Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Availability ends January 4th

The other night I was lying in a comfortable king size bed in my mother's comfortable air conditioned house watching cable with remote in my hand at 11:30pm. I was watching a movie from the 80's and determined to finish it before I fell asleep.

On one commercial break, I wasn't really paying attention, but I looked up at the last minute to see the end of a truck commercial. All I saw, besides the back view of a truck was the words at the bottom of the screen, "Availability ends January 4th."

Satan really hit me with that. I leave for Africa on January 4th, and all of a sudden, everything I already knew became the only thing I could think about. In a couple of weeks I would have no air condition, no comfy bed, and certainly no cable in a comfy house. I would have to explain to my children that sleeping under a mosquito net every night wasn't going to be an option but a necessity.

After a few minutes of heart-racing thoughts and a little panic, I remembered my call. In Virginia, that is what we were told to think about at times like this. I just didn't think it would happen before I landed in Uganda.

God quietly repeated what He has said to me last year. "Kathryn, what are you here on Earth for?"

The panic settled, my heart stopped racing, and I realized that this is going to be a constant battle for a while until I realize that I do not deserve comfort. I was never promised air condition. I don't need a plush American life to exist.

Yep, I'll be working on my selfishness awhile.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Craziness, but not about running

We arrived at my parent's house on Friday, December 11, and unpacked all 8 suitcases before going to bed. In addition, we RE-packed three of them, so that certain "Africa" stuff could be out of the way.

My sister and her three boys came to visit us for Christmas, so we have limited room for all our junk to be spread out. We had planned to take 5 suitcases, 5 rolling duffels, and 5 Action Packer trunks to Africa with us when we go to Uganda, but I'm hoping we can get away with a lot less. I'll know after we crate.

We were supposed to crate yesterday (Tuesday), but last Friday when we arrived, we changed our crating date.

After a phone call, we realized our batteries and inverter for our solar power and our fridge and freezer had not been delivered to our storage shed while we were gone. We really needed those things BEFORE we crated, seeing as how they need to go in the box to Africa, too.

We changed our crating date to this Friday, the 18th, the last possible date the company had. Praise God they had one!

Our batteries came in yesterday, but nothing else.

Tomorrow morning, the crating company is coming in the morning to pick up all our belongings and take them to San Antonio. We will drive there early Friday to watch/help them pack our 700 cubic feet of space.

This afternoon, Doug was on the phone with lots of people. He was so kind and didn't act frustrated at all (I'm glad he was the one making the calls), and the companies, which have had the order for some time, are going to re-route our belongings directly to San Antonio. They are supposed to make it in time. I'll let you know.

Doug and I spent Sunday in Houston buying all the last minute things we needed. We waited until this late in the game so the expiration dates would be later. Not that it really matters. I'm still going to eat out of a jar of peanut butter from the United States, even if the expiration date has come and gone. And that goes for the brownie mixes and chocolate chips I bought too. When it comes to stuff like that, I'll listen to my stomach over the FDA any day.

We spent the afternoon today in our storage shed, one last time, cramming things into boxes. When Friday comes, and if it doesn't all fit, we'll have to decide what to leave in the States, but I'm guessing it won't be the peanut butter. Jif, anyone?

Craziness leads to more craziness

Some of you asked about my final physical exam.

The first time I ran around the gym 19 times in 12 minutes. As you recall, this is not normal for me. I don't run.

Anyway, I was so worried about not being able to beat my time (although I really don't think anything happens to you if you don't). Doug would tell you I wasn't worried enough because I didn't really work out between fitness test #1 and fitness test #2. I walked a few miles with ladies in the evenings, but I didn't do it that often.

Fitness test #2 arrived on a cold night. I even think it was after "Lasagna night" in the cafeteria, but I can't be sure.

I tried to run with the same people who "pushed" me the first time, but they weren't going to run until after I needed to have my kids in bed.

I found a new group full of fast guys under 30 (except for Doug and L. :), and we took off. I pushed pretty hard to keep up, but they lapped me terribly. I only walked twice to catch my breath because I knew I had this crazy record of mine to beat. And because of some small miracle, I actually ran 21 laps this time.

Never mind the fact that I couldn't breath without wheezing for a good three hours - I did it!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving and other "bird" matters

Thanksgiving was nice to have off and just spend time with family.

The morning started with the kids having pillow fights with Heather and Mr. Lynn.

We had a big meal in the cafeteria,

and then at 3pm, a lot of people participated in a 5K Turkey Trot our recreation team put together. I cheered the runners and walkers on as they came by my quad (like Doug and Kylie), but I stayed close to home because Karis and Caleb were taking naps.

Washington DC, the next day, was a terribly cold trip, but fun nonetheless. I took a picture of Caleb's face when the subway started. It was priceless. He loved the speed and the tunnel.

We went to an area of town where we could find people in our people group. Well, I knew no Lugbara would be there, but we did share with people from Togo, Mali, and Senegal in their shops. We also talked with some people on the street and helped one man pick up the leaves he was sweeping.

We ate at an Ethiopian restaurant and again, ate with our fingers.

The food was good and it was nice to be some place warm. Caleb was turning purple and needed to defrost.

We would take the injera bread (a spongy substance that didn't feel like bread at all) under the food, plus some extra they gave us, and use it as a scooper for the food.

After lunch, we took a detour to the "mall" so the kids could see the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

When we got out of the metro tunnel, the wind hit us hard. The journeygirls we were with had seen everything in DC before except Lincoln's memorial, so we walked there. Looking back, that was a bad decision. WAY too far (past Washington Monument, WWII memorial, and the reflection pool - which was drained for some reason - see picture)

with tired, cold kids, but nevertheless, we saw it. I let everyone else walk up the steps while I stayed with our borrowed stroller.

I was able to talk with people and take at least 5 pictures for people.

Back in Union Station, I tried to start a conversation with a man to share with him, but he told me his life was none of my business, and he wanted me to leave him alone. After that, I was pretty much done for the day :) , so Doug ordered some food to go, so the kids could eat dinner on the bus, and we loaded up for the ride home.

Yesterday, we had our first day of "Affinity Week." We don't spend the week with the other 83 people; just our Sub-Saharan Affinity. There are 19 of us. We spend the whole week in class together with our Stateside Liasons, a couple who spent many years in Africa, and we talk about only "Africa things."

We have exit interviews this week and have to turn in our exit papers. Next week we wind down and come home! But I still have lots of assignments to finish, so I can't be dreaming about that just yet.

Today at 3:30, they demonstrated how to kill, pluck, and prepare a chicken. Do you think I took the kids? Yes, I did. Might as well get exposed here with familiar people we love.

(I've spared you the rest)

Unfortunately, the lady killing the bird could not pull hard enough on the neck, so someone had to run over with a knife to assist.

I will say this, plucking a chicken is TONS easier than I thought it would be. After the head was gone, the bird was immersed in extremely hot water for 30 seconds, and after that, the feathers just "wiped off." It was pretty amazing.

Yes, I said, "Amazing." The kids thought it was pretty cool, too.

Playing catch-up on news

The next week after this, was kind of slow, in comparison. The highlight was our Tuesday night African fellowship. Everyone going to the Sub-Saharan African Affinity left the training center right after class and headed to a church in town. We went into the fellowship hall where we could hang out and use the kitchen to cook. With the help of several ladies in town who all used to live in Africa, we put together quite a meal.

I was in charge of cooking the chapatis, which was fine with me. A chapati is a type of flat bread that the people of India brought with them when they came to Uganda. It served as our "utensil" for the night (no silverware allowed), so we made a lot of them. I was no good at rolling them out the special way, so I volunteered to man the pan. Doug and some other girls cleaned out a pumpkin and cut it up. It was then brought to the kitchen to be boiled and mashed. Then they cut up a pineapple. At the same time, we had coconut beans (red beans with coconut milk in them), greens, rice, chicken curry, "toe," (a West African dish I can do without) and ugali cooking.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In our spare time...

Let me apologize in advance for all the pictures. These are mainly for the grandparents, but you may enjoy them too, if you want.

We took the kids one weekend to an outdoor mall to walk around, and they enjoyed a little train ride.

A couple of weeks ago we had a really pretty day. Doug played football while Caleb and I sat in the grass. The girls were at a birthday party painting toes and nails and watching an American Girl movie.

A colleague was practicing with his long lens camera, and he snapped a lot of pictures of Caleb without Caleb knowing (that is always best). Here are a couple.

Last weekend, some more of our colleagues invited their friends up who had ponies and horses to ride. It was a great break from just being in class all the time, and the weather was beautiful!

Fall is beautiful here.

Our quad mate, Cara, let the kids participate in her Thanksgiving tradition. They made turkeys out of oreos, fudge, candy corn and red icing, then they ate a few, and delivered the rest to all the quads around us. I think everyone enjoyed it. Here are the results.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

He did it!

Doug and his buddies finished the half-marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes. I can't even fathom running for that much time! Doug says he used to think marathon runners were crazy, but now he KNOWS they are.

He finished 185th in his age division and 1998th out of 4578. Sounds good to me!

Two other ladies and I with a total of 8 children got in two vehicles after breakfast to make it to the finish line in time.

We were three blocks away, when a couple of them passed us. I got my camera up as fast as I could, only to get this.

Doug's in the long-sleeve gray shirt on the right running down an very steep hill.

Caleb was so proud of his daddy. He wore Doug's medal all day and slept with it last night.

If you want Doug's play by play, you can go to http://web.me.com/dtaylor274/Site/Blog/Blog.html

I think it will be posted soon.

Cultural Worship

Every Sunday night, we have a cultural worship service for all the people here.

I believe I told you about the first one. The entire service was done in Spanish.

The second culture night we had was African. I was in a group with 6 other journey girls, led by a lady who knew a little Swahili, and we sang two Swahili songs.

Here I am in my Africa dress. Our song leader thought it would be “great” if I sang and danced with a baby on my back. One lady who has served in West Africa, had her “real” baby on her back, and it was adorable because she was in a little ball on her back.

Kylie’s American Girl didn’t ball up quite as nicely, for some reason. By the end of our two songs, her doll’s feet had slid lower than comfortable, but amazingly enough, she was in there so well, I don’t think she would have ever fallen out. A lady who had lived in Botswana for 10 years tied her up on me, and she did a great job.

I think I told you about Africa worship in a former letter, so I won’t re-cap. I just found this picture on my camera that Doug had taken, and I thought I’d pass it on.

Our third culture night was Indian. It was a lot of fun. The kids ages 4 and under were allowed to run around wherever they wanted, just like in India…somewhat distracting. The women sat on one side with the older kids and the men sat on the other side, we were all barefoot, and the women had their heads covered. Namaste!

A little 4-year old girl in Karis’ class is going to India, and she let Karis borrow one of her saris. Isn’t it beautiful?

And I took a brown Crayola marker, and drew “henna” on the girls’ hands.

After India culture night, we drank chai and ate "digestives" (a cookie similar to what my old neighbor Foza used to give us with her tea).

As a side note, our children study each of the cultures of the kids represented in their class each week.

When Karis studied India, she tried Indian food, and the teacher drew “henna” on their hands with ballpoint pen, and they got to dress up in saris. So she asked me to do henna on her hand for the Indian service (and she wants to get some real henna when we get to Africa ☺).

When her class was dressed up in their saris, they pretended to charm a rubber snake coming out of a basket. We got pictures of all of these events, and we hang them on our bulletin board.

When Karis studied Spain, her class pretended to be bulls and run through a red cloth. They also tried Spanish food.

Karis’ class spends one week on each country. Caleb, on the other hand, is just reviewing a country a day, and then they will be done.

Monday, they read about Austria and made a mural of the Alps.
Tuesday, they read about China and made a Chinese fish kite.
Wednesday, they read about Yemen and made a Yemen prayer rug.
Thursday, they read about Spain and made a paper fan.
Today, they read about Serbia and made
Uganda must be some time next week.

Kylie is doing a lot of stuff that mirrors the lessons Doug and I are doing, on a lower level. They are learning what the church is, memorizing scripture, setting goals for their first year in country, learning how to share their faith with scripture or storying, trying different foods, and studying different cultures. Each of the students in her class has to be the “famous reporter” from their country and people group and report on it. Kylie will present her report on Uganda on November 18th.

This week, she went on a field trip to four foreign markets in Richmond. Indian, African, Chinese, and European. They had to write down what they saw, smelled, touched, and who they would pray for as a result of what they saw.

We gave Kylie $5 to spend, and she and another girl pooled their money and bought some things that they split up later (and it was not the octopus they saw in the Chinese market). The teachers bought food at each market that the children got to try the next day at school.

Tonight was an Asian culture service. Kylie and Karis joined with other older children to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in Chinese, because in their culture, they like to have children perform. The girls did really well. Here is my first ever video - it's the girls practicing for the evening.


Friday, November 13, 2009

16 more shots we're done with

Since Doug and I've been to Africa semi-recently, we've had Typhoid and Yellow Fever shots. So today, all we had to get was a TB skin test and our 2nd Rabies.

The kids had to get all 4. Their arms are a little sore, but they played hard this evening with another girl a year older than Kylie who is spending the night with us, and I think all the activity will help them tomorrow.

Doug is running a half marathon tomorrow...his first. I am so proud of him. He and another guy (the father of the girl who is spending the night) run every morning except Friday. Doug gets up at 5:45, and they run several miles. On Saturday, they do longer runs.

A bunch of guys from here will be running. The race starts at 7:30 Eastern time, and I was going to track him on-line at http://www.richmondmarathon.com/, but the "tracking" part of the website is blocked for all of us who live out here. So I'm trying to find a vehicle. If I get to go, I'll take a picture or two.

Ironic (and funny), isn't it?


The Sub-Saharan African peoples went on a field trip Wednesday night to a Liberian African restaurant. We had the option to get someone to watch our kids, but we and the other family with kids going to Africa, opted to take ours.

We left at 5pm, and of course, hit traffic. I rode in the back of a van with the kids, and with all the stop and go traffic, and the fact that I needed food, I got pretty sick.

I ended climbing up to the 2nd seat and crouched by the door and leaned my head on Kylie’s pillow. Getting out in the cold rain when we arrived refreshed me a little, but not enough.

MaMusu had opened her restaurant just for us, and had made a huge buffet of Liberian food. (Right to Left) White rice to cover with chicken cooked in peanut sauce; jollof rice (supposed to be really spicy, but hers was a little tame); beans and chicken (kind of spicy, but good), and plantains. Sorry the picture is so dark. I didn't feel good enough to re-take it.

Karis and Caleb loved the jollof rice (and I found a recipe on-line), and Doug assures me the chicken in the beans was incredible. I tried it all except the chicken in the peanut sauce and the chicken in the beans. I could only pick at the food, and I was so sad. Kylie enjoyed the peanut sauce and the beans. My favorite was probably the easiest on my tummy – the plantains – plus it reminded me of when my mom makes them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where we live (sort of)

This is our Quad, where four "units" live.

These are snaps of the kids rooms I took 4 weeks ago when we arrived - there are more things on the walls now.

This is our kitchenette. We live in a handicap suitable quad, so we don't have an oven or under the cabinet storage like others.

This is Kylie's school, taken from our front sidewalk.

This is the playground out our front door (there are three playgrounds on campus for after school play)

And this is one view of the lake. I'm sorry I forgot to take pictures when the leaves where all bright yellow and orange. Oops!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Last week's update (Days 21-26)

I have had several people tell me that my Hep B shot should not have hurt as bad as it did, and they wondered if I had gotten my shot in a nerve. How likely is that scenario? Is that possible? Nurses?

Anyway, this week should be okay for Doug and I, but not so good for the kids. Since Doug and I have already been to Africa, we only need a second rabies shot and a TB skin test. I didn't even bother finding out what all they kids had to have. I'd rather not have to think about it that long. I'll let you know after Friday...

I didn't update a lot last week (and I shouldn't be doing it now), but my homework will still be there when I'm done typing.

Right now, Doug and I are working on a "plan" for our Washington D.C. trip we have to take as an assignment. We have a checklist of things we have to do and observe while we are there, and before we go, we have to send in a report about where we are going, what and where we will eat (has to be something culturally ethnic we've never had before), and how we will accomplish our goals.

In case you didn't know, it takes a long time to research a city you hardly know anything about except the historical highlights. And I've never thought about searching for a people group in a city, have you? Quite interesting.

Another interesting praise that was new to me was how cross-cultural God made His Word. For example, King Saul was described as a “head and shoulder” above other men. For a Pygmy, this may be 5 feet; for a Massai, it may be 6’ 6”. It relates to both cultures perfectly, just like God. Another example was a woman in the Bible being described as “beautiful of face and form.” This could mean thin, heavy, tattooed, plain, etc. depending on which people group is reading His Word. Isn't He good?!

Another session we had last week was just with the Sub-Saharan Africa peoples, and we discussed culture shock. For two hours (and we needed more), we talked about all the things that can and will put us in culture shock, and how we WILL slide down into a depressed state. The not so funny part is that we filled the white board with all the things that will be “shocks” to us, and our leaders said we would have pits in EVERY category. Doesn’t that sound fun? They cautioned us to never make decisions while we are in the “pit” and ready to go home, and I think we all decided to have our company’s counseling number on speed dial.

Just for grins! Although you would have to click on it to really appreciate it.

As a side note, if you are ever traveling overseas, you can register with the State Dept on-line at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/, and they will be able to contact you while you are overseas if they feel there is something you need to know about for safety.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hepatitis B - not my friend

If getting the disease Hepatitis B feels anything like the shot, I'm staying as far away from that stuff as possible!

I haven't been in this much pain since I pulled my back out.

I could not get out of bed this morning until Doug brought me some medicine and I let it get in my system.

I was able to get around all day as we did "stuff," but I was always aware of the pain. I should have had MUCH more sympathy for my children when they had to get this last year! Bad mom!

Doug got Hep A and B, rabies, and a polio booster. He said the rabies hurt him, but he got up and ran 9 miles this morning with his running buddy. (They are training for a half marathon, so they run every morning at 5:45 except Friday and Sunday!) Maybe running helped move all that medicine around, even though he is still sore.

I had asked people to pray for the trauma of the shots for my kids, but next time, I'll be wiser and ask for the soreness and achy ness to not be so severe. All of my children cried today when someone touched their arm or picked them up or just grazed them, and two of them were up last night at different times needing Motrin.

We go at it again next Friday, but Doug is going to try to get his shots moved to Tuesday since his half marathon is next Saturday. It would stink if he had to run while battling the effects of the typhoid or yellow fever shot.

I'll keep you posted.

Like a Vacuum...

My pastor's wife in Yoakum gave me some great advice on how to spend some time with my girls individually...go to the quilting quad.

Do you remember me mentioning that before? About how I wasn't going to go near it because so many people had been sucked in, and they never returned? Well...

I took the advice, and I got sucked in just like a vacuum, and it was actually a wonderful experience.

Karis went first and we picked out the three fabrics she wanted to make a pillow case out of. It was so relaxing in there.

Beautiful fabrics, patient teachers, encouraging learnings, and CHOCOLATE!

The unbelievable part was that after we picked out the fabrics, one of the three "quilting quad helpers" took it and told me she would cut them for me, give the cuff to another "helper" to monogram Karis' name, and I could come back the next day and just sew.

Wow! I remember my mom cutting patterns. That's half the battle right there.

Anyway, I did as I was told, and they did as they promised. The funny part is when they gave me step by step instructions the following night, they included things like, "Just sew a quarter inch seam all the way down."

Uh...I haven't sat at a sewing machine since I made a pillow at my great aunt's house when I was still in jr. high, but I spoke not.

My first clue that I was going to have issues is that I started sewing and I hadn't put the foot down, but at least Karis and I got to talk some more as I pulled out all those stitches...

I will show you proof that I not only finished Karis', but Kylie and I completed one together two days later. The are really cute, but they are sleeping on them right now, so I feel I should wait until tomorrow to take the picture.

Did I mention that I've picked out material to make myself a market bag for Africa?

Yep...like a vacuum...