Sunday, September 27, 2009

Update on Caroline

Caroline is scheduled to have the hernia surgery on Oct 20. While that seems SO long given the severity of the situation, she is just beyond thrilled, and so full of joy, to be having it fixed. Fortunately, Hope Clinic is doing it for free - although Ten Eighteen was prepared to pay for it. She has chosen Doreen, one of the older ladies in Newezakana that we visited in Nomowongo. She speaks Swahili, so I'm not sure if they can chat or not! Please keep her in your prayer for the 3 or so weeks leading up to the surgery, the surgery itself, and for a quick recovery.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

9/20/09 Camp Reunion Picnic and goodbyes

Great day! Everyone pitched in in the morning, making sandwiches, peeling veggies, cutting buns, getting supplies together. We piled into 3 vehicles and headed down to Entebbe to the Botanical Gardens. Shortly 2 buses arrived, one from Ray of Hope and one from Nesco, bringing the kids that had attended the week-long camp at Father's House in August for a reunion picnic. The kids had a BLAST, playing volleyball and soccer, jumping rope, face painting, swimming in Lake Victoria. The children get few outings, esp the Nesco kids, and they spent the 4 hours in fun and excitement. It was awesome!

Nesco is a home for street children, founded by two now-adult street kids. Thirty children live there, very frugally, but they are happy and well cared for. It is cemented in my heart to help these kids... But Drew is leaving for the States this week, and I leave early in the morning tomorrow. We will pray and talk with Suzanne in the meanwhile!

Back at Father's House, the kids swim in the pool, have a dance-off, and generally enjoy much hoopla! They all agree to stay up til 2:30am as a goodbye to Zeke - we are all sad at parting. Oh, how Father has joined all of our hearts. Very bittersweet to leave - we miss Chuck/Dad, real food, less traffic, and sleep. But we so love Father's House and Uganda.

We'll be back soon!

9/19/09 Recovery and the Magaras

Not much today - errands in bad traffic, and coming back up the mountain with 8 kids in the car! We picked up the kids' friends, the Magaras, for a several day stay and to help with the Camp Reunion picnic at Entebbe Botanical Gardens tomorrow. I'm tired - going to bed early! We have 25 people in the house plus the babies - and a HUGE storm came through after dinner. The roof was leaking all over, it was cold, rain was blowing in the windows... we lit a fire, danced, and generally had a great time! What else can you do?! TIA (This Is Africa!)

9/18/09 Scary driving, back to the city

We did a morning game walk for two hours, which was great. Samuel, who was our guide for all the game excursions with his handy AK-47, took us on a walk-about through the bush. No paths for us! We went up another beautiful hill, from where we could see all kinds of animals. They won't get as close to you on foot as they will in the car, but we did see many, and actually heard a leopard in a stand of bush/trees. Samuel chambered a round - a good adrenaline rush, there! We saw hippo tracks about a mile from the Lake - that's a long way for a 3000 lb animal!

We left Mantana at about 1:30, and had the ride of our lives. The traffic was MUCH heavier than on the way, and - remember the no-traffic-rules situation - mostly I had to look down and not out the windshield! We would be going 120 km/hr, passing another car on a 1 1/2 lane road, with a huge bus or semi fast approaching in the other lane, bodas on the sides, 2 year old naked children wandering around, and animals all over the place. It took us 5 hours to get to Kampala, another TWO hours to just get through the city and to Father's House. I was totally stressed and went to bed EARLY. Then the imam at the mosque down the hill decided to chant for a half hour, and the disco kicked in! wow.

9/17/09 - all day safari!

Safari actually means "Journey." We had several! We did morning and evening game drives, with a boat trip on Lake Mburo in between. 6am wake up at the tent with hot coffee and hot milk, and lots and lots of animals: zebra, warthogs, impala, bush bucks, water bucks, reed bucks, daika, topi, small mongoose, cattle, birds, water buffalo, many varieties of birds, hippos, crocs, fish eagles, baboons, monkeys... wow! It was a great great day!

9/16/09 - Safari, roads, and other musings

Off to Lake Mburo! We are taking Suzanne on a much needed rest. The woman is on the go ALL the time, and doesn't need much sleep (I envy that!). Our 3 hour drive is actually six... thank the roads and rain. We did stop at the Equator, which was cool! Uganda is one of only 10 countries that spans the Equator, so it's not likely to happen often. We didn't shell out the 3000 shillings to do the "water test" - see the water go down the funnel in opposite directions on the north and south sides. We walked across the road on the line... we assume it IS the actual line, but who really knows?!

We arrived at Lake Mburo National Park, and after Suzanne having to renegotiate entry fees and other such African-ese items, we go through the gate to Kimbla-Mantana Tented Camp. We aren't 100 yards down the road when we see zebra! Then impala, warthogs, water buffalo... RIGHT THERE, in nature! How cool is that?! We arrive at Kimbla-Mantana, get out, walk to the boma where the bar, dining, and lounging areas... and hear the alarm on the Land Rover! The vehicle is going backwards, into the trees, and camp staff is frantically running. Emma, Suzanne's friend and our driver, races over as well - for some reason the car turns, and then goes through a stand of trees without hitting any! Quite exciting... LOL

We had planned to do a game drive after a very late (4pm) lunch, but it is raining, so we are "forced" to relax. The tents are wonderful - up on platforms, with a bed area, a dressing area, a bush toilet, and a shower area. There is no running water or electricity - they run the generator when people are there in the evenings and mornings, and bring hot water for your shower, and cool and hot water for the sink. Zeke and I got to the boma to relax and read, and Suzanne takes a walk - ON the paths... you are expressly forbidden to step a toe off. I was starting to get worried when she returns - and relates a face to face encounter with a mad lone water buffalo! She has had plenty of excitement for the day! After our late 3 course lunch, we have a 4 course dinner - amazing, since they are cooking on charcoal and propane, with every single item brought in! To bed under mosquito nets, with warthogs and other critters all around! (The camp isn't fenced, so the wildlife is up close and personal!)

9/15/09 - Slums

Found out today that baby Mark has a parasite... Add another (disgusting!) medicine to his roster. But he IS doing much better, moving his legs some now, sleeping better, breathing better. Malyka is the crier - Mark is quite discreet so far! :o)

Today was our visit to Nomowongo, the slums, and our house visits. We visited 3 women: Agnes, Caroline, and Doreen. Walking into the slums was just an assault on the senses. ALL the senses. The smell was indescribable... human and animal waste, rotting meat, trash. We had worn closed toed shoes (esp after Vicka's description of a "blob" that stuck to her shoe the day before), but the dirt and filth was beyond description. Walking through the houses, with our guide and interpreter Joanne, we got a following of children. Most of them wanted to hold our hands, especially Zeke's - but really, there was true joy in their eyes.

Our first visit was Agnes, who lives in a 6x8' room with 6 of her 7 children. She sews jewelry bags for Ray of Hope, and they have loaned her a manual sewing machine, which is also in this room. She is smiling and happy, and has entreprenurial plans to import beans and flour from the country to the city market to sell.

Our second stop, starting to rain by now, was at Caroline's 'house.' She has a bit larger room, and is sitting on the floor making beaded necklaces. She does beautiful work! She is elderly - she thinks she is 51, but we calculate that she must be older, since her husband was killed in 1972 during Edi Amin's reign, and she has 8 children (it is likely that some or all of the children were not with her husband, an unfortunate cultural problem). She has not seen or heard from any of her children since two of her sons went to the Sudan in 1988. She has no other family. As we are talking to her, we realize she has a hernia the size of a grapefruit under her breasts... and yet she is sitting there, on the concrete floor, working! After finding out the cost of surgery, I offer to pay it (275,000 shillings, or $148 approximately), and Suzanne and Joanne arrange for her to get the the hospital. (We discovered later than Hope Clinic at IHK will take her on, so the surgery will be free of charge.) Her story is so so sad - she is truly who the Lord was talking about when He said to care for "the widows in their distress."

Finally (raining now, so camera up!), we see Doreen. She is also elderly, but in a good home with a friend (the largest we've seen, which is all of 8x10'), with friends and family around. She speaks only Swahili, so we have 2 interpreters! She has some eye problems, but received glasses from Father's House recently, and is too scared to have a surgery. She is able to work making beads, and she and a neighbor sell some produce at the door, so she is doing, comparatively, well.

We return to Ray of Hope and tell Emily we will discuss things on our safari (we leave TOMORROW!). My heart is so burdened for Caroline, so we make sure with her that she will be taken the next day to the doctor.

9/14/09 OMG Normal traffic...

Well. Now I get it. We sit in traffic FOREVER, breathing in fumes from every side. There are no emission controls in Uganda, and no driving rules, apparently. There are trucks, buses, taxis, bodas (taxi-type motorcycles), chickens, children, cows... If there's one lane turning right 3 lanes of cars try to make the turn. Suzanne is amazed I don't flinch more often.

We do a number of errands in the morning, and get to really see Kampala. Aside from the traffic horror, the main impression is "third world". Many of the roads (and this is the capitol city) are dirt. Shacks and shanties abound on all sides. Meat hangs in open booths on the street. Goats and chickens walk on and feed on food in the market that is for sale to humans. Trash is EVERYWHERE - there are entire embankments, with markets and buildings on top, that are actually MADE of trash.

While waiting in the car while Suzanne exchanged money, Zeke saw a baby sitting alone on the sidewalk of the busy city street. The baby looked about 10 mos old, but also looked malnourished, and was very still, so I'm guessing it was more like 2. We watched for at least 10 minutes, watched people look and then walk on. Finally two young women came, and one just lay on the sidewalk next to the baby. Within minutes a man came and chased them away - so where was the man when the baby was there alone? Another heartrending moment...

We met with Emily at Ray of Hope, and shared with her some of our vision for the women. We made arrangements to visit several women in their homes tomorrow. I have her the money from Our Lady of Lourdes and from the necklaces, and toured the 4 rooms of the building. It is nice and dry, secure, and a great set-up for what they are doing. They are actually already outgrowing it! We spoke briefly of a building down the road a little bit that they are looking to buy, which will house the school (the school is currently in... for lack of a better description, horse-type stalls. Dirt floors under a rickety roof, separated by partial wood partitions. There is one indoor room that is rotated. When it rains, water sweeps through the entire area, bringing filth and trash with it and causing school to cancel.

Zeke went with Bosco and Vincent to the Youth Sharing Hall and did break dancing for 2 1/2 hours. The local kids got quite the kick out of the "muzungo" (white) boy and his dancing, and Zeke had a ball!

Ndere Dance Troop

What a blast! The troop travels all over the world, so they are quite awesome. On Sunday nights they have a dinner theater, and it is HIGHLY entertaining. They do dances from all the tribes of Uganda, so lots of costume changes, traditional dances and music, and drums. Towards the end we all go down and dance (Zeke somewhat reluctantly), and have a blast. A "must do" experience when in Kampala!!

9/13/09 - Sunday and the driving is easy

Being from the States, I am under the (false) impression that traffic is easy because it's Sunday. As I found out the following week - NOT SO... but we enjoy the bonus, for sure!

This morning baby Mark was actually crying, the first since he came to Father's House. It is so great that he actually has enough energy to cry... he is also starting to move his arms a little. Up til now he has been very much "newborn" in his small movements. Other than his big eyes, which are very alert and not "newborn", he seems like a preemie. Holding him, changing him and seeing his tiny body with NO extra flesh, staggers the mind and heart.

Suzanne and I spent time today talking about Ten Eighteen, Ray of Hope, and starting to "vision cast" for the week. Tomorrow we will go to Ray of Hope for a meeting with Emily, who runs the organization, and give her the Lady of Lourdes items as well as the money from the necklaces. Tuesday we will go tour the slums and let Father lead us as to who and how to help more specifically. I am excited, but also anxious because I know the need will be staggering.

I feel pretty much normal as far as jet lag goes, and am used to the no-power situation. It's actually nice to be unplugged... we in the US are so ON all the time, and really, it's exhausting! I did a watercolor today of the view of the lake, and enjoyed talking with all the kids and getting to know everyone.

Today is also Magda's last day before heading to Kaihura in the west of the country to spend a year at an orphanage. She will have no electricity, no running water... a very primitive existence. And she is thrilled to go! Can't wait to see and hear all that the Lord does there!

9/12/09 - Heart of David performance and errands

Driving in Kampala today was easy - I am told that it is never like this, but, due to the riots, we sail through the city to all of our destinations. We drop Jessica and Stephanie at the National Theater to get ready for the Heart of David performance that evening, and eat at an Indian restaurant across the street. I have never been a big fan of Indian food, but the Chaat House was EXCELLENT. Nice surprise! We went to the market at the theater, not wanting to risk the Buganda market with the chaos still going on in pockets around town, and found our first souveniers. The stall owners were nervous, because there had been very little custom since Thursday... if your livelihood involves selling a lot of 4000 shilling ($2) necklaces, no custom means no food. We also went to a store called Banana Boat which carries Ugandan items of a little higher quality, and to Game, a department store akin to Walmart on a much smaller scale. We purchased some Diet Coke, very hard to find! And in cans, so we didn't have to drink it on site - if you get a bottle of soda anywhere, you have to drink it and leave the bottle there, which is a little inconvenient!

Last evening Katie brought home a 3 1/2 month old Ugandan baby boy named Mark. He is smaller than my children were at birth, and obviously very sick and malnourished. His mother died in childbirth and his father gave him to an "auntie" to raise. (Ugandan men "do not" raise children, apparently.) The auntie has obviously neglected him, and he is near death. Today Katie and Page took him to IHK (International Hospital of Kampala). He has pneumonia, a viral infection, anemia, and is malnourished. Home with lots of meds... The doctor said he would have died by week's end had Katie not brought him home. He is 4 days older than her baby, and 1/3 the size. You can hear him breathing in the next room... It is beyond tragic.

We went to the performance by Heart of David in the evening, which was a blast. It was a worship concert, with a dance group doing a few dances. They sang English worship songs, and then a half dozen or so African ones at the end - everyone was up and dancing! It was a blast, and a huge blessing. (Because of the riots, there weren't a lot of people there this night, but there were about 200 the next.) A great group of young people!

9/11/09 - RIOTS!

As we landed in Kampala, our pilot informed us that there had been riots and looting in Kampala since the previous afternoon. Welcome to Uganda! Suzanne and Stephanie picked us up at the airport (Stephanie in her PJs due to the early hour!), and we got our first experience of driving in Uganda. It was actually tame, as it turned out later... My favorite site on this early morning trek: a sign at a shack that said "this property NOT for sale." okey dokey.

We arrived at Father's House after the exciting 10 minute dirt-road-with-ruts-that-crack-your-teeth journey. The house is LOVELY, up on the mountain with views of Lake Victoria on one side, and Kampala on the other. I am so tired I feel like I'm on a boat, with things moving even when I'm sitting still. There is no power - it will be out for 3 days - and we decide not to go into town due to the unstable situation there. In Mengo, an area of town dominated by the Lugandan tribe, they have burned a police station to the ground. 18 people are killed and over 100 injured from Thursday through Saturday. A good day to nap and recover from jet lag!

We begin to meet the wonderful kids at Father's House - Bosco and Rick, the two teen boys; Jenneth, Karen, Jacklyn, Vincent and Daniel; the little ones, Eva, Moses and Savannah. We get reaquainted with the Mumford girls, Jessica and Stephanie. We meet the 3 Polish girls staying there, Mirka, Kamila and Magda. Meet the two lovely young ladies who help, Lillian and Jacquie. Katie and her 3 month old daughter Malyka. And finally the oldest daughter, Vicka, and a missionary from Tennessee, Page, come in from Nomowongo (the slums). It took a little while for all the names to sink in!

Father's House has no glass in the windows, just screens, so there are lovely breezes most of the time. In the evening and morning it can be quite cool, and it is always much cooler there than even 2 minutes downhill. Water is from cisterns. They have an inverter and a generator, so we can charge small electronics, and the tv will run to play movies. Cooking on the gas stove allows nice hot meals even without power, and I get a good cell signal. Life is good!

9/10/09 - London, then onwards!

What an amazing city! We ventured out to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace - what a zoo! There were thousands of people, an hour or more ahead of time, with bobbies and mounted police trying to direct everyone. When the various groups of guards came through, we caught glimpses only - mostly we put the cameras up overhead and snapped! But it was still a fun experience... at least we can say we did it.

We once again walked to Westminster Bridge and bought boat tickets to go up the Thames to the Tower of London. It was a fairly short ride, but the guide was quite funny, and we saw a number of sites. Unfortunately we only had an hour at the Tower, which was way too short. They had an exhibition of Henry VIII's armory, which was fascinating, not to mention the permanent exhibits and tours of the site. We flew through quickly, grabbed a cab driven by a tall-tale-bearing Cockney driver, and were dropped at the hotel with 20 min to pack and check out. They held our bags while we went to get something to eat and walk St. James Park again - LOVELY park. Our very-British driver was back at 6pm, although the whisking to the airport was considerably slower thanks to rush hour!

Our flight was at 9:15pm on British Airways - we were pleased with the on-demand video screens for each seat, not so pleased that it was yet another full flight. Neither of us slept at all... But so far so good on nice, easy, calm flights!

9/9/09 - what a cool date!

LONDON! The flight was full, so no stretching out for sleep on the red-eye. Zeke slept 3 1/2 hrs or so, me maybe a half hour. We arrived in London at 6am, and were met by a very British driver, who kindly took our luggage, piled us into a Mercedes, and whisked us (relatively speaking, given London traffic) to the hotel. We were fortunately able to check in early, and went off to explore. We walked through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, where we discovered it was actually open for tours. Of course we did that - wow!

After the tour we walked over Westminster Bridge, by Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament, to go on the Eye of London. After a NOT good lunch, we rode the Eye, basically a HUGE roller coaster with observation pods in which you can walk around and see much of the city. We took a cab back and crashed, then had a good, if slow dinner.

London is 5 hours ahead... but with the lack of sleep, we both slept very well!


I was very optimistic about the internet situation while in Uganda! We did not have power at all for the first 3 days, and then the internet was excruciatingly slow and I couldn't access Blogspot at all. Fortunately I'm a big journaler (is that a word?!), so I will do an entry for each day. It was such a full trip - and I can't wait to go back! Life will never be the same...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waiting, waiting, waiting...

The problem with red eye flights is the waiting to go. We are packed, have second guessed and reminded and remembered... and still have been sitting around for 2 hours. We leave for the airport at 3pm, flight is at 6:10pm. Still a ways to go! At least we can sit in the Admiral's Club once we're at RDU. More later if anything of note happens!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Headed to Uganda!

Zeke and I leave tomorrow, the 8th, for London, then Uganda. We will be in Kampala for 11 days. This blog will chronicle that trip (if I can get internet access!). Stay tuned!