Monday, September 28, 2009


This weekend we had a party at my house so the family could meet my sister Daisy’s boyfriend. This visitation was a lot more formal than I expected. For some background, when a couple is dating, they go through certain formal steps. This was the first step for my sister and her boyfriend: meeting the parents. This is also when the paternal aunt meets the boyfriend, because the aunt is who is involved in the next stage, which is the Introduction. This is like an engagement announcement party, where the man is introduced to more of the girl’s family and friends. Usually the whole village is invited to the Introduction. This is also when they bring the dowry. The next step, if there is enough money, is to get married in the church. If not, the couple may just start living together and having kids, and they are considered married. I’m still a little confused about the details of the whole process, but this is the way I understand it to be.

So back to the weekend. Saturday morning as I was washing my clothes with my sister Joyce, some of the family members came back from the market with A LOT of food and sodas. I spent the day cutting up vegetables, making matoke, and cleaning the house. As we were preparing, I learned that we were getting ready for the family to meet Daisy’s boyfriend, and it was a pretty big deal. You don’t just bring a guy home to meet your parents unless you hope to marry, because it is shameful then if things don’t work out. Sunday the boyfriend and some of his family were supposed to come around 2. I went to church, and when I came back, there were some family members that I had to meet. I sat and chatted with an aunt and a cousin for a bit, then it was time to put a gomez on. The gomez is the traditional dress for women in Uganda. My sisters and I got all ready, took some pictures, and then it was time to wait. There was actually a lot of just sitting around and waiting that day. The boyfriend and his family came a little before three, and then there was a lot of talking between the males of my family and the boyfriend’s family. Us women (other than the one aunt) sat in another part of the house hidden behind a door. After an hour or so, the sisters and I filed into the sitting room and knelt and greeted the boyfriend’s family. Kneeling is a sign of respect, and when younger people greet someone older than them, they kneel, and women will kneel to men. So we knelt, and my sisters greeted the family. I did not know these Luganda greetings, so I just smiled. After we left the room, everyone started laughing, and later they said someone made a comment about how one of the daughters looked different than the rest.

The whole thing took about 7 hours, most of which was spent sitting with my sisters and a few brothers and watching them tease each other and joke around. We finally got to eat around 5, and it was delicious. The aunt served the boyfriend and his family the meal in the sitting room, and our family ate outside and in the other part of the house. After eating, my sister, mom, and maternal aunt had to go back in and be introduced to the boyfriend’s family. After that, the boyfriend brought in gifts of food and soda, and then they left. We spent the rest of the evening cleaning up, and then I ate a little bit of leftovers and went to bed.

Hopefully if there is an Introduction it will be sometime while I am still here. We figured out today that we only have about 3 weekends left with our families, which seems crazy. Every other weekend is spent on trips. This semester seems like it is flying by, which is good and bad at the same time. It will be good when it’s time to go home, to be with family and friends and the comforts I know, but I am happy with where I am now. I am thankful that things are becoming more comfortable to me here, and I am enjoying what I am learning and doing. I am content :)

The women in their gomez dresses.
Back: Aunt Max, Mama Resty
Front: Sister Daisy, Aunt Jean (the one who did the introducing)

Sibling picture (I'm not sure how the little kid sitting on the steps fits in the family, and there are more siblings not pictured)
Back: Me, Joyce
Middle: Daisy, Maria
Front: Peter, Matilda, Martin

Me with the younger boys. Stewart is in the yellow, Joseph is in the stripes, and Bosco snuck in the back. They are funny.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I really like the sky. Here are some pictures.

During a downpour. This is my backyard, the view from my bedroom window. From left to right, its the latrines, a storage building, and the kitchen.

My view of Lake Victoria near my house. The picture doesn't do it justice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


“Jill, just eat the bugs.”

Staring into a plate filled with maggot-looking insects, heads, antennas, and legs included, I knew I just had to go for it. The evening had started off wonderfully. When I got home, my family was making chapatti, and they told me I could help. I watched my brother Bosco roll the ball of dough out with a rolling pin until it was pretty thin, and then my mama would put it on a hot skillet and move it around with her fingers to cook it. After watching one being made, they let me take over the rolling part. My mama complimented me on my rolling skills, and said that I was quick, which was good, because “her boys are just too slow” when they help. It was nice to finally be helping with something and being productive. And I like to cook, so it was a good time. Also my youngest brother Stewart walked out of the house singing ‘jingle bells’, and so I joined in with him, and he got embarrassed and everyone started laughing. Then he went to another room and started singing it again, loud enough so I could hear. He doesn’t speak much English, so this can be a way to “talk” to him, or at least interact.

Anyway…back to the bugs. We had just finished eating the chapatti and beans, and I was about to get up and go to bed when the younger boys brought out plates for my dad and brother, and it looked like roasted nuts. I knew they would bring some to me so I figured I’d just wait, eat a few, then go to bed. Then they set the plate in front of me, and I realized that it was a plate of bugs. Bugs that I had seen on the floor in my room that morning, bugs whose wings were everywhere in the house and outside. Awesome. My brother explained these were the ‘white ants’, and they were a delicacy. They are called Nswa. He told me I had to eat at least 10 of them, then he would help me finish them if I wanted him to. They were not too bad, actually. They had a taste that reminded me of something familiar, but I can’t quite place what it was. Something grilled. I did only eat about ten, then let my brother enjoy the rest, and I went to bed. But now I have eaten bugs, and I doubt it will be the last time.

Have a happy day!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Few Pictures

Hanna and I in Kabale on the island.

Playing in the rain.

Hanna and I at the Equator on our way to Rwanda.


I just got back from our weekend trip to Jinja. It was a good weekend, and pretty relaxing. They treat us well on our little excursions. We got to Jinja in time for dinner on Friday. We stayed the weekend at Kingfisher Safari Resort, which was really nice. We stayed in little huts, complete with inside toilets (with toilet paper!) and showers, which are nice when normally we are locked into our houses at night, and using the toilet is not an option unless you want to use a bucket in your room. And not having to worry about whether you need to bring your own toilet paper to the restroom is always great too :)

Friday evening we listened to three missionaries (a couple, and then a 23-year-old girl) who work with prison ministries in Jinja. I heard part of their story of how they got to Uganda, and it was so amazing. There is no denying that God wanted them to be right where they are now. Anytime they were unsure where to go, or what to do next, a door opened up. If they needed money, someone would call the next day and offer to give them the exact amount. For example, they felt led to go somewhere else, but they needed to do something with their house, and that night one of their friends called and said that he wanted to move to their area, and needed a place to rent. He said he wanted a place similar to where the couple lived, and then named their mortgage as what he’d be willing to pay. They made a deal right then. Everything just fell into place. I am sure they had hard times, but the way they told it, it was so obvious that God was leading them in every decision. In Jinja, they teach the truths of the Bible to combat all the false teachers that are so popular in Uganda. The prosperity gospel is everywhere in Uganda, and many people buy into it. Literally. I believe the husband leads a Bible school, and the two women minister in the condemned ward in the women’s prison.

After they spoke, we had dinner at the resort, and it was delicious. The meat didn’t have any bones or excess fat in it, and there were a lot of fruits and vegetables. The fruit is just wonderful here. There is a pool at the resort, so after we ate some of us went swimming. It felt so refreshing to be in cold water, and not have to worry about the cleanliness or the prevalence of parasites in the water. Then we got actual showers (instead of splash baths out of a bucket), and went to bed.

In the morning they had an amazing breakfast prepared, with made-to-order omelets, wheat toast and a variety of jams, and cereal and milk! They had a chocolate cereal that was so so tasty. They also had real coffee and different types of teas. We all ate a lot that morning.

After breakfast we drove to The Source Café, and listened to a missionary there talk about the differences between Ugandan and American culture. It was really helpful, and maybe another time I will highlight some of those differences. We had lunch there, then went on a devotional tour of Jinja, led by the missionary. We went to one of the tees on a golf course (where you can golf for only $5) which overlooked the source of the Nile. We were told about the man who discovered the source, and how he risked his life to find it. We were then asked what we were searching so hard for in this life, and what would be our source of life.

The next stop on the tour was what used to be called the Beverly Hills of Uganda. We stopped outside a Hindu temple, and across the street were old, huge houses, with some windows broken out and paint coming off the sides. We could imagine how it looked in its glory days, with palms lining the smooth road that had a nicely painted curb, and huge houses surrounded by gates. These were all owned by Indians who were very wealthy businessmen in Jinja. When Idi Amin came into power, he gave all the Indians 3 months to leave the country, and would not let them take anything with them. Amin put Ugandans in the houses, and gave them the Indian businesses. Now the houses have a family living in each room, so there may be 20 families in one of the houses. This was used as an example of what we want to be left behind when we are gone. What kind of legacy do we want to leave? What stories do we want to be told about us?

The third stop was at what they called the ‘ting ting’. We just walked single file among these little tin-covered huts where men were hammering away on metal (where the name ting ting comes from), and soldering things together, taking scrap pieces of metal and making them into useful things. Then we were told that we had so many opportunities in life. We can do whatever we want to. So what are we going to do with our lives? Will we make them useful? What will we live for?

The final stop of the tour may have been the hardest for everyone. We went to the main hospital in all of Jinja, and were told to just walk through some of the wards. They were just big hallways with beds lining the walls, and family members would sleep on mats on the floor next to the ill person so they could take care of them. We were told of one man who went and was there for 3 weeks before he ever saw a doctor. I think what was hardest for all of us was just that we felt like we were walking through and staring…like they were animals and we were at a zoo. We only had 5 minutes to walk around, so that’s not any amount of time to explain what we’re doing and why a bunch of young white people just walked in and walked out. The lesson we were to take from the hospital visit was that many missionaries come thinking they can make so many changes, and after about a year they usually become cynical or lose all hope. We were just encouraged that we can’t save the world, and that burden is lifted from our shoulders…if we felt it there in the first place.

It was overall a good tour, and we got to see parts of Jinja that we would not have otherwise. We went back to the Resort and most of us then went on a small boat to the source of the Nile, and then floated down the Nile for a bit. I have touched the Nile River. Awesome. One of the guys drank some of the Nile River…then realized it may have been the stupidest thing he’s done because we don’t know what is in that water. Mostly we just saw birds in the trees along the bank though. We were in two boats, and one stopped at the island where the water changes direction and they got to walk around, but it cost money to park the boats, and our driver didn’t have any shillings with him. It was still a neat experience. We went back and played Frisbee in the pool, and then showered and went to dinner. Most of us had pizza and milkshakes. It was pretty tasty. I just realized food updates are becoming prevalent in these updates, but when you get something other than matoke, rice, and beans, it’s a pretty special occasion.

Church on Sunday was exciting. We stayed for both services, then went for lunch and traveled back to campus to study before having to go back to our houses for the night. Anyway, at each service our group led two songs, and one of the students preached. Church reminded me a lot of camp this summer. We sang a song that I’m pretty sure was copied from “Cast Your Burdens”, because I think I heard that phrase, and then we did some ‘higha-highas’ and ‘lowa-lowas’. The guy spoke on being fruitful and rooted in God, and mentioned John 15, and I’ve been singing “Abide in Me” all day (which was our camp theme song…and John 15 were the theme verses for the summer). Then the children’s choir marched in singing “We Are Marching in the Light of God”. And their choir was amazing. They had a song playing, and the boy who was the leader was lip-synching to it, while the rest of the kids sang background and danced. And he had some moves too. It was hilarious, but awesome. Then they recited two memory verses, and went back out to Sunday School.

Overall, it was a great weekend, but now it is back to reality and homework and deadlines. Such is life, but life is good. I feel refreshed and ready to keep the days coming. Thanks for reading!! :)

Friday, September 18, 2009


I really enjoy my walk to and from school. It takes about 20 minutes, and half of the walk is on campus, which is nice. On the way to school, I mostly walk downhill until I get to campus, then there is a hill to walk up. On the way home, most of the walk is easy until the last 8 minutes, where it is mostly uphill. I take a little footpath that winds through peoples’ gardens and along their houses.

Depending on the time I leave for school, there will be little kids outside one of the houses that always yell “Hi mzungu! Bye mzungu!” So I wave at them, then walk/shuffle down a really steep hill, which I have already slipped down once. At least it wasn’t on a rainy, muddy day. I pass a house where two other USP students live, am on a main road for about half a minute, and then I reach the UCU gate. Outside the gate there are usually about six boda-bodas sitting there, which I was really nervous about because the drivers are known to make obnoxious comments, but none of them have ever talked to me, which I am thankful for.

The walk home is beautiful. There is a spot really close to my house that is my favorite. There is a red brick wall, and past that you can see Lake Victoria with mountains behind it, and houses and villages in front of it. There was one evening that it was foggy, and it looked amazing. Sometimes the sunset adds a bit of color to the sky, and it just enhances the scene.

This morning though the walk was an experience. I had to leave the house by 7 for my class at 7:30, and it was kind of raining as I was getting ready. I put on my clear emergency rain poncho (because it was the only protection from the rain I had), and headed out the door. My little brothers saw me and started laughing at me, and then I passed some kids going to school, and they giggled also. Apparently an umbrella will be more socially acceptable. I made it most of the way to school, but as I neared the house where the two guys live, the clouds just let loose. Luckily one of the guys was on the porch, along with his mom and sister, so I ran there for some shelter. The mom invited me in and gave me breakfast as we waited for the rain to die down, and then we left for class, and got there about half an hour late. There is a lot of red mud everywhere today.

We leave for Jinja this afternoon, and will be there until Sunday night, which will hopefully provide some time for much-needed relaxation and refreshment before we begin another week of class.

Thanks for reading! Have a blessed day!

Monday, September 14, 2009

After the Storm

First full weekend at my homestay! It was interesting, and it seemed really long at times, but I survived! We were sent home around 3 on Friday just so we’d be home in case any more riots happened that evening, since it was still up in the air as to whether the Kabaka would travel or not. (Nothing did happen, by the way). Friday evening was just spent reading my books for class and watching TV. It was similar to any other evening, but I was nervous for the rest of the weekend. I had a routine down for the weekdays, but the weekends were a new experience, and I was not sure what to expect. Saturday I woke up and my sister Daisy came in the room and asked if I had any laundry to do, so I spent an hour and a half doing my laundry, with a bucket of soapy water and a bucket of clean water. It was not difficult, and it gave Daisy and I some time to talk. Mostly she asked questions about how we wash our clothes in America.

I read a lot for homework Saturday, watched a Spanish movie with my brother Martin (who is quite a character…he likes to ask questions about America, and make jokes about the Ugandan professors I have), and helped paint the windows at the house.
Sunday was hard for me. Saturday night I was feeling really lonely and uncomfortable, I think partly because there was an aunt at the house who doesn’t speak English, so she always talks about the mzungu (white person) and then starts laughing. My family gave me a clan name, Nocheewalla (phonetically spelled…it means beautiful girl, and it’s also my sister’s clan name), and so the aunt started calling me that also, so I would just hear her say something about the mzungu or Nocheewalla, and have no idea what she was saying about me. It was the longest I’d been away from other Americans since I’ve been here, and I just felt very alone. Sunday I was hoping I would feel better. My brother Peter and I went to an English service, and there were 8 other USP students there also, so it was nice to see them for a bit—to realize they were in the same situation as me that weekend.

I was just really overwhelmed on Sunday, from feeling uncomfortable at my house and not being sure what to do with myself and how to act, and I cried a lot that day. The worst of it was during church, so I did a lot of “praying”, but was actually crying. Now it’s kind of funny to think about…how some members of the church must have been wondering about this mzungu who was so holy. :)

But God is good. And it seems like scripture suddenly has new meaning, and it is so helpful. I read James 1:2-4 Saturday night, which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I know that this semester will change me, and so I can persevere through these “trials”, and it will be worth it.

Then at church, the scripture that was read was 2 Peter 1:4-7: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” I had been wondering how I would come to relate to and love the family I am with, but with perseverance, and focusing on following God’s leading, then the respect and love will come when I view the people I meet as children of God. Also at church, they read Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” So I did :) And Sunday night was perfectly fine. I sat with my family, and they asked me more questions about home, and I explained to them the process of how we freeze corn. They were amazed that we could eat the corn right off the cob. I am thankful to be past the little time of darkness this weekend. I am sure it will not be the last I have, but I know that I can do this, and when I feel this way again, I know that God is with me.

Sunday evening we had a HUGE storm, which also helped my mood, because I love thunderstorms. We were watching TV, and suddenly the temperature dropped, and I figured it would start raining, because it rains for about 5 minutes everyday, but then it just let loose. We have a tin roof, and it was so loud in the house that we couldn’t hear each other talk. High up on the walls there are mini permanent windows (that are essentially just decorative holes in the walls), and hail started coming in through them and making the floor all wet. It stormed like this for about 15 minutes. There was just so much rain. It was awesome.

So after the storm (literally and figuratively)….I am feeling better, more comfortable, able to make it, more at peace. I really enjoy the other USP people, and I am starting to feel more at home at my homestay. Life is good.

Thanks all for reading, and for your prayers! Have a happy day!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Uganda Update 3

Hello! I’ve almost made it through the first week of school! My classes still seem interesting and manageable, which is a good sign I think. All the IMME (Intercultural Missions and Ministry Emphasis, those of us who have homestays this semester) students have two small rooms that we can store our things in and study during the day, and they get pretty crowded with the 21 of us who spend all day on campus. Some of the USE (Uganda Studies Emphasis, who live on campus) also will come to hang out or use our internet (because theirs hasn’t been working). So far, it has not made for the most conducive environment for studying. But I am keeping up with my school work, and I have some time when I go home to study, read, or do other schoolwork.
The other night my host dad asked me what food is my favorite in America, and I responded corn, mashed potatoes, and pasta. Then he asked me if I could get those things at the supermarket, so hopefully I’ll get to cook sometime! The staple here is matoke, which is steamed banana plantains, which tastes kind of like a potato. I have gotten used to the taste, and it is really good depending on what kind of sauce is with the meal. There is also chipati, which is delicious. It’s like flat bread…only it’s really greasy, but really good. A popular thing to get on campus is a Rolex, which is a chipati filled with egg, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Kind of like a breakfast burrito. It is very tasty.
Last night was really intense. The Kabaka (king) of Buganda, which is the tribe and kingdom we live in, was going to travel to another part of his territory on Saturday, but the Uganda government told him he was not allowed because it was unsafe, and so there were riots in Kampala and Mukono (and other areas in Buganda) because the people thought the Kabaka should be able to travel as he wants since it is his land. Most of the rioters were unemployed youth. The university drove half of the IMME students home, and those of us that were in safer villages and close to campus walked home. I was one who walked home, because my house is on the opposite side of campus than Mukono town. There are two IMME guys whose house I pass on the way to school, so I made them walk me home just in case.
My host dad works in Kampala, and taxis stopped going from Kampala to Mukono, so he had to walk three hours to get home. My sister had to get home from school, and she said taxis and boda-bodas (motorcycles that transport people) had doubled their prices that evening. We watched the riots on the news, but our village was safe, and the only difference we noticed was that our road was used more by taxis because they could not get through Mukono. Some students this morning said that they had people hiding out in their houses and heard gunshots and things. Some students stayed with the USP staff on campus because their houses and villages were not safe at all. But all the students are safe this morning, which is great.
Next weekend we are going to Jinja to meet with some missionaries. We will also see the mouth of the Nile.
Thanks for reading!! Have a happy day!

Monday, September 7, 2009

7th September 2009

Today is the first day of classes. We just got back yesterday from a week in Rwanda. We spent the first two days in Gahini, a diocese in Rwanda where the East African Revival was started. The place where we ate every meal was overlooking a lake. It was beautiful.
We then travelled to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and were there for 4 days. Our time in Kigali was spent doing a lot of travelling around and hearing different speakers. We went to two genocide memorials, heard from survivors, and heard speakers talk about the Revival and the after effects of the genocide. The forgiveness and reconciliation that is going on there between survivors and perpetrators is inspiring. In the rural areas, they come from the same villages, and some are now living and working together again. With God’s strength, that kind of love is possible.
In Kigali, we also met with some missionaries. One lady talked about environmental sustainability, and also business as missions. Another is working with Food for the Hungry, and they work with local artisans to get their products sold in different parts of the world. Other missionaries we met with talked about relief and development in Rwanda. We also toured a card-making business called Cards From Africa that employs orphans of the genocide. The cards are made from recycled paper and they are really neat. I think CFA has a website. Check it out.
For the last two days of our trip we stayed at Bunyonyi Lake in Kabale, Uganda. We took a little boat out to an island called Bushara, and I think we had the whole island to ourselves, other than the workers. It was beautiful! We stayed in canvas tents that were really nice. They had beds and a table and chairs inside, and then a sink on the porch, and an outdoor shower and toilet. The tent I was in had a beautiful view. When we unzipped the door, we could look out over the lake, with mountains in the background. It was such a relaxing time. We had all of Saturday afternoon free, and so people swam, jumped off a rope swing, and went boating. A group of us played Ultimate Frisbee, which was a lot of fun.
Sunday we woke up really early and drove back to our homestays. Traffic was pretty slow since most Ugandan children go to boarding school, so everyone was taking their children to school because classes start today.
Now there are 10 of us in my home. My sister who is a teacher may end up staying at the school she is teaching at because they transferred her and now she is farther away. I thought my other sister was going to be living at school, but she was at the house last night, and still in bed when I left this morning. Three of the boys go to school, and then Peter and I come to campus so he can work and I will go to classes. Usually our evenings consist of watching TV and waiting for dinner to be ready, which is anytime from 8:30-10:30. TV will sometimes be news, but last night we watched a documentary about Martin Luther King Jr. and then a Spanish soap opera, which was dubbed over in English. It’s pretty terrible actually, but somewhat funny to watch. The mornings are really interesting. This morning someone was either watching TV or listening to the radio at 3 a.m. And you can hear everything all over the house, since the walls are not attached to the roof, so sound travels through that opening. My host dad will wake up everyone to say good morning, which is usually about 4:30 or 5. Then we can try to keep sleeping until we need to get up. Since I go to bed right after I eat, usually getting up early isn’t too big of a deal.
Classes start today. I have three this afternoon, but every day is different, so it will take a while to get used to everything. I have five classes, which are Faith and Action (which all the USP students are in), African Literature, African Traditional Religions, Missions Practicum, and Reading the New Testament in Africa. I am excited about them. I think they will be really interesting.
The group of students that are here are awesome. We had a lot of bonding time during this past week, and I’m excited to continue growing closer as a group.
Thanks for your prayers and taking time to read my updates!