Monday, July 4, 2011

I grew up in church and I can laugh at myself

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well,said the farmer.It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" asked the wife. "What are those?"
"Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.
"Well, what’s the difference?" asked the wife.
The farmer said, "Well it's like this . . . if I were to say to you, Martha, the cows are in the corn, well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, in the CORN, CORN, CORN, COOOOORRRRRNNNNN.Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus."
As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well, said the young man, It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.
"Hymns?" asked the wife. "What are those?"
"They're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different" said the young man.
"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.
The young man said, "Well it's like this: If I were to say to you, Martha, the cows are in the corn, well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you,
Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.
For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.
Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday: What Makes Me Happy

  • Payday!
  • Zumba. So far it's just been Youtube, but now I have an official DVD from the library.
  •  Clean Sheets.
  •  Agatha Christie's writing.
  •  Discussing the generational differences of the "Pete and Repeat" joke with my dad.
  •  Real Housewives of New Jersey. Yes, I'm addicted to trashy reality tv, and I can admit it.
  •  Poppy-seed salad dressing. If only I could enjoy it with Michele.
  •  Playing Wise and Otherwise. 
  •  Realizing the "down, right, backspace" keyboard motion I was making sounding like the "We Will Rock You" beat.....yup, simple things for simple minds!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And we're back to this blogging business again.....

 So this summer has been underway for about 6 weeks now. It's been filled with fun adventures: crossing things off my summer bucket list, more coffee runs than my wallet would prefer, and tons of procrastinating for the things I should really be getting done (online class, GRE prep, grad school searching).

I recently realized that I've been home (7 months today) for quite a bit longer than I was in Uganda (4 months). Earlier spring semester, I thought I would enjoy having a low-key summer at home. However, I keep feeling a growing dissatisfaction. I'm longing for the excitement, adventure, and prestige that goes with being a "traveler." Sometimes I wonder if I want to travel and do big things for the right reasons.  Am I being motivated by my "image" ? Contentment and humility are definitely qualities that I'm praying God would break in to me.

Anyhow, I was at my summer job at Jo-ann the other day, and I got to help a Thai woman look for some fabric. She didn't speak the best English, and wasn't finding what she wanted. We spent a half-hour doing impromptu sign language, laughing at each other, and generally being frustrated that we weren't understanding each other.  At first, I thought she was trying to make those capes you wear when you get your hair cut. As it turns out, she was making sari-type wraps. The combinations of fabric she was putting together were absolutely gorgeous and I wish I could dress like that. She probably didn't leave the store with exactly what she was looking for. Yet, the experience filled me with memories of all the hilarious conversations and miscommunications I had while in the Pearl of Africa. Cross cultural communication can be such a beautiful and rewarding thing, even though it can be frustrating!

I am so glad that life is an adventure, even when I'm working retail for the summer!

Monday, January 24, 2011

6 Weeks Later

I  have been back in the U.S. for almost six weeks now. Uganda seems like a distant memory, and sometimes I wonder if it really even happened. After spending a full 24 hours in transit, I landed in Columbus on December 15th just before midnight. Christmas break at home was a much easier adjustment than I had anticipated. After the first couple days of having a messed up sleep schedule and being generally disoriented, I got in to a normal routine. For the week leading up to Christmas, I worked quite a bit, which kept me busy enough that the full realization that I had left Uganda for good didn't hit me like a train. Before coming home, I was worried that I would be moody with my family, but that wasn't the case, and Christmas break was a great time of catching up with family and friends. 

Coming back to Cedarville was the challenging part of reentry. I walked around our students' center when I got back and didn't see a single person I knew or even recognized. I didn't think that much could change in just one semester! The first couple days were very surreal. I felt like Cedarville had moved on without me, like I was looking in on some sort of parallel universe: it looked like my school, but really wasn't. I had chosen to live off-camps, but was scared that that was a poor choice-- that I'd be so far removed from campus I'd never see anyone and be a hermit.Well, that was two weeks ago. Since then, I've been able to reconnect with many friends, attend my church here and reconnect with the amazing church family I have here, and get re-acclimated to American college subculture. I've learned that my true friends I see routinely, regardless of whether or not I'm in a dorm.

Of course, I get the same questions a lot, like the uber-vague "How was it?" (really, you expect me to give you a 30-second synopsis of my entire 4 months? really? I've found that the people who ask this are generally satisfied with an answer like "it was good") or the even worse "What did you learn? (this is a great question, but it's just hard for me to answer, since I'm still trying to sort out what I learned myself. Lately, though, I feel like I've been able to really open up about my trip. In an introduction letter I was required to write for a professor, I was able to share my struggles about coming home. As I get back into my friendships, my stories and experience from fall semester come out in conversation. I'm getting more comfortable giving tidy little ten minute summaries, that I feel do give an adequate description of my work, play, joys, and struggles while in Uganda. Tonight, we (the group of Cedarville girls who participated in the Uganda Studies Programme) did an interview with a student public relations worker for Cedarville's website, and tomorrow we're talking about our internships at the Epsilon Alpha Pi (Cedarville's social work organization) meeting.

So here I am , six weeks post-Africa. Still praying that I will continue to learn from my experiences and be able to integrate them well into my American life.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Less than a week to go....

Ok, so I have gotten several requests to update and I've been slacking. Sorry! It's starting to hit me that I have exactly one week left here!  Sometimes it's hard to express what goes on here in a blog post, because every story requires so much background information about East African culture. One of the concerns I have is that when I get home, everyone will ask me about my experience and will be excited to hear about it, but I will just want to shut down and not talk about it. I am really going to try to be good about sharing stories and pictures, and I'll also try to share what's been going on the last few weeks:
  • It wasn't nearly as hard to be away from home for Thanksgiving as I thought it would be. The directors of our program did an American Thanksgiving celebration to make us feel more at home. The day before Thanksgiving we all got to sign up for kitchens across campus to make food, and many of the American staff cooked for us as well. In addition to the 32 USP students, there were about 50 other American expats at our Thanksgiving. It was so fun to eat a "traditional Thanksgiving meal" sitting on a hill overlooking Mukono Town and sitting directly underneath banana and acacia trees!
  • Thanksgiving weekend I went with a group of friends on a SAFARI! It was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life! We spent two days riding on the roof of a range rover  through Murchison Falls National Park and got to see gazelles, impalas, African buffalos, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and giraffes.
  • I had my last day with my kids at Off-Tu last week. They danced for me as a going away performance, we took tons of pictures, and I read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (I read to the kids at the children's center each time I went, and that was their favorite book of the semester) to them several times. It was so sad leaving my kids, knowing that I will never see them again.
  • Just finished my finals today; Ugandan finals are so intense! We are given 3 hours, and a sheet of 6-8 questions covering all the material of the entire semester. We are expected to answer 4 of the questions with at least 4 pages of writing per question. The test is administered  by a proctor the Ugandans call an "invigilator." You are aloud to bring in your registration card and a pen. Nothing else. It's so intense and intimidating. Like a bluebook essay exam in steroids.
  • We leave campus on Sunday to stay in Entebbe for a few days. There we'll debrief and just relax for a few days before taking off bright and early Wednesday morning 

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's My Life

So, they're been no big events going on here lately, but my mom tells me that even the little things of everyday life are interesting (of course she's my mom, and for reasons I don't think I will be able to comprehend unless I have kids, she finds my every move "interesting" :) , so I guess I'll share. Although I've been getting used to the way of life here, it's interesting to reflect on the small aspects of life and think about how different they are from home.

Even simple stuff , like baking cookies, is an adventure here. Last week, I, along with a couple of friends, attempted to bake cookies to take to the kids at Off-Tu Children's Centre. The original recipe we found was for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Well, those ingredients aren't really available here, so we had to make some substitutions.  First we had to use all white sugar instead of brown sugar, not too bad. Next, every store in town was completely out of chocolate, so we decided to nix the chocolate and go for straight peanut butter cookies. That shouldn't matter, right? Regular peanut butter is available here, but we, thinking we were smart, thought we could use Ugandan "gnut paste with special added sim-sim", which is much cheaper, since it would be mixed in, and no one would be able to tell the difference. Ok, that one was a big mistake. Our recipe called for baking soda, but we can only get baking powder here. After googling a substitute between the two, and the majority of our hits being "there is absolutely no substitute for baking soda" (that was just not going to cut it) or "combine baking powder with cream of tartar to make a baking soda substitute" (honestly, if I can't get ahold of baking soda, you expect me to be able to get cream of tartar?) we found a website that suggested using three times as much baking powder as baking soda for a substitute. So that's what we did.  I forgot to mention that there were oats in these cookies. So when we put the dough in the fridge (on a pizza plate, of course!) it reminded me of my mom's uncooked meatloaf. The actual baking was an escapade in and of itself. I've never before seen cookies get lighter in color as they bake! Ok, so they wouldn't pass for American cookies, but they were super sweet, and the kids LOVED them.

Here's something else you wouldn't think of: In Uganda, primary schools take a long break at Christmastime, equivalent to our summer break in the U.S. For my kids at Off-Tu, Friday was their last day of school. They'll come back in February and will start a new school year at that point. For the last day of school, Off-Tu had a graduation ceremony for Top Class (our equivalent of kindergarten) with all the little 5 year olds wore caps and gowns. It was an all day event-- each grade level did songs and readings, and various administrators and teachers made speeches. My host mom from my homestay in Mukono runs a primary school, so I attended their Top graduation as well. Off-Tu puts a huge stress on kids learning English, so their program was entirely in English, while Mother's Care's program was in Luganda. At the end of each of these,we had cake. Cake is a huge deal here: it's only for super-special occasions; everybody watches as about 20 honored people try to hold the knife together and cut the cake. Then they cut it into SUPER small pieces. Everyone gets a bite-size piece, but they all say it's so much and that they cannot each that much sweetness (I have yet to understand this reasoning since most Ugandans use about 3 tablespoons of sugar in a 6 oz. cup of tea).  

This weekend I went with one of the USP staff members and visited a church in Kampala. It was awesome! It was a church with people from a mixture of many cultures, but with an American pastor. I felt like I actually went to church for the first time in three months. On the way back, we stopped at a vegetable market, where I bought a head of broccoli. That was also AMAZING!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rural Home Stay

Life seems to be chugging along here at UCU, although I'm in Africa, I still have a lot of aspects of "normal" college life.  Most of the time it's not super exciting, just the normal reading, writing papers, attending classes, and going into the capital city, Kampala, to waste money on the weekends! I just finished all of my required internship hours at Off-Tu Mission, but I will probably continue to go (not as many hours a week) until at least Thanksgiving. I'll try to give you the highlights of the exciting things I've done lately.

A couple weeks ago (yes, Mom, I know I am not good at updating this thing :) we went on rural home stays where each American students stayed with a Ugandan family in the rural Ugandan bush of Soroti (a district about 5 hours away from Mukono) for the week of October 23- 29. I stayed with the Amurets, an older couple, whose children were all grown, but had several non-related younger people living with them. For that week, I slept in a mud and thatch-roof hut, bathed under the stars, learned some basic phrases in Ateso, and didn't wash my hair  or see another white person for an entire 7 days. Our home, or "compound" was a circle of buildings including a main house made of cement, several huts for sleeping, a cooking hut, and a bathing enclosure with no roof.

Our daily activities consisted of washing clothes by hand, washing dishes outside on the ground (it was literally a pit of mud when I finished) "digging" (hoeing), picking ebolo ( greens) and green grams (kind of like peas, but the pods are black when they're ripe), walking about a half mile through the bush to get water from the bore hole and carrying back a 5 gallon jerrycan of water on top of your head, cooking, and visiting friends of my host family. It was super hard work, but my family took pity on me as a "delicate American."  I  have to say, carrying the water jug on my head is an accomplishment I'm pretty proud of, even if I did have to steady it with my hand. I think the most interesting thing for me to get used to was the sense of time, we never really had a schedule for anything, and just did things when Toto (my host mom) felt like it. This meant "breakfast" was around 1pm, "lunch" at 5 or 6 pm, and "supper" at 11pm. When we went visiting friends, we had no set agenda, and sometimes would just talk with people along the roadside or in the marketplace, or just sit with people for hours, sometimes not saying anything. While we visited friends, and even with my host family, I got to spend a lot of time answering some very interesting questions about life in the United States or trying to clear up some false assumptions about American life. These included " Do you have dirt in America?" ; " Do people there drink water?"; " All of America is one big city"; "There are no plants are animals there, everything is imported." The media sure hasn't helped with African perceptions of the U.S. ! 

Since we were in a different region, the food was different also. In the Mukono District, the local fare consists of rice, beans, and matoke (mashed plantains). In the Soroti District, we ate a lot more meat, and also millet bread. Millet bread is basically millet flour poured into boiling water and stirred to a gummy consistency. It looks kind of like chocolate pudding or brownie batter, tastes like nothing (although my roommate [HEY RACHEL!] thinks it tastes like dirt!), and has the a sandy, grainy, gritty consistency so if you chew it, you end up with the feeling of sand between your teeth.  Did I mention the Ugandans show hospitality by serving their guest  about 4 times as much food as everyone else is eating? Oh, and speaking of eating meat, I got to slaughter THREE chickens. This included cutting off the chicken's head with a knife that I wouldn't consider sharp enough to spread butter, plucking off the feathers, peeling the skin off the feet, and removing the internal organs (only some of them, the" good" stuff is served to the guest of honor, i.e. me).  I really wasn't as squeamish about the chicken as I thought I would be, and by the third one, I was an old pro ;)

Staying in the African bush was one of the hardest weeks of my life, I literally started counting down the hours until I would be picked up, but it was also an awesome experience. I loved my host family and was so sad to leave them. Toto (my host mom) was so spiritually mature and was a great encouragement to me. It was a CRAZY week, but I am so glad to have that experience.