Sunday, January 31, 2010

Birthday Boy - #4

We've been so busy with "sick" around here, I forgot that Caleb had a birthday.

In good Armstrong fashion, I wrapped his gifts in plastic sacks. Didn't seem to bother him.

Caleb doesn't like cake, so he asked me to make him chocolate chip cookies. I made some with a Betty Crocker bag I brought, and some I made home made. 15 people came over, and we had cookies, pink lemonade, sweet tea, and papaya.

He helped me put the candles in the warm cookies.

One of the families here has a tradition of lifting the "birthday person" in the air three times after singing to him. So after Doug prayed over Caleb, we sang, and Caleb got a ride.

"Miss Aunt Pam" as Caleb calls the lady on the left, bought him some beautiful carved African animals while we were in Kenya.

He was pretty excited about them.

After the party, I put them on a shelf for him, but they have not been touched since. I will know when his strength is back and he is feeling better because he will have the rhinoceros attacking all the other animals in a heated battle.

Stool Sample, #1 (January 31, 2010)

Unpleasant topic. I know. But this is my life right now.

My prayer partners know what you may not.

Karis is sick now, too.

And I told my prayer warriors that Caleb was getting better, but today, he went backwards. More vomitting. More diarrhea.

I was told I needed to collect a stool sample to take to the clinic so “they” could identify what was wrong.

Our children were told to tell us when they had to “go,” so we could “catch” the sample.

They kept forgetting.

In desperation, at the end of the day, I spooned some off of Caleb because we had missed all of our chances.

I called a friend to tell her I would need a ride to the clinic.

So sorry. The sample has to be fresh, and they are not open today.

Clean. Scrub. Disinfect my spoon, and wait for tomorrow.

Please pray for both of them. They are getting more and more dehydrated.

**Because of the sickness around here and the fact that things like diarrhea in the bed occur often (and washing machine is not always available), my newsletter will be a little postponed this month, but I'm working on it.

Lunch “out” with Kylie

Our family was invited to my house worker’s home for lunch, but Doug had to stay with the two sick ones, so only Kylie and I went.

We walked behind our house, following Alice through trails never known to me, to reach her homestead. Look at one of the bridges we had to cross. This, of course, would have "insurance hazard" written all over it in America.

She lives up on the hill with her family: both grandmothers, one grandfather, cousins, an uncle, an orphan they’ve taken in, and Alice’s husband and children. There were about 7 houses on her property, and they all work together to get things done.

Some were cooking. Some were shelling beans. Some were making bricks. Some were cutting wood so that they can burn the bricks. Some were cleaning. Some were cooking. People moving everywhere.

They had a beautiful garden of tomatoes, eggplant, cassava, avocados, lemons, and coffee. She sent us home with bounty from everything that was ripe: tomatoes, eggplant, and avocadoes.

She invited us to pick coffee beans from her tree on Friday, but we could not go because of the sickness at our house. Today, she let me take some that were ripe; told me how to dry them (they are outside in the sun for the next week); and then she will help me get the beans out, roast them, and grind them.

I will REALLY appreciate my morning cup a lot more now!

Only Kylie, Alice, and I ate inside of her house. She held water over a basin so we could wash our hands, and then she served us “Mundu” food. She had gone out of her way, to cook food she thought we would like: Irish potatoes, beans, cabbage with carrots, rice with tomatoes, and a wonderful pot of chicken! Kylie and I managed pretty well with our fingers, I must say. Although, beans and rice are a little tricky. I watched Alice across from me, eat with her right hand like a pro. Kylie and I have a long way to go to perfect the “eating with the right hand” thing.

I asked her if her family was going to eat with us, and she replied that they were eating cassava, cassava flour, and chicken later. She even sent ALL the leftovers home with us. I guess “Mundu” food is not much to their liking.

We had our team leader over for dinner tonight since his wife is out of town, and we ate it all again. Yum!

Let me insert here that my team leader’s wife once told me that on Saturday’s they sometimes take all the leftovers, mix them together, and have a meal.

I was secretly telling myself that that would never happen at my house.

Silly me.

I’ve done it twice this week already, and it’s been good.

With no microwave to heat things up, rice and cabbage become a combined stir-fry, or rice and a zucchini/tomato/onion concoction heats up great together. Presto. New meal.

I’ve also never been a cook-from-scratch kind of person. I always follow a recipe.

In two weeks, I’ve been transformed. Each night I will just start throwing things together. It’s working out great, and I have no idea what I’m doing.

My meals are a lot less complicated than they were in the States, and they contain a lot fewer dishes. It’s hot in my kitchen for one thing. For another thing, we don’t have room for leftovers, and it would seem silly to cook a feast of three or more dishes, when my nextdoor neighbors can only afford posho (grits).

Friday, January 29, 2010

First Malaria Test Behind Us

Well, I guess he's not better.

Caleb's temperature has been consistently 101 today.

He is not eating well, and his drinking has really slowed down.

Doug did get him to have a breakfast bar this morning, and our house help made homemade flour tortillas, of which he consumed about one-eighth of one.

We have tried flavoring his water to get him to drink more, but he is awfully lethargic.

He has only been awake a couple of hours today.

He was really awake when Doug administered a malaria blood test.

He didn't like the pricking of the finger with the lancet.

I don't blame him. I need to get someone to send one of those finger prickers that diabetics use to make it easier next time. Seeing a razor blade of sorts coming toward you is not comforting at all.

Even with all of his crying, we struggled to get enough blood for the test. That could be a sign of dehydration.

Anyway, the test of was negative, if we did it correctly. It was a malaria test for the bad one that messes up your brain. So far, so good.

We had family prayer time over him after lunch, and then Doug took the girls swimming, as promised. Unfortunately, the electricity went off for about an hour after they left, which meant no fan on my hot boy.

Caleb is passed out beside me, and praise the Lord, the electricity is back on.

Pray for my sweet boy and the Lord's will to be done.

Sick with no Power

Karis crawled into our bed Thursday night...again.

She hasn't slept a full night since we got to Arua.

There are MANY noises outside (birds, dogs, children crying, people talking), and when the electricity goes off, there is no fan to block out the sounds.

She and Doug stay up a lot at night together because she comes and wakes him, and then he can't go back to sleep.

Caleb came in, but there was no room for him in the bed, so I got up to lay with him in his twin.

"Mom, my tummy hurts."

He sat up and started to gag.

I ran to the kitchen to get a bowl.

No power. No lights. No bowl.

I ran back for the lantern, but the bed was already starting to be covered with his birthday dinner.

I got the lantern, returned to the bed, but it was over...for now. 2am.

I got him to Doug (who was awake), and got Doug to start a bath.

I lifted the mosquito net, stripped his sheets and blanket, and went to the shower to rinse them off. I got a basin to soak the blanket in with washing powder to wash the next day, and then I went and checked on the boy.

He got clean, and was sad that his new birthday Star Wars pajamas could not be worn anymore that night.

He and I crawled into Karis' bed with a bowl and wet wash cloth. He was so hot, and the air was so still. Only 3 and one half hours until electricity and fans.

No sleep for him.

I got my computer and put in a Justice League Superman cartoon movie for him. Laid the computer on my chest, and I fell asleep. He finished the whole thing and wanted more, but I told him it was time to rest.

No chance. More heaving. Rinse the bowl out. This time I remembered the lantern. Start again. 4am.

He rested. I rested. The electricity came on at 6am. Praise God.

At 7am, more came. Poor boy.

(The night watchman was curious to hear why he saw a lantern light moving back and forth through the house last night.)

We moved to my bed to watch another movie, and then it started coming out the other end.

After three pairs of pants and underwear soiled, and three baths in a short amount of time, I put him in a pull-up. He was devastated.

Did I mention that it is improper here for the nationals to wash your undergarments.

So I knew I'd better get his underwear soaking because I was going to have a big, fun job ahead of me. Without a machine, though, Alice, my house help, is doing a lot of the wash now that I have a clothes line.

Anyway, he messed up two pull-ups before he figured out how to make it to the potty in time.

Poor boy. He doesn't have a whole lot left.

He is drinking a lot of water, and spent ALL day on the couch.

He felt well enough after lunch (mine, not his - he's not eating) to sit and play his new birthday Wii game. It was short-lived because he passed out again for the 8th or 9th time.

It is so hot. He is so hot. But he is not complaining.

I gave Karis some Melatonin last night and she slept through the night. So did her daddy!

Caleb slept beside me, hot, but through the whole night.

Praise God that he ate a little this morning, and even though we have no power at night, we always have HIS power.

I prayed over Caleb while he was sick, and whenever he would throw up, he would ask me to pray again.

I'm glad Caleb knows where our POWER comes from.

Thank You, Jesus, that he is better today (Friday, January 29th).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

“The” Wedding

A grocery store owner in town was married on Saturday, and we went with all the other Mundu’s (foreigners) to the wedding.

We drove into the bush to an Anglican church. On the 20 minute drive there, we were cheered along the way by people waving tree branches; cars covered in ribbons met us going back and forth on the incredibly uneven road; and motorcycles were everywhere on the road with branches sticking out all over.

Upon arrival at the church, all the white people (just our group) were led to the front of the church and seated on the platform behind the priests!

The "band" and “choir” made up of youth and children, were the only ones in the church at the time, except for the “band.” Singing and dancing had begun and continued for another hour. Quite entertaining.

The wedding invite said it was starting at 10am, so we left our house at 10am and arrived around 10:30. At 11, people started coming in, and the groom and best man came in shortly after dressed sharply in matching double-breasted suits (it is summer in an un-air-conditioned church – just wanted to remind you).

More singing and dancing. More singing and dancing.

The song leader yelled out at one point, “I can almost smell the bride’s arrival.”

Around 11:45, she arrived and started her S.L.O.W walk down the aisle. It was an inch-a-step with a jig in between.

The ceremony included all of what is in the States plus a church service, complete with an unbiblical sermon about wives (supposedly, bad wives are ugly). There was communion of wafers dipped in wine provided by the groom, but the Mundu’s were not asked to partake.

After communion, the bride and groom signed their marriage contract in front of everyone, along with six other people signing as well.

Then, while the singing commenced, pictures were taken. ALL the pictures. The white people were asked to be in a picture with the couple after the parents’ picture. My side of the platform (me and two guys) declined. The other side included the rest of my family, three journeygirls, and three of the Wafler family. I think a few tried to get up, but it never progressed further. Thank goodness.

After pictures, the recessional started. I timed it because I had seen how slow they came in, and I was curious about the exit. It took NINE minutes for the couple, the attendants, and the priests to make it down the aisle at that inch-a-step pace.

We’re not done yet.

Next, some men came in and un-decorated the church, while we sat on the platform. Did I mention there was no air-condition? And did I mention that we did not leave the church until 2:30pm (we had arrived at 10:30am)? My three children all passed out during the service. I’m pretty sure it was from heat exhaustion. I watched Kylie’s eyes roll back in her head from across the platform. Thankfully, 2 of the journeygirls held my two girls, and Doug held Caleb.

After the flowers were removed, the red material down the aisle taken up, and all the “special people” chairs had their white material taken off, the BACK of the church was allowed to leave. But slowly and surely, we did finally make our way outside.

As you can imagine, even with the pleading of some of the people, my family and the Wafler’s declined the invitation to the reception.

However, Evan, Alissa, Kelli, and Sandra went. They did not get home until 6:30pm. Alissa gave me regular reports by texting my cell. She said the enya (type of food they eat) pots that were brought out were so large, it took 5 men to carry each one. Also, the white people were honored for making the wedding an “international event.”

It really was a neat experience, and it was actually a perfect set up for Sunday. It’s all about perspective.

Karis said, after church today, “That was short.” Yes, 2 ½ hours does seem incredibly short after a heated, marathon wedding event.

Congratulations Lamech and Jenipher!

Speaking of animals

Many of you have asked about Transformer.

We put him on a nice tree in Kampala to feed for a few days, but on the third day, he was no more.

Thankfully, Caleb wasn't too sad. I'm hoping Transformer just wondered off to get some bugs, and he found a happy home. We will look for him on our return trips to Kampala.

I feel that it is a mixed blessing. In Arua, the Lugbara people believe that chameleons are evil spirits, and they hit them out of trees and beat them to death. Maybe that's why there aren't many chameleons up here??? Transformer might not have made it long, and a death-beating would have been more than I could handle, I'm afraid.

We get two dogs next week. I'll let you know how that saga goes. Also, the previous owner left a cat that has started coming back around. I haven't fed it yet, but it would be good to figure out what to feed it so it will stay around and help with mice and snakes.


I forgot to mention that in Kenya, the kids had a chance to visit a home where there was a pet monkey named Rafiki.

He was purchased on a beach in Mombasa, Kenya, and he is only three months old.

He is too small to go outside because Kites (hawks) could get him, so he is being cared for inside.

He doesn’t have a cage. He is free to roam around. And the sweet lady he lives with makes him diapers out of her husband’s old boxers.

Pretty cute, huh?

Here, he's giving Kylie "five."

I have been having difficulty with the internet, but apparently, my front porch in the morning works pretty well. The only way I have found to post pictures is to do them very small and at low resolution. I'm working on solutions, but I haven't figured it all out yet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Things to get used to (January 21, 2010)

My windows and doors stay open all day, but around 5:30, we have to make sure that the screens are shut.

We light mosquito coils every night and place them by the doors. And we spray under the beds, under the mosquito nets, before bedtime to kill anything unseen. The nets are a little bit of a hassle, but we are getting used to them.

Fans are great at night until the electricity goes off. Then you get adjusted to the heat, and the electricity comes back on at 6am, and you get cold. No complaints here. I know one day we might not have any electricity, and it might be before my solar panels arrive.

The fans are great to drown out the dogs barking next door, the squeaking noise that takes place outside my window only after dark, and the myriad of roosters in the neighborhood alerting me that the sun is up.

The shower is a 5-inch deep square in a corner, open, with no curtain. It’s just you and the bathroom meeting together in full view.

Baths are taken in 2 inches of water. You roll around (at least the kids can), get wet, soap up, and roll around again to rinse off. Pretty quick.

I don’t think I crated enough towels. I down-sized considerably before I left. I’ve been told that in rainy season, towels are so thick, it takes them several days to dry inside the house, so you have to have a lot on hand. Hmmm.

I really do love the quaint, little grocery stores on a busy street. This is the biggest bicycle-riding town, I’ve ever seen (but I’ve never been to China). As Doug and I drove into town, the road was 4 bikes thick on each side. Quite a dodging game in a Land Rover.

My watchman ran an errand for me, and I thought it was the coolest thing because I was cooking dinner, really needed them, and I didn’t have time to go. Alissa said he would run an errand for me, so I gave him money to get eggs at a chicken farm on the next “street.” He took my newly purchased plastic egg tray, and brought it back with 30 eggs in it!

The only refrigerator the IMB could find to let us borrow until our crate gets here is an electric one. So every night, the power goes off in the fridge, and it has to re-cool the next day when it comes back on. It makes me smile.

We visited some good friends while we were in Kenya, and told them in passing that we were going to buy a TV the next day. By God’s hand, they had an extra one from another missionary family, and said we could have it for FREE. Praise the Lord. We carefully hauled it 13 hours to Kampala, and packed it well for it’s 11+ hour ride on the hired van to Arua. It is here!

My feet already look like I live in Africa (and that’s not a pretty thing). My children’s are probably permanently discolored, and mine and Doug’s are dry and cracking. Tonight I’m sleeping with socks on to keep all the products I put on my feet from getting on my sheets.

My house help and I are learning to communicate. She is a wonderful lady, so it’s not a chore. Today she made us some chapattis to eat with our lunch, and they were divine. There is no chance of me losing weight in Africa as long as chapattis exist. She is also good to practice my language with.

I found out today that we are not supposed to let nationals wash our undergarments, so tomorrow, I will be doing my first bit of washing by hand. They are soaking tonight in a basin.

Bible Study (January 20, 2010)

Yes, I went to Bible study on move-in day.

If you are a woman, and have been in a Bible study before, just picture that situation.

I had such a good time at this gathering, and I smiled to myself the whole time.

You know you are not in America when you get to the front porch. It’s covered in flip flops. Most of the women are barefoot inside. Doesn’t that make you smile? I loved it.

We were all drinking hot tea, and there were about 4 people whose native tongue was not American English.

This was their first day of study on Beth Moore’s, “Get out of that pit.”

It made me smile that I was in Africa doing a Beth Moore Bible study.

It made me smile that as someone tried to comment on Beth’s first chapter analogy of an RV being like your life, we had a 5-minute tangent to explain to non-Americans what an “RV” was. One of the ladies with a thick accent said she saw it once on the “Fockers” movie, and it caught some of us off-guard because we weren’t understanding her.

Another lady mentioned a previous study, and I couldn’t understand why these ladies had studied sharks. It wasn’t until 10 minutes later, when a British lady said, “The Shack,” that I realized I am going to have to really listen closely for a while until I get the hang of these accents.

Basically, it was a beautiful thing. Women from all over the world, meeting in Africa, serving one God, and united by Him even though we are all so different.

Move-in day (January 20, 2010)

I read in my Bible study today about Jacob and Joseph both ending their lives, and it struck me that I was about to start a whole new one.

A whole crew showed up to help today. Evan (a journeyman), Stan (our team leader), and Jack (his son), put together the beds. This was quite an ordeal

(bed pictures coming when I have time to spend uploading)

Stan, Evan, Jack, and Sandra (a journeyman) hung mosquito nets in all three rooms.

Jack organized my pantry.

Pam (team leader’s wife), Sandra, and Alissa (a journeyman) unpacked suitcases and boxes.

Alissa made lists of things that needed to be bought or done.

Sandra made up the beds after they were put together, and she kept Caleb entertained.

Kylie and Karis each set up their rooms.

Speaking of Karis and Kylie, they are not going to be sharing a room for the first time since Karis was born. Karis and Caleb are going to try living together for awhile, so we’ll see how this works.

Doug and I unpacked bag after bag, looking for places to put things, but most of it ended up on our bed. We have many purchases to make. These houses aren’t built with a lot of storage space, but you can buy shelves in town, and I intend to.

At 12:30, we took a break, and had lunch at Pam’s house, then we had team prayer at Evan’s house at 1:30.

Our team prays together every day at 1:30 at someone’s house. It’s quite an amazing thing to be able to get together so often. We all live within a few “streets” of each other. I say “streets” because they really aren’t. They are one-lane, made of dirt, and never level in one place very long.

After team prayer, Alissa took me to town to show me the three grocery stores they shop at. We started at the only locally owned one. After we found all we could on our list, we went to the Indian supermarket, and then when we had exhausted that one, we walked down to the last one.

They are all three on main street, very near each other.

The first, locally-owned one only has three aisles. I liked it because it wasn’t overwhelming. It wasn’t a matter of “what do I choose,” like at Wal-mart, it was a matter of “what is here than I can use.” Thankfully, Alissa de-coded everything for me, showed me the deals, and allowed me to watch her bargain at one of the doukas selling buckets and basins I needed.

It costs a lot of money, even in Arua, to set-up house.

After our excursion, where I bought a nice shelf for around $10 (thanks for bargaining, Alissa), she and I went to Bible study.

Every Wednesday, a group of ladies gets together for Bible study. At 3:30, the children are led in a study by one of the ladies, and then at 4:30, the ladies start theirs. I’ll elaborate later.

After Bible study, Alissa took me home to unpack groceries, and she helped Doug figure out the internet thing. Now we just need to go to town and buy “time.”

Our first meal was thrown together, but it was SO NICE to have a home cooked meal with just the five of us. Potatoes, blackened cabbage, cucumbers in a vinegar mixture, and sliced tomatoes. There were no leftovers. We worked hard today!

Driving to our new home (January 19th)

Today, we drove into Lugbara country It was beautiful. It reminded me of a cross between New Mexico and southern Colorado.

Arua. Our new home. As we were driving into town, Kylie said, “We’re finally home.”

We were welcomed by our two watchmen (both the day guard and the night guard were there to meet us: Patrick and Jeremiah).

It was an eight hour journey, and our stuff in a hired truck arrived several hours later, but it did arrive. Praise God. I can imagine that it could have ridden off into the sunset, never to be seen again.

We spent the night at the Wafler’s for our first night because our house does not have beds or mosquito nets.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The "money thing" and policemen

Thank you everyone who prayed about the "money issue." God is absolutely amazing, but of course, we already knew that.

My sister read the blog, and contacted an American she knows who works in Nairobi, Kenya, who had access to some new bills. I can't give a lot of details, but I did get all the money we had on us exchanged for newer ones.

The older bills in Kampala are being replaced in the next couple of days by a volunteer team from the States. Amazing, huh?

The crazy thing was that Kenya must really care about the date, because they wouldn't take our money. When I handed the Ugandan security my bills today, he didn't even look at the date. Maybe he was having a cranky day!

Oh well. It worked out for us!

We got up at 4am today, and left Nairobi at 5am, only to be stopped by the police at 5:15am.

You HAVE to have four things to drive here. A license, a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit, and some safety triangles (that you put on the road when you are having car trouble). Silly sounding, I know, but those are the "rules."

He saw Doug's license. Doug found the safety triangles. I found the fire extinguisher after someone else in the care told me where to look, but no first-aid kit.

After packing and re-packing trying to fit 11 people, luggage, homeschool books, food, and souvenirs in two cars (and on top of one car - truly Africa), we had accidentally put both kits in one car.

Thankfully, the other car driver, walked it back to us when I texted them for help. Well, that wasn't good, so the police walked around some more, and told Doug they would have to arrest him and take him to the station because he had a crack in his windshield, and he could not drive until it was fixed.

You can see that the policeman was looking for something monetary from us, but to no avail. We finally explained we were missionaries, and he said, "You go."

Prayer at work, folks. God heard two cars of sleepy people at 5 in the morning!

The other car was stopped in Uganda for "speeding," but nothing could be proven (especially since the radar gun looked disabled), and we were again allowed to go on our way.

We arrived in Kampala 13 hours after starting our journey. No lunch, one border stop, and three bathroom breaks is all it took (plus all the junk food we ate in the car).

Doug and I took the kids out tonight for pizza and ice cream to reward them for an amazing journey in the car. They were GREAT!

Next, we bought groceries so we can cook the next 2 days, and now I'm going to go wash the dust off of me and go to bed!

I MIGHT get my luggage tomorrow, and I WILL (God willing) see my new home on Tuesday.

Is it just me, or does it feel like I've been in Africa a long time already?

Transformer (January 13)

We had just finished saying prayers and were crawling into bed when there was a knock on our door at Brackenhurst. A man and his son were standing at the door with a “gift.”

Eric, the dad informed us that his son, Colby wanted to give something to Caleb. And this is what it was…

These chameleons were found by a lot of the older kids, and many went home as pets. Colby, in fact, is staying at Brackenhurst another week, and he hopes to find another to take home for himself.

You can imagine my thoughts. They were thinking of food for it, the long journey, and a million other things. Caleb was just getting his head around the horns.

They made fast friends, and I knew I would have to as well. “Creatures” were the main Africa-interest of Caleb before we came, and this creature made Caleb very happy.

The un-named chameleon slept under a trash can, but Caleb was up before sunrise asking to get dressed so he could play with it.

After some super-hero names like “Spiderman wall-crawler,” we decided on “Transformer,” which happens to be a favorite toy of Caleb’s and adequately describes the actions of the chameleon.

All of the kids really love him,

and he’s made it to Nairobi so far. I’m taking one day at a time on his journey. Transformer usually holds onto a stick that one of the children holds as we ride down the road. But sometimes he gets active and walks around on whoever is closest. We are just trying to keep from losing him in the luggage. And don’t worry, we have taken him out to get bugs a few times.

In fact, at a Pizza restaurant, we were sitting outside, when a fly landed on the table.

Oh my goodness! That tongue thing is cool! He whipped it out there, and in no time the fly was chomped and eaten.

If Transformer actually lives, there will probably be more stories to come.

Post script: We are now in Kampala, and Transformer has been with us three days, but he is not doing well, as you can imagine. (Our car ride today was 13 hours from Nairobi to Kampala. We woke up Transformer at 4am, and he has been on the road all day).

We'll let you know.

Our lost bag has been found

Tuesday, January 12th, 7 days after arriving in Uganda, I got a call at 4:30 in the morning from British Airways, letting me know they had located my bag. It was in Houston of all places.

Do you think that guy who told us we couldn’t go to Uganda and wasn’t pleased with our solution, held one bag out just for fun?

Anyway, “it” boarded the 4pm flight on Tuesday and should have arrived in Uganda sometime on Thursday night, but it arrived today, Saturday. Maybe some sweet, guilt-filled British Airways employee mysteriously put Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies in it before they sent it?

A girl can always hope, right?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Journal of Praises (Jan 13)

I really love to journal and get my thoughts on paper, but blogging uses so many of my thoughts, that I don’t get as much written down as I used to. When I started journaling the first morning in Africa, I thought about how much I would need to train myself to “give thanks in everything.”

So I began.

I start every sentence in my journal with the words “Thank You,” and then if I need to elaborate, I do with another sentence or two. This has kept me from complaining or wishing for things.

For example, here at Brackenhurst, I have written, “Thank you that when the shower flooded while Kylie and Caleb were in it, that the water just flooded the bathroom and didn’t reach the living room.


“Thank you that Doug and I were able to spray Karis’ and Caleb’s sheets to kill whatever was biting them and they weren’t bitten last night.”

Normally, I would have written, “There are no mosquitoes here because it is too cold, but something has been biting Karis and Caleb each night in their bed. The bites are red with white heads and itch for a day. I talked to one of the missionaries who suggested it might be a spider or bed bug and that I should spray.”

One statement gives more information, but the other one surely stretches my brain in how to be thankful. I need that here.

I got a little down yesterday because my mind doesn't see anything or anyone familiar, and I don't feel like I have a place to "rest," especially my mind, because I'm always trying to figure out where I am, where my stuff is, or where I’m going. I know a lot of it has to do with not seeing my home yet, being unpacked, or feeling settled.

I feel your prayers, but please continue to lift our whole family up. The kids are adjusting here better than Virginia, which is crazy to me, but prayer is a part of that as well. Many of the missionary children already knew each other, so it was a little hard at first for Kylie to see where she fit in, but after her first art class she had already made friends. Karis just does her thing and plays with whomever, and has found another friend named Karis whom she really likes, and Caleb is going to class each day easily and playing with kids wherever he is.

Brackenhurst (Jan 11-14)

Brakenhurst is a beautiful Baptist conference center on the outskirts of Nairobi up on a hill.

This is where the homeschool conference is and where I’m typing all these blogs. The internet here costs money, so today was the first day I was willing to pay the Kenya shillings to use it.

The conference breakout sessions are mostly things I have heard, but meeting people has been good. There are people here from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, and probably other places I haven’t learned yet. I’m listening carefully for clues on how people homeschool in Africa. At the elementary school forum today it was quite interesting to hear how people out in the bush of Sudan or Kenya do school.

Two nights ago I watched and listened to 6 ladies play Canasta. I haven’t played in so long, but it was fun to re-learn, and even more fun to hear about their lives in Africa.

After the conference, we are spending 2 nights in Nairobi, and then we will make the drive back to Kampala in one day, and spend two nights there before leaving for our home in Arua.

This is our room at Brackenhurst. Caleb's bed that you can't see is to the left of this picture.

Driving to Nairobi (Jan 10)

We spent the night in Nakura,

had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel the next morning, had a small church service in one of our rooms and headed out again for Nairobi.

Doug had started his “driving in Africa” experience yesterday after lunch, and he continued today. He drove all the girls and I rode in the other car to be with Caleb and all the guys. Today was the day to see animals, and I wanted to be able to point them out to Caleb.

We saw zebras, gazelles, baboons, flamingoes, and a cob. We had seen baboons on our first leg of the journey.

They were all in the road, some even standing to see if we would hand them food out the window.

Caleb clapped and shouted each time he saw an animal. They are the real reason he was ready to come to Africa.

He fell asleep soon, and as the rest of us talked, I learned a little about Kenya government, politics, and history. I had read a lot about Uganda before coming, but I didn’t know much about Kenya.

We drove along the Great Rift Valley, and it was absolutely beautiful!

We stopped at a lookout point where I thought I could take a lot of pictures and buy Massai blankets at the craft booths, but God had other plans.

I saw Pam taking her daughter and Karis down a VERY steep, muddy embankment to go to a “bathroom.” I followed to help, and half-way down, Pam sent me back up for toilet paper. Good thinking.

Below the lookout, on a steep hill, was a cho (an outhouse which is a wooden structure with four walls, a tin roof, and a hole in the floor). I have seen and smelled worse chos, but I’m sure Karis hasn’t. This was a very primitive structure.

But she went in first and asked if she could do it alone. I was in shock! I gave her some pointers about how not to get wet, and I left. And I waited. And I waited.

She did it!

After everyone else finished, we walked back up the muddy slope, holding onto a wooden rail.

I took two pictures, listened to some hagglers, and tried to look at Massai blankets, when Karis told me she needed to go again!

One of the workers in a craft booth had washed a wool skin of some kind and hung it over a wooden banister to drip dry. The water was dripping right onto our muddy slope.

It made it all the more difficult to get down, especially carrying a money pouch, toilet paper, and a camera. Kylie and Joanna also followed us.

All three girls successfully used the cho. And then Doug brought Caleb, and he went, too.

I’m going on about this, because this is something I thought my kids would never give a try. There was a squatty potty in Virginia for us to practice on (a clean one), and I showed my kids how to use it, and not one of them would.

Major Africa breakthrough for me and my family!

So the cho and the scenery were the big things about driving to Brakenhurst today.

Mistake #1 of MANY (Jan 9)

We left at 6am for the first 8 hour leg of our journey for Nairobi, Kenya. The kicker was that it took 13 hours to do the first 8 hours. Traffic can be slow at times when you get behind big trucks, but that wasn’t the only issue.

Karis really needed to go to the bathroom. We stopped at a gas station. It had a squatty potty in the back. We got her down and situated, but with so many people helping, she couldn’t go. Kylie didn’t even try.

Stop #2: side of the road. Too many people helping and blocking the view of traffic. Still couldn’t go. Anyway, she held it until the town of Eldoret where we ate lunch at 3pm (our 9th hour of the journey).

Lunch was good, but different. Doug, Caleb and I had hamburgers, but as you can imagine, the meat tasted a little different. The girls had fried eggs, and we all shared 2 milkshakes, which apparently are a rarity.

When we got to the Uganda/Kenya border there are apparently 6 steps to go through. Our team leader didn’t realize until later that we forgot the last step – registration with the Kenaya police – I don’t know what that means. The first stop went pretty quickly (Uganda immigration). The third and fourth stops (visas and insurance) were really crowded to get to, so Doug and Stan (Mr. Wafler) got out and walked across the Kenyan border to start paperwork, while the rest of us drove the 2 vehicles across. They were so proud to say the “walked from Uganda to Kenya.”

Doug and Stan had to get Kenya insurance for our vehicles, and Pam (Mrs. Wafler), Sandra (the Wafler’s homeschool teacher), and I had to get Visas for everyone except Doug and Stan.

I know it’s confusing, but you don’t have to understand that part of the story. The part to get is this: when you come into Kenya for visas and insurance, we have to pay in American dollars.

Before I left the States, I took “great care” in getting $1500 worth of clean, crisp, new $100 bills so that we would have money for times like this.

I went to a couple of banks in town, and Yoakum National Bank said they could get me $100’s newer than 2006 that were clean and crisp. When they brought them out of the vault, I was so excited at how new they were (never used), that I never looked at the date.

My fault completely, I know.

Long story short: Kenya would not take our money. They were dated 1996.

This was a good strengthening time for Doug’s and my relationship as I apologized profusely, and he smiled. He really was very kind about it, and thankfully, Sandra had some money we could borrow. We still don’t know about the way back.

The problem now is finding NEW American $100’s to replace the ones I have. Certain people are coming to Africa this Spring that could bring us some, but we are going to exhaust our efforts here first. We are going to try to trade volunteers from the States because other missionaries won’t trade us either. These bills are dated 1996, and they are useless here.

You can be praying that God will work this situation out soon because there are certain times when we will have to have dollars.

I am fully aware that I will make many mistakes in Africa. I just didn’t know the first one would come so soon.

I’m sorry, Doug.

Kampala (Jan 6-8)

Kampala is the capital of Uganda. We stayed there for 4 nights and did shopping during the day for things we will need when we get to Arua. Arua, is 7 hours away and does not have as much to offer in the way of food and house supplies.

My first trip to the ATM was shocking. I withdrew 1,000,000 Uganda schillings. That is a little more than $500 American dollars. It’s quite a shock to the system to be taking that kind of money out of your checking account!

The only thing I bought the first day was a pair of $1 flip flops for Caleb, because I could see quite quickly that my children were no longer going to be socks and shoes wearers. They were barefoot all day long at the Baptist compound and only put their flip flops on to go somewhere in town.

The Baptist compound consists of 2 houses, one guesthouse, a guard house, and some storage containers. We stayed in the guesthouse. It is sort of like a duplex except there is an adjoining kitchen and laundry room. So our family was on the left, and if you walk through the kitchen, you get to the other side where the Wafler’s, our teammates, were staying. Each side had 2 bedrooms with beds for 5, 2 baths, and a living area

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I've seen pictures

Three posts in one night is a little over the top, but you'll have to forgive me. I'm a little excited. My family is spending the night in Africa tonight.

Anyway, I received an email from one of the journeyman on our team in Arua. She went and took pictures of our house! I still don't know about a climbing tree - for those of you praying for that - but it looks pretty good to me.

I'm including a view of the front

from the front porch, looking out

and a view of the back yard. The girl who sent these says "that's not a hut, it's a piyot- like a sitting area/patio, but covered"

And for those of you concerned about the important things...

We're taken care of.

My pantry has lots of space; we have TWO bathrooms; the garage can double as a school room (so says my friend Alissa :); and the three bedrooms are of good size. I'll stop there. I would show you more pictures of all the rooms (I have them now!), but the house hasn't been cleaned, so I'll wait and send some more later. The kitchen looks particularly small with little counter space, so we are going to have to be creative. OK - one more picture - the kitchen.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes. Doug bought me a Starbucks coffee in the London airport to celebrate. It was on the 5th, but it was better than the airplane food I got on the 4th!

Tomorrow, we are getting cell phones, malaria medication, and they are going to take me out for my birthday. Since we'll be at this guest house all week (we leave for Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday), I'll be sure and post some more for you.

Wireless internet my first night in Uganda??

My entire family is asleep. It is 5:00am Uganda time. 8:00am back in Texas. I really could sleep, but I can't pass up this opportunity of wireless internet. I'll get sleep later.

We are staying at the guest house at the Baptist Mission here in Uganda, and it is nice. Karis asked if we could live here. It's not that nice, but I'm glad she liked it.

Wanted to post my "Praise God" list for the day:

* We were told we couldn't get on the plane without a visa or a return ticket - God worked it out

* Kids were AWESOME on the plane. They didn't open the bags I had packed with all their entertainment goodies ONE TIME. They slept and watched movies. Score!

* Only 1 of 17 bags didn't make it to Entebbe. Pretty good, folks.

* Caleb is getting better and better. Thank you prayer warriors!

* We saw our quad mates from Virginia in the airport in London. It was really good for the kids, plus they sat in the row behind us on the airplane here (I mean who else but God could have arranged that among hundreds of people), plus they helped us carry all our luggage. Score!

* We were able to skype my parents on this awesome wireless internet after we arrived.

* We met our team mates and stayed up until 2:30am visiting. They are wonderful!

Thank you Lord Jesus!

"No, I'm sorry. You can't go to Uganda today."

That is what the ticket agent said to Doug and I after waiting TWO hours in line! My heart sank. He said we had to have a VISA or a return ticket, and we had neither. He asked us to get out of line. OUCH!

Our sweet friend Natalie had taken us to the airport and had sat with the kids the whole time by the windows. She let us borrow her iphone, and the phone calls began.

The International Mission Board was quick to fix the problem. Our ticket just had to show a return date, so they called a travel agent and made that happen. Then faxes were sent, more calls were made, and in one hour, we were back at the counter.

The guy was skeptical, of course, and left me for a good 20 minutes by myself. When he returned, he had some sheets printed up and highlighted showing me what trouble I could get in if I didn't get a VISA. Don't worry folks. I got a visitor's VISA as soon as we landed.

Any way, after three hours trying to check our bags, he let us start weighing them in. Prayer at work folks.

We thought we would only have 15, but we actually took 17 plus one bag of car seats. We had to pay a little overage, but it was all okay. Blessing one...check!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Crating and Ending

Well, there you go. This is the essence of crating (for us).

The first picture just shows you what a 200 cubic foot crate looks like on the inside.

The second is us fully packed after 7 hours of figuring how it all fits.

The third is what it looks like before it is caulked, sealed, stenciled, and put on a boat.

The guys at Central Transportation Systems in San Antonio were great! They've helped lots of missionaries before, and it was evident they were experts at what they were doing. Here's hoping the boat arrives...

We haven't seen pictures of our house yet, but I've been told it's fixed up, painted, and ready to go. If the house isn't big enough to hold our stuff, I guess we can have a "garage sale" in Africa.

We also found out that we will not be going to our home to drop off our bags before going to Kenya for a home school conference. They will be left some place "safe" in the capital of Kampala while we make the trip.

That means, when we get to Africa, we will need to go through 13 of our 15 bags to find what we need to take to Kenya. We only packed little carry-ons for a couple of nights in Kampala. We would go through our bags now, but they are weighed and packed to the pound, and it would take A LOT of shifting and re-organizing to do it here.

I also just found out, we will be in Nairobi longer than we thought. We won't arrive in our town of Arua or at our new home until January 20th, so it will be awhile before I have pictures for you.

I read someone's blog who summarized their year in a series of numbers. I don't have the year down, but here are some stats:

4 moves this year (Yoakum to Katy to Yoakum to Virginia to Yoakum)
5 states in 2 months (Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia)
about 320 hours of class in Virginia
42 shots for the family (Doug 11, Kat 7, Kylie 7, Karis 8, Caleb 9)
15 suitcases weighing 50 pounds (that's 750 pounds!)
10 carry-ons
3 car seats
and one family ready to go

Please pray for my dad as he is working to sell our two vehicles. (Does anyone need a 2000 Honda Odyssey or a 2000 VW Bug - Silver?)

Please pray for our flight over to be a "quick" 24 hours, for connections to be made, and for us to walk in the Spirit as we go.

Please pray for our unsettled first month to be a good time of transition.

Please pray for encounters we have every day that could be life changing.

If I don't write again, I'll catch up with you in Africa!