Two villages recently:
1. Ivan’s Village outside of Kabale
Can’t remember the actual name, and I guess that makes me a bad person. We went in the ABIDE van with 10 abide boys, Shane the swat team officer from california, and me. The highlight of the journey was having to stop every thirty miles when the radiator would overheat, including have the gasket blow at least five times soaking the front cab with steamy anti-freeze. There was green juice all over my bagels – when I brought the bagels for the boys to eat because they had never seen bagels before. The stops became more and more frequent – soon we would have to stop every 20 miles, every 10, then ever 5k.
What I learned from this village trip:
- get your radiator fixed
- even if your car completely breaks down, don’t panic, there’s probably someone in the town who knows how to fix it
- the impenetrable forest is in fact penetrable
- gorillas do in fact live in the mist
- i can play drums with the locals
- 6000 feet has cold nights even on the equator
- village churches also double as auction events for pumpkins, chickens, and other fresh produce
- preach the gospel everywhere – especially to christians
- many people just do church life, not life in christ. If you have real faith, you gotta bring it.
- when god puts something on your heart to speak to the group, do business with him. you have the option not to say it, but it’s better when you do.
- give gifts. it says more than any words can
- contemplating why sometimes I struggle to get to the heart when i’m speaking in front of people, and I’d prefer to stay on the surface and make people laugh. It might be a fear of being corny. But life is too short not to say everything. The ugandans are very good at getting to the heart.
- church services are four-five hours long. if i was a kid, i would claw my eyes out. But for these people, sitting in church is better than sitting at home and they truly have nowhere else to go. We’re always in a rush out to Panera or McAllisters or to get homework done, but these people prioritize relationships and don’t let their agenda get in the way of visits with people.
The highlight of this trip was being invited to Ivan’s house 200 feet up the mountainside once the weekend was over. The house is mud exterior with thatch roof but nice inside. His grandma gave Shane and me baskets since we were the first whites to ever be in their house. Amazing. I was truly grateful and kissed grandma on our way out.
2. Homestay in Bilele with Joseph and his family
The idea is this: to learn the local language and assimilate with culture, what better way than living like the farmers do on a banana plantation for a week. May 8 – 13, that’s what I did, and I wish I could keep doing it in many ways.
- farming every day, usually sun up to sun down with breaks for tea, lunch, and rain
- weeds are fertilizer
- banana peels are fertilizer
- animal waste is also fertilizer – we put all of those things in holes around the farm to make the soil richer
- “you’ve got to work hard if you want the bigger bananas”
- attended a funeral for a woman who died from HIV. I was certainly out of place, but it led to two great chats with locals who wanted to know how to make sense of life. I was honored. The problem that made them ask this was that this woman was born in a christian family, married a muslim, and so no one wanted to bury her on their plot because they didn’t know what faith she was. instead of having this discussion privately among family, they had it out in the open as her body was in the casket in the middle of the 300 person crowd. and we all had to wait for them to argue it out. apparently the muslims relented her and went with plan A -bury with the husband’s family. they buried her in the banana tree soil. i know it’s the circle of life, but i’m not so sure how i feel about eating crops that are planted and grown in a graveyard.
- i grew to like the food. breakfast was usually roots like casava, nuts, an occasional bread item and chai tea. lunch was usually beans and corn meal, except for the day we had fish. dinner was usually matoke (plantains), soup broth, sometime with small ants for seasoning, and vegetables with gnut sauce. i bought them a nice slice of beef from the machete-wielding butcher on the last day. that cow must have been 100 years old, couldn’t get the beef out of my teeth until i got home.
- fetching water from a dirty stream in jerry cans and strapping them to a bicycle
- showering in the rain
- learning expert chopping skills for firewood with my machete (panga) (joseph wasn’t particularly great at getting my head in photos)
- learning way more runyankole than i expected, but i still suck
- cracking g-nuts (just like peanuts) in the house for hours when it rained
- Ant invasion 4 am. The big ones are called “empazi” and will easily get stuck in your skin with their pinchers. you can pull them off but often their heads will stay lodged in. There were a thousand in the front room where the two children slept on a thin mattress on the dirt floor, and right as they started to get bit they screamed and we rushed in with lanterns to see the whole floor moving. so we lit pieces of rubber on fire and threw them in the ants. the smoke made them all turn around like a flock of birds and after 30 minutes they were all gone from the house, although we had to chase them off the perimeter also.
- some great runs up the mountain side
- I dreamed of Arbys. I also missed some friends and its funny how they will just appear randomly in your subconscious. Friends who appeared in the dreams were: brian poulson, brandon piner, doug shiveler, pete croft, jimmie massie, stope, robbie harris, kiersten keegan, anna b and luke w, luke n, scott spraggins, and daniel lautzenheiser.
Some of the things I learned in perspective to America:
- no floors, no power, no running water. do you really need them? we had a radio and that kept our mud house plenty informed.
- getting out of bed and going straight to work – is great. i think sometimes i lack energy for the day mostly because it isn’t full of objectives. if you’re a farmer and you have a lot to do, best just to roll out of bed at 630 grab your machete and go.
- life motive? i think i think too big. for farmers, their life motive is to build a bigger mud house. i think about all the bananas they sell and how they change their practice to make better products but their social mobility really won’t change. but maybe that’s okay. maybe they see something about life that I don’t – that you can be happy and live a great life with the people you are with without trying to get to the bigger and better next thing.”think where man’s glory both begins and ends.
my glory was I had such friends.” – Yeats
- Joseph was he seriously happy about everything. He wasn’t faking anything, but he had the biggest smile on his face about any joke i told or observation i made or any neighbor that stopped by in the field. he would put down his work and go greet them no matter who they were. it was just a great way to live.
- he was a leader (aka pastor) for his village church of 30 people. i heard many people say they looked up to him (all 5’0″ of him) and how much their village took from his example. it’s great to be around men like that.
- the small things are big things when you have nothing. i bought the kids suckers. they went crazy.
- diana spent all day cooking with two pans and a wood fire. she has a lot a lot of patience.
- not sure why i cared about my ability with the panga – when another young guy came to help us chop up trees, i realized i was trying twice as hard with my panga now that he was hear. that’s because he’s been using it all his life, although he’s my age, and he’s like a samurai with that thing.
- are all of the conveniences really helping? if we get high expectations and disatisfied and grumpy often in the states, perhaps all of the technology is taking us away from what’s best in life.
- pace of life. slow is good. awkward doesn’t exist when you can sit there in the rain for 2 hours with somebody cracking nuts and talking or not talking.
- in uganda, i am a millionaire. i realized that the monthly allowance i get from MTW from all the money I fundraised is twice as much as this guy’s 5 year life savings. every month. that really rocked me. there’s a lot to be said for the how and when and why of helping the poor in developing countries, and those are good questions, but leaving this week behind i came to face the facts that I have an obligation as a rich christian to use it somehow. I need to use my money for good while I can. it doesn’t mean throw it out left and right, but i need to consider how to steward it much better than i am.