Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Cautionary Tale (with a very happy ending)

I got a call from my friend Sarah this afternoon saying that she was at the hospital and was in labor. I told her I would come as soon as I could and asked if I could bring anything for her (The hospitals here don't provide anything apart from medical care. You must bring your own food, bedding, tp, etc.). She said something to drink would be nice, so I stopped at a grocery store on my way to the local hospital to pick up some juice and small snacks for her.

I arrived at the hospital, a place I've been less than five times in total. I made my way to the maternity ward, and found it without too much trouble, thanks to good directions given by a friend. She told me I would find women sitting on benches in the hallway, and I did. Now I just had to find Sarah.

I first looked around for a nurse or someone to ask where she might be. No one in sight, and I figured that ladies on the bench wouldn't know either. I decided to enter the ward on my own and see if I could spot her. It was tricky, though, because the room was jam packed. Every single bed was full and every spot on the floor between the beds was full, as well. It's pretty much BYOM (bring your own mattress) here, so they squeeze patients in where ever they can find room. And this ward was packed.

I slowly wandered down the aisle, painfully aware every eye in the room watching me. I glanced briefly at each bed hoping to see a familiar face. I got to the end without seeing Sarah, so I decided to head back out and attempt to find a nurse again. Just as I was about to exit, though, an older women waved and smiled at me like she might know me. I certainly didn't know this woman, but I knew that Sarah's mom was with her, and I knew that her mom, who is an older women from the village who doesn't speak any English, was expecting me to come. This women greeting me and pulling me aside seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I greeted her and asked if she was Sarah's mother. She grinned and laughed and gave me a hug. I took this as a good sign. I conversed with her briefly in my basic Runyankole, which she appreciated very much. She seemed like a very lovely women!

The only problem at this point was that I couldn't actually see Sarah. The patient laying on the bed was completely covered, head to toe, in multiple heavy blankets (about five of them, in a typical Ugandan fashion). I asked if Sarah was sleeping, and the mother said yes and motioned toward the bed.

I was still carrying the few small items I brought at Sarah's request, so I gave them to the mother. She was so happy, gave me another hug, and tucked them away with their other belongings under the bed. Then the patient under the blankets began to stir. The mother reached over and pulled them away from her face slightly. I peeked around to say "hello" and greet my friend, and you can guess where this is going, right?

Yep. It most definitely wasn't Sarah under there.

That was not my friend under all those blankets, and that woman was not Sarah's mother.

I politely greeted this stranger on the bed (who very well could also be named Sarah), asked how she was feeling, and then made my excuses to leave to go find The Real Sarah.

Moral of this story: Make sure you correctly identify the patient before attaching yourself to them and giving away your gifts. 

I hope Fake Sarah and her mom enjoyed their juice and g-nuts.

I found this incident hilarious, if not slightly defeating, but I told you this story has a happy ending. And it does!

I found Sarah (for real), who turned out to be in the ward on the other side of the Ladies On The Benches, and I was able to be there for the birth of her lovely baby girl!

meet Mahoro
Dec. 17th  7:45pm  2.7 kilos

her name means peace 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You know you've been in Uganda for a long time when...

…seeing someone speeding towards you in the wrong lane seems completely normal.

…you find yourself pointing with your lips and saying "yes" by raising both eyebrows.

…you can masterfully employ a variety of "Eh!" and "Eh eh!" noises to convey a range of meanings.

…you know "Come back tomorrow at 10:00 a.m." means whatever you're trying to get done is NEVER going to happen.

…you start using the words "even" and "ever" in places you never would have ("Even me, I'm feeling hungry," or "I have ever done that").

…you start referring to people as "this one" or "that one."

…you willingly drive into oncoming traffic just to avoid the potholes.

…you can speak Uglish so well that - you talk with a Ugandan accent; use words like 'shocked,' 'fearing,' 'extend,' 'balance,' 'somehow,' 'even me,' and 'can you imagine' and 'are you sure?' far too often...

…you know the load shedding schedule by heart.

…someone calls out your name and your reply is: "Yes, please."

…you end the conversation with "Ok please"

…you start sentences with "As for me, I …."

…you get "Am Fine" as a reply to your "Hi."

…clothes becomes a two-syllable word. Clo - thes.

…you know the man asking for Lose actually refers to Rose. And when someone says "let's play" you should stay seated for a prayer.

…your handshakes last an entire conversation.

…your home does not have an address.

…people walk into your house and you say "You are all most welcome!"

…you think "eh" in a high pitch tone is the correct way to respond when a boda driver's price suggestion is too high.

(Full disclosure: I didn't write this, but I can attest to the accuracy of these statements that have been circulating around the internet.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Beginning to Look Somewhat Like Christmas

deck the halls

things with wings
it's the little things

sweet, baby, banana-fiber Jesus
just kidding... this one isn't Christmas.
It's everyday life.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


(originally posted on 2/1/12, with some additions)

Here are some very commonly used Ugandan-English words and phrases... also known as Uglish.

Nice time. = Have a nice time/Have a good day.
Long time! = It's been a long time since I've seen you!
You’ve been lost./ You are lost. = I haven't seen you in awhile. Where have you been?
Disturbing me = bothering me
Pick = get (pick him from school, pick the phone) 
Are you having…? = Do you have…?
Such a… = a compliment (“He’s such a guy,” …the adjectives are left out)
Short call = going to the bathroom (#1)
Balance = your change from a purchase
Move = walk
Shift = move from one living accommodation to another
Where do you stay? = Where do you live?
Extend = Move over, make room
I am used. = I am used to it. It's normal for me.
Let me come./I’m coming. = I’m leaving now, but I will be back. 
Smart = put together, well-dressed, good-looking
They are over/finished. = Something is gone or out of stock (“The eggs are over for today.”)
She/he =  interchangeable pronouns used for either gender
You are fat. = it's a compliment…
She is called… = Her name is…
Digging = farming and gardening
Vernacular = local language
Big man = rich, important person
Somehow = slightly, occasionally, can imply doubt (“The water heater is working somehow.”)
A push = to walk with someone for some distance (“I will give you a push to the road.”)
Ehhhh =  yes, okay
Beep me. = let the phone ring once or twice before hanging up to signal that you want the person to call you back
Maids = bridesmaids
Snaps = photos
Slippers = flip flops
Chips = fries
Crisps = chips
Sweet = candy; can also mean "tasty" or "delicious" ("The meat and rice are sweet.")
Ka = small or trivial ("Where is my ka pen?") (comes from the Runyankole word kakye, which means "small.")
My stomach is paining. = My stomach hurts.
I am reaching. = I am almost there.
Sure?! = Really? Is it true?!
Are we together? = Do you understand?
I am fearing them. = I am afraid of them.
I'm leaving now now. = I'm leaving right now.
Slope = turn ("Slope left at the corner.")
Just here = right here ("Slope left just here.")
Assist me. = Give me. ("Assist me with 5,000.")
I have ever... = I have... ("I have ever been there.")
Keep = to put away ("Keep your sweater in your desk.")
He can always win me at that game. = He can always beat me at that game. ("Beat" is only used in a very literal way to mean physical abuse.)
We go. = Let's go.
It's okay. = Yes.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Water Cycle

Let me tell you a little story about my life using numbers. Just because.

One day, earlier this month, the water in my apartment went out again. This is a normal occurrence that doesn't seem to affect many other people in the building. Just me. 

Fortunately, I have four jerry cans that I keep around. Usually at least two of them are full, so I can be prepared when water goes out. Like the time it turned off just as I had put shampoo in my hair... 
Each can holds twenty liters and weighs forty pounds when full.

When I'm without water in my apartment, I put one basin in each of my two sinks. One holds water for hand-washing; the other holds dirty dishes until I tote them over to my amazing neighbor's place.

Meet my amazing neighbor, Bron. She is simply the best! Seriously. 
And she doesn't have water issues in the same way I do. So she graciously lets me fill my jerry cans, wash my dishes, and even shower at her place. She lives approximately three steps away, which is really great when I'm carrying full jerry cans or sneaking from her place to mine in a culturally-inappropriate bathrobe.  

For fourteen days this month (So far. The month isn't over yet...), this has been my routine. This has been my reality. It's not so bad (because of Bron), but it's also not so great.

This morning I decided to call my landlord for the millionth time. I asked him to send the plumber again. By five o'clock this evening, these two pairs of shoes outside my door were the most wonderful symbol of hope.

These two men brought in their one long hose, like they always do. This is probably the seventh time they've come to work this ridiculous magic on my pipes. The more times they do this, the less I understand what's going on.
They connect the hose to this pipe in my kitchen, run it through my apartment, out my bathroom window, down the two stories, and connect it to a spigot outside. I believe they turn the spigot on and then force water into my pipes...? I actually have no idea how this process works or the physics behind it, but somehow it brings my water back and causes the tank that I get my water from to re-fill. It's only a temporary fix, but it works!

It's also an incredibly messy process. When they finished today, there was a quarter inch of water on my kitchen floor. And one giant basin full of very dirty water. But guess what. 

There was one giant basin full of very dirty water! That came out of my apartment! 
That's good news, folks.

 And this is one beautiful sight that I haven't seen in two weeks.

So how did I celebrate? By happily washing a big load of dishes at my own sink.

And by hanging the five most darling Christmas decorations sent by a dear supporter. 
...So many reasons to celebrate and be thankful.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

DIY All-Purpose Cheese*

Last week, my neighbor, Bron, and I attempted to make cream cheese.** This "recipe" has been passed around in the missionary community, and we're a population that's learning to get creative and make due with what we have available. Cream cheese isn't something you can normally find here, so when we heard about a way to make it on our own, of course we had to try. I thought I'd share the process with you in case you'd also like to give it a try.

1. Pour five liters of fresh milk into a large pot and bring to a boil. (Our milk came from a local supplier and needed to be pasteurized.) Allow milk to cool completely.

2. Once cool, scrape the cream from the top of the milk and remove.***

3. Reheat the milk to the point where you can only leave your pinky finger in for two seconds. It's super technical and precise, I know.

4. Then add one tablespoon of plain yogurt for every liter of milk. In our case, this was five tablespoons of yogurt. Stir.

5. Cover the pot, and incubate overnight. We wrapped ours in four bath towels and placed it in the oven. Others have wrapped it and left it in a cooler.

6. In the morning, pour the contents of the pot into a cheese cloth. Or an old t-shirt... Just whatever.

7. Tie it closed, and hang it over a container to catch the whey. Yes, this is the stuff people now pay big bucks for so they can add it to smoothies and protein shakes. (Don't worry about the fact that this draining took place in the bathroom...I've been without water for 11 days now, so the bathroom wasn't being used for much else last week.)

8. After 24 hours, it will have reduced in volume by about half. The longer it hangs, the drier it will become. We took ours down after 26 hours, and... ta-da!

...What it is, you ask?

You're not alone. We asked the same thing. Is this yogurt? Is this cream cheese? It doesn't look quite like either one. What in the world did we just make? Because now we have a lot of it... and it's kind of unrecognizable. And smells funny.

After some further research, it turns out that we made something called strained yogurt or "yogurt cheese." Because of course we did.

Basically, steps 1-5 are how to make yogurt. Continuing with steps 6-8 will leave with you drained, thicker yogurt.

Or as I now like to call it...all-purpose cheese.

It seems strange at first, but this cheesy-yogurty spread works well for all sorts of dishes. So far it's been swirled and baked into a chocolate cake, used as a creamy topping for scones and jam, sprinkled with chives, and mixed with mustard to spread on fresh bread with basil and a poached egg. It could also work well as a baked cheesecake filling, in cream cheese frosting, or in mashed potatoes.

It can be sweet. It can be savory. It doesn't discriminate.
(And it loses its funny smell after spending some time in the fridge.)

In the end, we decided we were pleased with the outcome. Just don't go into this hoping to make something resembling Philadelphia cream cheese.
Because you won't.

Oh yeah. Feel free to Pin that.

You're welcome.

*If that title doesn't get me a million re-pins in Pinterest, I don't know what will.
**Disclaimer: This recipe will not actually provide you with cream cheese in the end.
*** That was our first clue... Why is there no cream in this "cream cheese"?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Actions Speak Louder

You've heard it said many times that "actions speak louder than words." Most people have the ability to easily pick up on subtle body language and social gestures used in their home cultures. They understand the deeper meanings and implications behind the action itself. But what happens when you enter into a different culture? Sometimes our actions are misinterpreted, and we totally miss important cues from others simply because we're speaking different body languages.

This is a video I found about common gestures used to communicate in Haiti. While I've never been to Haiti, I've heard that it's very similar to Uganda in some ways. The majority of these gestures used in Haiti (apart from #1 and #2) also communicate the same things in Uganda.

For example, if someone offers out their fisted arm to you, they don't want you to "pound it." Watch this video to find out what it really means:

Some other common non-verbal communications in Uganda include:
  • raising your eyebrows once in response to a question or statement... signifies "yes" or "okay"
  • pointing to something with your lips and chin... serves the same purpose as pointing with your finger
  • overhand, cupped hand wave, palm facing away from you (like the way you normally wave to babies)... means "come here"

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More Than a T-Shirt

Living for Christ isn't something that can take place in our minds. In theory. Through deep, theological discussion or quiet meditation.

No, living for Christ is hands-on. It's tangible, and it's often messy because real people are involved. Building relationships and living in community are essential aspects of loving Jesus. 
It's carrying each other's burdens, which can be heavy. 
It's spurring one another on toward love and good deeds, which can be uncomfortable. 
It's pursuing peace and building one another up, which can be hard work.

So here's my point: A true relationship with God shows itself in simple, practical ways. 

November 3rd is "Orphan Sunday." A day when "Christians stand for the orphan."

James 1:27 tells us that religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.

This isn't a suggestion or a nice thought. It's not just a catchy slogan for a trendy t-shirt.

It's also not a "hot topic" to be celebrated and proclaimed on one Sunday a year
Because what about the orphans on Monday? 
And the abandoned, single mothers on Tuesday? 
And the widows on Wednesday?
Is one Sunday of attention and prayers enough?

James 1:27 is a command. It requires continual action.
Religion that God sees as blameless requires caring and providing for orphans and widows who are oppressed and afflicted, who are in distress. 
(The Greek word here, which we translate as "distress," literally implies "pressure." And, oh, how these young mothers in Uganda are feeling the pressure.)

Do you know what I would love to see happen this "Orphan Sunday"? I would love to see people spreading the message about how to prevent orphans. Not just how to support and care for and adopt them after they've been abandoned, but how to keep children from becoming orphans in the first place...

Maybe it's by sponsoring a family...
Or befriending a single mother and offering love and hope...
Challenging men to step up to be husbands and fathers who protect and provide for women and children...
Or supporting an organization that assists at-risk mothers to raise their babies, like Heartline Haiti or Mercy House Kenya...
"...it doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first mother. We just have to be willing to do it."

So now here is my question: What are you doing to care for the orphans and widows? 
"It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. 
Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. 
That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: 
those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship." 
John 4:23-24 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Home Stay

Over the weekend, I stayed with my friend Laura. AIM requires all their long-term missionaries to participate in a home stay with a local family or individual at the beginning of their first term. I had already done a village home stay back in 2011 as a short-termer, so I was happy to not do that again.

Laura lives in Mbarara but on the outskirts of town in a more rural area, near my previous home. It was nice to be back in the "neighborhood" for a couple nights and spend time with such a sweet friend.

Laura has been caring for abandoned babies for many, many years. James and Emmanuel have been in her care since infancy, and she's now beginning to pursue their resettlement into permanent homes.

She recently opened her home for daycare services, as well. Laura desires to reach out to women in tough situations, so she is currently caring for another little boy, Marcus, whose mother is single and in medical school.

To see Laura with these three handsome men is to see love in action. Though she herself struggles to make ends meet, she continually turns to the Lord in trust and hope.

So what did my home stay actually look like?

Honestly, it was very relaxing. Laura employs and houses a young lady, also a single mother, to cook and clean and do the washing.This allows Laura to spend more time with the babies throughout the day. I basically did what Laura did in my time there, so our days generally looked something like this:

7:30am - wake up, play with the children
9am - children eat breakfast
9:30am - Laura, Dafeen, and I eat breakfast

breakfast/tea: lemongrass tea and white bread
10-2pm - Laura and I visit and play with the children
2pm - children eat lunch
2:30pm - children go down for a nap
2:45 - Laura, Dafeen, and I eat lunch

matoke and beans: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
3:30 - everyone rests or visits
5pm - everyone gets up, Laura and I play with the children

6pm - tea time
7pm - watch the local news...and when power cuts out, we watch the children sing and dance instead
8:15pm - children eat dinner, get washed up and ready for bed
9pm - family prayers and children go to bed
9:45pm - Laura, Dafeen, and I eat dinner
11pm - go to bed

Our Sunday looked a bit different as we attended church in the morning, had a visitor over for lunch, and visited a friend in the hospital.

going to church

Short and sweet... I enjoyed my time with Laura in her home! I will treasure those moments of exchanging words of wisdom, lifting each other up, sharing personal stories, and speaking scriptures to one another as gentle encouragement and reminders.

Please keep Laura and her ministry in your prayers!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Discipleship is Not Dead

Have you ever thought about why the Dead Sea is dead? 

No living creature, even seaweed, can survive in its waters.

The Jordan river and some other smaller tributaries flow into the Dead Sea with an estimated 6.5 million tons of water daily. Yet it's still utterly dead.
The only way water can leave its borders is for it to evaporate into the air.

The Dead Sea is dead because it has no outlet.
There is no continual flow.

Isn't this the same as discipleship?

James 2:26 says that faith without deeds is dead.
We can have abundant spiritual input and teaching, but if we're not doing anything with our spiritual gain, we will become spiritually fat. We can be in a continual state of theological learning and gaining knowledge of the Holy, but if we're storing it all up for ourselves and never sharing with others, it isn't actually healthy or beneficial.

John 7:38 says that out of our hearts flow rivers of living water.
Stagnant waters go foul. Where there is a flow, continual input and output, there is life.

Oswald Chambers says, in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest:
If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you hoarded it. Yet if you had poured it out to Him, you would have been the sweetest person on earth. If you are always keeping blessings to yourself and never learning to pour out anything “to the Lord,” other people will never have their vision of God expanded through you.

It's not possible to be a disciple of Christ and dead at the same time.
Galatians 2:20 says that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Following Jesus means dying to myself and coming alive in Him.

And to be alive in Christ means to make disciples. There is no other option.

So if you are a disciple of Jesus, what are your outlets?
Who are you pouring into?
What are you pouring out?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Comparing Cultures

East Meets West: An Infographic Portrait | Yang Liu
"The artist and visual designer Yang Liu was born in China and lives in Germany since she was 14. By growing up in two very different places with very different traditions she was able to experience the differences between the two cultures first-hand."

At a party
At a party.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats | Time
Depicting what the average family eats in one week and what it costs

Germany: The Sturm Family of Hamburg.   Food Expenditure for One Week: € 253.29 ($325.81 USD). Favorite foods: salads, shrimp, buttered vegetables, sweet rice with cinnamon and sugar, pasta.

40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World | Twisted Sifter

Annual coffee consumption per capita

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The ABC's of Life in Uganda

A is for... airplane, it took four of them to make it back to Mbarara.

B is for... boda boda, public transportation via motorcycle.

C is for... central market, where I purchase the majority of my produce.

I buy a lot of my produce from Shakira

D is for... doxycycline, a malaria prophylaxis I take daily.

E is for... equator, we cross into the southern hemisphere travelling from the capital city to Mbarara. Living on the equator means 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness year-round.

team mates
F is for... fan, I can't sleep without the white noise to drown out the many other night sounds.

G is for... gecko, something I have NOT missed about Uganda. I will spare you from a photo.

H is for... hand washing, it's how my laundry gets done.

I is for... ironing, which kills any mango fly eggs that might be on your clothes after they dry outside (Do not Google "mango fly" unless you like disgusting things).

J is for... jackfruit, a funny looking fruit with a flavor that reminds me of banana laffy-taffy.

K is for... Kampala, the hot and crowded capital city of Uganda.

L is for... lantern, my main source of light when power is out.

M is for... mosquito net, sometimes I sleep under one to keep the geckos away!

N is for...Nakumatt, the first and only "big-box" store that recently opened in town.

O is for... Orange, my internet provider and key for keeping in touch with y'all.

P is for... potholes, which are sometimes more common than road.

Q is for... Queen Elizabeth, the safari park less than two hours from Mbarara.

R is for... Runyankole, the local Bantu language I'm learning.

S is for... shilling, the Ugandan form of currency. 2,500 shillings (ugx) = about $1.

T is for... team, we currently have 23 team mates. This breaks down to 16 adults and 7 kiddos, whose ages range from 8 weeks to 13 years. I won't tell you the age range of the adults for discretion's sake, but we have everyone from fresh college graduates to recently retired folks to someone who is about to celebrate his 50th anniversary of moving to Uganda!

U is for... Umeme, the electric company, which let us know we'll be without power from 6am-6pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for nine months... plus all the other times it randomly goes out.

V is for... the view, I look out at the mountains each day, and it never gets old.

view from my bedroom 

view from our road

W is for... water, it must be filtered or boiled to make it safe for drinking.

X is for... xenophobia, which I really hope you don't have if you come to Uganda.

Y is for... yellows, the nickname aptly given to this larger type of banana (called bagoya in Runyankole).

Z is for... zap! The satisfying sound and spark that come from this device when mosquitoes, fruit flies, flying termites, etc. collide with its electric shock. Praise Jesus.