night. It was a pretty big hit. Everybody just mixed it right in with their beans and matoke, though, instead of eating it as a separate dish. So, it's been good to have some familiarity around. Tomorrow is the halfway mark of my trip...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let's try this again...

So, I had a whole post written, and, of course, the power went out before I could publish it.
I had a great weekend! Saturday was the inter-house track and field competition for Trinity. I was an official recorder. It was lots of fun. Sunday, I hung out with friends who came down from Kampala. That's about a seven hour bus ride on a poorly paved road. Not fun. But we had a great time. We went to a "pork joint." As the name would imply, the only thing served it pork, barbequed. Basically, they are log and tin shacks with dirt floors and chickens roaming around. Probably (definitely) not FDA approved, but so good! You order by the kilo, and it is served on a platter to be eaten communally.
Last night I had my first run-in with African arachnids. This one was in the bathroom, spotted as I was getting ready to shower. It was about the same size as a daddy long leg, but probably twice as thick. I was too afraid to kill it (chances were, it would put up a fight) so I just kept a wary eye on it, my pile of clothes, and the painfully large crack under my door. That night I made sure my misquito net went all the way down to the floor on all sides of my bed. :)
I'm wishing I could think of more notable things to update on, but, of course, my mind goes blank as soon as I sit down at a computer. I am nearly at the halfway point of my trip, and can't believe this first month went by so fast! It has been great so far, and I'm praying that the next one is too.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Life is good on my side of the world! I'm starting to feel really comfortable here; less like a tourist and more like a resident (however short term). For example, today I gave some Spanish tourists a resturaunt recommendation. Also, today has been the first day where I have not been driven anywhere by car. All transportation has either been by foot or bicycle boda boda (taxi). So, I am feeling rather pleased with myself.
I have been having a great time at Akaniyjuka teaching English. Sometimes I will hang out there with the kids on my evenings, too. Those kids are just beyond precious! I wore a locket there once, and ever since it has become their favorite thing. Whenever I don't wear it now, they always ask where it is. Too cute. I've also really been enjoying my time at Trinity. I've been teaching more English classes, and the fellowship I will be leading with the students starts tomorrow. I've really enjoyed getting to know people well and build relationships this trip. People here have some amazing stories.
I've been having a great time settling in with my Ugandan family. Joan, who is eight, loves to do my hair after I shower. Whenever she does it, she calls it her "salon of buzungu." She's a fun kid. Joab was in Kampala recently, and he brough home a kitten with him. It's to catch the mouse that has been scurrying around the house. Anyways, Joan is scared ot the thing. It's reall funny.
The power was out in the village for almost a week, but it came back on yesterday. So, it's been cold bucket showers for me. It gets really hard to see around twilight, before the generator is turned on. I'm pretty sure that I drank hot milk with sugar instead of tea the other night. But have I mentioned how much I love it that I am expected to drink at least four cups of tea daily here? Awesome.
Yesterday, Sunday, was the "initiation" of S1 and S5 students. It is the official welcoming of the incoming classes. Of course, it was a day of full Trinity pagentry, complete with songs, traditional dances, speeches, and a brass band parade. It was a lot of fun.
So, things here are going well. I have yet to get really, truly homesick. Actually, I was told yesterday by a British missionary here that after you stay in Kabale for about two or three months, you never want to leave. Guess I'm in trouble... :)