28 December 2009

"...I thought they were sprinkles!"

Have I introduced you to Anna yet? Sheesh, time flies. Anna arrived in late October, a new member of our team in Bundibugyo – here to teach missionary kids and various other things - in time to overlap for a few weeks with Sarah before she left the field in early December. In any case, you should know that Anna has a way with words ☺ Somehow summing up entire holiday seasons in a couple phrases! “Those are bugs?! I thought they were sprinkles!” came out of her mouth a few days ago and it pretty well sums up Christmas in Bundibugyo. It was Christmas night, we had trekked down the hill to the duplex from the Myhre’s where we had spent the latter part of the afternoon and evening, and we were putting leftover food away, including some spectacular Christmas cookies Carrie had made, complete with red and green sprinkles (thanks Ash!). After they sat outside on the pizza table throughout the evening, ants and other bugs had began to celebrate Christmas by starting in on Carrie’s cookies, and she found them as she began to put them in a Tupperware for safe keeping overnight in the light of the kitchen. So, Carrie remarked about the bugs in the cookies as I was putting other leftovers in the fridge, and Anna replied with this brilliant summation as she studied the cookies on the counter after eating a piece of one.

- lights for the tree we bought at Uchumi that supposedly had 8 settings of various speeds and patterns of blinking/still but in actuality only had several not really all that different versions of seizure inducing blinking…oh well - lights are lights! we enjoyed them nonetheless (without any seizures I might add)
- Christmas is usually during dry season, and when we drove into the district with Carrie 4 days before and the entire back of my blue Capri pants were saturated with sweat, I was sure it had arrived! I was excited that at least it meant we would be able to eat Christmas Eve dinner on the back porch and maybe even Christmas breakfast, but alas, it rained all evening/night from Christmas Eve into Christmas morning…oh well – we ate a spectacular Asian meal Bundibugyo style, and then enjoyed a spectacular Black Forrest cake ala Scott Will for dessert by candlelight in front of the tree
- Carrie was sad that she wasn’t going to be in Bundibugyo for a Sunday church service and I comforted her by informing her that there would be church on Christmas, “one of the best services of the year.” Then ALL of the songs the congregation sang at the beginning of the service were Christmas carols that no one sings any other time of year, so they haven’t memorized them from repetition, and most people can’t read to learn the words, so they were sung slowly and awkwardly by a few…oh well – following these songs were the choirs, everyone decked out in their Christmas dresses/suits – always fun to watch and listen to
- We did rounds on the ward on Christmas Eve and the last kid we saw is an HIV + kid who it seems is dying, has not been conscious for the weeks she has been admitted for, whose mom must have known her status but was in denial and therefore didn’t get any prenatal care with her pregnancy with the younger sibling because she didn’t want to get tested…the mom refusing to have an NG tube placed in her daughter for hydration and formula feeding for caloric intake, but after I kneeled down on the mat she was sitting on with the child and explaining why we thought it was the best thing to do, she agreed. She then asked how long it would take to make her child well again, and I told her that there was no guarantee that anything we did was going to be able to make her well, but that this was the best option and we needed to try. My American ideal of everything needing to be well and good on Christmas was busted wide open…oh well – it made me realize yet again just how good the news of the birth of Jesus – Immanuel, God with us – really is, and how the harsh realities of life should make Christmas that much sweeter. And it did.

The bugs in the Christmas cookies – when you expect them to be sprinkles and they’re actually bugs it makes the ones that actually have sprinkles and not bugs taste that much better! And so goes life. Thanks Anna!

Christmas Cheer

It was the weekend before Christmas and we (Anna, Scott Will, and I) were eager to add as much Christmas cheer to our days as possible. We happened to be in Kampala to shop and pick up my sister during the performances of the Watoto Church (formerly KPC – Kampala Pentecostal Church) Christmas Cantata, so Sunday morning we got up early and were out of the guesthouse by 7am, arriving in time to get good seats and beat the crowds who filled the 8am service performance sitting on the floor in the isles!

Quite the production I must say! Tuxes, formal gowns, brake dancers, Christmas carols including a rendition of O Come O Come Emmanuel that left me with goose bumps, and a funny narrator cast as one of the angels announcing Christ’s birth. The narrator was thoroughly Ugandan…the accent, the inflections, the exclamations…and it was during his description of the scene when the angels announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds, as he waved his arms and shook his hips describing the singing and dancing that went on that night that I realized again just how much my white western upbringing affects the way I read scripture, and imagine history…I have only ever imagined the angels sang classical choral music as they lit up the night sky…you know, Bach, Beethoven, Handel…who says they weren’t beating drums and shaking their hips with voices in African harmony? That whole scene with the angels and the shepherds has been quite poignant to me this Christmas…

Then as the homily of sorts, the pastor quoted S.M. Lockridge from a 1976 sermon preached in Detroit, reminding all of us of who exactly it was that the angels announced the arrival of:

“His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you... but He's indescribable. That's my King.”

Oh, right! That’s what we’re supposed to be about…that’s who our eyes are to be fixed on. Refreshing light bulb moment. I left the auditorium reminded that even in a dusty, hot December in Uganda, Christmas is what it is regardless of the continent or weather.

The next day we got into the Zoolander, packed to the gills with stuff, and drove through the day, out of the city and eventually rolling into Bundibugyo mid-afternoon…getting out of the car the back of my pants were soaked with sweat, my hands were quivering with the post Bundibugyo road shakes, and within 10 minutes of closing the door after unloading the car someone was knocking on the door wanting to tell me their problem (ie. ask me for money)…welcome home Heidi, and Happy Christmas!

23 December 2009

24 hours later than expected, but oh so worth the wait!

So, if the last post was mostly for Ashley and Nathan's enjoyment, then this one is mostly for my mother's enjoyment :) Her girls are together on the same continent for Christmas...and that's pretty much second only in her mind to both of us being together and with her on the same continent for Christmas.

This photo was from Monday night, the traditional team White Dinner in honor of the Norwegian heritage of the Myhre family. After sitting and sharing a delicious white meal together, we headed to the patio, my favorite holiday evening hang out spot in Bundibugyo, and talked about HOME...and I was thankful for God bringing part of my HOME here to Bundibugyo for Christmas.

More stories to follow :)

The Discovery

…as in a Land Rover Discovery. Thus continues the saga of vehicle ownership in Uganda.

Our main mechanic is a man named Ssesanga. I think I’ve mentioned him before…the most intimidating Ugandan I’ve ever encountered. Stern, and no-nonsense at first encounter, he makes a great mechanic. Kind of like a good surgeon, he can get away with lack of “engine-side” manner as long as he is good at what he does. You don’t go to a surgeon because of their inter-personal skills, and you sure don’t go to Ssesanga for that either, but you sure don’t go to a psychotherapist for open-heart surgery or a master cylinder repair. Long story short - I go to Ssesanga for his knowledge of and experience in car repairs, and he has yet to disappoint. He’s a Land Rover mechanic. Do I drive a Land Rover? Absolutely not. However, along with Land Rovers, he also “kamechanica’s” Nissans. He’s pricey, but he knows what he’s doing. I’m willing to pay good money for a job well done when it comes to a vehicle I’m responsible for on these roads, so he gets my business.

Every phone call I make to his cell phone to arrange for brining our vehicle in for repairs, I take a deep breath and steel myself for being thoroughly deflated. It’s fine. At least I know what to expect. And this past Thursday was no exception. It was late in the day, and I was the third World Harvest staff person in a week’s time to contact him about vehicle repairs (and the only woman, I might add). Both prior WHM encounters that week involved quick trips through Kampala and likely hurried customers trying to get back home to Bundibugyo in a timely fashion. Needless to say, Ssesanga was not enthused about my desire to drop my vehicle off on Friday and then pick it up ready to go on Saturday. He railed me pretty hard, chastising me (and “all of you people”) for not allowing for enough time to properly care for my vehicle, for always being in a hurry, for being so na├»ve as to believe that the problems I was reporting could be repaired in a short time, and he led me to believe there was no way I was going to be able to have the vehicle repaired within the weekend’s time. We agreed I would bring the vehicle in the morning and upon his assessment discuss how much time it would require and whether I was going to need to alter my travel plans. I hung up deflated and frustrated that he had to take out what seemed like his frustration with the rest of the team and maybe the rest of his entire customer pool on me, but trying to understand what it must be like when standing in his shoes. I’d be frustrated too.

Friday morning, after praying for a gracious heart, I arrived between 8 and 8:30am as instructed and “the doctor” was in. I was prepared to wait until mid-day or so since that’s how long I waited to discuss with him the last time. I explained the problems to him (the car/steering wheel shuddering above 80km/hr despite the stabilizer bar unit being replaced by another mechanic the weekend before, visible gaping holes in the seal around the windshield into which rain pours rendering the vehicle full of mildew after each episode, the unwashable grime covering the windshield rendering it almost impossible to see out of at night with oncoming traffic/lights, and a couple other details like locks that needed tightening, etc.), he tells me that I should go and that he will call me with an estimate as to how long it might take. As I’m gathering my things to leave the lot and venture into the city to do Christmas shopping for the day, he looks at me and says, “you’re going to do what? Shopping?” I agreed, and he pointed to a row of Land Rovers parked infront of the office, one of which is running with no one in it, and says to me, “I’m giving you the Discovery as a loaner. The seats have a button on the side so you can position it however you like, and it takes diesel. I gave it to Dr. Scott the last time and he so he was the last one to fill it. Otherwise, it drives like any other car.”

“You’re doing what?” I replied with my eyes wide and mouth hanging open! “I’m giving you that white one there as a loaner” he answered. It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts and said “you’re sure about that?! I mean, I am careful, but I don’t want anything to happen to it.” “Ah! After driving that lorry around town, this machine will feel like a small car” he replied. I stood dumbfounded for a few more seconds, trying to decide whether this was a reasonable thing for me to do…sure would be convenient, but sure don’t want to have to pay for repairs to a Land Rover! “You go” he said. “The vehicle is running, the key is in the ignition. So, I didn’t delay, I squeezed into the drivers’ side door (the lot is JAM packed with Land Rovers so there’s no much room left for people to get in and out). Anna got in on the passengers’ side and we looked at each other wide-eyed! I pulled out my cell phone and called Scott Myhre immediately. “Scott Myhre!” I said as soon as he answered, “Ssesanga is giving me the Discovery as a loaner! Is that okay?! It makes me so nervous!” He calmly replied that it makes him nervous too, that the Discovery is the nicest of the loaners Ssesanga has given him, that I need to be willing to fix whatever might get damaged in the course of the day, but that it sure is convenient! I hung up, took a deep breath, released the emergency break and eased out of the parking space. Scott Will jumped in the back after paying another teammates bill on their behalf, and off we went.

God is so funny…I got to Ssesanga’s shop gearing up for needing to extend our time in Kampala by several days, for dealing with more of his frustration with me, and he goes and offers me one of his precious Land Rovers as a loaner for the day! Sun roofs, leather seats, electric seat controls…I was floored…and kept remarking about it for the rest of the day, flabbergasted by God’s (and Ssesanga’s) mercy and kindness to me. I shopped with my phone close by all day, waiting for the call as to what kind of time he would need, but I never heard. I figured, well, I have his vehicle, he’ll call me if he wants it back! Mid day the next day, I called him, he gave me a total for the price of the work and said I was free to come pick it up, the work was finished! I drove the Discovery back onto the lot that morning in one piece, and full of diesel. I dropped A LOT of money, but the car is driving like a champ!

So, Ashley and Nathan, if you’re reading, I gave Ssesanga’s Motors a Christmas card on our behalf and you never know what might happen next time! Maybe we’ll be fighting over who gets to take the Zoolander in the next time!

P.S.- That afternoon, after rolling my window down the handle of the crank you roll the windown down with fell off…it’s now kept in the ashtray, and you reach over and put it on the door every time you want to roll the window down and then return it to it’s home in the ashtray after each use. AND I realized that I had forgotten to mention the nonfunctional fuel gauge on the list of things needing repaired, but it hasn’t worked in the 2 years I’ve been driving the car, so why fix it now? Just kidding, but really, remind me to add it to the list of things next time I take a deep breath and dial Ssesanga’s number ☺

P.P.S - I just realized that Ashley and Nathan might be the only ones interested in reading all of this, and probably not for another month or so, but if you're still reading - sorry for the ramblings of likely unnecessary details :)

04 December 2009


a little blurb about one way to save a child's life this Christmas :)

Hunger, sickness, loss: the gift of a goat to a family with any one (or more) of these challenges, leads to milk for a malnourished child. This gift translates directly into protein and calories - a very tangible demonstration of the love of Immanuel: God with us. This year, as a result of your generous gifts last Christmas to BundiNutrition’s Matiti Project, 109 goats were distributed to families coping with these very real challenges in sustaining life in Bundibugyo. We are so grateful for your generosity. It is a privilege to be your “hands and feet” on the ground here as we see the smiles on a mother’s face as the arrow on the scale creeps higher and higher!

This Christmas, if you would like to “Give-a-Goat” to provide milk for a hungry, sick or left behind child, $130 allows us to purchase a high grade dairy goat (due to the number of goats distributed to date, we are now able to purchase their progeny locally here in Bundibugyo), train the family in its care, give them a few tools for constructing a simple shed, and then enable them to take the goat home. $200 will allow us to do the same AND to set aside a portion for supporting the ongoing development of a local high grade dairy goat breed in Bundibugyo – an effort to develop a culturally appropriate and sustainable source of milk to boost the protein and caloric intake more widely, in a district where half of all children are chronically underfed. For the third consecutive year, we are offering African handmade Christmas tree ornaments to the first 100 Give-a-Goat donors (at the donation level of your choice). Please read the following directions carefully, and a very Merry Christmas to you from all of us here in Bundibugyo!

and the down and dirty on how to actually “give-a-goat”:

1. Use www.whm.org to donate by credit card. This is the simplest and fastest method, and allows our colleague Ginny Barnette in the Sending Center in Philadelphia to quickly confirm your donation and address and mail you the ornament. Here is the direct link : http://whm.org/project/details?ID=12375

2. Send a check to WHM Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 1244, Albert Lea, MN 56007-1244, writing “Goat Fund 12375” 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 (GBarnettte@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