Monthly Archives: April 2011

People are People: TZ Part 2

Our adventure in Tanzania, continued from the first installment – Held Hostage: TZ  Part 1.

After our near-death experience underground, that evening we arrived in Arusha, had a delicious home-cooked dinner in true-Lorenzen style, and rested up for our next big adventure. In the morning, we piled in their trusty Land Rover and headed three hours northwest, around the base of Mt. Meru to Maasai land. The Lorenzens are good friends with a missionary family who have devoted the last 10 years to running a medical clinic in a tiny Maasai village way off the beaten track. As we got further out into the countryside, the landscape changed from rich volcanic-soil gardens, to big sky plains, to dusty scrubby savannah with a wild giraffe family along the side of the road.

My posts on Tanzania  have already gotten way-long so I’m not going to spend a ton of time talking about our adventures walking to the Maasai boma and learning about the bead and camel projects that they have started, but hop on over to Scott’s blog for lots more detail (and pictures!)

Later that night, when we were all sharing our favorite part of the trip, I commented that it was really eye-opening for me to realize that Maasai people are just — people. I have learned that lesson over and over again, in many countries and many cultures, but it never ceases to somewhat amaze me. Before our trip to Tanzania, all I knew about Maasai people were the austere, lanky poses and warriors faces that I had seen in National Geographic. I didn’t really think that Maasai men laughed, or that moms cuddled their babies endlessly, or that they would be tickled pink to have us come share tea with them in their small modest home.

But they are people just like people anywhere, with their own ideas about what’s fashionable (items of clothing must be checkered, with some shade of red/blue/purple/orange, or preferably an outrageous mix of all three), what’s good for raising kids (babies aren’t taken outside of the home for the first three  months of their lives, and just spend time cuddling with their mom day in and day out), what’s good for eating (vegetables are for rabbits, wild game is for lions – humans should only eat meat and dairy products of domesticated animals like camels and cows).

The next morning, we woke up and traveling an hour up bumpy roads to a mountain church overlooking the savannah. Once again, I’ll defer to Scott’s blog here for great pictures, detailed description, and even a cool music clip recorded during worship. I was struck, again, at how people everywhere are just people. Sure, these people sing better than anyone I’ve heard before, they don’t just clap but move their whole body to the beat of the song while their extravagantly pierced earlobes hang low and kind of wobble to and fro (sorry, I just couldn’t resist!)

But like a church service anywhere, the young men and women pass tiny notes scribbled in Swahili across the aisle to each other, the older women out-do themselves with their jewelry and dresses, the older men sing out in booming basses trying to out-do each other. The little girls dance and sway up in front of the choir, without any hint of self-consciousness, the little boys poke and tease, loitering on the back pew if a quick escape becomes necessary.

We drank tea and mingle after the service, then head back down the mountain – a fitting end to our time in Tanzania. Back down from the mountain, back to life on the gently rolling hills of Uganda. Life has been a bit tough since being back home (more on that later), but I am so thankful for the time we had to experience so much of God’s beautiful creation – in both earth and human form.

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Held Hostage: TZ Part 1

I am alive! So sorry about the lapse in blogging. I sometimes get into this rut where I get busy and don’t write about anything for a week or two, then get stressed out because I haven’t written anything, and the longer I don’t write anything the more stressed out I get because I feel like I have to write something REALLY profound and brilliant since I’ve made everyone wait so long for the next blog to appear and then when I finally write the blog I feel compelled to preface it with this really long run-on sentence explaining why it’s taken so long for me to write this blog because of how stressed  I got about the idea of writing it, etc etc etc. Get the picture? 🙂

Two weeks ago, the IJM intern/fellow group took a quick trip to Tanzania to visit some dear friends of ours, the Lorenzens. Jim and Esther Lorenzen are people after my own heart. They’ve lived a thousand places all across the world, and make it always their aim to keep their home open to anyone who wants to visit. When they lived in Kampala for four years, they pseudo-adopted the IJM intern group, having them over every week for a delicious home-cooked meal.

So when Jim’s work took them to Tanzania in January, we all mourned our dreadful loss, and promised to take them up on their invitation to visit their new home in Arusha, TZ. Ever since I was ten years old and my globetrotting great-uncle sent me a postcard from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I’ve wanted to visit the area. Apart from Kilimanjaro, I didn’t realize know what else was in Tanzania… was I in for the surprise of my life!

Tanzania, in short, was breathtakingly beautiful. I had to bite my tongue for the number of times I wanted to exclaim “OH MY GOSH THIS LOOKS SO MUCH LIKE PAPUA NEW GUINEA!” (That got sort of old for my traveling companions). We remained within a 100-mile radius of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but the diversity of landscapes was really amazing.

The first night we stayed at a small backpackers hotel at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, eager to see the mountain the next morning.. I only saw the mountain for about five minutes before it became shrouded in clouds. (To answer the questions I know you are dying to ask – Yes, it was beautiful. No, we did not climb the mountain. Yes, we wanted to climb it. But it would have been a 6-day trek costing $1000— which my East-Africa-on-a-shoestring budget definitely couldn’t handle).

So instead of hiking Kili, we wandered around the surrounding villages, taking in the scenery. Due to its proximity to the mountain, the surrounding countryside stayed in a perpetual rainy, growing season, so the lush vegetation was gorgeous, and perfect for growing crops like bananas, coffee, cassava, etc.

Everything was butterflies and waterfalls, until we were tricked into captivity by a seemingly innocuous cultural tourism program and held against our wills by a maniac mountain man in an underground cavern.

I’m not joking.

Stuck 20 feet underground for over an hour, we sat open-mouthed and aghast as our profuse guide regaled us with violent wild-eyed stories of village invaders being trapped and dismembered by his ancestral tribal warriors of old.

Here’s how the story went… In the 19th century, the mountain villages of the Chagga people were constantly invaded in times of drought by marauding Maasai warriors from the plains, where water and food were in short supply. So the Chaggas built a complex series of underground caverns beneath their villages. In times of invasion, the women and children, and even cows and chickens, could be stored safely underground while the Chagga warriors waiting in ambush tunnels to attack the invaders. They even had a natural disposal system, where the dismembered bodies of invaders were taken to a certain tunnel and released in an underground river to be washed away downstream.

Yessirree, we got an in-depth look (no pun intended, really) into the lives of the Chaggas circa 1850.

And then I got a fit of the giggles… hysterical, uncontrollable, tear-inducing giggles. I will argue to my dying day that it was the potent combination of a significant lack of oxygen coupled with a somewhat paralyzing case of claustrophobia that led me to such undignified behavior. But the truth of the matter is that the absurdity of our situation – stuck underground with a chatterbox guide who had told the same macabre stories on repeat for 45 minutes now – was too much for me to bear. I literally could not control myself.

Head hunched over on my knees, shoulders shaking to high heaven, I prayed that my laughter wouldn’t offend our illustrious guide too much, and thus be killed and dismembered just like the ancient invaders. Thankfully, my hysterics had just the effect I desired.  Our guide assured me “You must control yourself. These stories are very sad, and very scary. Even men cry when they hear them. But you must do it privately.” To which I replied, with all the gravity of voice I could muster, “Yes, these are hard stories to hear. I think maybe I need to go outside now.” Finally out in the wide open, I had to excuse myself to the restroom to shake off the remaining hysterics. It was quite the adventure.

More adventures from Maasai land coming in TZ Part 2 (to be posted tomorrow, I promise!)

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For Your Viewing Pleasure

A few of you responded to my poll in my most recent update letter that you’d like to hear more about the casework of IJM. Well, today is your lucky day!!! Check out these links for a better glimpse into the work and passion of IJM Uganda.

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Read A Day in Court, from onewhiteguy. Scott, the Communications Fellow for IJM Uganda, wrote this update on a case  that IJM Uganda has been working on for the last few months. His writing is always clear and very descriptive, so take some time to peruse the rest of his blog –  you won’t be disappointed.

Also courtesy of Scott, watch this video of a typical boda-boda ride from the neighborhood of Ntinda (where the IJM office is), to Kololo, a nice neighborhood in the centre of town. Of special note – at the 1:25 minute mark, you get a great view of the row of shops right outside my apartment. (I use the word “shop” liberally; they are really a series of shacks that sell everything from chapatis to pirated DVDS to tailored clothes to vegetables to a shoe repair place.  It’s quite convenient!)

Finally, head over to GPGOnline to virtually take part in IJM’s annual Global Prayer Gathering that just happened in DC last weekend.

At GPG Online, you can watch plenary sessions with in-person updates about IJM’s work in India and elsewhere, listen to great worship, and hear directly from a various field office directors about the work of IJM globally. Watch the Online Prayer Session: Africa, in the “On Demand” section of the website,  to hear more about IJM’s property-grabbing casework in Uganda and Zambia, and learn more about specific prayer requests coming out of the four Africa offices (Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, and Rwanda).

Well I could keep going for ages (links are some of my favorite things!)  but lest I send you into information overload, I’ll stop for now. Do take some time to check these out though, you won’t be disappointed!

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A Pair of Fresh Eyes

It’s exciting day for my blog, because we have a guest blogger! I was curious to see what IJM and Kampala look like through a different pair of eyes, so I asked Rachel to give some reflections on her time in Uganda. She’s a gifted writer, and it’s always amusing to read first-hand accounts of a first-time boda ride and such other distinctly Ugandan adventures.

————————————A Guest Post by Rachel———————————————

Wedged between the driver and Krista as we weaved our way among Kampala traffic, I prayed fervently that this, only perhaps my 3rd time on a boda boda, would not be the end. I was still getting accustomed to the sensations of whizzing down the roads clogged with traffic, bracing myself for the (more than) occasional bumps, and trying not to slide so close to the driver that my face was pressed into his back. Besides all that, I was holding something very precious.

It had been a long day full of the joys and frustrations of life in Uganda. You know –  drivers being 40 minutes late to pick you up, ants attacking you and your picnic lunch, technology not working, slow internet, sudden rain storms that delay plans, and ATMs that seem to steal your money.

Of course, among all that were the joys that also fill one’s life here: early morning walks on quiet streets, views of the beautiful Lake Victoria, riding a motorcycle along the bumpy red roads of a village and feeling like “this is Africa”, meandering among the tropical plants and birds of a huge garden, and quality conversations.

So back to the boda ride…  After all our adventures that day, we were headed off to meet some friends for a nice meal to celebrate Krista’s birthday.  And somehow I ended up being the one to have to carry the precious homemade cheesecake that we had made (quite a feat, considering you can’t buy cream cheese here).  I gripped that pan as tightly as I could and prayed that the last disaster of the day would not be the cheesecake flying out of my hands on a bump.  Although there was one close call with a man-sized pothole, everyone (and the cheesecake) arrived safely and we had a lovely meal with Krista’s friends at the restaurant.

Sometimes daily life is here just made up of dealing with inconveniences and rising above them.  And that’s something Krista is learning, as am I.  How do you deal with inefficient systems and ways of life that are downright irritating as Westerners?  Sometimes with cries of frustration, understandably so.  I suppose it all comes down to a matter of perspective. After the initial outburst, will you move on and remember your purpose, or let it bog you down and make you bitter towards circumstances and even people?

From my observations, Krista is practicing the former.  She’s not perfect, but she remembers the ways that God has blessed her in a day and the joys He’s given her.   It was a good reminder for me that we can easily be distracted by the little things that weigh us down – little things that can easily turn into a heavy burden.  But we have each been given incredible opportunities wherever we are, to serve and glorify our gracious Father.  And He has given us a yoke that is “easy and light.”

I was so privileged to be able to spend a few days living life alongside Krista, getting to experience IJM and Kampala.  Much of what Krista does is behind-the-scenes work for IJM’s work there.  Sometimes that can be frustrating when things don’t work well or take much longer than they should.

For example, she had to deliver a certain document to the USAID office at the U.S. Embassy. Simple, right?  But first she had to find a folder that looked professional and fit the size of the papers, print out the papers and individually hole punch each piece of paper because 3-hole punches don’t exist in Uganda, and then she had to sit on the back of a boda for an hour, winding her way all around town in order to avoid traffic, all to hand over the document.  However, what she does enables others to do their job better.

I really enjoyed getting to meet many of the IJM staff and see how passionate they are about their jobs and serving God and their people in this way.  The best part was their devotion time in the morning, which always starts with singing.   Wow, can they sing.  It was like sitting among a beautiful choir as they harmonized with each other and focused their day in on the purpose for being there.

And that’s what I loved about my visit!

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Every Good and Perfect Gift

“Life is not an emergency, it is a gift.” – A Holy Experience

For all you facebook readers out there, this post will bear a remarkable resemblance to my photo album I just posted. But for all you non-facebook users, I hope you will enjoy this peek into my wonderful life for the last few days.

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday. Now, I generally love birthdays and celebrations of all sorts, but frankly the idea of turning 23 wasn’t thrilling in any way. 23 isn’t a pretty number (it doesn’t look nice, like 24, or 32, or any other even number with a lot of common denominators (and yes, that is how I decide if numbers are pretty)). It doesn’t have any significance attached to it, like 16 or 18 or 21. It just is an awkward barely-adult age that no one particularly cares for.

But friends who have recently turned 23 reminded me that actually, 23 has a lot of reasons to be celebrated. It most likely means you’ve been out of university for almost a whole year, and you’re still alive! 🙂 You’re past the age where people have a hard time considering you to be an adult, yet you’re not so old that you hate the idea of turning a day older and cringe to admit what age you are. It is an exciting age, the world is still open with possibilities! It’s an age to celebrate!

So in honor of my 23rd birthday, bearing in mind the significance of turning such an age, I scribbled down 23 gifts I’ve been given this weekend.

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A 4 day visit with Rachel, one of my best friends. Whenever I spend time with her, I wonder how I live life without her! We complete each other’s thoughts, wardrobes, and sentences so commonly it’s almost eerie.

 

3 younger “sisters” to be my family here in Uganda. The Carroll family has, beyond a doubt, been one of the biggest blessings to me during my time in Uganda. These are the sisters I never had growing up!

 

1 perfect picnic on a peaceful hillside with flowers and honeybees, and, oh yeah, an army of ants. (You should have seen us screaming for our dear lives as we frantically shook the ants off our clothes and purses. We were such a spectacle that about a dozen young girls on their way home from school came by to observe us. Older girl says to the younger girl, “Come, we go now.” The reply: “No! We are still looking at the mzungus.” Oh dear…)

 

9 dear friends to celebrate life with. It is amazing to me that I have only known these friends for, at most 7 months, and at the least, two months. But they are all dear, dear friends who have blessed my time in Uganda in a million ways.

 

2 birthday packages sent with love from halfway around the world (no picture, because I ate the chocolate and hung the card up on my wall).

3 delicious meals of Korean food, homemade chips, chocolate cake with sprinkles (you really think I could remember such an occasion without food?) 🙂

 

1 community who shows me every week how beautiful it is to be part of the Body of Christ in all of its messy, loving, laughing, struggling, failing, glorious beauty.

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All together, 23 good and perfect gifts, that remind me of the Father’s love for me, of his gentle touch in my life, slowly revealing His unchanging, unshifting love and goodness through a friend, a smile, a picnic, a family, a card, a community.

 

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