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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fighting for Survival

This morning, I came home from the Resource Centre and thought I should see if there were any eggs in the chicken coop. Well, instead of eggs I found Isaac. I think we both spooked eachother. This two foot long monitor lizard went scrambling out of there so fast. I just stood there, even though he probably could have given me a good beating with his tail. All I could think of was, "You stinker... you are the one stealing my eggs... I thought the chickens were lazy!"

Well, I needed eggs for baking, so I decided to bike to town. I stopped at a few places. The bank, Peter's tailoring shop to pick up some more sewing, and OM Supermarket. As I was hopping off my bike at OM my foot twisted on uneven ground and I dumped myself in the gutter, with my bike on top of me. Ah Yi Yi!! Embarrassing more than anything. I quickly got up, brushed off the mud (and didn't realize I had cut my shin until a half hour later). Everyone at OM was concerned about me... so when I bought my eggs and a roll of candy, they gave them to me for free. Yeah!! I was starting to feel better already.

Then, this afternoon I went to go check up on some friends of mine. I visited two blind ladies and made an appointment to meet with their whole group on Friday... I want to help them with their knitting crafts. Then I went to visit two other friends, Carol and Susan, who really need some encouragement. (I invited them over for shepherd's pie for tomorrow - we'll see what they think.)

When I got home I found the sweetest note on my table, on top of a bunch of fresh bananas. It read: Dear Aunt Karen
A small gift for you just to say;
thank you for loving me
thank you for giving me clothes
thank you for visiting me always
and I love you too.
Baby Esther
Wow, so precious, especially since she is only two months old!!

So, I have had a full weekend. On Sunday I had to teach close to three hundred children at a "General Assembly" service. Thankfully I didn't have to teach the children the whole day, just the first two hours. We started off by singing and playing games outside, and then I did a super fun story with Rahab and the Walls of Jericho. I tied a red sheet to the window of the classroom, and walked around the front with a huge cows horn... blowing my head off. So much fun and the kids loved it. I think the teachers from five other churches also found it interesting!

This was taken at the very beginning of the day when the children first started arriving. The number kept increasing all morning.
This is one of the sweetest boys in my class. He always smiles and draws some of the best pictures. I sometimes worry about his future because I don't know how advanced Soroti is on skin grafting, but he seems to be dealing with his burns just fine.

Here is another sweet boy that I met on Sunday. One of the ladies told me I shouldn't spend too much time with him because he isn't right in the head. Wow, that got under my skin and I ended up spending more time with him. We couldn't understand eachother at all, but we played games and giggled together for twenty minutes. He is only the second person in Uganda that I have seen with special needs, and I pray that he will be able to learn and grow just like all the other children around him.
When I finished teaching on Sunday morning, I joined the ladies in an outdoor kitchen. You see, five churches had gathered together for a day of prayers and worship. We needed to provide food for all of these people. The pots of rice pilaf and beef were the biggest I have seen yet. (Thankfully today I was able to serve instead of sitting up front with all the leaders and other mzungus!!) I dished out plate after plate of rice and meat and laid it on a tarp. When it was all ready, we set up a chain of youth to pass the plates down until the whole congregation was fed.
Lining up the food... for a very enjoyable day. I am actually surprised to say that, because I thought it was going to be a very tiresome and culturally stressing day, but once again I realized that I love my church family.
Then yesturday I was able to travel to a new district with Fida. We munched on mais, (which is cow corn in my opinion) and chatted for two and a half hours until we reached the northern district of Abim.
The view was spectacular. I think I really enjoyed it because the villagers were really friendly and the scenery was gorgeous. It was no longer the flat savannah that surrounds Soroti.

Fida was there to help start up new support groups for children affected by armed forces... either from the Karamajong tribal raids or from the LRA and Kony's people. The need spreads across all of northern Uganda. But being there sort of reminded me of the chickens eggs. Who has the greater need for survival? Who really needs the egg? You see, Fida (praise God) only supports those affected by war, but there are also children there who are suffering from poverty, HIV/Aids, Orphans, etc, and they also need help. Who will come and provide and advocate for them as well. Such a difficult task to provide a ray of sunshine for some and discourage others. I continue to pray that the Lord will look after his children in ways I can never even imagine.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


This evening was another great night for fellowship and fun as we celebrated Sarah's birthday. Again, four Chinese men came over, along with a decent size crowd of Ugandans and a musical Congolese man. Sarah and I had done a lot of baking to prepare for the day. I made brownies, since they seem to be a hit with the team. Anyways, this beautiful young lady named Carol was perusing the table full of sweets when she saw this dish of chocolate. She asked me what it was and I said "Brownies". She said that she had only ever read about them in the novels. Then she cut a piece off and took a nice bite. Her face lit up. Her eyes turned romantic and she then realized why it is written about. She has fallen in love with a new treat. ") It was sweet to watch!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bride Prices

I was asked to go with some friends to an Introduction today, but I turned them down because right now that is one cultural tradition I am super upset with. Introductions is sort of the day you through an engagement party. Crowds come and sit on either the brides side or the grooms and there is lots of food, but also lots of discussion. You see, they need to arrange an "Appreciation" for the bride. It could be 8 cows, some money, a portion of crops, etc. I don't know why they call it appreciation when it really is a dowry... a bride price.

The reason why I don't want to go today is because last night my guard came to work. I went out to greet him and asked how he was. He said "not good!" and Ugandans at least usually say "fair". I thought maybe he needed the night off for his health, but no, he said "Don't worry, I am a man, I can work." Then he looked up, with tears in his eyes, and said that his in-laws had taken his wife back because he hadn't fully paid the bride price yet. He still owes four cows. O was I livid. Especially because I know the in-laws are a church pastor and a leader of the women's district meetings. How absolutely cruel and ungodly!! All for an unpaid "Appreciation". And his baby son is now gone too.

When I got home later in the evening, the guard had really pulled himself back together and had completely given it to God. He said even if someone gave him four cows tonight he would not pay it because what the in-laws are doing is wrong. He totally trusts the Lord and will wait for his bride to return. He said that he vowed before God and His church that this woman would forever be the woman God has given him, until death do them part, so he will continue to pray, wait, and act wisely.

But I just can't go to an Introduction today... I wouldn't see the fun in any of it.

..... Then a few hours later I hear a story from my helper. She is my guard's sister. She came and said that the wife was very depressed and was thinking of suicide, because the husband has not been speaking kindly to her. The family took her away to help save her emotionally and hopefully to make the man come back to his senses.

Of course, there are two sides to every story.

Road trip to Mbale

Yesturday, I went with my team-mates, Sarah and Josiah, to Mbale to get our visas renewed. Yeah... we were successful! I can stay in Uganda for another three months. The Lord is good. Actually, the process was very easy and the immigration officer was super friendly. He called me Mama though... and I know he looked at my passport, but I'm not sure he really knows how old I am. But Mama seemed a fitting name on that day because Sarah had been braiding my hair earlier in the morning and pulled out three grey hairs. What? Gray? Me? I don't get stressed much... or do I? Or is it just old age. :)

Since we had traveled the 90 km to Mbale, and we only needed to be at immigration for maybe a half an hour, we decided to walk over to Mt. Elgon hotel for some delicious food and peaceful swimming. The view was incredible as the pool was beside field of busy farmers at the base of gorgeous foothills. We read, relaxed, and I swam a ton... maybe two hours. I couldn't help it, even when I felt my skin burning. :) But I am paying for it today. This mzungu skin can't handle that much sun. Praise God for aloe vera.


The other day I saw a rainbow in the distance. I went outside to admire its beauty and my guard threw out this comment: "Well, I wonder what that community did wrong, that the Lord had to remind Himself not to destroy them."

On Friday two different children were hit by vehicles at the corner near my house. Someone thought that Lucifer was living in the neighbourhood. The children did not survive.

A woman must have been very distraught yesturday. She threw her baby down the latrine. Thankfully the community heard the baby crying and spent time rescuing the baby.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Wrong Hour

For the past two days I was down with some sort of stomach bug. Delightfully the giardia antibiotics are kicking in and I am feeling much better. I slept so much during those days. Yesturday morning my helper, Grace, came in to clean the house and do the laundry. She comes once a week and usually lets herself in because I am at school. Well, I greeted her when she came and then said that I wasn't feeling well and that I would be in my room. She arrived at 9 am and I didn't see her again, although I did hear the gate closing at 1:30 pm and felt bad that I didn't talk to her. I even forgot to pay her.

Well, Grace decided to call me to make sure that I was okay. She was extremely worried that she left me in the house alone. I thought the phone call was somewhat sweet... it's just that she called me at 3:47 AM. The MIDDLE of the NIGHT!! Normally I don't answer the phone at that hour, but I thought that maybe Grace was in trouble... she is a single mom... and her brother is my night guard... so I answered. How could I stay upset when she was just concerned? :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kumi District

All week long I had been planning on going back to Obalanga to check up on the mass grave project. I had already lined up a piki-piki (motorcycle) for the journey and packed a bag of snacks. Then late on Friday night the LC3, the Local Chairman (sort of like a mayor) called me to say that he was going North to Karamoja and he wanted me to come next weekend instead. Well, that put a damper on my plans, but not for long. I was itching to get out of Soroti, even if for just a few hours, so on Saturday morning I decided to go to Kumi District instead and see a little bit of Uganda's history.
It took us forty-five minutes to arrive here... a gorgeous place with a lot more rock in the landscape than in Soroti. Soroti is in a very flat savannah. The place is called Nyero and we came to visit the famous Nyero Rock Paintings.
This is how one website desribed them: "Widely' recognized as some of the finest rock paintings in East Africa, the Nyero Rock paintings in Kumi district are surrounded by intrigue and mystery. No one knows who drew the paintings."
"What is for sure is that the geometric paintings inscribed using red, white, and purple pigments were drawn about 400 years ago. Some people have put claim to ancient yellow hairy Bushmen whom they say were once living there hundreds of years ago."

Another cool looking tree... I love trees!

Since we were in Kumi district I decided to pull a surprise and stop by the University to visit my friend Zima. She was shocked and delighted to have me drop by the school. She was an intern at the Fida office, and is from Kenya... I may be spending Christmas and New Year's with her and her family in Kenya before departing from Nairobi on January 7th.
Here I am on the back of a piki-piki.
We got home by 1:45 pm and that gave my plenty of time to go to the market and cook for a dinner with my team-mates and the Chinese. A very fun, relationship-building evening. (Some Indians from town were also invited, but they were preparing for their 9 day celebration at their temple.... which they invited us to come and see.)
The Shaarda family showed up with a very fun "Thanks Karen" cake for dessert. Aawww!! It is so nice to be appreciated... Lydia is a joy to teach.
Here is Josiah grilling pork with a few of our Chinese friends. The rains had come, the power was out. So we ate by candle light around my big table and happily I had chopsticks in my silverware drawer. After dinner the rains cleared and we had a bonfire until 10 pm. That's when the Shaardas, Bokmas, and myself headed to town to go to the Hindu Temple. We were invited to watch the dancing. I felt like I was in India again. Lydia and I even wore our Indian outfits so we could fit in just a little.
It was a strange feeling watching the Indians dance around their Hindu god. The dancing was energetic, the clothing beautiful, but the whole scene just left me feeling sad. How can you dance around a statue and think that everything is grand? I just finished sharing the story of the "Golden Calf" and that needed to be destroyed. May God's name be Glorified today!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Special Ride

This afternoon I went back to my friend James and Norah's house. They now have 12 orphans living under their wings. When I got to the yard, little Aaron and David came running to give Auntie Karen the sweetest hugs. When I sat down to watch a group of young ladies sort seeds for making necklaces these two precious boys fought for a place on my lap, but a girl named Joanne also joined them. Three years old.... all of them, and absolutely adorable.

After a half hour of playing it was time for me to go. I had to bike into Soroti town to drop off a few things and buy some groceries for a barbeque that will be held at my house tomorrow night. Well, Joanne wanted to come to town with me and I thought that would be kind of fun. These kids hardly get off the compound and so I gained permission and placed her on the back of my bike. She sat on the rack and held on to the back of my seat.

When we got to the tiny OM Supermarket, Joanne's eyes lit up. I let her pick a drinking box and some sweets (But we also choose some juice mix and cookies for the rest of her friends back at the compound.) She was super excited. Joanne got home around 5:30 and sweetly went into the yard holding two packages of biscuits which she happily shared. What a special day for me!! Just to share some special time with Joanne. But I can tell you, Aaron wasn't happy that I took Joanne, so next time, I shall have to take him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It could have been a Disaster!

I woke up this morning at 7 am and went through my morning routine. I was getting ready to go to school at 8:40 when I heard some strange dripping. I thought I would go and check it out. Well, my bathroom was slightly flooded. The ball had broken off it's hinge inside the toilet tank and was creating a mess. A quick call to my team-mate Josiah and we were temporarily able to remedy the problem. I can't imagine how much water would have been in my house if I hadn't heard that sound just moments before going out the door.

After school I biked to Soroti town and first went to visit the Electricity company. They will not cut me off, as my bill suggested on Monday, because they now see that there is credit on my account. Yeah, I will still have power. Then I found the street full of hardware stores and began exploring amongst the realms of men. I found what I was looking for, hopped on my bike and headed for home. Now I just need to install it.

.... later on, I shocked the guard as I walked back to the garage with a toolbox. He couldn't believe that I could fix a toilet. Ha Ha Ha... I am a jack of all trades!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

I wish it were a Manic Monday

I believe everyone suffers from this... some days you have triple booked your schedule, and other days you wish you could fill your calendar just a little more. I have had a half and half day. This morning I woke up at 7 am and caught up on emails. I biked to school to start teaching for 9 am. Lydia rocked today... she was so excited to learn about the hundred's, ten's, and one's places!! And she has finished yet another reading workbook. I can get just as excited as her, because she loves learning so much. It makes teaching easy.
At noon I biked home to see my house helper still hard at work. Thankfully the kitchen cupboards were being cleaned because the ant and cockroach residue was getting a little out of hand. Then two of my friends from the Fida office spontaneously dropped by. Hellen and Christina were needing a lunch break and I happened to have some extra buns and tea on hand. I love spur of the moment guests.
I spent another two and a half hours in the Resource Centre, continuing to rearrange books and place each one in some sort of categorical and alphabetical order. I didn't think it would take this long, but it's kind of fun. Two neighbour ladies came in to read while I was organizing, so it made my time more fruitful.
I went home to collect two eggs from the chicken coop. I then biked to town to check an empty post office box and continued on my way to a place where the cutest orphans are being looked after. I cheered for a three year old's game of soccer and watched young men and ladies create art out of seeds.
And then my quiet evening began again. I tried to organize electricity bills (somehow it suggests that I am about to be cut off, when I know that extra moneys has been paid in advance). I reviewed the Bible study material for my princesses to come over, but then the rains poured and the girls were too disorganized to come. Hopefully our new semester of studies will begin next week. So now I am watching a few Rob Bell mini sermonettes, reading a novel, and catching up on a few letters.
Hmmm, sounds like I did a lot today! Then why did I feel a little bored?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Riots in Kampala

Yesturday riots began in Kampala... but for those of you who don't know the map of Uganda, I am not very close to Kampala, and still very safe. But I have received an email from the Canadian consulate, recommending that I stay away from Kampala for a now, or if I was there, to stay indoors with rather tight security. Well, I am not there, but I have friends who are there, so I would ask that you pray for peace in Kampala.... and that the government will once again make wise decisions. (I was supposed to be in Kampala today for a Kirk Franklin concert - I guess the Lord knew I was not to attend!)

This week I have had a fun week. I have been able to drive again. Some friends of mine let me drive their Land Cruiser all over town and three hours to another city called Lira. I went with Fida to encourage some pastors, visit fields of cassava, and pray for a government school that is in major need of repair after the war. I had thought that my trip to Lira was going to be one day, but it turned into an overnighter. I made sure to sleep under the net for sure since I couldn't take my malaria pill unexpectedly.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Not a phantom

He is not a phantom... Isaac really does live in my yard. He is a very secretive monitor lizard, about two feet long. He came out to play today while I was working in the house.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Behind the Compound

This afternoon I heard the gate to my compound being opened so I went out to check who it was. A neighbour lady I met once before was coming in with her baby and 3 year old girl. When the girl saw me she started running and crying in the other direction. I ended up taking the baby while Pauline, the mother, went to get her daughter. Apparently the little girl was afraid of the monkeys who live in our compound. Although I had to clearly explain that the monkeys were gone... and then she felt free to come in. I'm just glad she wasn't afraid of my white skin, because sometimes I can make little kids cry by just walking by.
Pauline came in to say hello but to also ask if I could help her find a job. There are some days when her husband has difficulty finding construction work, so they go to bed hungry and she wants to help out more. I looked over all of her paperwork and gave her a few ideas as to where she should apply. But then I said, but all I can really do is pray with you. She was so delighted that I would do that. We prayed together and then I gave the little girl a stuffed animal from the huggies box and the baby some clothes. I also gave her some "Our Daily Bread" devotionals to read and she was grateful.
The little girl, Inyee, wanted to show me her house... so that I could see how she used to see the monkeys. I walked through some other neighbour's yards until we came to Pauline's home.

From the front of their hut you can see my white house in the background with a cement wall in front of it. The monkeys used to climb on that wall, but they were released 2 weeks ago when the Sliedrechts went back to America.
Here is Inyee with her cousins in front of her home.... with her new treasured doll. (That's what they call stuffed animals.) And do you see the little boys outie... it was about 1 and a half inches long... I haven't figured out yet why that is a common thing here.
I ended up staying for a simple meal of atapa and greens. Atapa is my least favourite millet Ugandan dish. The greens were cooked with simsim - sesame seeds. While we were eating, Pauline's brother-in-law found the devotionals.
He disappeared behind the house with a Bible and the booklet and spent the next hour outside - reading. Praise God.
Pauline also tried to read, but the kids were a little excited to have me around. Hopefully she will find more time in the quiet evenings.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Post Office

I wrote a few letters this afternoon and went to bring them to the post office. I arrived right at 5 pm when the post office was closing. I quickly looked in my mailbox and saw the receipts of two boxes that had arrived. I wanted those boxes. The one guy saw me as he was locking up and I said, "Please, can I pick up my parcels!" Well, he looked at me, and my bike, and he said "Karen, you won't be able to carry those boxes." Yep, he knew who I was... and I knew I had been expecting these boxes for a while. I convinced him to give them to me anyways and he even tied them to the back of my bike for me!!
I went home to open the boxes from a very special family back home. I found lots of stuffed animals and baby clothes. (Thanks for going above and beyond!!)
Well, outside my gate there was a baby with only a t-shirt on and a thick diaper. I was able to give the boy some new clothes.
Then I went to find little Joshua. He is always terrified of me, and now I see that he is also not used to toys that rattle. But he will soon get used to it.
Henry and Lydia were absolutely excited though!
Thank you for blessing some Ugandans. Tell the boys that I will give their gifts to some very special and needy children.

Simple Sayings

There are a few sayings that I might be coming back to Canada with:
  • How is there? How is home? (That's what you ask as a way of saying "how are you?")
  • Reach well. (Sort of like "happy trails")
  • You are lost. (We haven't seen you in at least a day!)
  • I need to make a short call (Pee) or a long call (Poop).
  • Ugandan's say "It's okay" to mean "yes" whereas I would use it to mean "no". "Would you like some chicken?"... "It's okay"
  • Bring for me water.
  • Whenever you greet someone and shake their hand, you say "Praise God" and the other person responds with "Amen".

A Long Luncheon

Last week I had been thinking about all the things I do with the FIDA office and I decided that I wanted to throw them a luncheon to say "Hey, thanks for letting me partner with you - whether it is going to the field, attending a funeral, or worshipping at a spiritual retreat." So I sent out verbal invitations and hoped that a few people would come over for lunch on Monday.

Yesturday I raced to the market after school and bought a few groceries before biking quickly home. (I think I often mention that I bike fast - but that's because I do... I pass everyone on the road.) Close to one o'clock I started cutting and cooking and by two I was ready for guests - with chili, curried cabbage and coconut chicken to go over rice. Well, four of them arrived at 2pm. They ate and relaxed for a bit and then around 3:30 pm 9 more people showed up. I was delighted to meet people from a FIDA office that is two hours away. They just happened to be in town and felt free enough to come over.

I was so excited to see at least 13 people enjoy my food. The compliments were flowing, but not really all about the food. Many were commenting on how they were surprised and honoured that a mzungu would cook for them, serve, and even do the dishes. :) I was happy that I could make a difference in their perceptions of the white world.

The last people left at five when two of us decided to go the the Flying School to go swimming with the frogs, in the only pool in town.