Sunday, February 27, 2011

The zoo came to town

Well, I had heard a "zoo" was coming to town, but it also happened to be the day visitors came to visit.

Kylie chose to go to the airport with Doug, and Jack drove Karis, Caleb, and me to the "zoo."

There was a large area marked off with canvas right along the main road in town. Usually people play pick-up games of football (soccer) here, but this particular week, it was more like a fairgrounds.

We had to pay the equivalent of $.50 to enter into the marked off area, and then another $.50 to see the animals.

I don't know what I expected it to be, but I should have thought "fair ground petting zoo," but I didn't. When will I ever learn that I live in Africa.

This is what we saw as we entered the entrance to the "zoo."

I paid for Jack to come in with us. Sadly, most of the nationals have never seen some of the animals that are in the game parks around the continent.

He was excited.

The first animal was an ostrich. He really wanted a picture with it, but it kept pacing and pacing. He was always trying to see where it was so we could get a good picture.

My kids grew tired of waiting, but Karis came back later and Jack got her to pose with him.

He didn't recognize his country's national bird: the Crested Crane. I told him it was on the flag, and then he remembered.

Jack then hurried off with a group of guys to see the lionness. He wanted his picture made with all the animals. When I go to Kampala, I'll print them for him. He will have many stories to tell all of his piki driver friends.

For me, these can't compare to the wonders we have seen in the national parks, but I loved watching all the grown men act like small children do on their first trip to the zoo.

All these men were gathered around the lion's cage, watching her and taking pictures with their cell phones. You can see my two kids were bored already and moving on.

Jack broke the barrier we were supposed to stay behind (and invited Karis to do so as well). There was no one really watching, so Jack decided to pet the ring-tailed monkey.

He wanted me to see that one hand only had four fingers. He was very concerned for it.

He kept going back to the ostrich, saying, "Ah! His neck is VERY long. VERY long. His legs are VERY big. Ah! He is so BIG."

More time staring at the ostrich.

I tried to put myself in his shoes. Can you? Do you remember your first trip to the zoo? Or were we all too young to appreciate the wonders of God's creation at that young age?

These are two more "animals" that got the nationals' attention. These two pythons (can you see both of their heads) were in a box. When enough people arrive, one of the zoo workers takes the smaller one out and lets people pay to have their picture taken with it. We didn't stick around for that.

When I got back to the house, and I saw Patrick there, I couldn't stand it that he hadn't seen the animals and really couldn't afford to go. So I gave him and Alice money to get into the grounds and into see the animals. I REALLY wanted to go and take pictures of them, but I needed to be with the visitors.

I wish I had a recording of them when they returned. They were speaking in elevated tones and with such excitement about what they saw. That was good for me to see and hear. The zoo was a bit of a let down for me, but for them, it was the chance-of-a-lifetime, and again, perspective makes a HUGE difference. Alice "touched" the python and paid her own $.50 to get a picture of her doing it. Patrick said he didn't get near the reptile, but he did act out the ostrich's actions for me, and it delighted my heart to see it.

That evening, when Jeremiah arrived to work, I gave him money, too, so he could go the next day. I told him I was sorry but I couldn't go and take pictures of him.

The next day (his off day), he showed up across the fence at the neighbors. He told me that he was going to go with the next door neighbor's watchman, Geoffrey.

Geoffrey has a camera and takes pictures at baptisms and weddings.

So, I went and gave money for Geoffrey to get in. It was contagious.

Every time I heard a national tell me his or her story about the animals, it excited me. I wanted all of Arua to experience the wonders of God's creation. I felt like walking down the street and just handing everyone $1.00 to go see the animals. These grown-ups going to see animals for the first time blessed my heart.

After WAY too long seeing thirteen animals...did I mention there were only THIRTEEN animals there?

Ostrich, 2 Serval, 2 Pythons, Uganda Cob, Turtle, Crested Crane, Ring-tailed Monkey, Lion, Grey Owl, and 2 Parrots

After WAY too long seeing thirteen animals, we headed out to find some water to drink.

As we were drinking our lukewarm water bottles, I saw this.

It looks like three days into the "fair" action, they decided to put up a ride.

Can you see the piles of tin and lumber in the foreground?

Let's just say, there is NO way anyone in my family is riding on that.

No hovering...anywhere

I have yet to see a mother in Africa hovering over her children. There probably are some, but I haven't seen them.

I talked to a woman the other day and when I asked her about the ages of her children at home, she said that they were 2 and 3.

I said, "Who stays with them?"

She said, "Oh, they are old enough to manage."


I'm hoping they manage with other siblings or cousins.

That tends to be the model around here. If a girl is 4 1/2 or 5, they are old enough to start caring for younger children.

I watch a mother every Sunday leave her 5 month old with a young girl. This week, the girl looked to be about 6. The baby was naked and wrapped in a beach towel on the young girl's back.

The mother went off to get water at the bore hole. When the young girl wanted to climb a tree with the rest of the kids, another girl, who looked a bit younger, took the infant.

Think about how we operate in America with our newborn babies. We spend so much time with them, we know their habits and their cries. This newborn boy is with a different girl every time I see him. They don't know his cries and habits.

Maybe this is why African children are so tough. They grow up without this constant care from one person, and they learn to adapt and not be so whiny, like some of us probably were as children. But please know that I am aware that some mothers do spend more time with their children. This was just the instance I saw today.

At the church service (this was at the ORA base - where some orphans and foster children come to church) we attended this last Sunday, I watched this one boy for about 30 minutes do things that would have had any mother hovering, but there was no one around to take care of him.

He entered church after having peed in his pink shorts, and it was still running down his leg.

He went and sat on a drum that one of the boys was beating, getting the drum a little wet.

Then, he wanted to hold the Bible story book, and he set the spine of the book right onto his wet shorts. When the Bible study teacher took it from him, she didn't even seem to care or notice that it was a bit damp.

When we went outside to play afterward, I saw him standing with his shorts pulled down just enough to let his private parts hang out, and he was peeing down the front of his shorts...again, and down his leg, with his hand getting terribly wet.

THEN, he went and picked up a small mango off the ground to eat. He picked it up with the dry hand, but then it slipped to the ground, and he grabbed it a second time with his wet hand, and he bit into the mango.

THEN, with part of the mango innards exposed, he thought of a better idea. He would take it with him while he played.

He pried open his small, wet pocket on these little-girl shorts and stuffed it in before he ran off to swing and play in the dirt.

I'm sure you can figure I was cringing, but I was also sad.

There was no one to change his shorts.
There was no one to wash his hands.
There was no one to clean off his mango.
There was no one to teach him about the sanitary way to take care of food.

Sadly, all I did was tell him in Lugbara (as I saw the urine running down his hand, shorts, and leg), "You need to wash your hands." The water tank is dry because it is dry season, so I didn't even know where to tell him to go to wash his hands. I guess I was hoping he knew.

My children and your children are blessed to have parents who take the time to raise them not only in the admonition of the Lord, but also in the healthier ways of the world.

We Americans could probably hover a little less and teach a little more independence to our children, but I know if we are over-doing it, it's because we love them and worry about them.

A lesson for us all is that we should trust the Lord to take care of our children. That's what I'm praying for that boy I saw today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Appreciated Love Letter

It is official: There are now Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies in my refrigerator, on my shelves, and in my belly. I am set for quite some time! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Audrey.

Anyway, back to Pasca. I wrote in the front of her Love Letter from God a sweet note about how I appreciated her friendship and I looked forward to watching her draw closer to God day by day. I dated it, and I headed over to where she works to give it to her.

She is a cook for an oil and petroleum company here, so I interrupted her liver and kidney (Ugh!) cooking to present her with this precious gift.

When she saw it, she kissed it, and said over and over how she couldn't believe it!

It really made my day (and hers).

She gets to work every morning at 6am to cook breakfast for all the workers, and she doesn't leave until late in the evening when all the dinner dishes are clean. We both know she is busy, but we are determined to set some time aside to study the Story together.

I wish you all could meet her. She is such a blessing, and you would have loved to see how excited she got over receiving her very own (readable) Love Letter from God.

The Word is a precious thing!


My kids informed me two days ago that they wish the nights would return when the lights go out during our evening meal.


The security of solar is apparently not the wonder for them that it is for me.

I said, "Do you remember how your movies used to go black before you could finish them?"

They said, "Yes, but daddy could just hook up the t.v. to the battery."

My reply to that was that the certain battery they were talking about is now in someone else's possession.

They said, "Still..."

I said, "I for one, like having a fan at night and a light to turn on when I want to see at night."

They said, "We do too, but we liked eating in the dark."

Well, my friends you can't have it both ways, and you are definitely NOT getting it your way.

For some reason, I think my children would have been completely happy living during "Little House on the Prairie" times.

I think I would like to visit, but I don't want to stay there.

Thank you, God for solar, and thank you to all of you who helped us get all the things we needed so that we could have solar.

At least, Doug and I are thankful!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cassava harvest

I drove to the outer villages of Arua with my friend Joanna to help another friend Jane with a task.

And when I say "outer," I mean "outer."

I still can't get over the talent of these women, so I keep taking pictures of them.

Anyway, Jane's family had been harvesting her cassava for her all day while she was working in town. After all the harvesting had been done, Joanna offered to drive out, pick it all up for her, and take it back to Jane's house so they wouldn't have to hire transport.

This is the fruit of their labors.

I tried to help, but these people had a system and knew how to pack cassava a lot better and tighter than I did, so I decided to take pictures and visit. Being this far out of town, not many people spoke English, so it was a great place to practice my Lugbara.

That is one large cassava. It looks like an elephant's trunk.

These are some of the workers in the foreground, and you can see a man in a blue shirt in the back. He's the one that asked to pose with the vehicle. (I put it on an earlier post about Patrick and his son.)

Joanna hauled so much cassava and so many people back to town that her car was struggling in second gear. Jesus helped us get back, and the cassava will be ground into flour for Jane's family to use or sell. God provides!

A Rainbow of Colors

I see the best things when I'm riding on the back of a motorcycle, but for some reason, it's not the best time to take pictures.

So while Doug is driving us to and from Kampala, I like to snap pictures when I can.

This is what it looks like every afternoon, all over Africa when kids get out of school. There are always bright colors walking home.

Or running home...

Notice the bare feet. Their feet are so tough and conditioned, even the hot asphalt doesn't phase them.

I know I'm missing quite a few colors of the rainbow here, but I want you to know that I've seen all seven at one time or another...just not on this drive.

A mom must have stood in the "footpool" line with her baby on her back to pick up her child.

Some boys, taking it easy.

These were all taken on our 6 and a half hour journey home.

There are some amazing yellow and purple uniforms in Arua that I'll try to get a snapshot of sometime. And I promise to hold on to the motorcycle with one hand while I take pictures with the other. I know that makes my mother happy (hee, hee).

Life in the Big City

I wanted to title this blog "City Mouse, Country Mouse," but oh well.

We had a lot of fun in Kampala, and got to do some new things as a family.

My sweet friend, Natalie, that arranged travel for us one year ago to the Houston airport used to live in Kampala as a journeyman. She returned with some friends to work on a new project they are starting.

Their project is a children's home for kids who are too old to remain in an orphanage. They found a house-mother, and they have six children right now (5 boys and 1 girl). They have room for 25, so they are really excited about the possibilities.

Kylie and Karis went to the home with the team from America to play with the little girl, since she always has boys around. Doug, Caleb, and I met up with them half way through their time when they went to the mall to buy shoes for their school uniforms. They kids were so excited!

The only girl is in this picture on the left. Isn't she beautiful?

Earlier that day, all of us went to an orphanage for children ages birth to 3. We were not allowed to take pictures, so you will just have to use your imagination.

The reason we went to this particular orphanage is because one of the ladies adopted her daughter from there 9 years ago when conditions were less than satisfactory. She wanted to check on the conditions today.

Thankfully, the place was cleaner, nicer, and there was a lot of good stuff going on. Of course, there is always room for improvement.

When we first arrived, I explained to Caleb what an orphanage was, and he looked at me and said, "Are we taking one home?" Natalie, who had heard our conversation, said, "Caleb, that is an appropriate response after hearing what an orphanage is." And how true that is. There are over 2 million orphans in Uganda that need homes.

All of the infants (and there were WAY too many...although, ONE is too many) were in individual cribs, but we were told not to hold them. I didn't understand, but I didn't ask questions.

(As a side note, we heard of a mother who came to the gate and just threw her newborn on the ground and walked away. I had the pleasure of being with that young girl in the three year old room, and she is a delight to be around. I was told that she is one of the blessed ones. Many women who don't want their children, literally throw them in the garbage. Let's not talk about that anymore...)

Doug was sequestered to haul wood after some time with me and Natalie in the 3-year old room, and my three children preferred the 6-9 month old room.

We stayed for about 4 hours and played with the children. We were not allowed to have them sit in our laps or hold them, and that was difficult for all of us. It was explained that you can do those things when they are out in the yard, but when they have designated "class time," they need to act like "students."

After about 3 hours, the children in the room Kylie was in got baths. They lined up about 12 tubs outside on the sidewalk, filled them with water, waited for them to warm up in the sun, and then 12 of the kids had an adult sit with them and bathe them. Kylie loved this. She had a little girl that was her favorite all day, and I was pretty sure she was going to ask to take her home at the end of the day.

It was something my family needed to do, but it was also very heart-breaking to think about these kids without families.

Thankfully, we get to spend every Sunday with these guys.

They are some of the kids at ORA, in the foster care system in Arua, and we love them. (They even have a "Kathryn" and a "Doug" in the group).

Doug and I had a date night while we were in the "big city," and that was so nice. Jan and Lynn, the friends we went on vacation with over Christmas, kept the kids for us. The kids had so much fun, they didn't want us to come home.

Speaking of "big city," here's a little comparison of things between Kampala and Arua. Many similar things can be seen in both places, but there are a few that can't.

Like this:

Kampala (big-city stuff)


Kampala (kids going through the trash - although we do have this in Arua, too)

Arua (a different kind of "kid" going through trash - although I'll bet Kampala has this, too)

(Check out the pregnant goat!!)

Kampala traffic jam - cars and motorcycles

Arua traffic jam - people and animals

Or...not much traffic at all.

This last snapshot I took last week in Arua. The amount of dust in the air during hot season is amazing.

My mother just thinks she is a bad house keeper because she rarely dusts.

We live with our doors and windows open, so you can imagine the dust problem in our home.

Mom, if you want to feel good about your house-keeping skills, you are free to come for a visit!

Brick-Making Time

Sorry about the radio silence. We headed to Kampala to see some friends from the States who were doing mission work there, and we had some visitors here in Arua, so it's taken me a little bit of time to get back in the groove of writing.

My brain is not firing on all cylinders right now, so instead of new, fun stories for you, I'll re-cap the near-recent past.

It's dry season now, and I don't remember noticing this last year, but this is official "brick-making-time."

A large group of men and boys will carry water to a huge dirt area, and soak it down. They will then mix it with sticks (and maybe hay - I'm not quite the expert here), and then they will fill wooden frames with the mud. Each frame can only make 2 bricks, because they have to be able to flip it over easily and dump it out to dry.

I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures of that part of the process, because it was really fascinating. I would stop on the side of the road, and just watch them.

After the bricks are laid out in the sun for some days, they are then stacked like these pictures show.

This one is not quite completed on the top.

As they are stacking, they leave entry holes in the sides close to the ground, so they can insert firewood later. Then they cover the outside with mud.

Then they start "smoking them." I'm sure you love all my scientific terms.

These stacks are built up every few hundred yards all over town, because everyone with dirt is making bricks to either build something or to sell to someone else to build something.

After they are smoked, the stack comes down.

Then they are used for building. This is the color of every building in town.

The pictures don't make it look too exciting, but I really find it fascinating. It also makes me wonder about the Israelites in Egypt. Did they just sun-bake their bricks for Pharoah, or was there burning involved?

Just thinking...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The boy

Here he is! Helen and the un-named handsome boy!

I'm glad I didn't ask to hold him (this was his wife's first time to meet me - I didn't want to scare her), because when Patrick took him, he started crying immediately, and he didn't stop until she took him back after this picture.

This is Patrick's family with three of his four children. The other one was screaming about being in the picture. I tried to get them to stand in front of their house or a tree, but Patrick insisted on being in front of our vehicle.

It reminds me of two weeks ago.

I went out to the village with a friend to "drive" another friend's cassava harvest back to town. (You can see the bags the other men are loading on top). I had my camera, and this gentleman and I exchanged a few words in Lugbara, but I knew what he was asking without understanding all of it. He wanted his picture made with my friend's vehicle.

Anyway, back to Patrick's house. These boys were having so much fun. I would take a picture, show it to them, they would laugh, and then make sillier poses the next time. I had a lot of fun with them.

Of course, the girls were being responsible and sitting off to the side, taking care of the younger kids.

Aren't they beautiful?

The funny thing is, I couldn't get them to smile (with teeth) for ANY picture, but EVERY time after the flash went off, they had huge smiles, waiting to see their picture in my camera.

Then, the boys thought I was giving too much attention to the girls, so they moved over nearer to me at a neighboring house and wanted me to take more pictures.

And the boys were the ones that followed us, running down the path, as we drove back home.

I made copies of all these photos for the boys so they would always remember the day the crazy white lady came to take their picture.

Now for two small tidbits about the day.

A friend told me that they would ask me to name the baby, but I assured her that I had never met Patrick's family, and they certainly wouldn't ask a stranger to name their child. She said, "It will be only one of many names he gets, but it's very important to be able to tell him later that that name was given to him by an American."

I gave it just a thought and went about my day.

Sure enough. Not two minutes had passed after I sat in their house when his wife asked me to give him a name.

What do you do when that happens?

Go with the familiar...

"Michael" (that's my dad's name and my brother's name, for those of you who don't know, and it's the first that popped into my head)

Patrick smiled and said, "That is my father's name."

Cool, huh?

Tidbit #2:

We had to DRIVE in a CAR quite a ways out into the bush to get to Patrick's house. The WHOLE way I couldn't stop thinking that Patrick RIDES his BIKE to my house from here. Wow! you remember how I said the original plan for the birth was for him to give his wife a ride to the hospital on his bike when she went into labor?

I wish I could show you how far they live from the hospital!! I thought about that ride to the hospital (that didn't happen) all the way home as I felt every bump, also realizing that they would have made that journey in the dark. I guess Helen should thank me that she got to deliver at home, right?

All in all, it took us about 15 minutes driving really slowly on bumpy roads, but you can get pretty far in 15 minutes in a car.

After leaving his home, I looked at my phone, and I was being serviced by another cell phone provider that I had never heard of before. Maybe it was one from the Congo (which is next door) - I don't know, but all of a sudden, I got a text.

It was from my old (original) provider which said, "MTN Uganda wishes you a save and pleasant stay overseas."

Obviously, my phone company thought I was past the limits of civilization as well.

THAT, my friends, is a long way to ride on a bike to work in rain, dark, heat, or cold!

Pray for Patrick and Jeremiah and their families. Pray for their safety and their continued health. They work hard to keep our family safe.