Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A note on Day 11- Debriefing

I apologize for not writing until now. It was just too early! In truth, I couldn't write. I would've said some unfavorable things about the trip.

A bit of background first: on day 11, on the way home from the resort, on the home stretch of our ride, the bus hit a bump in the road. The roads in Uganda are not particularly known for their smoothness (someone read in the paper that a senator hoping to be elected promised that there would be no potholes in Uganda by the next three years. Everyone laughed at that premise- someone said "there's a guy that really wants to be elected").

Anyway, this bump was particularly bad, and we hit it at a pretty quick speed. Everyone went flying, particularly the younger ones. And then, Kaitlin hit her head. It was a frightening display.

Have you ever seen someone in shock? It's particularly frightening. You cannot help but panic yourself.

So, she hit her head and pinched a nerve. She could hardly move, in lots of pain...

No real damage. At that point she didn't lose any memory and could wiggle her fingers and toes. But she still needed to be hospitalized. Except, there wasn't any 911. It took us about a half hour to get an ambulance and another fifteen minutes to actually get her to a hospital; then another fifteen to get her out of the bus.

So, an hour. If it was serious, there could've been quite a bit of damage...

And the thought of that is scary.

That affected me. Sitting outside of the hospital, I heard a pretty alarming noise. It wasn't coming from the hospital; it was coming from a lot beside the hospital.

It was a kid screaming. And it was by far the most horrid noise I have ever heard.

It wasn't crying-screaming. It was screaming, out of desperation.

It wasn't even discernable whether the child was a boy or a girl.

It was just... scary, really. You don't hear screaming like that in the states, save for horror movies.

Actually, you don't even hear it in the horror movies. It was that bad...

It was a noise I failed to get out of my head for about an hour. It was perhaps the worst hour of my life.

You don't hear that in the states. In the states, no matter what this child has been through, turn on channel eleven and there isn't a worry in the world.

No, whatever was happening to this child that caused him/her to scream like that must've been traumatic. This is the sort of thing that happens to children that causes them to... not smile.

And that actually affected me more.

It's scary in Uganda. I won't lie and say it isn't. I still think it is.

In all honesty, I left thinking that I didn't like it there. And that isn't a good feeling, really... It just felt unsafe.

I've had time to think about it now. I decided not to blog on it until now so I wouldn't say anything I didn't mean (lord knows I don't want to offend my sponsors).

I'm looking at it just a bit more realistically now...

Jake Kirchner said that when you go to Africa your heart is in Africa.

I doubted it then, but know it now.

A lot earlier in the trip I talked to Gene. I was struggling a lot with what I was seeing and our talk really helped, but he said one thing that stuck with me:

"It's not a matter of leaving Africa or staying in Africa. You can find a balance... God has you here for a reason, and I don't think he'll have you rip up your passport."

I did not rip up my passport. I made it all the way home (this time, with less problems with security).

I do not regret a thing, either.

I'll write more on days 10-12, post my pictures, and write a bit of reflection later. Don't let me forget.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 9- Namyoya

I suppose I was in a considerably better mood today! My good mood from yesterday really did stick. Ben talked to me about it, he said maybe the feeling of actually doing something myself, actually helping and not feeling different, caused me to feel a lot better about the whole thing. Interesting take, although I wouldn't really be surprised if it turned out to be true.

Today was a work day, we worked on the church we visited on Sunday. It looks incredible!

I'll try to find the before pics of the church; It really was awful. I saw a video in church a while ago of one of the services here, and halfway through the sermon the roof (a bunch of tin plates) actually fell onto the congregation. Imagine spending three hours every Sunday there!!

Now, it's made of brick, all the walls are plastered and painted (painted yellow; I think maybe it's going to be the second yellow box). There's even a house built right outside; it's not finished yet, but there's actually a garage! Which means, they plan to put a car there... =)

First, I helped sand out the walls that were painted today. This was really not my kind of work (they noticed it pretty early) and Ben sent me off with Mike, Luke, and a bunch of kids to fetch water.

Backstory: Ben used to work at Big Idea (Veggietales) and is now good friends with Phil Vischer. Well, Phil's working on a new project called "Jelly Tellies" and I suppose Mike is a sort of spokesperson. Ben shoots videos of Mike talking about Uganda and what he's doing in Uganda, and all the videos pretty much say the same thing ("Hi Jelly Tellies! I'm Mike, and we are..."). After a while, it gets simply aggravating. Mike himself even got aggravated. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the video, though.

But that's not really the point. The point was, the water was about a mile away from the church, and it was really heavy. I couldn't carry it more than about fifty feet, and even then water got everywhere.

When all of the Mzungus had their turn carrying it, the kids took it. Apparently it was not anything they hadn't done before, and all took turns carrying it as if it was something they did everyday. It probably was something they did every day.

I forget who, but someone pointed out that as soon as the kids could walk here they were independent.

I wasn't sure how much I believed that, but now I am sure of it.

The kids in America have the easy life, really. An overwhelmingly large percentage of the population would not let their kids under 5 out of their sight for a moment. Their hand is held through every step of life; they are never, ever alone.

It's the exact opposite here... Like in Finding Nemo, the thing with the sea turtles. As soon as they are born they are alone, and they are left to find their way back to the ocean on their own.

As soon as they can walk, they are expected to be self-sufficient...

It's shocking, really.

As I got back I found that Amber and Kaitlin were going off to the primary school down the road with crafts and candy for the students. I suppose it was exactly what I needed at that moment.

The kids were extremely excited to see us. As we stepped onto the campus for the first time, I was overwhelmed with kids wanting to touch my hand. I walked to the place with the desks with about seven or eight kids hanging off of my arms.

Our first activity for them was awfully simple; drawing. Oddly enough, it took them a while to get it.

When they did get it, though, the response was absolutely brilliant.

I was very, very proud of the kids... There were so many kids there that were just brilliant.

I love them, really. I do.

I was mostly surprised with how much English some of them knew. It was apparent that they had all taken grammar lessons at the school, since so many of them drew pictures of the same things (cups, tins, girls, boys, houses) and all called them by those names exactly.

Me: *draws picture of house* What's this?
Them: House!
Me: *draws picture of tree* What's this?
Them: Tree!
Me: *draws picture of little African child* Who's this?
Them: *collaboration amongst the pupils* God!

And it was clear many of them had a very vivid imagination. And it was clear some of them were no good at drawing at all (myself included). But all of them were absolutely remarkable in their own way...

There was some light about them, I don't know.

That was even more apparent when they sang their song, and everyone knew the songs, and everyone sang them at a volume that would make your ears ring.

Which is really why it was heartbreaking to see them lie.

We handed out dum-dums, and a startling number of children hid the sucker they had already recieved in an attempt to get another one. None of them did it very well, so none of us were fooled. And I realize to some of them, this would be the first thing they had eaten in a while, but it was still heartbreaking...

I don't know. I love the kids for their childish innocence; most of them have never really sinned all their lives. They wander about in a state of wisdom that is lost as they become more aware of the world. And it is so sad to see that, in my favorite people in the world...

That was just one little thing, though, in the vast ocean of things to make me smile today. Even with their one little lie, they have so much more good in them. It's nothing, really; I left today in a very good mood.

I don't know what's changed exactly, but if I have been making a difference this entire trip it's only become apparent to me now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 8- "Free" day


Well, today was supposed to be a free day.

That pretty much went out the window. Amber too decided she was going to stay at home, and (surprise) Ben and Mel weren’t exactly comfortable letting us stay there alone (today was an optional day to Kamwenge and everyone went.

Ben and Mel had lunch with the pastor from the church on Sunday and brought us along. I had my fair share of Coca-Cola (It’s so good… Nary has a day passed where I have had less than two. Most days I have three), along with some fish soup (incredible), ice cream for dessert (incredible), and grilled chicken in devil’s sauce for an entrĂ©e (awful. I figure it is a good place for everything but the food itself). And then, I went to visit my family (we couldn’t tomorrow!)

My family is a grandmother who lives with three boys, her grandchildren. I’ve read some of her letters and inquired a bit about her sponsorship, but never really took much interest in it. I figure I will now!

I had the most precious old lady you’ll ever meet. I was a bit nervous about how she would act and how I would act, but all of that went out the window as she hugged me. She really was incredible!

Obviously, we were all a bit eager to hear how she was spending her sponsorship money. It turned out she had multiple businesses.

I swear, she is absolutely brilliant.

Given the opportunity, she could be the CEO of a multi-million dollar company.

She actually does a few things. She actually takes paper from recycled envelopes and makes takeaway bags from them… like, bags for restaurants or shops. Apparently a law has been issued recently in Uganda against the use of plastic bags; I guess they believe they’re bad for the environment or something. The point is, she is a brilliant woman… The timing of it is so incredible.

She also packages nuts and corn. Like, harvests them and puts them in little bags. She gave me some as a gift, and it looked as though they were factory-sealed. Ben asked how she sealed them, and she said she used a candle. Absolutely brilliant; she drips hot wax onto the plastic to seal her packaging.

Along with all that, she knits, and she's fantastic.

I was touched, really.

She gave me nuts, and I gave her a whole crapload of presents. She freaked out and thanked me profusely at every one.

She was an amazing old woman.

And here's something remarkable:

Whatever it was that had worried me over the past few days, the anxiousness and the worry and the feeling of impending pressure,

Seemed to all go away after the fact. It bothered me no longer.

Which is odd; it seemed to me that nothing would make it go away except for some incredible epiphany. I didn't really learn anything I hadn't known before...

But it seems that it's very, very different when you visit your own family rather than watch someone else visit theirs. Which is unusual, really. I haven't really cried at any of these instances, but I did get a bit choked up during the prayer.

There was something about it... I don't know...

Maybe I didn't need to learn anything. Maybe I just needed to experience it for myself.

It is something I needed; it is just what I needed, really.

The woman requested I bring back to my family a whole heart full of love,
which I suppose is exctly what I needed.

Pictures coming soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Days 6 and 7- Fort Portal

We got home from Fort Portal at about ten last night, leaving everyone on the team exhausted beyond belief. I, like most, went to be straight after eating dinner (which was cold, since Carme the cook had done her job and left several hours ago). Which is more or less why I didn't blog- it usually takes me about an hour to, and if I had tried to blog then I would've fallen asleep at the keyboard and probably inadvertantly posted obscenities for everyone to see.

It was about a six hour drive there and back, which is terrible. I've probably spent more time on busses and planes than I have in villages, but I suppose I don't have any power over that.

I was actually looking to talk to Melody last night; but it seems they got sick of waiting and went to bed at normal human being time, unlike the rest of us. I'll talk to her later.

Mostly, I am overwhelmed.

The end of this trip is bearing down on me and I feel I need something I don't have yet.

For some reason, I feel as if I need some sort of ridiculous epiphany that will reveal some life-changing truth that will enable me to write music like John Lennon, but that is all easier said than done (and it's not particularly easy to say, either).

"I am the most self-centered person on Earth. What if that doesn't change?"
-Mike Greenberg

I feel pressure. From the Ugandans, from myself, from the team, from my family, from whoever might be reading this blog, and pretty much everyone else.

I feel pressure to make a difference, to change myself, to make an impact on the team, to be a different person, to write inspiring words, and to love everyone I don't know like Jesus would. But that's all easier said than done (once again, it's not particularly easy to say).

I'm pretty sure I'll find what I need in the people.

The people have what it is I need.

I think they have love. In fact, I'm almost positive that's what they have.

Not just any love, like Jesus-love. That kind of legendary love that God is always talking about but no one really knew what the crap we were supposed to do about it.

Case in point, yesterday.

We were sitting at a sort of preschool (I didn't happen to catch the name) and Amber recieved gifts (of course, she was subbing for Ben and Mel, who were sick and taking a trip to the doctor- they're alright), and Jaimie too (of course, she sponsored the family who she got the gift from), but then I got a hand-made mat and a hand-made basket from a woman I didn't exactly know.

My mouth was full; I struggled to say "thank you".

I racked my brain to find if there was anything I did that might've deserved a gift. I thought maybe she though I was Nate (no way) or Ben (NO way) but then everyone started recieving gifts. No one didn't get a gift.

That's something I need; the people here will give away weeks- months- of hard work for absolutely nothing.

In America, it's about the stuff. There's all sorts of stuff, and everyone has stuff, and everyone has nice stuff, and everyone wants nicer stuff.

They could care less about their stuff.

I think I need humility.

I've always thought myself quite humble (the humblest! . . .get it?). But it seems I didn't quite know humble.

Two days ago we visited a particularly remarkable old man.

He was "the most precious old man"- he was an indescribably happy man with one of the loveliest smiles I have ever seen.

He was being interviewed about his life after the sponsorship- before, he slept in a bit of a shack. He would get wet when it rained- when it rained at night, he would go in the corner of the little house in a sort of fetal position and sleep that way. He's got a house and a bed now- he says, he "sleeps like a king".

He also didn't have any dishes before, nothing to serve his guests on. Now he has a few, and he says he can "continentally serve" his guests.

Now, I know a thing or two about London, as I was just there. I saw the houses royaltly slept in. Enormous castles with huge towers, surrounded by gardens which are heavily guarded and surrounded by fences with barbed wire.

But he didn't say it out of ignorance.

He said it out of something that I don't quite have the word for. But I want it.

To put things in perspective, he is not in a nice house. It is an unattractive little home that is poorly pieced together, which provides little but shelter from extreme weather.

If I were staying there I am almost positive I would kill myself.

Unless, I think, I was staying with that man...

It's like that.

Today is a free day. I'll spend the whole day thinking about it.

I haven't even written about those two days yet!

Mike wants to get on to play Quake, and it's urgent, so I'll keep it short.

We visited Tooro High School, a pretty remarkable school that has big dreams and is going to build itself up into something.

We visited several families that have come a long way and are going to live long, fulfilling lives.

We visited another school, where we put on a puppet show (which went on dreadfully long since it had to be translated, but the kids adored it).

The hardest thing, I've found, is to walk away.

I was feeling awfully sad last night, and Michelle came over and talked to me, which is precisely what I needed. I am pressed for time, but I'll write about it later.

I think I'll enjoy this free day. I need some time to think.

I am determined to find out what I need,

but I am nervous that maybe I won't take it back with me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Days 4 and 5- Free day and Namyoya

Another exhausting couple of days... Wow!

Not just exhausting physically, but emotionally. Even mentally... It's absolutely incredible here, don't get me wrong, but it's just so different.

Case in point, the free day yesterday. The high point of the day was visiting the shops. The first place we went to was called National Theatre, and it was a sort of Marketplace. So, I got to barter! It's so different, but I was decent at it. All in all I spent maybe 80,000 (I feel so rich here), and saved maybe 30,000 (Mom will be so proud) on gifts for friends and family.

I bought an awesome little wooden turtle and a "Mzungu" (The Ugandan word for "white person"... Not derogatory or anything, either. Here you get plenty of "Mzungu!!!"s) for myself, all sorts of (surprise) gifts for the family, and one present for Patrick (and that's a test to see if you're reading, Pat. The code word to get the present is "banana").

After that, me, Gene, Luke, and Mike went to Garden City (a mall-like building that is pretty much a small piece of America) to go to a restaurant called Ranchers. The food wasn't exactly phenomenal, but it was amazing compared to what I have been eating (steak? yes!!!).

And, today we went to Namyoya for church and to visit families. Church was also dreadfully different (maybe two and a half-three hours long XD) but with the welcome we recieved I may as well have been one of The Beatles. The high point of that service was playing the songs we prepared... the whole team organized songs to sing along to. Our set was as follows:

1. Amazing Grace
2. Down in my Heart

No encore. No, it wasn't exactly the best show I have been to, but for what it's worth it was very enjoyable.

I played guitar on Amazing Grace, and put that away for Down in my Heart. And here's an interesting little anecdote: after two verses of Down in my Heart, we had Chris shout "R-r-r-Reeeemixxxxxx!" And JJ did a bit of a solo. The people really went for it, but perhaps it would've went a little better if the majority of the people in the room knew what the word "remix" meant.

Visiting houses wasn't so nice for me, since I wasn't in an amazing mood. I really haven't been lately, though. I've actually been pretty sad. It's all really overwhelming. I've seen so much, in such a short time, and so much I've never seen in my life. And still, the worst is yet to come...

I don't know what to do!

And perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if I weren't so homesick...

I want to go home. And I want to go to McDonald's, and I want to go to Guitar Center. And I want to go to bed.

And I can't do any of those right now.

Actually, I may be giving a completely wrong impression of my feelings about Uganda.

It's amazing! I love it. It's just beautiful, and the people are so easy to love.

It's just sad...

Amber says she feels like she's at home. And I feel like I'm really far away from home.

I love the idea of a second home. And I don't deny that it could be a fantastic home.

But I don't know if I want this to be my home... It's sad.

And again, I wonder if I am being selfish by wanting to stay home...

I think I'll sleep on the idea.

Maybe I can have more than one home. But right now I just want to go... home... and see my family and my pets.

Because that's where home's been all my life. There.

"Home is where the heart is..."
-A man who knows more than I thought he did at first

Saturday, June 21, 2008




Those are just scenery and other random stuff. I have a lot more, and a lot of the other team members have pictures I'm going to put up too. That's just a taste of what's to come!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh, by the way!

I am planning to get pictures up, probably tomorrow.

I just don't have any time to!!! blah!!