Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Amber's story

This story is from Amber of Group 1 about their travel home starting in the Entebbe airport

So... we got to the airport at 5:30. The woman at the first door told us to go to the next the door. The woman at that door told us we could not come in until 6:00 and we had to go through the other door. As we waited in between the doors, a line started to form at one of them. Around 6:10 a women came out and told us the system was down and they would have to check us in manually soon. The people at the front of the line were kind enough to form a blockade to allow all us of to go in front of them.

Once in, they hand wrote our boarding passes and informed us that because they were offline, they could not check our bags through to New York and that the airline would do it in London. On the plane, we were told that we would have to collect our luggage at baggage claim and recheck it. Then we were told not to collect our luggage but to follow the signs to connecting flights. Either way, we only had an hour.

We booked it to the connecting flight check-in where we were informed that not all of us had seats because we had not been checked in from Entebbe and they were working on the luggage situation. The attendant collected all of our passports and baggage claim barcodes and gave us boarding passes and sent us through the layers of check-ins and security. Kristin and I were stopped because we did not have seat assignments. Amanda announced that our gate closed in 15 minutes as the woman was calling someone to see what to do. We waved the others on.

Once we were finally cleared, the woman told us to go up the escalator to gate 15, down the escalator to catch the shuttle to the other side of the airport and so on. Kristin and I began running from one side of the airport to other. We were then stopped in security. The prescription label had come off of her face wash and the officer was asking about it. She said, "We have 9 minutes to catch our flight, keep it."

We arrived at the shuttle where the sign said our gate was 15 minutes away. Luckily, it didn't take that long. We got to the other side, ran up two flights of escalators, and finally saw the rest of our group in line to board. We made it!

All of us were a sweaty mess but we had made the plane and the luggage should have made it on as well. We arrived at JFK with less incident, cleared immigration and waited at baggage claim. And waited some more at baggage claim. When everyone on our flight had cleared the area it became apparent that none of our bags had made it across the Atlantic.

We went on through customs where Pat was hassled in front of me. I stopped waiting to be questioned and the woman looked at me like I had three heads and said, "You can go through." I thanked her and we all went on to baggage claim.

There we learned that five of our bags had been randomly put into Nathan's name somehow. One of my bags had last been seen in Entebbe and was under Nathan's name. The other bag was not listed at all. Amanda shared this situation. It was a hot mess.

injury of the summer

ok so those of you who know me or have been following my journey know there is always an injury story of the summer. This summer it happened in Kampala. We stopped to use the bathroom and had to cross a really busy street with a median. The median had grass and a wire fence type thing that was about 2 1/2 feet tall or so. The wire was held by a pole that had metal claws coming off of it. the claws were like metal triangles that were bent a bit. I was walking by nathan and i almost said "be careful of these things" when i threw my leg right into one as i was trying to go over it. it ripped my jeans and made me bleed and is a pretty gross gash and bruise at the moment. ridiculous!

just something fun

How you know you are adjusting to life in Gulu:
1. it only takes you one baby wipe to “shower”
2. you start thinking in broken Brittish English
3. you automatically answer to and give your name in a way that is understandable to Ugandan’s (Daniella, Carthy)
4. you automatically copy emails before you send them in case your internet connection disconnects
5. you wave hi to shouts of “bye!!”
6. sounds of voices from home make you cry
7. you barely notice EVERYONE staring at you constantly or the children laughing at your every move
8. you are used to waving constantly while you walk to town, sort of like a parade every day
9. you are not surprised when you order something and it’s “not there”
10. you have learned to sleep without a pillow because the one you have is like a large boulder

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Tragedy 7-20-10

First I want to say that everyone here is safe. However, I am going to share with you the worst experience of my life. I am warning those with little ones this involves a child’s death so if that is too much for you just skip this post.

Most of group 1 and I went to St. Jude's, an orphanage we have been volunteering at for a while, Sunday afternoon. We got out of the vehicle and went to find someone in charge to give us a tour and tell us about what they are doing. As we were talking someone came up and said something to the woman, Vicki, we were talking to and she asked us to wait a minute because a child had fallen down. She walked away behind a building. A few minutes later everyone was screaming and crying and running around. We had no idea what was going on.

From here this is my understanding of what happened. I think we all have slightly different stories because we all had different angles on the event. I walked around and saw John laying on the ground fishing around in a hole. Samuel, 2 1/2, had fallen in what I think is a latreen hole (it didn't have a shed over it like most). Everyone from St. Jude's was crying and screaming. When John got him up they were asking if anyone knew CPR. Min and Colleen ran to help and Trisha and I sat and prayed. Samuel was unresponsive. After a few minutes, once we realized he was not coming to, I started asking if we could take him to the hospital since we had a vehicle right there. I could not get anyone from the orphanage to give me an answer or even show they were listening to me. So some of us ran to the driver and told him our idea and asked if he would just drive around the building to pick up Samuel. He was of course more than willing and jumped in the car. Once they heard the vehicle they finally realized what we wanted to do and a woman rinsed off Samuel and picked him up and ran with him to the vehicle. John, Min, Colleen, the woman from the orphanage, and Samuel left for the hospital. The rest of us stayed at the orphanage and tried to figure out what had happened. We prayed with some of the girls and asked if there was anything else we could do. The woman in charge just said we could come back another time. So we left.

On the way back home I got a call from John that Samuel had not made it. I was so sad and didn’t understand why something like that happened. Why did we need to be there for that if us being there made no difference. I have to trust that the Lord’s plans are higher than mine and my understanding is nothing compared to His wisdom. One of the first things I thought was that Samuel had never been loved as much as he is right now because he is with the Lord.

Some extra information.
When they arrived at the hospital they could not find anyone to help them. They were running around trying to find help and when they finally did it was still chaotic. I do not think Samuel was alive when we got him out of the hole. He was not moving and he did not respond at all to any CPR. John said he didn’t even know it was him when he felt him in the muck. I took Colleen and Min to the clinic to get them some treatment because they were worried about the sewage they had touched and even had in their mouth. They got some antibiotics and we went and got them some really strong antibacterial mouthwash. I sort of just went into mom-mode with them. I felt like it was my job to take care of them so I made sure they were as comfortable as possible, got them whatever they requested, which wasn’t much. They were both pretty shocked for the most part. They stayed the night in gulu and then left for Anaka the next afternoon after we all had lunch together. I put together a list of scripture references for them to use as comfort and have been and will continue to pray for them and check up on them.

So needless to say it has been a heavy time here in Gulu for me. I was not well yesterday and spent most of the day in a haze. I took a long nap and went to bed early. I feel better today, I am still taking it easy, and am so looking forward to this weekend in Jinja. I am going to be laying by the pool while group 1 rafts (:

Good Things 7-17-10

So I find the need to write about the good things that are happening here. My week has been full of adjusting plans, learning new information about the blasts, mourning, feeling emotionally drained, trying my best to be supportive and informative and calm, plus the normal business of helping take care of plans for 30 teachers at 10 different schools across Northern Uganda. I must say that I am first and foremost so thankful for the opportunity to serve here and second so thankful for Catherine because she is awesome, and third thankful for Karen and all the great teachers we have this year. With that I would like to share some stories of good things here in Northern Uganda, if you want the not good stuff read the news. (of course they will be in list form (: )
- Friday night on the way home from the conference Catherine and I decided to walk. It had been a long day it was overcast so it was nice and cool. We walked about half way home and realized it was going to start raining. We decided we would just walk in it, it was light and it felt so good. As we continued the rain got harder and harder. By the time we were on the final stretch home it was pouring and we were soaked. Of course we were a site because people here do not go out in the rain, plus we are munus. People kept calling to us to come inside but we would tell them we wanted to walk (amitta watta watta) then they would laugh so loud! We passed by a place where some of the teachers were waiting out the rain and they took these pics.

- That same night Jolly invited us (all the teacher exchange peeps) to her house to sit around a fire and talk with her dad, Norman. She lives about 20-30 minutes walking from our house but because it was so muddy from the rain and dark it took us more like 40 minutes but it was a nice adventure. When we finally arrived we all sat, women on the mat and men in chairs, around the fire. Norman talked to us about how this is the Acholi classroom and about some other traditions. He called his wife over and told us about how strong she is and how she is the reason his family is so great. She doesn’t speak English so he translated for her. It was this mystical moment. She was standing in the smoke with the stars as the background and it was breathtaking. Then Norman told us that she makes jewelry. He said she didn’t have many pieces but he wanted us to see them. He had three and we passed them around and then he gave one to Jenny (one of the teachers, he met her in the states), Catherine, and then me! It was such an honor!
- I got to go to Pabbo again! I went and did another round table and got to see all my friends there again. It was so good to see everyone and be so welcomed. We found out that Christine (one of the Pabbo teachers) named her baby after Trisha! So they took a pic together! It has been such an encouragement to go back there and actually be remembered and see that being there did make some kind of difference.
- Jenny knows sign language and the orphanage Catherine’s partner teacher runs has tons of deaf kids so she has been able to go and sign with them a lot. It is so cool because if she hadn’t been brought back from Pabbo to live in Gulu with us she would not have been able to go as many times.
- The teachers at Keyo and Catherine Sasser have started a girls empowerment group! They have met a few times and it sounds like the girls are really liking it. They have secret handshakes and I think they are going to do an activity where they write reasons why they are strong and valuable and then they are going to link them together into a chain. So cool!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Its finally Sunday! The conference was a success. We had a great turn out and things went without a hitch for the most part. The food was good and on time and the presentations were great. I think the teachers got a lot out of it. Saturday the power was not there and we couldn’t get the generator to work so we didn’t get to see one of the power point presentations. Also the printer at the office was not working so we didn’t get to give out certificates, which is a super big deal here, but we will send them to the schools this coming week.

Catherine and Karen and I feel very relieved that the conference is done. Catherine and I have a super long list of things we want to do after the conference. I started mine today with spending the day at the pool with trisha. She and I are the only ones that did not go anywhere this weekend. Right after the conference on sat group 1 and Karen went to the rhino sanctuary and group two and Catherine went to safari. Trisha and I stayed back and watched some tv on dvd and then met up with dolly for dinner. Dolly is a teacher from Pabbo we met in 2008. She is awesome. She was the most vocal about women’s rights at Pabbo, which is a big deal because it is a very conservative area. Now she is finishing her degree in developmental studies and working at Fida, a law firm composed of female lawyers doing pro-bono work for women. They try a lot of “child support” cases, they call it maintenance. She told us about how she will track down men who are not following the court orders the lawyers she works for got them and have the police arrest them. She says she will probably continue to work for the same organization when she finishes school in May. I am so proud of her and blessed to know her. We met her for dinner and had a great time. She is so fun and lively.

Then T and I went home and watched a movie, actually she fell asleep and I watched it, I know who would have thought? Then we went to bed. It was weird being in the house without it being packed with people. We slept in and then headed to acholi inn and are currently sitting in the shade waiting for our lunch, we ordered at 11:30 and are hoping it comes at 1. TIA

Some stories worth mentioning--There is a guy here with group two and his name is Tim. He is in his 50s. One of the first nights group 2 arrived in Gulu I was sitting across the room from him and asked him his story. He told me about how he was a bachelor most of his life and just recently got married. Anyway at some point either that night or another day he told me he has this issue where food will get stuck in his throat and he won’t be able to swallow anything, not even his own saliva. It has gotten so bad before that he has had to go to the emergency room, but usually he just has to wait it out. Well Friday at the conference we realized that he wasn’t around. Then someone came to me and told me he was getting sick around the side of the building. They said he was sick. I went out to see how he was, because he also told me that he had been drinking the water from the jug at the school (which is from the borehole, bad idea), so I thought that might be what his issue was. When I got to him he told me it was the throat thing and that it was ok because he could breathe but that he couldn’t swallow anything. He said he just had to wait it out. I said ok and that I would check on him in a little bit. After a bit I decided to go check on him again and Joe told me that he remembered that Tim told him sometimes carbonation helps. So I grabbed a soda and headed down stairs to Tim. On my way down the stairs I had this very clear feeling that I should pray with Tim. He had expressed his “not disbelief but lack of faith” in God. From what I understand he just doesn’t know what is there but he thinks there is something and maybe it is different for different people. Anyway I didn’t know how he would take me asking to pray for him but it was like I was on auto-pilot. I asked him how he was and offered the soda and then asked if I could pray with him. He said yes. So I took his arm and prayed. I thanked God for keeping him safe thus far and prayed for God to heal his body and for peace and rest in knowing that He had everything under control and whatever His plan was was best and for Him to receive the glory. Then I walked to the
bathroom. In the bathroom I was just reminded of all the miracles Jesus did and was asking God to do another one. I just told God that I knew He could do it it was just if it was in His plan. When I walked back upstairs to the conference there was Tim sitting with his teachers. He told me that the first sip he took went straight down and then he called me a miracle worker. I told him it wasn’t me and that I was so glad he got to experience the Lord working. I was walking on clouds. I have never been so close to such a direct answer to prayer. Don’t get me wrong I have been a witness to miracles but it doesn’t make them any less amazing. I was so excited I ran right up to Catherine and told her and have been telling anyone that will listen.

Trisha and I were sitting on the couch watching Glee and I saw a mouse run by. There were a lot more bugs and critters moving because there were less people in the house, at least that’s what we told ourselves. Anyway I told her I saw it and we were sort of just sitting thinking about what we should do. Then all of the sudden she saw it and it was close to her I guess cause she threw her feet up and her shoes went flying! It scared me so much I jumped up and ran and jumped on top of a chair. We were screaming and laughing and crying all at the same time. We tried to make a trap but we were not patient enough or our bait was not good enough because it never came near the trap. That was in the afternoon. Later that night we saw the same mouse crawl out of the cushioned chair! We were totally grossed out and scared that it would get on the couch we were on so we decided to watch the movie on the plastic chairs. One thing I miss is comfortable seating. We spend most of out time sitting on hard plastic chairs or on not so great couches.


Saturday night we had our annual 4th of July party. We started the day with a meeting about the reciprocal exchange (Ugandan teachers coming to the US). It was a good meeting, short, but it got a lot of people talking and thinking ahead for the exchange. Then we continued our talk on Pedagogy of Liberation. This time we tried to focus on more practical real-life things we can do in our practice to be more liberatory. It was a great conversation.

After lunch was party prep time. We had the dancers from Awere SS come and dance their traditional dances, and of course we joined in. When they were done we treated them to dinner at the Ethiopian place right down from our house. We had teams of volunteers to hang out with the kids, set up the food, set up the chairs and the DJ. Things went really smoothly. I mean you always have your bumps like when I got the key stuck in the back door, or broke the glass in the back door, or when the water ran out and we had to wash dishes in the back yard, but all in all smooth (:

The party was a huge success though. The snack team was awesome! They made guacamole, probably the best I have ever had, pineapple salsa, I found out Andy is a great cook! And we made some very strong jungle juice. The best part for me was of course the dancing. We danced all night long. By the end of the night we were all sweaty, dirty, and exhausted! And happy! Joe and Jennifer and I stayed up to do some dishes so that we could have some clean for breakfast and then, when everyone was asleep I took a nice shower and then went to bed.

Sunday I got up and got some coffee and sat with my Bible and read some. Then a few people came out and we read together and discussed together. Then I got ready and Trisha and I went to Watoto church (the one that sponsors the cell group I went to) It was one of the best worship experiences I have had in Uganda. The pastor said (talking about the two women who had just played the guitar “culturally we reserve some positions for men, but God transforms culture. And all the Luo men said?” “Amen!” He spoke about prayer, the importance of it in your relationship with God and the importance of praying as afamily. It was so great. I believe this church is doing a lot of great things. I am hoping to go to a new cell group tonight, the one the pastor attends.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty normal. There are a lot of sick peeps in the house so I have been trying to check in on them and take care of them as best I can. I felt bad because we had two not feeling well with slight fevers and the power was not there so I could not put the fan on them and we didn’t really have cold water. But they have been troopers. Hopefully the meds they take will help them feel better. Please pray for Amanda, Angela, Julie, Mandy, and Lisa.

Funny story--A bunch of people went to St. Jude (an orphanage a lot of people volunteer at). Nathan was there and they were about to leave so he was trying to take his bag from the kids, one little boy did not like that so much so he pulled down his pants and peed right on Nathan’s foot!

I am safe

I want to first assure everyone that I am safe, the teachers exchange teacher's and I are all safe here in gulu.
Sunday night there were two terrorist attacks in Kampala. From the information we have they are from Somalia and bombed a rugby field and an ethiopian restaurant. There are conflicting numbers so far but we are sure that a roadie (volunteer who travels around the states talking about IC) was killed. He came 2 weeks earlier than the group to visit some people in Kampala. We are all very sad here to have lost one of our family. I will keep you updated on any travel changes or more news but for now please just pray for all those that have been affected by this tragedy.

This is the information the embassy sent out:
On 11 July 2010 at approximately 2310 local time, a bomb exploded at The Ethiopian Village restaurant, which was filled with spectators watching the World Cup finals match. Approximately 10 minutes later, a second explosion occurred at the Rugby Club, also crowded with customers watching the soccer match. Initial reports indicate that at least 13 people were killed at the Ethiopian restaurant. At least 40 were reported by the police as killed at the rugby club site. Many others were reported injured at both locations. At least one American was reported killed in the blasts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Funny stories

So a while back I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and I found Jenni and Mandy standing in the hall. They were a little shaken up and Mandy walked away, I don’t think she saw me. I asked Jenni what was up and she said there was a huge rat in the toilet and Mandy went to go get Nathan. So Mandy goes to Nathans bed and just says “Nathan I need you” Sweet Nathan without hesitation gets out of bed and follows her to the bathroom. He takes one look in the toilet and goes to get some cups. He comes back and tries to scoop it out but it moves and he loses it. He turns around and still somewhat sleepily says “I just spill pee
water on myself” Jenni, Mandy, and I were hysterical! Then he went back in and got it. He came out with the rat in one cup and the other on top of it but its tail was sticking out! We lost it! He is now the superhero of the house!

Cell Group

Wed. night I went to a cell group (like a small group) with a friend from the office, Doreen. She is the head of the logistics dept. and such a hard working woman. I think she is around my age and is from western Uganda. She is not Acholi. She had mentioned the group in passing one day and I asked her if I could join and she was super excited about the idea. We ended up going to the group another IC staffer, Patrick, goes to so I knew one other person there and I had met his wife too. We walked to the market which is in the middle of town. Right across from the market there are little shops, we walked between two through a little alley that opened up to a sort of courtyard, kind of like where we stayed in Pabbo. There was a small group of people standing around. We all introduced ourselves and then we started the time with songs. I did not know the words but they were
kind of repetitive so I caught on. Then I just found myself thanking the Lord for the opportunity to worship Him in such truth. There were no gimmics or pretenses. Just people gathered together because they saw worth in spending time worshipping and reading the Word together.

So after the singing, the host/leader of the group welcomed everyone and we all signed the guest book, so Ugandan. We went through a little more indepth introductions and then we got to the Bible study part. As usual I was very skeptical because I have had a few experiences here where things were very scripted and they did not feel natural or authentic. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The leader did have a sheet that he followed but it was just what verses to read and some application questions and the questions did not have answers. It was really great to hear the Ugandan’s perspectives. We read out of 1
Corinthians when Paul says that we are to be ambassadors of Christ. We talked about what that meant. We also talked about how we could practically carry that out. One woman said that we were to minister to the poor, poor materially and poor in spirit. I was so thrilled about the whole thing. Regardless of what you believe there were people getting together and critically analyzing things and applying what they were learning, that is huge for places like Gulu. Of course I wasn’t super surprised since Doreen and Patrick are two very intelligent people that the conversation was intellectually mature but the spiritual aspect of the conversation was what really got me excited!

After reading and discussing we sang some more and then left. I came home on cloud 9! I was so excited to have been a part of that time. I am hoping to go back again. I visited the church, Watoto Church, that sponsors the cells. They say they are a cell based church, meaning that a lot of their ministry is based on people meeting throughout the week at different parts of the city to worship and study together. They had a men of valor night on Friday that sounded pretty great. There are 2 women who play guitar on the praise band and the pastor said, you know our culture reserves certain things like playing the guitar for men but God transforms culture, and all the Luo men said. Amen! I was so amazed to hear that. What a bold statement he was making. In his message on prayer he talked about the importance of praying to maintain your relationship with God and also to pray with your wife and kids! It was beautiful to witness the transformation of the family through reading and applying the Word! And the best part is I get to see the real affects of this church in Doreen and Patrick.