Archive for March, 2010

Uganda Mission 2010 Video / Slideshow

Here is a video slideshow of the highlights of Bonnie and my trip to Uganda. We have about 1000 photos so it was hard to choose which would make the cut on this video. Stay tuned for a photo gallery. In the meantime, turn up your volume and enjoy…and consider sponsoring a child.

March 15, 2010 at 11:46 AM Leave a comment

Assimilating Back into American Culture

The past week has been more difficult than I expected it to be.  Both Bonnie and I have seemed to struggle with resuming life as usual.  We’re not sure life will ever be the same after what we’ve seen.

We notice how much we (us Americans) are distracted by “things” and not focused on people or our relationships with them.  We seem to be in such a hurry.  Perhaps that is what makes life go by so fast.

We seem to have our priorities out of balance.  What are we choosing to spend our money on?  Is it more important than using that money to educate a child and give them a chance at life?

Bonnie and I miss the lingering handshake that is customary in Uganda.  We miss the way Ugandans speak without contractions.  It’s not “You’re welcome”, it’s “You are welcome” – and it is charming and endearing.

We miss our team, all very diverse people, personalities, backgrounds, economic statuses and ages. But all people who easily got along with everyone out of love and compassion for humanity.

While we don’t know if we will every return to Uganda, one thing is for sure.  Uganda will forever remain in us. I pray that we will never resume to life as usual, at least not mentally or spiritually.  For we can’t effect change in our communities if we don’t have another perspective to consider.

If you have ever had the inkling to travel abroad or participate in some kind of humanitarian effort, I strongly encourage you to do it.  With all that has gone on in Haiti and Chile, the opportunities are not scarce.  It is worth every vaccine, all the paperwork and travel arrangements.  It is worth making arrangements for your children and household.  It is worth the mental calesthenics of packing creatively.

What makes it worth it?  The smile of relief and appreciation on the face of the person whose needs you have met.  And that, is priceless.

March 13, 2010 at 9:09 AM Leave a comment

Out of Africa

Out of Africa

March 7th still…. (with the time change, etc)

When we flew out of intense humidity and heat in Africa, we were looking forward to the rumoured snow and cool weather of London.

After an uneventful and quick 8 hour flight (thanks to the makers of Benadryl), we landed in London and were met by a shocking cold. We marveled at how different weather can be from locale to locale. All of us Americans were looking forward to a Starbucks at the international terminal so we were disappointed to see that it was closed for remodeling or repairs. We went to Pret’s instead and had coffee and chocolate crossaints. They were AWESOME!

We all visted in the terminal waiting for our connecting flights. Some were L.A. bound, some Oregon and Colorado. Time seemed to fly by and next thing you know, it was time to board our respective flights. We made a huge circle holding hands and prayed and thanked God for the people he brought together and the incredible experiences He allowed us to share. A lot of hugs, a few tears and exchanges of emails later, we boarded our flights.

I spent the better part of the 10 hour flight back with the head of the inconsiderate man sitting in front of me on my lap. Once, he forcefully pushed his back seat back even further, so I said to him, “Sir, you are too far back, please!” He said something about me bumping into him every 5 minutes. I told him it was impossible because I’ve had to lay sideways in order to have room for my legs (which are not very long!).

The longer I sat there, the more ways of telling him off I came up with in my head. So I decided, it would probably be better for me to move to another seat. Luckily it wasn’t a full flight.

People, my appeal to you is – if you go on a flight, whether it is long or short, remember there is a person behind you with limited space. Don’t make it worse by forcing your seat to recline horizontally. If you want to lay flat, spend the money and fly first class. And if the person behind you bumps into you a few times, it’s because there is limited space to move around in. They are not intentionally trying to make you insane. Thank you!

Once we landed at LAX, the 4 of us (Bonnie, Me, Eric and Tim) were thrilled to be home. We all found our bags and also saw Sharon Osbourne at our baggage claim. Appearantly, she was on our flight from London. Customs was a breeze although the line was long.

Then we made our way up the ramp and were met by our families, smiles, welcome home signs, hugs and kisses. The boys both looked bigger but Joey has noticeably changed a lot in the last 2 weeks. I couldn’t stop hugging and kissing them. It was good to be home.

Once we reached our house, I walked in to more welcome home signs and tulips (my favorite) and hyacinths (I also love those). Then I knelt down and kissed my kitchen floor. Thank you God for giving us this amazing place to live in!

I took a much needed and anticipated shower and then we went out with the Jones’ family for a quick bite to eat. Although, I ended up not eating too much. I looked at my hubby and boys…and was full.

My cup runeth over!

March 11, 2010 at 10:02 AM Leave a comment

On the Road Again…

Sunday March 7th

At 6:30 am this morning, we headed back to Kampala. This is a 5 hour drive. Oy! The hotel packed us boxed breakfast which included a hardboiled egg, a slice of watermelon, a juice box, a dry doughnut and small sandwich with a “mystery” spread inside, an orange, a banana, and a slice of cake (similar to a pound cake). We munched along the way, but there was a lot of untouched food.

About 2 ½ hours into our drive, one of our 2 busses got a flat tire. Actually, due to the conditions of the road in Uganda, I was surprised this was our first one. Both busses pulled over and Bonnie and Kent decided to collect all the untouched food and put it in a bag. Across from us were 2 small modest buildings with teenage boys walking around. Bonnie and Kent walked up to one of the buildings where a mother came out and greeted them with these words: “How did you know where to stop?”

Not really understanding the meaning of her question, they said, “We have a flat tire and we have some food to share because we are not going to eat it and we don’t want it to go to waste.”

The mother replied, “No, how did you know where to stop? I’ve been praying all morning for someone to stop and pray with me because I’m very sick. God cause you to have a flat tire right here so you would pray with me.”

Wow…they were blown away. She invited them into her home which is the size of my master bathroom in Moorpark. The home was filled with teenage boys. While she accepted the food offering, that was secondary to her. She wanted people to pray with her. So they did. She was so thankful, she started worshipping God.

As Bonnie and Kent headed back to the bus, you could see the woman on her knees in her doorway praising and worshipping. For all of us, it was a very profound experience.

We resumed our journey back to Kampala and once in town, we saw a witch doctor and his followers walking the streets, chanting and waving tree branches and torches that seemed to be smoking. Oddly, the witchdoctors face was painted a chalky white. It was quite a site to see, but it didn’t freak me out. I know he has no power over me.

After lunch, we headed souvenir shopping. We stopped in “Africa Village” which is like a small outdoor collection of souvenir vendors. We tried bartering, but most of us felt awkward so we didn’t try very hard. But they will discount an item for you if you ask. I loaded up in one store, spending about $44 American dollars. The store owner, with a big smile, said “Thank you so much, you’ve made my whole day!” Wow.

After that stop, we stopped at the Kampala mall which is similar to our malls – a collection of shops and food court. They also had a market in there so I bought some coffee and a spice mix that I’ve been enjoying while eating in Uganda.

Once we got home, we had to creatively pack our luggage, shower and then we headed off to the airport at 8 pm.

The send off was bittersweet. Many hugs and tears laced with promises to keep in touch.

I managed to get eaten alive by mosquitoes the last day, so I was itching like crazy and looking forward to a Benadryl induced coma for the flight home.

London….here we come!

March 10, 2010 at 10:00 AM Leave a comment

Safari Day 2

March 5th

Safari and Saying Goodbye

Today we headed out to safari before dawn. Our goal was to find lions eating their breakfast. We drove about an hour into the game park and saw amazing animals again! We drove right up to giraffes and hippos. We didn’t see any elephants today in the game park but did find 2 lionesses walking the plains. They were not even fazed by us being so close to them. We got within 10 yards of them but not any closer as they could’ve jumped in our bus and had us for breakfast. They were beautiful!

The surrounding water bucks (similar to our deer) were very still and hyper-aware of every move the lionesses made. If they got too close (about 50 yards away) they would take off running away from them. It was fascinating.

We did the land safari in the morning and then after lunch and our last team devotional meeting, we waited until it was time for our water safari.

While we were waiting, noticed a family of elephants right next to the grounds of our hotel. They are incredible creatures and we enjoyed watching them roam around us.

When it was time for the water safari, we loaded on the sunscreen (man it was hot today!) and got on a boat and headed south on the Nile River. On our 4 hours boat ride, was saw about 100 hippos, a bald eagle, 10 crocodiles (one of which was 18 feet long), all different kinds of vibrant and colorful birds, the land animals that came to drink from the Nile (i.e. Wort hogs, bucks, etc) and monkeys.

We headed to the base of Murchison Falls and got off the boat to take pics on rocks a few yards away from the falls.

The nature channel can’t even accurately depict what we saw live today. It was epic!

Tomorrow we head back to Kampala to pack and then head to the airport. Our team has been talking about how much we are going to miss each other and we’ve been making plans to stay in touch. Although we are all from different states, backgrounds and personality types, we’ve all gotten along so well and have had a wonderful time getting to know each other the past 2 weeks. They’ve been like family to us. So we are all getting a little sad to go home, but excited to be home at the same time.

It has been an amazing trip.

If I don’t get to post tomorrow, hang on. I will post once I return home from our 18 hour flight.

Thanks for following along!

March 9, 2010 at 8:10 AM Leave a comment

The Nile…It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

I’d like to start off by thanking all of you who have commented on my blogs. I appreciate the compliments about my writing, however, I have noticed many typos and grammatical errors. I typed most of them late at night, so my editing skills weren’t very sharp. Thanks for liking the posts anyway!

March 4, 2010 (new photos just added….click on them to enlarge)

We left our accommodations at 5 am to head for the game parks which are about 5 hours away. Waking up at 4 am was brutal. Luckily, our teammates woke us up as neither Bonnie nor I brought a watch or cell phone with us. We have been relying on them the whole trip.

As we got close to our destination, we stopped where the Nile River has a waterfall. So, the Nile River… I’ve always associated it with Egypt and Moses. Otherwise, I didn’t know these other facts. For example,

1. The Nile River originates at Lake Victoria in Uganda

2. The Nile River flows from south to north, which is not the normal flow of rivers

3. The Nile River is HUGE, like the Mississippi

4. The Nile River has a waterfall

The Nile River’s waterfall is called Murchison Falls and it is amazing! The wide Nile narrows and falls down this rocky channel. The rocks are huge and the water fall is powerful and loud. We sat there and watched it for a while. The rainbows formed from the falls are vibrant and spectacular. The water spray from the falls was a welcomed relief because it was “Africa hot” today!

Again, I wish so much I could post the pics but you’ll have to wait until I get back into the States. Between me and my teammates we probably have about 3,000 photos! We are trying to figure out the best way to share them with each other and post some on the internet. So stay tuned. Some of the shots are phenomenal.

After the falls, we made our way to the game park. We needed to cross the Nile River with a ferry, so as we were waiting for it, I went and touched the Nile River with my hands and feet. It was awesome!

Once we crossed over, we checked into our hotel and ate lunch. I ordered Nile River Perch with saffron sauce. It was DELICIOUS!!!! Then we got ready for our evening safari.

Our bus for the safari had a canopied roof so you could stand up in the bus and look at the animals while being protected from the sun…and potentially the animals. Our guide showed up with a shot gun, just in case the animals (or one of us) got out of hand.

As we were leaving the hotel grounds, we saw many baboons. They were so cool! In the game park, which is thousands of acres of protected land along the Nile River, we saw:

• water buffalo

• water bucks (similar to our deer / rams)

• Jackson Heart Beasts (if an antelope and a horse had a baby…it would look like a Jackson Heart Beast – a horse faced animal)

• Warthogs

• Monkeys

• a herd of giraffes

• hippos

• amazing yellow birds

• amazing bright cobalt blue birds

And, oh yeah… as we were driving along, an elephant strolled by and crossed the road right in front of us. It was SOOOOO UNBELIEVABLY COOL!!!!!

Even the reptiles here are cool! We came across and orange and blue lizard that was beautiful! And I hate lizards.

I can’t wait to see what our safari holds for tomorrow!!!

March 8, 2010 at 8:07 AM Leave a comment

Officially the Last Day in the Bush

March 3, 2010

Today, the ladies of the group (including myself) left at 7:30 am for Bethany Village where we were scheduled to do dental work on the orphans. We took the 30 minute boat ride across Lake Victoria and we were concerned that it would rain on us. This time, the boat didn’t have a tarp covering us and the clouds were dark!

The men attended the graduation ceremony for ARM sponsored students. These kids graduated from high school and “university” (our equivalent of college). The students considered it an honor to have “Muzungus” at their ceremony.

Our boat ride to Bethany was so peaceful. The water was very calm and the lake was smattered with fisherman looking for Tilapia.

Once we got to Bethany, we walked to their clinic lugging my 2 suitcases full of dental equipment. Once we got there, we set up a makeshift dental clinic on the patio of the medical clinic. It was amazing to do dentistry outside, especially when it started raining! Luckily we were kept dry by the roof. But, it is cool to say that I did dentistry outside, in the rain, in Africa!

I saw 3 patients at a time. Bonnie, Mary and Janice were very helpful in keeping the “clinic” running smoothly. Bailey kept the kids busy playing games and passing out stickers. I extracted 30 teeth here as well. With the exception of a couple of kids, they were very stoic and hardly showed any emotion during the procedures.

Due to time constraints, we had to turn kids away. This, of course, was heart breaking considering how much they needed our services.

We did get rained on during our boat ride back to Ggaba and the waves got a little choppy. Bonnie struggled a little with motion sickness but did manage to keep her lunch!

Upon our return, I was introduced to 2 of the 3 kids I sponsor through the program. I was thrilled to meet them and gave them the gifts I brought for them. The gifts consisted of a back pack, soccer ball, pump, flip flops, oral health supplies, fruit and vegetable seeds, a bible, pencils, pencil sharpener and eraser. They were delighted to receive them

I enjoyed talking with them. John, now 19 years old, reminded me that I have been sponsoring him since he was 11. He expressed his sincere gratitude for my sponsorship and I was touched. He is a very bright and good looking young man who liked to laugh at my jokes. When I asked him about school, he said he’s planning on going on to university. When I asked what he would like to do with his studies, he replied that he’d like to become president of Uganda one day!

And you know what, I think he can do it! Just think – $35 a month of an investment in this child has allowed him to dream big and have a chance at accomplishing his goal. I told him that I looked forward to coming to his graduation and he smiled a HUGE smile.

I also told him that I would be delighted to host the future president of Uganda at my home in California. He laughed and said that he was on his way to “being somebody important” and he would definitely come visit me.

My other sponsored child, Jemima, is 11 years old. She was shyer, as is common in this culture. We got to know each other a little bit and I was touched that she kept saying, with all sincerity, how happy she was that she had this opportunity to meet me. For these children, meeting their sponsors in person is like meeting a super star. They consider it an honor and a privilege to meet the person who is giving them the opportunity to receive an education. Jemima came with her sister and her father. He was so thrilled to meet me too! He just kept thanking me for sponsoring his daughter. The sincerity of their gratitude really touched me in a way that I can’t even put into words.

We visited for about an hour and then our team went onto our next destination, another slum known for its darkness and association with witchcraft and Satan worship.

We drove about 45 minutes away from Ggaba into that slum area. ARM has a church and school right smack in the middle of this area. The teacher, Rebecca, who gave us a tour, told us about one of their 16 year old students, Michael, who was kidnapped 3 weeks ago in an attempted human sacrifice. The Satan worshippers were looking for a virgin to sacrifice. By the grace of God, they let him go because they noticed a scratch on his leg. The in order to be a proper sacrifice, the victim cannot have shed any blood. How they would know that, I don’t know. I spent most of my childhood with scabby knees. Luckily, the noticed the scab on his leg and let him go.

Rebecca called him out of class so we could meet him. What a sweet boy. We prayed for him and thanked God for sparing his life. He was appreciative. The school moved him out of the area where he was living and put him closer to the school.

In the US, we teach our children “stranger danger” techniques (what to do if a stranger tries to take you). In this area of Uganda, they have to teach the same things. It just makes me sick thinking about it.

That night, our team had a debriefing and we visited with Pastor Peter who prayed for us and with a Texan, Helen, who just arrived here and bought a condo to live in. She is in here 60’s and felt that God was calling her to come here to teach the kids. So, she sold everything she had in Texas and now lives in Uganda and will be teaching at one of the schools! Wow, that’s a leap of faith.

Today was our last official day of ministering to the people of Uganda. Tomorrow, we will head off to safari to have a little fun as a team. I can’t wait!

March 7, 2010 at 8:05 AM 1 comment

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