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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

First Time to Town

Today we took the half an hour trip into town, which took a little longer because a third of the way to town the taxi bus we were in decided they wanted to go to Kampala instead of Jinja and booted us Jinja Town riders out! Upon arrival, by eventual boda boda, we set out to shop our lists. Eventually we may go to Jinja for an afternoon on the town, most shops don't stay open after dark, but for now the trip in is purely utilitarian. Get it and go. 

I'm sorry I didn't take any photos this trip. Not knowing what to expect I didn't want to be the annoying American trying to capture the scene with an iPad. When Zoe gets here, and I can run point, we will be sure to take some personal photos. Although my Ugandan classmates took very good care of me and made sure I didn't get run over by a motorcycle, I miss my family. I want the children to see Jinja Town. I'm done with waking up in the morning without my wife. They join me in another week, and I have still lots to prepare before they arrive, but this isn't why I brought my family into missions.

Before I depress myself further, everybody here is almost as excited to meet them as I am to welcome them. Of course if you are reading this you know the children and know they won't disappoint. Not that five children is so unusual, but five mzungu children especially when they see how tall they are. It makes me giddy just thinking about it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Attack of the Boda Boda

Although it has been a few days since the onslaught and my experience has been heightened by the veil of jet lag the above photo is how I remember the boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) coming at us. In a journey without a single stop light and the only pause necessitated by traffic or the rare traffic officer, when you round a corner in Kampala this is what you see: boda bodas coming straight at you with no regard for the mass that a four-passenger vehicle occupies over their two-wheel franken-motor. Oh, they veer off eventually but not before they have gotten as close as they can to edge the other guy out. One would like to find some nobility in these daredevils. Perhaps some indication of choreographing that only they know or possibly they see the slip stream of traffic in their mind's eye and know exactly where to be and when. Nope. They bang into cars and each other all the time. The common practice of hanging your elbow out the window is not recommended in the streets of Kampala unless you want your elbow to match the dented and scraped side panels of all the vehicles around you.
There is a great affinity for adapting another culture's boldness. Even stepping off the plane it became obvious that the folks who had somewhere to be and those who who had time to wait. Americans wait quite well but we take great offense with those who step in front. If we are all waiting together we may grumble about the wait but what can you do? Some cultures have decided waiting is an option but if there is opportunity to move to the front, what is the problem? When I lived in Los Angeles creative driving was rewarded, like we were all Hollywood stunt drivers finding the quickest way around gridlock. When I drove in Texas the size of the vehicle determined priority, F-150 duallies with a lift own the road. Here in Africa it seems they all have reached the understanding if the opportunity for advancement presents itself, take it, and if you are in no hurry, wait. As the ebb and flow of the bigger vehicles created space in the streets of Kampala, boda bodas fill the emptiness because nature abhors a vacuum.
Will I be able to get over the “rudeness” of stepping to the front and making my needs a priority over those around me? Or is it more Godly to say, “no, you were here first,” to the other person? I suppose the answer will depend on the situation. As my family and I begin our life here in Africa will must remain open to the leading of the Lord and when we stand up for ourselves and when we let Him stand for us. When it is necessary to put a relationship before our rights and when someone else must learn humility. We cannot make that determination for others so we will have to rely on God to make that decision. And in the meantime we will choose the vans over the boda boda taxis.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Selfie with Compost

I have told my budding photographer daughter, never take a picture without a person in it. Obviously Ansel Adams would disagree. The point being, people give a thing or a landscape scale, point of view, and relevance. So behind me in my very American style of self-portraiture is our first project. It all starts with compost.
Now when you approach compost in sustainable agriculture it is more than just fertilizer, it is soil restoration. I could give this a super spiritual application in which this picture represents at so many levels. As with most Christ centered curriculums parallels are constantly made. I could also make analogies about how I've worn the same clothes since I left (thanks to all those who prayed for their return, I get them tonight) and now they are ready for composting. Or I could simply state that at 44 years old I am ready for some restoration.
Our family has been seeking to serve overseas for almost ten years and now we are almost all here. Pray for the children although they have been warned at the amount change they are about to experience, no one could imagine what a culture shock rural Africa is.
Ultimately this is a picture of me in front of rubbish which is on its way to becoming treasure. That isn't being too self indulgent, is it?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Making Uganda Home


There is a “learning curve” with every new environment you find yourself in. If it is an environment that came about because of a series of unfortunate events then you adapt and try to get yourself out of it. These sometimes look like plane crashes on deserted islands or running out of fuel and funds in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But if the new environment is one of your choosing then no matter what the challenge you either change it or allow it to change you.

Living in the bush in Uganda two examples come immediately to mind, the food and the showers. One, we can change, the other -may end up changing us. With both I need to be sensitive in how I communicate my frustrations because the last thing you want to do is walk into another person's home and tell them how bad it is. This doesn't come up much in America because we have so much and even if you do complain we think you're crazy. Except internet speed, never ask a Korean how fast their internet is, it'll make you weep.

Let's start with the food. It is not mystery meat. Some international foods are indescribable and unrecognizable, Ugandan food is obvious or it has close enough relationship to something I've eaten that gives it a reference point. This is related to that so it should taste like this. Which sometimes it does and sometimes not so much. Posho, described to me as a cornmeal mush. Cornmeal is versital! Polenta, grits, and muffins are all cornmeal based, no big deal. There is no real resemblance between any of those things and posho. I have yet to investigate the preparation of posho but the final outcome creates a texture and consistency like that of the foam magic sponges that are excellent cleaning tools. That may sound disparaging and that is not my intention, and besides those sponges are quite expensive and shouldn't be wasted for eating.

Posho may be a base though with which other things may be added. Polenta is quite bland until you add salt and garlic and bacon fat. As an ingredient rather than a final dish perhaps it will bend to our desires.

My other learning curve is the cold shower. Our dwelling has a shower but no tank on the roof making the experience not only invigorating but also very uncomfortable. Plumbing is not so easy a remedy as adding salt to something and therefore it is my will that must be flexible. Remember I chose this environment. Taking showers in the afternoon not only cleanses me after working in the field the ambient temperature also allows faster drying time than in the chill of first light. I could embrace a more European philosophy and just not shower as often. Regardless changing it will not be as easy.

But will my wife and children feel the same way?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

This Friday!

We are having a Goodbye Party and everyone is invited! It will be at the Youth With A Mission Ranch in the main gym on the 11th of July at 7 o'clock pm. There will be an open mic, lots of food, and good times! Come see us off, we'd love to spend time with you before Sean leaves for Uganda.