Monthly Archives: January 2011

Around the World in One Day

My dad was here for a brief three-day visit last week on his way to Cameroon to teach a one-week course to pastors. It was three great days of showing him my life, work, and city. On Wednesday, we went out to to the countryside to visit my friends, the Carrolls. On Thursday, I took him to work with me (We joked that we had come a long way since the old “Take Your Daughter to Work” days at NASA).

On Friday, I took the day off to spend more time with him. I laid out all the options:

“We could go to Lake Victoria, or to an island beach, or see monkeys at the zoo, or go to the botanical gardens…”

Dad: “Well, was that a mosque I saw earlier? And a Hindu temple? Could we just go see those places?”

Well sure, we can go on an educational tour of the major world religions. I mean, what else would you do with a dad who’s in the final stages of getting his Doctorate of Missiology? And Kampala is a pretty great place to get your fill of religious sites from around the world.

 
Our first stop was the National Mosque, started by Idi Amin and finished by Qaddafi a few years ago. I had been there a few months ago, and had to rent two scarves to cover my legs and hair. This time, I was prepared, and even color-coordinated my outfit! It was fun to go to a mosque with my dad and compare notes on worship and prayer in Islam.

 

The second stop was the Hindu temple. I know very little about Hinduism, so here my dad was the expert. When we walked in, the place was fairly bare and not very exciting. Soon, a guy dressed totally in white popped his head around a mysterious huge curtain, gave a huge smile, and welcomed us eagerly, with very little English and a whole lot of head nodding. He asked us to wait while he finished prayers, then drew back the curtain to reveal a whole array of statues decked out in bright clothes.

Before we knew it, we had red dots on our head and were being offered water to pour over one of the statues. I had a minor crisis moment “What do I do? I can’t feed an idol!!!” But then I remembered my dad was with me, and if this totally-new-unexpected-religious-cultural-experience was okay with him, well, it was okay with me. (Side note: my dad compared the whole day to the Amazing Race, but at this moment in time, it felt much more like Eat Pray Love, Indian-devotee style.)

Our last stop, the Baha’i temple, was a fitting conclusion to our day of touring the major world religions. There is only one Baha’i temple on each continent, so it’s rather amazing that Africa decided to build its temple in Kampala. It’s a beautiful classical-style structure, set apart on a quiet hillside overlooking the city. Our guide was very eager to share his faith with us, and explained that he had been a Muslim, but grew tired of all the animosity between Christians and Muslims, so he joined the Baha’i faith as a happy middle ground.

The temple itself was really beautiful, as were the Psalms and reflections of Baha’ullah, the founder of Baha’i who lived in the 1800s. Originally a Muslim also, Baha’ullah decided to create a religion that emphasized the love of God by drawing on all the great spiritual thinkers throughout history (Moses, Jesus, Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, and Muhammad among others). I think if I had to create a man-made religion that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, this would be it. But thank goodness that faith isn’t about creating a religion that makes everyone happy – it’s all about Jesus!

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It’s Been a Crazy Two Weeks

I just wanted to say I’m alive. And I’m sorry I’ve been absent from this blog for so long. One day led into the next and before I knew it, two weeks had passed since I last wrote! Two long, exhausting, action-packed, fun-filled, stressful, overwhelming weeks… I’ve had a hectic life recently.

So here’s the Reader’s Digest version. In the last two weeks..

1)      I returned from Kenya, incredibly refreshed, rather sunburned, and full of good old home cooking from Rachel’s mom. It was SO good to see Rachel and her family. Rachel and I lived parallel lives for most of our TU careers, in the same major, going on the same study-abroad program, volunteering in the same student ministries, until our senior year when we decided to take the final step in melding our lives together and become roommates!  Last September, right around the time I came to Uganda, she moved to the Middle East to teach English. I couldn’t be more proud of her. It was so good to reminisce about the past, share about the present, and dream about the future. Oh yeah, and we were also at the beach, staying in a huge beachhouse on the Indian Ocean. Every morning we went out snorkeling – seeing an octopus was a definite (rather scary) highlight. It was pretty much the perfect vacation.

2)      Upon returning to work, I got hit hard with an unpleasant reality — unlike being a student, in the adult world the workload doesn’t stop when you’re on holiday. You just miss more work and have to work harder when you get back. So for the first few days back in the office, I thought the sky was falling down around me, as I scrambled to meet HQ end-of-year finance deadlines and all sorts of equally pleasant tasks. But the deadlines came and went, I survived, and am happily back to thoroughly loving work and the IJM Uganda team.

3)      Three days after I got back, a few friends and I decided to look for a house together. Ever since I arrived in Uganda I’ve been wanting a more permanent place to live, ideally with friends. It was a flurried two days of meeting with realtors, checking out houses, making pros/cons list, and haggling down the price per month. Unfortunately, nothing we found had the exact specifications that everyone was looking for. So, plans sort of fell through, and I was back at square one. But I had been severely bitten by the “I want a place to call my own” bug, and so, in what may be the hastiest decision I’ve ever made, I decided to move into a new flat by myself anyway!

4)      And so, as of two days ago, I am the proud new tenant of a small two-bedroom flat.  All you really need to know is:  it has orange walls and lime green trim. And a Peter Rabbit bedroom. And I LOVE it. I promptly went out and bought daisies to fill up the place. I also love the window-pane kitchen cupboards, the gas oven that lights automatically and actually has a temperature gauge (a first in Uganda!), and the extra large freezer. Don’t worry, pictures will come soon once it’s all organized, but suffice it to say… I just adore nesting.  And I love that I have a second bedroom to offer guests, like the one who is coming tomorrow: MY DADDY!

5)      Yep, my dad is coming in two days! He’s teaching a two-week Bible class in Cameroon, and was able to just “hop” over to Uganda for a few days before his class starts (note to all my non-geographically-inclined readers — Cameroon is a LONG way from Uganda). It all came about rather quickly in the last few weeks, and I am just over-the-moon excited to show him my life here (and take him to one or two of the great restaurants that Kampala has to offer! Indian, Turkish, Thai, Ethiopian – how will I ever decide!?!) 🙂

 

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10 Years Ago

It was exactly 10 years ago, in the first week of January 2001, when my family stepped out of a 20-seater plane onto the rich brown dirt and sprawling green hills of the Papua New Guinea highlands. Many would describe the place we had entered as paradise on earth, a gorgeous country mostly untouched by modernity.

But I saw none of that beauty. As an American adolescent, moving to a third world country was, in my small realm of existence, the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. I have vivid memories of bawling my eyes out on my bed, both before and after we made the big move.

At point, one of the first days we were there, I remember walking with my family around the CLTC campus, through the cow pastures, by the smelly chicken sheds, across the sports fields where kids were kicking an old soccer ball. I turned to my mom and said “Is this really where we have to live now?” I didn’t think I was going to survive.

The campus of the Christian Leader's Training College

But 10 years later, and here I am… Happy, content, and grateful to be living again in the developing world. Back to being the only white face in a crowd, where kids wave excitedly to me as if they’ve never seen blond hair and blue eyes before.

Back to equatorial seasons with a constant sunny-with-a-high-of-75 forecast, tropical thunderstorms, and an abundance of clear starry nights. Back to eating bananas and pineapple for breakfast, sweet potato and cassava for lunch, with Cadbury chocolate and PK gum for snacks.

Back to church services filled with rousing harmonies and clapping choruses, but where prosperity gospel/cargo cults threaten the integrity of the gospel. Back in a land where AIDS, tribal animosity, and government corruption attack the roots of society.

And I love it all. I love living life in Africa. And it all started 10 years ago, when I first stepped off the plane in Papua New Guinea as a bratty 12-year old.

One of the few surviving pictures from 10 years ago.

So thanks, Mom and Dad, for dragging me halfway around the world, even though I hated it at the time. Thanks, Papua New Guinea, for teaching me the beauty of living in a different culture. Thanks God, for the life you’ve given me to live. It’s far better than I ever dreamed of 10 years ago!

 

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Christmastime in Kampala

Happy New Year! This last week has been full of many blessings. My house (well, my boss’s house that I’m housesitting for a month) has turned into Grand Central Station for friends coming in and out of Kampala for the Christmas season. I’ve washed more sheets and baked more cookies in the last week than I have in three months! But I’m not complaining; I’ve loved being able to welcome people into “my” home for this month.

Christmas weekend started off with a candlelight service at All Saints Cathedral, one of the biggest Anglican churches in Kampala. Silent Night by candlelight was great, the Christmas tree in the front of the altar was great, but the sermon was a highlight – focused on Jesus as the Prince of Peace, and how our identity as His people means that we enter into places of conflict with confidence, knowing that the Prince of Peace is alive in our hearts and has come to reign in the world. In light of what I was thinking about in Rwanda, it was completely inspiring and just what I needed to hear this Christmas season.

A few days earlier, we went to Watoto Church’s annual Christmas cantata, a gorgeous production with a choir of more than 200 people, celebrating the Christmas season in true African fashion. I’ve heard it’s the biggest Christmas event in all of Kampala! They presented a creative version of the Nativity Story which involved the three wisemen “returning home by a different route” through Africa, of course. Check out a clip of the performance here.

The opening act of the Cantata

Christmas morning began with breakfast with my dear friends, the Carroll family. We had a good old American breakfast of baked oatmeal and hot chocolate, and then headed off to downtown Kampala to participate in their family’s Christmas tradition. Every Christmas, the Carrolls pile into their car and cruise around Kampala with small gifts and encouraging notes for people they find on the streets… beggars, security guards, lonely police officers, etc. It was definitely a highlight of my Christmas this year.

What made it most interesting was the reaction of people as we approached them. I have to admit we made a funny sight – a horde of young American kids all piling out of the car, running eagerly up to the stern security guard, whose questioning, disapproving look turned quickly into surprise then sheepish happiness as we gave him just a small gift of a soda, doughnut, and card. Inside the Christmas card was a letter the Carrolls had printed out, a love letter from the Father to his children – beautiful words taken straight from the Bible. It’s available online and has been translated into many languages – you should check it out! (Click here to see it in Luganda, the local language).

Christmas Morning Breakfast

In true holiday fashion, I continued the day with more eating, going to lunch at one of my Ugandan co-worker’s house. His family is perfectly wonderful, and welcomed me into their home with open arms and lots of hugs and delicious food, some of the best traditionally Ugandan food I’ve had while in Kampala. His dad is the Bishop of Kampala, and was the one who spoke at the Christmas Eve service the night before. I have to admit, I was a little star-struck, and have a new dream of being an Anglican clergywoman when I grow up. You get to wear purple shirts and big silver crosses! How cool is that? 🙂

Christmas evening finished back at my house, with a group of young American friends all working at NGOs in the East Africa region. This meal was traditional American fare, complete with roast chicken, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. We all joked about how impressed we were with ourselves that we were able to pull off such a cooking success even without our moms!

I’m quite proud of how we managed to pull off a full day of fun and festivities. And I feel really thankful for my odd assortment of friends and family that I’ve developed while here in Uganda. I missed having a White Christmas, but then I remembered, that relaxing on the rooftop deck in sunny sunny sunshine on Christmas Day is not such a bad deal after all. 🙂

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