Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Night Like Any Other

So tonight began like any other night. I had dinner with two of the other singles, Pamela and Stephanie and afterwards enjoyed good conversation and some Condole cookies. Afterwards I made my way by the Masso's house because I had heard a brief mention earlier in the day regarding some brownies to be baked…and I needed to check to see how the progress was going. The Masso girls were watching Anne of Green Gables 2 (Anne of Avenly?) on the computer and as exciting as that was I was temped onward toward the Myhre's with the promise of an episode of 24. As I was walking there I saw Scott Myhre headed down in the vehicle to Christ's School to pick up his children from clubs that evening, so I hopped in the car to join him. We sat in the car next to the football (soccer to you Americans) field and shot the breeze while we waited for the power to run out and subsequently clubs to end (you know you are at a school in Bundibugyo when something doesn't end at a certain time, but rather when the solar batteries die). We loaded the kids up and headed back up. When we entered the house the kids gave Scott and Jennifer a rundown of clubs which included a five minute math quiz courtesy of Luke Myhre (they had discussed some tricky math problems in his club and he wanted to test our wits…we were pretty unsuccessful, but hey we were trying to do it in our heads). Then began the tornado that is called: Myhre children getting ready for bed. It's quite an exhausting experience for an observer and I have no idea how Scott and Jennifer do it day after day. It's like they are conductors orchestrating a symphony of activity. And somehow after fifteen minutes and multiple threats of revoking Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King viewing privileges the next night everyone was ready for bed.

Somewhere in the middle of this whole process I stole away to the restroom to - as they say here - take a short call. Suddenly I started feeling a bit woozy. I was standing there looking at the back of the toilet and shapes seemed to deform and everything seemed close and far away at the same time and the whole room seemed to skew. It felt as if I was standing – yet not really standing at the same time. For a moment I thought I was loosing it and then I realized that everything WAS close and far away at the same time, that shapes were really deforming, and that the whole room was skewing and that I was in the middle of an earthquake. At that moment there was this unexplainable feeling – I was frozen in time. Only when I heard Scott shout: "Everyone out of the house!" did I realize that I was in any significant danger. I shut off midstream and bolted out of the house. At this point I would like to point out that everything that I intended to go in the toilet did in fact go in the toilet and not say on the wall or floor or my foot and that everything that belonged in my pants was back there by time I joined the Myhre's outside. So while you may now be laughing to yourself about how I one literally peed through my only earthquake experience at least I can say I did it like a champion.

Outside we could hear there entire community abuzz with excitement for about fifteen minutes as the night settled back into an eerie calm. Intellectually we knew that biggest had past any anything else would be something smaller…but it can be really hard to convince yourself of that emotionally when you are in the moment. Let's just say I slept with one eye open.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

4 inch wide Pythons!!!

So now that I have your attention by talking about dangerous snakes I'm going to tell you not to worry because no one was seriously injured. The only significant injury was that Michael pulled his back. If you're confused (and you probably should be) it's because these weren't real 4 inch wide pythons…it is what we named the plastic pipes that we were working on last week. Ok, so now that you're a bit sad that this might not be as exciting of a story as you thought. Think again! What can be more exciting than 10 Ugandans and 2 Muzungus wrestling 20 feet of 4 inch plastic HDPE pipe for about 3 and a half hours. Let me paint you the picture from my point of view.

We got an early start in the morning so that we could get everything accomplished in one day. We loaded up the truck with pipe fittings, wrenches, cement, and 20 Ugandans plus Muzungu. We rode for 20 minutes to the work site all the while I was praying that we wouldn't snap the truck's axels (for those who don't want to do the math we were way overloaded). When we got to the sedimentation basin (the place that we were working) we divided up the work and drained the basin. Some cleaned the muck out of the bottom of the basin…some broke a new 3 inch hole in the concrete for the new inlet (by the way – the concrete and brick wall was about 2 feet thick)…and some began breaking two 4 inch outlet holes (oh yes and Tim was filming). Kyalimpa and I began repairing a screen inside the sedimentation basin. Now the sedimentation basin is about 4 feet high on the inside. Last time I checked I was taller than four feet so I spent the majority of this time hunched or squatting. Time in the basin 45 min. By the time I had finished this work they were ready to install the additional inlet. We cut the new inlet pipe to the right length which was to the joy of the many observing children because this pipe was already full of pressurized water and it could not be turned off (we were in fact attaching the valve for that purpose). So as we breached the pipe water started going everywhere. And so did joy and laughter!

After this it was lunch time! A pile of rice, some Kahunga, and a small medallion of beef. Kahunga is a local dish that is a thick brownish-white paste that takes on the flavor of whatever you dip it in, which no matter what it is, is called soupu. You can't really chew it because, well, you don't really get anywhere. It also can double as a flat tire patching material when applied to the inside of the tire (you think I'm joking…it's a true story). Lunch is actually one of the most important parts of the work day here. No one messes with lunch. But I digress.

Now we turned our attention to the two the outlets. Slowly by slowly we chipped our way through the concrete. I joined in the chipping on the inside of the basin where there was a small trough where we had to also break 4 inch holes through solid concrete with minimal working space. Total time in basin: one and a half hours. We then attempted to hook up the HDPE pipe. We wrestled for a good 30 minutes before getting it in and aligned. I went back into the basin only to find that we had dislodged the inside fittings in the process!! We had to remove the whole thing and try again, this time with me inside the basin trying to hold everything in place. We soon realized that it wasn't going to fit without more chipping. We chipped. And chipped. This time I grabbed the fittings like the horns of a bull and held of for dear life while the 10 people on the other end tried to jam the pipe into the set of fittings I was holding. At this point I forget how long I was in there. All I know is that when we finally got it in there was a shout and a scurry of activity outside and I popped my head out of the manhole to see what was going on and found myself suddenly engulfed in a late afternoon downpour. Our workday was finished (which was probably a good thing because it was already about 5:30 and we had lost track of time. We wanted to work quickly on the sedimentation basin because the water supply would be off until we finished the work).

The next morning I taught preschool while the team went up to attach the other pipe (you have to wear many hats here ). I joined them in the afternoon to finish the work. I could tell you everything that happened in the second day, but by this time I'm sure you'd rather have the cliff notes. At the road junction the two big 4 inch pipes had to be split into 8 smaller pipes with four on each line. More fittings. More wrestling pythons.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Back to Bundibugyo!

Webale yo - welcome back, was the common greeting as I stepped off of the MAF Caravan that flew us from Entebbe to the Airstrip in Bundibugyo. There were many smiles, hugs, and much all around joy to be back. Even the crew of Ugandan's who I worked closely with on the water project with in the fall made the trip to the airstrip with the missionaries to greet me there.

Welcome back. How are you? How is your family? How was the U.S.? We are glad you have come back. And then again the next Ugandan friend asks similar questions. Greetings in Uganda hold a special place in my heart – they are the first thing that you encounter in the culture that reminds you that here relationship proceeds productivity –there is something deeper in the greetings that is easy to miss on your first trip here when you are busy wondering why you get the same questions day in and day out, yet so apparent when you have been gone for a while and have returned.

Our travels were difficult from the get go. Eleven people, two days of travel, and 24 pieces of luggage just under the 70lb limit each are a recipe for a logistical nightmare and plenty of stress and anxiety. I don't even want to recount the night and morning of getting to Newark and to the airport and check in. Let's suffice it to say that if we were are football team we threw the playbook out the window and were calling audibles the entire time.

God really blessed us with our luggage. We were two pieces over our luggage allowance, but BA gave Stephanie an additional luggage piece because she had a one way missionary fare. So we were faced with paying for the additional piece of luggage – no small thing at $250. As we were sitting there checking in (not a small work in itself), a BA representative who must have been managing the staff that morning came up to talk to us and see how check in was going if there was anything he could do to help. We said actually there might be something…we explained to him the extra piece of luggage and what we needed it for – a peanut grinder for the nutrition project here. He said let me see what I can do and came back five minutes later and said that today the peanut grinders would be on him!!! Amazing.

We made it through customs without much fanfare in the end…there were are few moments of worry when the Ugandan MAF helper walked us right into the line where you have items to declare – all of us were thinking in our minds…no don't go in there we don't have anything to declare. The official who met us was friendly. He asked us if we had anything to declare. We said no. He walked right up to one of the boxes with a peanut grinder in it and said what's in here. A peanut grinder. He asked is it remaining in Uganda. We said yes. He shot us a look like we might have to talk about this (paying duty and such), but Stephanie quickly chimed in – it is staying with me I live in Bundibugyo (she has a work/resident permit). He got a massive smile, you are all going to Bundibugyo? Yes. He chuckled – "you can take anything to Bundibugyo".

We are quickly settling in. The other interns have been wide eyed and asking many questions. I'm really excited for there time here. I must get this posted before internet time expires…soon I will write about church yesterday – "AMAZING." For now let's just say that there was dancing in the house of the Lord yesterday. It's so good to be back.