Friday, August 30, 2013

Life in Uganda: Update Three

It’s not every morning that a 10 year old Ugandan boy walks into your room holding a machete and exclaims, “let’s go to the jungle!” And so into the jungle we went, with Kabite, our trusty guide, because we were not about to miss this opportunity. We spent the night before watching The Lion King, so much of our time trekking around was spent singing “Hakuna Matata.” Kabite even gave us “slashing” lessons with the machete and was fairly satisfied with our performance. It’s moments like this that seem like a happy dream, something you only imagine but didn’t think you would ever get to experience.  

Because school is still on holiday, we have spent the last few days filled with lots of preparation, cleaning, and hanging out. The tribal dance night was a big success, and our friends embraced the Macarena and Electric Slide with much gusto. We decided we are just not wired like the Africans, and our attempts at the hip and booty shaking were pretty laughable. I was more successful at a calypso number, but I think only young kids do that dance. So, I’ll be a big hit at the next kindergarten dance party I attend!

It’s been a big adjustment to living life here, but things are starting to feel more “normal.” I no longer take running water or power for granted, but everything is much less shocking in week two. I’m thankful for my rural upbringing. hanging laundry on the line, jungle gardening with the locals, and even chasing pigs back to their pen is less foreign. The property is on 150 acres of jungle land, which makes for a great place for star-gazing, taking walks and playing capture the flag at night. During the game it was so dark that I followed a few fireflies, thinking they were people and almost ran right into a giant spider web. But I’m thankful to be out in the country and not it the crazy, crazy city of Kampala.

This is taking community living to a whole new level, as one of the families has 15-20 high school and college students who live with them during their school breaks, and there are constant people around. I thought I had experienced a lot living in the dorms for all of those years, but this is different and is putting my own selfishness and expectations about what I deserve to the test. It’s been good for me learn again the basic lessons of sharing and thankfulness for what I have, admitting that I am not as into sharing my space with dozens of people as I thought. But I am learning to see the joy in it as well, that in community we learn much about ourselves and much about the character of God.

Next week we will be doing teacher training and preparing for some new curriculum for the last term of the year. I’ll write more next week as I learn more about my role, but for now it looks like I’ll be helping assist in a classroom as well as help with one of the families during the week. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life in Uganda: Update Two

a few snapshots from the past few weeks. it seems i may indeed be leaving part of my heart in uganda. 

Cheering for the local soccer match with the kiddos! They are so funny! 
Our boda (motorcycle) driver, Godfrey, bought us pineapples this week. A very special day indeed! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Life in Uganda: Update One

Hello from Kubamitwe, (coom-ba-me-tway) Uganda! Barely a map dot in the midst of the jungle, this little village will be my home for the next few months. It is a beautiful tropical place, and as my new Ugandan friends tell me, this country is called the Pearl of Africa for a reason.

Since I landed a week ago, the hardest thing to comprehend is that this place is real. It is not just an article I am reading in National Geographic or a sad commercial I am watching about starving children.  Although I’m talking and hugging people, walking on red dirt roads, and waving chickens out of the food, it still feels a bit like a strange dream. It is hard to comprehend that people really do walk for miles to get water, kids wander around naked or in tattered clothes, and that families live in mud huts and cook over an open fire.

We’ve been spending much of our time in the villages, visiting people and doing Bible study with Bekah, my friend who lives here. The people are incredibly grateful to have us, and often say “you are most welcome here.  Thank you for coming to visit us.” It’s actually bit of a hilarious spectacle, with literally everyone waving or shouting about the “white girls!!!” as we drive by on our little motorcycles. It’s like we are part of a permanent parade. If you ever want a self-esteem boost, this is the place for you. I’ve had a few marriage proposals already, so I’ve decided to postpone my answers for awhile until I can line all of the eligible bachelors up and make a more informed decision. (Just kidding, dad!)

I’m so glad to be here with my friends Hannah and Amy (who leave in a week in a half), and especially with Bekah, who knows the language and the people.  We’ve laughed a lot with each other and the Ugandans, who are quite the spirited people. The other night we played a viciously passionate game of charades and are planning a night where everyone will perform their tribal dances. One of the guys is insisting that we also bring a tribal dance, and since I can’t quite remember the mighty Iroquois dance (of Iroquois County, IL), we are thinking the Macarena may have to suffice. (It’s a crowd pleaser, right?)

Everyone has been eager to give me an intense African education. While we were walking to a village the other day, my new friend Isaac, who hails from Texas, was teaching me about the local snakes and what to do upon an encounter with said snake….black mambos, you stay still…. vipers, you run. Helpful information, except I’m not sure I could identify either snake at this point. Maybe next week’s lesson  should include some flash cards.

It’s been a full and overwhelming week so far, but I am very glad to be here. Pray I could continue to adjust and absorb the surroundings. The immense need and poverty is hard to process, so pray I would use my time well and wisely and do what God has for me, not trying to do too much or believing that He can’t use me at all.  Pray too for the people working here full-time and the Ugandan leadership in the community and church. There are many needs and much wisdom is needed in knowing how to help in ways that are sustainable and best.

And if anyone has a tribal dance up your sleeve, please share!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Away We Go: To Uganda

In a few days, I will be flying en route to Kampala, Uganda. This trip to Africa has been a long time coming, and will no doubt be an adventure. Many of my friends and family have been, but my feet have yet to touch African soil. 

My friend Kristen and I took an African film class in college, which is why I have never-to-be-erased images of cows being slaughtered embedded in my memory.(We quickly learned that what many Africans consider cinematic art is slightly different than our perspective, but it was an education, for sure.) 

So it's been a dream for awhile, different than the dream of owning a cabin on a lake, but a dream nonetheless. And in a couple of days, it will be realized. I'm leaving for a few months to go to Uganda and Liberia, to help with a school and a couple of different ministries. In Liberia, I'll get to meet up with my parents who take an annual trip as orphan advocates. I'm pretty sure that I will leave part of my heart in these places, with the kids especially, and have been warned by more than one person that I can't smuggle any of them home. 

I'm getting more excited by the day, but I also realize there will be lots of challenges. "Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape." My friend Ken reminded us of this daily on our last two spring break work trips, because nothing in these settings goes quite according to plan. I'm learning this again even before I go, because the housing option we thought was going to work is still in process.  

Please pray that I will be flexible and peaceful and ready to serve however needed. I am very convinced that I will not change the world on this trip, but that God will change me the most through this opportunity. Funny how my perspective has changed in the last ten years. But hopefully I'll still get to help lift some burdens, encourage some friends, and love on some people who don't have much in this world. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

These Happy Golden Days

It's been a full summer officially launching paper + sky photography. I've loved getting to spend time with old friends and making new ones. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the summer sessions that haven't made it on the blog yet. 

I've found that I really do love photography, even the "business" side. I still have soooo much to learn, but it has been great to take a risk and try something new, not knowing if it is going to absolutely bomb or be something worth pursuing. So, if you let me photograph your family, thanks for taking a chance on me! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rooster Rage

I'm getting ready to go to africa for the fall, and one of the things I'm most looking forward to (besides the profound life lessons, of course) is the randomness of life in a third-world country. It's just not quite the same as your average day in america. 

Thinking about this trip has reminded me of my time on the island of Tobago many moons ago. My friend Gretchen and I spent the summer there during college, helping with children's programs at a local church. It was a tough job, but someone had to suffer for Jesus in the islands. 

We had a lot of spare time, because the island runs on Tobago Time, which means anything planned is very, very relative. For some reason, we made up a lot of songs in our downtime. During VBS, we taught 100+ children "We Will Rock You" rewritten into a rowdy worship song. It was a huge hit, let me tell you. 
Among the highlights of the summer: having a friend named Amigo, homemade ice cream, pristine beaches everywhere, and wonderful, hilarious, loving people.  

Among the lowlights: constant heckling and cat calls by the local riff-raff, mushy root vegetables at every meal, and lastly, our arch-nemisis: the rooster. 

Having grown up on a farm, I did not think these lovely little animals would be a problem. Well, I couldn't have been more mistaken. Every nice farm story about the rooster crowing at sunrise is wrong. These boys crowed at sunrise. and at midnight. and at one am, two am, etc....all. night. long. 

Needless to say, this did not sit well with us, and Gretchen and I did what any normal, sleep-deprived people would do in this scenario: we created another song to express our distress and help us cope with our anger. 

I give you (not previously released).....

                                        "Rooster Rage" 

I waddle up to that stupid thing 
and say "Hey You- Mr. Ding-a-ling
If you don't stop that stupid cocking 
I'll turn you into my Christmas stocking." 
stuffed, stuffed, stuffed little rooster.    

chorus: (sung to the tune of "Bad Boys") 

"rooster rage, rooster rage 
whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do 
when they cock-a-doodle do?" 

repeat chorus until the angst has drained from your body and you can rest again. 

Feel free to borrow it if you need. Shockingly, we have not copyrighted it just yet. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dance With Me Dorothy

This little lady turned 80 last spring, and decided she wanted a party by getting as many of her family together as she possibly could. So we all piled into our cars, planes, and a huge van called "the white dove" and spent the weekend at a school turned hotel, which was as strange as it sounds. 

To say that we laugh a lot when we get together is an understatement. I attribute much of this to this generation, dorothy's kids and spouses (who call themselves the outlaws instead of the in-laws). They are often much more the instigators than their children. 

During most of our family events, we play some sort of stupid game. There is much pressure to be a good sport, and everyone knows they will get mocked if they don't participate. So, everyone usually just goes along with it. (Let's just say blindfolded leap frog is harder than it sounds!)

This time, I accomplished one of my long-time goals: playing Human Battleship. Each team obediently formed "boats" of 2-5 people, and sat still as water balloons were launched over the wall at their heads. 
Not surprisingly, their patience wore thin and anarchy soon broke out and an all-out assault began. I'll still call it a success, although I want to try it some time with ketchup or red jello. Take it up a notch, you know? 
But moving on, we soon began our next activity of throwing cheese puffs....
....onto humans dressed as...well I am not sure, exactly. But I told you these people were good sports. 
And now for the big finish....dorothy said she wanted a show, so a show she got. The grand-men dolled up their bellies and performed a whistling song. Absurd? yes. Entertaining? Absolutely. 
After a small kick-line by the granddaughters, we busted out this song by the creepy kids' group, The Wiggles. A few of my cousins are wizards at finding just the right tune for the occasion. 

And Dorothy did dance with us, because she is the queen of crazy. Although she did have a bit of trouble walking up the stairs because she said she was laughing too hard. 

If I'm doing anything close to this when I turn 80, it will be a good life. We love you gram! 

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