Weeks fly by like clouds of moths

25 03 2012

The last ten our so days we have been walking on clouds.  There has been a mass invasion of moths: large, rather drab individually, but the effect as they move from under trees or other places of shelter is quite dramatic! 

Unfortunately our moth book is packed, so I don’t know its identity.  When I asked about the feature apparently they are not an annual occurrence and their presence all over now is meant to bring good luck, or perhaps good rains.  The moths don’t seem to attract hordes of birds to eat them, and when I asked if people here eat them (as they do flying ants and grasshoppers) my question was met with a dumb stare! 

It has been fun having the moths about, and the only ‘bug’ about it is sweeping dead moths out of all the places they get into. 


Other events of the week:  Deon has been applying himself to reports and has completed a 74 page report, and several other ten page reports too.  The dear man is exhausted. 

I got to live out a dream, by helping out with a friend’s classes at a new university that has recently opened up in town.  LivingStone University is aiming to teach in a life-impacting way, and they have big aims for Uganda.  Laura had me teach her English writing class for 3 days, and it confirmed that this IS the age level I would love to teach.  The lessons were at  the WARMEST time of day, in probably the hottest week we have had this year, so the poor students had to work REALLY hard to focus on what was being taught.


A tremendous highlight was getting away for a night to Sipi River Lodge. 

How is this for the view as one wakes up in the morning?

I could see the falls from our bed… Ah. Bliss.

We spent a good amount of time snoozing on the patio, or snoozing on the bed – we are THAT exhausted that sleep takes priority above all else!

But did also get to see the birds flying around.  We got our first good view of Ross’s turaco, a real beauty – but they were too far for my camera to capture.

The food was delicious, the atmosphere beautiful, and the temperature a bit cooler than lower altitude Mbale.

We DID gather our energy for a walk to the base of the falls on the lodge’s property: so well worth some time spent in silent honour of Nature’s glory.



And there was a bit of time for animal cuddling (I miss pets – so much!)

This dog was undeniably the owner of the lodge, with prime seat ownership.  Here she had passed out after Deon stopped to play for 2 minutes!


But it ended too soon and back to all the realities of Mbale. 

The great achievement of today: getting our crate packed.  This is what we take back to SA, apart from our suitcases.  Not bad, after a year here!

And so, with just over a week left of this year in Uganda, I feel rather like one of the moth carcasses we find lying around.  A bit ragged around the edges, not much voema left to fly again, but we, at least, are still alive and flapping!


low distribution of melanin = open purse

23 03 2012

This was how the phone call/s went yesterday:

Me: Hello, It’s Karen

A: Hello, My name is Albert

M: Hello, Albert.  How are you?

A: Fine thank you.  Eeee.  You are selling a Prado?

M: Sorry, the car has been sold.

A: Oh.

Me: Yes.  Sorry.

A:  So you have no any car to sell?

M:  No, it has been taken.  Sorry.  Bye!

A: Good bye.


Within 2 minutes:

Same number appears on screen as phone rings.

Me:  Hello.  The car really has been sold.

A: No, I wanted to ask you to talk to you.

M: Oh?

A: Yes, I want to discuss my business plan with you.

M:  I am not…

A: But I want us to be business partners, I want to show you the plan that I am having, so that…

At which point Deon pulled the phone from my fingers and ended the phone conversation rather swiftly.


This is just another example of a similar thread we see probably a few times a week.  I know that if I WERE to join up in the business venture with this person I have never seen nor know anything about there is only one aspect that he would seek from my partnership:  money.



I have bought a Tshirt like the majority seen here:  “My name is not Mzungu.”

The realisation hit a few weeks back and it is rather scary.  I grew up in Apartheid South Africa, as a “privileged” whitie, and there are several stories to be told from this perspective.  It was at  our little missions school one break, when a teacher from the nursery school next door lifted up the little kids to look over the wall at the  spectacle of the MZUNGUS, like animals in a cage at the zoo, that the thought hit me.  It is so easy here for my entire identity to be formulated simply by the colour of my skin.  The call of “Mzungu” if most often a mix between a greeting and an accusation.  Children are taught to call out the term from a very young age. 

There are times that the title really irritates me: as I walk through the market, when we walk down to the hotel for a swim and I hear it dozens of times:  It is not spoken with respect.  It feels to me a lot like the extremely pejorative kaffir in South Africa, or nigger in America.  Some-one has made a judgment and summed me up within seconds just because I have lighter pigmentation than the local population.


To be labeled as Mzungu is not the worst thing: there are times I imagine that a bit of tenderness may be felt by the speakers:  when they take it a bit further and ask how I am, or perhaps ask where I am from I see it as more than a label, perhaps.

We realised it very early on and yesterday’s phone call showed again the part that REALLY gets to me about being labeled an Mzungu. 

We are seen as an open wallet, looking for the next chance to hurl our coins, no, our many green notes, at any and all darker-skinned people.  I don’t know how this perception has been created, but there must have been people in the past who simply dished out money, and sweets indiscriminately because the pattern has been established.

Particularly in Kampala the street-corner sellers come rushing to open car windows: you WILL buy garrish wall clocks, sets of cushions, loads of airtime simply because you have money: you are white.

We quickly realised that a trip up the ridge behind our home or a trip to Sipi waterfalls had all the fun sucked out of it as we were stopped many times – “Give me money”, “give me sweets”.  

I have been stopped, twice, in the supermarket, by  kids:  “You, Mzungu, buy for me this sweet.”.

We do not think of ourselves as spiteful people.  Much of my work here has been me giving loads of things to people.  But I have come to understand that giving wildly, without any expectation of wise stewardship, has got dreadful consequences for Africa.  There is no sense of responsibility or Biblical Stewardship that follows from wild distribution.

Also, I am kicking and screaming against generalisations.  I am NOT a business-minded person at all.  Yesterday’s phone call was not the first time I have been approached about going into business with a complete stranger.  There is so much MORE to me than the vague possibility that I may (or may not) have a little bit of money.  And I am certainly not keen to invest in an unknown Ugandan business person. 

A similar trait was seen as people began to know that we are leaving Uganda and may be selling some items.  Immediately people began descending, seeking our things at the cheapest possible price, ore, even better, that we simply want to give everything away… again, I feel far more like an open purse than a person.


Perhaps, as I write this, I am as guilty of generalisations as I am accusing the people here of.  It is never my wish to lump a group together.  Each person IS unique, amazingly created, and valuable.  But it has been far too common that a person here is first judged on skin colour, and no other aspect of HUMANITY is considered. 

(The feeling is very different to my experiences in India, so I am by no means saying all non-western places are the same.  I remember being invited into complete strangers’ homes for a meal, and the simple presence of a ‘foreigner’ there brought honour to a family.  In Zambia the people are definitely not as Mzungu-obsessed. Deon, too, has extremely positive Zambian experiences.   Uganda, and other East- African countries seem to have the monopoly on Mzunguism.)

There are several prayers that have poured from my heart for Uganda.  It seems, though, that one big issue must be addressed. Good management skills, where one is looking after things that belong to another is essential.  But then the issue of greed has deep roots here and it cannot go on indefinitely. 

Please look for the PERSON behind the skin.  And my name is not Mzungu.

busy, almost crazy week!

17 03 2012

There has been a lot of packing, sorting and arranging this week.  That is enough to keep a person rather busy!  I have still continued teaching at the mission school.  I realise I am going to miss the kids a whole lot when we go!  Between completing another book report with M, checking a lot of grammar, handwriting and Math and trying to help these precious ones grow in understanding and in character, it keeps one busy. 

A is getting really tired of writing her name (at Grade 2 level she better get used to it – there are many many years of name-writing to come!)  – so I often just get her initials (AKS)= normal.  One of her many pen names – Paige, Brianna Murphy Louise (or some similar version)= creative. This week took the biscuit: Akabookyakowejee.  Really.  I tried not to pay attention to this in front of her as I hate to think what I would find next week!  A great thing with children is that one can ALWAYS find something to laugh at.

There are some things we are NOT laughing about.  We have not had any electricity since Wednesday some time – poor Gennie is working overtime.  This combined with very intermittent water flow for the week makes for daily frustrations, but we work through it all somehow.  Today’s temperature must be around 34C.  Sometimes nerves are rather frazzled! 

This was made clear when I knocked over a parked boda-boda  on Friday (it had to happen some time!) 

Bodas park in front of this shop and there is no space for a car to park.  On Friday two were parked end to end in the space for a car.  I had already been up and down the road, and this was the last space.  I hooted, nobody came to move bikes, and so I started trying to squeeze in.  Backwards, forwards, a little more, and… whack. 

Boda lost balance and toppled over.  I climbed out, and immediately the crowd began gathering around.  Some-one came and picked up the bike and I saw that the light was broken.  I tried to prepare myself for what could come: the boda-boda drivers are a tight community – they are known to stone ‘enemies’.  A guy came up, I had to start in a strong position (I still had in mind an argument two days before when some-one really lost his temper at me for pushing into a queue ahead of me.  My “rude” ‘excuse me’ had offended him terribly).   I asked where the owner had been, he said Bam.  There is a sign indicating parking reserved for Bam Supermarket clients.  OK… so he says he was in Bam – but came from a different direction.  I began by pointing out that it was very difficult to park a big car in a small space: bikes can be easily parked in a range of places.  He asked if I denied responsibility for the fallen bike.  I said, no, but I wanted to know how people with big cars are meant to park.  The crowd behind him was getting bigger and bigger by the moment.  Tension was rising.

As I was trying to explain, a totally different person came from another direction, started the bike, climbed on and drove off! 

I was most, most relieved!  Of course I was willing to pay for damages but it would be fantastic if ONE boda driver thinks a bit about others… Not very likely, but one can always dream!

A devastation of the week was the burning of another market.  There are 3 substantial markets in Mbale.  In September the big market was broken down to make way for a ‘better’ market, which is still being built and will probably only be ready in about 3 years.  Within a month Lorry Park market had burned to the ground one night.  fire at market (1)

On Wednesday night the market we get all our fresh produce from burned down.  There were certainly people who had lost goods in both fires.  Many people will be affected: the 1000+ vendors who lost their goods, most residents of Mbale will feel the pinch as prices of produce will go up and there is also the struggle of beginning, yet again, for so many.  It is heart-wrenching to see people trying to pick up the pieces and go on again.

More positively, we have had some great visitors this week.

This gorgeous BIG leaf insect came by.  I am amazed at how well designed these things are:  see the detail on the back of the wings so that he looks like a leaf starting to die, for brilliant camoflage.  What an awesome Creator!

This dude sat still with us throughout breakfast one morning.  The geckos usually disappear as people emerge.  I love their designs and this one has spikes too. Wow!

Deon has been hard at work- hosting a visitor for work most of the week as well as finishing off huge reports that need to be written.  A break after this will be SO well deserved.

I finally finished a painting I began in October or so.  I really miss being in an art class.  My techniques need a lot of practise and doing art all alone is just not fun.  One of the first things I am planning is to join up with an art group at our new house.

I also finished an embroidery project I have wanted to do for a while.  This one was such fun! 

As I finish off each task it is great to be able to tick off a project, pack or sort an item to be given away or sold… Life is about ticking off lists and completing a number of tasks right now.


It is great to have seen how God has answered prayers for others this week, kept us safe and healthy, AGAIN, (He is so faithful!) and taken care of us.


WOW!  Right now the worker has come to say our electricity is back on!  After hours of them working on the line this means that fridge can get in some good running time overnight and if the water plays along we may just have a hot bath in the morning!  YAY! 

birds on show

14 03 2012

We have been enjoying the birds God is delighting us with.  As we eat breakfast out on the verandah, and sometimes we are there for lunch too, we sometimes see as many as 15 species within a few minutes.  From the little bronze mannikins to the ugly maribou storks who sometimes fly over, the range is candy for the eyes. 

Our regulars include brown (Meyers) parrots, sunbirds (scarlet-chested, coppery and red-chested), red-cheeked cordon bleus, starlings, red-eyed doves and common thrush. 

Deon got out the big camera and tried to capture a few beauties: I hope you enjoy the show! 

Birds- garden 023

Birds- garden 059

Birds- garden 113


Birds- garden 130

And every now and again we get visited by the squirrel, who may (or may not) sit still for longer than.75 of a second to give us time to get a picture! 

Birds- garden 021


And for today I want to send a big birthday hug to my daddy.  Thanks for being who you are.  I love you! 

All the noise of churchianity

10 03 2012

We are not certain exactly what time it was but we were woken from deep sleep with a terrible noise.  We are fairly used to loud parties from the hotel nearby, and are grateful when Umeme deigns to give us power as we put the fan on to keep the potent bass beats to a minimum volume.

There was no power last night but we did not hear overpowering sounds (unusual for a Friday night!) and fell asleep in some peace. 

Then the crazy sounds that woke us sometime in the middle of the night: loud electric piano beats, distorted through poor PA systems.(It sounded like they had set up just outside our bedroom window it was SO loud!)   And the shouting.  It was very difficult to call this singing – it was yelling, screaming out lines, and kept my heart from feeling sweet, peaceful and pleasant.  Then we heard the ‘hallelujah’s,  ‘Oh, Jesus!’ and other church clichés.  We had no other thought except: in the middle of the night? Seriously?

When we spoke with a neighbour about the incident she said that a pastor in the area had been beaten up by some people who were upset at the noises we often heard from the church at 5 in the morning – so even local people feel resentment at this method of evangelisation.  I was wondering how effective it would be to wake people from sleep with strong messages of salvation.  I highly doubt that this is a successful way of proselytizing.

Loud church is common here.  I avoid going to the supermarket at lunch time if I can: nearby  there is a lunch hour revival meeting everyday and over a very harsh sounding distorted PA the screams of preaching are heard.  A common sight in Kampala, and sometimes here in Mbale too, is street preachers.  They situate themselves on busy intersections or near markets and yell out for all stuck in traffic, or passing by and their throats can only ache at night after a day of screaming out the Gospel. 

Religion here is a noisy business.  Africa is noisy, and one expects a fair amount of excitement and movement at a church service. 

But while I was lying awake rumbling in discontent at being woken in this rude way I got to wondering about how effective this type of witness is.  So early in the morning it only seemed brash and arousing resentment.  I know we are to praise God at every hour, but enough damage has been done to Christianity by Christians that early morning calls to worship engender no sympathy.

And the real issue that struck me is how much of the work of the Holy Spirit is allowed through the noise.  Abrasive personalities and actions do not convey the actions of the Holy Spirit, so often compared to a dove.

The Hebrew for Holy Spirit , ruach (haKodesh), is the same meaning as the Zulu word : umoya.  Air.  Air does sometimes make a noise on rough windy nights, but far more often the work of air is known by the effect it has afterwards, not by the noise it makes while there. 

And I was reminded of Ezekiel’s seeking of God: he searched in the big storms, in the waterfalls and God was not there.  God speaks in quiet whispers far more than He speaks in audibly loud shouts. 

Between all the noises of superficial churchianity is there really room for the work of the Holy Spirit to speak into people’s lives? Is there opportunity for a REAL meeting with God, whose Spirit changes lives so that the work is seen in their actions, rather than the garble of loud noises where little life change is seen?


Please continue to pray for this “Christian” nation.  Here we hear the words, hear lots of religion bandied about, but “Christians” seldom display changed hearts.  There are loads of examples I could name of personal experiences, so I remain general in my references because they are so real to this place.

There is a need for training to be true disciples of Christ, not followers of religion.

And far less noise and more LISTENING to the voice of the gentle Spirit of God and obedience to His calls for living effectively.

And please, no loud revival meetings starting around midnight.

When I’d rather be THERE than HERE

8 03 2012

Can you remember the feeling as a kid, knowing that a holiday is in 12 sleeps’ time (or similar) and it just cannot seem to come quickly enough? 

That is our feeling now.

My heart is in that state of preparation for leaving, excitement about being at our new house in South Africa, but getting everything for NOW done well remains my primary need.


The challenge is coming to me, over and over, to enjoy where I am now.   It can be so easy to get carried away by dreams of the future that I lose out on the blessings of this moment.  There is definitely a reason why we are staying until the beginning of April (Although Deon wishes to climb on the ‘plane tonight!) and so I pace my packing, planning and preparations to fit into that time frame.

I am trying to drink in the moments of Mbale that I will miss when we have left:  The exquisite flamboyants, lining up in glitzy greetings each morning; the various moods of Wanale Ridge throughout the day or nuances of climate; the parade of sunbirds, parrots, starlings and hamerkops visiting in our trees each day, and the blessing of a great rain shower (which is now occurring more regularly.)

The hardest  part I am preparing for is leaving some people who have become so dear over the last year.  Deborah, our Korean neighbour’s singsong chats; the eager waves and seeing the development on the students at the Mission school… I will miss these.  I already miss the ladies’ Bible study on a Thursday afternoon: this time to share in faith and pray for difficulties has meant so much to me.  Most of all, I will miss my dear friend Stephanie.  I have not had this kind of friend for a very long time, and although often it seems like we have shared in difficulty rather than sharing in joy, just knowing of her concern and care has made our time here so beneficial on a soul level. 

It is necessary to remind myself to grab every moment of NOW, as there will be moments of missing and longing in the future.  There is enough of tomorrows to enjoy that then! 

And when my bushveld longings become overwhelming, I spend time on the net.

This site is so great for getting a good view of the wild: zulucam link (there are even sounds of the bush!  AH!)

Or go through the forums and webcams of SAN Parks, especially trolling through Kruger Park’s pages as this is very near to where our house is.

So, on to more packing and sorting.  Or maybe I will spend a few more moments scanning some wild animals or bushveld…

things bright, beautiful; creatures great and small

4 03 2012

The last week saw us all sighing in relief and admiring the first rains of the season.  We had two really good downpours here in Mbale.  It is quite a bit later than places west in Uganda, and we stood in wonder at how rain brings so much joy.  The cooler air, settling of dust and welcome water for all things vegetative all lead to such gratitude. 

School has been marked by a few odd experiences: it began on Tuesday with a rooster in the tree next door, which is the property of a nursery school.  From the rooster’s height it seemed this was the safest place to escape noisy 4-year-olds.

He was pretty high up, and eyeing us all; probably figuring how long he had to live on each side of the brick wall. 

Of course our children were amused by his presence (with a bit of his crowing to egg on their calls) but we left him in peace and had a good laugh.


Two days later when we arrived… the frangipani tree must seem like a pretty good place to be because there were two more chickens, even higher than the rooster had been, and a TURKEY!    (by this stage we were all suspecting fowl play.)

At break time the birds had all gone, but it definitely got the kids a bit ruffled for the day! This may seem rather poultry, I know… but we look for fun where we can get it here! 

Other creatures near home:

This beauty visited in our garage.  He can be noted for his size.

That phone is the OLD nokia brick, which is about 17 times bigger than most other phones in use now, to give you a good sense of how big the moth is.  (Deon refuses to give up the phone- the battery lasts so long, it does what a cell phone should, and I think archivists will start contacting him in a year or two to supply museums… and he laughs at us because it is NOT a phone many would want to steal.  It serves for good ribbing regularly!)


The girls have had a bit of fun at school this week, making up their own games. The school has decent swings and playground stuff, but the most fun can be had from one’s own inventions.  Grab a hosepipe, throw it over a tree, tie it around bodies and spin, twirl, swing and laugh in delight.  Easy! And such fun!

Young J always compliments me on my clothes, and directed my photo shoot into her class for a few moments.  Her smiles delight me daily!

And then the sweetest bliss of the week was a night spent at Rainforest Lodge, in Mabira forest.

It was mostly a chance to put our feet up after a lot of stress, but we also had delightful food and were amazed at the spectacle of nature around us.

over 500 species of trees and shrubs.  Over 900 species of butterflies.  And then the fun of well-behaved monkey (no, really!) and reptiles too.  We needed this!

Now back to the usual and a bit of a busy time.  We are packing up (and selling off some items – our camping tent, washing machine and car, among others, if anyone in Uganda is interested!) and still continuing with all the usual busyness of life here.

I am holding thumbs that this will load. If is does not you will have to learn an African skill: PATIENCE. A ship’s anchor landed on the fibre-optic cables that manage our internet all over Eastern Africa and internet is terribly, terribly slow.  If pictures do not load I will try again in a week or 2.