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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Zoo!

Oh we had such a fun time on Friday. I was able to go with some of the top students from each class and a few teachers to Entebbe Wildlife Center. Basically this was the zoo, but in my opinion, way better because the animal were more in their natural environment, it wasn’t as busy, and we had an informative tour.
After a little nerviousness when I got a call from Edward at 5:45am that the driver and the bus had not come to pick up the kids yet, all the details got worked out and we were on the road, with 21 kids and 7 adults by 7:00 am. The kids were so funny in the bus. Remember, many of them have not ridden in a car more than a handful of times, have never been farther than Mbale, and have not seen all the sights of a big city, much less the wild animals of their country.

Most of them had a difficult time staying seated because there was too much to see… wetlands, trains, people fishing, other big trucks, the forest, tea plantations, and then the big city-Kampala. I giggled to myself so much when we went through Kampala because the things that fascinated these kids were things that I take for granted and don’t think twice about. For example, when we came across the first stop-light and it was pointed out to the kids, they proceeded to all shout the color as it changed. “Green! Green means go so why are we still stopped. Green means go!” But although they mastered the meanings of the stop-light, they didn’t exactly get the concept of Kampala traffic jam!

Brenda and the other kids eating brunch... chicken on a stick, gonga (roasted sweet bananas) and juice. I like the face of the kid wearing pink behind Brenda.

When we reached the Wildlife Center we met with our guide Peace, who I had been talking to over the phone in preparation. She was a wonderful guide- full of life and really interactive with the kids. We were able to see all sorts of animals-antelope, monkeys, lion, baboon, birds, zebra, rhino, warthogs, hyena, buffalo, and snakes. Interesting note: there are only 4 rhino’s in all of Uganda. And lions sleep 22 hours in the day.

Touching a grandma tortoise.

The Crested Crane- Uganda's National Bird

In front of Lake Victoria

But in all honesty, my favorite part of the day was watching the kids get to take a donkey ride. Of course they had never been on a donkey before so they sat 2s and went around in a small circle but LOVED it. The most amusing part was with one stubborn donkey that tried to “jump/buck” with its first 2 groups. Naster was one of them and she just held on and giggled the whole time. It was overall a wonderful trip.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A day in the life…

At some point during my day, today, I thought, “What I have done today is not exactly normal or anything I would find myself doing in the States.” So, I just wanted to share so you could get a little more perspective into life here.

I woke up this morning, knowing that I would not be going to LCH because it is still holiday (though I have been doing some extra tutoring M-W) and because I wanted to accomplish some things around home before my friend Sarah comes on Sunday.

First off, I woke up to crying Marvin, the courtyard-neighbor’s son who seems to always be crying. Since all my windows face the courtyard, there is no escape from the noise. Lucky enough it was almost 8am and a good time to get up.

I went for breakfast and had tea and some luxurious toast (ha) that I was able to make with the toaster I just bought yesterday. Then it was time to clean my room. This might sound like a normal task, but remember that instead of a vacuum I have a broom make of some sort of plant. And my mop is a rag that I move over the floor while hunched over hoping no one walks into my room to see a nice view of my butt high in the air.

After my room was spick and span, I set out to make granola. I learned while visiting the US from my dear friend Cheryl and have tried once since I have been here, but the first attempt the granola burned so I have been a little hesitant since. But the past week I have been desperate for breakfast foods, seeing as the local brand cereals taste something like cardboard and Kellogg’s cost $8 a box. So, granola attempt number 2. I was able to find most the ingredients I needed to make granola from scratch.

While the granola was baking in the oven, I went to the sitting room to iron my clothes. Really, having a dryer is a blessing in so many ways… 1. You don’t have to hang your clothes every time but just toss them into the hole next to where you are taking them out of. 2. It doesn’t matter if it rains; your clothes still get dry. 3. You rarely have damp clothes that you have to spread all over your house so they can fully dry while it is raining outside. 4. You don’t HAVE TO iron. Well, drying clothes on the line means that you always have to iron, everything. But in between my ironing of shirts I would run to the kitchen to stir the granola so it wouldn’t burn.

Yesterday Pastor came back from another town and brought home 2 basins full of small mangos. I joked that I was going to bring them to the street and sell them for 100 shillings each, and that there are so many I would make a good profit. Well, once finishing my granola and ironing, one of my sisters here suggested that we use some of the mangos to make fresh mango juice. So, we got our little stools and sat down, outside, to start peeling and slicing about 25 small mangos. The juice turned out really nice after we blended and strained it.

Then it was time for lunch- posher (corn meal mush) and dodo (like spinach of some sort)- and after lunch I sat down to sort my kilogram of g-nuts (peanuts) from any stones or spoiled nuts that were there from the market. I got my IPod, turned on a sermon, and spent the next hour listening and stirring the gnuts as they were roasting.
Seeing as it is rainy season, I have tried to start a small vegitable garden inside the compound, in the small space Mama set aside for plants. I have some lettuce and beans growing, but it seems that some of my seeds didn’t germinate or got washed away. So, after cleaning my house, making granola, ironing, preparing mango juice and eating African food, I went back to my “garden” and planted some more seeds and transplanted some of my herbs.

Now, I am about to grab my umbrella and Bible to walk to church for women’s Bible study. But first I have to plug in my camera batteries to assure that they get charged, since we have power now but there is not telling if it will be there later.

Power depending, my night will end with a meal of dry fish mixed with g-nut sauce and posher while watching American Idol (we are down to the top 4!- please don’t tell me, I don’t want to know).

At some point in my day I was thinking how maybe today I resembled a modern day Proverbs 31 woman, preparing clothes, tilling the earth, feeding the family… Ha. I know I am no where near that woman, but the Lord allowed me a fresh perspective of His goodness, provision, and simple delight in the day He gave me today.

Tomorrow (Friday) I am escorting the student from each class that made the highest “marks” on their report cards. We (me, students, and some teachers) are going to Entebbe Wildlife Center. The kids are SO excited to be traveling so far and getting to see some animals. I will post photos when we get back. Please pray for journey mercies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


May 10, 2009
It is not everyday that one gets to pass over the Nile River AND the Equator in one weekend. Well, that is one of the beauties of Uganda. I did both this weekend, twice. On Friday morning I loaded the van with Mama, Glenn, Sylvia, and Abu (the driver) and headed to West-Central Uganda to a place called Masaka. We were going for a family member’s introduction ceremony (the ceremony that is like a type of engagement party) BUT this time they also did the wedding on the same day. In all honesty it seems like a more convenient and cost effective way- to introduce your fiancĂ© (mostly just a long-term culture) and the actual wedding. But it did make for a very long time.

Of course in Africa, time is always on your side, even if it is an official ceremony. So the morning started off only 3 hours late. After getting ready fully (all dressed up in our gomas) then we drove about 45 minutes to a village where the bride’s family is from to be greeted with music and 3 tents full of people.
The ceremony went on, though it was interesting that this was a Muslim reception so there were lots of Islamic greetings. It was quite a long ceremony (we arrived at around 2 and left at 9pm) but here are some highlights:

- The whole ceremony was in Luganda (language) so I didn’t want to over disturb Glenn to translate for me. But there was a time that Glenn turned to me and said that the entertainer had said he spotted a beautiful girl in the crowd that he wants to introduce to everyone to see if she is worthy to marry. Glenn laughed and said, “Nat, I bet he is coming for you.” I didn’t want to assume, but it was highly likely, seeing that I was the only Mzungu (white person) there. Sure enough he started coming closer and reached my isle. Running through my head I said, “Put your shoes on quickly. Oh no, why me? I wish I just blended in. What am I going to do? And in front of ALL of these people?” Glenn and Mama just laughed as the entertainer grabbed my hand and brought me front and center. I did a little dancing while everyone was laughing, cheering, and doing the African call. I could have been embarrassed but just chose to embrace the situation. There is a custom here that when people enjoy someone’s singing or dancing they will bring that person money, so sure enough, my dancing earned me 5000 shillings.

- Dowery is very real and stills a practice here in Africa. I was so surprised though to see the immense extent of dowry that the groom was paying for the bride… 40 baskets of food, 3 sacks of flour, 10 huge bulls, 25 crates of soda, an entertainment stand, and many other things. Really it was the most I have ever seen. Things just kept coming and coming.

(The cakes were so interesting... shaped like a sause pan with banana leaves covering it and sitting on firewood AND like awomba (the way they boil chicken in banana leaves) )

When it was time for lunch (7pm-ha) I was told not to go through the line to get food with everyone else, but instead I was to be a guest of the groom in the main house. When I entered we sat on mats on the floor (not cross-legged but like drill team girls) and waited for what was next. While I was waiting for food, I got to witness the actual vows of the wedding. BUT, the bride was nowhere to be seen in the room. To my surprise the groom and his groom’s men were on one mat and the brother of the bride and other uncles were on another mat. The Islamic teacher said some customary words and then the brother of the bride and the groom joined thumbs and said the vows. From my understanding, this is because the brother has been having the hand of the sister in the family and now is passing the hand off to the groom. When they finished, the food was served and I was very hungry and grateful.

- We left the introduction ceremony at 8:30pm to head back to Masaka town, change into our party dresses, and go to another hotel for the wedding reception. Needless to say, it was a long night. We arrived at our hotel around 12:30am.

- Random story about Masaka (but not about the introduction): People like to eat grasshoppers. But it is not easy to chase around hundreds of hopping grasshoppers to make some sort of a living. But people have gotten clever. They station large metal drums in an area near a large light. Then they put iron sheets in the drums, so that when the grasshoppers fly to the light, then land among the iron sheets and can’t catch a grip, so they slid down into the metal drums. Clever, I must say.

We had a nice time, all in all. We ate lots of food, got to see relatives, danced, and experienced culture. I was grateful for the safety that the Lord granted. Please don’t forget to continue to pray for safety as I travel on unsafe roads everyday and to pray for my health (seeing as I got mild food poisoning this past week for the second time since I have come back). Thanks for all your support.