Thursday, January 29, 2009

kill myself

Romans 6:6-7 "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."

This past weekend we visited Jinja, and since then I've been mulling over not the effects of culture shock or poverty shock, but self shock. It wasn't the little kids begging for money, but my ability to forget them when I went inside for lunch, and my ability to look past them when I got back on the bus.

So my question is this: just how much is our old self crucified with Christ? Are we only kind of freed from being slaves to sin? Have we only kind of died with Christ? Is it possible to totally kill oneself, to be free to be a total slave to others? More importantly, would I even have the heart and the guts to do that? This isn't just a theological question, to the extent that any question's able not to be theological. It's also practical. In my law class we were discussing different Christian views on the state. Augustine played with our heads saying first that morality should have nothing to do with the state because government is just about economics, and then saying that there is no difference between a pirate and a navy admiral, unless that difference be seeking justice.

And seeking justice, it just can't be self-seeking. It's not a means to an end. Through the process your personal justice would also be sought, but not your privilege. So what is just? Are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness really God-given rights, that when lacking mean a lack of justice? Or are those privileges?

In the words of my favorite roomie, IDK. But I knew what I thought I knew I don't know anymore. Good times :)

By the way, I actually wrote this with some seeds of joy. Seriousness doesn't equal solemness, as Chesterton would point out!

Friday, January 23, 2009

new family, new friends and new news

I want to know their language. When my family starts talking and laughing, I can only sit and smile and enjoy their laughter. I can’t understand them without being able to listen and speak with them. I want to know Iteso, too, and Acholi, and all the languages here. Everyone can speak English, at least a little, but I know it’s not the same. Edward is a cousin, I think he is ten. One night I was drawing a picture of the living room. He was coming in and out doing little chores, and every time I would look up and we would just have a moment smiling at each other. It became hilarious, because he was in and out so often. Finally, he came in shyly and started watching me draw, so I started pointing and asking Lugandan words for each thing. He was delighted. If he didn’t know, he’d run out and ask his mom and run back in. Eventually, he just started talking in Lugandan to me, smiling, and I would reply in English, smiling. We had no idea what words the other one was saying, but we still could tell what the other one was saying.

Family is interesting here. Edward and yaja, grandma, are gone now. I thought they lived with us. They don’t. A week ago our niece Faith came and stayed with us, we didn’t know for how long. She slept with my sister Judie in her bed. Now she’s back with her mother. Our cousins Michael and Rachel live with us. I didn’t realize until not very long ago that Mary isn’t part of the family and doesn’t even live here. The family pays her to come across the road from her home and help out. That same night I met Imelda I passed by a shack on the way home and was surprised to find her there. I met her two daughters, Joannie and Liliannie.

Everybody is just trying to live their life, like anywhere else in the world. Everyone talks about the problem of getting water. When it is dry, there is trouble. Luckily it has been getting closer to the rainy season. And the government is building a ditch for water pipes. Most everyone at the school and my home has a cell phone and internet access, but still we struggle for water and cook over fire outside and don’t always have shoes. Is this poverty? Is their life worse than ours? Some, certainly. For some, in some ways. But the same can be said going the other way.

Maybe water is precious, but birthdays are precious, too. Two of my Ugandan friends, Suzan and Vickie, have been telling and joking with me about the birthday practice to pour water on the person. We’ve decided that the everliving Today is another friend’s birthday. Suzanne is going to do a medical internship in Gulu this summer, in the north. Another friend, Patrick, goes to the north to do a sports outreach during the summer. During the school year he is involved with the Iteso (his tribe) Mission, going out to villages and bringing the gospel and prayer and food and water and laughter. I’m tempted to ask them both and see if I can go with them.

Another young man, Edward, brings food to school everyday and sells it during tea time. I met him today as I sat there drawing a picture of President Museveni from his book, “What’s the Problem with Africa?” People just go and sit as they please at whichever table in the dining hall.So, he came and sat and talked with me about my drawing and about Museveni. Museveni has been President now for 22 years, longer than many of my Ugandan friends have been alive. I have heard many things against him in the newspapers. And I have thought many things against him. But I read his inauguration speech, which he gave after a five-year coup against Obote. I do not like violence, but even non-violence people like Gandhi said sometimes violence may be necessary. I do not know. I do not like someone who changes the constitution to stay in power. But I know the words I read Museveni say impressed me. For Edward, he said that you must understand where the country has come from since Museveni. After having six Presidents in 26 years, including three within the space of one year, including the regime of Idi Amin’s atrocities and including every change of power coming by force, including being surrounded by two countries that have or are experiencing genocide, Edward is glad for stability. Museveni, in his words, was able to come to power and keep it because his movement was for all the tribes and religions in the country. I do not know if this is true, but I can respect those words. Edward also told me a lot about business; remember I said he was selling food. He plans to make one million shillings in 60 days, which is quite a bit over $500. He told me about the need to make specific goals and track your progress and have daily goals. I think there is much I can learn from that. His brother is in Long Beach now like a certain brother of mine, studying business like a certain brother of mine, married to an African-American woman (unlike a certain brother of mine!). Now I miss my brother!

I love tea time. Before he came and sat with me, I drank my tea and talked with some Master of Divinity students, a bunch of theology men. When I graduate in 2010 they will also graduate, and will all return to their churches to lead. Each wanted me to keep in touch, and to come back after I graduate and visit their church. Steven and Sam and Emmanuel had to leave for class, but Tom stayed for a bit afterwards. He told me about how people would text him theological questions, and he would reply. I asked him questions. He told me how ~ “Sin, it is a fire but God’s mercy is that it didn’t burn our house down completely,” and echoed my father in saying how we are all made in the image of God, no matter how far corrupted we have made that image, and that we need to “just remove where the rot is and have people run to Jesus.”

The students here I have met all have a goal, like Edward. They want to do good for their country. In my law class, which I’m not actually in, we introduced ourselves and so many Ugandans talked about their desire to be truly Christian lawyers. They had a mission.

We were discussing the role of religion in politics, and they spoke about how theoretically of
course your religion should matter, because it should change the way you live, but how for many it doesn’t. Others countered that it shouldn’t matter, because that would be discrimination. We talked, and struggled together. We considered an article about Obama and the Trinity United Church, and we talked about MLK Jr. Whatever Obama may or not actually be, as a symbol he has become a source of hope. That is why I wanted to draw him. More importantly, I have drawings of some of the students now in my pad, their faces and their words. These people inspire me; they have goals, and they are steadfastly and faithfully working towards them, day by day, like Edward. I want to remember them, because it's important. Kikulu. And so I sat there, listening to their voices and seeing the passion in their eyes, and I tried to draw them, so as not to forget.

I’m afraid of drawing them wrongly, of misrepresenting them or their words. I can’t draw lips, let alone African lips. I don’t want to make them into a caricature, like so many did during the times of colonialism. I love drawing eyes here when people are talking, because they talk with their eyes also. While I’m afraid of misrepresenting them, I’ve even more afraid of forgetting them; that is why I draw, and that is also why I write.

Barack Obama is in the news. His face and assurance that change CAN happen sits right next to an article about the suspension of UN refugee repatriation from Uganda to Sudan because of the worsening situation. No wonder people want to believe change can happen.

On the other page another article speaks about the LRA’s recent execution of 16 South Sudanese civilians, and the Rwandan troops sent into the Congo to put a stop to Hutu militants. There’s articles about what Obama can learn from Cuba, and how he has taught Africa how to bring hope back. There’s articles claiming he is actually Ugandan because of a change in borders at the time of his father’s birth. And there’s an article headlining “Yes he can but no he won’t” solve Africa’s problems.

America influences it feels like everything here. My brother’s cell phone ring is a Hillsong United song from the newest album – the album I haven’t even heard yet. Obama is the talk of the town. Hip hop and R&B come from everyone’s speakers. My other brother wears Michael Jordan shoes. I told my law class my favorite philosopher was the Black Eyed Peas and they all laughed. But at the same time, my Michael Jordan-wearing brother will do a traditional dance by the fire of a gas light to the beat of his mother pounding peanuts into powder, while his sister cooks over the outdoor charcoal fire by my flashlight, and still even while their father watches television in the living room. That’s Africa.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

the good, the bad and the ugly...and the beautiful?

I talked earlier about the good and bad in people, and turning the other cheek. Several of the students have been faced with just that. One of the girls, B, was sitting on the patio of her dorm and a young man came and attempted to steal her laptop. She screamed and tackled him (because she’s a gangster like that), and when he continued to run away, ten guys from her dorm chased after him and retrieved the laptop. Another girl, Kia, was walking to school in the morning darkness and she was mugged; her ipod and cell phone were taken and she was punched in the face and side, but I think emotionally it's the worst. She has the painful choice of how to react, to stay or go. And, in staying or going, she has the more difficult choice of how to respond, how to understand her story.

But hold on a minute. Listen to another story, one that will really worry my brother. I decided to walk home early last night so I would have time to stand and chat with some of the children along the way. I was walking the same pace as a woman when I turned onto another road. I almost didn’t bother to smile, because I can’t deny sometimes I’m afraid, and not just of not being returned a smile now. But I did smile, and she smiled back, and we began talking. I learned about how she’s a geography teacher that volunteers Wednesdays at the Mukono health clinic and that she chose to walk home to get exercise. I shared about my family and my classes, and I asked her more questions. She was new to Mukono and still building her home with her husband and children. She invited me to come and see. She pointed up the road to where it was, and I made the choice to walk with her.

We walked up the dirt road that was muddy and slippery from the rain, up the winding hill and past the school and the water tanks. We talked about her children and how different they are from one another. Finally, we reached a turn in the road where I could see the whole town of Mukono. I’ve been down in the streets, so I knew the busy, annoyed, angry sounds of traffic and tempers. I knew I would see huge, elaborate hotels on one side of the road and a makeshift market just down and off the road on the other side. But I also knew I would see people trying to live and love like myself. And from my view on the hill I could see all of it, but I could also see none of it. It was beautiful, but it was far away.

The next turn took us to her home, which she kept apologizing for. Funny thing is, it was beautiful. I know poverty and wealth can live side by side, but still it’s always a surprise. There’s wall enclosures surrounding huge homes that their owners drive into and drive out of everyday, and there’s wooden shacks whose front yard is one of the main roads. Anyways, by this point Imelda and I were having a lovely time, and we took tea together and talked and I met her son and looked at pictures of her sleeping daughter. Still, I had to leave for home, but she told me to come back anytime, and she told me to have my family come to Uganda and stay with them, and she told me this was my second home.

I still don’t know Imelda’s last name.

Maybe that’s just me being naive and talking with strangers. But maybe that’s strangers turning out to always having some strange and some familiar in them, if you look for it. Walking home, the fear still came back a bit, the nerves. I walked faster, skipped and hopped in my skirt when no one else was on the road. I didn't want to be out when it was dark. But when I got to the house where I have made particular good friends with some of the children (Annet, Margaret, Violet!), I stopped. I stopped and talked and sign-talked and knew the sun was getting further gone. And I wasn't okay with it, but I wasn't okay with leaving, either. They know me as the mzungu named Sarah who asks them their names and shakes their hands and who moves her hand over her face to smile or frown. I don't want them to know me as the mzungu who's in too much of a hurry and too afraid to stop and smile and ask their names and give them mine. Africa makes me slow down, even when I’m scared.

These stories aren’t meant to cancel out the first one. B still had a boy nearly steal her laptop. And Kia still was attacked and robbed. But these stories ARE meant to balance the first ones. I can’t not tell you bad stories of people stealing and hurting others. But I can tell you that while some boys have that story, some boys have the story of running after those first boys and retrieving what is stolen and trying to heal what is hurt. And many of the young men here have the story of being so saddened and sorry and ashamed that some of their Ugandan peers hurt Kia. Kia has both a Ugandan mother and father and an American mother and father who are concerned for her and want her safety. And, somewhere, there is a young man who failed to steal from a white girl because her black brothers heard her cry. And, somewhere, there are young men who suceeded in stealing and hurting a white girl. But just a couple of minutes ago that same white girl was praying for him, that he might read that white girl's journal about her experiences in Africa and with God. And here in Uganda there's still a rather silly and out of place group of forty mzungu American students, ranging from future missionaries to politicians to teachers and to who really knows, trying to figure Africa out, to hear the stories of Africa and their Ugandan peers, and to find their own stories in that. We're still hear; we're still listening, and we're still searching.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


How do we capitalize what’s truly important, and not just choose to capitalize our stories to justify capitalizing on others’ suffering? How do we love our enemies?

Capitalized letters are hard to speak. Why is that? It's not that we just make up the capitalization, that we just grab onto something abstractly good and personify it. Myths aren't make-believe. Oftentimes they're more concrete than abstract thought (Taylor). And myths aren't just stories you choose to believe in. You don't believe it just because it is good, even if it isn't true. Capitalization works because you're only emphasizing truth that is already there.

You capitalize what's important. But so many people, myself included, all of us, we get wrong priorities. We prioritize ourselves, our existence and our dignity and our privilege. And so when we capitalize our own selves, we decide its okay to capitalize off of someone else.

Africa is amazing. But it's so true, you learn so much more about yourself. I'm glad, but I'm still waiting to learn more about Africa. That book Primal Vision keeps talking about African traditional beliefs and how they effect Africans today. But so far I see similarities more than differences. But I want to capitalize whatever is true, whether that be just African, just British, just American, or something much more complicated than all of that.

Because it's so easy just to capitalize yourself, your side of the story, your take, your cause, your suffering. But I’ve been reading Wink, who talks about how Christ's call for turning the other cheek is a call, in my own words, to capitalize both your own dignity and the injustice of your oppressor, while still also capitalizing the same dignity in that oppressor. It's loving your enemies and having the strength and courage to absorb their hate and return love, to end the cycle. Its civil rights demonstrators singing a call and answer song of Do you love _____; Yes we do, and being able to say Yes we do when the caller asks do you love Jim Crow.

I read that Obama spent time serving in memory of MLK Jr. in the time leading up to his inauguration. I saw a couple minutes of television, with people pouring into DC to see and hear him. I fell asleep last night to BBC radio commentators quoting and responding and questioning and applauding his words. I’ve read his words, his speech.

I told my mother in an email how I cried. I love my country, and I love this world, but sometimes I have so much fear, both of and for us. I’ll try and post an actual response to the speech in my other blog, but basically, what it comes down to is I heard Obama say that man’s got the answer, going with all the humanist secular eschatologies trying to get the world to believe the history of the world is a history of progress (Plant). In Obama’s assurance to the world of our return to ideals and rejection of a choice between safety and our ideals, I was alarmed to hear the assumption that we don’t have to sometimes sacrifice safety for our ideals (Obama).

But I’ll leave that for then. The question for this, now, was what we should capitalize, how do we choose between ourselves and others? I have hope that there is the option of capitalizing both ourselves and others. I have hope that there is a third way, neither passive flight and allowing of injustice, nor that never-ending cycle of fight that never leaves a winner, but only survivors.

And I have hope that, as the philosophers BEP put it, we can realize that “if you only have love for your own race than you only leave space to discriminate…man you gotta have love to set it straight…” Maybe then Christians can answer them YES to “will you practice what you preach? Will you turn the other cheek?...where is the love?...if loving people is so strong, why are so many pieces of love going so wrong?”

Links, Sources
- Taylor, John, The Primal Vision, (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1963). He worked in Uganda from I think 1958-1964, as many African countries got independence.
- Plant, Stephen, Freedom as Development: Christian Mission and the Definition of Human Well-Being, (Wesley House: Cambridge, ?). he’s the guy that talks about secular eschatology. Interesting stuff.
- I got the text from the NYTimes transcript, where Obama says on the second page “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals…Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

planes, rains and automobiles

The KLM airlines is amazing. It was a flurry of sleeping, waking up to be fed scrumptious yummies, sleeping, waking up to watch free movies or tv shows, sleeping, waking up to get apple juice and more yummies, sleeping, waking up to listen to free music...I think I'm in love. Oh, and our stewardess, Irimgard, gave us candy. Just our row. That's right.

This guy on the right is Herbert, my second airport friend. When I got to the DC airport at six in the morning, I was drawing for a couple hours until he came along needing to make a call. We ended up hanging out for the next six hours and he told me some about his life, coming for the second time to the States from Ghana to work and study. He told me also about his country and its capital Accra. My first airport friend was a girl, Priscilla, who like me grew up first in Huntington Beach and then Anaheim! Although eventually I had to sleep it was so nice learning about her work in Brazil helping with a new Poruguese translation of the Bible. Really, airports are amazing!This is the guest room we stayed in the first night. When I first saw the mosquito net, it was tied at the top and I thought it was decoration! I feel like I'm in a princess bed every night. Really, I'm going to miss mosquito nets very much! After about 30 hours of flying, which was so amazing, we had a two-hour bus ride which I spent with my head out the window or busy eating bananas. We arrived at the school maybe 1 am.

This is the beautiful view from our main classroom. For me, all of my scheduled classes are here. I'm taking History of East Africa from 1800s-independence, Politics of EA since independence, Faith and Action, International Missions and Ministry, and Creative Writing. There was a schedule conflict witht the Law and Christian Political Thought, but I will still attend one of the two sessions every week! It's quite an interesting schedule, as I have class at 8:30 every day. Monday and Tuesday my last class ends at 5, and Wednesday by 4, with a 4-hour break! Thursday I have only one class, so I will be done by 9:30, and Friday I will be done by 10:30, thought that day's schedule may change. And everyday of course I am to be home by 7, so I have to leave by 6:30 to make the walk in time. My family now lets us help in bringing out and taking in the dishes, and we prepare our own baths. Friday we will go into Kampala, the capital city, and Saturday my sister will teach us how to get eggs from the chickens and wash our clothes! Here is also a picture of the same classroom and some of us. This was our first morning and we were enjoying a breakfast of bananas and bread and juice. The food is amazing and it really is a shame I haven't take any pictures of it yet. Matoke is this mashed-potatoes like cooked banana, it is really a staple. It's quite bland, but when you pour your meat stew over it as they do it is great. Rice and beans are big here as well. For breakfast usually I just have tea and some bread with butter.This Tuesday we were eating lunch when quite quickly it began first to sprinkle and than to pour. During a brief reprieve we all ran to class together. Not all of the windows lock, and the door does not either, so we were sitting there in a small circle with our missions teacher, Brooke (an alum of the program!) nearly yelling to be heard over the howl of the wind and rain. Qutie a few trees fell down, including this one here, right in the middle of the road. This was when the man who returned Michelle's lost baggage returned us home. The boy has a stick in his hand trying to chop the tree! Eventually, we went off the road and around. It's amazing what people can do with cars here. The roads are similar to where I went off-roading one time, dirt and rocks and pits and bumps.

I will try to take more recent photos and tell you of more recent Ugandan adventures soon. Until then, I hope you have some really cool adventures of your own!

Good and Bad

Red dirt, green grass and blue sky

Malaria nets, bucket showers and flirtatious boda boda motorcycle men

The sweet evening smell of backyard kitchen fires like your favorite beach trip

Ethnic tension and denominational competition

My host father tells me that after he traveled to northern Uganda as a young man, the truth he learned was that there is good and bad in every people. One people are not all bad, and one are not all good. I agree.

To be honest, though, most of what I have seen is good. And lovely. And delicious. It has not yet been even a week since I left California, let alone when I arrived in Uganda. The course of my life has not been changed forevermore. But it is not the same, either. I have even more reasons to laugh at myself. I have even more reasons to laugh at others, at life. At the way little children have the brightest smile when they see me and call out mzungu, white person! At the way I smile back shyly as the adults look on and chuckle.

My sister, my mugandawange, is nineteen years old. She is incredible, her maturity and how much she contributes to her family's daily functioning. I have so much respect for her! My brothers are quiet with me, but in speaking with them I learn that they are regular guys who like to hang out with their friends. They even play Grand Theft Auto! My father is intelligent and very thoughtful towards making us feel at home. My mother and grandmother speak with their smiles.

So far, I have been more struck by the similarities than by the differences, the good more than the bad. I am still intimidated when I walk around campus, but that is my own insecurity. I find if I have a bit of courage and smile, others smile back.

So I think I will smile :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

God Bless the Cow, the Joys of Squatting

On the way home yesterday I had to walk alone for the first time and I got really lost. My home is maybe 1-2 miles away (or more? it's hard to judge distance here) and about a 30 minute walk. I made it all the way to the village where I live (which is a village on lots of dirt roads that wind up and down this hill called Upper Nabuuti), and to the path/road I live on, and then couldn't recognize my home because everything is so different from the US and it all looks the same to me. So I went up and down the road, asked directions, then tried another road and went up and down it, then I began to cry because it was so scary--it's not really dangerous here, it's just scary not to know where you are and we can receive calls on our cellphones right now but don't have minutes to make calls (I should by friday, though), so I didn't know what to do. I finally went back to the original road I had tried first, and I walked down it again, very slowly, and then I saw our cow--Mama Joyce has a cow, and she came close to the road so I recognized the cow and then home. God bless that cow!! It was a trying experience, but I found out today that almost every student who had to walk home got really lost last night, so I wasn't the only one. One other girl was by herself too, and it was scary for her as well. Mama Joyce was a bit worried. She walked me to school again this morning so I wouldn't be lost. I don't think I will ever be lost again after last night, though, because now I pretty much know the entire village surrounding our house.

All of that being said, I have been tired and maybe a bit depressed today. I think it is taking a lot of energy to adjust to so many changes and that is probably why I am feeling a bit down. The first several weeks will probably be an emotional roller coaster for me. But I am still happy to be here and enjoying most of the people. Mama Joyce is incredible and I am having the opportunity to develop a very special relationship with her. We are learning a lot from each other. Pray for me also with school work--I have way more than expected. After my first couple of days it is shocking to know all of my assignments--and because I don't live on campus, I will have less time to do them. Really, I just need to relax and take in the experience. Making all As isn't really the point of being here. So I am going to do my best on everything I can, but I don't want my four months here to be nothing but studying, because there is so much more than college credit to this experience. The classes I am now taking (after some schedule shifts, which is common here) are Missions, Faith and Action, Reading the New Testament in Uganda, African Traditional Religions/Islam/Christianity in Uganda, and African Literature. So far my lit class and religion class have not met, but will be meeting tomorrow. Most classes here only meet twice a week, once for two hours and once for one hour, and the meetings are at different times. Memorizing my schedule is going to take work!!

On a humorous side, I got asked to marry someone for the first time today. A guy asked me and another white girl after chapel to "come back to Uganda, stay, and be married"--it was kind of funny. Just like Americans have all kinds of preconceptions about Africans, they also have preconceptions about us, mainly that we are extremely wealthy (which we might be by their standards, but their class system is different than ours)--many of the men will try to marry american white women so they can have money and move to the US. And they aren't afraid to propose. So it's kind of funny. I guess I need to make up an imaginary husband! :) I'm certainly not here to find one.

I am getting used to the toilets now also. I actually prefer the hole in the ground to the toilet here, because if there is a toilet here, there is no toilet seat, so you have to half-squat over the really dirty toilet...or you can just use the hole in the ground, and it takes a lot less effort to squat all the way down. And I am getting to be a fairly good aim and it doesn't bother my knees as much as I though it would. I might come back with extremely huge squatting muscles...because every time I have to pee, I have to walk forever to find a toilet (on campus, anyway) and then I have to do squats. haha.

Last night at home the power was out and I was in the dark from around 7:30pm on. Mama Joyce, Ida, and I had dinner in the dark--the only light we had was candles and a couple of flashlights. They think the crank light I brought is very neat because there are no batteries with it. It's probably something I'll leave with them at the end of the semester.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First few days in Uganda

Hey guys! I am finally getting the opportunity to get on the internet. It's Monday morning at 9:05 AM. I am on campus in the quarters for the missions emphasis students. We have a special small house on campus with two very small rooms since we don't have a dorm room because we live with families off of campus. One room has tables in it for studying and the other has couches for hanging out. Each room has lockers in it, and we each have a locker of our own with a padlock that we can leave computers and other valuables in. So that's good.

We arrived on campus at 1 AM on Friday morning. The ME (missions emphasis) students stayed in a guest house and then we had meetings all day on Friday. Immediately after meetings on Friday, they took us to the homes where we are staying and left us. It all happened very fast and was a bit disorienting, but there I was, meeting Mama Joyce, my host mom and several of her relatives, all teenage girls, who I think are her neices. Mama Joyce is a wonderful, older woman--my guess is she is in her 50s or 60s, but it's hard to tell and would be rude to ask I think. I am still trying to adjust to all of the rules of house. Mama Joyce is single, so either she was never married or her husband died, but again, it would be rude to ask. She does have several children. I have met two of her grown sons, but have not met the others yet--she has a daughter living in England, studying for her masters in education.

The house where I am at is very simple. There is a kitchen, a living room, a room with a table in it, two bedrooms (mine and Mama Joyce's), and a washroom (with the buckets that we take baths out of). The bathroom is not attached to the house. It is a small stone building with two stalls, each with a brick sized and shaped hole in the ground that you squat over to go. I am trying to get the hang out it--the frustrating thing is that we are not allowed to go outside at night, so I have to use a bucket in my room, which I empty and wash the next morning. My room has two bunkbeds in it, so it could sleep up to 4 people. I thought I would have my own room, but Mama Joyce said that there are two people (more relatives?) that sleep in there usually, only they are not here for some reason right now. That's ok, though. The company will be nice I guess. I've had lots of good conversations with Mama Joyce so far. She's teaching me a lot about the Ugandan way of life and culture. So far I haven't messed up anything too badly, but we'll see. My house is around 25-30 minutes of a walk away from university. I hope I can remember how to get home today...Mama Joyce walked me to school, but I need to walk home. There are a couple of other girls who I think I can walk with. Oh, one more thing--I have a single homestay, which means I am the only student staying, no American roommate. I am glad it worked out this way though. I think this is something I want to experience alone. Having a roommate would make it harder to build relationships in the family I think--this way, most of the time it is just me and Mama Joyce and sometimes her oldest niece, Ida, who is in her mid 20s I think. Outside of the house we also have a cow, which is kind of fun. It makes lots of noise, though, so the earplugs are definitely coming in handy. The village I am living in is called upper Nabootie (spelled wrong, I'm sure) so if I get lost today on my way home, Mama Joyce told me how to tell someone where I live so they can help me. The Ugandan people are very helpful and hospitable so that shouldn't be hard.

Yesterday we went to church. The service lasted 2.5 hours--crazy! and it was in another language, Luganda so I didn't understand too much. But that's ok. I'll get the hang of things. Mama Joyce arranged for me to begin helping out with one of the childrens' Sunday school classes next week. I'll be working with the 7-9 year olds so that should be fun. All of the children are fascinated by me and giggle shyly and way and point and yell "mizungu" (white person!) when I walk by. It's very cute. I need to make friends with some of them and ask them to help me learn Luganda.

Today are my first classes, but I don't have class until 2. I didn't find that out until arriving on campus, so I have a long time to hang out and find my way around. Once I have classes, I let you know how they go. I am a bit nervous, but not much. The grading system here is nuts--an 80% and above is an A, though I've heard you have to work hard for that 80. So I'll stull work hard, but shouldn't have too much trouble keeping my 4.0. The home stay is the most stressful thing right now. Just pray I continue to adjust and don't get too homesick. I miss you all lots and just trying not to think about home too much or everything that's different. My ways are the foreign ways here, so I am just learning what's normal in Uganda.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Its actually happening

Well, this is it. I'm actually packed. I'm actually ready. I'm actually leaving. My day starts early tomorrow, around 5, so I figured I would say a last good-bye (sadly, an electronic good-bye will have to work for all of you that I didn't get to see!) before I pack up my laptop along with everything else. The next time you hear from me... I will be half-way around the world, soaking up some equator-sun and beginning another great adventure :)

Leaving Tomorrow!

My time in Kentucky has come to an end. Early tomorrow morning I will be heading to the airport to take off on this crazy adventure. Everything still seems kind of surreal, like it's not really happening, like it can't be me that's going to be spending a semester in Uganda beginning tomorrow. I'm sure it will set in about the time on Friday night when we set foot in the Entebbe airport. "Oh wow. I'm really here. What was I thinking last summer when I applied?" Sometimes it's good to be a bit impulsive and not give yourself time to talk yourself out of things.

I am a bit sad tonight. I have said goodbye to one of my best friends, to my brother, and to his puppy so far. The hardest goodbyes will be my parents tomorrow morning, but I might be half asleep for I'll probably be more upset about that later on when I'm fully awake. It's been a good break with my family, but this has been hanging over our heads for most of my 3 and a half week Christmas break. This will be the biggest goodbye we've said so far, my longest time in one stretch away from home. It will be good for me, though, because I really want to do full time missions someday and that will entail being abroad for years at a time. So here goes. I'm taking my leap of faith tomorrow, jumping head first into a completely new environment--I have never met anyone I will be travelling with, I have never been to Africa, and I have never been away from home for more than 8-9 weeks.

Today has been a crazy day of running around trying to tie off all of the lose ends. I got up, did some cleaning and laundry, played/yelled at my dogs for a while...then went out to chiropractor and bank...came home for like twenty minutes to check on the dogs, went back out to lunch with my dad, went to the pharmacy to get some meds for the trip, went to walmart to get some photos, came home and started to finish up my packing...went out with my mom to get ice cream and coke...and now my dad is fixing me my favorite dinner: chicken wings with mashed potatoes and peas on the side.

And tonight I will at last finish up my Poisonwood Bible assignment, hopefully clean my room, and maybe go to bed at a semi-decent hour. It'll be rise and shine at around 4am tomorrow morning!

Over the past several weeks I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions, from initial excitment to anxiety about all of the "what ifs" to sadness about leaving my family to boredome for lack of friends in my hometown...and finally, God seems to have given me a peace about everything and a calm acceptance of the journey I am about to go on. I'm in that sort of numb phase, not so anxious, but not overly excited...just ready to get everything started. So here we go!

Friday, January 2, 2009

One Week to Go!

Happy New Years! Only one week until I leave for Uganda! It still doesn't seem real. I am not sure it will hit me until I get on the plane...and then there's no turning back! After several weeks of shopping, and a couple of shopping sprees this past week, I think I finally have everything I need for the trip. I am still waiting on a couple of books from amazon, crossing my fingers that they will arrive in the next week. We'll see. But I have bug spray, suncreen, shirts and skirts, sandals and other summery yet comfy shoes, a huge duffel/suitcase thing, all sorts of medicine, my shots...the list goes on. To make sure I didn't forget anything, I made a packing list which was the entire front side of a piece of notebook paper...but I have at last crossed off pretty much everything, and it all seems to fit in the suitcase, which is a good thing.

Mostly now, it's a waiting game. Each day brings me one more day closer to departure. I am trying to hang out with my family and friends before I leave, getting in my goodbyes. I am trying to see movies in the theater because there are so many good ones right now. I am drinking as much coke as possible because I love it and am not sure how many opportunities I will have to drink it while I am there. I am going to the gym, doing my best to get my knees as strong as possible before I go since I have had problems in the past. Lastly, I'm doing some reading to get mentally and spiritually prepared.

My dad told me he has two children who like to take risks. If you know the family, you'll know what he means. I am the child who takes calculated risks...but it still scares me. This is definitely the biggest leap away from home and my comfort zone that I have ever taken...but risks are generally profitable. I am pretty sure this is going to be the experience of a lifetime.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Countdown one week to Uganda, and in the holiday hustle and preparation bustle, it's kind of difficult to remember what' s important.

The first night I heard about Uganda I was outside in the night, up in the mountains where the stars actually show. Several young men told me and my friends their stories, stories of war and fear, of innocence lost and innocents lost. And one ended with the plea not to forget them. I had just seen Invisible Children, and I thought my eyes were wide open and would never close.

I can't count the times since then that I've paused in shame to realize I had forgotten Invisible Children and invisible chilren alike. I can't count the times I've failed to see the people around me, even family and friends and myself, as the beloved children of God that we are.

Kikulu means both "remember" and "it's important." For the moment, at least, I remember what's important. God loves. Crazy. And because of Him, I can love God and my neighbor wherever I am, and more importantly I want to, everywhere I am. That inclues here, even when I'm busy freaking out about going to Uganda. And that'll include in Uganda, even when I'm busy freaking out about being in Uganda.

Hopefully I'll be able to remember that and learn it even better.

After all, what's more important than that?