29 December 2008

Uneventful

...that's how I like things. A hospital shift for instance, or maybe a long car trip, or in today's context a MAF flight from Bundi to Kampala. Mission Aviation Fellowship flies to an airstrip built by Paul Leary many years ago about 15 min. from where we live along the Bundibugyo Road. Today the Caravan (10 seater plane) dropped off the Masso's and their visitors, and picked up Ashley, Nathan and I. Today is Nathan's birthday and with presented with the option of flying we left it up to him to decide for or against. He decided for, and even got to play co-pilot. As we were taking off, he looked a bit like a boy of about 2 less decades of age, almost giddy with excitement and smiling from ear to ear. Needless to say, I think he enjoyed himself. When we landed, and he climbed out of the cockpit the first words out of his mouth were telltale: "That was AWESOME!" It was the first time I'd flown to/from Bundibugyo since I flew in almost exactly 11 months ago. The flight was indeed uneventful and we are safely in Kampala.

We'll celebrate Nathan's birthday in style tonight here in Kampala (there was a Bundi celebration on Saturday) and then most likely again in Nairobi (hopefully with Sushi).

Wednesday we head to Nairobi for a week of vacation. Yep, you heard right, VACATION!!!!!! Wuh-hoooooo!!!!!! I'm looking forward to it. We'll be hangin' with fellow WHMers and eating and drinking and making merry.

Oh, one more thought. This whole flying thing so revolutionizes the Bundi-to-Kampala experience that when we got here and turned our computers on and read headlines like "Ugandan Rebels Massacre civilians in a church" and "Somalian President quits after 4 years in leadership" it makes me feel like I've just resurfaced from a hole in the ground...sheesh...what a wake up...

26 December 2008

Boxing Day

is today. And, it's my favorite new holiday...originally I typed "my new favorite holiday" but I think this way is probably more accurate. And it's surely not NEW but it's new to me...it's 26 Dec. and it's traditionally an English holiday (since Uganda was colonized by the British we get to share in the tradition too) in which the Christmas BOX was opened and the contents shared with the poor. I just looked it up...also St. Stephen's Day (the first Christmas martyr)...anyways, I'm very much a fan, because you know what it means practically? A national holiday the day after christmas (ie. people not coming to the door, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday is over, so it's just a great day to do NOTHING!!!!) Ashley and I have been doing just that. We had christmas cookies for breakfast (shh, don't tell my mom) and then dilly dallied a bit here and there and then watched a movie, now an internet break, and then another movie and then a dinner break maybe, and then hopefully another movie...It's so great, you should really look into adopting it. There just aren't days like this EVER around here, so we're enjoying every minute.

And yesterday, it was a great day, too. Fun, worship, reflection, great food, lots of laughs, soccer, a cool breeze and christmas dinner out in the yard, and time with my Bundibugyo family. Thank you God for all of your good gifts.

Webaleh Bilo Bikuru na webaleh kwiko

(Thurs. 25 Dec.)

I’ve told you that the Babwisi say thank you for everything, it’s kind of an emphatic exclamation…a way to point out the value of something, a way to point out the remarkable nature of something…so when we say Merry Christmas, the Babwisi say “thank you for the most important day, thank you for reaching!” so as to say, thank you for successfully reaching the most important day.

Christmas Day is the feast day of all feast days here in Bundibugyo. The Babwisi don’t exchange gifts or decorate their homes at all, but they get dressed up and they eat a feast to celebrate. We’ve been celebrating somewhat accordingly ☺ Sunday evening we celebrated Norwegian style as a team with a white dinner (food is white, decorations are white, etc) and advent devotions, then last night (Christmas Eve) we went caroling as a team (yes, we were as much of a spectacle as you’re imagining) followed by a candlelit reading of the Christmas story at the Myhre’s cow pasture, next to the manger…with DMC and Sirloin (the cows) and Pelusi (the goat) looking and listening quite intently as well. The singles came home and enjoyed an eclectic meal of Vietnamese spring rolls and pigs in a blanket (Belgian sausage pieces wrapped in Ashley’s made-from-scratch-of-course-croissants). We gathered again this morning (note to all: I was up and out of bed shortly after 7am!) as a singles family with Kym and Lydia and had a great breakfast and gift b’sharem (as my dad calls them). Then there was church.

Church is the central event of the day here. Everyone dresses in their new Christmas clothe-ez and the service was about 2.5 hours. I had put thought and some action into getting a Christmas dress or outfit made, but never got around to the actual deed of taking it to get made, so I wore a dress I brought in a new-ish way and tried to be as festive as possible…solid colors just aren’t festive here, so boring. Oh well, just made everyone else look that much better! The bazungu made our evidently traditional appearance in song with a team rendition of Joy to the World, accompanied by Scott and Nathan on guitars, and with a Wee Sing for Christmas book in front of us to get the verses right. Scott prefaced the song with an explanation of why we sing that joy came to the world in Jesus’ coming, why it is such good news that we should might be joyful about. It was good for me to hear. Other people performed songs including the choir and a children’s choir, some of the team got pulled into what seemed to me to be a pastors/elders/wives song and dance routine (luckily they could tell I would detract from the performance so I got to sit and watch☺ The choir was decked out in brand-new-today choir robes, my used-to-be-a-scooter-friend Katsusiime Jovia was present, decked out in her spiffy new Christmas dress and hair done in braids just as a cute as ever, Alikanjiira (the ironing guy) had shaved in honor of the day, there was toilet paper strung up around the room with balloons and empty candy wrappers as decorations in a very festive manner. Now, remember back to when I said Christmas Day is the feast day of all feast days around here, well, I was sitting in the back row of benches and kind of zoning off every once in a while (very very very easy to do when you only understand one word in every 5 sentences or so of what’s going on), so I’m honestly not sure what the text for the sermon was, but Charles Musinguzi preached and the part I paid most attention to was the very end, he was really goin’ by that time and I think had most people’s attention as he said something like “So today we’re going to eat rice and beef and chicken and many other things, it’s going to be a big feast, and we will be satisfied for a few hours, maybe 3, but the feast that will happen when Jesus comes back will last FOREVER! We will be satisfied in Him FOREVER!” Clapping spread through the room! Amen!

Now we’re in a slight lull before team dinner/gifts/fun& games for the rest of the day. We each drew a name. I hope my person likes their gift, it’s hard to feel like everything hinges on your one gift, but it’s okay, it’ll be fine. I really love giving people gifts…a love language of mine I guess. My parents (well, my mom to be specific) sent me a great package for Christmas which actually arrived before Christmas which is miraculous…great movies, great treats, practical things I needed…THANKS MOM! (and Dad ☺)

Merry Christmas, all!

24 December 2008

HOME


I've written about HOME before, about the lack of definition I feel/experience in regards to the word. Jennifer was talking the other night about the place of HOME in the Christmas story and in our lives here, about the tension and how it's not an easy tension but one that we are called to, and she's right. I'm not sure where my HOME is at this point in time, maybe I have many, or maybe I have none here on this earth. But it's what I've been called to and some of the same tension was shared by Mary and Joseph who were called to leave their home with a weighty calling and were not always looked upon very well for it, and suffered because of it. But they were faithful.

I painted the three canvases in the top photo probably a year and a half ago or so maybe? (A little pause for a Christmas shout out to my dear fried Leslie who encouraged me to try my hand at painting one night at her house!) And they try to demonstrate some of the tension I'm called to and yet some of the calm I feel in spite of the tension, and I have them hanging here on my wall to remind me of all of that.

The second photo is my physical home here in Bundibugyo, decorated for Christmas. The LED lights are a different touch than I'm used to, but they work! I'm so thankful for the ability to celebrate here and for all of you. May you all have a Blessed Christmas and remember your true Home.

My future husband

Isn't he a cutie? :) His grandmother carried him over to Nutrition clinic yesterday and I greeted her as she walked over - she smiled and said something emphatic in Lubwisi that I didn't understand but Pat started laughing. "What did she say?" I asked, "She said this is your future husband!" I laughed as well. Often when I smile and coo at kids/babies on the ward their mom's say something like that, they ask the kid something while pointing at me. His name is Bitighale Luwererlo (or something like that, we both share seconds names that start with "L" that not many people can correctly pronounce :) So, just thought I'd share the news :) PS - I think his green and white sweater suit (in the stifling heat nonetheless) is very sharp!

Christmas Cheer


This was taken yesterday, Tues. 23 Dec. You might remember Maate (see posts from April 7 and May 25 for story and pictures to jog your memory), well yesterday he came to pick up his last month of TB meds and nutritional support (ie. 20 500ml cups of dry beans). Look at this kid!!!! He looks great, probably walked all the way from home to get to the health center and manages all by himself to pick up his meds and food and so forth. He says he's going back to school next year (starts Jan/Feb 2009). I love this kid. To see what God has done in his body is pretty darn amazing. I am so privileged to be able to stand by and watch Him work (and stick my hand in whenever needed)! Blessed be His Name!

21 December 2008

Me 'n Santa

...we're tight. So on Friday, during the 2nd busiest week of his year, I got a "PERSONALIZED letter from Santa"! I was cleaning out my Spam folder in my email (which I do a few times/week so that I don't miss any emails that might be mistakenly going in there instead of into my inbox - sometimes we get hard up for communication from the outside world around here...we even resort to checking the spam folder ;) and there it was, Sender: Santa Claus, Subject: Personalized letter from Santa...I didn't open it, was sure if he's up on his virus protection up there at the North Pole and I can't have anything slowing down my already slow computer experience here in Bundibugyo, so I'm not sure what he had to say, but I'm sure it was good. Maybe he needed some emergency health care advice for Mrs. Claus, or maybe he was wondering how the Bundibugyo Road has been lately because he's got a big shipment coming this week and didn't want to run the chance of Rudolf and Prancer and the others getting stuck in any ditches...or maybe the reindeers' allergies have been bad and he wasn't sure if it being dry season here was going to be a problem for them...
Santa, home skillet, if you're reading, Cetirizine is the way to go. They'll wake up sneezing and blowing their nose but within a half hour or so they'll be good to go all the way to DRC for sure! And the road, it's fair these days, they graded some of the switchbacks just in time for you to come through without too much trouble. Oh, and we can't forget the Mrs....I hear the health care resources over there in Kijabe, Kenya are as good as they get around here, and I'm sure they'd be willing to fit her in seeing as it's gonna be a crazy week for you guys and all, or you could just have her come by Nyahuka here with the deer, I'm sure Scott would be willing to see her...their place is on the right when you see all of the Mission signposts on the left hand side of the road...just hang out there in the kitubi with everybody else and Scott will get the word just as soon as you arrive, I'm sure. Oh and thanks for the email and sorry I didn't get to open it, I'm sure you understand, your connection up there can't be all that great either. Looking forward to seeing you whenever you arrive. Remember, there's no chimney's around here, you might have to use the water tank/pvc pipes as an alternative entry route - a swimsuit might be helpful in that case, just a suggestion, not sure if you've even got one of those. Season's Greetings - Heidi

19 December 2008

ooh geez

I haven't quite put it together, but today has been a doozy. Jennifer asked me to do a Christmas devotional at the Health Center CME meeting this morning...I'm not very good at these things. I used part of Luke 2 from the Message, and then part of Revelations 7, and tried to encourage the staff that at one point in history, seeing was believing, and God has promised that day will come again...He's sending his Son again, even when on a daily basis it doesn't appear to be the case. I tried to open with some discussion but the question took a nose dive as everyone stared at me or at their feet...'okay, so that's not gonna work' I thought to myself, so I just read the two scriptures and tried to explain the few thoughts above...maybe it was 5 minutes...and of course today was the biggest turnout ever because everyone was expecting a christmas present...sorry! The meeting went on to expose the fact that the health center has not had water for a week, there are no gloves to be had in all of Uganda, there are no ARV's for AIDS patients, the guys that try to keep the place clean haven't been paid in 6 months, staff continue to sell hospital meds and supplies in their own drug shops in town...all in all, this is more than the usual frustrations I think, but really, not much new, but for some reason today it has hit me with particular force. Then there are the two 18 year olds on the ward trying to take care of starving motherless siblings/nephews, one of which is HIV positive, neither of which have much of anything to their names...

Lord, please come quickly and give us the grace to live faithfully until You do!

few more kampala laughs...

The photo below is for your own interpretation :)

Okay, so Uganda is SOOOOOO excited about Obama's being elected President. Even though neighboring Kenya is actually his father's homeland, Uganda is part of East Africa, which means that there have been headlines in the newspapers here that say "Uganda tops Obama's priority list" WHAT?!?! highly doubtful. But around these parts, that's how politics works, if somebody you "know" gets into power of any kind, you expect that person to give you some kickbacks, and if you find yourself with power of any kind, you'll be expected to do the same...Oh and this is a duka that has named itself "Obama's Classic Garments"...evidently he dresses smartly and Ugandans have taken notice and plan to emulate his fashion.

16 December 2008

Home for the Holidays

...arrived back home in Bundibugyo this evening, safe and sound. Just thought I'd post a few written snapshots of the trip home:

- 1st gas station attempt on leaving Kampala was in vain...gas station had no gas. who woulda thunk it.
- Petrol Feast = name of a gas station sighted on the way out of Kampala!
- Heidi groaning/heavy sighing throughout the FIRST hour of the trip as she dodges pot holes all over the place and tries to pass slow trucks without hitting oncoming traffic...the first hour outside of Kampala has the worst road of the whole trip. Bad paved roads are WAY worse than bad unpaved roads.
- almost hitting one cow who decided to meander across the road right in front of our vehicle traveling at about 100 km/hr...yikes...screeching halt and close call.
- newly downloaded christmas tunes on the ipod from Kampala to Fort
- people selling mangoes all along the Bundibugyo road...each one of them with one in their hand/mouth with juice running down their cheeks (we of course bought a big bag full)
- a solitary red tail monkey in a tree at dusk as we rounded one of the switchbacks on the mountain
- a couple clans of baboons hanging out along the side of the road as we slow down to chat with them a bit
- Nathan surprised to find Run DMC, "Angel" by Shaggy, and "Ice Ice Baby" on my ipod when he got control of the tunes selection from Fort to home (and us promptly rockin' along with each as he found them :)

More to follow soon I hope.

11 December 2008

a gift from God

Namirembe Cathedral (Church of Uganda – Anglican), 7pm this past Sunday night 7 December, Candlelight Lessons and Carols. Absolutely wonderful. Such a treat. Majestic rough hewn African Cathedral with great acoustics, pews, organ, choir stalls, men and boys choir complete with black robes and the boys wearing stiff ruffled collars, OT and NT scripture readings telling the story of the birth of the Christ child, and carols for the packed house audience to sing along with. It was sooooooo nice. There were of course the reminders that you were in fact in Africa…the birds flying around the sanctuary, the people around you talking throughout the entire service, the fluorescent tube lights plastered to the wall randomly throughout the sanctuary, the fact that only the choir had candles and they were only lit during the processional carol, the tacky Christmas tree only half lit with lights that were colored and blinking. But TIA, what do you expect? It just adds character. On a more serious note, a very serious note, I was again reminded that TIA when the Vicar’s prayers to open the service included prayers “that those who bear responsibility for the well being of the nations may be inspired by the message of Christmas to work together in the cause of justice, freedom and peace…for the sick, the anxious, the lonely, the fearful and the bereaved; for the poor and helpless, the hungry and the oppressed…” and to close the service included prayers for the places in this country where there has not been peace for a very long time, and likewise for Zimbabwe, and for comfort for the family of the child whose life was allegedly sacrificed in ceremonial witchcraft (buried alive in the cement foundation of a building) in the last couple of weeks here in Kampala in pursuit of prosperity and success for the building owner…These are realities here. These are the realities that people here are very aware of, talking about and praying about, in a time of year when most of the world wishes to forget about these kinds of things.

It wasn’t just the ambiance and atmosphere that was gifted to me that evening, but also a new perspective on a few old carols I’ve sung all my life…for instance, “born that man no more may die” (Hark! The herald angels sing)…wow, that’s right. That’s what this is about! God sent his Son, born to a young teenager, in a manger in Bethlehem, so that through This Life we might ALL have life…that death would be conquered. With all of the death in my life here, this is gospel. Thanks be to God.

10 December 2008

Laughs from the day

Road sign: "DO NOT DRIVE ON SHOULDERS"
Amina (Ugandan friend sitting in the passenger seat as we drive down Entebbe road): "'Do not drive on shoulders', what does that mean?" :)

Street salesmen - people here just walk up and down the road selling things...men usually...these things range from bug zappers that look like tennis rackets, to inflatable swimming pools, to baby shoes, to airtime for your cell phone, to newspapers...but then today there was the guy walking across Entebbe road loaded up with bras. Yep, a wandering brassiere salesman. I mean I bet he had about 50 bras hanging from his two arms. That's an alternative I never thought of to the madness of holiday shopping at the local mall :)


Better late than never...

This is an attempt from last week to describe the craziness that is my life...but my computer just recovered it after I thought I lost it...so, enjoy.

(Wed. 3 Dec.)

The last week has been busy. I didn’t expect life in rural Africa to be busy. Alas, it is.
One of the paybacks of a busy week is build up of blogging material…so, that’s what this post is, life’s payback to me for not taking time out to process what’s going on. Sorry that you have to pay the price for it…

(that reminds me of something…Musical: Fiddler on the Roof…Song: “Tradition” Nochem the beggar of Anatevka calling for alms, “Alms for the poor, Alms for the poor” and one of the townsmen gives him only one Kopek, a smaller than usual contribution, and the beggar is disgusted…
“One Kopek? Last week you gave me two Kopeks!”
“I had a bad week.”
“So!?! If you had a bad week, why should I suffer?!” )

Anyways. Sorry. Tangent. The week…

Betty: Last Wednesday, we gathered as a team with the staff of Christ School to celebrate the end of the school year and to say goodbye to Betty, one of the Deputy Headmasters (do you call a Deputy Headmaster who is a woman a “headmistress”?). OK, true confession. I am hardly ever at Christ School. I know hardly any of the staff by name, let alone students. I use the excuse that the only times I’m ever there are in the dark and so I can never really see what people look like well enough to remember their names…which is true, but also a lame excuse. But Betty, I knew her name. Even from the infrequency with which I visited Christ School, I still knew there was something admirable about this woman. She exudes grace, she exudes confidence…graceful confidence…I think that’s what it is. A wonderful example for the girls of Bundibugyo who attend Christ School…a wonderful example of a woman in leadership. I thank God for the time he gave Betty at CSB and she will be dearly missed.

Thanksgiving: Obviously was Thursday. It was fine. The highlight was by far the bougainvillea after dark. Jennifer had arranged the furniture from the front room (which had been taken over by seating the crowd of 26 or so for the dinner feast) in the space under the bougainvillea, and Karen brought out candles after dark and set them on the ground in various places around…as Annelise said, it was very “Pottery Barn” looking… “with furniture in places it shouldn’t usually be”…the kids were inside watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas I think…it was so nice to sit outside in the cool and quiet of the sunless night, it was chaos free (for a while at least during the kids’ video), Annelise and I chatted for a bit about important things which we don’t usually get the chance to do ever really…it was a blip in time I’d like to put in a bottle and open whenever I please…then a bit later, I was still in my same seat on the couch in the candlelight even though people had come and gone around me, and a game of “Basket full of nouns” materialized between Myhre’s and singles to round out the night. It was a riot.

Repentance: It’s a big deal around here…because people never do it. No one ever admits guilt. But Sunday was different. A man stood up in church, and in the beginning I thought he was another guy enjoying the limelight and calling it a testimony (how optimistic am I, eh?!), but as he went on and on I realized that this was for real, and not just for real but this was in fact earth shaking! This man, a headmaster at a local primary school, was quoting scripture about repentance and forgiveness and loving your wife and not crushing the spirit of your children and telling us the story of God’s convicting his heart of his sin. He told the whole church about his unfaithfulness to his wife on two occasions, about their separation and quarreling and the pain inflicted on their children throughout it all, and then he called his wife to the front of the church and knelt and asked her forgiveness…I was in tears…This is a big deal. To kneel and confess sin and in a physical demonstration of respect for your wife to ask for her forgiveness, this is revolutionary! People, let alone men, don’t do this kind of thing here. Men were in tears, women were cheering, and an elder threw his arms around this man and jumped up and down while hugging him. As my parents always say, you never know what God is doing behind the scenes! This is such an encouragement to us here...so encouraging to see God at work in peoples lives.

Advent: Emmanuel = God with us. So, we gathered as a team on Sunday night to celebrate the first Sunday in Advent together…singing/reading/sermon. My dad emailed the booklet he put together for Grace & Peace’s Advent celebration and so we’re trying to follow that as a team (albeit pretty loosely since we’re only together 2 of 4 Sundays I think). So, the first Sunday’s text was from Revelations 1. And can I just say, Praise God for sermons!?! Scott found a Tim Keller sermon on the text online (not an advent sermon but it’s close enough) and so we listened together to that. It was really helpful. I read about the golden lampstands and the golden sash and hair as white as wool and snow and feet like bronze and seven stars and a sword coming from his mouth and geez louise, I can’t make heads or tails of it…it all seems so fanciful, but I feel like surely somewhere in it there’s some really significant meaning, I just have no idea what it is! But then there’s where the sermon comes in…and voila! The “one like the son of man” is standing among the lampstands which represent the churches…he is among them and his feet are like bronze, “refined in a furnace”…He was AMONG us, He walked through the fire that is this life leaving his feet bronzed, He has been through every trial and tribulation, every struggle and challenge, He knows every sorrow and sadness…and then “He laid his right hand on [John], saying ‘fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Holy smokes! Not only did He walk through it all, but He has the last word! This was so powerful for me. To think that He knows what I see/hear/feel, what everyone around me sees/hears/feels, and I’m not to be afraid, He will have the last word, He’s got the keys!

Death and Life: Mondays…they’re becoming the bain of the existence of both Jennifer and I…packed ward…I mean PACKED! 3 of the last 4 Mondays have been like this…44 patients in a ward with beds for 25…mattresses and cooking stoves and pots and packets of UNICEF milk and cockroaches and snotty nosed toddlers and crying babies and weary mothers EVERYWHERE! Jennifer stood up on a chair to do her usual announcements to start the morning off (to try to enforce some semblance of order…”try” being the key word) and I think the height of the chair gave her voice the projection it needed to be a bit more effective than usual. Anyways, when I arrived this last Monday I read the report book and found that one of the premie’s we’d been trying to get to the 2kg mark had died over the weekend. He wasn’t looking so hot on Friday despite IV antibiotics and such, so I wasn’t shocked (he weighed less than 1.5 kg and lives in rural Africa – a miracle he’d survived til that point) but I was sad. When you go in every other day to pick up this tiny little person and coo “Ohliyoh” (good morning) in your best high pitched baby cooing voice, after preparing a little warmish nest on the cold metal scale hoping that maybe they’d creeped up 100 grams or something…from 1.3 to 1.4 kg…you get kinda attached to these little people…Mourn death. But then there’s always Tuesdays. Thank God for Tuesdays (even if it’s just for the sake of not being Monday anymore!). I was sitting in my usual chair, perched at my green plastic table, on the first Tuesday of the month we usually have a crowd of motherless kids and outpatient follow-ups and such. And I looked up to see who was responding to a name I had just called out to receive food, and look who was there…my little friend Swizen…Swizen who God brought back from the brink of death…the 5 year old who instead looks and walks and acts like he’s 2 ½ years old…but he’s now an 11kg 5 year old, not the 4kg skeleton he presented as on admission to the ward some months ago (probably about 9 months ago)…”eh! Look who it is!” I exclaimed as he waddled his way over to my table…he never ceases to amaze me…the glory of God that I see in this child’s body is amazing! Celebrate life.



That’s enough for now, don’t you think? Signing off.

PS - the hair?! I know, it's bad. That's why I tried getting it cut the other day, but the guy in the bushes didn't quite pull it off like he did the last time...it's bad, really bad...like a mushroom cap or the little dutch boy or something...and how is it that a bad haircut can put one into the lowest of states so quickly?...a downward spiral of self judgement and
loneliness has ensued and it's no good...just like the haircut...no good. But my identity is not in my haircuts, right? Of course right.

07 December 2008

Too many birds on my wires...


Again, blog build up...what to do...this is becoming a trend...

How about methodically plugging through, seems to work for me in other parts of life, let's give it a whirl...

- long week. realized at the begining of the week that I had somewhere to be/something to do every night for 7 days in a row...all wonderful things to be doing/places to be going, but WAY TOO MUCH for this introvert. I don't ever realize the toll that these things have on me until it's over or until I'm in over my head...
- speaking of being in over my head...got a great line from my mom this week...she and my dad often sit on their back porch in the mornings/evenings whenever the weather allows. And in st. louis most every block has an alley, so their back porch over looks the alley, which is a pretty cool alley if you ask me, but it also overlooks the telephone wires strung up and down the alley. These wires are the favorite perching location for most of the birds of the neighborhood (maybe they can smell mom's coffee all the way from the wires since it's so strong! :) Anyways, mom and dad often comment on the birds and sometimes there's no room left, the whole wire is full of birds, and evidently my mom has used this as a metaphor for life and now uses the very witty line "I've got too many birds on my wires" when she has too much going on at any given moment...I'm gonna start using it...doesn't really carry over in a cultural context in which there are no telephone wires or alleys or back porches...oh well. The photo at the top of the post is what I look like when I've got too many birds on my wires (it was taken on tuesday I think)...just FYI
- on wednesday we had a small group of Ugandan friends over to Sarah and Ashley's for dinner and a movie with discussion. We had chicken curry and then watched Shooting Dogs (Beyond the Gates is the US release title) which is about the Rwandan genocide. We had a brief discussion afterwards that was really interesting to me...one of them was laughing after the movie finished and the rest of us were quiet. "What in the world are you laughing about?!" I asked him, "you are all so quiet and it's just a movie" he said. He went on to explain that he doesn't think that we should allow a movie to dictate our feelings...we talked about that a bit, and then talked about the movie itself and some of the things we learned, questions that were raised, etc. It was a good evening.
- It's advent now...and I'm having a REALLY hard time getting my head and heart in synch with the calendar. All of the usual cues of weather and temperature changes just don't happen here, so we've got to resort to alternative means...music...lots of Christmas music...which leads me to the next point.
- I'm in Kampala now. We (Sarah and our friend Amina and I - along with our Fort Portal teammate Laura May for the FP-KLA leg) drove on saturday and we listened to my ipod the whole way, put my holiday list on shuffle and presto - 8 hours later we reached and the playlist was over. again, praise God for safe travel.
-sunday we went to church with Laura May and then to lunch. Upon pulling out of the parking lot after lunch I heard a sound and felt a bumping that seemed remarkably like a flat tire, Sarah jumped out to check and sure enough. Very flat. I pulled over to the side of the parking lot and 3 guys worked together and an hour later our tire was changed...our jack was christened but doesn't seem to exactly function very well as a jack for a large vehicle...it required lots of rocks and planks of wood and such...I was just really glad that it was in the parking lot in Kampala and not on the road over the mountains or even on the road in Kampala. But, at least I know how to work the jack now (it's a hydraulic jack - never seen one like it before coming here - Scott Myhre had shown me in theory but not with an actual vehicle/tire - I'm a practice makes perfect kinda girl...). And the 3 guys who sweat their butts off in the parking lot wouldn't even take the bottles of cold water we offered them...craziness...this is dry season, it's blazing hot in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a parking lot. I said, "but you guys have been so kind?!" and one said "but you didn't arrange for this" (pointing at the car), "you're right, I didn't, but God did...and he arranged for you too!" they laughed and still wouldn't take a water. They're as stubborn as I am! Now I'll add a trip to City Tyre to my Kampala to do list...keeps growing every day...

Okay, I think that's enough for now. More another time.

Goat ammendment...

For anyone who has taken action on the Give a goat gift, I just corrected the email address for Ginny Barnette (there was an extra "t" in it), Barnette has only two t's not three. Sorry for the goof up.

30 November 2008

Goats



These precious little creatures are EVERYWHERE around here...sleeping as families in the middle of the road in the middle of town, running you off the road when you're on your bike, tied to tall grasses and reeds along the road while grazing, being herded by small boys with sticks, little babies that seem to be born knowing how to run behind their mother, big pregnant mama's waddling along - seemingly about to pop at any point in time. And to this city girl, they all look alike, just different colored spots in various arrangements, but I'm assured by everyone here they in fact do not all look alike, and they're like children - owners know their "kids" among a crowd of goats anywhere...

What you might not know about these animals is that, if of the correct variety, they have the ability to save the lives of children rendered motherless by HIV and any number of other illnesses, and to sustain children of HIV + mothers who have been weaned to prevent possible transmission of the virus through breastmilk. Read the following and follow the instructions listed if you are interested in partnering with us here in Bundibugyo by donating a goat that will benefit a family God brings our way.

Give-a-Goat

We are so thankful for more than 100 families who received dairy goats in 2008, funded by the generosity of our friends and supporters in America. Once again this year we are offering the Give-a-Goat opportunity. For $130 donated to WHM’s Give-a-goat program, we can purchase and transport a specially bred dairy goat here in Uganda, train a family in its care, give them a few tools for constructing a simple shed, and then allow them to take the goat home. Thanks to this project, many children who otherwise would have starved, can thrive—drinking the calories and protein they need. Most of our recipients are babies whose mothers have died, or whose mothers are infected with HIV/AIDS and therefore need to wean them from potentially infectious breast milk. Your donation is a gift to a family which is about as close as one can come in 2008 to that of the homeless and wandering parents of the infant Jesus, living on a slim margin of survival. The first 100 donors will receive a hand-made African Christmas tree ornament which symbolizes the real gift of the goat. Please put it on your tree to remind you that Christmas is all about incarnation: love in bodily form, God becoming human and needing milk, your generosity translating into a real live animal and its milk.

The mechanics:

1. Use this link to donate by credit card. This is the simplest and fastest method, and allows our colleague Ginny Barnette in the Sending Center to quickly confirm your donation and address and mail you the ornament.
2. Send a check to WHM Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 1244, Albert Lea, MN 56007-1244, writing “Goat Fund 12373” on the memo line. Since the processing and return of the information to Ginny could take a couple of weeks, you may want to email her (GBarnette@whm.org) in order to be sure you receive the ornament before Christmas.

3. If you would like the ornament mailed to a DIFFERENT address than the one on your credit card or check, you must also communicate this to Ginny. A card will be included with each goat describing the program.

25 November 2008

"To my lovely one..."

Okay, so we go from pick up lines straight to letters of proposal around here, so brace yourselves. I have the priviledge of bringing to your attention the following letter. Please read carefully as pearls of great wisdom and endearment are found in it's specially crafted lines. So specially crafted that 2 single women on our team received the same letter from the same guy in the same week! Sarah received hers one week ago Monday. The same guy hand delivered virtually the same letter (this time typed with clip art roses and calligraphy fonts) to Pat after Sarah answered the door totally unnoticed by this guy who had given her the same letter 4 days earlier...Pat was flabbergasted, and asked the man "are you this man?! You are he himself?!" The spellings are original to the letter itself, unfortunately you'll just have to get your creative juices flowing and imagine the calligraphy font and clip art for yourself. There was talk of scanning the letter and posting it in all of it's original glory but none of us have time for that, this is will have to do. Read carefully :)




TO MY LOVELY ONE, WHOM I HAVE
SELECTED AMONG A GROUP OF
MANY, WHOM I CAN’T CALL BY,
NAME, BUT ONLY SAY MY HEART.
P.O BOX HATE ME NOT,
Date as today.

My Darling miss……PARTRIS…….
How are you as far as your physical fitness is concerned? And how is the atmospheric pressure taking you over there?
I personally, I am really hearted of you Madam, and jam happy to hear that you are of a working class the same as jam.
I am a Doctor by profession and I hope we can assist each other in this world.
Surely, I love you very much my dear and let me have this lovely letter of mine.
Madam, I am really hurted because of you ever since I saw you and I would like to know from you whether I can have a chance to talk to you soon and hear a word from your mouth.
I am really in need of you and I would like to die with you in this changing world, that is to say I need you to be my sweet mammy in my home until the almighty God will separate us as it was created.
My dear, don’t think that I am wasting my time to write to you, I am really serious and I can never let you down whatever the case may be.
My darling, as a matter of fact, I would like you to reply and give me your program of how I can see you physically and we talk to each other.
Hopping you will comply with the above.
May the Almighty God grant you success in all your doings?
I remain faithfully yours in need
YOUR WONDERFUL
………..B…….R…….S…………

MY LOVE YOU INSPIRED MY HEART AND MY SOUL

CALL 0123234567
O/C
Dr. R….. Herbal Clinic in Nyahuka. Town. C.


On the outside of Sarah's handwritten letter was written "If you have any questions regarding this letter please contact our nearest branch. Dr. R's Herbal Clinic, Nyahuka." R is clearly NOT a Doctor (he sits in a little duka down the road towards town) which is only the first of many issues he likely has! Yesterday Jennifer delivered Scott's "fatherly"/protective refusal letter written (by Jennifer and signed by Scott of course) in response. Upstanding individuals in this culture always handle these things through an intermediary person and only ever approaching the woman's father, never the woman herself.

See, being single for sure has it's perks...what stories!!!!!

23 November 2008

what a line!

Okay, so, best pick up line of the year, hands down...

"Ah, Olupah, you are new every morning...just like the word of the Lord!" :)

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time...this zinger came out of the mouth of one of the great Ugandan guys who works with us on Nutrition projects. I told him the next day that I'd told Sarah about his line and that she'd laughed a lot..."Why did she laugh?" he asked as he chuckled a bit himself. I tried explaining to him that it sounded like what we call a "pick up line, something that a guy says to get a girl's attention". He said the inquisitive affirmative, "eh?!" "I didn't use it that way" he assured me. "But we also have those sayings here" he told me. I asked what other ones he had in his repertoire and told me the following...

"You ask a girl for 500 Shillings, and then when she asks you 'what for?' you tell her 'so I can call my mum and tell her I've met the girl of my dreams." Clearly not as funny as the above mentioned pearl, but still got a chuckle out of me.

17 November 2008

A Severe Mercy

“…He [the author] couldn’t recall what it was in his reading that had begun the train of thought – yes, he could: it had been the great brains in their towers in Stapledon’s splendid Last and First Men. He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were emotional, girls were weak, emotions - tears - were weakness. But this morning be was thinking that being a great brain on a tower, nothing but a brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky – no feelings at all. But feelings – feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But, then – this was awful! – maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself: showing one’s emotions was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with the revelation. What is beauty but something that is responded to with emotion? Courage, at least partly is emotional. All the splendour of life. But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy? In books it seemed to be found in love – a great love – though maybe for the saints there was joy in the love of God. He didn’t aspire to that, though, he didn’t even believe in God. Certainly not! So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain – if, indeed, they went together. If there were a choice – and he suspected there was – a choice between, on the one hand, some sort of safe cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.” - Sheldon Vanauken in A Severe Mercy

16 November 2008

How do you define "friend" ?





(Saturday 15 November)

The last 36 hours or so, I’ve been kicked by a stomach bug…a pretty nasty one at that…I won’t get into many details but I kind of have to in order to get to the point of the story…Let’s just say it’s been comin’ out both ends…and in a place where your bathroom is a pit latrine, this is far from a pleasant experience. When woken up at 3am this morning with relatively violent symptoms, I was kneeling over my trash basket lined with a plastic bag, praying for some relief. Pat happened to be awake after taking the girls to the bathroom, she heard me and came to see if I needed anything. “How do you do this, when it’s coming out both ends and you don’t have a toilet?” I asked pitifully. She explained the options, of which there were only 2 – both of which I had thought of already but was hoping the veteran Bundi resident would have had another I hadn’t yet thought of…not so much. But, here’s where she threw out the zinger, totally nonchalantly, “Here, I’ll go out to the cho with you” as she went to find her shoes and torch. “Okay” I answered quietly but readily. So, I picked up my plastic bag out of the trash basket and slowly made my way out the back door. The moon was particularly bright so I didn’t particularly need the headlamp I had in hand to find my way, but it was good to have some sort of light once inside the cho. Pat kindly sat in the doorway as I squatted and waited, and squatted and waited and squatted and waited…we chatted about the dog, about the moon, about palm and coconut trees, about the ridiculousness of the situation, and who knows what else, it was 4:30 in the morning. It was at 4:30 in the morning that I also found the reason for the miniature bwamba chair that sits in the corner of the cho…I had gone almost 10 months without knowing the purpose of that chair and if it were up to me I could have gone the whole two years, but God thought otherwise. After a long time (could very well have been an hour), I told Pat to feel free to go back inside and get some sleep. Finally she did. I continued my squatting and waiting…somehow in the chill of the morning as I waited in the chair I found myself dozing off with my head against the wall…Finally the violence subsided and I felt safe and comfortable enough going back to bed. It was 6 am.

Now, I think maybe we each have measures by which we measure our friendships…the things that signify genuine friendship to me might be very different from those that make up your list. And I think the things that make each of our lists change depending on the circumstances of our lives, the particular challenges we might face. Never in a million years, before my arrival here in Uganda, would I have thought to put “middle of the night accompaniment to the pit latrine” on my list of measures of a genuine friendship…but let me tell you, here in Bundibugyo nothing speaks love louder than someone willing to sit with you in the pit latrine in the middle of the night while you ride out the symptoms of a violent stomach virus! Pat acted like it was nothing, but sitting in the cho by myself in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in Africa sounds like just about the loneliest place on earth, so needless to say I was very thankful.

I'd also like to add that my FRIENDS at St. Louis Children's Hospital pulled through from afar with the 1L graduated plastic SLCH water mug with the stretchy straw and crystal light packets...I've been dutifully sipping away like a good patient should, changing out the crystal light flavor every time just for variety :) How many times have I leaned over a patient's bed trying to convince them that despite their nausea and vomitting they need to KEEP DRINKING?! Sheesh, it's harder than it looks y'all! So much easier said than done! (And by the way, "friend" on a general medicine floor at a children's hospital in the States is defined by things like willingness to help change the linens on a bed of a 9 yr old boy getting go-lytely through an NG tube, or getting up from their computer charting at 18:55 to get just one more piece of extension tubing while you stand gowned/masked/gloved in the doorway of a negative pressure room, or hanging a flush in a room where the family is driving you absolutely up the wall!...a bit different from the pit latrine in the middle of Africa, but demonstrations of care nonetheless! Thanks girls!)

09 November 2008

almost forgot

The week has been such that I almost forgot to make the announcement that I got word this week that my Ugandan Work Permit has been approved!!!!!!  This is a big deal.  After 3 or 4 "special passes" to hold me over, after a 48 hour blitz trip to Kampala with Jennifer back in June for a 10 minute interview with the Council, after completing the required 2 months in Kampala by myself working at Rubaga Hospital, after about a half dozen trips to the Ugandan Nurse and Midwives Council, after lots and lots of waiting to see people, waiting to be told to go and wait somewhere else, after learning to expect to wait and wait some more if intending to get anything done, after learning that not much gets done even when you do wait and wait some more, I almost have my work permit in my hands.  It either will be paid for or has already and hopefully it will come on a MAF plane with Masso's in a couple of weeks, just before Thanksgiving.  What timing.

Something else to be thankful for is Katusiime Jovia.  Katusiime is WALKING!  This precious little one is about 5 or so years old, has Cerebral Palsy and the last time I saw her could only scoot around on her bottom, shimmying around with little pushes from her feet in a "squat" like position.  Even when only able to scoot, her disposition was befitting of her name, "jovial" is a great way to describe her.  A beautiful face with little tufts of braids in ponytails bouncing around her eyes.  Today she waddled upright in a slightly broken but very toddler like gait and a huge smile on her face to try to join in with the women in the choir.  What joy this little one brought to my heart.  Her mother got up and praised God for the progress Katusiime has made, and what progress indeed!  TOTALLY made my week, maybe even my month.

08 November 2008

Nothing Articulate

I feel like I need to write something but I'm not sure what to say.  It's been a strange week.  Can't quite put a finger on why but maybe it's the mix of extremely hard circumstances and events and the experience of God's kindness mixed in.  There's a lot of death in the story of my life in the last week, but there's unbelievably a lot of life also.  There's a lot of sin in the story of my life in the last week, but unbelievably there's a lot of forgiveness and redemption also.  There's been a lot of sobering memories in the story of my life in the last week, but unbelievably there's also been a lot of glad memories.  There's been a lot of crying in the story of my life this week, but there's also been a lot of laughter.  There's been a lot of lament of the sorrow and sin and struggle of this world and this life in my story this week, but there's also been glimpses of the world and life to come.

I think it's been a strange week because I'm not used to this mixture.  I think in my life experience in general I am used to experiencing one or the other...joy or sadness, laughter or tears, sin or forgiveness, death or life, not such strong combinations of all of the above.  It's another expression of the paradoxes of life here.  I'm not sure what to do with it all, but I think the point is that there is nothing to do, there's just being.  I can only sit with the emotions and realities of the moment, whatever combination there might be, and ask God to show me whatever He has for me in it.  

02 November 2008


Beautiful Dawn
(by the Wailin’ Jenny’s)

Take me to the breaking of a beautiful dawn
Take me to the place where we came from
Take me to the end so I can see the start
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me to the place where I don’t feel so small
Take me where I don’t need to stand so tall
Take me to the edge so I can fall apart
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me where love is not for sale
Take me where our hearts are not so frail
Take me where the fire still owns it’s spark
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Teach me how to see when I close my eyes
Teach me to forgive and to apologize
Show me how to love in the darkest dark
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me where the angels are close on hand
Take me where the ocean meets the sky and the land
Show me to the wisdom of the evening star
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me to the place where I feel no shame
Take me where courage doesn’t need a name
Learning how to cry is the hardest part
There’s only one way to mend a broken heart

So I’ve been feeling pretty broken these days, broken as in “needs fixin’,” broken as in “not whole,” broken as in “not solid,” broken as in “weak.” Weakness is not looked on favorably around here, not by Ugandans and certainly not by us Americans. This is the kind of place where you have to be at the top of your game all of the time…the top of your relational game, the top of your spiritual game, the top of your work game, the top of your cultural adjustment game, the top of your flexibility game…and if you’re not – well you had just better keep it to yourself because everyone else is trying their best to be at the top of their game and you not being at the top of yours just pulls them down too…or at least that's the way it seems to me...

But I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to “stand tall” as the song says. I’m tired of trying to be the name of courage. I’m tired of trying to ignore the shame and smallness that I battle against everyday here. I’m tired of trying to buy love from those around me. I’m tired of trying not to fall apart.

I want a place where it’s safe to be broken, safe to be weak. But until I learn to look for this love and acceptance in my Father in Heaven, who runs to me on the road, his prodigal daughter, and throws his arms around me, I will continue to wallow in my weakness. So I ask, “Teach me how to see when I close my eyes, teach me to forgive and to apologize, teach me how to love in the darkest dark.”

01 November 2008

Kwejuna

It's a form of some sort of the verb "to survive." So when a woman produces (gives birth to) a child, congratulations are given by saying "webaleh kwejuna" - thank you for surviving! It's for this reason that the program for HIV + women and their children that Scott spearheaded with funding from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) is called Kwejuna Project.

I've been thinking a lot in the last couple of weeks about the reality of being a Kwejuna mom...what it means to be a woman with HIV here...what it means to get tested and then to wrestle with the decision to pursue treatment and care for the disease. Simply showing up at the quarterly food distributions takes a tremendous amount of courage for a majority of these women.

Reality:
- Based purely on the structure and physiology of women's bodies, the way God has made us, women are more likely to contract the virus than men
- in this culture, sex is ordinary and common place and seen largely as a bodily function and it's believed to be medically unhealthy to abstain when you have the urge, and medically advantageous to engage in it as often as you can
- A man's place in society and clan in this culture is due almost exclusively to the number of children he has. A man's wealth is means to obtaining wives (the more wealthy you are the better the bride price you are able to pay).
- A woman's value as a wife is in her ability to produce children and the more wives you have the more children you can produce.
- Money is controlled by the men in a family
- Because of the frequency with which women are pregnant, the protocol of HIV testing during antenatal care has been very effective in identifying women who are positive.
- The first person in a relationship to be tested and found to be positive is blamed as being the source of the disease. Because of the antenatal testing protocol combined with the frequency of pregnancy, this is most often the wife/woman.

If you are a woman who gets tested for HIV during antenatal care and you find out you are positive, what do you do? You know that every child you produce has the risk of getting the virus, you know that you will die of the disease either sooner or later...

Do you pursue treatment/care (coming to Kwejuna project distributions and the clinic for meds and education) and therefore have your husband find out your status and risk him killing you, beating you, divorcing you? There are no battered womens shelters here, there are no unemployement benefits, no welfare programs, it's all handled within the family, and now a part of your husbands family, if he kicks you out where do you go? Will your family accept you back? Your children are property of your husband and his clan, so you will be giving up the right to love and care for them.

OR

Do you rip the page out of your kitabo (patient book used as a health record) that has the positive result written on it and pretend it never happened, ignoring all of the health care staff's encouragement to get treatment and get your husband tested, putting your life and those of all of your children at risk, but hopefully avoiding the wrath of your husband's blame?

Either way, your options don't look too good. Jennifer recently had this conversation through translation with one of the mom's on the ward...when asked if she would let us tell her husband if she didn't want to tell him, she responded that if he found out her status "he would bury me." With her HIV + infant on her lap, she stood up put the child on her hip and walked out of the room seemingly set in her mind to do nothing about the virus that will one day take over her body and take her life and the life of her children. We can only do what we know how, to encourage people to have the courage to take steps towards treatment and then we pray that God will give them what they need to survive.

31 October 2008

Traveling Mercies

So I know you weren't worried but I'm safe and sound back at home in Bundibugyo. You weren't worried because you didn't know you should have been...and you shouldn't have anyways really because worrying doesn't do anyone any good afterall...Ashley and I drove to Kampala on Tuesday and returned on Thursday with lots of supplies and groceries, 2 visitors and a new teammate. The Batmobile was packed (and equipped with 4 beautiful brand spankin' new tires - it's funny the things we get excited about around here :).

This trip was the first time I've driven out without a veteran team member along for the trip. So it was just Ashley and I for the trip out of the district. And it got off to a bit of a rocky start...well, actually getting off was the problem...evidently your 4 wheel drive cannot be in neutral if you expect to move forward (or in any direction actually) at all (even if your regular stick shift is in gear...) well, you live and you learn. We thought we'd tried everything but in the end had to wake Pat up (it was 6:30am or so at this point), she shifted the 4 wheel drive out of neutral and PRESTO! the car moved forward...details details. So, after jiggling the door lock up and down to get the drivers' side rear door open to load stuff into the back seat, and after more jiggling of the drivers' side seat belt in order to get it latched, after waking Pat up to find out we were just being stupid, we were on our way at about 6:50am.

Ashley skillfully drove out of the district for the first time, and I drove from Fort to Kampala. At one point on "the other side of the mountain" there were boulders and smaller rocks in the road, obvious evidence of a rockslide. "Wow. Look at that" we both said as we swallowed our pride and realized that driving the Bundibugyo road, and really at all in Uganda, we are totally at the mercy of our Father in Heaven. What if we were on that exact part of the road when the rockslide happened...what if? But, we weren't. On our return trip back into the district I was struck again by the immensity of mercy we are shown on a daily basis here, I said a quick "thank you God for your mercy" prayer and maneuvered the vehicle around the boulders and on our way. No car trouble, no punctured tires, no accidents, no rockslides, no getting stuck in the mud...and the list goes on. Thank you God for your traveling mercies on us.

26 October 2008

Okwesigwa Kwaawe (Great is your faithfulness)

Chorus:
Okwesigwa kwaawe, ai yesu, bukya bukya kuloho
koona eki ndukwetaaga
omukono gwaawe, taata, gukakimpa

Your faithfulness, oh Jesus, is always, is always there
All that I need, your hand, father, gives me

1. 
Ekyanda n'enjura
Ekiihe n'kasambura
Izooba n'enyunyuzi
byoona nibyatura okwesigwa kwaawe

Dry season and rainy season
Planting and harvest
The sun and the stars
All proclaim your faithfulness

2. Okuganyirwa ebibi
N'obusinge obwikaraho
N'okubaho kwaawe
Byoona bingarramu amaani

The forgiveness of sins
Peace everlasting
Your presence
They all encourage me

3.  Niiwe onyebembera
Niiwe kunihira kwange
Emigisa yaawe
Iwe wenka, niiwe wagimpaire

You are the One guides me
You are my hope
All your blessings
You only, gave them to me

It's not the "Great is thy faithfulness" that I'm used to, but it's much more fitting for the people and culture of Bundibugyo.  We sang it in church this morning and it's one that people know really well and the harmonies are really beautiful.  The first verse references to the dry and rainy season and planting and harvesting and the sun and the stars take on a whole new meaning here...these are real challenges and real beauties of life here, they are real evidences of God's faithfulness. 

25 October 2008

the ward








I got my camera out yesterday during rounds on the pediatric ward. I don't do this often because I still feel awkward about taking photos of people here. Usually on the ward the kids and parents don't seem to mind and usually enjoy seeing their "snap" on the lcd screen on the back of the camera, but I still feel like it's a bit like making a spectacle of them and I don't like that feeling. Anyways, now that we're clear on the challenges of photography in Africa, let me tell you a bit about these kids...
First is Daniel. He has lost 3 kg in the last 2-3 weeks, now looking like every "starving child in africa" picture you've ever seen, but this was the first day of his admission on which his weight came up a bit...only about 0.25 kg but we get excited about baby steps like that. Then there's the twins. These twin boys are being raised by their aunt, who, it has become very evident almost immediately, runs a very tight ship...these boys sat there on the end of their bed with their feet dangling in the air above their shoes for the duration of the morning, from when we started rounds on the other side of the ward until it came time to see them about 2 1/2 hours later...I got a wave out of one of them but otherwise, they didn't really even budge an inch and you didn't hear a peep from either of them. They are both being treated for TB after their mother died of an unknown febrile illness. After the twins there's a little boy whose face gave away a likely diagnosis of lymphoma...it took me a while to figure out what exactly was off about his face but in the end the left side of his face has a mass, but then he has a puffy right eye...with other masses noted in other parts of his body, prognosis seems poor with disseminated disease. Then there's yet another set of twins. Twins are really common around here. This set of twins is, along with their mother, also being treated for TB. It's not a very good photo because of the back lighting but I think you get the idea. Notice the older sister seated on the floor with the 2nd twin. This is a phenomenon I've picked up on in my time here: the older sister with younger twin siblings has little chance of any kind of a life of her own, little chance for education or any options of self investment, her life will be consumed with caring for these twins. Carrying one of them to and from the hospital or anywhere else the mother goes, cooking and carrying water for the family while the mother breastfeeds the twins (a full time job), doing the family laundry, and the list goes on and on...Then the next 3 photos are of the morning's entertainment on the ward. "Pah-ti's" remedial art class. Pat has been working on this mural for a while here and there when she gets a chance and yesterday she brought along a few apprentices. These are boys that are, as you notice, not in school on a Friday morning. They're not in school for a variety of reasons, being kicked out for theft, being unable to pay school fees, and the youngest of them just needing a little TLC from "mama Pah-ti." Once she got them going they really enjoyed it. Art is not a priority around here...in a place where daily necessities of living consume all of one's attention and energy, it's not often that anyone has or takes opportunity to teach or practice the making of any form of art, but clearly when given the opportunity they totally take off with it. It was really fun to watch these guys learn and then to paint. All the mom's and kids on the ward got quite the show too, everybody watched the mural process...what else are they going to do while they wait in their beds for Jennifer and I to make our way around the ward?! The mural will be something for not just these mom's and kids to enjoy but for families and patients to enjoy for a long time to come.

21 October 2008

Lamps

are one of the things I miss about life in the States.  I think it's something I inherited from my mom, but I really don't like overhead lights...especially when they're naked fluorescent bulbs dangling from the ceiling...we use them because they're energy efficient or something of the sort, and last longer, and, well, all kinds of practical reasons I'm sure, but in the end this is one instance in which my priority is something other than the most practical option.   

I have been trying to think of an alternative to turning on the overhead fluorescent bulb in the main room in my house just to have light to type by, and one evening, after eating by candlelight the answer suddenly dawned on me...If I can eat by candlelight, why can't I type by candlelight too?! So, here I sit as I type, with a single flame next to my computer (I know I know, not all that safe for by little mac book, but I'm being careful!) It's quite lovely, actually.  A fantastic and very elementary solution to a simple preference issue.  

(I should really not be complaining about such things, the girls are having solar battery issues and have no power at all right now, so they're doing EVERYTHING by candlelight.)


18 October 2008

Masso's Departure events

Church leaders sending the Masso's off to Sudan in prayer (Michael, Liana, Karen, Acacia, & Gaby - check out his one knee, hand on the hip, "knight"-like look :)
Prayer during the Masso's goodbye church service - it was a great service but an excuse for an even longer than normal church experience
Liana Masso and Naomi Pierce - inseparable girlfriends
Acacia Masso and Julia Myhre lifelong friends
Quinn Pierce and Gaby Masso - the bestest of friends (they love watching team slideshows from behind the screen :)
Gaby Masso in his snazzy new suit. He really wanted a suit so his dad took him to the market and got him one - here he is in it's inaugural wearing. He had been telling us he planned to look "perferct" for the occasion and he most certainly did. At this moment he was a tad bored but what can you say? Our event couldn't possibly live up to his outfit!
Miss Ashley and her latest "suit-or" :) He really did get down on one knee to pose for the photo :) Such a cute pair!
A table set for a farewell feast
Karen Masso, Pat, and Jennifer
The Pierces - with children very sad to be saying goodbye to their friends
Three of the Von Myhre Family Singers
Liana Masso and Aunt Jennifer

here are a few assorted photos from events surrounding the departure of the Masso family a couple of weeks ago.

17 October 2008

Recent Events

Miss Heidi's read aloud - "Michael D. Masso, Will You Please Go Now?!" - an adaptation of Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?! by Dr. Seuss that I read at the Masso's goodbye party
Inaugural use of the Barbie towel
Nakasero house - where we spent the first two nights away last weekend (just outside Fort Portal)

Formerly known as the "Bart-mobile" this Nisaan Patrol 4x4 has found a new name in it's new phase of life as the singles mobile...now the Batmobile (in honor of it's former name) is in the hands of the singles on the team...it's ours to put new tires on, get the shocks and suspension systems checked out on, put fuel in, respond to requests for usage of and rides in...it's now our responsibility.

weather

localized rain storm
layers of clouds over the savanah of Queen Elizabeth National Park


This post is for the Jones kids (Margaret, Isaac and David). I hear they're really into weather these days and after Bekah told me that in a facebook chat we left the district for the weekend and I kept seeing these kinda striking weather patterns, so I thought I'd share them. Enjoy guys!

Next: 3 shades of gray

Next: striking beauty

14 October 2008

security

So, you know how I said I get potential blog post build up? Well, one of the remedies is to just write about stuff as soon as it happens (which only works if you have time - and I have 18 more minutes of internet time as of right now so we'll see if this works).

This just happened about an hour ago.

I'm walking back from the girls' house next door after a fantastic dinner (including a round of pre-dinner drinks - yeah gin & tonics - for most of the adults - sorry girls) with the Pierces who have had a really stressful few days. I even have my torch (er, flashlight) which I don't really need because the moon is so bright, but my fear of running into a snake keeps me toting it along with me anyways. I'm rounding the corner of the planter that runs along the front of our house approaching my door and I almost tripped over two sets of darkly clothed feet/legs. I peered around the corner with my torch and found them to belong to 2 UPDF soldiers lounging infront of my door...For sure almost peed my pants...which I realized as I was getting ready to take a shower was not actually pants, of course, but rather a skirt...but "almost peed my skirt" doesn't really work very well I don't think...I greeted the two camoflaged men and asked if there were any problems around and in true Ugandan fashion they assured me there were not. (Well then why the heck are you sleeping at my front door?!?!)

We heard earlier today there might be some rebel activity going on across the border and security is getting stepped up around here, but usually that just means soldiers on the mission, not soldiers at my front door...and it's not everybody's front door, just mine. I guess my front stoop is particularly comfy, I dunno. Usually when UPDF guys are around they're on the mission - camped out in an open space up near the workshop on your way from our houses up to the community center/church. We've gotten used to being on the look out for them sleeping here there and everywhere on our way back from Myhre's on Thursday nights, but I was surely not expecting to find them sleeping at my front door, that's for sure.

08 October 2008

Build Up

There are all kinds of build up in our lives…the wax variety in our ears, the plaque variety on our teeth, the sclerotic variety in our blood vessels…but when you’re an American living in rural Africa there’s also the potential blog material variety in the back of your mind…it’s definitely a phenomenon here…I experience things all the time that make me laugh or cry or scream (or wanna scream), and I think to myself…‘that there is blog material…’ but then the thought runs the other way out of my mind before I get a chance to write about it and it’s lost, sometimes forever, sometimes not. This material right here, maybe not so blog worthy, but because everything of the potential blog material build up variety has run the other way out of my mind, this is what you get. Sorry.

Leaving the district for a long weekend in the morning. I am so ready I can't even begin to tell you.

04 October 2008

A Few Good Men

I had the rare opportunity to spend an evening alone one night this week, so I took advantage of it. I made a tasty dinner and borrowed a movie from the girls. After eating pasta with chicken, tomatoes and fresh basil with a glass of wine by candlelight, I crawled into my bed and watched A Few Good Men. I assume most of you have seen it, but in case you forget, it's about 2 Marines accused of murdering one of their fellow Marines and about the Navy lawyers who are responsible for their defense.

One line stuck out in my mind.

The two lawyers working with Tom Cruise's character to defend these two Marines, get a bit testy with each other after a particularly challenging day in court. Jo (Demi Moore's character) says to Sam, "Why do you hate them (the 2 Marines they're defending) so much?"

He responds: "They beat up on a weakling...they tortured and tormented a weaker kid...they didn't like him, so they killed him, and why? Because he couldn't run very fast..."

As Jo is storming out of the courtroom, Sam turns and asks her, "Why do you like them so much?"

She answers: "Because they stand on a wall and they say 'nothin's gonna hurt you tonight, not on my watch.'"

For this reason I also am thankful for the men and women in our military. But I was thinking mostly about the poignancy of the line outside the military context.

The truth of this line struck a cord in my heart. The truth of the desire in my heart to have someone play that role in my life...to have someone say "nothin's gonna hurt you tonight, not on my watch" and back their words up with actions. I might venture to say that it's a desire all women have embedded in their hearts, and I might also venture to say that it might be a desire all people have in their hearts.

But the truth is that no one can offer us such promises. Not even God promises that He will protect us from all hurt; from ultimate and eternal harm yes, but from all the hurts along the way, no. He uses those hurts somehow...But I will say that even though I know this is true, the desire for protection from hurt is still strong inside of me.

26 September 2008

trying to be a happy wheezer

After 5 1/2 years of working on a pulmonary floor in a children's hospital, treating kids with asthma each and every day, I finally understand the feeling of relief one can have from an MDI. Seems to be I'm a wheezer. Wednesday I had Jennifer listen to my lungs, after little relief from my spasmodic cough after several days. "you're wheezing. have you ever wheezed before?" "not since I was about 12!" I told her. Not since some excersize induced asthma while playing soccer which I've thought since then was just me being a wuss, but I guess not. I started using a salbutamol inhaler (equivalent to albuterol I'm guessing), and almost instantaneously I can tell a difference...I can feel my airways relaxing, my cough gets deeper instead of tighter...it's amazing.

So, yep, I'm still not feeling so great, but am trying to be a happy wheezer. Trying not to do too much but trying to still be a productive member of society. This afternoon I'm going to try to conquer the piles of dishes next to the sink and the laundry waiting to be put away, all things that have been put off and put off throughout the week...I still don't feel like it but no one else is going to do it, so it's gotta be done...

smiles


I've been struck since I've been back here in Bundibugyo, just how much the kids we see on the pediatric ward make me smile. This last week or so my little friend Joanne has been smiling at me every morning. The initial shock of her burns and the pain caused by the daily dressing changes has given way to her "well child" personality...so precious.

Until this morning, I thought she was a he, and that her name was Jowadi, not Joanne...oh well...

Earlier on in her stay she was sporting these super snazzy black and red striped underpants....and that's it...just the red and black striped underpants. Jennifer remarked that they were right out of Dr. Seuss or something of the sort...She would waltz around the ward in her snazzy underpants with her arms bent at the elbow and her burned hands flapping around like bird wings...it was pretty cute. I would stand weighing kids and she would just walk up and stand on the big girl scale we got from UNICEF (it's DIGITAL!!!! - we'll see how long it lasts) all proud of herself. I would thank her and off she went, waddling away with her big belly and hands flapping. Cuteness.