some reminders of love this past week

27 02 2012

This morning we woke up to the sounds of rolling thunder and a smattering of rain – such a welcome relief after months of heat, dust and dry air.  The rains have not yet come in the east of Uganda (although Kampala has already experienced some heavy storms) but the promises of rain are so encouraging.

The game of today has been “Can You Spot the Mountain” with the ridge covered in a haze – a mix of cloud and smoke, I think.  The cloud cover and murkiness has been a lovely relief.

So…can YOU spot the mountain? 

Some other achievements of the past week or so:

My first effort, with Sarah’s help, to use our outside oven.  Electricity is so unreliable here (we say that Umeme- the ‘provider’ – is a good back-up for the generator!) and we just never got around to getting a gas oven.  So we had a fire oven built, and after about 2 months of drying time, it is ready to use!

It takes some skill:  getting to 180C (350F) is a wild guess, and the helpers told me it is ‘very ready’, when I could put in the cakes. I discovered ‘very ready’ means “very hot”, and instead of a lower heat for longer, this was more like an African microwave: put it into a blazing oven and it will take just a short while to cook!  Aaai.  It was too complicated to explain the concept of slower baking, so I pushed the cake to the cooler sides of the oven, checked regularly, and it turned out JUST FINE (with a darkish crust below…!)

Another achievement is finishing the big cloth for a set I have been stitching for a while.

These were such fun and I do want to make some more.

My big meditation for the last week was of how God has sent His special reminders of love to keep us going.  They have literally been falling from the sky and lie about everywhere for me to see – little love notes from an adoring Father to let me know He IS here, He IS faithful and He keeps on loving. 

Since we arrived back home in January the seeds of the Uganda Flame tree (Spathodea campanulata) have been flying about, thanks to the brown parrots’ untidy eating habits.

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This tree gave the glorious red blooms months ago, and now the pods are full of seed. The wind catches the seeds so easily and after a number have escaped from the parrots’ claws, or have been flushed from the pods by the wind, they scatter across the lawn, or lie in corners of concrete or get into flower beds. Or a number of other places, like the message finally getting to MY heart:

So know that the Lord your God is God.

He is the faithful God.    He will keep His covenant of love for a thousand lifetimes.    (Deut 7:9, International Children’s Bible)

Even in the dry spaces, between stones, rocks and thorns, the message I see:

And so we know the love God has for us, and we trust that love.

God IS love.                              (1 John 4:19)

And if the falling reminders are not enough, seeding themselves in my heart and beginning to take root, God has given another visible reminder.  Each time I pass the kitchen window sill, there in the corner I see the stain. 

Since we moved into our house it has made me smile, deep in my soul.  The stain has remained through terrible rain storms, cleaning sessions or any other rigours of daily African life.  God’s heart of love, everywhere, if we will just see it. And nothing can remove his love, even when times are rough.

Yes, I am sure that nothing can separate us from the love that God has for us… nothing… in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                                (Romans 8:38, 39)

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a hope in development

23 02 2012

The bud has been opening slowly throughout the week; petal by petal, and the knowledge has been moving between head and heart as the bud begins to bloom. Garden 031

I know I have had a stinking attitude for a while.  I have been seeking any blessings to count up, though some days it has taken a lot to find the blessings.  There have been numerous challenges to face and, I admit, I have been negative. 

The need to paint, be creative, knit, write, draw, blog… to be ME has been gone these last few weeks.  I have struggled with so much – the surroundings, Deon’s situation with work… it has been rough. It seemed like I have been drying up from the roots.  Just like it is terribly dry here in town and the little trees and plants are drooping by ten in the morning, I have felt unstimulated.  The buds were closed up, in a shell of protection (which may not be too bad a thing!).

But botany runs a course.

Today the flower is in full bloom, as the petals have unfurled over the last few days and the revelation is vibrant in its beauty:

Delayed hope makes one sick at heart,
but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.

(Proverbs 13:12, God’s Word translation.)

We had SO many hopes.  To explore, to invest in hearts, to live our African lives, as we have in other African places.  The reminder comes of the reason for the blog’s title here.  We have been on ONE  good exploring-of-Uganda trip since arriving here, and have only had short moments to look around most of the time.  Our hopes to see and discover have not been realised.  I hoped to get a good programme going with ladies and that hope was shattered by people’s misunderstanding.  Things just all came to a very ugly head this week and a few direction changes have been put into place. The delayed and unfulfilled hopes have made me sick to the heart.

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The full understanding of having HOPE came to me today:  I was standing on a stool in the kitchen (not a very safe position for me – I am clumsy and accident-prone most days) and despite not finding flour in the can on the top shelf when I needed it, when Deon came in to the kitchen he commented on my smile.  Today, for the first time in a while, I feel I have a tangible hope of dreams fulfilled.

Prov 12:25 says “anxiety in the heart of man causes depression but a good word makes it glad”.

We have been anxious about so much.  But we have had a GOOD WORD, to help us, and made some choices to cause the flower of hope to bloom.

OUR LISSATABA HOME IS NOW IN OUR NAME!  Such great news!  All the paperwork took far longer than it should have and I was anxious… but the good word came today. stoep side

Our dream – a home in the bushveld – no longer deferred but finally real.   A fulfilled longing to bring life and joy.

We are also going to be moving away from this job here.  We don’t know yet where we will go and what we will do.  We need REST first.  It has been a long year and the last few months have not offered much chance for rest – our bodies and emotions are worn.  

But there is HOPE: we know this is the way God is leading and it has been as if God has been directing at the choice to resign with neon arrows, airoplane banners, and pointed fingers it has been that obvious.

 

Prayers for the next step would be appreciated. 





a few week events caught on frame

17 02 2012

It has been another pretty tough week here – big generator issues for Deon, meaning they cannot get power for the lab.  There was also the incident of people stealing pipes and burning them.  Here at home we had a huge bunch of bananas stolen too, with the trusty guards sleeping through it all.  Just this week guards have been found sleeping in the loo, on the banana leaves fallen under the banana plants, behind a tree… such great options to sleep for the security guards here!  Deon went out to check at 4 one morning (I had heard some strange sounds and dogs were going crazy in the area) – he walked past the sleeping guard twice before finding him, and the guard had not stirred through all the barking.  When Deon had woken Askari, he declared “I was not sleeping!  Look at my eyes! They are open!” 

    — Now we know:  Just look for open eyes. 

Being on duty can take very different meanings here.

These barrow drivers cart many things around town (it does require skill to avoid them when driving). I just loved how very African this market scene is.

A few more from the market this morning:

A matooke truck arrival.  These huge bunches are not green bananas, but plantains, a staple food here.  A big bunch sells for around 25 000 UGX at the moment – about R90 / $15.  That is a LOT of money on the back of the truck!  (I think our bananas were stolen to sell, not to eat.  Poverty is dire.)

I LOVE these little stalls at the market:

These are mostly locally made and used products. Rope from sisal, mingling sticks, money boxes, loofahs, brooms, sigiris (the little clay stoves)… such a variety of colours, textures and arrangements to delight the eyes.

We said farewell to one of the friends from our Bible study group this week. Valerie has been such a great buddy and we  will miss her encouragement and smile here. We had a great coffee / fruit juice at Mount Elgon to send her off.

(Natalie, Melanie, Valerie, Stephanie and Karenie (ie?  Don’t want to be the odd one out!)

Big delight / intrigue/ fascination here yesterday at school.

Reaction shots first, can you guess:

Ah! A frog dissection!  That got all the students interested… the frog’s tongue protrudes from the FRONT of its mouth, it has soft teeth, and it closes eyes to help swallow the food.  It really got all the minds intrigued and mouths chattering off facts!

Skip over the next shot if you are squeamish! But it is JUST what 12 year old boys love!

 

The ironic discovery of the week follows.

We have been watching a few houses down from ours since about October: A new owner has taken over and is remodeling the house.  One of the first moves was to pull down all the trees, as they just don’t make a good inclusion to a great yard, in the minds of many Ugandans.  Deon and I watched in glee – a big tree on the pavement just refused to surrender.  With a diameter of about 5m, this old Man just would not budge. They chainsawed, axed, burned, hacked away with pangas, and only this week did the Mzee (old man) finally fall. My heart was very heavy to see him lying down, with a massive grave-like hole around him.  He was beautiful before being destroyed: tall, giving shade and rest to many birds. 

I was struck by the choice of gate posts of the new owner, as this is a perfect choice:

 

Chop down all the living trees, and make awful concrete tree-stem replica gate posts, with clear evidence of where concrete branches have been hacked off.  Really pretty. And great for the environment.

 

Sorry – if you can tell – I am not keen on tree murderers. 





even me, I am not getting you

12 02 2012

Each language in the world, each dialect of that language, has peculiar turns of phrase that endear it to the users.  The above 2 phrases are language-snippets I hear from Ugandans reasonably often.  “even me” means ‘me too’. As in “I am thirsty” and the second person would say, “even me, I am thirsty.” 

And “I am not getting you” is – I really don’t understand.

So, here are a few signs taken in the last while and relating a few things that I just am not getting about life here.

 

The first is an incident on Friday, as we were heading to Kampala.  We were driving through the beautiful Mabira forest area when my nose began burning and it smelt like something was burning.  I have been in a few auto situations where the engine caught alight, and I thought that was the case.  Deon started coughing, Jamal (our driver) choked out a few splutters and we managed to pull off. I grabbed my things for evacuation when my eyes began burning like crazy and tears started flowing.  Deon and Jamal had the same responses, and we fled the car, wiping at eyes and coughing.  The engine was not on fire, but I could see a cloud of smoke disappearing behind us.  A bodaboda driver was wiping furiously at his eyes, and we realised: we had been through TEARGAS!  A police van had been driving ahead of us, out of Jinja where elections had been held the day before.  There may not have been enough riot action for the police, or they had a spare canister about, or I AM NOT GETTING IT, but they threw teargas onto the road, in a peaceful forest, where there were no people causing disturbances.    Strange, unexplained, but true.

A few bizarre signs seen around:

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  Yup, you can buy antics here.  Like the very old items around? 

(One does not need to pay for seeing antics of people – they are on display, free, every day.)

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The parking sign is at possibly THE mall in  Kampala. 

I am longing to find a gal called Constance as my driver: we will have a designated parking spot, just for us.

 

Something visitors to Uganda soon hear is the overuse of ‘please’.  As in, “Is a room available?” Answer – “yes please.” 

So another very popular mall’s poster at the bathrooms would be perfectly understood in Uganda (but not too many other places). 

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Another oddity – can you understand this? Please help, if you do.

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The advert below was up in the Shoprite in Kampala.  Between adverts for houses, motorbikes and cars – an ULTRASOUND.  Exactly where you would expect to see this advertised, right?  In Uganda somehow it makes sense.

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The last event I am not getting was heard on the news this week, and I heard it from Deon – for once I just did not have the energy to face the barrage of grammar errors and bad news in the newspapers this entire week. 

Somewhere in the country this week the blood transfusion services had to sort out issues: when they called for blood at a hospital the blood had been replaced with juice.  I am not sure if this happened before or after transfusion (I think it was after, which is very very possible in Uganda.)   My mind boggles at the magnitude of errors of this kind.

 

Soon after moving into our house we had to explain to Sarah (our helper) why we don’t like using aluminium pots for health reasons.  Deon told her that it kills off brain cells, and Sarah commented “no wonder the people in Uganda are so stupid. They use aluminium all the time.”

At times, I wonder if there was not a considerable amount of truth in her words.  Till then, I will try to be getting it, but not always succeeding.





a few school days

9 02 2012

This week has given me the chance to help out a little more than usual at the local MK school.  It is such fun to be challenged by younger minds and to be instructing young brains a bit more.  My body is not used to full days in the classroom: my back was aching after yesterday’s bending, twisting, kneeling, bowing…

Here are some shots of the wacky, fun, talented and delightful bunch we teach.

As you muse over the photos, please think of ANYBODY you know who may want to commit to giving some time to missions teaching- the school really needs some more teaching bodies and minds! 

A few weeks back one of the gals was in  a Prairie state of mind…

can you see why we were glad that only lasted a day??

Now we are back to class and lessons

M1 hard at work on Greek myths and writing book reports.

And then a bit of fun with a scavenger hunt…

 

We had a load of fun with thinking up what happened to cause pain to this poor little bunny:  (note coloured black eyes and sympathy note!)

Typical kid humour saw them just about rolling on the floors as they shared with the class:

He went to the graveyard and had a run-in with zombies.

He fell in a giant meat-grinder

He saw a fluffy bed but it was a dog.

He lay on the ground but the ground ate him.

He fell on a rose bush, was attacked by radish, met up with various star wars characters…

 

And lots of time for play. It is great to watch the big age spread – from 4 years to 12; and the mix of nations: American (mostly) with a bit of Palestinian and South African-Ugandan in the mix too all getting on really well.

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Snack time, where peanut butter gets licked out to the very last morsel:

and some little bodies hate to be caught on camera (so they hide under tables, or look away dismissively)

It was also fun to note the difference between girls and boys. 

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And I just love the school dogs.  It is fun trying to guess this one’s new position for the day:

Music practice has happened alone this week (as opposed to practicing as a band)  and hearing the progress is fun!

And sometimes birdies send packages that get a nasty response!

 

So, some moments that make up days, that make up weeks.  And time goes by, children learn and grow and gain insights.  It is a huge privilege to be a part of that!





all the colours of Mbale

7 02 2012

It is dry, often windy and oh so hot here now.  But always, always, God gives us something to look at and be stunned at.

In the rainy seasons the waterfalls all over the ridge keep us mesmerized.  We only see a few trickles now and the sun must catch the ridge just right for the ridge to be considered glamorous.  But now it is the time of THE TREES!

Everywhere we go, within the last week, the flowers have just about sprung out and the streets are looking gorgeous.

Multicoloured bougainvillea adorn trees and walls.  I love the mixed colours on this wall we see at one of our favourite swimming jaunts.

While not as splendid as the displays seen in October in Gauteng, the jacarandas are looking pretty in purple, and they add to a lovely multi-hued carpet to walk on.

I HAVE A RED BARBERTON DAISY!  This thrills my heart as I love these rays of sunshine.  And also in our own garden:

They may look tiny now but soon our tree will be covered in ripening MANGOES!

Perfectly shaped at about 1,5 cm, these glistening green gems are heading for bellies! Yum!

There are spiders that love the idea

of the mango tree too. This is part of a nest about 45cm to 1m (I have not been close enough to check) which must house some very serious arachnids.

 

We leave them in peace if they leave us alone!

 

There are avenues of these trees around a certain part of town that are simply splendid!  From what we can figure out this is stereospermum kunthianthum, known here as Ndebeza trees.  The gorgeous pink blooms cover the trees with not a leaf in sight.  The sunbirds flit between the blossoms, some rather territorially.  I am sure they enjoy the trees as much as we do.

Along the rainbow spectrum to red:

Since I was small I loved flamboyant trees ( Delonix regia) The name, sounding boastful on the tongue, to the long pods used to play sword fights and now the clear ostentation across the streets of town delight me without fail.  I am trying to choose where the best example in the town is: near the market, this one I pass on the way to school, the one near the high court, or the less extravagant example in our own garden…  I shall choose to love them all!

A few non-floral colours:

 

This amethyst sunbird chases all others from the feeder: this is HIS territory when he deigns to eat at our ‘table’.

I LOVE his shine and dazzle!

Not a great photo but this is one of the very few visitors to our water feeder.

 

As best we make out it is a greater honey guide… how special to have him here with us!

 

 

 

 

I also love all things lizardy, and this friend at the Elgon swimming pool makes me smile.

And the last colour we just LOVE on hot, dusty days:

Pineapple and passion fruit juice, freshly juiced.  AH.

So all the greens, purples, reds, pinks, yellows help to make up for dried grasses and dusty roads.   Just great.





exploration exasperation

5 02 2012

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Dear Deon faces several challenges every day.  We just have to laugh at some of them.  Would you like a few laughs too?

At the moment one of Deon’s primary jobs is to  scientifically and statistically present a relevant report of resource evaluation .  bodies. This demands high levels of accuracy, including a  precise drilling programme and correct logging of the material.

These are a few real events from the last week or so.

Last week Saturday, when we were trying to relax, very early in the morning Aunt Margaret phoned.  Deon was already aware of her as she had proved rather tough to some of the junior geologists.  They were due to drill on Aunty M’s land soon.  Aunty M was rather put out because people were going to come onto her land and ‘carry away the gold’. 

There is absolutely no gold in the area:wrong geology.   The ground is full of the far more industrial minerals, which are not nearly as valuable as gold. 

It turns out that one of Deon’s workers (employed for his position on the council) is a family member of Aunty M.  But,as is very typical here, there is a family feud and D (the worker) decided that he did not want Aunty M to get the compensation paid for drilling on a person’s land. So he told another relative, and he hoped to give the compensation to that relative (I am sure there would be personal benefit for D) .  But he did not tell Aunty M, who did find out, promptly returned from Kenya,  and gave Deon an earful. She gave everybody an earful.  The HR manger. The mine manager. 

And nobody carried any gold from her.

(What she saw was the geologists carrying chip samples. )

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Another gold story: two young men came to Deon where he was drilling with a very proud smile on their faces.  They were very certain that they could bedazzle Deon and make heaps of money.  They wanted to sell a borehole where previously somebody had bored out gold.  (remember the basic geology has no gold.)

Deon, his junior geologists and the drilling foreman laughed. But this only fueled the confidence of the sellers: they had something they were sure Deon would want and they were in the winning position!  They could PROVE their success by showing the gold!

They confidently pulled out their “nugget”:  a lovely piece of quartz. 

Deon, his junior geologists, the drilling foreman and workers all guffawed loudly and 2 young would-be millionaires slunk off, dreams shattered.

Then another call Deon had to deal with.  By now, nearing the end of the drilling, Deon has a pretty good idea of where the ore body lies. But far beyond the reaches of the set-out  drilling plans, and after the drilling has mostly been done, a farmer contacted Deon: please can they come drill on his land.An insistent please.  With a lot of name-dropping, connection-calling in and backed by the calls of a local representative. 

You see, there has been compensation paid to local land owners, for damaged crops, messing up a bit of land. It was quite obvious that said land owner was not certain that he could boost the scientific veracity of Deon’s programme: he just wanted the shillings!

 

So, just a few tales of exploration’s funnier sides.  And we choose to laugh whenever possible.

 

 

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