Wednesday, December 9, 2009

6 days!!

6 days?!?

Wow. I don't think I can really comprehend that. But I'm excited.

This will probably be the last blog from Uganda. Saturday we leave for debrief in Entebbe, and then fly out from there on Tuesday evening. I should get to my house really early (3 am?) on Thursday the 17th.

Ohio is going to be cold. Brrr.


Things I will miss:

Other USPers. Oh, friends. It will be weird to not see everyone everyday...or be crammed into a small room with them.


(this is just IMME...USE people are awesome as well)

The sky.
It's so big...and lovely...and I just love it. Included in this would be awesome thunderstorms, refreshing rain almost everyday, lightening storms, and rainbows.




Food. Weird, yeah. I've been eating the same things over and over again, but honestly, I love beans and rice. And the fruit here is awesome as well.




Also, the boy who I pass who likes to say, 'You are sweet'
The random movies that are on TV that are dubbed in Luganda. For example, I have seen parts of The Terminator, The Fugitive, and some Jackie Chan movie. I have also watched High School Musical at home. Awesome.

...and probably many more things that I won't realize I miss until after I get home.


Things I won't miss (at least anytime soon):

Boda drivers/Ugandan men in general/being called 'mzungu'
Sweating at all times of the day, regardless of what I'm doing
Eating right before I go to bed/having to eat large portions of hot food
Rats in my room

Things I'm looking forward to about going home:

Family



You are correct, Anna. We need an updated family picture.

Friends








...those are the main two. I'm excited for little comforts that I have missed. For example, having toilets that are close by that have toilet paper there. I'm also excited for having a variety of food. And so many other things.

Things I am not really looking forward to:

Answering the 'How was Africa?' question. Specific questions=great. It'll be easier to focus on one subject, instead of trying to put 3 1/2 months of intense experiences into one small response.

...that is the big one, actually. I guess I could put culture-shock (and freezing weather shock too...) on the list as well. It'll certainly be different than what I've experienced these last few months. Hm.



There are some little habits I have picked up, although I think they will probably fade somewhat soon after I get home, but just in case I do these things, don't be offended, this is what they mean:

1. Raising my eyebrows to say yes. Usually I combine this with actually saying yes, but just in case I don't...I am answering.
2. Making a mmm sound in response to everything. Maybe I'm actively listening, maybe I'm agreeing with you, maybe you brought up a point I've never thought of, or maybe I am just avoiding actually responding. These are all possibilities. Good luck deciphering :) Most likely it'll just be an acknowledgment that you're saying something. Maybe I'll work on fading this one out of my life after I get home...



Here are some quotes from our final class that I think are sweet.

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."
-Zora Neale Hurston


"...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
-Rainer Maria Rilke (1903) in Letters to a Young Poet


I definitely am not coming home with a bunch of answers. So I will live in the questions and be okay with that. I think it'll actually be pretty sweet in time to come to see what all I have learned while I've been here. Awesome.


7 months of summer has been sweet, but I'm ready for some colder weather, I think.
I'm coming home, Snowpig, I'm coming home...




Sunday, December 6, 2009

Safari!

Friday morning we were picked up at the UCU gate and headed up to Murchinson Falls for a weekend safari. About halfway to Murchinson, we stopped at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and walked through the bush to see the rhinos.



There are maybe 7 rhinos in Uganda, and we saw two of them. We had to sign a waiver essentially saying that if we were attacked by rhinos the Sanctuary wouldn't be held responsible. We were told to listen to the guides, and if a rhino started charging we needed to run to the nearest tree and climb it, or hide behind a really big tree. The rhinos were just lazing about though, so they weren't too threatening. There were a few times that I was a little nervous though. It's kind of scary to be near a huge beast with a horn and no fence between us.

There are guards that keep track of where the rhinos are at all times, and they just follow them around, so after the guard called this one's name a few times, it was kind enough to stand up for us so we could see a little better.




After the Rhinos, we stopped for lunch, and then continued the drive to Murchinson Falls National Park. Once we entered the park, it took about 2 hours to get to our campsite. There were warthogs that roamed around the campsite. One stole Drew's backpack and started to run off, but he chased it down. Dean wanted to get a photo, but I guess he was a little nervous. I don't know how well that tent would hold up against the warthog's horns.



We pitched our tents when we arrived, ate dinner, and went to bed since we were leaving at 6:30 the next morning.

After our vans were loaded with our snacks for the safari, we drove a few minutes to a ferry, and crossed the Nile so we could go on our game drive. We drove over this hill, and there were giraffes on both sides of the road. It was beautiful. The sun was still rising, and there was mist on the hills, and it was just an awesome scene.



Giraffes are just beautiful, and when they run, it looks like they are going in slow motion. We saw a lot of giraffes on our game drives just grazing and going about their day.




We saw elephants. They are so majestic. The babies are adorable.




Saturday afternoon we went on a boat cruise along the channel, and we saw so many hippos, along with other animals. At one point there were hippos, water buffalo, elephants, crested cranes (the Ugandan national bird), crocodiles, and other birds all in one spot. Amazing.




The boat ride was sweet, and we got to ride on the top of the boat for a bit, and it was just beautiful and relaxing.



The boat cruise ended at a waterfall, and that was just amazing. We got off the boat and hiked to the top of the falls. It was kind of a magical time. There was a rainbow perfectly spaced above the waterfall, and the rocks we hiked over were all shimmery like glitter. Everything seemed perfect, with a little rain, the waterfall, seeing all the animals, and the lovely weather. And then Saturday night was an amazing lightening storm that turned into a huge thunderstorm. Loved it.




Sunday we left at the same time but had a shorter game drive because we needed to catch the 10 a.m. ferry back. Our driver got a phone call, and we suddenly turned around and started driving really fast, because apparently some animal had been spotted, but we weren't sure what. Turns out it was a lion, and I took a video of it walking. Wow and wow.

video

Our drivers were sweet. There is a $150 fine for driving off the path, and the day before he had driven off the path and drove us right next to another group of lions. They did a great job of pointing out animals and telling us little facts they knew.






Watching the sun rise over the Nile was a sweet moment. The lyrics from the Snow Patrol song Chocolate popped into my head. "This could be the very moment I'm aware I'm alive. All these places feel like home."

I don't know exactly how 'at home' I feel here or in the savanna, bouncing around the van with animals everywhere, but I definitely felt alive. It was just a relaxing weekend, and I'm so thankful that I got to experience it (thanks Mom and Dad!).

I've got to do a lot of sweet things this semester, like rafting down the Nile, seeing giraffes and elephants and lions in the African savanna, and just traveling all around this beautiful country. Having 7 months of summer has been pretty awesome, although I am looking forward to winter. It's going to be SO cold though.

9 more days, 2 more papers, and a lot of packing to do, then home. Crazy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Classes and Thanksgiving

I know I mentioned all the classes I am in already, but I figured I could take this time to write a little more about each one…since they seem to be consuming my mind lately. I have a big paper due in each one next week, and I am just taking a break from working on them to write this.

Reading the New Testament in Africa

We just had the last class of this today. I enjoyed this class, especially when we neared the end of the semester and talked more about actual African interpretations of Scripture. For this final I have to do a project, and it will be a summary of different passages and their interpretations from an African viewpoint, and then discussing how those views differ from our Western perspective.

Faith and Action

This was our main class that everyone had to take. We read sweet books and discussed them. These were The Primal Vision, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Compassion, and Mere Discipleship. It seems like we read a lot more, but I guess not. I guess we had to read The Poisonwood Bible before we came, so that counted too. I enjoyed this class, and I guess will continue to enjoy it because it goes another week. And the final week we are here we’re having electives that we can attend, which are ‘Practicalities of Simple Living’, ‘Calling’, and ‘Politics and Peace’. That should be a good time. It also was the class that they hand out mail and packages in, so we enjoyed it. For this final I just have to essentially write out what has affected me, and kind of how my life and the way I live will be different when I go home. Telos (what our purpose in life is) and praxis (how we live our lives) are big words in this class. We talk about them a lot.

One component of Faith and Action was Contemporary Issues Seminar, where we met Wednesday afternoons and talked about different issues that are relevant to Uganda today. These issues included development, HIV/AIDS, poverty, the environment, and politics, plus some others. It was always pretty interesting discussion.

IMME Practicum

All of us who are in the Intercultural Ministry and Missions Emphasis (IMME) had a class too. Part of our class work was to get involved in our communities. I attended things with my family, I helped cook on occasion, and I colored with the little boys in my house. IMME also went on weekend trips, we had dinners with missionaries, and just talked a lot about missions. I also enjoyed this class, and felt like I learned some practical things, which is always nice. For this final I have to write a personal reflection paper on where I may see my life heading. Fun.

African Literature


This was a pretty awesome class. We had an African professor, and he was one funny man. We read a lot of novels, which were interesting, and this is how class usually went: We’d go on Monday, and the majority of the people would not have read. Those who had read went to the front and gave their initial opinions. We clapped for them. Then he’d let us out early so we could go finish the reading. Thursday we’d come for our two hour class, and divide into groups and discuss the characters, themes, and narrative techniques. For about an hour. Most groups finished in maybe 15 minutes. Then the groups would present and we’d clap for them, then we’d leave. Our professor liked to clap. He’s great. This ‘final’ is just another paper that compares two novels.

African Traditional Religions

This is the class that I struggled with the most…just motivation to go, and to care about it. Sometimes it was hard to understand the professor, and there was so much reading for each day. We went on some field trips to a martyr’s shrine and to a Muslim school. Our final paper is talking about the integration of ATR, Islam, and Christianity. It’ll be my least favorite.

So those are my classes. It’s weird that they are almost all done.


Also…I was going to add something about the IMMe group in my blog, but luckily I checked Hanna’s before writing it, so check out hers. Most of my sentiments are the same. It at least gives an account of the weekend in Rakai. And has some group photos.

http://hannaabroad.blogspot.com/

Tonight for Thanksgiving we are having a big meal. Hanna and I made scotcharoos and puppy chow. Yum and yum. Before we eat we’re going to play an American style football game (although it is gearing up to rain pretty soon).
Sunday I’m going to play in a Frisbee tournament.
Next weekend is the safari!
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

some thoughts

These lyrics have been running through my head the past week. Probably because it’s been raining a lot (hello, rainy season!), and mud is constantly covering my feet and legs.


“…Read it from the Bible

That don’t make it true

Breathe it in your nostrils

And get it on your shoes…”


-Trent Wagler Go Up To That Mountain


Like I said, it’s on my shoes and my feet…and the hems of my skirts and my pants. Red dirt and mud, which only happens because we walk everywhere. Experiencing what these Ugandans experience everyday, and living as they do (in some respects). It’s been less than 3 months, but I feel like this part of the song has made more sense to me since being here. I am breathing it in (mmm…latrines and smog), and it is definitely on my shoes, and staining my feet orange in some places.


This could be partly what the Gospel is about, hey? Walking with people on the journey and loving them and living life together. Not driving by, missing what is happening around me. When I walk home from school, it’s a different route than when I am driven home. You can’t even drive on most of the places I walk, since it’s just a footpath.


Relationships are built by this walking, even just through familiarity and passing people everyday. I’ve never talked to my neighbor girls, but they stand in their yard and wave ‘goodbye Jill’. It’s great to be called by my name, and not by mzungu. I always pass a mother and her children at their house, too. She could honestly be the most beautiful person ever, and her children are adorable. The mother and I have never spoken (language barrier), but the other day when I walked past and waved to the kids and shared a smile with her, I felt love and understanding coming from her. When I am driven home, I don’t experience this (not to mention the road that I live on is bumpy and uphill and I always feel like the van is going to break or we’re going to slide backward).


At home, I drive almost everywhere I go, and am so focused on my own destination that I miss the lives that are happening right beside me. How often do I do this? Metaphorically (or physically) drive by people, focusing on myself instead of recognizing their humanity, struggles, pain, and joys.


So many of the books we have read for classes relate to this idea of presence, and slowing down and focusing on people. (for example, Compassion by Henri Nouwen and The Primal Vision by John Taylor.) It definitely relates to the African way of life, and is most of the time in stark contrast to our Western speed of life.


One thing though that I have recognized is that these two cultures (America & Africa) are different. Neither one is necessarily better…they are just different. There are positives and negatives of both, and both could learn things from each other. It’ll be interesting to see what things I have learned that stick with me/are ingrained in me from this semester when I go back home. I definitely am not a completely different Jill, though. This semester (as we were told in one of our first classes) is about one degree change…not radical differences in our lives (although I guess that could happen), but smaller changes in our worldviews.



Anyway…this was just a little introspective rambling. Thanks for reading :)


Today we leave for Rakai, another district in Uganda (it’s about 20 km from Tanzania). It’s where some believe AIDS originated, or at least spread out from. This past week has been HIV/AIDS week on campus, and in a few of our classes we have focused on it. December 1 is World AIDS day, and next weekend we are going to visit different organizations that deal with the AIDS pandemic—Mildmay (a hospital that has state of the art testing facilities. The head of it spoke in Community Worship yesterday…he is HIV+ himself), and TASO (The AIDS Support Organization…a grassroots movement started by a few HIV+ people who realized they had no support and were being stigmatized in their communities). I may write more about the issue after this weekend.


We have 3 weeks left. Whoa. Some classes end next week, which means I really need to focus on schoolwork. It’ll get done :)


Thanks all for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

5 Weeks!

We have 5 weeks left. Crazy.

It seems like the end is close enough to start talking about it, but yet too far away to get excited about it. Although most of us are excited to come home. Hopefully we can just enjoy these last few weeks here in Africa, and not look too forward to the end and miss what we have right in front of us now.

So these last few weeks will be spent with friends...



...coloring with the boys in my house...



...and studying a lot. Writing papers, working on presentations, and reading.
Which mostly turns into listening to music and talking about food we miss.



Before I know it, this time will be over. Weeks seem to fly by. Especially with all the schoolwork that I have to finish, days will go by even quicker.

The rest of my weekends are filled too. I am going to some markets in Kampala this Saturday, then the next weekend we have an IMME trip to Rakai, then I am going to play in a Frisbee tourney in Kampala the last weekend in November, and then the first weekend in December I am going on a safari! Then it's debrief and home. Crazy crazy.

I have some bigger projects that are going to be due soon, so I should probably be working on them since they are due around the same time.

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kapchorwa

We spent 7 days with a family in Kapchorwa, Uganda, which is on the slopes of Mount Elgon.
It was beautiful...
Here are some pictures.



This was my family. Lillian, Miria, Denise, and Felix.
Denise is another USP student that was my roommate for the week. Miria and Felix were the parents. They have 6 kids, all of whom are in school. Lillian graduated, but she was in a taxi accident a year or two ago and is still recovering, so now she's living at home. We also had a houseboy named Michael. They are Sabine. Michael was Gisu, I believe. Anyway, it was interesting living and being around people who were not Baganda. Hearing a different tribe's story was interesting also.



My evening routine. I would read in the sitting room by lantern-light. Or in the middle of the day when we weren't doing anything. Not extremely rural, as you can tell by the fancy chairs and covers. The latrine was fairly nice (they provided toilet paper for us), and we got hot water for bathing. And our beds were super comfortable. It didn't seem like we were living too primitavely for the week.



This is me in front of a waterfall. It was right next to our house/land. We lived in the most beautiful place I have ever been. The view was amazing. Unfortunately, pictures didn't really do it justice, nor could my camera even capture it. Awesome.




We picked coffee 2 of the days. Here's from the first day. We picked these coffee beans off the trees. Later in the week after they were de-husked, we got to grind it and roast it, and we drank the coffee we had picked. With the whole milk straight from the cow (it was boiled though), the coffee was pretty tasty.



Denise and I making chapati. Yum.


Other activities during the week included picking maize, helping to cook, eating, taking walks, having tea, and meeting a lot of people that were related or lived nearby. Or just passed us on the street and wanted to greet the mzungus.



The donkeys that carried the bags of maize down from the hills to our house. You can kind of see the view from our house in this picture. There was a cliff on the left and a cliff on the right, and straight ahead dropped down into a valley. You could see the plains stretching forever. The vastness of it all still amazes me.




Wednesday I took out my hair. My real hair fell out in clumps afterward. It was a fun day.



Really I just took this picture for you Mom. I passed this calf everyday, and he was adorable, but I guess he's a little camera shy or something, because he walked behind the tree when I brought out the camera. I liked him.

My two favorite times during the week:

One: being followed by 18 kids as we took a walk, then getting caught in the rain and singing songs with the kids in a little hut that sheltered us til the rain passed.



Our friends who LOVED the camera and were really energetic singers.



Me and the rain in the doorway of the hut.

Two: sitting on the edge of the cliff with Denise, Brian (another USP student who ended up on our land), Andrew (Brian's neighbor), and Lillian watching the sun set over the plains. Gorgeous.



This picture does not do it justice.

For debrief we went to Sipi Falls, which was nearby. It was relaxing, and fun to hear stories from everyone's week.



Hanna and I at Sipi Falls. She's awesome, and I love her.




Me on a big swing in front of Sipi Falls. The ground just dropped off in front of the swing, so you end up swinging over a big drop off. It's kind of scary, hence why I'm facing the other way. And not really swinging.


Overall, it was just a refreshing week. My family spoke English really well, and they were so hospitable. They were open for having conversations and answering questions about all sorts of things. The villagers that'd see us were impressed that mzungus could actually do physical work in the fields, but they were thankful all the same that we were helping. The community works together to get money (through selling some of their crops) to send their kids to school, so being a part of that was neat. It was a good week, but now it's back to schoolwork and the routine here in Mukono. I'm sure these last few weeks will just fly by with the papers and projects we have to do.

Have a wonderful week!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Expectations

During orientation, we talked about the expectations we had before coming here, and how most of the things we thought or assumed about Africa and this semester would most likely not be.


This summer, I had this idea that everyone I met would be so kind, and would just be the epitome of love. I was reminded by a friend before I left that people are people the world around, and I have found this to be so true. My host family is very nice, but they are a family, and they are human. The siblings argue at times, and like to pick on each other. They watch crazy things on TV. I have only seen a few examples of selfless love, at least the kind that I was envisioning. They are still nice and hospitable though. I like them.


I also had this impression of not having a lot of food to eat, and losing a lot of weight and the weather being super hot all the time. One, Ugandans eat A LOT of food. And it’s mostly carbs, and the food is always piping hot. They say most girls gain weight when they are here. Not surprising. The culture encourages larger women, or at least finds them more beautiful. I know in some homes, the host moms are upset when their daughters do not eat past their limits. Luckily my maama feeds me just the right amount. Usually.


And the weather is so different than what I thought. There are times when I can definitely tell it is really warm, but we have had mini thunderstorms many afternoons which cool the temperature down, and the evenings are cooler. Most of the time the weather is really enjoyable, as long as the rain comes to cool it off the sun a bit. Which relates to another expectation: getting really tan. I am rarely in the sun for long periods of time. Expats who have been living here for years aren’t really tan, so I don’t know why I got the idea that I would be when I left. Oh stereotypes of Africa.


I had not expected to watch as much TV as I do now. I watch more than what I did in America. And it is all things I normally would not watch, like soap operas, televangelists, and music videos. The prosperity gospel is huge here. When I went to get a smoothie today at Canada Ice (a canteen on campus. The smoothies are AMAZING), Joel Olsteen was on TV. The soap operas have become quite addicting, sad to say. One that I enjoy/watch is called La Tormenta (the Storm). It’s pretty ridiculous. It’s Spanish and is dubbed over in English. It’s actually reached the point where I am just ready for some kind of closure with the story, because it’s getting out of control. Hard to believe from a soap, I know. The Amazing Race (a really old season with the people from Survivor) is on. I enjoy it.


I also was expecting some big answer-revelation about where my life is headed. Now I may be more confused than I was before. I guess I just still don’t have answers…but I’m so okay with it. It’s part of the journey, and I am enjoying it. I have plans for the few months after graduation, but after that I hope God will just open some doors. And I’m excited for what’s coming up in my life. This is good.


I didn’t expect to be such a novelty with my white skin. It’s annoying. Kids yell, everyone stares, and men call out. I’m tired of it. We’ve all gotten pretty annoyed and cynical about it. It’s hard to know the motives of Africans who want to be your friend. It’s sad to say, but especially with men, their motives are unclear, or they are TOO clear. Those relationships are avoided.


Yeah, so we’re halfway through the semester. Crazy. The rest of the semester is going to fly by I think. It has so far been a sufficient amount of time though. Life is good here in Africa for Jill. I’m thankful for that.


We leave for Kapchorwa tomorrow! I’m excited, partly just because we get a break from classes (except I have a lot of reading to do), and partly to see the beautiful area and experience a different lifestyle.


Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!