Monday, November 30, 2009

Reaching the peak- throw your hands up

So 16 days until I fly home....crazy! I'm at the stage where I'm super excited to go home but where I'm loving Uganda (minus the writing papers part, haha). I feel like I'm climbing the top to the peak of the roller coaster and about to fly down the other side. Once I get all my papers down...the sliding down the other side with my arms in the air starts. Last night Denise and I made dinner for our family. Denise is a great cook and we made homemade tortillas, 2 kilograms of meat (I have no idea how much that is in pounds, haha), homemade refried beans, spanish rice, guacamole, toppings for our tacos (lettuce and tomatoes), and fresh pineapple. We cooked it all on two small charcoal stoves- it kinda felt like we were camping. Anyways, our meal was a hit and I'm pretty sure our family was shocked that we could actually cook something edible. They saved the leftovers for breakfast and lunch today, haha.

Tomorrow (Dec. 1st) is World AIDS Day. We've been learning a lot about HIV/AIDS here at school and the sermon at church yesterday was dedicated to it. Everyone is Uganda has been affected by AIDS, whether they themselves are battling it or have a family member or friend living with it or that has passed away. AIDS is a monster that is wiping out a huge section of the young adult/middle age generation leaving many children behind. You've got grandparents raising their grandchildren or child-headed homes. Last Friday I went on a fieldtrip to Mildmay hospital where they treat HIV/AIDS patients. It was a Muslim holiday so there were no patients coming in for treatment but we did get to see the children's ward. That was tough, especially knowing that those children got HIV/AIDS from their mothers or through sexual abuse. Treatment at Mildmay is free, which I think is awesome because medical treatment is not an attainable thing for many low income families, especially when ARVs are needed.

So I'm not sure how much everyone knows about the conflict that has gone on in northern Uganda and southern Sudan considering the LRA, child soldiers, and Joseph Kony, but it's terrible. If you want to learn more you should check out Anyways, the church I attend in Kampala brought in women from Gulu who had all been abducted by the LRA as small girls and that were all HIV positive. One woman was named Evelynn. She was a beautiful 27 year old woman who revealed to us that she had been abducted when she was 12 yrs old. She was given to a much older man as a wife and she had 3 of his children. This man was Joseph Kony. For real, this woman had been one of Joseph Kony's wives while she was kept there in captivity for 11 years. One of her children was lost during the war and a second child was lost during their escape. She doesn't know whether that child is dead or alive. It was amazing to see how God had transformed her life and how He's healing all the hurt she endured. One of the officials of Gulu came and spoke as well saying that millions and millions of dollars have been poured into Gulu...but that most of it has not brought about change. Sure you can build a community center but what good is it if you don't address the emotional and spiritual needs of broken people?

On a lighter note it's grasshopper season here and last week it looked like the plague. Children here go nuts and run around hunting them fry and eat. Apparently they are really good, but I haven't had the chance to try them, so sad. Not, haha. Those things fly around and hit you in the face and I'm not going to lie they are terrifying in the squatty potties as you pray that they don't fly on you while you're in there. Our family's cat found a dead chicken into the house the other night. It was gross and smelled worse than it looked as the cat was chewing on it. My brother Brian and I collaborated and we've named the cat Stupid (Brian's contribution) Kevin (my idea). So Stupid Kevin once again is on bad terms with my family.

I can tell I've been in Uganda for a while. I've worn my flip-flop Teva's all the way through the soles. I've tried duck tape to repair them...but they leak really bad when it rains, haha. Oh well, I got my money out of them and have walked many many miles in them in the past 3 and a half-ish months.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A year ago today I lost my Grandpa Hopewell. I can't believe how quickly that year has gone by, but I remember that day so clearly in my mind. It's was probably one of the hardest days that I've experienced, but I wouldn't have chosen to be anywhere else than besides that hospital room. I still remember that the last thing he said to me was " I love you hon."

I still remember the sound of his voice, his laugh, hugging him every Tuesday night after our weekly dinners, and hearing him yell at sports games on TV. I miss it. I miss his stories, his stubborn, funny personality, and just being with him.

I also remember realizing the week that he died how important my family is and how thankful I am for them. I remember being so thankful for the friends who listened to my constant phone calls and for those who came to be with me that week.

I remember praying so hard that week that my grandpa would be healed. And he was, just not in the way that I intended. God is good, merciful, loving, compassionate, and His plans are right. I'm thankful that my grandpa is fully healed and no longer suffering. I'm most thankful that death for believers isn't goodbye, but see you in a little while.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More than Pilgrim hats and Turkey

So I should be working on my ethics paper right now…but I’d rather do this. (shh, don’t tell my professor) To redeem myself a little, I already finished one paper this morning, so I deserve a break, right?

This past weekend our IMME group drove more than 6 hours to the Rakai district (where they believe HIV/AIDS may have originated) near the border of Tanzania to Kibale. We stayed at the Kibale Community Center and got to hear about the ministry of the missionaries there. It was a great weekend and we had a lot of down time, which was super nice. I feel like I’ve been going non-stop since August. It was great to just hang out with friends. I’m so thankful for everyone in the IMME group. It’s sad that we’ll be heading in all directions in about 3 weeks, but I’m also thankful that I’ll get to see my family and friends.

Thanksgiving is this week and we’re celebrating here at UCU. All the students in the program and staff are gathering for our own Thanksgiving. I’m excited. : ) So in this time of remembering what I’m thankful for, here’s a quick run-down (because Thanksgiving is about more than construction paper pilgrims hats, turkeys, food comas, and football):

*Those back home who take the time to check in with me, it means a lot.
*My friends and family
*Watching the sun rise every morning as I get ready for school
*Going home each night to my wonderful family
*My mom’s matooke- I really like that stuff now
*The little kids in my village that are just as excited to see us now as they were 3 months ago
*Squatty potties, for real they’re great
*Watching La Tormenta with my brother Brian (crazy Spanish soap-opera dubbed over in English)
*Random trips into Kampala
*The fact that it rains almost every day-I love watching the storms roll in
*Banana, pineapple smoothies
*That I haven’t died riding in the taxis here or been hit by a car when I run across busy roads
*For all that I’ve learned this semester
*Washing machines, showers, microwaves, and Boy Meets World re-runs
*That I’m not being given up on despite my shortfalls and mistakes

Ok time to write paper number 2 for today...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

*I can now catch a taxi, ride it to Kampala, and I know how to make it stop, haha. (you either yell "conductor" or tap the inside of the taxi)

*Taxis are nuts- the taxi I took yesterday hit 2 other taxis and didn't even stop.

*Getting lost walking around Kampala isn't a big deal and doesn't scare me anymore.

*I now say "mmmmm" (the Ugandan way) for yes instead of "mhmmm"

*Elderly Ugandans always make me smile

*Ugandan women are beautiful no matter what their age. They do so much, work so hard, and do what they can for their families- I have a lot of respect for them.

*I'm learning to embrace my "mzungu"(white person) title, but I still like to shout "Oleyotia, moodu gavu!"(Hello, black man) back at the boda boda drivers that call me mzungu- don't worry, they laugh.

*It feels weird to wear jeans b/c it actually shows that I have 2 legs....starting to really enjoy skirts.

*There are nominal Christians wherever you go.

*There are so many more Muslims in Ugandan that I ever thought. Sometimes I can hear the mosque's call to prayer from my house.

*I can now cross the busy main roads w/o running and screaming every time. It's like a real-life game of Frogger.

*When I hear the word "toilet" I automatically think of a squatty potty.

*I get really excited when I hear American songs on the radio even if they're old songs from the '80s and '90s that I never liked before.

*I look forward to eating my mom's matooke for dinner. My favorite soup to put on top is cowpea soup....they are like peas

*I miss working out. Once when I was doing sit-ups on my bedroom floor my mom walked in and said, "Eghhhh Kristen, you want to kill yourself?" haha

*Cups are a necessity for washing hair when bucket bathing.

*It sometimes feels weird to see other "mzungus" in town, especially in Mukono.

*When I eat "American" style food now, it really messes me up. Adjusting back home will sure be an adventure, haha.

*I wish the U.S. had Fanta Passion (passion fruit soda). It's my fave.

*I'm starting to like Top Up (runny ketchup wannabe) over Heinz.

*Even babies over here can bust a move- they've completely got me beat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sticking with It

So life is good. I feel like I'm finally took 2 months, but hey, at least it's happened. I realized how little time I actually have left here and I'm really trying to make the most of each day. I'm reminded that I only get to live this life once and there aren't redos. This has been one of the most stretching things I've ever done. It hasn't always been easy, but I'm so thankful for this experience. There have been times where I have been so frustrated. I got tired of sticking out everywhere I went and having eyes follow me, comments yelled across the street, and being called mzungu.
There were times when I'd sit and pray and God seemed silent and so far away. This frustration brought me to tears but I continued to pray and through it I was reminded that God is God and that He's present even when I don't feel it. I think that period of frustration caused me to seek Him deeper as I searched for His heart. God showed me how much I truly, desperately need Him every day. I can't imagine life without a relationship with Him. God's ways are higher than ours and so are His thoughts. He's loving, compassionate, and knows us better than we know ourselves. This may all kinda seem like "Duh, Kristen." but I really had to be reminded of that.

“I'm getting into you
Because you got to me,
in a way words can't describe
I'm getting into you
Because I've got to be
You're essential to survive
I'm going to love you with my life
He said, I love you and that's
what you are getting yourself into.”

-Relient K (Getting into You)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kapchorwa aka Awesomeness (I think I just made up a word, oh well)

So it's been awhile and a lot has happened. I wish I could fill you in on everything that's happened in the past 2-ish weeks but that would take super long and you probably wouldn't want to read it all, haha.

Well Kapchorwa was absolutely beautiful- mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, and most importantly some of the nicest people you'll meet. Ok, so Mukono isn't the Uganda they show you on TV or on National Geographic, but driving to Kapchorwa I totally felt like I was seeing those previously seen images- round huts with grass roofs, beautiful women carrying water on their heads while carrying babies on their backs, and hills with mountains in the distance.

I ended doing this home stay solo which I was both nervous and excited about, but my worries quickly faded. I got dropped off at my home stay late due to rain and stuck vehicles. So I meet my father, Patrick, and we start hiking up these giant hills in the dark in our gum boots. Not gonna lie, I was so proud of myself for not falling.

My family was wonderful. My father Patrick was a headmaster of Tuban Primary school. My mom, Joy, was a primary 2 teacher. I had 5 brothers but I only got to meet one since the rest were out of the house. Aggrey was my 13 year old brother and he was a lot of fun. I had 3 girl cousins staying with me: Esther who is a nursing student in Mbale, Immatculet who lives in our village and was in secondary school, and then Karen who is 7 years old and absolutely hilarious.

That week I stayed with my family was filled with new experiences and lessons learned. Some days seemed to drag on, especially from the time I got up until about noon. Those people make so much use of their day, getting up around 5 or 6then working until dinner which is followed by bed around 9 or 10. There were several mornings I woke up at 6:30 and when I walked out of my room my family said, “Oh, you slept in.” I was thinking, “Are you kidding me? Back home I can sleep in until 10.” Haha

As far as new experiences I got to carry water in a jerry can on my head for a couple miles (African women are extremely tough. They gave me a small can and my next was killing me by the end) and I prayed the whole way “Lord, help me not to drop this water and to not bite it and fall down this muddy hill.” I fed my family’s cows banana leaves, picked coffee, plucked a chicken and I was later made to eat it’s organs at dinner plus the chicken’s unformed eggs (almost lost that dinner at a couple points), climbed a cliff in a skirt and flip flops (kinda terrifying, haha), went to 2 farewell parties for primary 7 students and my dad made me give an impromptu speech at one of them, visited both of my parents’ schools and got asked awesome questions. Some of my favorites: Do you eat donkeys in America? How many women does Obama have? Are you going to live on the moon? What kind of lotion do you use on your skin?

People in Kapchorwa seem to get life so much better than we do. They have time for one another and a random visitor is never an inconvenience. They make their guests feel special and always feed them and give them some tea. I experienced this first hand. I’ve never eaten so much in my life and over the course of the week I think I had over 30 cups of milk tea. People there are so loving and they freely give of what they have. Some of my favorite moments with my family were spent in my family’s kitchen at night sitting around the clay oven talking about all kinds of things. Life is simple and so good.

I think this is all for now. I’ve already written a book, sorry! I can tell you more about when I get back to the U.S. (which is in 6 weeks, crazy).