Monday, November 27, 2006

Wabele Kwejuna (phonetically: Way-ba-lay Kway-june-a)

One of the most beautiful things about this culture is the "Wabele." Wabele means "thank you," but it is the way that it is used that is truly beautiful. Here it is common to thank people regardless of whether what they are currently doing benefits you directly. For example, if you are working in your garden and someone greets you it is common for them to say to you: "Wabele cucola" or thank you for working to which you would respond "Wabele cusima" or thank you for thanking me. You can thank someone for anything, like cooking or even just for walking by. There is even a Wabele Kwekwula, which means "thank you for burping" (I like that one, but the pronunciation is difficult because it uses sounds we don't have. I'll try to have it down by time I come back).

But the reason that I am writing this is because of one of the most beautiful Wabele's there is (in my opinion). It is "Wabele Kwejuna" or "thank you for surviving" and is said to a mother after surviving childbirth. Not a given here.

Below are pictures of the Kwejuna project or translated directly, the survival project. It is a project at the mission that focuses on the survival of HIV positive mothers and their children by nutrition and prevention of HIV transmission to the children via medication. These pictures are of the final Kwejuna food distribution under the current World Food Program grant.

Thanksgiving Dinner – Bundibugyo style

Wow, I'm not sure where exactly to begin, so I will start on Wednesday. In Bundibugyo, the World Harvest Team enjoys celebrating the holidays that they grew up celebrating, which of course includes the wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving. In addition it is an incredibly good holiday for us to celebrate because we have much to be thankful for here.

Back to the story. I'm not really sure how it all began, but somehow Scott and I were nominated to provide one of three turkeys for the Thanksgiving Day celebration. It's one of those things like riding in a car looking out the window. Life is passing you by, you daze out of the reality around you for one second, then you snap back to and all of a sudden you're providing the thanksgiving turkey. Guess I should stop dazing J.

Anyways, I was more than ecstatic to be on the turkey team, because that meant something new and adventurous, even though I wasn't sure at the time all that it would entail. This brings us back to Wednesday. We had our houseworker out in the village Wednesday morning asking around and finding the locals who had turkeys. Of course, word gets out that the Mujungu are looking for turkeys and WHAMO, price inflation like you wouldn't believe. But what can you do? It's a difficult thing to negotiate a fair price among a people that live day to day barely putting matoke, posho and g-nuts on the table.

We went out in the afternoon to track down some of the turkeys that they had located earlier and negotiate with their owners. It was a wet and drizzly affair. We found someone who had two Thanksgiving Day worthy sized turkeys. Of course finding the owner didn't mean that it was a simple transaction - money for turkeys. The locals here don't pen up or fence in their animals. They just know which ones are theirs and they track them down when they are ready for them (at least this appears to be how it works). So we went all over this section of town, in the misty rain tracking these turkeys and low and behold they were by the road where we began. And this was where having a Ugandan backup (a.k.a. Ingambeki our houseworker) was prime. He went straight up to the turkey, grabbed that bad boy by the tail feathers, held on for dear life while the thing went berserk and then finally lassoed him in by grabbing it on the neck. I would put my money on Ingambeki in a turkey rodeo. I'll give you 50 to 1. He is boss. We did this two more times, totaling three turkeys for the evening. We then brought them home to roost in the pasture with DMC (Dairy Milk Cow, a.k.a Dr. Myhres' Cow). Side note – Publix has nothing on milk straight from the beast (yes, of course we pasteurize it).

It's Thursday morning. The sleep was still in our eyes, but we knew that the time had come. It was Thanksgiving Day, and there must be Thanksgiving Turkey. We made our way over to the Myhre's house finding them ready for the morning's task. We found the turkeys where we had left them, oblivious to the oncoming peril. Cameras were ready. The video tape was rolling. Baguma, the Myhre's houseworker put on a clinic by making quick work of the first turkey with a ponga (a machete'). Then it was my turn. My stomach quickly turned over on itself. I briefly thought of turning back, but I had put myself to the task. There were people watching. I would not allow it.

Instead of a ponga, I decided to use a hatchet, thinking that I could make quick work of it with one fell swoop. Lesson number one: when you see a local do something in a certain way and they have done it many times, maybe you should try their method. Six strikes later, the deed was done. The turkey was beheaded and the observers were bespeckled with blood. (upon later consideration, my method was the least agreeable to the observers for that very reason).

(Just like going to the grocery store)

After killing the turkeys, the houseworkers helped by de-feathering them – a laborious process that they made pretty quick work on. I am very grateful for their help in that.

Now we enter the surgical theatre. The scene is Dr. Myhre and his novice surgical apprentice (that would be me). The tools are a kitchen knife, surgical gloves, two number 10 scalpel blades, and two surgical clamps (I'm not making this up – I've got pictures). The first order of business was to watch (there's a saying the medical community that to know something you must first watch one, then perform one, then teach one – that was my first lesson). One turkey "cleaned out" to say it gently. Then lesson two – the appropriate way to don surgically sterile gloves without contaminating them. For some weird reason I now wish that you had to use surgically sterile gloves more often in life so I could use this knowledge. But I digress. I'm not sure the level of detail that you are interested in reading at this point, but let's just say that I had my hands fully immersed in both ends of the turkey at some point or another, if you know what I mean. At one point, with my hand deeply immersed in the process of cleaning, the turkey emitted what sounded like gas leaving the rear area (to say it nicely). Of course I immediately found what action caused this and proceeded to amuse all males present for several minutes.

(The surgery in progress)

We finished the cleaning process, or autopsy as we were by then calling it and came to the conclusion that the cause of death was decapitation in an obvious case of birdicide. With three cases on our hands within a relatively short time span it's obvious that we had a serial bird killer on our hands. We notified the appropriate authorities.

At this point you are probably saying to yourself: "man that sounds like a really long day" or you are saying "I am completely grossed out." Either way, we hadn't even started to cook the thing yet. And not to mention, what single 23 year old male even knows how to cook a thanksgiving turkey (with the exception of Danny Rohan whom I personally know and I also know that he can deep fry a turkey like it's his job – one day maybe I can be like him).

So the turkey had to cook all afternoon and even then the thing didn't get internally hot enough to satisfy the poultry requirements. This was probably due to one or both of two reasons: one being that our oven door doesn't seal well and the other being that the temperature markings have all warn off the knob. We are not really sure what temperature that we were cooking the thing at. Fortunately for us and for Thanksgiving Dinner we were able to "top it up" at the house that we were having the dinner at. (yeah, by the way, you don't "top it off" in Uganda. You "top it up." Makes more sense actually, but it sure is weird to say).
(The Final Product!)

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful; there were thirty of us around four tables that had been made into a giant square. After dinner we had some thanksgiving entertainment in the form of singing, kids reading poetry that they had written about thanksgiving and a film short that scotticus took of the kids the same day. All in all, it was a wonderful day and if I could have been anywhere I would have been with my family in Jacksonville, but Bundibugyo was definitely a good substitute.

(Beauty and the Beast. a.k.a. Savannah and Me)

Thanksgiving this year gave me a really good opportunity to reflect on what I am truly thankful to God for. I think a large reason why is that when you are living in another culture, it gives you a good lens to look through to see your own culture and blessings. I'm very thankful for the family that God has given me Рsupportive of me being here, tolerating only speaking on what is normally 20 - 30 minutes once a week and just so loving it's unbelievable. My family and the families of the Babwisi people stand in stark contrast. I'm also very thankful to God for my education (man I never thought I'd say that when I was in school) and for the opportunities that I have because of that. Here there is not much employment or opportunity. Finally, I'm very thankful to God for my salvation in Jesus Christ and the hope that comes with that. I don't mean that to sound clich̩ or the "oh he has to say that, he's a missionary," but when you are surrounded by a lot of despair, a lot of poverty, a lot of hunger and a lot of addiction to the "quick fixes" like alcohol you can really tell the difference of what it means to live with true hope and what it means to have no hope. The hope that comes with Jesus Christ redeeming all things is unsurpassable.

(Dinner with everyone around the Table)

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Mouse-capades ACT II

So in Africa, it seems very much to be feast or famine. It was Saturday night. Once a month we have a cultural discussion and this months discussion was on birth rate in Uganda, one of the highest in the world – 8 births to one woman. Wow! But I digress. Afterwards, Scott and I went over to the girl's house to hang out and make some tea and maybe watch a movie (our actual entertainment was far more African as you will see). When we got there, Amy came running out of her room saying that the mouse was back and that it was hiding in the corner under the armoire. We quickly armed ourselves with a broom, a large stick, and a driver (man it's like every one of these houses has a driver in it!). I set up a plan that blocked him in…Amy held the driver over the corner of the far side of the armoire to prevent the mouse from escaping that way. Carol guarded the door. My plan was to try to spear the mouse with the large stick (a very effective technique on bats) and if that didn't work than to rapidly smash the stick and broom handle together. I knew that the only way that he could avoid that was an incredibly quick move parallel to the sticks. That was my mistake. Of course the mouse was able to avoid the spear action and he had the brawn and perhaps sheer desperation enough to make the move parallel to the sticks, right out into the middle of the room, RIGHT INTO MY LAP!!! I can still see him bounding towards me in my mind – beady little eyes, small quick bounds in the dark (by the way, the solar batteries were dead at their house, so we were doing this all by flashlight). At this point we all screamed wildly like little girls. For two of us, this was justified. I am completely ashamed of my feminine screaming, but fortunately it went unnoticed in the commotion. To end, the mouse escaped into another part of the room. He won that battle. This will not be the final say.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Mouse-capades

It is currently Saturday morning. My roommate, Scott, and I were doing the usual saturday mourning tasks such as make breakfast and checking e-mail since there is early internet time on saturday...and there he was - our little mouse friend who to this point had eluded us completely. Not this morning. Scott and I quickly ramped up the war machine and set up an elaborate barracade completely enclosing him in the corner of the room. We set up our positions - scott with a broom and myself armed with a driver (the kind you use for golfing). Mickey- as I will affectionately call him, had taken refuge underneath 3 rugs that were piled in the corner.

Of course we took a timeout to set up the video camera.

We slowly peeled back the carpet one by one...until there was only one carpet remaining. No Mickey. At this point I was convinced that he might have pulled a houdini on us, but we decided to wail on that last remaining carpet anyways. We lifted it up and NO MICKEY. He had eluded us. But then we opened it up and found that in fact he had NOT eluded us and that we had successfully vanquished our enemy. Horray! In africa you have to do your own extermination.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Bushwhacker

…so this past week I was constantly reminded that I am in Africa. How might you ask? Well, one of the major things that I have been working on this last week is the design for a major project that we are calling the Butogo GFS (gravity flow scheme) Water Project. In order to make a good design, you need a good survey. And in order to make a good survey, you need a good water engineer INTERN to do it for you. That would be me. Of course I can't deny that I am properly equipped for such a task. I just checked on and I found that the number one requirement for a good survey is a surveyor with a burly beard. Whether or not you actually know what you are doing, a burly beard exudes a "I know exactly what I am doing" sort of confidence that is a necessity out in the bush. In fact it was almost as if the luscious growth was bending out of my way even as I approached. Almost.

Ok…so maybe that isn't exactly the way it happened, but it makes for a good story. The real story is that it seems that I have a knack for finding exactly where NOT to put a major pipeline (which actually doesn't mean it was a bad survey). I also have a knack for not remembering to bring a Ponga (a machete'). So here is what I want you to visualize. Me and 2 Ugandans trying to force our way through the bush. No Ponga. Lot's of sweat. Me with a GPS unit in one hand and an altimeter in the other and a piece of paper between two fingers in my left hand and a pen in my right with which I was trying to frantically record waypoints of interest and their altitude while trying to keep up with my Ugandan coworkers. As I was following the survey on the GPS I suddenly came to the realization that my current survey and $4 could buy you a Starbucks coffee. This was immediately followed by the realization that: I was not having fun, this was not adventurous, and that I would really like to be at a posh resort sipping a margarita in the pool. Boom. I instantaneously left the "honeymoon" phase of entering another culture. (The honeymoon phase is considered the time that you can do anything without too much difficulty because it is new, adventurous and exciting and the daily grind hasn't set in yet). Well, the daily grind was here – as well as an accompanying bad attitude. I sort of wallowed in my own pity party for the rest of the evening. At some point, I don't remember if it was that same evening or the next day I realized all of these things that I'm telling you now. This resulted in a quick excited party that took only five seconds and occurred completely within my own head (I hope other people do this too, or maybe I'm just weird).

Now that I have crossed this milestone of my being here I am excited. In some ways I feel like the ministry can truly begin. I can now feel real feelings that aren’t mixed with the excitement and adventure of something new. I don't know exactly how, but I feel like this has given me a new heart and empathy for the local Ugandans most of which are extremely poor and hurting. It's funny, because I would have expected the opposite to happen – to become jaded. But I praise God that's not the case. It's given me an increased awareness of the sacrifices/cost of my being here and it's simultaneously given me an increased desire to make those sacrifices and pay that cost. I say that not to my own glory, but as a testimony to God's work in my life through being here.

Friday, November 03, 2006


So one of the missionaries' dogs just had six little puppies!!! Here are some pictures of the newborns (if it lets me upload them)!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Jesus Film

Two days after I returned from Kampala I had the opportunity to help the indigenous church leaders show the Jesus film in lubwise in a village called Ingamba in Kasitu sub-county. It was both a blessing and a struggle. I was weary from my previous weeks of traveling to Karugutu, Ft. Portal, and Kampala. In addition I was the only missionary who was attending the event (because the goal is the have the local church leadership be as much in charge as possible) and I was only there because they needed someone who know how to set up and run the dvd through the projector.

After Michael dropped me off, I set up the equipment in a pavilion at a local school. Immediately I was surrounded by many locals who were very curious about the Muzungu (that's me, it means foreigner) and what I was doing. The church leaders, some of which spoke English, all had to go back to the village before showing the film and so that left me and all the non-english speakers up at the school. There was definitely a good hour of me staring at them and them staring at me, because there's not much else you can do when you can't communicate. (Although I did have success making the kids laugh with funny faces or raising my eyebrows. But that's not saying much, because as a Muzungu you're pretty funny to begin with to them).

At sundown we showed the film. I don't know if you are familiar with the Jesus film, but for me it was still entertaining even though I couldn't understand it. One of the more interesting things is that when it was dubbed over in lubwisi, they tried to make the voices match the lips of the movie as much as possible, which leads to some comedic moments (for an observer who doesn't understand the language).

All in all, I think the movie had a good impact of the village and them understanding more of what the crusade was about (the film was on one night of a multi day crusade). I counted at least 100 people who where there when I was setting up and more came after it got dark. I would say that there was likely 150-200 people there from the local village. At the end, there were many people who raised their hands as an indication to receive Christ and the church leaders had planned to follow up with the locals and I truly hope that it happens/happened.

After the movie I had dinner with the church leaders. Dinner was rice, cassava flour, a medallion of meat and beans in soupu. Afterwards I slept on a thermarest on the floor of room in a mud house. It was a fitful night's sleep because somehow even when I tried lying in both directions it seemed that my head was lower than my feet. Try to figure out how that works. Maybe a hump in the middle of the floor? Possible with a dirt floor. I survived the night and Jesus was proclaimed, praise God for both.

(the Jesus film shown in Ingambe)

Kampala, the Big City, and The Purple Room

So I had my first opportunity to visit Kampala. If you want to know what Kampala is like then in your mind think of a really big city with a lot of people, for example, New York. Then mix in a little bit of 3rd world "not yet developed"ness and then a whole lot of "not going to follow the rules while driving." Add to that a ton of diesel smell and little motorcycles (called boda-bodas) that seem to multiply like rabbits and definitely never follow the rules. For a final touch add barbed wire around the fence of the jail – oh I mean the hotel that I stayed at – and I'm sure the picture is getting a little clearer. This ain't Kansas anymore.

Sort of a bleak picture. But Kampala also had many, many plusses to being there. There are grocery stores, stores that resemble (vaguely) wal-mart, and actual restaurants, banks and even a mall. So my time in Kampala was really a mix between trying to rest while away from Bundibugyo and trying to plan and shop frantically to get supplies for the next several months. The two don't really mix.

One of the more interesting things that happened while in Kampala was the end of the Muslim holiday, Ramadan. During Ramadan, all Muslims fast during the day and eat at night. There are many special services that are held during this time. Ramadan is ended when after the new moon a piece of the moon can be seen in the sky. (I think this has to happen by some big wig in Saudi Arabia, much like only the real groundhog can check to see if he sees his shadow and it doesn't count if anyone else does it). The other thing is that they don't allow this day to be predicted. The reason I am telling you this is because we were supposed to be in Kampala Saturday night through Tuesday and the banks and government offices are closed for most of the weekend, except maybe sat morning. So we wake up bright and early on Monday morning to attack the day and run our errands and we find out to our surprise that Monday was the end of Ramadan (because the moon was seen the night before) and that all of the government offices would be closed. Bummer. One of the biggest problems was that some of our teammates needed to go to the bank to get money for supplies and since the banks were closed, they were limited on the cash flow. We ended up extending our stay in Kampala by an extra day so that we could get all of the shopping done that we needed.

Things that make you say hmm: So there is a very, very interesting service dynamic in Uganda. And by service I mean the service (or lack thereof) that you receive at a restaurant or hotel. Basically every restaurant that we ate at was about a 2-3 hour event and that doesn't include travel time. It's just the way it is. Slow. However, and this is the amazing part, is that the service in what I will call Ugandan fast food is AMAZING in comparison to American fast food. When traveling on the main roads for long distances there are certain villages along the way (pretty much any village that you come too) and all you have to do is pull you car off to the side of the road and a hoard of excited venders will race (literally) to your car and offer you Chipatties, Muebende Chicken (only in Muebende), cooked beef, cold soda, cold water, roasted bananas…if it's available in town, the venders are offering it to you, and in the comfort of your own car. Visiting the fast food court in the mall isn't much different. All you have to do is sit at a table in the food court and workers will bring you menus from each of the fast food restaurants and you can order from them, the food will be delivered to the table, and you can even pay at the table. That side of the service dynamic gets two thumbs up from this American.

Rest. So one of the things that I have been thinking a lot about lately is rest. It's one thing that seems to be so hard to find here and even in the States. While in Kampala, we listened to a sermon by Tim Keller of Redeemer in NY on rest out of Hebrews 3 and 4. In this sermon he talked about the two types of rest that the author of Hebrews is talking about. One type of rest is physical and the other an inner rest, an ability to lay down your work and be satisfied. Where in a culture that wraps our identity in the success of our work do we find that ability to lay it down and be satisfied? Why are we so tired and overworked as a culture? Because we don't have rest, physical, but even more importantly, the inner rest. What is it about Jesus Christ being your Lord and Savior that allows us to enter that rest? And is it automatic once you become a Christian? Keller presents that it's not automatic and that this inner rest is a heart issue and that many Christians are currently struggling with rest and being tired especially in the inner parts. What he gets at is that at our core we trying to justify ourselves with our actions. He says that even as Christians we can acknowledge with our minds that Christ has justified us, and then in the next moment continue to seek to justify ourselves before God even by serving him which keeps us from entering the internal rest that is in Christ being our justification. He also talks of how the heart is bent towards self justifying work and if left alone always ends up back there. Which is why having a Sabbath allows us to consciously reset our heart into the inner rest that we have in Christ. It's an excellent sermon and I highly recommend that you track it down and give it a listen because my paraphrase is an inadequate rendition.

Oh I almost forgot – the purple room. So many of you are probably wondering, what in the world can this be about. Well in Uganda, not everything works out like you expect. One of the things that we purchased while in Kampala was paint to help spice up the walls of the house that we are living in. For my room, I got a deep soothing blue. However, even in America, what you ask for in paint isn't always the color that you get at home…less so here. As I start painting on the wall, my Ugandan friend says, oh this is purple. Of course, my heart skipped like three beats while thinking what SINGLE man who has what I would consider is on the verge of a very burly beard would PAINT HIS ROOM PURPLE. Good thing the team has a no dating policy for short term missionaries, because this pretty much ends all hope. HAHAHA. Fortunately for me, the paint has dried into what I am going to enthusiastically call royal "masculine" blue. With continual brainwashing I expect my teammates to thoroughly be convinced of the blueness of my room :-).