Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Transported Teen Writes: Trying My Hand at Sugarcane

 


Marian is one of my first friends here. We both enjoy crafts, drawing and "shoetags" (their word for nail polish). As we talk, we have cultural exchanges. Sometimes I forget most people in rural areas have no connection outside of Uganda. In America the internet gives us a widow to other places, like the post you're reading right now. Watching Africa on YouTube is rather lacking. It doesn't give you the feel of Africa, the excitement of their worship, the racket of rain pounding a tin roof through the night or the chatter of exotic birds in the morning. The window only works one-way. Marian and I have created a bridge, I share something American and she teaches me about Uganda. I get to explain hamburgers and she shares Ugandan expressions. She was shocked that we live down the road from an enormous plantation but never eaten sugarcane. So she brought some over.


Like a fancy chef from Benihana, she skinned, chopped and sliced the bamboo stalk in a matter of seconds. Swoop, chop, ka-chunk, perfect. Then the pivotal moment of failure comes as she hands me the knife. Let's just say, my obviously superb knife skills are unrefined for African cuisine. Swoop, slice, oops, ow. The knife attacked my thumb. It's fine, a mere flesh wound, but it proves the fact that even though we've been here for almost a month, we are not yet experts.


Dora and I got invited to her house Tuesday. We met her mother, older sister, younger sister and baby brother. Her simple brick house had no windows so it was very dark. The living room was already very small, no bigger than an average bathroom, but it was also the kitchen sink storage and dining room. Apparently it's a thing here, when you have visitors to show them your family photo albums. After meeting the family, we discovered more cultural exchanges by watching the Avengers movie translated to Lugandan. Later language lessons with her mother included phrases like, Wasuze otya, good morning. We removed dried corn off the cob for grounding into posho powder. They were kind enough to feed us lunch. It was a very traditional Ugandan menu: potatoes, cabbage and posho. As much as we are indifferent about posho, theirs was much better then what we're used to on the base. We also snacked on popcorn, more sugarcane and blacked corn kernels which tasted like little salty rocks yet were surprisingly good. Then it was time for Dora and I to leave, next time I'll bring my camera. It was fun to hang out with my friend and her natural teaching spirit is what I need most, just don't ask me to cut the cane.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Update 5

Welcome to YWAM Hopeland’s kitchen. In this open concrete building over one hundred staff and students are fed daily. The children and I prepared the after church meal in Texas for roughly about the same amount of folks at the Tyler base each Sunday last year. When people asked if I was a good cook I would correct them and say, “No, I’m just good at warming food up,” (mostly what we cooked was boxed or frozen). How else could one person make chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and roasted cauliflower for a hundred people? In Africa I’ve worked a couple of dinner preps and it is just the opposite. 


Everything is raw and sometimes out of their own garden, which means dirty. So you sit on a bench and you peel it or take it to the sink and wash it. Greens and cabbage get shredded. Onions and tomatoes get diced. Fruit gets chopped. Then the fires get built. The kitchen has four wood burning stoves, the picture to the right shows beans in a pressure cooker. They start with long logs and keep pushing them in till the food is cooked. All the pots have a thick layer of soot on the outside which remains beyond clean-up because there isn’t enough soap in Uganda to clean them at this point. If you have worked in an open kitchen before you know resources have a tendency to walk away so the knives and cutting boards are an assortment of cast-offs that nobody cared to “borrow.” I’m sure they use the repaired bottoms of the pots for identification. “Bring me the three patch pot. No, the one with the rivets, not the welds.” Despite all these challenges the food can be filling if you can eat enough.


The components repeat daily so if you come to Africa let me give you the breakdown of what to expect. The first pot will be rice or posho. The second pot could be small russet potatoes, pasta, or white sweet potato. The third pot might be beans, collard greens, or stewed cabbage. Some days a tomato cucumber salad, pineapple, watermelon, or avocado makes it to the service which helps to break up the plate of off-white food. To accommodate everybody portions are strictly doled out. Special meals will include the local chapati flatbread, a beef soup, or sliced sausage added to the cabbage, these are especially limited. Basic foods and plenty of them, well at least plenty of posho.

Needless to say, every food related post we see on Facebook fills us with longing and fond memories of life back in the States. We have hope to increase the food variety and availability of vegetables at Hopeland through our Sustainable Agriculture Course. This will benefit the locals in healthier ways to eat and give our foodie friends a reason to visit us here in Uganda. Thank you for your support.

The Clarks Visit the Local Village



Dora Clark, the Mini Midwife writes about her first trip off the YWAM base.

I walked along side of my family, up the short hill to the entrance of the Youth With A Mission base where we currently live. We were headed for the first time to the nearby village called Kakira. I started thinking what will Kakira look like? Will it be poor? How poor?

The road is long and winding, made of red dirt. Corn is all we see, and mountains. I am tired and hot, this elevation takes it out of you. I look to the right and see that we’re higher than I thought. No wonder I am tired. There are big orange colored puddles on the ground. I try to dodge them, but the recent rains have made everything slippery. Boda- Boda’s (otherwise known as motorcycles) rush around us. There are no traffic laws here really and the “right of way” does not exist for people walking. Sometimes the Bodas almost take Liesel with them or nearly run into her as she dodges out of the way. 

We stop to take a family photo, how strange we must look to the black people who are slowly walking past, staring at us. You know, we are just some white people just standing on the side of the road taking pictures with a very expensive camera. We have to take this quick because cars drive by and again we are big white targets. After pictures, (this takes a little while) we continue walking. Corn, corn, corn, and guess what? CORN! 

After what seems like one hour we start seeing houses, but that means there is ten more minutes until we get to town. Children are playing outside when we start hearing them shout, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” Mzungu means white person in Luganda. We smile and wave, smile and wave, like royalty. They pour out everywhere, in all various stages of dress (or undress, as it were) The place smells, don’t breath through your nose, I have to tell myself. Everywhere there are colorful buildings and no white people besides us for miles around it seems. I long to play with the children; it looks like they are playing with sticks and make-believe. I should keep with my family because those who know me will know that I will just keep playing with children and never come home. 

I hold out my hand for one of the children to grab. A boy with a red ripped shirt comes to my side. His smile spreads from ear to ear; it looks like he is gloating as he looks back to his friends. Not long after children begin to follow us, chattering away in a language I do not have any hope of understanding. People look at us with strange expressions; but when I smile they smile back. People are also selling things outside, no food though, just dirty, used clothing. We walk to a small shop to buy a soda for our lunch. We definitely can’t fit in this shack so we stand outside. There are two boys behind the counter. They look to be about 10 or 12 with no adult in sight. 

After buying our glass bottles of soda pop, we walk through the mud into a very small, crowded, passage way filled with shack-like looking shops. They look more like lemonade stands than shops. There is an awning with MEAT hanging from the tin roof of the wooden shop. On the dirty wooden shelf, there is various cuts of meat just lying there, baking in the African sun. Behind the shelf, there is a man with a large knife hacking away at some beef on a very dirty stump. We squeeze past him and the flies buzz around. On the concrete next to him is a man cooking something on a large metal drum that smells delicious. Is this where we’re going to get lunch? Apparently we are eating a kind of breakfast burrito called a “Rollex”. It is made with chapatti, an Indian flatbread and vegetables and eggs cooked inside.

We wait patiently for our rollexs amidst the stares of the locals. My Dad asks my Mom to go find some laundry soap in the “shops” nearby. I bounce up and down, volunteering my services to escort her. We squeeze past the meat man and his hanging merchandise. We walk past more brightly colored stores. I look at people who do not look very friendly. We get many stares and not many smiles. We dodge the muddy places, puddles, and people. 

We walk through an open gate where there are lots more people. We begin to ask where there might be laundry soap. They don’t understand the word laundry. No wonder they keep shaking their heads! So we ask for clothes soap, pantomiming washing clothes by hand. At this point, they gesture towards a shop where women are standing. We ask them for clothes soap they shake their heads no. We are very confused because this is the shop that we were shown. We walk around the shop where there are bars on the window. We ask for clothes soap again even though this seems like the same shop we were in just the other side of it. This time a nice man says to the person in the shop “Omo” and the store man hands him some laundry soap! The man hands it to us. We give the store man money, “Thank you! Thank you!” we tell him. It seems as if there is very few places that you can walk in and get what you want in Uganda. Most places you have to ask for the product by name.

We head back to our lunch, again dodging chickens, mud and staring people. As we’re nearing the breakfast burrito place we walk past another meat man, his meat is a gray color. It does not look good at all. We find our family sitting on the concrete and eating. I take a bite of my Rollex; I think I am tasting heaven. YUM! This is delicious! 

Normally, every meal we have had in Uganda is posho, which tastes like a flavorless sponge, some thin spaghetti noodles with no sauce, and beans. That’s it, so this was a big treat. For once, I am stuffed afterwards. 

Then it’s time to go home, so we decide to get a taxi. The taxis are long buses that are always packed full of people before they will leave. It took a while for people to load in it, so Zoe took that opportunity to take photos of the village. Finally the bus seems full, but we didn’t move. Then, two more people squeeze in- a mother and little girl. The mother squeezed in the second row and the little girl on my mother’s lap. Things sure get cozy here in Africa. 

We left KaKira, with full stomachs, crammed into hot dirty vans and a whole new way of life to ponder.

Monday, August 4, 2014


The Transported Teen Writes:
How I Became a Mzungu Manicurist and My First Impressions of Uganda

“So I said to my girlfriend, ‘My stars, I bet people sure are interesting. I’m sure you get to meet lots of interesting people.’ Now let’s dip our mani’s in the water”
-Bugs Bunny impersonating a manicurist

The scenery is not what I expected. I thought it would be more jungle, like Belize, where Dora and I visited two years ago. It’s actually a bit like home, minus the mountains, there’s tall weeds, tall trees but every now and then you’ll find the occasional exotic plant, random cow or bird who does monkey impressions. It seems pretty normal on base but once you get high enough, the view is incredible! If you’ve seen The Lion King, you’ll remember the part when Simba and Timon and Pumba meet. They show Simba the view from a tremendous mountain and all the jungle is laid out around them like a tropical paradise. The similarities are striking. The only difference is how Lake Victoria dominates the territory, blue as the sky and almost as big. The sight reminds you of God’s magnificence, taller than the mountains, deeper than the lakes.

Our house is quite comfortable considering the circumstances. It resembles a large storage shed, completely concrete and with two broken, wood frame windows, and with furniture in it. Our bathrooms have actual toilets! One who has not used a squatty-potty could not possibly understand the joy this gives me. So far, I have not had to use one and I’d like to keep it that way as long as possible though I know that dream may be short-lived. The kid’s room has animals and food painted around the top of the walls like crown molding. Maybe the artist only had a vague impression of what food looks like because the bananas are similar to bird feet and the pineapple could be mistaken for a very fat carrot.

Mom describes the afternoon heat as wearing clothes fresh from the dryer on a spring day. It’s warm but not swelteringly uncomfortable. The weather is almost always the same with the exception of an occasional rain. I think I’ve learned the true meaning of torrents. The rain falls in waves, just a little, then a lot, little, lot, little, lot, etc. We’ve only had a few nights of showers but the rainy season is on its way. It gets dark very fast! The sun starts setting at 6’o’clock so it’s black outside by 7 and it will stay that way all year long since we are directly on the equator. 
We went to the small village of Kakira on Sunday for lunch. Needless to say, I was shocked. The image I had produced in my brain and reality were extremely contrary. When Dad said we were going there for rollexs, I knew there wasn’t going to be anything fancy, maybe a rinky-dink little vendor? In all actuality, it was in the back roads of the back alleyways, smokey and muddy, outside. While we ate our lunch on the cement stoop we had a perfect view of the “meat shop” (which was nothing more than a stand with racks of hanging meat shrouded in flies and a man hacking away on a dirty stump) right next door. The smell that radiated from our chapatti and egg lunch made it worth it. Either that or I was very hungry. Probably both.

I did expect the staring but not the magnitude of it. Many of the looks were distasteful, like we smelt rancid. We did get the occasional smile out of an adult here and there; but the children, oh the children, they loved us. Running out of their homes, calling to one another and us, either bashful or ridiculous at the point of my camera lens. Some grabbed Dora’s outstretched hands and followed us everywhere. They even sat on a tire and watched us eat, occasionally teasing one another or hitting their friends with sticks. The smile on Dora’s face radiated and I knew her heart was home.

I’ve met many Ugandans but so far I’ve only talked with three my age. Almost every Ugandan we’ve talked to has said, “You are welcome here.” On Thursday, a local girl, Maria came over to greet us. Maria sells homemade earrings in the market. She likes drawing, singing and dancing. We found that cards are the easiest games to play because they don’t require a lot of communication. I showed her my favorite game, called Snap, and she really liked it! But we really started to relate when she asked about my painted toenails. After her toes were a lovely shade of neon green, Viola came over, and I did her nails (blue with sparkles) and we played more Snap. We laughed a lot and I’m glad we found something we could all do. On Friday, Viola came back and brought Sarah, asking for her nails done too (pink and lavender, she’s on the right). Viola also needed a touch-up but then she decided for a completely different color (green, teal and pink, she’s on the left). And then we played Snap again; Viola is very good at it. I wouldn’t call us “fast friends”, and there’s no way they could replace my besties back in America. We still have lots of differences to overcome, language for example (they call nail polish “shoetags”. I don’t know how it’s spelled but that’s how it’s pronounced). Right now, all that’s connecting us is hot pink, teal and glitter. But for right now, that’s good enough for me.


The Mini Midwife, Dora, writes,

I woke up Monday morning at 5:15 to take my last hot shower. As my mom braided my hair like we do whenever we go on a trip, I realized that I was going to Uganda today! I feel like there’s a deep deep never-ending hole and I am falling through it. No, no, no…  It’s not happening, it’s just a normal day right? The Bunches haven’t arrived yet. The anticipation is horrible, like I am in a show but my family hasn’t arrived yet and it’s two minutes till it starts. Finally Sarah arrives to take us to the airport.  Are we really leaving her? She has been with us as long as I can remember- taken trips with us across the country and for the last three years has only lived a few steps away.
We’re leaving a sister behind; and I’m not so sure I can stand that.
Now we’re all gathered on the porch, our van is loaded. But there’s another problem, our beloved dog, Nana. We can’t take her with us, so we have to say goodbye.   Our family dog, our guard dog, our peanut butter eater. The boys say a quick goodbye after some pictures with Nana, and load up in our van. The girls say a longer goodbye all petting and cuddling her. I didn’t think I was going to cry, after all she has really been Zoe’s dog. But, I did. Why did we have to leave so many people behind? How will this turn out for the better with everyone being separated?

Zoe rides in the back of the van on the way to Dallas- her head on her knees weeping.  It is hard to see my family hurting, but we all know that God has a plan for us and sometimes that plan means we have to sacrifice some things.

We arrive at the Dallas airport. Now it’s time to say goodbye to Sarah and her clan. This is it-- our sister, and my brother-in-law, Aaron and my nephews, Levi, Joel, and Seth.  I start to cry, really it is more like wailing. It feels like someone ripped my heart into tiny pieces and stepped on them.  As we wander into security they watch us leave, we are all trying to dry our tears but we keep sobbing at random times. At one point the security guard asks my Mom if she is okay.  She smiles bleakly and explains that we are saying goodbye.
There is loads of anxiety and excitement mixed up inside of me as we board the plane.  The plane is two stories high! It’s close to dinner, and while I wait for it to arrive I decide to watch a movie, that you’re allowed to watch for free! Our flight attendant has a bit of a British accent, and so does everyone else. We’re after all on British Airlines. Every time they speak I start talking in a British accent. At some point the lights dim and it is time to sleep; I toss and turn in my uncomfortable seat. There’s noise and lights go on and off as our seat neighbors attempt to get comfortable.  It’s obviously late, maybe I got some sleep in? I look over and notice Xander is sleeping, so is Jax. In the seats in front of us, Zoe, Mommy, and Liesel all appear to be sleeping. Now I am frustrated. I am a big boiling volcano; if one more thing sets me off I will explode. I ask Zoe to help me fall asleep. She instructs me to curl up. So I try but one leg keeps slipping! Rah!!!!!  I try and try, every time getting more and more frustrated. It seems hours before I fall asleep. I wake up…. Groggy….  We’re still in the plane.

When we get off the plane in London we have to carry our backpacks, it’s a big weight on my shoulders, and it’s hard to breathe. Now everyone has a British accent. I love listening to them, crisp and wonderful!  We wander throughout the airport, looking for security. The security lady talks to us like we’re two year olds! We scramble to get all the items checked through the checkpoint and we get away from her as quick as possible.

On the plane, everyone is really nice and polite. I rotate between movie, coloring book, and kindle.
After 8 hours, Xander and I begin to count down the minutes until we get to see our father. Only 59 minutes left! I am so excited!! What will Uganda look like? Will the people there like me? I will have to wait and see.
Then my mother tells me there is a big storm. The airplane icon on our animated map begins to turn another way. So we are delayed… What? NO! Now there’s another hour until we get to see our father…  I feel like all my hopes and dreams have been shattered.  So I wait, and wait, and wait….

Finally we are landing! I can barely see through the velvet darkness outside our plane window, but I know we’re almost there! My excitement is even bigger and better than it was before! It’s almost like when you have to build a tower but then it falls down, but you pick it back up and learn from your mistakes. We land. I am very close now; I feel like dancing. We all jump up as soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off. Why can’t these people move faster? Can’t they see I want to see my Daddy? And this thing is heavy. I feel like tapping my foot impatiently…. The line begins to move. I get closer and closer to the front of the airplane.

We walk out of the plane into the airport, I am here… In AFRICA!!!!! I feel so different, like a tourist, and the employee behind the counter looks at me like I am… After checking through to customs, we scramble for our luggage, it takes a while because we have 15 pieces of luggage to find… I want to see my Father! For a moment it looks as if we have lost one piece of luggage but soon we find it. Yes! I feel like a mission accomplished! We race to see Daddy! We race through the white door… There he stands smiling and beaming, arms open wide---Liesel runs to him. If I wasn’t holding luggage I would have done the same.

We’re finally here. What is the new plan? The new goal? I don’t know. I am just relieved to finally be home.  I will have to trust God for today and let Him guide us towards His plan for us in the future.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Oh, and Don't Forget the Tennis Ball



Today was my first lesson in Ugandan construction. Measure twice cut once. Our local carpenter was familiar with this phrase, he'd learned it from a missionary team from Mexico. It served him well. Despite the rounded concrete wall, the slightly unlevel floor, and the mysterious obstruction behind the wall he did a bang up job. He even let me help. There are many limitations he has overcome. Hand saws, I've seen roadside tablesaws at furniture shops but it's a bit out of his price range for now. Wood glue, either he didn't have any or the country doesn't have any, not sure which. That reminds me, note to my wife: please bring my wood glue, should be the brownish bottle with the gorilla hand on it. While I'm at it:

-Bubble level, both if the boy can find them
-Drill bits (orange case)
-Needle nose pliers
-Concrete screws, sorry you'll have to go to Lowes for them but they will do loads of good.

All of that is probably way too heavy to just add to someone's luggage. Maybe just go out to the shed and have the boy photograph…

Sorry, maybe this would be better for a private email. But I do want it in the public record all of the things we thought were necessary. We learned much of the things we did prepare for by reading other's experiences over here. And of course when I say we, I mean my wife. She read about a nasty fly called the putzi that defiles your clothes while they are hanging out to dry and give you worms. So now I have to buy an iron with which to steam kill them. Trust me I'll have the most crisp boxer shorts possible to prevent… (perhaps I better put that in the email)

There is a couple of dogs on the property but no tennis balls so they've given to playing catch with rocks. They'll play with anyone so perhaps the boy can teach them with a ball. Honey, see if you can find some tennis balls, they can go in his carry on.

The next step to our kitchenette renovation will be some electricity. If you look closely in the corner you'll see the shadow of a wall socket that once was. Which means there might be a line up in the attic just waiting to be dropped down. Of course what else might occupy that attic is probably the stuff of nightmares and might not want to be disturbed. Maybe I'll wait till I can find a bigger flashlight and a flamethrower.

Enough silliness. We visited a model farm this week and started compiling our own profiles of what to pursue in our farming goals. We turned the compost a couple of times, ideally in thirteen more days it will be humus. In the classroom we got training on going beyond a community's farming practice and getting to understand their worldview and not only how it influences their farming successes and/or shortcomings but their culture as well. Next week we get into several villages to begin sharing sustainable farming practices.

Oh and did I mention the family joins me Tuesday?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Final Moment



Today is laundry day. What that means in a land of no coin-op laundromats is hand washing. More about that in a moment. The above picture is a luxury. Add to the fact that it is in my room and I don't have to trek across the lawn and use the community showers is a blessing beyond imagination. The only drawback is that it's cold. I have learned to offset the temp by showering in the afternoon. Nevertheless approaching a cold shower is a bit like gameshows on TV where people eat live scorpions. First is the reveal, shock. Then the dance, a little bounce step and shudder. Then the build up, psyching themselves up with a exhale and shaking out the fingers. Execution, just get in there. And finally the retreat, exhilaration with a huge, "I did it!" rush. I would like to think I am saving water because I don't have to wait for the hot tap to warm up, but I am convinced I'm wasting more watching the water as I try and trick myself to get in. These are my alternating techniques: building myself up, that I can take it or dumbing myself down that it won't be that bad. Live scorpions would be easier. 

So in the midst of all this I dip into the conservation delusion and try to wash some laundry simultaneously. I had washed a few shirts earlier and had splashed myself soggy so I figured I was already wet so I might as well finish up my socks and shorts. As I am bending and sloshing and wringing and hanging I catch a slick tile with my left heal and start to slip. Luckily, I catch myself. Before I am able to take a breath and reconsider what I hoped to accomplish naked in the shower, my final moment crossed my mind. They would find me, perhaps after I missed dinner or maybe not until the next day, nekked as the day I was born lying in the shower amongst six days worth of soggy socks and boxer shorts. The message that would be communicated back to my grieving wife would be, "Don't bother coming, your husband killed himself whilst doing laundry." I can't wait much longer for my family to arrive.

Come back to the site this weekend as I report on getting my haircut in Africa.