Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Home!

I am laying in bed, not sleeping, being affected by jetlag. Good times. While laying here I decided that it was the perfect time to write my blog telling of the end and what is going on now. All of my papers and finals went well, don't really know how, but God definately blessed me in that area! The farwell dinner was Thursday night and we were given all day to spend with our family before going. It was such a beautiful time, just being present with the ones that Kristina and I love was such a blessing to both of us. Much of Thursday we both read while our family went about their normal routines and then at five we left for the farwell dinner. Our brother Sammy was in Kampala and wasn't able to come (even though he promised and was later harangued by Kristina and I. Our maama went with us and our brother Alex showed up later in time for the food:) The evening was wonderful! We had speeches from students in a group and one of the host maamas spoke and did a great job. Awards were handed out and our maama was given one for the first aid training that she participated in before we arrived. It was exciting for all. One aspect of the night that I really enjoyed was seeing all of the students with their host families, for we all hear of each other's families but we hardly ever see them, so it was wonderful to have that opportunity even though it was at the very end. The students were given certificates from the program and then we ate and had cake. It was a wonderful night of fellowship and celebration.
Friday we were also given all day with our families which was fantastic! We had to finish packing in the morning for they came by and picked up all of our luggage but the rest of the day was just spent with our family and having that time with them was an excellent reminder of the many reasons why I love them all so much. They are such an amazing family and I miss them with my entire being. Their love for each other and for Kristina and I was very apparent and it definately made it harder to leave. We left Saturday morning and walked to school a little teary-eyed, thank goodness I was able to hold myself together instead of bawling the entire way to school and being mocked by all the children and stared at by all the shopkeepers. Oh wait I think this happened anyway:) We proceeded to leave for Entebbe for a couple of days of debrief that ended up making me more nervous about coming home. I realized before Entebbe that reverse culture shock would be a problem but I hadn't realized that it takes some people up to a year to feel normal again. I was like 'Oh boy I don't like where this is headed.' We read e-mails from previous students, some of which were having a really rough time, and to be honest it made me not as excited to return home. But by the end of the couple of days I put many of my fears to rest because I was SO excited about all the movies that I would be able to watch on the plane rides:) Our last day was spent on the beach of Lake Victoria, it was such an amazing to just be with the people I love in a non-academic setting and not in a circle telling of our fears (p.s. I had been sick most of debrief so between sessions and after dinner I had to go right to bed and wasn't able to spend time with people then, unfortunately). The group of people that I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad with were fantastic and I miss them a great deal already. They are such incredible people and we formed a closeknit family between all of our trips together and being crammed in the IMME quarters for long periods of time:)
You are all probably hoping that I cut this off soon and I will. I promise. The flights home were long but successful in their mission. I did watch several movies and even though the food screwed me up a little it didn't taste too bad. I finally arrived home the 16th and have been trying to stay warm ever since! I am not really enjoying this weather and I am hoping that my body adjusts swiftly. I am happy to be home, and though I have reached some low points of just not wanting to be here and desiring to be home in Uganda I really am glad to see family and friends. I can't wait to see everyone but for those of you I won't be able to see before I go back to school I hope you all have a wonderful time with family and friends over the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Upon Leaving

This is my last blog before I go home and I am officially done with finals and papers hoorah! I have one more class today and then I am cleaning out my locker and walking home with my roommate. Tomorrow is the farewell dinner for all of the USP students and all of the host families. It will be a fun time, especially to meet that families of other students, but it will also be a little depressing. Friday is our last full day with our families and the USP vans will come by to pick up all of our luggage and then we will walk to school early on Saturday morning. Satudrday we head for Entebbe (where the airport is) for debrief and then we fly out Tuesday night at 10:55. I arrive in Cincinatti at 4:30 on Wednesday afternoon. By this time next week I will be sitting in an airport in Michigan and even though the prospect is very exciting it is also extremely heart breaking for the family that I am leaving and don't know if I will ever see again (even though the chances of me coming back are much greater than some of the other students). It has been a busy time and hasn't been too hard to not think about leaving but now that I am done its time that I must for I have to pack and spend more intentional time with my family, for the time is almost up. I began packing last night so that Kristina and I did not have to do most of it at the same time, for our room is pretty small, so all that I have left is the last minute throw-it-into-the-suitecase packing, but I am excited because it looks like everything is going to fit into my luggage, my carry-on weighs a ton, but at least it is all fitting!
There are so many things that I will be bringing back with me though other than luggage full of souvenirs. Seeing how community exists in every facet of Christianity is incredible to me, it is such an integrated part, or at least it should be, but even though I love the idea it still scares me a little bit. I am not extraverted, I have more of a solitary one-on-one personality and the community concept confuses me into wandering if my introverted personality is okay. What is the line between healthy community and personal time/space? This is something that I am working on; it is a work in progress. Though I still have many questions, more than I came to the country with actually, I have started on a new quest of trying to figure out how God truly wants me to be living my life. For the way I live my life expresses what I believe the purpose of my life is. If I believe that the purpose of my life is to serve Christ then I need to be living out that purpose now. Coming to Uganda was supposed to help me in the process of figuring out where God wants me once I graduate, but it hasn’t had the effect I was expecting. I have felt called to Africa from a young age working with children, but my first semester of college I was introduced to human trafficking and the devastating effects that it is having all over the world. I have felt a passion for human trafficking victims since, but I have been unsure how it is to affect me long term, for prominent regions that are affected are in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. This semester I was hoping for a pull in one direction or another but since being here I can definitely see myself living here full term, but since being here I can definitely see myself in Eastern Europe too. One thing that sticks out to me though is the fact that after all the missionaries we have seen and all that they do here, I still have a desire to work with human trafficking victims. I had always wanted to work with younger children so when I began to focus on the teen to early twenties range of victims I thought it was a little strange, but since being here I am more than convinced that God is calling me to work with the age group of human trafficking victims.
I am still not sure where God wants me, but the knowledge that I have gained in different areas more than makes up for this. I have time. Something I am trying to instill in me…I don’t have to figure it out now because God knows and that is truly all that matters. Since being here I have also had a strange desire to get a master’s degree right after college, which I had never really gave serious thought to before. I am thinking maybe Women’s Studies; since I want to work with women I thought this might be reasonable and beneficial. At this point I do not really know where God is leading me and I am beginning to be okay with that. I am starting to realize that I don’t need to have it all figured out, life is an adventure so why plan it all out, it takes away the surprise and the thrill. I am still a planner, I don’t think that will change, but just knowing that God and the Christian community around me are here for me, to support and comfort me in all I do and all that happens, is very comforting. This semester has given me an abundance of opportunities (such as living with an incredible family, going to Rwanda and Kapchorwa, weekend trips, etc.) that have made me grow in many areas and that will continue to shape me throughout my life.
I will probably write again again once I am home to let everyone know how the rest of the time went such as the farewell dinner, debrief, and the travel home. I will see you all soon!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Weeks!

Hey Everyone!
I have officially two weeks before I land in Cincinnati for Christmas break. I get back December 16 for those who are wondering. These past few weeks have been extremely busy with papers and preparing ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually for coming home. Its getting to the awkward in between stage where I don’t really want to be thinking about home because my time here is getting extremely short but it’s very hard not to because of writing final papers, classes ending, making everything will fit in my suitcase, and thinking about the people and food that I have missed. This coming weekend is our last weekend with my family which is ridiculously sad, for next weekend I will be in Entebbe (where the airport is) for debrief. It’s going to be hard to leave but I also know it will be hard to come home as well, for culture shock will hit me hard I have a feeling, but at the same time I really am looking forward to seeing everyone! Though it has been busy and stressful there have a few fun and exciting things that have happened. Two weekends ago we had our last missionary weekend trips, we went to Rakai which is in southern Uganda. We stayed at Kibaale Community Center that is run by five Canadians. The community center was incredible and incorporated everything that I have dreamed of if called to Africa. It was a primary and secondary school and also had a vocational training department; they had about 800 students all with Ugandan students. The center also had a medical center that is the second busiest in their region, though still small in actual size. The incredible part about the program is that it is a two year position for the Canadians and the program is sustainable with our without the missionaries there. The Ugandans are in such leading positions that they are fully able to manage the program. The Canadians are there mainly to keep up connections between the center and their supporters who are mainly located in Canada, actually they are mainly located at a private school in Canada, where they obtain most of their support. It is crazy! Apparently the private school is extremely wealthy and it is presented almost as a requirement to support the center when you join the school, though officially it isn’t a requirement. The center was amazing though plus it was our most relaxing weekend where we were able to just hang out with our group in a non-academic setting; and we ate amazing food!! Oh my word, the food was incredible, we had salad with dressing!! And pasta and chicken with curry over rice, yum, it was wonderful!
For Thanksgiving we had an American Thanksgiving meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean, corn, rolls, and desert! It was all the ex-pats who live on campus and all of the USP students. It was wonderful! All of the students were in charge of the deserts and we formed groups of 3 or 4 and were given a kitchen in an ex-pat’s house for about an hour and a half for each group. We had a beautiful time, for my group made chocolate chip cookies and risked the raw eggs and ate plenty of cookie dough, but though it was good it wasn’t the same, so mom I am going to need supplies to make cookies when I get home. While we made the cookies we also watched Mulan which I found for $1.25, I was so excited when I found it at the little store were we bought our ingredients. It’s a pirated copy but it works wonderfully! After our dinner that night (where we all ate an abundance of food, especially desert) we watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas projected on the side of the house, it was exciting and such an amazing time! At our school we have community worship every Tuesday and Thursday that is led by different group on campus; this past Tuesday was our group's opportunity to lead community worship. It actually went much better than I expected it to, we had two girls that organized everything and did a wonderful job of bringing it all together, that and the fact that I got to stand in the back of the group while we led worship for a couple hundred people. Oh what good times:)This past week was HIV/AIDS week and last weekend I went on a fieldtrip to TASO (The AIDS support organization) which is an incredible organization supporting hundreds of thousands of people infecting with the disease. It was wonderful to hear of their program and how affective they have been in Uganda; one of their leading programs is their drama group who gave as a demonstration of what they would do when they go to villages. The experience of hearing from them sing and give testimonies was wonderful and opened up a branch of HIV/AIDS that was not very familiar to me.
My birthday was this Monday and it started off like a normal day, my roommate and I slept in, did homework in bed, and went to school a little late because hey it was my birthday! I worked on papers and then I got an amazing package that was full of birthday cards from wonderful friends at Milligan, that it actually made it to me was exciting and that it actually came on my birthday was incredible! Then in our IMME class that afternoon they all sang to me and had gotten me brownies that were shared and greatly enjoyed by all! It was a wonderful birthday! Thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes that were left for me on facebook, it was wonderful to hear from so many people and it filled my heart with joyJ
I must now continue with all of my papers but I love you all and will see you crazy soon!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Im Back

Forgive me for being behind, hopefully I can catch up on all that I have been doing. The past two weeks kind of run together so it will probably just be an overview and not day by day which you are probably thankful for.
The past two Sundays I have been going to this wonderful couple who have been teaching me how to sew bags that they make for a living. My mama introduced Kristina and I to the couple shortly after coming and I have expressed a great interest in learning how to make some of their bags. They live about five minutes away and told me that I could come anytime to learn from them. We have been gone a lot of weekends but the past two Sundays I have been able to go over and spend four to five hours with them sewing. It has been amazing and I have loved every minute of it. They are such an incredible couple whom I have grown to love. They are in their early thirties and have wonderful senses of humor and a heart for hospitality. The wife, Jemima, is handicapped because her legs are not fully developed. She sits on the floor of their little work area and she is able to completely function and maneuver around, and up until Wednesday, November 18th, she had been pregnant, but still doing everything within her reach. She is wonderful and amazing; beautiful inside and out, with such a loving heart. The husband, Robert, is the one who helps me sew in the ways that she cannot, and he has been wonderful and has a wonderful sense of humor. They are both great, great together, and great with others, especially this little girl that lives right next to them. My time with them has been wonderful and I was able to make a bag for my mama that she absolutely loved.
The other nice thing about the past two Sundays is that we have actually been able to go to church with our family and to not have to stand up and introduce ourselves. It is a wonderful feeling such being a part of the congregation and the pastor asked us to come over and have dinner with his family. Kristina and I went last week and met his three adorable little girls who were precious! Spending time with them in their home was like stepping into a little America. The home was very nice and western (American) in appearance and the food, though still Ugandan, tasted amazing with new flavors that we had not yet experienced, and tender meat!! It was a wonderful time, especially just being able to spend time with a family who spoke very good English and could understand us.
Last weekend Kristina, I, and a group of other IMME students went to the capital, Kampala, and went to a craft market where we were able to finish all of our shopping, which was wonderful, and to eat at New York Kitchen, which is American food! It was nice to get out and spend time with people in our group under a non-academic setting, and eating American food was definitely a perk! While in Kampala we also went to the grocery store because this week we made dinner for our family. It was amazing to have a roommate in this process because if I wouldn’t have had a roommate I am pretty sure I would have been something extremely easy and generic. But instead we made French toast with vanilla, cinnamon, powered sugar, and honey; scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, and cheese (which was crazy expensive); mashed potatoes with garlic, onions, and peppers; and no-bake cookies. It went incredible well, much better than either of us were expecting, which was great! They had no idea that we could make something so flavorful. The no-bake cookies were a definite hit which was exciting. Kristina and I definitely enjoyed that night, it all tasted wonderful, especially the French toast which was like heaven on a fork. We had to feed ten people which made it a little tricky when trying to figure how much ingredients to buy (such as eleven pounds of potatoes) but it went wonderful and we had enough food with a little left over.
We have a program on campus called Save the Mothers which was started by a doctor from Canada who lives over here with her husband and children. A group of us went to hear a presentation from her this week and it was fascinating hearing what is happening in Uganda and what the program does. The amount of child and mother deaths due to complications and delays in childbirth is horrifically outstanding. This concept was enlightening and very interesting and it was unfortunately brought home this week when I personally saw how truthful and relevant the information was. Jamima who I spoke of before as being pregnant went into labor on Tuesday and because of her handicap (they are thought of as not a complete woman) she was not given the immediate attention that she needed. They did not do surgery until Wednesday night and it was stillborn by that time. The doctors were not telling Robert anything that was going on (men are not allowed in the rooms) besides that she was singing gospel hymns in the hospital room. It took him awhile to figure out what had happened to his own child. The simple fact that it could have been prevented and knowing that if it had happened in the States the doctor would no longer be working at the hospital… The funeral was yesterday, November 19th, though Jamima was still in the hospital. It was a rainy gloomy graveside funeral that consisted of a tiny coffin with a cross carved into the top of it and a small but deep hole in the ground. It was devastating. The pastor spoke as well as Robert and his brother. It was truly awful, but being able to go with Kristina helped support them and make it seem real to us. We also went with another USE student, she in one who lives on campus, but during the semester they go and live with families for two weeks around school. This was her family. The praiseworthy part is that Jamima is fine and should be released from the hospital in a few more days. It is a true miracle that she will be fine and we are all praying for her and Robert both, and I hope that you will join us, for they are in desperate need of them.
I am sorry to end on this sad note and I encourage you all to realize what we take for granted in the states, such as there are hardly any childbirth complications; such a natural process of life that we have no need to fear, but that drastically affects women and families here every day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rural Homestay

Last week was rural homestays, which means that all of the Uganda Studies Program studies (all of the white people) went and stayed either in the plains or in the mountains of central Uganda. The IMME program (which is the one I am part of) went to the beautiful mountains of Kapchorwa (it is close to the Kenyan border). I was paired with another IMME student and we stayed with an incredible family on the side of the mountain. It was one of the most incredibly beautiful places I have ever seen and probably will ever see. When we first arrived it was already getting dark outside, we were shown around, but the scenery was completely lost on us. We met our wonderful parents, Freddie and Anne, and their children: Imma, Richard, Caleb, Elijah, and Abbey. They were very welcoming and such beautiful people. Our first morning we woke up early because we had to go to the toilet ridiculously bad, we walked out there and realized that the hole we had to squat over was approximately HALF of the size that Holly, my roommate, and I had grown accustomed. In Mukono I am very proud if I don’t pee outside the hole, here I am proud if I pee inside the hole, it is pretty comical, it is a shuffle of the feet trying to pee in something so small…oh man. We then explored our front and back yard which was crazy gorgeous; we went around picking flowers to press, their flowers and blooms on trees are amazing. Our breakfast consisted of two slices of bread, two eggs, half a piece of corn, and a banana, and then two cups of milk tea. It was delicious and extremely filling. We then went o pick coffee. They grow on what looks like a fruit tree and the coffee looks like cranberries hanging from the tree. It was exciting times, for how much America ns consume coffee it is incredible that we have no idea what is truly looks like. We went home and took bathes which was pretty much a joke, it was more like a sponge bath. The bathhouse had huge gaps in the side, which I later learned to cover up with my massive towel, but at this point it was just like scrub here, scrub there, done! We ate lunch and then went to a wedding! It was my first since being here. It was a long service and we got there late, yet somehow we were right on time. I have no idea how that worked out. African and their time… the walk to the church was magnificent and incredible and unbelievable. It looked surreal and yet pictures cannot do it justice which is sad but I still attempted. The wedding was very sweet though long. I felt like the marriage counseling was mixed in with the service, in was funny, the minister was giving many lessons to the new couple, who were beautiful. There was much dancing by this certain group and about three songs that lasted about thirty minutes each. After the service we had a delicious soda and Holly and I split a plate of food even though they kept telling us we could each have our own plate, we just kept repeating “this is plenty thank you!!” we headed home after the rain stopped, it had started during the reception time, and trudged home through the ridiculous mud that we had to try and repeatedly wipe off of our shoes. It was funny and definitely an adventure. Oh on the way there I saw flowers that reminded me of home and while gazing intently at the flowers I wiped out on loose dirt. I have two small holes in the skirt now and it scraped up my knee pretty badly, I had to try and hold the skirt off my knee because it was bleeding through and the skirt kept sticking to my knee. Good time. When we got home we had the chance to relax with our family which was wonderful.

One of the best parts of the week was just being to able to help out in different ways and to be productive in ways other than school. Throughout the week we got to shuck maize, a lot of maize, help with the meals, wash dishes help with the coffee and other things. They weren’t major things but it was exciting to actually learn how they do these various projects. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I learned how to make a complete African dinner which I am excited to do when I get home. It was fantastic and I could have stayed there until December, though I would have missed my Mukono family.

After church on Sunday our brothers took us on a small hike to caves near their house. The hike was humorous and challenging because we were both in skirts haha. We probably flashed our poor brothers a couple of times, but the hike there was incredibly beautiful. We got there and the cave was amazing. It started to rain right after we arrived; the landscape was magnificent looking out from the cave with the sheet of rain covering all of it and flowing off of the edge of the cave. We stayed until the rain stopped and then hiked back which was also fun; it was like rock climbing in a skirt, funny was not something I recommend. I felt I was in the movie Ever After the whole week. Everything was simply beautiful and in the mornings the mountain fog would cover everything in a beautiful haze.

I must now contribute a little writing to our girl who works for our family. She is beautiful, graceful, extremely capable and a beast. She is wonderful in so many way words cannot describe how amazing she is. When preparing meals she would sit in front of the fire moving boiling pots and the hot embers with her HANDS (the same with our mama) it was crazy and insane. She once picked up a boiling pot of water and carefully poured the whole pot into a thermal flask for tea. Crazy!! The woman there were extremely hard working and made of steel.

So one evening our mama comes into the kitchen with a live chicken, immediately I start thinking “oh boy I don’t like where this is going!”

Mama: “have you ever killed a chicken?

Me: Um no actually I haven’t

Mama: You want to kill

Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOO (while making a gruesome face and covering my eyes as if it was already happening before me.)

Holly: Come on Rachel Lets go watch

Me: What?! I don’t think so, I’m good

Holly: Come on

Me: Oh um oh fine

We go into our backyard and our mama has the chicken pinned down on the ground plucking the feathers from around the neck. The she cuts the neck in half and lets all the blood drain out onto the ground and waits for the chicken to stop struggling. She then cuts the neck off the rest of the way. We go back into the kitchen and she dips it in hot water and then plucks the rest of the feather out. At this point I am thinking the process is over and then she starts cutting it up and pointing out all of the insides. I am just like “oh wow look at that, eesh.” The poor little guy was delicious though.

We also went to a market during the middle of the week which was great even though it rained and we had to duck for cover a few times. I wiped out again but this time it was down a muddy slope in front of a lot of people at the mill grindery. My skirt went up in the back and so did all of the mud. The owner showed me out back where he had a hose so I could clean myself off. Oh man what good times. He was very nice and so I proceeded to hose myself off, hiking up my skirt to get as much mud as possible not really caring who was watching me. When we finally got home that night after walking in the rain for about an hour carrying a five pound bag of corn flour I had to take another bathe to get the rest of the mud where the hose couldn’t exactly go if you get my point. It is such an amazing day and quite the experience, haha especially because it was dark when we finally got back home and Holly had to hold the flashlight over the bathhouse so that I could see while I bathed.

Leaving was a little depressing because it was such an amazing place with beauty and beautiful people. But after leaving our homestays we went to Sipi Falls which is three waterfalls on the mountain. We stayed at Crows Nest that overlooked all of the waterfalls. It was phenomenal. We were there all day on Saturday and we were given three hiking options: short hike, flexible hike, and epic hike. I definitely did the epic hike and I loved all of it. All of it that is except the last thirty minutes, of a six hour hike, that was straight uphill. I just kept thinking “Rachel, you are not in shape, what the heck were you thinking when you decided to take an epic with athletes!!” But other than that it was all amazingly beautiful and I would go back immediately if given the chance!!!