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!!!