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.

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