Saturday, June 30, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 27 & 30

June 27th
Today I had pineapple for breakfast...for a snack...AND for lunch. I thought I was in heaven!

But that's not even the most exciting thing that happened today! I went to the villages of Kassanda and Kamusenene to do sponsorship work. It was so much fun! First of all I told everyone my favorite village was Lugazi, and then I added Kitongo onto that one. But I don’t think I can have favorites anymore because every village I get to spend more time in, I fall in love with!

It is so much more relaxing when I get to go just by myself instead of with a huge group of Americans. I get to play with the kids more and its not so hectic and crazy. There was a little girl in Kamusenene whose name is Kemigisa Rose. All I did was ask her what her name was and gave her a hug. But she would always catch my eye in a crowd of kids and smile hugely at me. And then later she got on her knees in front of me (which is kind of a sign of respect) and gave me a mango. It was really cute. Here's a picture of Rose...

Then I met a boy named Tumwesige Peter and he was absolutely adorable! I noticed him right away because you just can't ignore a smile like his. It's impossible. I called him over to me, but he decided he was going to by shy and sprinted away as fast as he could. And then it became a game to him, he'd wait till I looked at him and then he'd run away laughing. Here's Peter in the background. See what I mean?

Once we got all the paperwork filled out, and all the kids wrote letters to their sponsors, we went back to Kassanda and did the same thing.

Filling out the sponsorship papers has a good and bad side to it. It's really fun getting to spend a little bit of time with each child and to find out what their favorite class is, and what they want to be when they grow up, and to hear their stories. But it's really hard for me to force the history out of these kids, who live every day trying to escape and move on from their past.

Najjuma Jesca was the first girl in Kassanda that I talked to. She is ten years old and has one brother and three sisters. And she only has a mom. Her dad was a construction worker who fell off of a building and died a few years ago. Now her and her four siblings will grow up without their dad. As she talked to me she tried to hide the tears that streamed down her face. I can't even imagine what she's feeling. I cannot relate at all. I am so thankful for that, but it also makes it easy to just forget how much suffering so many other people go through. To just write down their lives as a statistic, as some good information that will lead some heart in America to be moved and want to spend $30 a month to try and help a child move past the pain that that they’ve experienced. That thought makes me sick right now. I don't want Jesca to just be a number. I wiped those tears off of her face. It was real. I wish I could write her pain on this blog so you might understand that these children don't just need school fees. They need love…and so much of it. By sponsoring a child, we're filling a void in their lives. We're part of their lives now, they think about us every day, even though we're on the other side of the world. It's amazing the huge impact that we can have on them by just showing them a little bit of that love that they desire so badly.

June 30th
I was going to go to a burial today. Sharifa's dad died yesterday. I'm not really sure what happened, it all happened so fast. I just found out that they had taken him to the hospital and he was suffering from ulcers, I think, and that he was unconscious. Then the next thing I heard is that he had died. Sharifa is the little girl near Kamusenene who had a problem with her bladder (it was on the outside of her body). Two years ago we got her surgery to fix it. She lived in a village close to Kamusenene and they were all Muslims. But after the huge sign of love than many people from ICN showed toward this suffering child, they wondered why were so different. Her whole family, who were devout Muslims, became Christians, including her father. That is such an encouraging story, that even though we're sad about the death of her father, I am so excited that we can know he's in heaven right now. I just feel so badly for Sharifa, she has gone through so much pain, through ridicule from all the children in her village before she had the surgery, to now with her father passing away.

But, I didn't go to the burial because it was really far away and it's a really long ceremonial thing, so I went to the studio with the choir. They recorded two songs, Majesty and Joy. It was pretty uneventful. Some kids would be recording on one side of the room while the rest had to quietly sit on a mat on the other side of the room. I don't know how they could sit still so long. I couldn't. Yvonne sang this song to me on the way home:

I love you
so much.
I love you!

Haha! It was to the tune of one of the other songs they sing in the choir.

Eric decided that I needed a bodyguard, so he didn't let me out of his sight, but then on the way home he fell asleep on my lap. What a great bodyguard!

Editor's Note: For new pictures from Hillary in Uganda, inlcuding photos from things she described in earlier posts, click here

courtney's india journal - June 30

Tomorrow is our last day in India! I can't believe seems like it's been fast, but at the same time, it seems like I've been here forever! I'm getting really used to living here, it's weird to think about what it will be like back home. This weekend is a little strange though, because we're staying in a SUPER nice hotel. It's the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in! I'm enjoying the amazing showers and the AC, but It just feels weird. I've totally experienced the contrast of Kolkata. People who have nothing, and those who seem to have everything. It's weird, that you can see both on the same street!

Friday, June 29, 2007

courtney's india journal - June 29

Today was a lot of waiting around. We went to a village where we were going to have lunch, see a baptism, and plant some trees on their new property. We did all of that, along with probably 6 hours of waiting around throughout the day, and 4 hours driving from place to place. It was a long day, but I enjoyed seeing all the kids and just in awe of the beautiful people here! I don't think I've seen one ugly Indian...they are all gorgeous:) Here are some pictures I took of the beautiful people in the village today:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

courtney's india journal - June 28

Our time in Gaya isn't exactly what we expected. We only spent a little while with the kids at the orphanage, which was a bummer. I think we were all really looking forward to spending most of the time with the kids, which isn't what's happened at all. Even though our time with them has been short, the kids are so adorable and a lot of fun:) Here are some of the kids I spent time coloring and playing games with during our time here:

We've taken a lot of long car rides to small villages. One village was Prince's father-in-law's where we ate lunch and took a tour of the village. It was really funny having huge crowds of mostly kids, but some adults too, following us, staring at us, and laughing at us crazy white people:) I've gotten used to it by now...just smiling at them when they's really funny to me. It has been really intriguing being in this part of the country where the people live so differently than in the city. I really like being here in Gaya, even if we don't have a lot to do, I like experiencing this part of the country.

courtney's india journal - June 27

Last night we took our 9 hour train ride to Gaya to visit Pastor Samson and the Village Gospel Missionaries of India Orphanage. The train ride was a very interesting experience! The train station was really crowded, so it was crazy trying to get our group together to find a spot to sit and wait for the train. We had a while to wait, so as I was sitting down eating my chicken fried rice, I had time to just watch everything going on around me.

A woman was carrying her little baby in her arms with a huge bundle balancing on top of her head. She sat down on her two flip flops that she'd taken off and put the bundle in front of her. She covered her baby with her sari and started feeding him....An old man was sitting on a crushed basket eating a mango. Another guy who wanted his spot came by and yelled at him in Bengali to move, thrusting a small wooden stool at him. The man threw a fit but eventually moved away as the other guy put his stool down and sat to wait....Men in lungees (man-skirts) walked by with huge things on their heads, baskets with fruit, tied up leaves, bundles of random things.....A horn blew for the train on platform 13 right next to us. About 50 people probably came out of nowhere sprinting to get on the train....A girl stood in front of me in a red and green tattered dress holding out her hand as I ate my food. I finished half of it, then gave the rest to her. She smiled at me and started walking away as she put a big bite into her mouth....

The train came around 8:30, and it was a sleeper train so I was in a group of six that had bunks for each of us. We had to defend our area so people without tickets wouldn't try to steal our spots. I was able to sleep off and on, but it felt good to just lay down. My eyes were bugging me a lot too, so I had to take out my contacts so I couldn't see when we got into Gaya, which was a little stressful, but it was ok. (Yeah...I left my glasses at home, so that has been a bummer) Pastor Samson and his two sons Prince Calypso and King Johnson (yes, those are their actual names!) picked us up from the train station and took us to our hotel...which has air conditioning!! It's kind of weird staying in a nice place, but it's also a nice break to be able to have a really good sleep!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

courtney's india journal - June 26

Today was our last day working in the Mother Teresa homes. After breakfast at the Mother House they always ask if it's anyones last day, and we sing a song to them. So today, our whole group got in the middle of everyone and they sang the song:

"We thank you, thank you, thank you
We thank you, thank you, thank you
We thank you, thank you, thank you from my heart
We thank you, thank you, thank you
We thank you, thank you, thank you
We thank you, thank you, thank you from my heart"

And then it's "We love you" and then "We'll miss you"

So that was kind of fun but a little awkward having everyone singing to us looking at our big group:)

I had a really good time at Prem Dan. We spent the first part doing laundry as usual. Here is a picture of where we did the laundry:

I spent the rest of my time massaging the women, which was really relaxing. And I got to meet a few new women that I've never sat with, so it was fun seeing new faces. It was kind of hard to leave the women, knowing I'll never see them again. But today was such a crazy day, that we were on to the next thing, so we didn't really have a long good-bye or anything. Here are some pictures of the women I spent the most time with: (I wish I knew their names, but Bengali is so hard to pronounce, I couldn't even say it right after hearing them say it)

Here is a picture of the four other girls from my Fox team that went to Prem Dan with me everyday: (me, Molly, Emily, Ra, Meaghan)

So after that we had lunch at KFC which is across from the YWCA where we stay because we wanted something fast. It feels really weird eating fast food in India, I don't like it, but today we were in a hurry, and it takes FOREVER in India to get food, so we wanted to make sure we had enough time. Then we got on the Metro (subway) and headed toward Kalighat for our trip to Sari Bari. Kristen (one of the "Word Made Flesh" workers) met us at our stop and led us to the home where the women work making the quilts. It was really neat hearing about how Sari Bari is making a difference in the lives of these women. And it's not just a place for them to work, but they are also developing their confidence and increasing their self-worth. WMF is really working to encourage them and provide a positive, peaceful environment. They're also teaching the women reading, writing, and math during their training period, which is like 6 months I think.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 25

Today might have been one of the most tiring days since I've been here! I woke up after just a few hours of sleep to make the mandazi. Then I got everything together and took a boda boda over to the school.

Our friend, Justin took this while he was here in Uganda. It's the view from the back of a boda boda.

I was there by 10:30ish. I went in the "middle class" (right above "baby class"-it goes baby, middele, top then p.1, which is like first grade) I helped them with a numbers worksheet. I was helping a couple of children with theirs, when one of the teachers came up to me and said to one of the kids: "You sit over here!" (the desk in front of me) Then she said to me, "He'll just distract you." Ummm. Well, he was the one that really needed help, but apparently not right then...the ones that need the most need to wait, I guess...? (haha)

It was kind of an interesting situation when I walked in to the class, the two teachers helped the last few kids finish their papers, which took a long time because there are always those kids that need a lot of extra help. Meanwhile, the rest of the class were all in the back of the classroom laying on a huge mat. It was just really funny to see. But that classroom was really fun. They are so ADORABLE! And when it's in a classroom it's even better because at that age is when they mostly find joy in attacking me, so that can't happen in a classroom. It makes things so much easier. Then they sang me some songs before it was time for them to go home. For one of the songs, they would pick one child out and they would do a solo (it wasn't really singing, it was kind of a chant). It went like this:

"My name is Esther I love Jesus.
Jesus. Jesus my Savior. I love Jesus.
Oh yes i do do do."

And they had a little dance with it. It was ridiculously cute!

Then I finished getting my lesson ready for the afternoon. I'm not sure if I've talked about this on here, but the teachers decided that I was going to teach an english class today. I was pretty stressed about it, but once it got here it was fine. It was pretty fun! Except for the fact that games are an unheard of thing in the Ugandan classroom, so the learning games that I did with them were a little out of control. (I'm now semi-understanding what the crazy hitting teacher was thinking!) But they all had a lot of fun, and hopefully learned something.

We were learning about polite language. I thought that there would only be so much that could be taught about this, but Ugandan people aren't a very polite people. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just the culture, to be harsh and demanding. So it was probably a good thing they told me to talk about this topic, because I don't think a Ugandan teacher could really get the point across. So they told me the class was from 2:00-2:40. That's fine, I can handle anything for 40 minutes. Even 45 seven to nine year olds that are all at different levels in their knowledge of the english language. But, of course, it wasn't 40 minutes. It was Africa time. I was in that classroom from 2:00-4:10!!! It was CRAZY!!! But I never had a time where I was awkwardly standing there, not knowing what to say. (Might be one of my worst fears) So it was ok, we spent the last 20 minutes playing a number game, which really has nothing to do with english. But, learning how to speak politely, thrilling as it is, can only be dragged on for a limited amount of time.

Then, I started to walk up to the secondary school. I love walking around Lusaka, especially when the primary school kids are out. I hear various forms of my name being called out where ever I go (Hirary, Hillaly, Hirry, Harry, Helen, herra, just to name a few... the list is endless.) It's probably the most difficult name they have ever had to say. Considering I am, to my knowledge, the ONLY GIRL named Hillary in Uganda! Yeah, highlight girl part. If there are any Hillary's, it's a guy. A fact which I have been told on many occasions after I repeat my name 6 times. Then they realize no, they aren't mishearing me, I said it, I have a man's name. But I still love it when they all call me, just to say "hi," whenever they see me. I just wish I could remember all of their names! It'll come.

Then I went to the secondary school to play basketball. Because this isn't just a 3-4 times a week thing, they want me to come everyday! Which is just fine with me! So after I walked up the path with hundreds of eyes on me the whole way. ("please don't trip please don't trip"), and then finding someone that would actually talk to me rather than just staring at me dumbfounded, I eventually found out the guys were at the football fields. So I walked back through the tunnel of eyes and started walking to the fields, But I met them on their way back to the school. So I played basketball with a few of them untill it was too dark to see the ball. We played 3 on 3 for like 2 1/2 hours. It was pretty tiring. And, they aren't too shabby, they're mostly like any street ball players. They just need some coaching, that's all. On my team I had one of the tallest guys I've seen at the school and the shortest guy. And let me tell you, we were KILLIN'! It was really fun because I feel like I'm getting back in the rhythm so all the crowd (everyone, of course, was watching the game) would go crazy whenever I did anything. It's really encouraging! I should come here more often to play basketball! (haha)

Monday, June 25, 2007

courtney's india journal - June 25

This past weekend we went on a "retreat" to the beach to take a break from the city. We took a 5-hour bus ride and it was so bumpy I couldn't read or write during it, so I just thought a lot...and looked outside:) It's really relaxing to just sit and stare at all of India passing me by as we drive, especially when we get out of the city. It's so green and colorful, I love it!

I feel like when our whole group is together I get kind of quiet. There are so many conversations going on, I just listen because I'm either too tired to think or just don't really have anything to say. There was one point where I was just really overwhelmed because it seemed like everyone was having really deep conversations, philosophical type stuff or something...and sometimes I get sick of always having deep conversations:) It's kind of exhausting to me. So I'm content just staring out of my window, feeling the breeze on my face, looking at all the women in their sarees, loving the palm trees and mud huts:)

The weekend at the beach, was basically a day. We got there around 1 or 2 on Saturday, and then left around noon on Sunday, but it was good. After getting settled into our rooms (which took a long time because there was a mix-up and the people that worked there were really rude) we all walked out to the beach. Our hotel was the closest to the beach, so it was a short walk.

Oh man, the Indian Ocean is amazing! It's the first time I've been to another beach beside the Pacific was so warm and my toes didn't sting from being frozen! It felt so good to swim with a couple people from my team. Most everyone just hung out in the sand, but I wanted to swim:) Although it was a little challenging because the pants I was wearing didn't have a drawstring, just elastic, so they kept falling down everytime I went to dive under a wave:) After a day at the beach I was pretty exhausted, so it felt good to just hang out that night and go to bed early:)

The next day all of us woke up at 4:30 to see the sun rise. We were so excited to see the sun rise over the ocean...but that never happened:( First of all, the sun wasn't rising over the ocean, it was more over the trees off the coast a little ways. And second, we couldn't really see the sun rise because it was cloudy. But we did see some cool rays of sunshine behind the clouds, so that was neat. And it was relaxing being out there early in the morning, just a little disappointing:) Then, it started raining...haha. So it was definitely an adventure, not what we were hoping for, but I love it when it rains, so I was happy. We all went back and slept some more, then woke up and I journalled for a while as it was POURING down rain! Oh man, when it rains in India, it rains hard!! I love it!

For breakfast, Sarah had asked for french toast, and they gave us the Indian equivalent I guess, deep fried bread, haha. It was good, kind of plain (no syrup) but it was a nice change from the white bread, banana and hard boiled egg we've been eating at the YWCA.

It was an interesting experience this weekend. The people at our hotel (I think that's what it's called) were pretty rude, but that's ok.

Last night our team had our Namaste and it was really good. We had worship, Sarah read Psalm 40, Clint read from his book (I think "3 cups of tea," or something like that) and then we all went around and shared something we're learning from our time at the Sisters of Charity homes, or something we'll never forget...It was really neat hearing about what people are learning through the work at the homes. And it's interesting because God is speaking to us all in different ways, so we're not having the same experiences. At this point, I feel like each day I really enjoy being with the women at Prem Dan, but at the same time, it's not the "amazing experience" some people are sharing.

I have a feeling that it's when I'm home that I'll really realize all that I'm learning right now. I think the biggest thing I'm learning right now is to be present in the moment. I've been able to just serve the woman right in front of me, love her as much as I can, when most of the time I feel useless. I've felt like I'm just in the way, and awkward at points, but when I think about the poor on the streets, I know that what I feel is nothing compared to the hopelessness, worthlessness, that they feel. I've been really humbled here. I can't try to fix anything. I can't expect to come in and know what to do and make a difference. So many people in the world feel useless and are treated like trash. I have no clue what that feels like. There's no way I can relate to the desperation they feel.

We only have one more day of working at the homes. Tomorrow morning we'll work at Prem Dan, and then in the afternoon, a group of us will go to Sari Bari, a place started by Word Made Flesh . I'm really excited to visit there, it's a place for women who come out of the red light district to make a living sewing quilts made out of used sarees. It's such a cool thing, and I've been really impressed with the impact WMF is making. It's really inspiring, there are three women from WMF who live here in Kolkata, and they are all between 24 and 32 years old, such amazing women:) We had dinner with them last week, and it was really cool hearing each of their stories. One of them was a fine arts major, who wanted something to give her life to, and then God opened the door for Sari Bari, which she now manages. I'm excited to see it tomorrow:)

Tomorrow night we leave for our 8 hour train ride, which will be an interesting experience! I guess we have to be careful and hold our spots because they are really crowded, and there aren't enough seats for everyone, so it'll be an adventure:) Then we'll be in Gaya for three days at an orphanage. I'm so excited! I'm really looking forward to this next week, it will be a great way to end our trip:)

hillary's uganda journal - june 24

There is a rat in my room. I know there is. I saw it move in my closet for a brief second before I screamed and ran into the hallway. The problem is finding it. I have to wake up in a few hours. Now, how the heck am I supposed to fall asleep while being paraoid that there is a rat sleeping right next to me?! thats what I'd like to know. I then proceeded to thoroughly search everything in the house by kicking each thing and shining my flashlight on it. But no luck. You're probably wondering why I am so scared of a little rat. I'm in Africa! I should be used to these kinds of things right?! Wrong. There's just something creepy about rats. They're too quick and spazzy. You never know what they're thinking and what they're going to do next. Kind of like chickens. But I am slowly working on that fear of mine, with all the chickens running willy nilly all over the place here.

So... now I am the "mandazi lady." For some reason everyone loves my mandazi! I don't get it, it's an african food, they shouldn't be begging ME to make them! But they do. Hopkins and Pastor Dithan have already gotten a bagful each and they're complaining that I need to make more for them. Oy, this could get tiring. I think I need to start a mandazi business! Not only will people come to me because I am white, but these are darn good mandazi! (haha) So I am making mandazi in the morning. Lots and lots of it because I'm making some for all of the teachers at St. Mbuga also.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 23

Well I had a dilemma today. My computer crashed. Or at least it was threatening to, apparently. I really have no idea, I'm not technologically smart at all. This is just what Sam Straxy (one of the choir directors) was telling me. He came to figure out why I couldn't burn pictures onto DVDs (I needed to transfer the sponsorship pictures onto one so I can send the pictures back to ICN), and he ended up almost breaking this computer!! And this would've been a HUGE problem because I don't have any copies of those pictures anywhere. Oh man! I thought they were totally gone and I had no clue what I was going to do! But thank goodness he is a computer geek! So, he figured it out, and even got a DVD made! woohoo!

The choir had practice tonight, so I went to that and learned some new songs with them. Every time I see them they are learning new songs! And let me tell you, you guys are in for a treat when they come to the U.S. They are amazing!! So, with new songs, they only learn the words, the steps come later. But, in Uganda, there's no way that you can have songs being sung without some kind of movement. So they go to the extreme! They all break out there own crazy dance moves! All on beat too! Well, all of them except Peter that is. He dances like no one's watching him and like it's the most normal thing to do. But man that kid is out of control!! Vivian and Glory are so cute! They are always standing right next to each other. And no matter what the rest of the choir is doing, they are always doing the same exact thing! They just feed off of each other, A little foot movement moves to arm action, to head bobbing, until they are both jumping and spinning and dancing at the same moment! But when it's a slow song they can always be seen, hand in hand, swinging their arms to the beat. It's adorable!

I played basketball for the first time since I've been in Uganda!! It was really fun! And it was hot out, so I got to work on my tan! Double whammy! Only I had to wear my stinkin' ankle braces. So... I could get a funky tan. Dumb things.

But I have a funny story with the whole basketball thing. I went to the head master at the secondary school to see if anyone was going to be playing basketball today so I could join in. So... he called up the guy in charge of athletics at the school, who was at the fields with the football guys. And apparently a lot of them play basketball. So he told them to come back to the school to play. The next event happened so fast. All I remember asking was if I could play basketball with them every once in a while and then I heard that I'd be training these guys 3-4 times a week! WHAT?!

At the primary school I ask to observe some classes... "Oh, you want to sit in on some lessons? OK! You can come teach next Monday!" (Which is actually happening, wish me luck!) "Oh you want to play basketball? Sure! You're the new coach!"

It's funny how things work here. It almost reaches the point of manipluation. But I don't mind it, it's stretching my comfort zone! And I am actually really looking forward to these new experiences! We'll see what else the Ugandans have planned for me!!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 22

It was laundry day for me today! Why, you wonder, am I telling you about this boring job? Well, for three reasons. First, this is absolutely all I did today. Second, I've only done laundry once while I've been here, 46 days, and that time I only did some of the laundry. And third, maybe this will give you a renewed appreciation for your washer and dryer. It was a big job to say the least. My raw burning hands prove my point. It took a few hours to get all my clothes washed and hung outside. Not to mention cleaning all the dirty water off of the bathroom floor.

I had a particularly hard time with a pair of blue sweat pants. I don't even know where I wore them, but it must have been extra dirty there! The water was so gross afterwards! It was totally brown, like I had just poured a bucket of mud in there. But, my clothes are now spotless! With the exception of those stinkin' blue pants. I couldn't quite get those as clean as I would've liked. But that's ok, I'm in Africa, they'll get dirty again as soon as I wear them.

Friday, June 22, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 21

Today was a lot of fun! On thursdays all of St. Mbuga School go to the field to play games for a couple hours, so I got to go with them. It was like a half hour walk from the school. When we got there they all split up, girls went to the netball area and boys went to the football (soccer) field.

I've always thought that netball is just like basketball with a few slight differences, such as, the basket is just a pole with a hoop on the top (no backboard) and there isn't any dribbling. But I've now realized that it is A LOT different. There are so many rules to it. And our girls are actually on a team and Ronnie is the coach for the team. He was the referee today, so they actually played by rules. I'm not used to that, I've only seen girls throwing around a ball, basically playing keep-away. But this game is so fast paced, I don't know how he can even call some of the things that he does. So many little things happened that I never caught, but the girls were so upset when a call wasn't made. I watched for a little bit, claiming that the only way for me to learn was to watch (everyone wanted me to play with them). I watched Yvonne play, but she doesn't seem like she is very good (haha). She just kind of stood there, talked with her friend that she was guarding, and held hands with her. She reminded me of my cousin Emily, it seemed like there were better things that she wanted to be doing. :)

So then I moved to the football field with my mob of 10-20 three to six year olds who kept attacking me, because they all NEED to be touching me at all times! I'm pretty sure something bad will happen if they let me out of their sight. So I brought a big crowd of fans over to the boys and I tried watching the games that were going on. But I didn't usually get the chance to watch much because I would have to look between the kids that would stand 5 feet in front of me. Staring at me. I come to their school every day, but they just don't seem to get tired of looking at the "muzungu." Sometimes I get the feeling I'm not a real person here. I'm like a fish in a fishbowl. A new one, that's crazy colors and does crazy things. Only I wasn't entertaining anyone. Or being funny. I wasn't going to do any tricks. They don't care. They just keep on staring. Every once in a while I would snap them out of it by telling them, "Tuula!" (sit down!)

One of my groupies was Peter. He stuck to me like glue today! But I never mind him. He just sits on my lap and smiles with that huge smile with the big gap in the middle. I have to keep reminding myself not to get...flustered? Maybe that's a good word for how I feel with all the attention that is ALWAYS on me. I really don't mind how the kids poke my legs and count all my freckles and inspect every inch of my hands. I think the part that overwhelms me is the number of kids doing this at all times. It's hard not to get a little annoyed when they're all pushing and shoving so much that I almost fall over, but I can't move to catch myself because my hands are being tied back and there are little feet right in front of mine. At these times I have to smile, yank my arms up in the air and tell them to stop fighting or no one gets to hold my hands! Kind of a funny thing to say when you think about it. But it works, for the older ones that understand english. The really young ones think its a new game.

I had quite the group of injured kids today for some reason. Deborah fell on her arm and so she didn't get to play netball at all, Bruno hurt his leg yesterday and it was still "paining" him today so his football team was Bruno-less, and Julius got something stuck in his calf the other day. I think it was actually pretty serious, he had to go to the hospital for it! And he still can't walk on it, he hopped around on one foot with two different shoes on. I'm not actually sure how bad it's still hurting. He might possibly just be milking it. But what am I here for except to spoil my kids, right?! So I carried him on my back all the way to school. And let me tell you, this was no easy feat. First, he is 9 or 10 years old, he's not a little little boy anymore. Second, it was slightly uphill the whole way there. Third, the sun decided just at this time it was going to shine it's brightest (it had been cloudy all day untill then). But we got back to St. Mbuga with minimal huffing and puffing on my part.
Pictured: Deborah, Yvonne, and Mable in the back. Peter and Gideon in the front.

Oh-When we were getting ready to go back to school, there were a few little girls by one of the nearby houses. One of these was about a 1-1/2 year old. I walked up to her and squatted down a couple feet away from her in case she was going to be scared of me. When she noticed I was there she immediately came up to me, wrapped her arms around my neck and layed her head on me! Oh my gosh! Greatest feeling in the world!! Especially when I expected tears!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

breakfast at epiphanies

As I sat down for breakfast this morning, I had another epiphany. I don’t know what’s causing this. Maybe it’s my age. Some guys get sports cars and trophy wives. I get epiphanies (and everyone who’s met my wife agrees, I definitely “married up”…WAY up, so trophies would be a downgrade). The dictionary defines epiphany as “a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.” I guess this makes me Captain Epiphany. I am fascinated by the ordinary.

The fact that I even sat down for breakfast was what prompted this particular “striking occurrence.” I just realized something strange…

I don’t feel old. I should, but I don’t.

For most people breakfast wouldn’t be the source of such an amazing revelation. But, this morning, as I sat down to eat my carefully prepared, two eggs, half a piece of wheat toast, exactly four ounces of orange juice, and eight ounces of milk it hit me...I’m doing a lot of stuff older people do, but I just don’t feel old.

Sure, there were times when breakfast meant filling a cafeteria sized mixing bowl with Cap’n Crunch accompanied by a delicious stack of buttermilk pancakes, and chased down with gigantic swigs of whole milk straight from the carton. Sometimes my breakfast of choice consisted of leftover pizza and fruit loops, eaten at noon. I was young and carefree, with the metabolism of a hummingbird. But those were the choices that got me where I am today...Curt Sell: Plus Sized Male Model.

That seems like such a long time ago. So, why don’t I feel old?!?

My mind began to rationalize, “Maybe I’m NOT old. Maybe these things I’m doing aren’t old people things. Maybe they’re the hottest new trends and I’m on the cutting edge. Maybe I’m retro. Maybe….”

I allowed myself to indulge in this fantasy as I carefully folded the comic page and began to work on the daily crossword puzzle…like I do every morning…while I eat my my carefully prepared, two eggs, half a piece of wheat toast, and drink exactly four ounces of orange juice, and eight ounces of milk.

"This needs to stop!" I chastised myself. With reckless abandon, I snatched up my mp3 player and started to listen to some of my favorite music. The unfettered musical stylings of TobyMac, Switchfoot, and Telecast blasted into my ears.

“See? I’m NOT that old” I convinced myself, “Old people don’t listen to this kind of music do they?”

It WAS a little loud though, so I turned it down...just a bit. “No sense ruining my hearing. You know, you only get two ears…

As the recognition that I had just quoted my dad TO MYSELF struck me, I suddenly became conscious of where I was. Without even thinking or planning, I was on my daily walk! Not a daily RUN, not a daily JOG, but a daily WALK. I walk! I’m a walker! When I run, my joints hurt because I have a type of arthritis that hits young people…that’s what my rheumatologist told me anyway. Wait, I have my own rheumatologist?

Okay, I admit it I’m getting older. There I said it! It feels good to admit that. I think it helps to let it all out, so here goes…

-- There’s about as much hair on my head as there is grass in my front yard.

-- All the hair that used to be on my head has packed itself into my nose, ears and eyebrows.

-- I groan when I get up from the bed or sit down in the car.

-- I drive the speed limit and buckle my seat belt…every time!

-- I embarrass my kids with my puns.

-- I tell the same stories over and over, but don’t remember it.

-- I eat salad for lunch.

-- I called an old friend from college, and when he asked if I could still dunk a basketball, I just laughed…and laughed…and laughed…then I forgot what I was laughing about.

-- My wife and I go to Chevys and order the same thing on every date (during happy hour to save money). Our server, Melania, knows us by name.

-- To me, “hitting the town” means catching a few garage sales on the way to Starbucks.

-- I tell the same stories over and over, but don’t remember it.

So why don’t I feel old?

Could it be immaturity? Maybe, but I really hope not. I think I feel young because I feel like I have so far to go and so much to learn. A couple weeks ago I heard a sermon that highlighted the differences between being childish and being childlike. People who are childish, stop maturing and growing, while those who are childlike resemble sponges, soaking in each new experience. They mature each day, putting childish ways behind them, but still they experience the world around them with wide eyed wonder.

I hope I never grow up.

Well, I gotta run. “Perry Mason” is on.

(to download an mp3 of Josh White's sermon,
entitled "Faith Like Henry," click here)

update from india - june 21

Sarah and Clint Baldwin are the leaders of Courtney's trip to India. Sarah is the Campus Pastor at George Fox University. She just sent this email out...

Hey, all--

We had an epic journey (as Bethany would say) on Saturday. We traveled crammed into two vehicles 2.5 hours outside of the city on a wild ride over bumps and through congested villages to an island off of the coast. Once arriving at the coast we traveled by a half-raft/half-fishing boatish contraption to the island and then took bicycle rickshaws to the beautiful Friends' Orphanage named the Emmanuel Hostel. The children were beautiful, they treated us like royalty and for most if not all, it was the highlight of the trip so far. Being outside the craziness of the city refreshed us and although we were sore and exhausted by the time we returned, it was worth it.

We worshipped with a fellowship that meets at the Y yesterday and today are beginning our work in the homes. We have three or four different groups of students who will work in three or four different homes. We either work in the morning or afternoon--and some will work both shifts. The heat and the length of transportation make a half-day feel like a whole day.

A couple people are sick--we are right on schedule. Stay a week in Kolkata, some will get sick, stay two weeks, most will. :) But no one is desperately ill. This will most likely be our biggest need of prayer while we are here--physical health.

I am sure many of you are hearing from the students--the internet cafe is a convenient after lunch stop.

Thank you for your prayers.
Sarah & Clint

hillary's uganda journal - june 20

Today I went to Lusaka at 10 in the morning. This was a big deal for everyone since we don't live right next to the school, they think it's impossible to get there at a reasonable hour apparently. I'm not really sure why I had to be there at 10, Hannington told me to, but he wasn't even there today.

But I got to be in the p.6 (primary sixth grade) class today and learn about science. It amazes me how smart the kids are. For the first part of class they reviewed what they had learned yesterday and the teacher would ask what something was and either they would all repeat it, together, or one person would stand up and recite the answer. Just from yesterday! They're at school from 6 in the morning till 5 at night and then the p.6 and p.7 classes come back at 6 and go till 8! I don't understand how they can even think straight after that! And then they wake up again the next day and do it all over. But apparently, at some point in their days, they find time to memorize their notes on the reproductive system. So that's what we were learning about, the reproductive system, menstruation, and conception. It would've been an awkward class in the United States, but not here. It's all facts that should be known. Nothing awkward about that. These kids are around 11 or 12 years old and there was barely any snickering or funny looks. I think the only ones I did see were the students laughing at someone's question. Because they did ask questions. You wouldn't be able to pry questions out of Americans during a class like this. But it was interesting for them because this information just makes them more knowledgeable for when they all become doctors! :)

Joseph, the teacher, wrote notes up on the chalkboard and drew diagrams of everything, and the students all copied it down perfectly into their notebooks. And then Joseph got up on his soapbox and started preaching at these kids about not getting pregnant and the disadvantages of being pregnant when you are young.

He said, "The moment you become pregnant you are OLD! Why should we waste our time on you to bring you back to school?"

It's so different how abruptly they speak about these things. But this is a really convincing argument for them because school is the main objective for everyone here. You go to school, and you have a successful life. But you won't survive if you don't go to school.

"All of you here are Christians. You don't have bad manners!" (meaning that they aren't going to have any babies until after they're married)

Then they got onto the topic of AIDs and Joseph said that more young people (12-19 year olds) are dying from AIDs rather that the old people. Deborah (the girl my sister Courtney sponsors), stood up and asked "Who brought AIDs to Uganda?"
Me and Deborah

Then we had lunch, I ate with the teachers in the staff room. They were teaching me more luganda words and then decided that I needed a clan. Ronnie (the music teacher) said "you are a real Mugandan now!" I wanted to be an Empologoma (lion clan). But they decided against that and called me Mumbeja Hillary (Princess Hillary). The royalty in Uganda are a separate clan. Pauline is a Princess and Gladys is too (she's the one teaching me how to make the mat). So now I am a princess. I guess I'm alright with that. :)

Before I move on from lunch I just want to admit something: Posho is growing on me. When you just smother it with beans, it's not too bad. But I've found something worse. It's called matooke. Matooke are green bananas and when they are cooked they make a golden chunk of mush, if that helps at all for a mental picture. Ground nut sauce, Matooke, and Posho/They say it doesn't have any flavor. But I wouldn't necessarily say that. It has a flavor. Kind of a....blech. Yeah, I think that does it justice. I said I didn't want any to begin with, but Ronnie insisted that I need to learn to like matooke to truly be a Mugandan. So I gave in. But just like the posho anything can be improved if you cancel out the nastiness with something good tasting! So the ground nuts worked splendidly for that!

After lunch I went into the p.3 Social studies class. There were 73 students!! It was crazy! They learned about government and basic needs. Susan (the teacher) said that she teaches them history also and trades off between that, government and social problems (I guess thats what you'd call it).

Susan: "What are basic needs?"

One student stands up and says: "clothes" (pronounced Clothe-ez).

So, Susan writes it up on the chalkboard: C-L-O-T-H. Susan: "This is the correct spelling. Clothe-ez is spelled like this."

She announced this with such authority and as if she were revealing some hidden rule in the english language. No one would dare question her, including me. She gave the students a couple questions to write the answers down in their notebooks and then walked around and checked all 73 of them when they were finished. The type of discipline that she used was very interesting. I'm not a huge fan of it. She had a few boys go to the front of the classroom and stand on one foot. ("...and when I've found you've touched that foot to the ground...") Or when she was walking around she would hit some children on the head or on the back. I'm not really sure why, but one time I heard: "I don't like bad handwriting!" and another time: "Who is making our class smell like that?!" (whap! whap! whap!)

But this didn't break their spirits, it actually seemed pretty normal, except for the shouts of "owunya!" (you smell!) Then all the children broke out in song while Susan continued checking the papers. They moved from one song to the next, almost in unison. From songs in Luganda, to an education song, to Father Abraham! I loved watching their joyful faces as they sang and shouted for the world to hear while the classrooms on either side banged on the walls.

hillary's uganda journal - june 19

I mostly helped Tao, Mama, and Gladys with kitchen duties today. I passed out the food to the kids, washed dishes and put them away in the storeroom. But the most eventful thing was Gladys taught me how to make a kyaki mat! It is so much fun!! and it looks so cool! I can't realy explain it, I guess its just weaving and adding a piece of ensansa every now and then, Which is apparently dried palm leaves. But they're really skinny, so I don't know. We were going to buy some ensansa for me at the market, but they are gone at the moment, so I guess I have to be patient until next week. I'm going to make a green kyaki mat! I'm really excited!

How we cook for the children at the schools

(For more photos click HERE)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

hallucinations and other exciting adventures

"Larium may cause restlessness, confusion, dizziness, and hallucinations." Only three people on my team are taking the drug Larium, for Malaria prevention. I happen to be one of them, and so far, I'm the only one who's hallucinated! It's kind of funny thinking back on it...but at the time, really freaky. So, I've been having trouble sleeping (apparently due to my malaria medication) and I wake up during the night, and then again at 4 or 5:00am and can't go back to sleep. Well I woke up around 4:00am today, and there was an old Indian woman standing at the foot of Bethany's bed. Ok, it wasn't really an old woman, but I could've sworn that the towel and sheet hanging on that hook was a woman. I was so freaked out. The fans were blowing, so it looked like she was standing there scratching her back or something. I laid there for an hour and a half completely believing that a woman from the streets had wandered into our room and was just standing there looking at us. So, apparently those Larium side effects are no joke...quite an experience!

The past three days from 8am-noon I have been working with other volunteers at one of Mother Teresa's home: Prem Dan. I have been having so much fun hanging out with these women, smiling at them, helping them go to the bathroom, feeding them, rubbing their backs...I love it. And it's been fun to be able to come back to the same women and have them recognize me, it's so cute:) Today I sat down by a woman who I hadn't talked with yet. She was laying down on her cot and I started rubbing her back. Then she put her arm around my neck, pulled me close to her and kissed my cheek! She probably kissed me 5 or 6 times...and said "Tomorrow? Morning?" and I knew she wanted to see me again:) It was just so precious and made my day!

This is where all the women sit for their meals. There are benches along the walls and in the middle so all the women cram in this long hallway area to eat.

Last night Father Abello came to talk to our group at the YWCA, where we're staying in Kolkata. He was kind of interesting, I mean he knew Mother Teresa, and so that was amazing to hear about her! But, he rambled...a lot...and it was really hard to keep track of where he was going. And we were all SO tired as we listened to him from 7-9:45pm. That time of night is killer, because we've all had such LONG days. I really wanted to get more of what he was saying, but I couldn't stay awake...oh man, it was tough:)

The past couple days have been a bit odd for me. I feel like I'm getting used to how things are here, not a lot shocks me or makes me really sad when I see it. There is so much poverty and gross things everywhere, and I feel like I'm not really affected by it. And I'm also just really confused. I don't know what I think about things...I guess still processing and figuring out what life is like in India. It's also weird, because part of me just wants to live WAY more away what I don't need, like how Mother Teresa lived her life. Seeing how people are living here, makes me realize how much I don't need in my life. But then, there's also the part of me, that wants to go shopping for sarees or purses or whatever, because everything is just so amazing here and I love the style! So, I guess I'm kind of struggling with that...wondering how to react to what I see, and how it will change me. I know these weeks in India are going to change my life forever. I'm already thinking about things differently and realizing how I'm really drawn to this place, to these people. I feel really overwhelmed sometimes, I try to figure out what I think about everything, try to understand how I'm feeling, and I just get more confused:) I feel like there are so many emotions going on in me...happiness, love, sadness, confusion, joy, overwhelmed...sometimes I just feel like crying because of what I see, or else I just want to laugh and smile. anyway, it's just weird. But I'm so happy...I know that much. I love India. I love the kids. I love the old women. (even hallucinations of them...haha) I love my team. I love God. Life is so good:)

Monday, June 18, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 16-18

Posted by Curt, but written by Hillary...

June 16th
Today I went to my first African wedding! Well...actually...I was GOING to go to my first African wedding. We waited around all day to be picked up to go. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding and Hopkins came to pick us up at 7 at night. Which was after the wedding was over. So we just went to the reception and ate their food. haha

This party was about like any wedding reception that you might go to in the states. Except there was a lot more random dancing, the bride knelt down in front of the groom to give him cake and a drink of fanta (don't ask me why fanta), the bridesmaids came by to all the guests with plates of little pieces of cake for us to pick one, AND it was all in Luganda. SO I just understood little pieces of what was going on. But it was fun looking at all the fancy outfits! A lot of the women wore gomasis. These are the traditional African dresses, they have the puffy sleeves and wraps around their waists. They are in all different colors and are SO pretty! The wedding's colors were orange and white. But it still looked good! It was kind of a pale orange. But anyway, that was all I got to see of this wedding. But Hopkins says we are going to another one in July. SO that will technically be my first African wedding to see.

Sunday June 17th
Today we were at church most of the day. In Sunday School we taught the kids the names of all the books of the Bible. We made signs and they came up and taped them on the wall in order. Then we taught them the song that goes with that. But it's to a different tune than the one that kids learn at home. And they say the Bible names all weird. So I was learning along with the kids.

Yvonne and me with her little sister, Monica at church. Monica let me tickle her and she even smiled!! haha but she still wouldn't let go of Yvonne. She had at least one hand grabbing her the whole time.

Oh I also met Yvonne's grandpa Paul today. He was so nice! Old people here are so cute! At home, it's "hit and miss" a lot of the time with older people, many are nice and friendly but then you also get the grumpy ones. Here I don't think I've met any grumpy ones. They're all cute and friendly! They just seem so genuine with whatever they're saying to me, and make me feel like whatever I'm saying means the world to them!

Monday June 18th
Today we went for a run at 5:30 because I didn't want everyone staring at us. We barely saw anyone! so that was nice. But we also couldn't see the ground in front of us. Which did present some problems because the ground isn't very flat. So that made things a little more difficult. But, if I took my eyes off of the ground, I could see all of Kampala stretched out before me all lit up. And the big mosque on the hill shining in the darkness. As we ran, the Muslim prayers started being chanted on the microphones from all directions. It was a nice relxaing "workout mix" (haha) which I needed because I haven't gone on a run for more than a month :-/

update from india - june 18

Posted by Curt, but written by Courtney...

I don't even know where to begin, India is truly an amazing place. I am so in love with the culture, the people, the trees...everything! It's weird because I've dreamed of coming to India for so long, and as much as I've thought about it or researched it, I could never imagine it would be like this. India is intense...heat...poverty...people's so different than anything I've ever experienced, and I am so intrigued by it all! I haven't minded being sweaty ALL the time, the humidity is crazy, but it's actually a little cooler than the past month because we're getting into the rainy season now. The city of Kolkata is really busy and dirty. There is so much traffic all the's always an adventure crossing the street! It's been so amazing taking different forms of transportation too:) In one day we rode the Metro (the subway), a bus, a small ferry, and an auto rickshaw (a three-wheeled 4 passenger thing...hard to explain). We've also taken taxis, riden on the back of a cart pulled by a guy on a cycle (bike) and a smaller boat. Those have been a lot of fun...some people on the team are a little scared about the taxis-weaving in and out of traffic, but I absolutely love it! It's so much fun, and the drivers here are so one ever hits any other cars...well sometimes the mirrors get hit:)

The past couple days have been so full of adventures. My favorite day so far has been our day outside of the city where we visited an orphanage. It was so amazing! It was like a 2.5 hour van ride, followd by a boat ride over the ocean to the island, followed by a cart ride to the orphanage. It kind of reminded me of the pictures I've seen from Hill in Uganda in the Bush. The houses were all mud with straw roofs. It was so cool! There were palm trees everywhere, kids playing in little streams, women working in the fields in their beautiful sarees, groups of goats, sheep, and cows walking along the streets. And then the orphanage was amazing...the kids were so adorable and so happy! They sang songs for us and we sang to them too:) We had a little while to play with them, but it seemed like a really short visit. I fell in love with this island! I seriously want to move here someday:) I feel like that's been the hardest part of this trip, wanting so badly to belong here, but feeling a lot like a tourist. I'm starting to feel more comfortable here, and can totally picture myself living here:) We'll see what God has planned!

Everyday has been such an adventure and every experience has been so exciting! I love walking around some of the smaller streets where people aren't trying to always sell me something, and just smiling at the kids and women. It's so fun to make eye contact with people and just be friendly:) I really wish I knew the would be so fun to find out more about the beautiful people all around me!

Today we started working with the Sisters of Charity homes. I was placed at Prem Dan which is a home for elderly men and women (but as a woman, I just stay with the women). It was such an interesting experience. It was really hard to see the older women in pain, or handicapped in some way, or mentally challenged. But at the same time it was really fun to just sit and hold hands with a woman for a long time. It's hard trying to communicate with them when they don't speak any english, but I just smiled a lot:) We also did laundry and dishes for a couple hours which was hard work, and I got SOAKING wet...but it was fun to be able to connect with other volunteers from all over the world. Later today I'm going to a home for kids, just for today. The rest of the week I will probably only go to Prem Dan in the morning and that will be it. But I'm really looking forward to hanging out with kids and playing with them! I think it will be easier for me to communicate with the kids, because we can just play games:)

I'm kind of getting used to the time difference, although since I've been here I wake up at 5am, along with two other girls on the's like clockwork every morning:) The three of us just read or journal because we can't get back to's been a good way for me to start my day, just relaxing, praying, thinking about the adventures I've been on so far, and what I will experience that day.

And I absolutely LOVE my team! It's so cool because we are all really different, but have so much fun together, and are really learning a lot from each other. I've been able to have some really good conversations with people on my team which has been so good! I like when the group is all together sometimes, but have really enjoyed being with only a couple people...and it's easier to travel without the WHOLE group:) I'm just having a lot of fun right now. A lot of thinking and processing. I'm not really that saddened by the poverty I see. It's all around, wherever I look, and I wonder if I should feel more. I think at this point I'm just taking it all in, absorbing everything I see. I'm just so fascinated by the people and this country, and I just want to get to know them rather than feel sorry for them.

Anyway, those are my thoughts so far. Kind of random...but that's how I am right now. My mind is all over the place, just so excited to be here and learn more about this place and the people:) Thanks for your prayers, if you could pray for our team, a couple people are sick...thankfully I'm not. But we still have 2 more weeks...definitely time for us to get sick:) Thanks!

Friday, June 15, 2007

greetings from kolkata, india - june 15

Sarah and Clint Baldwin are the leaders of Courtney's trip to India. Sarah is the Campus Pastor at George Fox University. She just sent this email out...

Dear friends and family:

Greetings from Kolkata! After 28 hours of travel (with no problems or delays), we made our way to the YWCA hostel that we are staying. We are all well and overall in good spirits. Thanks for all your prayers.

Yesterday we took a four hour walking tour of the city. We were very much immersed in the sights and sounds (and smells) of Kolkata. Last night as we were debriefing several students mentioned that what most struck them was the sheer amount of people that were everywhere that we looked. Over 16 million people flow through the streets of Kolkata every day in a city the size of the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Amazing! We crossed the Howrah bridge on foot--it's the busiest bridge in the world with over a million people crossing it every day. We truly were sucked into a sea of people like we have never been in before. We took every kind of transportation possible yesterday (almost!). We took taxis, ferry, bus, subway and autorickshaw. But the end of the day, we truly were exhausted.

Stock photo of the Howra Bridge.

This morning we visited the Assemblies of God hospital and were super impressed with its facilities. It's just a 5 minute taxi ride from our hostel, so parents, you can breathe easier. We have good medical care practically in our backyard.

In an hour we are going to register at the Mother House so that we can begin work this Monday. Tomorrow we will visit a Friends' Orphanage and continue our acclimation process to this crazy city we are living in. Sunday we will worship with the church that meets in our hostel.

Please pray for our team's continued health. The climate is tough here and disease is everywhere you look--but we are consuming vasts amounts of anti-bacterial gel on our hands. Also, please pray for those of us who are suffering with jet lag. It's hard to manage this city on not a lot of sleep. And pray for us as we prepare to work in the homes.

Thanks so much for your prayers!
every blessing to you,
Sarah & Clint

hillary's uganda journal - june 13-14

Posted by Curt, but written by Hillary...

June 13th
I was at Lusaka today, but Hannington and Hopkins decided not to show up for a long time so I had to jump around from desk to desk when the faculty weren't using them to do my work (no one had a key to Hannington's office). Then I finally got a chance to slip away by myself and go up to Yvonne's house. I don't think that's allowed, but I"m going a little crazy having someone go with me everywhere. It feels like I have a bodyguard. I'm not a big fan of that!

SO I went up to see Harriet (Yvonne's mom, I just found out what her name is). I brought some sweets for Monica (Yvonne's baby sister) because she's scared of me. SO I thought, "what better way to make someone like me than giving them candy, right!?" But Monica wasn't there. Harriet said that she was at prayers. She's like 2 years old, so I don't really know what that meant. (haha)

Me and Yvonne.

It's really interesting talking to Yvonne's mom because her and Yvonne are so much alike! They have the same mannerisms in how they talk. Like Yvonne sometimes rolls her eye's up when she is talking, like maybe when she's tyring to think of a word, and her mom does the same thing! And they look exactly the same too! Yvonne is just a miniature of her mom!

Yvonne practicing with the choir

June 14th
Today I didn't even leave the apartments! I was just there all by myself working on sponsorship stuff. But it went really well! I went through the paperwork from the villages of Lugazi, Rwenjiri, Troas, and Kitongo and got them all organized. I paperclipped things together and put stickies on them so that I know exactly what that individual stack of papers needs in order to be completed so I can send it back to the states. I know, I'm a nerd, but these kinds of things are very satisfying for me! haha

After I got done, everyone was still out, so I decided to cook dinner all by myself! I cooked the peas and rice and I made chipotis. Because I am becoming a pro at making those suckers. It was a little difficult by myself because nothing is measured here, so I just had to guess at how much onions, carrots, tomatoes and salt to put in. Which resulted in it being a little plain because I didn't want to overdo it. But it was still good!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - june 12

Posted by Curt, but written by Hillary...

In Africa you spend so long cooking that when you finish cooking, eating it, and cleaning all the dishes, you are almost hungry again for the next meal! It all takes so long that if you aren't busy out and about and doing other things you could possibly spend the whole day in the kitchen. And, really, I haven't figured out why I even wash my feet or my clothes! Because my feet tend to get reddish brown after about 20 minutes out of the shower. and my clothes are about the same.

I've been walking to Lusaka every day which is about a 45 minute to an hour walk. I wish I could just be invisible sometimes, Resty (She is the one living with me right now) tells me almost every day she wishes she was white. But I insist, every time, that black is the way to go! She doesn't have EVERYONE staring at her and yelling for her to come with them. Some people ask her in Luganda if they can have me! REALLY?! Most of the time I just don't understand the thought process of these guys.

Last night I went through ALL of the letters from the children to their sponsors. There are probably around 400 and none of them were organized into what village they are from. So I had to check each one on my lists...oh man. It took forever, especially since some of the children are really young and I could barely read their handwriting!Hillary and Sam gathering sponsorship information at a school

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

courtney flies out of portland

Well, my mom and I just dropped Courtney off at the airport. Their team seemed excited and rarin' to go as they arrived at PDX three hours before their flight was to take off. She was calm on the outside, but her nerves showed a little as she shared her Starbucks Toffee Nut Latte with the airport carpet! With a complementary replacement we were on our way. After that, the check-in went incredibly smoothly and the whole group from George Fox University was processed in a matter of minutes. The last I saw Courtney, she and her team were heading off in all directions to eat lunch before reconnecting at the gate. The buildup is starting to get to her and she is really anxious to just get going! Finally, her dream of visiting India, the country that has intrigued her since childhood, will become reality. She knows it will be difficult to experience the level of poverty that they will encounter, but is really approaching the trip with expectancy. I see online that their flight took off 17 minutes late, but will arrive on time in Frankfurt, Germany at 8:08am local time. Have a safe trip!

Monday, June 11, 2007

counting down the hours...

Posted by Curt, but written by Courtney...

This month has been filled with much anticipation as I get ready for my first trip overseas! I stayed really busy at Starbucks this month, which helped pass the time, but I've been ready to get on that plane this whole week:) It's weird, thinking that it's been a month since I've seen my teammates for the India trip, and I'm so excited that I get to see everyone again tonight! We're having a "last supper" tonight and then we're all meeting at the airport tomorrow morning. Thoughts of India have consumed my mind for so long now...I find myself imagining what the air will feel like, what different smells there will be, how the chai tea will taste, the loud sounds of the city...but knowing the whole time that I really have no clue what my experience will be like. I know I will just take everything I'm in a completely different culture with adventures waiting to happen! And I realize that I'm equally excited to just experience the culture and people and sights of India, as I am to be used by God in this poor part of the world. I love new things...I always have. Whether it's the start of a new school year, trying new foods, making a new friend, trying a different sport...I just love doing things that are out of the ordinary, out of my comfort excites me and while I'm a little nervous about stepping into this completely different world, I'm just overwhelmed with excitement because it's something new and different. I also feel like God has really placed India on my heart for the past couple years, and it makes me excited to be able follow Him into the unknown...follow Him and see what makes His heart break...follow Him and be touched by the faces I'll see there.

I feel like I'm a mess right much is going on in my mind I don't really know how to respond to it all...or how to put it into words. All I know is I'm so excited for this adventure to start! I've been counting down the days, and now the hours, as I just wait for tomorrow to come:) I'm ready to soak it all in and eager to do whatever God has planned for me.

hillary's uganda journal - june 11

Posted by Curt, but written by Hillary...

I've always been proud of the fact that I haven't been sick or have had many mosquito bites while in Uganda. I took it as a sign that I was supposed to live here, as I looked around at all my suffering teamates. Well, scratch the first one. I've now been pretty hardcore sick (still getting over it actually), But, as for the second one, I dismissed the first few bites, ignorantly claiming, "no, those aren't bites!" or thinking those mosquitos were possessed, "they must be the crazy ones to bite me!" But now, I just can't deny the little red bumps, varying in size, protruding all over my arms.

Yep...those are definately mosquito bites. Malaria here I come!

Just joking! I'm not going to get malaria!
....I hope I didn't say that too soon...

But, enough of that. It's been a lot quieter without the Corban team here. And, I'm not gonna lie, I'm enjoying it! I get to go through all the children's papers and rewrite the information that is sent to their sponsers, and I'm organizing their letters they wrote. SO it's pretty fun for me. I also get to hang out with the choir every once in a while and hear their practices.

Every time I'm in Lusaka I go up the road to visit Yvonne's mom. She is SO sweet! And either she's shy or she doesn't speak much english. Either way, she is the nicest mom to me, even if I wake her up!

Stacey, I gave Mable that Bible you got her- she LOVES it! Every time I see her she asks me about you, and she is always carrying that picture you sent!

It's getting pretty rainy these days. I don't mind the rain, it's actually pretty fun because it's so hard! And it's pretty cool watching the red dirt rivers flowing down the roads. The only downside is that things tend to not happen very often when it rains. Especially if we were planning to travel somewhere. People usually just stay inside.

June 11th
Today I was at Lusaka doing a lot of paperwork. Oy. For lunch I had posho! Which is by far my least favorite African food (it's called Ogali in Kenya, and it might be worse there). Every time they serve it I have to choke it down. I'm ok with most foods here, actually, I love most foods here and I am becoming a pro at cooking African food!

But Posho..I don't think I can ever learn to like it!

Then I was tired with paperwork after lunch so I helped the cooks with everything that they do. I sorted beans for hours!! They make the food for all the children at the school, so I saw a crazy amount of beans today!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

shades of flannel

I just got back from camping with a group of men from my church. We went to an amazing lake up near Mt. Hood, here in Oregon. I’ve tried to remember the last time I went camping, but I can’t. The last trip I remember was about 5 or 6 years ago with some friends, but I can’t be sure. My memory has become very sketchy these days. A topic for another blog entry perhaps.

It’s weird that I haven’t pitched my tent in the Great Outdoors for a while, because I really enjoy it. I love the uneasy feeling of being out of cell phone range. I love that the only scheduling decisions I have to make are whether to take a nap in a hammock strung between two trees or spend time fussing with my tarp castle.

It’s so peaceful, restful, and relaxing, but I have to admit one of the great draws for me is The Battle…you know, me versus the elements. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Bear Grylls from the TV show “Man vs. Wild”. You’ll never catch me eating the raw meat off a dead zebra carcass to stay alive or foraging for ants (apparently “an excellent source of protein!”). For this trip I set up a futon mattress in the back of my truck. Not exactly roughing it, but my neck might never be the same.

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But I don’t go to the other extreme either. You won’t find me in an epic struggle to readjust the satellite dish on top of my air conditioned recreational vehicle, or making my camping plans based on the proximity of the nearest Starbucks (my first stop when I came down off the mountain. “Make that a triple Venti Mocha please”).

I think what I like most is that feeling of being a kid again building forts that don’t let in any light or rain, and making stuff out of sticks and rocks. I love the struggle to make do with whatever is available. There’s no satisfaction like settling in for the night after building a fortress out of a combination of tarps, branches, bungee cords, ropes, and…oh yeah…futon mattresses.

The best discovery about this weekend though, had to do with the fifty, or so, guys I went with. I didn’t really know many of them before the trip. My closest buds at church weren’t able to go, so I almost didn’t go myself. What a huge loss that would’ve been.

From Friday night to Sunday morning I sat and talked with guys from all walks and stages of life. College students and grandpas. Blue collar workers and executives. Rugged outdoorsman and, well, guys like me. And do you want to know the best thing about it? I couldn’t tell the difference! When guys are camping, and they’re in all shades of flannel, you can’t tell a mill worker from an investment banker. It’s truly a beautiful thing. When you strip everyone down to the blue jeans, flannel shirts and work boots, we’re all just a bunch of guys readjusting our tarps and playing with fire.

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As I sat around the campfire gnawing on some fresh trout, talking to my new friends, I was struck by this thought. This must be how God views us. In his eyes we’re all the same…just a bunch of guys that He’d love to have a relationship with. I think that’s probably why it was easy for Jesus to hang out with people of all walks of life, from the disgustingly religious to the outcasts of society that no one else would have anything to do with. To him, they’re all just a bunch of guys in flannel. I love that!

Well, I need to run. I’ve got an appointment with my chiropractor. I wonder if he likes to camp?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

corban team flies home

I just got an email from Hillary. Here are the highlights...

The students from Corban flew home yesterday, so they spent the day yesterday cleaning the apartments after they left. She said church on Sunday was a blast. She and Sarah, from Corban, taught a Sunday School class of 200 kids! They told the story of Noah, had the kids draw pictures of animals and they taped them up on the wall by a big ark, and sang songs until their voices were hoarse. She's feeling a lot better health-wise. Not 100%, but definitely a lot better. Thanks to all of you for your prayer. She's trying to upload pictures, but the internet access is a little sketchy. We should be able to see some soon.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

a sunny epiphany

I just got done mowing the lawn on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning here in Oregon and I had an epiphany.

It wasn’t the kind of epiphany where you come up with a revolutionary way of mowing the lawn using only brain waves. What good would that be to me anyway? I couldn’t produce enough juice to turn the contraption on, let alone cut the whole lawn.

It wasn’t the kind of epiphany where you come up with some fresh new idea for turning recycled grass into a food source to solve world hunger. Although I could see a great ad campaign, “Save the Grass…Save the World” with Chuck Heston screaming into the camera at the end, “Soylent Green is GRASS!”

This epiphany is so simple it hit me right between the eyes. My epiphany?

I’m just mowing weeds!

There, I said it! I know in and of itself it’s not all that “epiphany-worthy,” but it was ground breaking to me. I’ve been mowing only weeds every summer for a couple of decades now, and I know there are solutions. Many solutions. Aisles and aisles of solutions. I’m sure the guy down the street with the golf course for a lawn could school me on the finer points of greening up my “brown thumb.” It really shouldn’t be that hard. It rains a lot in Oregon. I mean…A LOT!

So I started thinking (something I don’t do that often because it hurts my head)…Why is my lawn so green and beautiful in the winter when it’s all stormy and I don’t feel like laying out in it? And why, in the summer, does all the grass die but the weeds become a thick jungle of raging thorns?

I know the answer is simple. I told you it was simple. I am a simpleton.

When it’s nice and beautiful outside, life is easy, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping. The weeds gang up on the grass and rule the yard. When it’s gloomy and rainy and drippy, the weeds die and the grass flourishes.

I’ve found this to be true in my life too. When things are easy…life is comfortable…the bills all get paid on time…relationships are smooth…

…the weeds start to grow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Winnie the Pooh’s donkey buddy trying to manufacture pain and suffering in my life. It’s just that I’ve noticed, when storms hit my life, the rain falls in buckets, when things aren’t so easy…I begin to really grow. To me that is the simple answer to the age-old question: “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

He wants us to grow.

He wants to be able to show us off to the passersby like a plush, succulent green lawn. He wants to be able to enjoy walking barefooted all over us…Okay, well the analogy kind of breaks down there, but you understand what I’m saying.

I think that’s why in the Bible it says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

I don’t know about you, but that kind of gives me a new perspective on facing the torrents of rain in my life. Instead of whining and wallowing and “why me-ing,” I should just let it soak me to the skin. Instead of fuming and formulating and fighting, I should just pull a Gene Kelly and splash around in it.

Now, where did I put that fertilizer? It was just here…a few years ago!

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the latest on the sells

As of May 27, 2009...

Wow, it's been almost a year since we've updated this. Our family had a wonderful experience traveling to Uganda two summers ago, which prompted us to keep a journal on this blog. You can read our daily journal from our month long trip

This year brings new adventures. Our eldest daughter, Courtney, after graduating from George Fox University with honors, left for her third trip to India to spend nearly a YEAR to work at Happy Home for the Handicapped in Shimoga, India. You can read about her first trip to India and the impact it had on her life here. She'll also give us new updates from her current trip on this site (here). As of this writing, she is just starting to settle in and is very excited to be there. She has been looking forward to this for a long time!

Meanwhile, Hillary spent all of last year
touring the western U.S. with Matsiko, the choir of children we grew to love as our own in Uganda. She journalled about her experiences in Uganda if you'd like to see what that was like. At some point during this tour, she felt led to join the U.S. Army. Quite a big decision, and one she didn't take lightly. After moving through Basic Training with flying colors, she is now at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio training to become a combat medic. It's a very intense training, but we're sure she'll do well. Our whole family was able to travel to South Carolina to watch her graduate from Basic Training. What an awe inspiring experience!

Leslie is having a great year of teaching 5th graders. She's also in a Master's program, which takes a good chunk of her time. She's still finds time to read a TON of books. Literally, a ton!

Curt was overwhelmed by his experience as a first time overseas traveler and kept up his journal here (you can also read his random posts on everyday life here). The busyness of life and keeping track of his traveling kids has slowed down his writing, but he hopes to begin writing on a regular basis again soon.