Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You Gotta Look Up

So I leave tomorrow for my rural home stay in Kapchorwa for 10 days. It should be great, awkward at times, new, confusing, and I'm sure I'll come back with lots of memories.

As I walked alone on the path to school today I realized how beautiful this place is. That might sound dumb, but I seriously forget to look at the world around me. Usually I'm too busy looking at my feet to make sure I don't fall into mud pits that are scattered along the paths after morning downpours. There are days that my feet feel about 10 pounds heavier because of the massive amounts of mud caked on my sandals. Guess it's like natural ankle weights, haha. Anyways as I continued to walk I realized that my walking routine translates over into how I live my life. It's easy to get caught up in our own little worlds, only looking at ourselves. I forget to look up and out and to see the world and people around me. I miss chances to build relationships and opportunities that God can use because I'm too concerned with my own life and worries-the mud pits along the path.

Once that thought hit me I looked up the rest of the walk to school. There are so many people I cross paths with and I have to believe they're not by chance. Every encounter is an opportunity to let that person they know matter and that they're acknowledged. Even if it's just smiling and saying hello, you never know how God can use it. I know my spirits are lifted when someone takes the time to say hi to me as I walk through town. It's nice to be met with a smile instead of the usual blank stare, laughs, critical looks, or being ignored. That's just something that hit me this morning.

Oh our one remaining cat decided to decorate my brother Brian's bed again, haha. He was so mad and while I felt bad, I had to laugh. That cat has it out for my brother but that cat better be careful because Brian's now threatening to toss it to the dogs...that will eat it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So this past weekend was just what I needed. I got to sleep in until 8 am, which is awesome. Denise and I decided to head to the market to check things out and we bought fresh vegetables. I can't tell you how exciting that is but it was great. We bought huge avocados, onions, green peppers, and carrots. From the market we hit up the super market then headed to our friends Rachel and Christina's house to buy African fabric. Their brother took us into town to a seamstress who let us design our dresses and then she measured us. So in about a week or so I should have a new dress...I just hope it fits. Before we headed home we stopped for Rolex's (a chapati, which is like a tortilla/flatbread, filled with egg and vegetables) and rented a movie. (I'm pretty sure we walked over 5 miles back and forth through Mukono town) Once we were home we watched our movie (Ladder 49) and just relaxed...and then decided to head back into town again for drinks from the gas station and another movie. Nothing like hiking through the village for some apple juice and a candy bar.

The vegetable moment had to be documented.

As we were heading home it was starting to get dark and there are no street lights in Mukono. So when it's dark, it's dark except for the occasional light from the headlights of random cars and boda bodas. I literally stared at my feet the entire way home and I know we looked hilarious b/c our depth perception in the dark is horrible when trying to figure out if the dirt road slopes off or not. So you have two mzungu girls wobbling on the side of the road half way hunched over b/c we couldn't see the road. We finally made it home and nobody got hurt. That's a victory in my mind.

The power went off for a little while that night and I'm not gonna lie, I was scared. The power going off is a normal occurrence and you never know how long it will be out so you got get your flashlights and light the kerosene lamps. But that night it was especially scary b/c 1. it was absolutely pitch black 2. you usually know it's going out b/c lights start to dim or flicker, but this time they didn't 3. the wind was howling outside and it was causing old wooden doors to swing back and forth like in scary movies, haha. I have to admit though, I like when the power goes out b/c it's seems like those are the times I have the best conversations with my family.

Denise and Brian

Well this is long enough and I have a midterm to write. My time here in Uganda reached the halfway point today. This Friday I head out for my rural home stay in Kapchorwa (near the Eastern border). I'm excited and nervous, but it will be interesting.

My sister Judith and me

Friday, October 16, 2009

Every Day is a Winding Road

I'm grateful that the weekend is here. I'm ready to rest. Probably won't get the chance to sleep in. There's no mercy past 6 am at our house. I've been feeling sick off and on this week and I'm really hoping that I don't have a parasite...but there's a good chance that I will probably pick one up at some point and will bring it with me in December. I looked up symptoms of having parasites online and it wasn't helpful at all. It was one of those lists that said things like itchy nose, stomach pain, headache....things that I encounter everyday here, haha.

I'm not really sure what to write, I've had so many thoughts swirling in my mind this week and I'm not really sure where to begin to sort them out. Coming into this semester I knew there were going to be hard, frustrating, and confusing moments but I put it in the back of my mind. I know I'm only here 4 months, but when you try to live in a new culture it's not all happy faces and smiles. It truly is a roller coaster but I feel like I'm learning things that I couldn't have learned by staying in my bubble in the U.S. Last night I found myself so frustrated with things and as I tried to sleep all I could do was cry. Sometimes I feel like I let my host-family down because I'm not picking up on Luganda very quickly and because I'm not as spunky and charming as some of the past girls they've hosted that I hear stories about a lot. It felt good to let it all out and to pray being completely real with God.

Even though I get frustrated at times and feel inadequate, I know it's all worth it. I'm learning to be comfortable with who I am. I'm learning that I'm more introverted than I previously thought, that I don't fully understand how much I need God, and that there are things about me that don't change despite my location. My role may look a little different within my family context, but at the heart of it all I'm still me. I can't fill the role of a past girl because I'm not that person. I'm a work in progress and I have so much to learn, but I do know more than I did just 2 months ago.

There are still days when being in Uganda seems unreal and I wonder what I'm doing here. But I'm reminded that I don't know the big picture but I get to see little pieces of it at a time. My realization of my need for God has been made so much more obvious in this new setting. I'm learning that people are people no matter where you go. They are never meant to be your "project" no matter how in need they may be. I'm realizing that my love for the elderly and for babies doesn't have borders. I'm learning that I don't always have to have something to say, but that just being present is what really matters.

Monday, October 12, 2009


This past weekend we went to Luweero and stayed at Luweero's Anglican Diocese guest house. We had a FLUSHING TOILET, SHOWER, and a FULL LENGTH MIRROR. Exciting! It got interesting though b/c the power went out Saturday afternoon and when I woke up Sunday morning to get ready for church it was still off. It was 5am so there was no light at all so I got to shower by the light coming from the screen on my camera, haha. Every minute or so I had to turn the camera back on.

Saturday afternoon they took us to Nsawo school where local kids go on Saturdays for a day of games, singing, activities, and a meal. Many of the children were Compassion International kids. That center serves about 280 children. I got to work with the 3-5 year olds and I loved it. We sang songs, played games with them, and planted trees together. We sat in an open field watching the older kids play duck duck goose and cat and mouse for a while too. It was a perfect moment: sitting in a field with two little ones on my lap watching a storm roll in. I could have done that all day. Then the rains came and by rain I mean it POURED. We all made a mad dash for shelter and they told some of us get on our bus. I picked up one of my little girls and got on the bus. We drew pictures and wrote the alphabet on the foggy windows together. Before I knew it, it was time to go and I had to carry my little one back into the rain and wave goodbye.

Later that night we talked with a Catholic Priest and an Anglican Bishop and heard about their lives and ministries. Father Jerry, the Catholic Priest, sees so much poverty, disease, and death in his daily life. His stories were heartbreaking and it amazes me how he continues to serve and serve. Really makes you think twice before you start to complain. I have a roof over my head, a family, food to eat, clothes, and shoes on my feet.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I'm proud to report that my cell phone avoidance tactic from the US works in Uganda. So you know how at most malls they have those kiosks in the aisle ways and there always seems to be at least one that is selling some kind of lotion/hand care stuff. Those people like hunt you down when you walk past grabbing for your hands and I get tired of it, so when I get near those areas of the mall I pull out my cell phone and start talking to myself or just smile stupidly like I'm listening to someone on the other end throwing in a random "Mmmhmm." Back to Uganda- when I walk home I pass by a secondary school and let's just be honest middle school/high school aged boys and some girls aren't always the most fun to be around. They make comments (in Luganda of course), laugh at you, and sometimes they even crowd around trying to get a reaction out of you. I usually try to remain as inconspicuous as possible on most days but that doesn’t work so well because I pretty much glow in the dark. Yesterday I was getting fed up with it so I pulled out my cell and pretended to answer a call and held the phone to my ear until the school kids where out of sight. It worked and I got left alone- another small victory, haha.

Once I reach the dirt paths it’s all good b/c from there it’s just small children that yell at me. They will yell “Hi Mzungu” until I'm out of sight even after I say hi to them and ask them how they are. Funny story- as I continued I saw a couple orange things moving out of the corner of my eye in some tall grass. My first reaction was that “oh, it’s couple red-headed children” but then I quickly remember that I’m in Uganda and that they were chickens, haha. I got ambushed by the kids by my house again and they tried to teach me how to dance…that didn’t work out so well. They sang songs they learned in church, taught me a Ugandan game, said the Lord’s Prayer for me and they made sure my eyes were closed too, and then they asked me to sing to them. The neighbors that were staring sure got some free entertainment watching a mzungu trying to shake her hips and sing. The kids kept crowding me trying to feel my hair, climb on my back, and they were so fascinated with my skin and the fact that they could see my veins.

Since I’ve been here in Uganda it’s been hard to find moments to be alone but as I figure out my surroundings I’m finding little spots to escape to- the open field at the top of the hill by my house, the veranda at my house at sunset, and the old chapel at school. I just started using the chapel this week. I was having a rough day and just needed to get away and do my quiet time and I happened upon the old chapel that happened to be empty, score! There are days where I thirst and crave to be alone with God- to be silent, to sit, to read, and to journal. I’m so thankful I’ve found a spot to do that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure

So I don't have a lot to say today. I'm not feeling very well and on the way to school today I heard there has been an outbreak of swine flu....hope it doesn't get me. Anyways, here's some pics of my neighborhood posse.

Beautiful girl

He was excited


Some of my little buddies. Check out the ones trying to be gangster in the back row.

This little guy cracks me up.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Random Happenings

So yesterday I was walking the short-cut to my house which consists of walking on really muddy paths past a bunch of little houses. Whenever I get to a certain point there are these little girls that sound the "mzungu alarm" as I like to call it. One shouts "Mzungu, mzungu!" and before you know it there are like 10 kids running at you. So they all smashed into me and were pulling on my arms, my back pack, pretty much any part of me they could reach even if it an area I didn't want touched, haha. They almost pulled me to the ground as I tried to walk. When I finally walked onto my front yard they all just stared at me smiling and they speak maybe like 5 words of English if that. If I did something they copied me so I got some free entertainment. I spun them around like airplanes once each and then said I needed to go inside. Then came the hugs. I'm pretty sure I hugged each of them at least 5 times, no joke. Every time I took a few steps toward my house they'd follow me wanting more hugs. They're hungry for love and I'm more than happy to give it even if it means that saying "see you later" takes 10 minutes. We ended the night with high fives and they finally went home. :)

My brother Simon is home from boarding school for a few days. It's been nice actually getting to know him a little. I totally thought he was about 17, but he turns 15 next month. I watched the Amazing Race with him last night and when the contestants had to white water raft he said, "That makes me fear for my life." haha

I found American style peanut butter at the City Shopper Super Market. It's over $4 a jar, but so worth it. I'm pretty sure I've eaten it everyday this week. But I need to lay off or I'll gain lots of weight and go broke.

I haven't really seen myself in a mirror in about a month, unless you count my pocket-sized mirror that shows you like one eye at a time. I never really know what I look like, which is kinda nice b/c if I look bad I can just stock it up to the fact that I can't see myself. Plus I can never tell by the reactions of the other Ugandan students if I look weird or not b/c they stare all the time, haha. So the other day my parents' bedroom door was open (this door usually remains shut and locked). I happened to glance up as I walked by and saw a full length mirror in the farthest corner of the room. I looked around real fast and the coast was clear so I made a made dash into the room, looked at myself for like 2 seconds, and then ran for my life. It was a little rush and I felt like I got away with something naughty, so that was fun. haha, I know my life is lame.

When I got to Uganda our family had 2 cats. One got killed by our guard dogs. I guess they wanted a life-like toy. Luckily I didn't see it happen. Our second cat which is a tiny kitten decided to decorate my brother's bed. Brian walked into my room the other night with a sad look on his face and he looked at me and said, "The cat pooped on my bed. That cat is not my friend." hahaha, any time that cat comes into the house it has to watch out for Brian b/c he will promptly remove it and throw it outside. The cats aren't doing so well at the Mukwanya household.

Ok that's enough for now. Gotta actually read a book for my homework and then head for another weekend in Jinja.