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.

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


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!!