Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lost in Transition

So, I feel like the first few days of being home were great. I probably looked like a little kid in a candy shop, wide eyed at everything. Not that THAT much has changed, but just not seeing/using/experiencing/tasting it in a while. I did a lot of small errands that have been on my to-do list and got to do some shopping for new clothes!

But I feel like this week has been more of the “culture shock” time. Not really “shock” persay because I knew what to expect since this is not my first time to come from another country back into the US. But more like a “lost in transition between cultures”. There are some things that have just come back to me, like driving on the right side of the road and getting around Austin. (I guess 23 years of Austin roads are ingrained in me). But there are other things that I do feel a bit funny with. Here are a few stories:

Story #1: I was in the kitchen visiting with Dad the other night while he was beginning to prepare dinner. He asked me if I could help by slicing some onions and carrots. Sure. No problem. The first slice he advised me to cut them a bit thicker. The second slice I thought to myself, “It is cutting so smoothly. Wow, this knife is really sharp.” And then third slice, (I am sure you can guess what happened next)… yep, the onion slid a bit and then I sliced my finger. Not too bad. But immediately I said, “Oh. Dad. We have an injury,” with my hand above my head. His response, “Already Nat?! What? Did you not cook in Africa?” Well, no not really. At first I cooked on Sundays but then I realized it was A LOT of work to prepare everything from scratch and they weren’t that excited about eating my American cuisine. So, I stopped cooking. Plus—who knew that Dad keeps his knifes as sharp as swords used in Medieval battles?

Story #2: I think people at the stores think I might be a bit slow or not all there. Yesterday, I walked to a little coffee shop near my house. When I went to the counter to order I know I looked and acted a bit confused. Ordering coffee, something that is a great pastime for me, took great effort to think about. Now what did I normally get and what sort of details do I need to tell them? So, instead of the cool coffee lingo, I ended up asking the lady if she could make my coffee with skim milk. I kinda giggled at the look on her face when she answered yes. Like she was thinking, “Um, Hello? Has this lady (being me) never come to a coffee shop before?!” I got my coffee and realized that I forgot something in my order—extra hot. But next time I know, “Non-Fat vanilla Latte-extra hot, with a dollop of whip cream.” I will not be defeated again by the coffee shop order. I also get a bit confused when using American Dollars verses the Uganda Shilling that go by thousands. One US dollar is equivalent to about 1600/Ush. But the lady was very nice and patient. It turns out that her husband is from Kenya and so I think we will have something to talk about next time I come in.

Story #3: Really this is just to let you know so that you too don't make fun of me (I know it is all in love though)... sometimes I speak with a bit of a British accent. I can't help it! I teach British style phonics to little African kids! Their short "i" sounds like our long "e" and they accentuate different areas of words. So, just be ready.

Other than that, nothing really else new. Feel free to call me if you want to chat. I am usually at home. 512-339-4318. I will try to post MUCH more pictures soon but right now my computer went crazy and is not exactly working right now. So, give me some time and I will have those up. I am also wanting to come to visit the major cities of Texas, so if you live in one of them and have a time that you suggest is better to come then let me know by email.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home safely

Hi. I am now back in Texas, using the high speed internet, sitting without fear of the power going out or without the music of the mosquitos buzzing around. Jac and I had an EXTREMELY long flight back home (27 hours in total) but made it with all luggage. We had a fun time during the journey though. Four of the kids and 2 moms came with us, along with Glenn. They were dressed in their best as they came to get us from Pastor's house. I think it is a common trend for people coming from smaller towns to dress up to come to the "big" city. The boys looked cute in their little pin on ties though. Everything went great during the ride there and we eat whole fish by lake Victoria to end our time in Uganda.

With a few teary eyes, we hugged and kissed our goodbyes and the kids proceeded to go to the top story of the airport to see the planes take off and land. During our first flight, Jac and I decided it would be a good idea to stay up all night and take advantage of the hundreds of movies we had at our fingertips. We learned later in our journey, when we were exhausted but our bodies were too tired of the cramped flying postition to sleep, that this was a bad idea, seeing as we didn't get in the air until around 11pm. Well, I made it through 2 movies and then crashed. We were able to find these nice lounge-type chairs in Amsterdam's airport and slept a bit. Kind of awkwardly though seeing as we were trying to keep and arm or leg though our luggage that sat beside us.

The security in Amsterdam was really intense and i was glad Jac was there cause I was too tired and felt like he was trying to force me to be guilty during his questioning. Then at the xray luggage station they stopped my purse. I realized I had a tiny pocket knife, which the laughed at and let me keep, but he did empty my bag and saw how many sweeties I had taken from the previous flight. In case you didn't know... with KLM, if you go to the back of the plane when everyone else is sleeping, they serve water and all sorts of snack size chocolate bars. I went first and brought one of each kind for me and Jac. She then went and came back in a sneaky way, dumping a whole handful on my lap. Ha, it was really funny but we enjoyed them ALL!

The second flight I met a really nice lady who was coming home from Ukraine with her husband and the new daughter they just adopted. It turns out that she just published a christian-fiction type book that comes out in Feb. It was cool to talk with her and tell her about LCH. I hope this is the first of MANY conversations that I get to boast in the Lord! There wasn't much sleeping on this extra long flight because my body was feeling too much like an old woman and couldn't get comfortable. As we landed, we had less than an hour to book it off the plane, through customs, get our luggage, check it back in, and then run a small marathon to reach the gate in the proper terminal. BUT, praise the Lord we made it with 5 minutes to spare.

When we arrived in Austin, we were only expecting Janece to pick us up because she works close to the airport. I was so surprised to see Dad and Monica there too. Then from behind the corner, 6 of our Tim Teamers (a discipleship program we did together) came running at us with open arms and a sign. It was so great to see them but so sureal and we were exhausted. Thanks for coming guys!!!

The first meal home, back in the US after a year... Chuys!! Oh I love mexican food. I think i might have drewled as I walked in the door.

So, now I am here in Austin. Jac left today and tomorrow all the family will be going to work so it will be my first real day to process and be by myself. It is kinda weird to be back but in another way it seems like i was never gone. The best way to describe it is that i feel like i am in a time warp. I don't feel like time has passed much, yet i know that a lot has changed. I think the catch up is going to be where my "quality time love language" comes in. It is too hard for me to just sit down an try to catch up on a year. But as I spend time with people the stories just start flowing. So, please don't be offended if you only see me breifly and I don't just ramble stories off.

I am grateful to be home and grateful to know that I am going back. God is good. I think i will be posting periodically while I am home. Thank you so much for joining, supporting, loving, giving, praying, and encouraging me on this journey!!!!!

PS-- to my Austin stone group before I left-- i have been meaning to post this but always forgot. THANK YOU so so so much for the package you sent me! It was such a blessing at the exact right time. I am now back in Austin but don't have any phone numbers or emails to connect with any of you... so email me if you want.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tula Bagana 2009

A closure. It is hard to believe that a year has passed since I was last on US soil. And even-more-so it is hard to absorb all the lessons that the Lord has taught me in this past year. Overall, I am so glad that this time I am not saying “goodbye” but merely “see you later”.

I cannot express enough to all of you reading this how grateful I am for your faithful prayers, support, and encouragement. As I get ready to go, please continue to pray for my heart’s adjustment back to the US for a while; pray safety and smooth traveling; pray for opportunities for me to boast in the Lord for what He is doing at LCH; and pray for the planning and preparation for my return. I will be arriving in Austin, with Jac, on Oct. 16 in the early evening. And my plans are to still blog a bit while I am home. Writing my thoughts out is great processing for me. I feel excited to see everyone back in the US, but as I told the church body this Sunday, “Although I am going home, I feel a bit funny because I am also leaving home.”

Today the kids and staff had a great send off party. The tables were decorated and we had popcorn, sodas, biscuits, and cake. I am getting used to the tradition of the guest of honor serving all the guests, so I was not surprised when I was asked to do that. But the most amusing part of the celebration was when Edward brought out a small gift and all the kids and staff started shouting their African call. It was awesome and made the gift opening so much more exciting. I got 2 beautiful soap stone plates that I had been admiring and Jac got a gomas (the traditional dress with big sleeves) made from the traditional Buganda cloth. I think we are both going to put on our gomas tomorrow and take pictures with the kids.

So, on Wednesday morning we will head off to Kampala. But this will be a special journey… Edward has chosen 2 boys and 2 girls to escort us to the airport. What a joy it will be to see their little faces light up as they quite possibly see the big city for the first time in their lives!! I can’t wait.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The count down begins

Maybe because today is the first day of Oct, which has seen so far away, but the mental thought has been ignited that my days here in Uganda are very numbered. I won't lie, it makes me a bit emotional thinking about leaving. I love these kids. With all my heart I really love these kids. And although I look forward to being home, I can't imagine life without seeing these kids everyday. In reality, they are what I know of my life right now and I love it that way. So to have some months at home without them is already lonely to my heart.

So, here are my prayer requests as this new season approaches closer and closer. (Oct. 16 I will arrive in Austin).

Please pray for my heart's transition back to the US. Also for the details of "visiting" home... such as a cell phone, a car to borrow, how to occupy my time. I am believing God that He will open doors to share the story of the kids to some big-time executive buisness person and that that will be the start of something new. I don't know exactly why that is in my head, but it has continued to be there. And pray for the Lord's provisions for funds again and the opportunities that I have to speak, that my boasts would be only in the Lord.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my

Nakuru, Kenya Oct. 1, 2008

Me, Jac, and Glenn went on a really wonderful, long weekend trip to Nakuru, Kenya this past weekend. I had forgotten how much fun it is to travel with friends. Seeing as things are much cheaper to go public means, we decided that our best budget plan would be to ride a public bus the 5 hours into Kenya’s borders. Our journey began early Thursday morning, as we rode with the staff of LCH and then continued the 45 minutes to the border at Malaba town. Like in most situations here, we were told that the bus would arrive from Kampala to the border at 10am, but African time allowed for the arrival of the bus at noon. After loading on the bus, we were off, all 8 of us who filled the bus.

About an hour into our journey, there was an obvious jolting too and fro caused by the road. I have never seen such a thing, but somehow the big cargo trucks had made indentions in the asphalt, causing distinct tracks in the road. Then, about 3 hours into the journey we hit the worst road in all of Kenya, I am sure. How would I describe it? Maybe like being on the wooden roller coaster at Six Flags? It was not so much potholes as it was just like we were offroading on a stoney mountain trail… in a huge bus. We were bouncing up and down, doing everything we could to hold on and keep from biting our tongues as we laughed. But, at about 5 we safely arrived in Nakuru.

We stayed with Glenn’s uncle and Auntie, so from the bus station we were to meet them in town to go to their home. We called a taxi guy who ran to go get his “taxi” car. But after about 5 minutes of not returning we were beginning to wonder. Finally this old, small, sunshine yellow car rolled up next to us. In all honesty, we couldn’t help but laugh. The driver heard us and as we got inside, with a big grin on his face, he just kept repeating, “Old is Gold. Old is gold” Well, we didn’t get to test that theory because as soon as we had shut the doors another car rolls up, smaller and more rickety, and the drivers begin to bicker. Oops, we were not even in the right taxi of the first man that ran away. Ha. So ‘Old is gold” told us we should go with the other man so he would not quarrel more and we got into the right taxi.

The truth be told, this weekend I rode in the most unusual forms of transportation I can ever claim. After Old is gold, we met up with Glenn’s relatives, in which the Uncle is a Doctor and the Auntie the Nurse Matron of the hospital. So, after greeting them with a warm friendly welcome, they take our luggage and put it in an ambulance. The rest of the weekend, our transport to and from town to home was this old ambulance, fully equipped with sirens, curtains (for privacy) and even a bed bolted down. Needless to say, every time we got in we giggle a bit. Later that weekend we also rode around town in a Tuki tuki- which is like a 3 wheeled motor bike taxi with a little covered carriage for the passengers in the back.
The weekend was filled with lots of food, great conversations with the Dr. and Auntie, touring town, and the national park. Auntie was very funny and always urging us to eat 4 servings of food at each meal by saying, “ You are on holiday, it is time to enjoy. Add some more food.” Oh and did we eat!

We got to go shopping 2 times in downtown Nakuru. In the middle of town they have this little craft market. Seeing as Jac has not yet gotten to stock up on African artisans she was very excited to be shopping. AND they were very excited to have her there. Somehow one seller heard one of us say her name and within minutes, ever stand owner was shouting, “Jackie, Jackie. Look here. I have a special price for you!” This was very amusing, one- because literally every shop she went to there were at least 5 guys calling her name and two- because she strongly dislikes being called Jackie. Glenn and I just sat back for advice as to prices.

One of the highlights of the trip was Lake Nakuru National Park. I had been there once before, over Christmas holiday with the family, but it was still so enjoyable. We were in a little car and able to request the driver to stop to take pictures any time. He was so patient. There were even a few times when I would sit in the window of the car, on lion patrol, as Jac jumped out to get the “best national geographic angle” to capture animals like rhinos, wildebeest, flamingos, zebras, and giraffes. Oh, how creatively and beautifully God has made this world! Truly my heart sung out, “The splendor of the King!” At lunch we made our way to this fancy hotel in the middle of the park. We dropped off at the from breezeway and were greeted by a friendly man with a damp cool towel to wipe off our dusty faces and arms. As we proceeded up to the front counter we heard, “You are most welcome!” and handed a glass of passion fruit juice. Feeling a bit like royalty, the hosts then asked, “Are you staying with us tonight.” After our negative response, the bubble of royalty burst. Not really. They were still very welcoming and many people come just for lunch. We had a great lunch and relaxed a bit, then hit the bush again to be great explorers and animal tamers. Well, really the animals tamed us, especially when Jac realized how tricky the monkeys could be as one grabbed a banana from her and the other came to try to snatch her camera from her hands. Luckily he didn’t succeed.

All in all, it was a great trip with great friends. Who knows where the next destination will be?!?