Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chirascos and the Great Crater Lake-

Beard Status: Full formed beard, just beginning to pull away from my face.
Health Status: I've been having cold type symptoms, but it hasn't really turned into anything yet.
Stamina: I'm exhausted from my consecutive trips to Karugutu – hoping to get some good rest this weekend.

So the past two days have been filled with adventure. The Masso family and Kim and Carol picked me up on Wednesday afternoon after working in Karugutu for 3 more days. The car was loaded and the destination was sure – Ft. Portal. In Ft. Portal the first thing that we did was stop by Andrews', which was a small hybrid convenience/supermarket type store, but it actually had recognizably packaged food, making me feel incredibly awkward. When you don't do things like shop in normal ways, when you finally do them, something just feels a little amiss. We grabbed dinner at a local joint where the food was very flavorful—not something that you always find here. Afterwards we went to the Chedester's house, a missionary family with World Harvest Mission who is currently traveling in Kenya, meaning that we got to stay at their house.

(Lake Kyaninga - the great crater lake)

The next morning we jumped back in the car and set sail for lake Kyaninga! Lake Kyaninga is a crater lake, meaning that it is a lake that has formed in the top of a dormant volcano. Yeah, pretty sweet. Michael discovered it when he was flying in a plane over head and as a result he tracked down the location. The water is a crystal blue-green and a chilling 75 deg. Michael has a boat down in the crater lake (yeah, by the way, you have to hike down into the crater to access the lake), so after we got to the lake and grabbed some lunch, we went down and loaded up the boat and went out to the middle of the lake for a nice swim. After the swim of course we had to head to the rope swing on the side of the lake – good times. I wowed everyone with my stylish belly flops and was even able to pull off an actual backflip. (both of these are on video of course). After the rope swing, Michael gave us a tour around the edge of the lake, where we were able to observe much wildlife, including two species of monkeys! I can't remember them or even spell them if I could, but one had black faces with a beige fur and the others were black with a white ring around the faces and a white tipped tail. They were absolutely beautiful to watch in their natural habitat. Of course I got some footage and pictures for KT Batie, because I know that she would want to see it J.

After the tour we went back up to the edge of the crater to make camp. At this point we had to decide whether or not to camp or run for the hills. Basically, storms were dodging us all afternoon and we weren't sure if it would worsen. We made the aggressive decision to weather it out. Oh the choices that you make in life. We set up the tents and began working on dinner. I say working on dinner, because there are few dinners that I would consider to have been more of a chore than this one. This would be because the firewood that we had purchased was too green even though it looked dry and we were doing this in a light sprinkle. We had to constantly be tending the fire by blowing on it to keep the flames going. Even with the constant TLC, at times I thought we might not be able to keep it going. Every two minutes we were pulling the food off of the fire to tend to it. And now we get to the food. Michael had brought along a personal favorite, chirascos (pn. Chir – RRRRRRRRRRAASSSSS – cos, and it must be said with much vehemence). Chirascos are basically sausage, onions, green peppers, spicy tomato, avocado all wrapped up in a chapatti. They were delicious.

Dinner was followed by the obligatory smores—the best part of which being that there were three little children who liked to roast a bunch of marshmallows and then not eat all the smores that those marshmallows made. Meaning, more yummy for my tummy. After the mallows we sat by the fire telling old camping stories and other random tidbits from our memory banks as the fire slowly dwindled down.

(Gaby Masso and me in a tree on the egde of the crater of lake Kyaninga)

And then came the night. We all were pretty tired by about 10:30pm (pretty late for camping) and we retired to our tents. Being the only single male on this excursion, I had a tent to myself. The night started off pleasant enough, a cool breeze, just enough to keep you nice and comfortable in the tent. Sometime in the middle of the night, this cool breeze decided to turn into a raging tempest blowing the tents in all possible directions. Fortunately for me, my tent somehow wasn't staked down in the process of setting up the tents. So the only thing keeping my tent on the ground was me in the middle of it. So that was pretty exciting. Especially when the tent fly flew off and let all the rain in. It's king of funny in hind sight, because I kept curling myself into a smaller and smaller ball as the water slowly seeped into my tent. In the morning, the only dry place in the tent was where my body lay on the mattress. Good stuff.

The next day we went back down to the lake and went on the rope swing again. I perfected my back-flip as well as my belly flop. We also had a lovely PB&J sandwich picnic on one of the jumping rocks, which the local ants greatly appreciated. That night we went back to Ft. Portal and watched the Masso children so that Michael and Karen could have a night away. The kids were hilarious and we had a really good time with them, even if they where us out completely in less than 24hrs.

So now I am in Kampala, staying at the ARA. A hotel that actually has some American type luxuries, such as hot water, electricity that sometimes works (even the capital has intermittent power), and comfortable mattresses. I'm hoping to get some good R&R while here and also to not be too busy running errands, which there are plenty of them to run!!! I hope that everyone is well in the States. Drop me an e-mail.

Karugutu, week two – the ring of fire

(picture of the courtyard of my hotel in Karugutu, Uganda)

So I have nicknamed this week, week two of work in Karugutu - the ring of fire. The reason that it is named so will be related presently as the story unfolds. So Monday quickly rolled around (weekends always go fast when you know that you have a ton of work the next week…weekends just always go fast period). Monday morning we arose early 5:30am so that we could be on the road by six. It was still dark when we left, but the sunrise on the Rwenzori mountain range was gorgeous. There are some hot spring in the Semiliki Valley and as you are winding up the steep mountain side of the Rwenzori's you can see them doing there thing, which is to make as much steam as possible. They say that you can boil an egg in there – yet to be tested.

We make it to Karugutu without any hitches. Even though we left incredibly early, we still were not hiking up the mountain until around 10 o'hot in the morning. By 11am I'm sure that I had already sweated out my body weight. Awesome. We did get a lot of work done on Monday, especially the necessary masonry that needed to dry before we could connect the town of Karugutu on the next day.

When we hiked down the mountain in the afternoon, guess what. It was still hot. Sweltering hot. We got to the lodge to drop off our stuff and to bathe – oh yes, if you read my last blog I can no longer call it showering. The good news is that the water was refreshing. The bad news is that the concrete floor was still radiating heat into the room at 4:30 in the afternoon (it would continue well into the night). It was probably the worst nights sleep that I have had while here. I would wake up about every thirty minutes to whip the sweat off of my body. It was grossly hot and there was no circulation in the rooms.

The second day I awoke tired and not ready to climb the mountain again. We awoke early to beat the heat and instead we ran into another nemesis – rain. We delayed the climb for a bit and when the rain held off we headed up the mountain. Slowly but surely it is getting easier.

One neat little story from this day is that the storehouse where we keep are supplies is attached to a little compound. There is always this sweet little girl who comes in to look at what we are doing. She is too young to really speak at all, but she says "hi, majungu" and bye. Well she happened to be there while I was putting water into my camel back (it's a little bag that you wear on your back with a hose for water). Well as I was pouring the water into the bag (it's very flat and doesn't look like it would hold water), she kept looking underneath to see where the water was coming out, but was completely surprised to see it disappear. Oh the little joys!

Up on the mountain we connected the city of Karugutu to the water intake, we measured the flow rate to make sure that we were not taking more than the city needed to fill the reservoir tank over night. The goal of that is to be environmentally friendly as possible so as not to damage any ecosystem by completely diverting the stream, but to also meet the needs of the town. It is no easy task to measure a large water flow with a basin and a stopwatch!! We finished up a few other little odds and ends, took some video and marched down the mountain. The night was much cooler.

For dinner we had an interesting mix of beef, matoke, and tilapia. An interesting fact, they don't get too mad when you go into one restaurant and when they don't have enough of what you are looking for you send someone to a nearby one to get some more food. So the tilapia was from on restaurant and the beef from another. Interesting. Also I have finally figured out why every meat comes in soup form (with juice). It is because the side dishes, matoke and poshu, are very bland and you spice them up with the "au ju" as the French like to say (who knows if I even spelled it right). Good stuff if done right.

The evening was much cooler. Praise God for a cool breeze.

The third day our plan was different. We had to go around town to change the head taps from a regular (and most of the times broken) head tap to a self closing valve to conserve water. I was also marking each tap with the GPS and altimeter and writing down this info into a field handbook. Quite a lot of work when there are approx 25 taps and they are spread on three lines each terminating about a kilometer from the main city square. So I walked over 6 km just today. Lot's of movement by feet here in Bundibugiyo district.

Every where we went the kids would yell out: "Majungu, how are you!" It sort of was parrot like, because they would just keep repeating it because they were unable to understand your response. However, it made for a funny moment because later in the day another Majungu passed in a vehicle and I was like "ah, Majungu!" The Ugandan technicians that I was with about rolled over laughing. It's funny to get a glimpse of what they see. I later found out that from her husband in fort portal that she is doing research on deforestation in Uganda (you sort of know every other white persons business because there's not much going on in Bundi).

So this brings be to the second reason that this week is: the ring of fire (queue Johnny Cash). So all this walking around in a long sleeve shirt and hat to keep the sun off only worked so well. Without my knowledge the little old sun was scorching my neck. I am sitting here in Ft. Portal with what looks to be a very red turtle neck except minus the shirt. It's pretty hilarious. Ring of fire. The cost of this wonderful fashion statement? Hives! I have broken out into a wonderful, full body case of the hives. Doxycycline, the medicine that I am taking for malaria prophylaxis can make you extra sensitive to the sun. So I am sunburnt and have the hives. The hives actually aren't too bad – there are just a few per limb and I'm actually too tired to really care.

Ok, I've taken some Simply Sleep (which is basically benedryl) on the doctors orders, I called the docs on the team and they gave me instructions. What this means is that I can barely make the words out on the computer screen anymore because of sleepiness and I have a strange urge tell all of my deep dark secrets. So I better shut this thing down. I hope that all in the US are well and in the constant presence of the Lord. I also hope that no one has a burnt neck and hives. On a serious note, please be praying for my teammate Joy. She is having very bad back pain and may have to travel to the US prematurely for treatment. She can't sit down the pain is so bad. Pray for God's immediate healing of her back. Fast and pray. In Him who is able –

Friday, October 13, 2006


(me about one third of the way up the Rwenzori Mountain range)

Wow, so much has happened in the past three days that it's going to be hard to recount all of the events of my trip to Karugutu. It would probably be enough material for a novel. The paperback edition can be purchased for 9.95 at any reputable book store. So I will start from the beginning.

Day One.

We wanted to get this day started early, because we had to travel to Karugutu Town from Nyahuka which is about a 2 and a half hour drive. Bombogada said that he would meet me at 6:30am at Michaels to help me load the truck. Well, 6:30 rolled around and there was Michael and I…no Bombo to be found. So we started to load the truck, etc. etc. and then I happened to notice that the front lights were on. Michaels truck has the really fun quality of sometimes turning the headlights even when the switch is off. So, you guessed it, the battery was completely dead. On top of that, it hadn't been secured in well by the mechanic who replaced it and one of the belts of the engine had worn a hole through the side (which is not good). All of the acid from one of the cells had splashed over the engine and basically the battery was running one cell short. We tried for 30 min or so to jump the truck from another truck…but to no avail. As a last resort we gave it the ol' push start down a hill and sure enough, when he popped the clutch the engine cranked right up (thankfully the hill was nearby. All of this took approximately 2 hours, so we ended up leaving at 9am…not exactly the plan, but hey, it's Uganda.

The road to Karugutu was absolutely gorgeous. A significant portion of it is in the Semiliki National Forest, so it is not developed. We even saw baboons on the side of the road, which of course ran into the bush before I got the camera out. Once we arrived in Karugutu we ate a brief lunch that consisted of rice and a small portion of meat. Cost: $1.

After lunch we loaded up our gear and got set to hike. Being the avid hiker that I am I brought along my pack since it would make it easier to load up the pipe and tools. Since I had a large pack and because I foolishly had to be the tough guy who can carry a heavy pack I gave myself about a 40 or 50lb load. Of course I would disregard that 1) That is a heavy load, 2) That I am from FLORIDA (max elevation, like 300 ft), 3) That the height of the BOTTOM of the mountain is at an altitude of about 2500ft, 4) That the TOP of the mountain is 5000+ft. This is a long way of saying that I barely made it to the reservoir tank with that thing on my back. (The reservoir tank is hardly even on the mountain). So yeah, in front of all of the Ugandans, I was humbled by the heavy pack. Fortunately, Michael carried it the rest of the way, and I carried his load. I think it evened out here, because Michael went back home that afternoon, and I would be hiking that same path for the next three days!!! YIKES.

So we get up to the top of the mountain. It is absolutely beautiful. Amazing. Gorgeous. PAINFUL!! But we made it. So we immediately begin evaluating the work to do and not 30 minutes into our arrival what did appear? Not Santa Clause. It was a heavy down poor. So Michael and I and about 8 Ugandans huddled under a green tarp for about 30 minutes while the heavens let fly. Of course the temperature on the mountain dropped about 30 deg after the rain, so we were tired, wet and cold and hadn't really done anything. We did some prep work at the intake and tried to identify the blockage at the sedimentation basin. By this time it was 4:30pm and the sun would be setting soon. So we loaded up our gear…stashed a few things in the bushes and headed back down the mountain. We dropped equipment off at the storage unit that we were renting and went to get some yummy dinner. What did I eat you ask? How about a bowl of rice with a small portion of meat (yeah the menu was still the same for dinner as lunch). All for $1. Incredible. Of course then we had to find lodging, which at that point was only semi-booked (not yet paid for). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lodging was clean and had mosquito nets, even if my room was only 7' X 9'. Time 8:30pm. Where am I? In bed.

Day Two

The night was a pretty fitful one as far as sleeping goes. I think at first it was the heat combined with the aching legs. Of course, I can't write of my accounts of Karugutu without including this little story. So one would think that with all of the physical exertion that I would be on the partially dehydrated side of things and not have to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the restroom. One would think. But of course I wake up at 3:30am in need of the cho (outhouse in lubwise). Well normally if you have to pee in the middle of the night you use a bucket, but since I had not been blessed to discover the bucket used for that purpose in the hotel (it was hiding under the bed), I found myself in quite a quandary. I didn't want to be attacked by malaria carrying mosquitoes on the way to the cho, but I didn't want to don the full mosquito protection garb or have to get my torch (that's what they call a flashlight) and unlock and relock the door…as you can see, the cho in the middle of the night is quite a chore. Instead I opted for a far more superior method. I like to call it, the fluid exchange. You see, what I didn't mention to you is that I had 4, one-half liter bottles of water for consumption the next day (Since I have not been exposed to the germs in their unfiltered tap water I have to drink bottled or filtered water unless I want to spend some significant time in the cho…if you catch my drift). I also had a full nalgene. So my wonderfully concocted plan was to drink a half liter from my nalgene…pour one of the bottles into the nalgene leaving me with an empty bottle. Now I'll leave the rest to your imagination, but let me just say that I praise God that my bladder was only holding exactly one-half liter that night…could have been ugly.

I awake at 7am to start the morning, somewhat sore - fearing the climb ahead and wondering if my body can handle it. We go to town to purchase supplies and get some breakfast. Breakfast consisted of tea, chipaties (flour tortillas) and one hard boiled egg. Of course this process was not anything like drive through McDonalds, so we were ready for hiking around 8:30. Fortunately for us, it was blazing hot at 8:30. We immediately regretted that decision. We began our ascent of the mountain, this time my load was significantly lighter.

We arrived at the work site two and a half hours later (yes, the porters were already there having hiked faster than us even though they had 50lb loads). They all had big smiles of course when we finally arrived. We got a lot of work done the second day – the laborers dug the trench, we worked on the intake and unclogging the sedimentation basin. In the late afternoon we attempted to create a temporary connection to the water source, bypassing the masonry work that we had done at the inlet. The water made it down to the sedimentation basin, but there wasn't enough pressure through the temporary connection to actually flow water through the basin. Of course, we made that last connection within the last 30min that we possibly could have stayed because it was getting dark and we couldn't hike down after dark. We were really disappointed when we got down the mountain and found out, no it in fact was not flowing down. (We had hoped that the reason that it was not flowing in the line was that it was filling the line and working out the air pockets and that it would begin to flow by time we had reached the bottom).

The workers cooked lunch for the work crew – it was (wait for it) a bowl of rice with a small portion of meat. Something new. However, they added some onions and seasoned it very nicely. We ate dinner at the same restaurant in town and sure enough – a delicious bowl of rice with a small portion of meat.

When we finally got back to the hotel I decided that it was imperative that I bathe. Most of the bathing is done with a wash basin and the hotel had special rooms just for that. They looked exactly like a cho, just no hole. However, this was a really amusing time, because there are no lights in these rooms, so you have to leave the door open. Now modesty isn't really high on the list in Africa (well I can discuss this further in a moment), but this is no big deal for the Africans to leave the door open. If fact, it hardly matters, because it is so dark in the room and since the Africans have very dark skin you really can't see anything if you walk by. However, if you happen to be a white, Majungu in one of these rooms you have the amazing quality of practically glowing in the dark. So if you happen to look in to the room, yes you can see a lot. A whole lot. Fortunately for them, they seemed cool with the whole idea and I didn't mind an opportunity to show off the bod…so I went with it (hahaha, actually I was more concerned with how to bathe yourself with only a wash basin and no running water, because I'm pretty sure it was the first time I had to do so).

What time was I in bed? Oh yeah, 8:30pm.

(me at the sedimentation basin with some of the workers)

Day Three

Oh yes, there was one more day in the mix for me. One more time up the mountain, one more day trying to get the temporary water connection to flow (we won't return to finish the project until next Monday, please begin praying for the legs now!!!). However, this time we had wizened up and we began hiking at 6:30am. Oh yeah, all the difference in the world. Once we arrived at the site, Bambo began work on the tap stand for the cattle trough (we are making the cattle trough so the locals on top of the mountain will not water them at the source – bad news bears for the town). Kizza and the masons finished up the masonry on the intake. And I had the lovely job of making the water flow in the temporary connection. To do this one of the laborers and I had to lower one of the high points in the trench that was close to the intake. In addition I rigged up a plastic dam to raise the water level high enough to get a reasonable pressure, but it also had to simultaneously keep the water off of the newly finished masonry. All in all I raised it a few inches above the rock and mud dam that we had already created and that was enough to make some water flow (approx 1-2 L/s). Not full flow, but something for the town until the project was finished (word on the street was that they were getting a little restless). We finished up about twelve thirty and hiked back down the mountain for lunch.

And what did we have for lunch? An amazing chicken lunch with rice and matoke. We had pre-ordered this so that it wouldn't have been a bowl of rice with a small portion of meat. However, eating chicken means that there was a gizzard. In addition, since I was the only missionary there with the Ugandans, I was in charge of the money. Since I was paying for the meal…guess who plate the gizzard fell on. Oh yes. Don't you just love cultures?

God really blessed us that day, because the moment we stepped inside for lunch a violent hail storm unloaded from the sky – it would have been a nightmare to have been on the mountain during that. However, please pray that it did not destroy any of the drying masonry or the temporary water connection.

Right after lunch we were outside waiting for public transportation and low and behold, who goes flying by on the main road? White people. More than that, white people with a WHM sticker in the side of the car. It was Kevin and JD Bartkovich…the headmaster of Christ School and his wife returning from a few days in Kampala. So I start hootin and hollin for them…but of course the car was too loud and we were by the restaurant tucked away from site…so they couldn't hear me. Fortunately I had my trusty, been through the wash cell phone with me, so I whipped it out and got a hold of them before they got out of town. What a blessing.

So that was my trip to Karugutu. God was really faithful to me in answering prayer to give me strength to get up the mountain. It was almost a constant simple prayer of "Lord, give me strength" or singing songs in my head. There were a lot of struggles this week, more than just the physical difficulty. One of the biggest being the language barrier. 80-90% of the conversations where held in Lubwise or another mountain language (Lukongo?). English was only used in addressing me and none of the laborers could speak it. Another huge difficulty was that Ugandans have a very hierarchal society and since I was responsible for the project it put me on the top of the food chain. So the balance between how to be the boss, yet to not "lord it over them," but instead to be a "servant" leader while being sensitive to the culture was a difficult one to find while on top of that trying to share Christ with people who don't speak your language. Needless to say, I hope that God worked in the lives of those who worked with me in spite of me and my limitations and also my sinfulness.

I hope that as you read this that you find joy and encouragement in my work and that I am not put on some missionary, spiritual pedestal. I'm still awaiting those special missionary powers that helps me to be, well a missionary. Now I am not saying that our God is not powerful and that he does not work in miraculous ways or change people to become like Christ. Nor am I poking fun. I believe in all of those things. What I am saying is that you cannot draw a line between someone who goes to the mission field as a missionary and those who don't in the sand. The difference between being here and there is a plane ride and we are all called to serve God in ministry and sharing the gospel whether here or there. Be encouraged. Share Christ with someone today-

Monday, October 09, 2006

Independance Day!

Today was Ugandan Independence day, so it was a national holiday. I went to Bundibugyo Town with a Ugandan friend to see some of the festivities (Bundibugyo town is like the capital of the Tallahassee for FL). It was a far cry from the firework celebrations that we have in america, but they make do. There was some good singing and a little dancing...some speeches that were way too long and a soccer match at the end (that I didn't get to see because we came back beforehand). It was actually really good that we came back because there was a really bad thunderstorm in which it hailed (i.e. Ugandan ice cubes). But I'm used to bad storms as you know we get in the good ol' FL. The shutters of the houses were really getting going, banging around and such.

One thing that you will find really interesting is the difference in the cost of living here compared to the US. Let's just say that the conversion rate is grossly in our favor. For example. Let's look at todays expenses. One boda-boda ride for two people to Bundibugyo town (about a 30 min ride). Cost: 4000 Shillings. After conversion, about $2.25. The other expense was a meal for two, Kizza and I. It was a good meal by Ugandan standards consisting of matoke, beans, rice, and goats meat (yeah it tastes like you think...I was eating it and then I was tastes very "goatee"). Cost of meal: 3600 shillings. Conversion: $2. So me being big spender on ugandan independance day, spent a wopping $4.25. Gotta love it. Of course there are some things that are expensive here...i.e. Gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.

Wow, I just watched a "daddy longleggish" type spider capture and kill and ant. He is taking it back to his "layer". You don't get that sort of entertainment in america. Also...another really cool trick is to light a candle in the middle of the room and turn of all the lights and then watch the bugs foolishly fly into it. They just make a little poof of smoke. Good times.

Ok, I have some pics of the independence day celebrations, but i will have to post them later in the week. Internet time is over, and I must finish packing for Karugutu. I will be there until thursday evening. Be praying for the project and for my interactions with the laborers, that I would represent Christ and freely share the Gospel. Grace and Peace-

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Some cross cultural goodness…

Well the past few days have been riddled with some fun cross cultural lessons. Lesson one was on Saturday afternoon. I went to the market with my friend Amy, who is a missionary and teaches at Christ School and RMS, and Kizza, one of the guys that I will be working with in the workshop, and also Charles. Charles is probably between 13 to 15 years old and he has come to my house a few times for "coaching," which is what they call tutoring. One of the things that I quickly learned when arriving in Uganda, especially in the rural, non-westernized area that I am in, is that it is quite common for male friends to hold hands. As you all know, this is not common in America (at least for regular male friendship). So I'm sure that you can all see where this is going…I had been anxiously awaiting with fear the time that I new that a male Ugandan would try to hold my hand, because I was quite certain that my reaction would probably not be culturally sensitive. Well Saturday was my day as Charles snuck right up and grabbed my hand. It only lasted for about 30 very long seconds and then it was over. I'm sure he could tell by my hands limp response that I wasn't so interested. So I wouldn’t say that I passed the cross cultural test here with flying colors, but hey, I did hold a boys hand for 30 seconds, so that's gotta count for somethingJ.

Cross cultural goodness number two was Saturday night (it was a busy day for me). I had Bhiiwa and Topi (my neighbors) over for dinner…well actually Topi cooked and brought the food over. We had chicken, rice and beans. Now so far, this all sounds just fine and normal to you all, and it was a very good meal. Well, about ¾ of the way through the meal, Bhiiwa says, that it is a cultural tradition for the person for who the chicken was prepared to eat the gizzards. Now, I'm not sure how many of you have eaten gizzards before, but my chicken from publix up to this point in my life never included them and I was quite fine with that. Fortunately for me, Bhiiwa was very understanding of my cultural background and clearly said that I didn't have to eat the gizzards if I didn't want them. Unfortunately for me, I had been determined to be as culturally sensitive as possible. So down went the gizzards into my little belly. Wow. They actually weren't nearly as bad as I expected them to be…gizzard does sound like it would taste nasty! However, I'm not sure that I could really describe it. Cultural Grade: A+.

The last cross cultural goodness was this morning at Church. Now I know that many of you (me included) can get a little complainy when church service runs a little long…but let me tell you of the African way of doing things. First off, church doesn't exactly have a starting time. It's generally around 10:30 am, but if it rains then it can start much later. I just walk up there when I hear the drums starting. Now since the service includes a substantial prayer time and multiple bible readings in both English and Lubwesi and a sermon in both languages and today even included communion…it is quite common for the service to run a little long. Like to 1:30 pm or so. Since it rained this morning, service didn't really get going till around 11, but that still means that our service was 2 and a half hours. Wow.

The really beautiful cross cultural thing today was taking communion with the Ugandan brothers and sisters. Wine is very expensive here as well as grape juice. So today we had communion with honey grahams and warm coca-cola. I thought that is was a beautiful picture of the people from every tribe and tongue worshiping God and partaking of the sacraments. There's not a lot of money here, but the church is serving God with what they have. As a missionary, it was a fresh reminder of what the sacrament of communion represents and that we are remembering the body and blood of Jesus Christ, his body broken on the cross and his blood poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. And this remembrance can even be done with honey grahams and warm coca-cola.

Be praying for me this week as I will be traveling to the sub county of Kiragutu to repair a poorly designed water intake and install some new taps. This water project was not originally a WHM project, but done by a local contractor. We will be there for 3 days this week, Tuesday thru Thursday and I will be staying in a local lodge (which likely means mud hut or something near to it). We will be hiking up into the Rwenzori mountain range each morning, a one hour, very steep hike/climb. And we will hike back in the evening. Be praying for safe hiking and that the malaria carrying mosquitoes would stay out of the lodge and for the opportunity to share the gospel with the local laborers that I will be working with. We will be bringing a few skilled workers with us, two of which I know are Christians, but the laborers that we will hire there I do not know about and hope to be a witness to. Keep sending those e-mails, it may take a while, but I do like to respond to everyone individually. Grace and peace to you all in our Lord Jesus Christ-

Friday, October 06, 2006

One wet day - plus evil Kanievel (sp?) lessons!

Hello to all of my american friends back home! The past couple of days have been really adventurous, especially tuesday! On Tuesday, Michael and I needed to do some diagnostics on the current Nyahuka water system. We are fearing that there might be a problem with the pipeline that is reducing the downstream flow. In order to do this we needed to measure to flow rate of water at the resevoir tanks (that was the easy part) which are downstream and measure the flow rate of water at some point upstream (not so easy). In Uganda, the technological capital of the world, you measure the flow rate by seeing how fast the flow can fill up a 20 Liter bucket. You divide that by the number of seconds to give you the flow rate in L/s.

Now I know that sound incredibly exciting to you all...however, when you are trying to get the upstream flow rate and in order to do this you have to disconnect the main line into town, WHILE IT IS STILL ON! It can get very exciting. We ended up measuring 4 L/s upstream...think 4 nalgenes full of water flying at you out of the pipe every second!! It's a lot of water (ok, so that may not be a lot of water for a pipeline say if your pipeline is run by an excellent publically owned utility that serves a large metropolitan area...but it's pretty big for Africa :-). Needless to say, we got pretty wet. Unfortunately we didn't have a camera man there to film the "during" process (ahem...Tim), but i did get a good before and after with the video camera.

The other exciting thing about tuesday was that Michael gave me motorcyle lessons at the airstrip (yeah it's really convenient having a grass airstip 10 minutes away, you wouldn't think of all the ways you use it). It was awesome!!! It requires a special set of coordination that you have to develop to shift through the gears, but having driven a manual car before at least the idea was there. After about 15 minutes or so I was ready for some jumps! Ok, so really after 15 minutes, I was able to drive with out stalling it out, but it felt like I was ready for some jumps.

Ok, I'm going to load up some screen shots of the video of these wonderful events. Just because I'm typing in a blog now and not sending out e-mails as frequently, don't think that you can't e-mail me!!! I love you all-

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Beginning

Hello to all of my wonderful friends!!! I've just set up this blog so that I can post a lot of the day to day things here without bunching up your e-mail accounts. I'll also be able to include some pictures. I'm going to include my first two e-mails below so that everyone can be kept up to speed.

The pictures are: 1) the MAF plane that I flew to Bundibugyo, 2) some smiling goats for Kim Skinner, 3) a picture of the countryside in Nyahuka, Bundibugyo so that you could see some of the housing.

---E-mail #2---

The quick update:

Health: good today, however this week I have been battling a mysterious cold type sickness (it likes to jump days).

Beard Status: a few days short of actual “beard” status, but still a little more than just stubble.

Hair Status: Still short…my cowlick has been doing some serious bed-head action. (at least I saw this in a rear view mirror…and that brings up an interesting point. I think that in the week and a half that I have been here, I have seen a mirror maybe 2 or 3 times, it’s funny how you surprise yourself when you don’t look at a mirror every day).

Stamina: long week, I’m pretty worn out from being in a new culture and constantly learning.

Hello everyone,

I hope that this message finds each of you doing well. I hope that you have caught on by now that I will be providing a “quick update” at the beginning of each of my e-mails for those of you who prefer short headlines instead of lengthy e-mails. I’m sure that in the future I will need to add more categories, but I like the ones that are there now because I know that many of you (i.e. the “big skinny”) really are concerned about things like my beard.

Since it has been about a week, there are so many things to write about and say. I will do my best to recount many of them, but I also want to challenge each of you to think about some of the issues and cultural questions that I have been asking myself so that hopefully you will be able to identify more with where I am. I will start with what I have been up to this week.

Last Saturday, Michael took me, and many of the missionaries and their kids to a place that is affectionately called Ngite (phonetically: en – gee – tay). Ngite is the name of a town, the name of a river, and the name of a waterfall that is all geographically located in approximately the same place. The specific place that we visited was the waterfall, which was about a 20 minute hike up the Rwenzori mountain range. I am not sure what Ngite means, but if I had to take a guess it would be: “African air conditioning”. It might also mean: “freezing cold water that you must get in or the other missionaries will think that you are a whimp.” Our trip to Ngite was more that just a sightseeing adventure into the mountains, Ngite is also the headwaters for the water project that serves the village of Nyahuka, the village in Bundibugyo that I am residing in. Michael showed me the water inlet for the existing pipeline and we talked about the design for the expansion that will feed the new pipeline that we are hoping to build to the town on the boarder of the Congo. It was a very productive trip in which I learned a lot about our projects and I also managed to discover the local Ugandan plant equivalent of stinging nettles. Let me tell you…fun times. But that was our trip to Ngite…I will have the pleasure of spending a lot of time there in the coming months when we are constructing the extension.

Another big event of the week was the Scott Myhre (the male team leader) and Michael (the water engineer) went to the southern Sudan to the Cush Conference, which was a conference for missions organizations to hear of the need in southern Sudan and to possibly be involved in doing mission work in the future. I have heard a little bit about the trip…but I have yet to get all of the details. In the wake of their absence the missions community here continued on. I think that this put additional stress on the team here especially for Jennifer and Karen who as the wives of those men (respectively) had much more on their plate regarding their missions work (Jennifer – medical work in the health clinic, Karen – food/nutrition program and the Matiti project which provides goats for goat milk for infants of HIV+ mothers) as well managing their families which God has blessed with many children. Please say a quick prayer for Jennifer as you read this, because Scott will still be traveling for another week.

While Michael was away, I worked with some of the local guys from the workshop who do a lot of work with Michael. There names are Bambo (ph: Bom – bo, not like the plant bamboo) and Kizza (ph: Key – za). They are Christian men who both know a little English and have some machining and plumbing skills. I learned some very important lessons this week. One lesson, was that, in Uganda, things take longer. Much longer. I think that there are a few reasons behind this, one being, that efficiency is not a high priority. Another is that many of the tasks that we were accomplishing we did not have tools that were the quickest or even designed to do what we were trying to do with them. We had to improvise. That being said, we were able to do some complex work with even rudimentary tools (i.e. my pocket knife cutting through a water cistern to install a float valve) and I was able to focus on relationships with those men. This culture is very much focused on relationship instead of productivity.

Another notable event was that Christ’s School (the missions boarding school for Ugandans) had its annual parents day. I was able to attend some of it and was able to see the choir perform and see some traditional Ugandan dancing. It was also good opportunity for the leadership of the school and the mission to address the local Ugandans and for the student to showcase their hard work.

And this brings us to today. Today was my first experience at the market. Wow. I’m pretty sure that almost the entire population of Nyahuka was at the market today. There were people selling clothes, fish, plastic bags to put your fish in, live chickens (that’s how you get them here, unless you get them in Kampala J). I already had most food that I would need for the coming weeks, but my particular item I was trying to procure from the market today was some fresh tilapia that had been driven in from Lake Albert this same day. The moment that we reached the market and that Kizza was pointing out things to me, the heavens opened up and let forth an afternoon rain shower that is so common in the rainy season. Kizza and I quickly ran to the shops of one of his relatives where we were able to stay inside until the rain stopped. This time afforded a neat opportunity to talk to Kizza and his relative (his relatives Christian name was Edward, I can’t remember his Lubwisi name). I was able to ask them a lot of questions about culture and their families and I was also able to share a little bit about why I was in Uganda as a missionary. It’s wonderful how God can use even a rain shower to give you the opportunity for you to give a testimony about what He is doing in your life.

The last event that I am going to write about is this evening. Tonight is the first night that I tried to cook my own meal. (dun dun dun… you can cut the suspense with a knife). I decided that I was going to cook vegetable quesadillas…which was something that I felt that I could accomplish without much fanfare. However, the mistake came when I tried to get all exotic and instead of boiling the rice in water, I decided to go all Asian and steam it. HAHAHA. 45 minutes later, I had lots of steam and rice that was still only half cooked. I’m not sure where I went wrong. It was probably in using a strainer to hold the rice. I ended up dumping it in the water and boiling the rest of the way. Meal saved. What I really wanted to talk about was that halfway through the preparation of my dinner, my neighbor, Bhiiwa (ph: be - i – wa) came to the door and I invited him in. He ended up staying for dinner (it is customary to invite someone in for food if they visit at dinner time) and we were able to discuss a lot of good topics. Bhiiwa is an evangelist for the UPC, Ugandan Presbyterian Church. He probably speaks the best English of all of the Ugandans that I have met and he has very good knowledge of the Gospel and the Scriptures. Here is an overview of the topics that we discussed:

How do the Ugandans think that the Mojungu (white foreigners), get their money? We are very often asked for money.

What do the Ugandans think of tithing?

Do Ugandans connect the dots with a holistic ministry in that the humanitarian side of the ministry is married to a redemptive Gospel?

How do Ugandan’s perceive the way that we live in relating to their culture? I was struggling with this because our houses are nicer, our clothes are nicer, we have solar power, we have computers, some of the missionaries have cars which are likely the only ones in town. We even hire Ugandans to work in our houses during the week to help with basic chores. In many ways it seems that we live like kings relative to the local population (for everyone who was wondering, “how are you going to wash your clothes in Uganda.” Here is the answer: I hire someone to do it for me. Now I am sure that many of your jaws may currently be on the floor…mine was when I first asked this question…it just somehow seemed wrong to me…socially unjust. However, it is a good paying job for a local Ugandan who otherwise would not have work and it allows me to work in ministry and on the water projects when because of the lack of modern conveniences I would spend all day just keeping house). Many of the missionaries who are here that I have talked to have struggled with these things at one time or another while they were here. Bhiiwa offered me much good advice and information on these questions.

Wow, I have written one long e-mail. I would like to end with some prayer requests. Please be in prayer for this culture and the area of Bundibugyo, it is one riddled by corruption and oppression and exploitation of the poor. There is much hurting here. Also, in talking to Bhiiwa, it seems that in Uganda there are many people who call themselves Christians, yet do not really believe. Be praying that the Church here would be united in the way that it presents the Gospel and that it would convey more than just nominal belief or a life insurance gospel. Please be praying for the missionaries on our team. Living out here is difficult. It is easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted. Be praying that we would be refreshed daily by God’s Holy Spirit. Be praying for the mission as World Harvest plans to begin new work in other areas of Africa. Be praying for my daily conversations with those I see. Be praying for my acquisition of lubwise. Be praying for the upcoming water projects.

I hope that this e-mail brings you some joy, laughter, and refreshment about my adventures as well as brings some seriousness about the task to which we have been entrusted which will encourage you to join us in fervent prayer.

Grace and Peace-


---E-mail #1---

The quick update:

Health: good
Beard Status: stubbly
Hair Status: Short
Stamina: tired and still jet lagged…yes I did wake up at 12:45am thinking that I had slept through the whole night.

Hello to all-

I hope that this message finds each of you doing well. I’m sorry that my last message was so short, but I was limited on time and need to make it short and sweet. So where do I begin. I guess I should begin with the fact that most of you have requested to be on this e-mail list, and that’s why you are getting this, and there are some of you, who didn’t request this e-mail, but you will have to read it anyways, because I feel like sending it to you J. That reminds me, that perhaps everyone reading this e-mail doesn’t know what I am doing and are wondering what in the world I am doing in Uganda. Well here is your answer:

God has led me through a series of events and much prayer in the spring of 06 to serve him in Uganda working with a missionary from world harvest mission who is currently involved in water purification, clean water resource management, and sanitation education. I will be here for 5 months helping him in the water mission and we will be installing some new piping in the northern part of the district in two weeks, and hopefully planning, designing, and building a major water extension project for a significant portion of the fall. That project has the potential to serve 20,000-30,000 people in a border town on the congo/Ugandan border that currently is really struggling with cholera and other dysentery type illnesses that are a result of contaminated water. Please be praying for the funding of this project, as it can be very political and politics here are riddled with corruption.

So that, in a nutshell is what I am doing here.

A lot of you asked me questions before I left, and some of them I was able to answer, but know, having been here, I have a greater insight into some of them.

This one is for Sean Smith. The Language Barrier. In answering this question before I left, I answered that I didn’t think that the language barrier would be too much of a problem because the official language of Uganda is English. However, I knew that this was mainly for the educated and that the poor would not likely speak much English. I guess what I failed to realize is that probably 95% of the district or more would be considerably under educated and, therefore, not speak English. Furthermore the language that they do speak, Lubwisi, wasn’t actually a written language until within the past 5-10 years. That was when some translators from Wycliff came to the area, learned the language, and began translating the Bible into the native tongue. To date they have currently translated the books of Jonah and Mark. So, Sean, there is a need out here for Wycliff Bible translators…I expect to see you here in January J.

Please be praying that I can learn the language quickly and become more assimilated into their culture (more on that in a minute). First, I will teach you the standard greeting…This is mainly for my practice. When entering someone’s home to greet them, first you must sit down, and then you must greet. This is very weird, because we always greet first. But this is their custom. The greeting goes like this:

Initiator: O-lai-o Responder: O-lai-o
Initiator: Me-kuma Responder: Me-lembe

O-lai-o means good morning, you say Was-ai-o for the afternoon or if you have already seen and greeted the person that day.
Mekuma means, how do you come, or what’s the news, or something to that effect.
Melembe means: peaceful.

And that’s the standard greeting.

I’ll finish with a fun story about assimilating into the culture. So, for WHM there are 34 missionaries and kids and that are currently in Bundibugyo. Add to that one Irish man who works in Bundi and you have a grand total of 35 non-native Ugandans. Now when you look at the local population of the entire district, I think which is a number between 500,000 and 1,000,000, you are looking at a population of white people of about 0.0035-0.007% of the normal population. That’s a very small percentage. So when we are walking around we tend to garner quite a bit of attention, especially from the children. Now, if you take two white men, and put them on a dirt bike and they ride into the local village so that one of the men can show the other man the local water taps in town, pretty much all work/activity/talking/maybe even breathing ceases to happen so that you can stare at the white people on a motorcycle…in bundi, this is pretty much the equivalent to the Barnum and Bailey Circus coming to town!

Please do be praying that I will be able to assimilate into the culture as quickly as possible.

This is truly a beautiful country, and God is really working through the missionaries here. Even when it is a slow and painful process. This community has welcomed me warmly and I am most gracious. We ask continually for your prayers, as even we ourselves are praying. I love each of you and pray God’s blessing upon you.

Now I am off to take a very cold shower.

Grace and Peace in our Lord Jesus Christ-