Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gulu: Day Three

Day Three: Saturday Club! We woke up earlier this morning as at every Hope Alive! site Saturday is Saturday Club! Things are a little different here in Gulu. The kids show up early and clean the place. Yeah, seriously, they do. There were so many times today that I thought, “kids in America would NEVER do this”. When we arrived, they were mowing the grass, Ugandan style. I need to remember the word for it but they pretty much take a machete like thing and cut the grass with it. Others were washing chairs with many more doing other various tasks. I got to know quite a few names and to my happy surprise, many knew English! It was this that made me realize how incredible Hope Alive! is. The other kids in the IDP camp don’t have their education paid for thus, they didn’t know English. The Hope Alive! kids are able to get an education through sponsorship and thus are educated and know English not to mention have knowledge in so many other subjects. Life change is an incredible thing to see. The kids were then all gathered together for a time of praise and worship. None of the songs were in English and at one point, I closed my eyes and praised God that He doesn’t just hear in English, but also Acholi, Lugandan and every other language in the world. Catharine spoke to the kids about how they have a HOPE in Christ and encouraged them to have good influences in their life that encourage them to continue their education and focus on God. Many of the kids have little encouragement from their families and friends to get their education but instead to get money by farming or doing other small tasks. The temptation to receive money instead of an education is high. The long term is given up for the short term. Heartbreaking doesn’t quite cover it. After Catharine spoke, everyone divided up in age groups and had Bible study. I joined the little kids. It was all in Acholi so I mainly played with the kids. After that, we all joined together again where the kids did different presentations. There was a play, a couple songs and a lesson. All from what they had just learned. Amazing. Their retention is stunning. Lunch was served afterwards. There was cassava, cabbage and tea. The cassava and cabbage were delicious! Oh, please, let me tell you about this tea. It was like hot sweet tea, like Southern sweet. (Nikki, I think you would have approved. Yeah, that’s how sweet it was). We left Saturday Club around 3:00pm and headed back to the hotel. We walked around the streets for a bit to get some things and stopped at a bakery Catharine had showed us earlier. I had some of the best samosas that I’ve ever had there. Mmm. We relaxed this afternoon, watched an episode of “Chuck” together, ate dinner, watched another episode of “Chuck” and here we are. It’s currently storming outside which will probably translate into the power turning off tonight. We’re actually currently running on a generator as the power went off earlier. Here’s to hoping that no matter what, my fan stays on.

Since I’m posting this later, let me add some more details. The mowing the lawn deal is called slashing. Kate and I talked about it later and she noted how crazy it is that these kids use such sharp machete like things to do this and how again we’d never do this in the States. Kate also mentioned how the genocide in Rwanda took place with these such every day materials. Insane. The storm that night was pretty intense and the power was off almost the whole night. I thought we’d be eating dinner in the dark until the generator at last kicked in. That night, little worked in the room. I know the fan stopped working at some point and I praised God for my battery powered fan and my headlamp.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gulu: Day Two

Day Two. 

The morning was relaxing…besides my first glance into the bathroom. I had closed the door the night before to prevent any friends joining me in my sleep. I turned the light on…creaked open the door…whew. No bugs. I’m still wary of the bathroom. Breakfast that morning was nice. We sat outside on the veranda, drank fresh juice, ate my Spanish omelet and enjoyed the cool breeze. God and I continued our conversation from the night before, mainly with this verse: “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). Huuuah. One more sucker punch from God.  The sucker punch was finished off with v14: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.  I wondered what it looks like when the world has been crucified to me. How is that fleshed out? And what does it look like to boast ONLY in the cross? Wow. Imagine…

Catharine had a meeting that left Kate, Calista, Stephen and I to our own fun. We decided to walk around Gulu and explore. Kate thought that I could maybe find some mascara somewhere. I was glad at the thought but had already worked through not finding my identity in make-up the night before so I was good without finding it. We wandered through the streets of Gulu and ended up at the Gulu market. It was so nice to experience a smaller town market! The Kampala markets are so chaotic and insane. The Gulu market was so nice and calm in comparison. The night before there was a horrible storm and the mud on the streets and in the market still showed evidence of it. Our search for mascara took us to a few places and landed us back at the market at this random stall. Where else can you pay $0.75 for mascara? 

We then decided to just walk…and walk. We went through parts of town, got to a roundabout listing various NGO’s and followed the signs. I’ll interject here to say that I, Sarah Pisney, have renamed Gulu. Gulu will now and forever be known as Gulu: NGO City. Our first morning here I attempted to count the number of NGO vehicles that drove by our hotel. I lost count after 10 minutes and gave up. Back to the day. We followed signs for the UN and WHO as Calista wanted to see their offices. We followed the arrows to the street and walked…and walked…and walked. We past their offices and hoped that we would happen upon some awesome short cut back to where we wanted to be as we were meeting Catharine and Alfred for lunch soon. The hope of a short cut kept us walking along with Kate’s somewhat certainty that “at the next street” there’d be one. No such short cut came and once we stopped for directions, we realized that we would have to retrace all of our muddy tracks to get where we needed. The cool morning had turned into a very very hot day. We were all pouring in sweat and getting tired. Kate called Catharine to see if she’d be able to pick us up and (praise JESUS) she was! We started the trek back and met up with Catharine along the way. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated an air-conditioned car as much as I did when we entered. Ahhhh, it felt amazing.

 We had lunch with Alfred and then headed to the Hope Alive! Feeding Centre (not a misspelling, things are spelled British style here). We met up with Shem, the Assistant Site Director whom we had met the day before. We checked out where they’ll be raising chicks in order to make the center have income generation making it all less dependent on Western money. There were some kids from the IDP camp that came in. They spoke zero English so we communicated in other ways. Tickle spots are great ways to communicate, I’ve discovered. This also reminds me of when my brothers (read: Jeff) would tickle me until I couldn’t breathe as I child and I hated it. I hate being tickled to this day. Hence, I feel kind of bad about this form of communication but it gets smiles out of these kids and it’s fun…and I don’t tickle until they can’t breathe. I’m kind and merciful unlike some others (read: Jeff). After that, we headed back to the hotel. Catharine had a meeting at the hotel and though Kate and Calista joined, I opted for a nap. Mmm, it was nice. When I awoke, I joined everyone in card games, dinner and our nightly watching of an episode of “Chuck”. I had never heard of it but Kate got a season for her birthday last week so we’ve watched that every night here in Gulu. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gulu: Day One

This past week, Catharine, her niece Calista, her nephew Stephen, Kate and I headed to Gulu to visit our site up there. I decided to write about our days there. I'll post them day by day as well, it got longer than expected. God taught me a TON during this time as well as seeing things that I've never seen but only heard about. Enjoy. :)

We arrived on Thursday afternoon due to a verrry early morning wake up call to leave. Catharine had a meeting with Alfred, the Gulu site leader in the afternoon. We all squeezed (literally) into Catharine’s car for the ride. My anticipations were high as I’ve wanted to go to Gulu for so long. Soon after arriving and checking into our hotel, Hotel Roma, we went to lunch at Diana Gardens. The Rome themed names humored me as northern Uganda has no resemblance to Italy.  Calista, Kate and I sat in on Catharine’s meeting with Alfred. It was interesting to hear of all that a site leader has to deal with and amazing to see how Alfred’s mind worked to solve many of these problems. That night we all played card games. Everyone else satisfied their stomachs with cookies while Stephen and I ate at the hotel restaurant next door. I thought that prior to coming to Uganda, I would escape the Obama-mania of America. Ah, but to no avail. The hotel restaurant had a huge Obama calendar proclaiming “It’s Time For Black Power”. 

That first night I realized two discouraging things. First, I had forgotten my make-up bag. Not a HUGE deal but the realization that I’d be officially looking like trash for our entire trip was an annoyance. The second was higher on my annoyance list. When I was getting settled in my room, I noted and killed quite a few little baby cockroaches. They were little so it wasn’t the hugest deal but I wasn’t exactly excited to have them in my room. It was when I entered my room that night that it became a problem. I opened the door, turned on the bathroom light (the closest switch that actually worked), glanced in the bathroom and saw all sorts of movement. Big cockroach movement. I’m not a verbalizer during times like these; I’m a soundizer. No words came out but this loud moaning scared whine noise came instead. I had already warned Stephen that if there were any more bugs, he’d get a knock. I’m glad he was prepared. I think it was my soundizer that clued him in as apparently even Kate who was two doors down heard my noises. She thought it was someone speaking in another language. Nope, just one really freaked out American. I waited in the hall with Kate as Stephen killed everything that moved in the bathroom. He wouldn’t tell me exact details of all that he killed so I’m waiting until we leave the infamous Hotel Roma (now referred by me as “Hotel Roacha”). I carefully walked back in the room and quickly arranged my mosquito net over the bed. Inside the mosquito net, I put my battery powered fan, headlamp, cell phone and book. The power had already gone out a couple times so I was happy for my battery powered fan and headlamp.

 God and I had some time to talk after I settled myself in (and tucked in the mosquito net to make it roach proof despite the large holes in the net). I explained to God how we’d just gotten here and these two discouragements had done just that: discouraged me. I don't think God needed my explanation; it was pretty clear. I was frustrated. Annoyed. Not wanting this trip to be like this. These weren't what MY plans were. I then realized that I hadn’t really hardcored prayed over this trip to Gulu. I started praying for the people that we had met that day, those who we would meet and more. It then occurred to me: this trip isn’t so much about me. I know, real shocker, right? You know when God just kind of sucker punches you to put you in your place and you feel like “huuuuaaah”, big punch just took the breath out of you. Yeah. That’s what it was like. God knew I needed some kind of smack in the face. He’s a good face smacker. I started listing off what I had instead of what I didn’t. The bed I was in was actually really comfortable. The power was on and a fan was blowing on me. I was secure and safe. I had a bathroom in my room. I had a shower with hot water. Most of the people in Gulu have none of the above. Who am I to complain about no make-up and roaches? I mean, REALLY. I’m currently sitting here in my hotel room, fan blowing on me, typing on my laptop. I have more than I have not. I’ve learned a lot more about what true necessities are and what luxuries are. I live a luxurious life compared to so many…and I complain!? I know that God must just shake His head at me and wonder when I’ll actually get things instead of relearning and relearning. Good thing He’s patient...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Day of Contrasts

I had mentioned in my last e-mail update (insert random plug for my e-mail update. If you're not on that and want to be, let me know) I mentioned how one of the biggest transitions I'm having is that Kampala is such a contrasting city. I had such a day yesterday.

Friday's are my day off (oh blessed day off!). After making a bazillion flour tortillas the night before at Brian and Renee's, Renee and I planned to go to lunch the next day. She told me that she had the perfect place in mind. We drove into town and went to the Serena Hotel. As we walked in, I stated that it felt as though we were no longer in Kampala. That was the point. It was like our own little getaway without having to spend a bazillion dollars to spend the night there. Out of the five restaurants there, we chose to eat poolside and the little snack place down there. This should show you my view: click here


Surrounded by palm trees, a beautiful pool and a cool breeze, we caught some sun (I currently look related to a lobster), chatted and ate. It was so relaxing. 

After that, I went with Dorothy and Kate for home visits. From an upscale hotel to a slum.

What a contrast.

It doesn't seem like these two places can exist in the same city and yet, they do. It's insane.

I've been looking at the size of my bedroom lately. By American standards, it's a decent size but nothing incredible. Since I've visited many of the homes here, I've come to realize that my bedroom is larger than most of the homes that I've been visiting. These are some random people I'm visiting. It's families that I know. It's kids that I've come to love. Entire families of five or more living in a space smaller than my bedroom.

What insane contrasts. I have so much more than I deserve.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Miracles: Big and Small

One of the coolest things that God’s been doing is providing computers for Hope Alive! Before I left, I heard that the IT department at Liberty gives their old computers to the mission field. I got in contact with them and they’re donating 20 computers to us! With that, I’d like to give a HUGE shout out to Jonathan Lesley, Jonathan Gilbert and Ron Banks. Liberty is great because of employees like these. When I told Catharine of these prior to coming out, she mentioned what an answer to prayer it was as they’ve been praying to have a computer lab for the Kampala site. Incredible! The question then became, how are we going to get these computers out here? Shipping them is too expensive and the amount of custom and duty fees that they would charge us here would be ridiculous. I brought two with me when I came. God has provided two amazing friends, Patrick and Maria, to handle the rest of them. We’re shipping them to people as they come to Uganda to bring them as luggage.

Ok, that’s the set up. Wait, you thought the computers were the whole miracle? No no, God’s doing even MORE.

Catharine’s niece and nephew arrived on Tuesday. They got the four computers on Friday to bring with them for their flight on Sunday (Thank you, Patrick!!!). They checked in for their flight and the airline sent them on their way to the gate. Calista, the niece, realized that she hadn’t paid for their extra luggage, the computers. Being $175 per box, it was going to be quite the sum. She turned back and asked them about it. The Emirates representative told them that their travel agent had taken care of the fee.

They booked their flight online and had no travel agent.

This past week, I got another e-mail from Jonathan asking if we needed video projectors out here as well. God just keeps on giving…and it’s incredible.

A couple prayers requests come with this miracle:

1       First, that we’d get all of these shipped easily. There’s a team coming out next month that could take the rest of them. We just have to see if they’re able to do it. That would keep us from having to drag out the whole shipping process.

2.    Second, space! The computers were obviously unplanned and we’re in need of a space in Kampala to have a computer lab for the kids. Pray that a space opens up that’s close to where the kids are, that’s reasonable in rent and has everything that we need. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hot and Cold

My first month here in Uganda has been perfect weather-wise. Every day was just gorgeous; not too hot, not too cold.

That is until this past week. It has been SO HOT. I don't think I realize how hot things are until there's no AC to cool off in. I've woken up every night this past week drenched in sweat. I bought a ceiling fan that will hopefully be installed soon to let me sleep in coolness. 

Speaking of cold... 

I caught one on Sunday. I held this ADORABLE baby girl on Sunday. She started getting fussy so her mom came and took her from me. As she took her, she informed me that she was sick and that's why she was getting fussy. Um, thanks for the warning ahead of time. Luckily, today, I feel a TON better than I did yesterday. Hopefully the congested exhausted insanity will be done soon.

I realize that this is such a riveting blog post after my previous one. I am, however, THRILLED that many of you told me your dumb stories. I feel MUCH better about myself. :)

OH, and I drove to work this morning! I'll be driving ALL BY MYSELF to work tomorrow. Yikes. Kampala morning traffic. Me in my huge Prado. I need some prayers.