Sunday, October 28, 2012

What time of the year is it anyway?

I have affectionately nicknamed them Stuffing and Deep-fried. 
I still can't really get used to the lack of changing seasons here. I was just on facebook, seeing friends in hats, gloves, fall leaves, pumpkins and wondering to myself what month it is. I'm sitting here at 9:30 at night sweating on my keyboard while trying to remember what running in fall leaves feel like. I guess I should be thinking of Thanksgiving as the center pieces are currently wandering around the yard and waking me up pretty consistently at 6:15am. But it just isn't the same as walking into Meijer and seeing cranberry sauce on sale. But speaking of consumerism at least I'm also not being barraged by Christmas commercials already.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eating in the dark

*This is my mom's second and more personal guest blog post*
It is the morning of our last full day in Soroti.  It has been an amazing three weeks with Jennifer so it is especially bittersweet to be thinking about leaving tomorrow morning.  Our primary purpose for this entire trip was to enjoy being Jennifer’s parents.  This happens best for Steve especially when there are lots of projects to do and he has kept very busy working on the Toyota and the bike, lots of odds and ends around her home base in Soroti and even a few projects up at her Karamoja home including the solar system (only power available for many miles) and “plumbing for her shower” (here try to picture a black bag, a jug, a hose and a tiny shower head hanging from a bent re-rod pole in a roofless tin shed.)
Our other goal was to meet the people she works with and to experience firsthand what her life is like here.  This has been wonderful and will serve to give us faces to put with names as she talks about her International teammates as well as her Ugandan co-workers.  
So these last days are proving to be a bittersweet time of reflection.  As I prepare to write this post I have decided to share with you in terms of some of the things we will miss the most and some we will not miss one bit.

"Enjoying" a mosquito net...
I need to start with a few things that I can’t put in either category, like mosquito netting-absolutely necessary for a good, safe night’s sleep, kind of cozy and a pain in the neck.  Dirty feet, which means I have been in sandals or bare feet for most of three weeks and will now spend the next months in socks, shoes, boots and so on.  Jennifer’s truck falls in this category.  It is absolutely necessary to all the work she does.  It is as safe and secure and now with Steve’s adjustments is running as well as any truck in the area but it’s still a truck.  It handles these terrible roads like a truck, transports all manner of supplies and people.   We would have been miserable without it but at times, over these horrible roads we were miserable in it.  (By the way, if you are looking for an area to give, especially over the holidays, her truck desperately needs a snorkel [ask Steve], a roof rack, a winch and a second fuel tank.)
There are quite a few things I would put in the category of things we will not miss at all and these are in no particular order.  Roosters and turkeys in the yard, a pain all day long and not just in the morning.  The conditions of the roads in this whole country (and let me say that there is not a picture on the planet that does this justice).  Related but yet different is the traffic on said roads.  Again if you have not been in a country like this then words alone cannot describe the chaos of sharing the roads with all the pedestrians, bicycles with 2 or more passengers and occasional livestock, motorcycles with the same plus other things like cows and coffins, trucks overloaded already with stuff and then with people piled on top, and the list just goes on. 
 I will not miss wondering if you can flush the toilet in the morning unsure if the city water is on.  I will not miss brushing my teeth with bottled water.  I will not miss it at all when the power goes out at random and for hours or days at a time.  Let me tell you it is a pain to not open the ‘fridge because we have to save the cold or to be eating dinner at the end of the day and have the room just go dark. 
I will not miss the poverty apparent everywhere.  I will not miss the illness, disease, depravity and corruption which is ever-present .  I will not miss fighting the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair.
Dumpsters don't really get emptied here....
In the category of things I will miss first, the obvious, Jennifer and I will come back to that.  I will miss the Obule church and worshiping with loving believers.  We were greeted warmly, we sang in multiple languages, we smiled as the children danced and sang with pure abandon and we met the Holy Spirit there.  I will miss these new friends, the Tiesenga’s, Ronnie and Colin and Silas, and all her other teammates.  I will miss the challenges of cooking here, being creative with limited resources.  I will miss sitting outside to catch any cool breeze (even a hot breeze is better than nothing).   I will miss the antics of Solomon the monkey.
Mostly of course we will miss Jennifer.  Everything about living here is hard.  This is not a negative statement but simply a fact.  The climate, the mattresses, the market.  If you want bread to feed the 7 or 12 Sunday school kids then you better plan most of Saturday to make it, there is no just running to Meijer.  Try diagnosing and choosing a treatment course with a picture on your phone.  That’s hard.  Living in Kongoli or hoping to live in the Peace Village in a thatch roofed hut with an outdoor latrine and water carried from the bore hole is hard.  Learning one language in a place where 4 spoken is hard. Yet Jennifer, does all this and so much more (mostly) without complaint.  She knows that this is where God wants her to be and she knows that “He who calls will provide”.
Jennifer's home in Kangole with Val's "guard" dog. 
So we head back to where living is easy but with a renewed sense that she is in the right place and surrounded by first a God who loves her and then people who truly care about her.  We know she is in good hands even if they cannot be ours.  We will look forward to seeing her in the spring back in the States where she thinks living is also hard.  We will share bittersweet tears at the airport and continue to love and support with a better understanding of this place, and the people here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Its hard to come back from vacation!

I’m down to the last few days with my parents here already. Their time flew by as I knew it would. I’ve already gotten really used to not being alone most evenings, and always having others around to experience the adventures of life with. Even not preparing meals only for myself has been a nice treat. All these little things have been wonderful. It makes me sad to think of them leaving already. But I don’t want to think about saying goodbye already. I’ve loved their time here (and not just because they brought cheese and chocolate, that I have nice new shelves put in practically all the rooms of my house and my car and bike have had good tune-ups!) I feel like I’ve been on vacation for the past few weeks and I’ve needed to think about my schedule after they leave. I have several days of teachings lined up, have promised people in Kangole I’m coming back soon and have neglected a few other responsibilities that I need to catch up with. And of course pictures to put up and a few more blog posts to work on….
Honestly, it is hard to think about. It makes me lonely even as I sit here writing even though they are in the same room. So enough thinking. I have a few more days to enjoy.

On going visa saga part... I've lost track

I've done some processing (not as much as I might usually because my parents are here and I don't have as much alone time but still a bit of processing) about this whole visa thing.  Last week I expired again.  I've only been back in the country 3 months and shouldn't have had to leave Uganda again for 3 more months. But I had renewed once already on this particular stamp. Anyway, all these details aside, I was expired and had to do something about it. The 'rents and I took a day and drove the really rough road to Mbale (takes 3 hours but is only about 70 miles - that is a BAD road) and headed into the immigration office only to be told that the officer who could approve wasn't around. I asked the first guy why I couldn’t just pay, and he couldn't just stamp me but he just told us to come back the next day and discuss with the other official. We arrived back in Soroti after 4pm hot, dusty, tired, sore from being tossed around on the road for 6 hours and frustrated to no end having accomplished nothing except burning a lot of fuel and wasting an entire day. I’ve come to terms with life here in Uganda being trying and annoying some days. But some days the frustration falls more in the range of infuriating and maddening.
I thank the Lord that this time I wasn’t doing it alone. It was really nice to have mom and dad with me both for the drive and their physical presence in the bureau. (I think it is more difficult to ask a lady for “favors” when her father is right there.)  I thank the Lord also that I didn’t receive and outright NO or a ridiculously limited amount of time again. I appreciate that I wasn’t asked for a bribe at all. But it is the constantly not knowing what to expect. We planned to go back the next day but still didn’t know what to expect. We could do the whole drive again without results. It just saps my energy and honestly makes me wonder a bit why I do this. But I really do know why I do it and the next day we got the needed 3 additional months and even had a few hours in Mbale pool before beginning the trek back to Soroti.
Through all of this I’m still trying to get my work permit submitted. Once I have a work permit I’ll be in the country legitimately for 3 years.  But I’ve been trying to get this thing submitted for months. Finally, after lots of attempts Monday was going to be the day. Then Tuesday. Then I was told Friday. Now we are praying for next week. Please pray with me. This whole unknown, constantly wondering, trying to do it right but being jerked around is really hard. I’m good until January but would like to stay in Uganda until my brother’s wedding in April.  Thanks everyone for your support!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy Independence Day Uganda!!

**(This is the first of two Guest blog posts that I have asked to do.  The next will be much more personal, I promise!) 
Uganda just had its 50th Birthday last Tuesday. Steve and I arrived in Uganda late on the Thursday night before Uganda’s Independence Day Celebration.  I think the 4th of July fell on a Tuesday this year so in America it was an Independence Celebration including the weekend before, events during the week and the weekend after.  The same proved to be true here as well.  Things were a bit different and this was apparent as we left Entebbe on Friday.  There was an overwhelming amount of Police and Army personal presence everywhere on the roads.  It’s very disconcerting to see carloads of police and lines of soldiers everywhere.  
It’s also easy, the first few days here to be overwhelmed by the lack of everything except poverty.  The roads are terrible, there are no city services like trash pick-up (and I know this because the local, overflowing dumpster/landfill is on Jennifer’s last turn before her house.)  While there are tons of government sponsored schools, the teachers wonder when and if they will be paid.  The clinic Jennifer works at has a solar panel for occasional lights and to run the microscope which is better than no power but no running water so imagine how the staff (Lucy and Tony who work 24/7 and Jennifer who goes about twice a week)  wash their hands.  Imagining is about the extent of good hand washing.  One never knows if the medicines or vaccine that the government is supposed to provide will even be available. I could go on and on.
Instead, I began to wonder what the US of A was like in say 1824 when we were Celebrating 50 years of independence.  Was it any better?  What were the expectations in our young country?  How well off were these new Americans?  How did they get by day to day and season after season? Our measure, when we come here to Uganda as 21st Century Americans may be terribly skewed and I find I am much kinder and gentler when I adjust my standard.  
The average Ugandan enjoyed their celebrations as much as any American just a few months ago.  There were parades (very short with no fire trucks, floats or flying tootsie rolls) and days off from school (lots of days off).  Honestly, I don’t think I wished anyone a Happy Independence in Michigan in July but I sincerely did repeatedly here.  They are, for the most part, happy to be a free people no longer under the tyranny of past dictators.
Yes, they have a long way to go, in this relatively young country.  But maybe we need to cut them a little slack.  Poverty and disease are still huge problems.  Infrastructures and government services that will make lives easier still seem a long way off.  It is easy to be critical and hard to see an easy end but that is part of what makes a country unique as they work all of this out.  Shame on me anytime I think for even a moment that some “westerner” will come in with solutions. 
I don’t know how to pray for Uganda but then I often don’t know how to pray for the U.S. either.    So for now I will pray for the individuals that I have met here—the many Ugandans who are happy to be free.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mom and Dad

So things are going great with the 'rents here.  My house looks like a whole different place with all the new shelves and stuff dad has done and I have a whole new living room now that my couch has been "reupholstered" and has cushions finally. My truck is like a new machine with all Dad's improvements. Mom helped me on clinic day immunize our standard 35+ babies. Today dad is preaching at church. We have also made dinner for almost all of my teammates. It has all been lots of fun. I haven't been on the internet because I have other things I'd rather be doing. But mom has some posts she wants to include so if we have a quiet afternoon I'll give her the computer to write a bit. Stay tuned...