Monday, September 28, 2009


Hey everyone. I just wanted to do a quick update on classes and Jinja while I have the opportunity. So here it goes.

Classes are interesting. It is a lot more difficult than I expected. Our energy is being pulled in so many directions and it is difficult to focus on the academic side of things when relationship building seems to be more important. There is also not a whole lot of access to academic materials. That makes things even more difficult. And add to this the fact that my grades transfer back as pass/fail so I only need to attain a 51%. Basically no motivation.

However, I am actually enjoying most of my classes. Many are conducted in a seminar style, which is not my favorite. I am a huge fan of class discussion; as long as I am not pressured to participate in said discussion. That has been the most difficult part, and I am a long way from mastering the art of talking in class. There are also no tests, which is a bummer. Just lots of papers and presentations. But, alas, I will survive.

What I most enjoy about the classes is the subject matter. So many of the things we read about in class are reinforced by our experiences. We have been discussing African traditional religions in most every class and it has become quite easy to see how these belief systems permeate culture. In Faith and Action we have been discussing Christianity and culture. It has been really challenging to question my faith in the light of the African culture. So many of our Christian beliefs are cultural rather than biblical. This has huge implications for mission work. It is hard because there are no easy answers to the questions that are being posed. It is a tad overwhelming at times.

Maybe I should also give a list of my classes:
Faith and Action-required for everyone in the Uganda Studies Program
IMME Practicum-required for all the students in the Intercultural Ministry and Missions Emphasis (those on homestays)
Reading the New Testament in Africa
African Traditional Religions, Islam, and Christianity in Contemporary Uganda
African Liturature

Ok. I'm tired of talking about classes. So...I'll talk about Jinja.

Last weekend we went on a weekend trip to Jinja. We left Friday evening and returned Sunday afternoon. It was such a relaxing time. We stayed at the Kingfisher Resort. It seemed like a 5-star hotel to us. There were flushing toilets, running water (although only hot showers for about an hour a day), a swimming pool (!!!!), and pretty amazing food, which I have already mentioned.

Friday evening we talked with a couple missionaries who had been working in Uganda doing prison ministry for 11 years. It was really cool to hear from them. However, we were really hard on them because what they are doing doesn't necessarily line up with what we have been learning in class. I felt bad for the couple as they were bombarded with philosophical questions from the group.

We also went swimming on Friday night, which was absolutely amazing. Enough said.

On Saturday we went to The Source Cafe, a business run by a couple local missionaries. The man talked to us about cultural differences as well as what he does in the area. We were then able to eat meals at the restraunt. So delicious. We then went on a devotional tour of Jinja. We saw the source of the Nile, went to the old main street (which was apparently quite a sight before Amin), went to a manual labor site, and saw a local hospital. We were not all particularly pleased with every aspect of the tour (namely the hospital, at which we walked in and basically stared at the people), but it was nice to get to see a bit of the town.

Saturday afternoon we went out in boats to see the source of the Nile. We stopped at one of the islands where the Nile begins and saw the underwater springs. Manny drank the water and immediately realized that was probably not the best idea (parasites). He freaked out a little, but he's still perfectly healthy. Our guide caught a fish with his bare hands. Actually, it was pretty much dead and floating at the top of the water. We had a good time.

That night we ate at Two Sisters restraunt. It was amazing. I had Hawaiian pizza. American food is such a treat. It was so delicious.

Sunday morning we went to church at New Life Baptist. It was pretty interesting. We got there, had a short service, had small group bible studies, then attended the main service. Davis preached at both services. At the main service there was a group of children who sang some Michael W. Smith. One of the boys was dancing like Michael Jackson. It was hilarious. They also recited some scripture. There was a girl who was probably about 5 or 6 who knew every word. It was amazing.

After the last service, we talked with the pastor. He had been to the States and talked in one of Kristin's classes about church planting. It was really interesting to hear about their very Westernized approach to missions.

It was a really great weekend. I am really excited to go back to Jinja this upcoming weekend. We are going rafting down the Nile on Saturday. Some people are bungie jumping too. But I am definitely not. I'm a bit nervous about the rafting because I've heard it's pretty intense. It will be great though.

Ok. I'm tired. Talk to you all later.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Family

Ok. I am really not doing so well at keeping this up-to-date. It seems like there is so much to sayand I just get overwhelmed. However, I will try to fill you in a little. Mostly about things concerning my family.

I am beginning to really enjoy spending time with my family. It is getting less and less awkward. My mom is a teacher at the local primary school. She has many students and it seems as though she is overworked. This week she was even more overworked because many of her colleagues were gone to a conference. She had 250 students and had to grade all of their books every night. I am hoping that maybe some day I can go to the school with her and see how the system operates here.

My father is a Reverend with the Anglican church (which is the dominant denomination around here, so it seems). He is at church all day most every day. Today he is teaching about 1,000 students about conservation and stressing the planting of trees. He also is taking a class at UCU. He has field work to do and a 30 page paper to write. So he is quite busy the majority of the time. But he will take time to sit and talk with me in the evenings. We have discussed politics multiple times due to the tense circumstances. For those of you who have not heard, there were some riots throughout Uganda a couple weeks ago having to deal with a clash between the national government and the Baganda (tribe). It was pretty intense. Not to worry, though. The program was very over-protective of us and our safety is definitely the priority.

Back to the family. Isaac (7) and Deborah (6) are still very shy around me. I haven't had much of an opportunity to interact with them because by the time I get home they are tired and falling asleep on the couch. We have been traveling on all the weekends but one thus far, so I haven't been able to spend time with them then. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the two don't speak English. They are learning in school, but Luganda is the only language they can really speak and understand. And I obviously do not know Luganda (although I am learning a few words).

Dokas (9 months) is finally starting to warm up to me. She does not cry every time she sees me as she did the first few weeks. Josephine told me that I was the first white person that Dokas had seen. She will finally let me hold her and she treats me as she does the rest of the family. It is so great. However, she has been not feeling well the past couple of days. Mother is supposed to be taking her to the hospital today. Hopefully they will be able to figure out what is disturbing her.

Josephine is an 'auntie' that lives with us. I am not quite sure whether she is related or not. She is closer to my age, so I enjoy talking to her and can be more myself around her. The other day I came home and she was preparing chapati. I was able to help fry them. That was a great experience (especially because I love chapati and plan to make them upon my return home). We were talking the other day in class about how this is a hierarchical society. The people who are not actually family members do not have all the privileges of the family. Josephine and Agnes (the housekeeper), do the majority of the work, do not bathe in the inside bathroom, and do not eat dinner in the living room. Coming from an egalitarian society, I tend to think that this is unfair, but no one here seems to have a problem with it, so I guess it is alright.

In the evenings, we sometimes have prayers as a family. They always begin with a song or two. Then we sometimes have a devotional-type thing. Finally, we kneel and pray for a great multitude of things. I always find it interesting what they pray for (when it is in English and I can understand). My mother always prays for 'everyone'. One of her prayer requests last night was for the students in primary 7 because they have exams coming November. I love hearing their prayers. At the end, we usually wrap up with yet another song. I think this time is so beautiful.

Saturdays are washing days. I have only washed my own clothes once so far. And I didn't even really wash them. I just rinsed. It is such a labor intensive process. I would have never thought it would be that difficult. There are 5 buckets lined up. The first is for washing. Then there are about 3 for rinsing and the buckets rotate as the water in them gets more and more soapy. I would try to wring out the clothes and my mother would usually come over and do it for me because "you must have energy". The spin cycle is a wondrous invention. However, I made it through my first time and will have many more opportunities to improve my skills.

I am getting so much more used to the food here. I actually quite enjoy many of the things that I once despised. My favorite is obviously chapati. I also get quite excited when we have fish. Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and cabbage are all also at the top of my list. I have begun to really enjoy g-nut sauce. Matoke is not so bad. Neither is rice. Although the meals do get quite monotonous. I still really do not enjoy posho. No flavor. And I cannot eat bitter berries. We are also getting to eat quite a bit of American food. We went to Jinja last weekend and were treated very well. We had pizza, chips, chicken tenders, etc. Today we are having enchiladas and brownies. There is much more access to these things than I would have thought.

Ok. I'm really tired of writing. I will attempt to update soon. I still haven't discussed classes or our Jinja trip (apart from the awesome food). Things are going well. Love you all!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rwanda, etc.

Hey guys. I realize that I have been doing a very poor job at keeping this up to date. I apologize. Here is my attempt to re-cap the past 3 weeks:

1) Leaving Kenya was so incredibly hard. I cannot begin to express teh level of hospitality and kindness we were shown over our 2 weeks there. I attempted to pull an all-nighter to make the most of my last few hours in Nairobi, but failed and gave in to sleep at about 6:00 am. I then woke up to pack at about 8 and we left for the airport at around 10. It was so hard to say good-bye, but, alas, I will hopefully see them all again.

2.)Kate and I arrived in Entebbe, Uganda at around 2 and had to wait at the airport until the group flight arrived at 8. Right after Kate and I sat down at a table to wait, two other girls from the program showed up. We hung out until the group finally arrived. I was so exhausted and not exactly in the mood to wait any longer. We finally left and arrived in Mukono at UCU at about midnight. I was dead tired and went to bed ASAP.

3.) The next morning we had to be up at 8. It was ridiculous. We sat through some general orientation and then the IMME (homestay) students had homestay orientation. Following that, we gathered our things and were dropped off at our homestays. I was so incredibly nervous, expecially once I discovered that I would be alone (most people are paired). I got to my home and found that I had 3 siblings: Isaac (7 years), Deborah (6 years), and Dokas (9 months). My mother is a teacher and my father is a postor. There is also a housekeeper (Agnes) and an aunt (Josephine) who live with us. The first day was incredibly awkward. I don't think it helped that I was exhausted as well as not feeling well. However, my mom is very talkative and helped the situation immensely.

4.) The following day we did more orientation things. We also traveled to Kampala. There we went to Garden City (a mall) as well as some famous tombs. It was the palace of one of the Buganda kings back in the late 1800's. 3 former Buganda kings are buried at this site. (Buganda is the area of Uganda that we are in) It was an interesting taste of Ugandan culture. However, I ended up getting equite a bad headache. I wasn't able to eat more than a couple bites of dinner (which is slightly offensive) and had to go to bed early. My mom was very worried and equite relieved when I seemed to be much improved in the morning.

5.) The next day (Friday) we brought our things to campus for the next week that we would be spending in Rwanda. The departure time for our trip was 5:00 am Saturday morning, so we spent the night on campus because it is not safe to walk in the dark. We did orientation things again all day, and retired early.

6.) Ok, so during this entire time I was having a really rough time adjusting. I really did not want to be here and really desired to board a plane either back to Kenya or to the US. There was a section in the orientation notebook about refunds for leaving the program early that I actually considered. (I'm quite better now and taking things one day at a time)

7.) Saturday morning we left for Rwanda. After just a couple hours of driving we stopped to take photos at teh Equator. We then continued on our 11 hour journey. We crossed the border at about 3 and arrived at our destination of Gahini at around 5. While we were waiting for dinner, we spklit up in to our assigned church groups. Each group was to attend a separate church service the following morning. We were preparing because we were expectedd to play a significant role in the service. They told us we neededd someone to give a sermon, someone to give a testimony, and to have songs prepared to sing.

8.) The next morning we attended a rural Anglican church. We got there late and were ushered to the front of the church to sit on the stage. We each introduced ourselves and were warmly greeted by the congregation. The service consisted of a great deal of music (much in the Rwandan language), some speaking (also hard to understand), a sermon by Josh on servanthood, and some songs sung by us. The most interesting part of the service was when the congregation welcomed back a member who had been kicked out of the church becuase she had become pregnant while she was unmarried. We all thought it was the offering because people were all coming up and giving her money. Following the service, Davis played the drum and we danced with the children. Then we ate food that the pastor's wife had prepared. It was really a great day.

9.) Monday morning we had a couple of speakers come talk to us about the East African revival, which had actually begun in Gahini, very near where we were staying. One of teh women had been there when it started. It was great to hear her story. Furthermore, she had lived through the genocide and was the only surviving member of her family. We heard her talk of her faith despite all of the terrible things that she had been through. Her story was just a precursor to the things we would see and hear the remainder of the week.

9.) That afternoon we left for Kigali. Once there we went to teh Nyamata church memorial, which was probably the most difficult and impactful experience of the week for many of us. 10,000 people were brutally murdered in this location. The man that was giving us the tour gave us very detailed descriptions of the events that occured and the killing techniques used. I was very skeptical, until he informed us that he was one of only 7 survivers. His name was Charles and he was only 8 in 1994 at the time of the genocide. His entire family was killed at the church while he was able to hide amidst the corpses. I very much admired his courage in tellingn his story over and over. There really aren't words to describe the experience.

10.) Tuesday morning we went to teh official genocide memorial. It was another rough day. there is a mass grave of about 300,000 people on side as well as general genocide information and information concerning the Rwanda genocide in particular. The hardest part for me was the children's section. There were photos of children along with information about them and how they died. I just could not fathom the brutality with which these innocent children were slaughtered. We also watched a movie called Ghosts of Rwanda which emphasized the world's falure during the situation. It angered and confused me because I honestly don't know what should have been done. It's easy to say that what was done was insufficient, but it is harder to determine a better course of action.

11.) While in Rwanda we spent a good deal of time learning about reconciliation and forgiveness as well. We learned about the gacaca courts and their success. There have been over 1 million casees tried and they are set to wrap up in September. We also heard of all the challenges facing the Rwandese. Such a great percentage of teh population did kill during the genocide. Now the families of the victims are expected to live in harmony with the killers. Reconciliation is necessary because of their reliance on one another. It is simply amazign to me the capacity of these people to forgive.

12.) We also heard from quite a few missionaries in Rwanda doing anything from business as mission to transformational development. I won't go in to detail.

13.) The last 2 days of the trip we spent on an island in a lake in southwest Uganda debriefing. It was incredibly beautiful. We had a cottage overlooking the lake. It was nice to take some time to just chill before diving in to classes. We were also able to further process our Rwanda experiences. I think we all had a pretty swell time.

14.) The Rwanda trip was also a great bonding time for our group. The IMME students traveled separately from the USE. It was good to have a smaller group so that we could get to know each other better. There are some really cool people here that I am looking forward to getting to know more throughout the semester. We also were able to meet a few UCU students. They are really great and I enjoy seeing familiar non-mzungu faces around campus. (mzungu=white person)

15.) The food in Randa was also pretty amazing. No matoke all week! We had chips at every meal, which was awesome. At the resort place we stayed at the final 2 days, we were served chapati both nights. If you don't know what chapati is, you are missing out. One night we had chapati and guacamole. It was heavenly.

Ok. So that is the jest of Rwanda and the couple days preceding. There is so much more I could say, but this is long enough. I will continue with the first week of classes as soon as I get teh chance. Love you all!