Monday, July 30, 2007

leslie's journal from Uganda-July 27

Friday, June 29 (2:00 a.m.)

At 2:00 a.m. I wake to a cacophony of voices. It starts with a single voice (or should I say howl) and crescendos to a full choir – seven or eight part harmony of yips, howls, barks, woofs, growls – I am in Africa!

I spend the rest of the early morning in and out of sleep. At 6:30 the sunrise blankets the sky with a soft, pink haze. The birds have taken over where the dogs left off – I especially love the kazoo-sounding screech!

Everyone is pretty tired as we enjoy the mendazi Hillary has prepared for us. I sip my Africafe instant coffee (not bad) and enjoy the relaxing morning. I spend time in Psalms on the balcony overlooking the city – I’m in Africa! (I still can’t get over it!)

Moses picks us up around 10:30 and we venture into the city. We think we are going to the embassy, but instead we go to the bank. The exchange rate is 1652 shillings per dollar (the value of the dollar has been steadily decreasing since the announcement of Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in November). We exchange our money, and two hours later we head out into the city on foot, which turns out to be quite an adventure! The traffic is crazy – bumper to bumper cars, boda bodas, people walking. We finally make it half way across the street and wait for another break in the traffic. The ground is uneven so I am trying not to trip while watching for cars and boda bodas and keeping an eye out for Hopkins so I don’t get lost. Amazingly, I am not stressed out – I am in Africa! More later.

After making a number of stops in the city (paying for parking each time), we make it back to the apartment (five hours from when we left). I feel like am prepared for how long things take here, so it doesn’t bother me (although we never made it to the embassy!)

I head to bed at around 23:00 and sleep until 1:00 (two hours). I am wide awake, so I read for a few hours. (I found a great book for my first read aloud in the fall – I read the first chapter to Court and Hill earlier in the day and now they are hooked!)

leslie's journal from Uganda-July 26

I’m in Africa! This is actually my second day here – I slept most of my first day!

Thursday, July 28

We arrived in Entebbe at 7:40. As we stepped off the plane I couldn’t stop smiling – I’m in Africa! The air was thick, but there was a slight breeze so it wasn’t too warm. Off to the left was Lake Victoria. Straight ahead and to the right was land and trees in the distance – so big and open. Behind us was the airport, under construction (as are many things in this country!)

We waited in line to get our visas – nothing like the hustle and bustle of the Seattle and London airports. Security was pretty much nonexistent. We grabbed our luggage (it was all there – yeah!) and headed toward the airport building. Courtney was the first to spot Hillary, and then it was my turn to hug her. “Hi, Mama.” I missed that sweet voice and sincere smile! Then it was on to more hugging . First Hopkins, then Dethan, Sam S., and Sam L. Lots of smiles – so glad to finally meet these great people Hillary has told us so much about.

Our luggage is stuffed into the back as we pile into the van – all eight of us – and there is room to spare! As we drive from Entebbe to Kampala I do my best to take in all the sights and sounds (and smells). There are many people walking on the sides of the road, riding bikes, driving boda bodas. I can’t get over the fire red dirt (even though Hillary told me about it) – it is everywhere! There are people working in the fields of red dirt digging, hoeing – I’m not sure why. There are even people sweeping the red dirt!

Our van zooms around, weaving in and out of cars, driving on the left side of the road – this will take a while to get used to. I see the land filled with palm trees and banana trees (I think) - it is beautiful. I am in Africa, I keep telling myself! Then, as we drive through a more populated area, I see shops with wares from sides of beef (I think it’s beef) hanging outside, to furniture (all the chairs are exactly the same).

The closer we get to the city, the more poverty I see. None of the side roads are paved - just lots and lots of red dirt. Many people sitting or standing, staring off into the distance; shoeless children walking around (seemingly unsupervised); women bent over cooking pots.

The boda bodas zoom by, squeezing through places that seem impossible to squeeze through. After about an hour we turn off the highway onto a bumpy, dirt road (really bumpy). There are shacks pieced together with strips of battered wood, clay, and sheets of aluminum. Men and boys are lined up along the sides of the road, there faces filled with blank stares. They look sad. I wonder: “Do they have jobs?” It is a Thursday morning at 10:00. The women I see working (sweeping dirt, cooking over outside fires). But mostly I see men.

We get to our destination and after about 10 honks the gatekeeper unlocks and opens a large metal gate. We haul our luggage up three flights of stairs and enter our home for the next month. It is very nice (and clean) especially after seeing the living conditions all around us. It is much bigger than our house at home. It is filled with linoleum that we quickly cover with a film of red dirt. We unpack some of the things we brought to give away to the kids so Hill can see. We are so excited to give them away.

At about noon I decided to take a nap. It had been about 40 hours since I had slept in a bed – it felt so good to lie down. The sounds of outside flowed in through the open window - revving cars, honking horns, barking dogs. It didn’t seem to bother me - it was dark when I woke up! We shared a dinner consisting of noodles, rice, avocadoes, and peas (with onions, garlic, and tomatoes). It was delicious!

Moses, Sam S., and Sam L. came over later. The Sams are hilarious. It was fun spending the evening with them. Moses said he would pick us up at about 9 or 10 the next day and take us to the U.S. Embassy.

After spending a little time in our room hanging out with Hill and Court, I was back in bed. The outside noises continued – music, talking Ugandans, dogs, cars, honking horns – it was almost calming (I’m not sure why). I’ve only lived in the suburbs – I wonder if any city would sound like this at night.

curt's journal from Uganda-July 29

Today before church I decided to cook breakfast for everyone. I don’t quite have the tools I have at home and so I improvised. Bad idea! Everyone was nice about it, but those were the nastiest poached eggs and toast I’ve ever made. I know it’s hard to ruin such an easy dish, but I managed just fine thank you.

We walked into church at about 10:00 and were ushered to the front where seats were saved for us. The church is a large building with rustic wooden beams and a Ugandan red dirt floor. The floor was hosed down the day before during the kids choir practice to keep the dust down. That was something you don’t always see. We didn’t get out of there until after 1:00, but if it were up to me, it would’ve gone longer. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t understand much but it was very moving. It’s a bilingual service so everything that is spoken in English is translated into Luganda and visa versa (and the speakers switch back and forth between the two making it mental gymnastics for someone like me). I’m finding that, although English is the official language, Luganda carries the weight of this country. The music was extremely moving even though I didn’t understand much of it. When the choir went into the Luganda version of “When We All Get to Heaven” I was moved to tears. I found out later that it affected Leslie the same way.

At the end of the service, one of the pastors, Dithan, called Hillary up to the front. She had been working with the kids like she always does, so she didn’t sit by us. When she came up to the front everyone clapped for her and Dithan went on a long, description of all that Hillary had done for their mission work. He said he want to keep her there, “so if any of you young men would hurry up an marry her…” She was, of course, rolling her eyes and embarrassed but covered it well. He then had her introduce us up on stage. He asked us to say something and I was the only one that would at first. I proceed to completely BUTCHER two of the only words I know in Luganda. I was going to be SOOOO smooth, but I got nervous and blew it. At least I didn’t say a swear word.

After church and lunch, we took a two hour van ride to Bugandi Falls and also the source of the Nile river. The roads were under construction quite a bit, so there were some interesting maneuvers. I have no idea how people don’t get killed every day on the roads. It’s really something I can’t even describe. Lines and road widths mean nothing. Our tourist destinations were really beautiful. We paid a guy to risk his life by floating down Bugandi Falls…not sure how I feel about doing that, but…eh…it’s a living! The Source of the Nile, where Lake Victoria spills into the Nile River was beautiful. We took a few photos and then paid some gymnastics guys to give us a demonstration. Pretty much everywhere you go, people are trying to sell you something but this was pretty unusual. This guy shimmies up this pole that is not in the ground at all, then does all these fancy moves while his buddies drum and sing. It was pretty cool. I especially liked where he put both of his legs behind his head. That dude was limber.

On the way home, we stopped at a “rest stop” which is where you pull over to the side of the road and a whole bunch of people surround your car and try to sell you something. My sliding window was cracked open for a breeze and this young lady just took it upon herself to open it up wide. We bought some friend bananas, which were interesting. Some of them were the non-ripened variety, which tasted a bit like a tart squash. Others were mature, large, and very sweet and rich. It was a very interesting day all around. We were all really tired and came home and crashed. Leslie is sleeping hard as I write this. Tonight I’m going with earplugs to see how that works. (not for Leslie, for the dogs and Karaoke)

curt's journal from Uganda-July 28 (Actual date)

Well, last night didn’t bring much sleep, but I’ve got a good feeling about tonight. I’m not really sure what sounds more off key, the Karaoke or the howling dogs. I think it’s a toss up. The dogs definitely have more rhythm though.

This morning, we relaxed around the apartment as our bodies are still trying to adjust. It was nice to just chill out and get to know Resty, the young lady who cooks for us and is pretty much our guardian. She doesn’t seem to get tired of my thousands of questions.

This afternoon we got to see the choir practice. It was amazing. They went to school all morning and when we got there at about 3:00, they had already been practicing for quite awhile. When we got there they stayed up on the stage but we received some of the most loving looks I’ve ever received. Sam Straxy, the main “trainer” had us introduce ourselves and then each kid told us their name and grade. I had seen them perform on video, but it was nothing like the real thing. I was amazed at how young and small they are. I think on video they looked so poised and skilled that I assumed they were older than they are. The practiced hard for the next two hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. They spent a long time going over and over one part. I can’t imagine a group of American kids holding their concentration that long. The youngest, Peter, is only five years old! My mom sponsors him and I know she would really like him. Our family and extended family sponsors so many of these kids, I felt like I knew them all. After they were done practicing, they called us up on stage and we all gathered in a circle and they sang a song. Then Sam had them spend some time praying. I was not prepared for what happened next. Some of them got down on their knees and some of them remained standing. They prayed out loud and I’ve never seen more sincerity in my life. It was truly a humbling experience. These kids truly live what they believe and believe with their whole heart.

After this was done, the kids all gathered around us and we finally got to meet them face to face. They came up and gave us big hugs and said, “You are welcome.” This is the phrase that I’m hearing a lot. It means “thank you for coming to our country…welcome!” I think because of their relationship to Hillary they were as excited to see us as were were them.

After this we walked up to the high school, because Hill was already there to play basketball with the boys. Little did we know, this would be a real game with a ref and everything. Some of the graduates of the high school, who are now in college came to scrimmage one of the school’s teams. So, there was Hillary, starting guard for the St. Mbuga Prophets. She played great and the crowd grew and got louder in the second half as the Prophets mounted a serious comeback. They ended up winning by about nine points and the place went crazy. Hillary’s been sick, so she took herself out of the game a few times, but her presence was felt. The surreal moment for me, when I KNEW I was in Africa, was when a chicken wandered onto the bricked court and no one really even noticed.

curt's journal from Uganda-July 28

I promise not to always let my posts turn into novels, but right now I’m just overwhelmed by everything. The first night in our new home was a very interesting experience. I think at about midnight the local dogs began to howl like I’ve never heard dogs howl before. It sounded like wolves from all over wailing at the top of their lungs. The sounds filled the air for a long time and were nearly impossible to sleep through. I say “nearly” because our exhausted group of young girls heard nothing! They then continued to bark off and on all night. At about 1:30am Leslie and I heard this loud rattling on the gate below. I thought maybe it was the wind, but I couldn’t feel the slightest breeze, though I longed for one desperately. The loud rattling would go on for about 20 seconds and then stop for about five minutes, only to start up again. Then the rattling became banging, lasting progressively longer. It definitely had a human feel to it. I looked down and couldn’t see anything. Finally after about twenty minutes of this, the gatekeeper woke up and let the man inside. Resty told us that this happens every so often and sometimes they then argue for another 20 minutes. She wants to yell, “Argue in the morning! We are trying to sleep!” I’m currently cursing the invention of Karaoke. From our location we can hear a lot of loud, BAD, singing into all hours of the night.

Today we exchanged our money for Shillings. I was not aware traveling would require so much math. I’m sure I’m going to mess up and spend 20 dollars for a pencil. The good thing is that while we were waiting at the bank, I discovered a wireless network was available, so I was able to get on the internet to make that last post.

We all drove around with Moses and Hopkins and went to the store to pick up a few things. We drove by the square where Idi Amin dumped Moses’ father and a bunch of other men who dared to preach the Bible despite Amin’s warnings not to. They were imprisoned for a long time and starved to the point of almost dying and then put on display in the square. I was struck at how casually he talked about this…as if it happened all the time. So many in this country were persecuted and killed for their beliefs. They are true heroes in my book. This area is now undergoing massive landscaping for the arrival of the queen of England. There is a lot of construction and road and sidewalk repair going on as Uganda readies itself for this historic occasion.

This evening we ate dinner and Moses came by to talk further about the schedule we’ll be following while we’re here. We are all flexible and don’t really care too much what we do here. But he assures us we will be busy. He knows that Americans like to come and feel like they’re accomplishing something, but Hillary and Courtney have taught me through their experiences that it’s more important just to be here as an encouragement to the people and just flow with their schedule. On the other hand, we have some things we need to accomplish in order to properly promote the arrival of the choir in America in January. Hopefully, we’ll get the promotional video-taping done quickly and then spend a lot of the rest of our time in the schools, both here and in the bush. Balance is going to be the word. We need to allow ourselves to rest too. We are still feeling the effects of jet lag and Hillary has come down with some kind of flu, so getting our strength is going to be important. He told us that two weeks from Sunday is “our Sunday” at church. I think that means our family, with Mary, will be running the service. I’m not sure if that means ALL of the services or not. That would be from early morning until 7 or 8 at night. I might need a week to recover after that! I really don’t understand how Moses does all that he does. Everyone says he’s ALWAYS working. This weekend, he’s going to Eastern Uganda to preach in the bush. He told us that their church has 100 different ministries around Uganda, so unless we stay for 100 days we won’t be able to see them all. When he visited our home last year, he sat down in one of our chairs that has a wire frame and comfortable padding. It took all his effort not to fall asleep. He LOVED that chair, so we brought him one that my mom had and gave it to him the first night. He sat down in the chair and said, “I can tell this is an American chair” so we said, “It’s yours.” He looked at me in shock and then got down on his knees and grabbed my hand and thanked us. He was so excited. So mom, it was a big hit. Thank you from Moses.

Tomorrow (Saturday) the choir will perform for us (after school…they “only” go to school half days on Saturdays!) and Sunday we’ll be going to do some sight seeing for the afternoon after church. Monday we’ll start to do some filming and possibly some school visiting. We’ll see how the schedule goes.

curt's journal from Uganda-July 27? (part two)

Last year, when Hillary came home from Uganda, she said to Leslie and I, “We HAVE to sponsor this boy in the choir named Bruno! He is the sweetest boy.”

After we paid the boda boda drivers, we walked into the primary school for a minute before we went to the high school. We met some of the school staff and then Bruno saw us and quickly walked over to us. He immediately came up to me and gave me a big hug! I instantly knew why Hill had been so adamant. He is such a sweet young man. I can’t wait to get to know him more while we’re here.

We went to the high school and Hillary began to round up her basketball buddies. Some of them said they had to do other things, but they changed their minds I guess, because pretty soon there was a big group of older kids kicking the younger kids off of the court so they could play full court with Hillary. For some reason, the staff only wants her to come to play basketball two days a week. I think maybe some of the other programs they want to plug these boys into were suffering when she came every day. She’s not too happy about that arrangement, but really enjoys her time with these guys. She plays with a constant smile on her face. I was happy to see she still has her shooting touch too. Every time she scores people around the court clap. Some of the boys were pretty good, but “rat ball” is the same everywhere you go. Everyone wants to make the fancy play or flashy pass. Unlike playing basketball with guys in America, these guys actually look for Hillary and pass her the ball whenever they can…probably because she’s proven herself.

As I was watching, school kids kept coming over to me and talking to me. I met this girl named Irene who told me she wants to be a doctor and a lawyer. That would be a great combination in the U.S. with all of the malpractice lawsuits! I asked her if she likes school and she gave the most sincere look and said, “Oh YES! I just love it SO much! God has been so good to me to allow me to go to school. Oh, I love it SO MUCH!” I could tell she really meant it too. I asked her if she played any sports and she said, “Yes, I play Chase.” I imagined some sort of version of keep-away or maybe sprinting races. I asked her how it’s played and she said, “Do you see those boys over there playing Chase. Have you never played Chase before?” I looked over to see about twelve boys huddled around four CHESS boards. Ah…I need to listen more carefully.

As I was watching the basketball game, darkness fell. I mean it FELL. I could literally watch it change shades of darkness, and suddenly, it was completely dark. The game ended and we walked down to find our ride home. This is where I thought we might die with a boda boda as the murder weapon, but we arrived home safely. I figured out one of their tricks. When they need to make a turn across traffic, they find a large vehicle and Since Mary is under my care, I’m not about to let her ride those, not that she wants to. She’s seen them drive. I think maybe she’s too intelligent for that. Wait, what does that say about me? Sometimes the truth hurts.

I settled down for a nice relaxing night of sleep after my first day in Africa, or so I thought…

Friday, July 27, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-July 27? (part one)

I can’t believe we’re actually in Africa! We landed yesterday morning in Entebbe, Kampala and the airport was way different than any other airports I’ve been to. This one is under construction, so we may have just gone through a temporary area. We weren’t really sure where to go, but eventually figured it out and got in line in this huge room to get our entrance visas. I was really worried about this before we got there. I had hoped to get our visas while we were still in the States, but with Leslie’s passport coming so late, we couldn’t. I also couldn’t get a Yellow Fever vaccination, so I was worried that they wouldn’t let me in the country. They didn’t even ask for our Yellow Fever cards, so all that worry was for nothing. That’s starting to become a theme in my life. I’ve started to realize that even though I’m a really laid back person, inside I worry a lot. (I had to be hospitalized when I was in kindergarten for “almost ulcers” so that should tell you something. What could I have possibly been stressed about? “I wonder if there will be enough milk with our crackers today?” “I wonder which animal they’ll use to illustrate the letter A?”, etc).

While we were standing in line for our visas, Leslie noticed that the baggage was coming in on the other side of this the room. She suggested I go get it because it looked really disorganized (which it was) and was just getting thrown into a big pile. I wasn’t sure if I should leave the line, I didn’t want to make trouble on my first day, but it was fine (Again with the worry!). Once we got our visas we walked out this long passageway and there she was! Hillary or Heery or Hillally, whatever they call her. It was so great to see her again. That three months was the longest time we’ve gone without seeing her before. She was happy to see us too. Big smiles all around! We met a bunch of the team that we had heard so much about. Pastor Dithan, Hopkins, Sam Straxy, Resty, all gave us big hugs. We crammed all of our stuff (I’m so glad most of it is staying here) into the back seats of a van and then crammed the rest of us in and we took off for our hour ride from Entebbe to Kampala.

It was hard to really soak it all in. I went back and forth between catching up with Hillary, who sat between Leslie and I, and looking outside at the amazing sights. It’s all so very…African. This is a long way from my roots in Nebraska and then Oregon. I just kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m actually here!” From the storefronts and dirt roads to the people and scenery, I’ve just never experienced anything like this.

We got to our apartment and were let in through a secured gate. Once we got to our apartment, and got settled, everyone laid down for a nap. For Leslie, Courtney and Mary, it turned into a seven-hour nap! Hillary woke me up earlier than that because she was going to play basketball at the secondary school and I told her I wanted to come. We walked outside that gate and I instantly felt like I was in another world. It was a very interesting feeling. I tried to look nonchalant and pretend I was just a regular Ugandan, but man, I was a mixture of really nervous and at the same time I wanted to run around and touch everything and ask a million questions.

We walked down a dirt road to an intersection and found a group of guys sitting on small motorcycles called boda bodas. Because of the bad roads and CRAZY traffic they are the quickest way to get from “border to border”…get it? Boda boda. Anyway, Hillary started talking to one of the guys. She told him where we wanted to go and we hopped on the boda bodas and took off. Wow, what an experience. I think Hillary thought I was going to be really scared and freaked out by this experience, but it was really fun, in an exciting, adrenaline-inducing-I think-I-might-die sort of way. I totally understand why she likes it and I totally understand why Pastor Moses and everyone else here try to discourage her from using that mode of transportation. These drivers are amazing, darting in and out of really heavy traffic, anticipating everything from oncoming trucks to goats and chickens. Apparently, though Hillary’s driver knew where the school was, mine didn’t. He THOUGHT he did, he SAID he did, but not a clue. At one point, we took off the wrong way and Hillary’s driver honked and yelled something that no one on my boda boda seemed to understand. Hillary and her driver going one way, me and my new best friend going the other! He pulled over to the side of the road and said, “Where?” and I was thinking “Where?!? You’re asking ME? I don’t even know where I am, let alone where I’m going.” I said, “St. Mbuga School” and “Lusaka” but it didn’t really help much. He pulled over three times to ask people and finally I saw Hillary up ahead. Whew!

(I'll write more about the rest of my first evening in a later post. I'm finding that getting on the internet is not super reliable, so I can't promise when, or how often I'll post again. Right now we're sitting downstairs at a bank trying to get the best rate for our rapidly declining dollar. They wouldn't give us the full amount for one of our 100 dollar bills because it was dated 1999! Funny)

curt's journal from Uganda-July 25

The person I miss most is my chiropractor, Dr. Rathbone. After nine hours of trying to sleep on the flight from Seattle to London, I think that rather than being in it’s normal semi straight alignment, my neck resembles something more like an accordian or the zigging and zagging line through British Customs. But, I am thankful that the flight was uneventful. My body is definitely not sure whether it’s day or night, which is a new sensation for me. I think I might have slept more on the plane, but there was an family sitting behind us that I think were playing hacky-sack or maybe “wall ball” against our seats. They definitely hadn’t been taught to use their “inside voices” either. We made it through customs without any problems. We thought about taking a trip into London for our nine hour layover. Mary’s sister, Emily, who is a student in London, gave us an awesome map and some great instructions on how we could pack a bunch of sightseeing into that nine hours, but we opted instead to sleep on some hard seats instead. Hmmm…sleep or Trafalgar square? Some broken up tidbits of shut eye or Buckingham Palace? Interrupted snippets of REM-less slumber or Westminster Abbey? It’s amazing what kinds of choices a person can make when they’re sleep deprived. We will definitely hit all of those places on the way back when we have a 24 hour layover. The thought of another long flight doesn’t really appeal to me, but it should be better without the rugby team running through drills behind us.

The great thing about this layover in London is that everything is so cheap here! Oh wait, those are pounds not dollars? What’s a Pound worth? Oh…um…nevermind.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Curt's journal from Uganda-July 24

Well, I'm sitting here on the floor of the Seattle Airport (clutching my money belt) at the only power outlet that works. Leslie, Courtney and our new friend/temporary daughter, Mary, are relaxing as we wait to board our flight for Heathrow. We made it through the check in process without any problems. Well almost. On the way to the airport I stopped at a back to get some more cash to bring and used my ATM card in the walk up ATM. Apparently, I was in a big hurry...and nervous...and excited. I didn't realize, until we were at the airport and and looked in my wallet, that my debit card was missing! Fortunately, Mary's mom banks at the bank we stopped at, so she made a quick call and we confirmed our fears. I left the debit card in the ATM!! Nice start to the trip, eh? The machine chewed it up, so it wasn't compromised. Fortunately, it's not the card we were going to bring anyway, so we're okay. It was a bit of a scare though. My body temperature and sweat glands were working overtime. I then flustered my way through all the check in process with our world traveler, Courtney, rolling her eyes at me the whole time. "Dad calm down!"

Okay, I'm calm now. But still really excited. This is all really new to me. I'm the only one in this group who hasn't traveled outside the country (not counting day trips into the U.S. suburbs north and south).

Well, we'll try to keep you all up to date as we head out on this journey.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 21

Today the choir got their new outfits! They are SO amazing!! They all look so cute!!

While they were practicing Peter was just going CRAZY with the dance moves! At first he didn't realize I was watching him and
he was just going all out. But then he saw me, so then it kind of became a show. But it wasn't like a "look at me aren't I funny?" kind of thing, he just really thought he was doing some good dance moves and that it was entertaining me because he was so good! haha

It's kind of a joke that we have here, whenever we see a group of dancers who are all doing the same thing, like on tv or something, but then there's one person who's off, it's always "they have a Peter in their group too!" But Peter's just too flipin cute to try and fix.

Then I went up to the secondary school, but they were doing inter-house competitions for music dance and drama. SO I just shot around with my friend Jolly who is in Medical school here. We were doing a freethrow shooting contest and I killed him every time. but it's ok, I didn't have to be nice. He's one of those guys who thinks he should be on AND 1, he thinks he has all the moves, so he needed to be humbled a bit. haha

I'm really excited for church tomorrow! The choir is performing during the service!! I can't wait!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 19

The kids at Lusaka were taking exams today. It seems like they are always taking exams! And each time they tell me they were so simple, I wonder what the point is in the huge number of exams when the kids already know all of the information!? I think the teachers are running out of things to test them on, but they won't give up that easily. At any chance they get, with any new piece of information, they need to be tested. Semi-stupid to me, I can try all I want to try and get a rebellion started from the kids, the school system here is intense. But these kids never complain about it, so no use in my trying to stir things up, I guess. haha

Anyway, I spent most of the afternoon sorting through beans. I learned what they call them in Luganda, but it was a long word and now I forget. I was sitting on my little stool next to a bag that had, before lunch, held a whole bunch of meat, so there were millions of flies. Everywhere. It was a pretty relaxing afternoon though, I had a lot of time to listen to the conversations around me and to think. I admit my thinking wasn't as deep as you couldv'e asked for. It mostly consisted of how itchy I was. What with flies constantly landing on me and all the bugs I had to take out of the bucket of beans with my fingers. I felt like there were bugs crawling all over me. But, I am getting pretty good at sorting through beans. Ask anyone, they'll agree.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 15

Today I went to Sunday School for the first service and then went up to the main church. But during the first service, the older boys run the Sunday School. And they were so cute! Especially Julius (not my julius, he's an older one in the choir) He was so cute with all the little kids! I also asked Mahad if he would come to church, but I asked him at the beginning of last week, so I thought he probably wouldn't remember. But he was there! And this is really cool because his family are all Muslims. But I wish I had done Sunday school today, because sometimes I think it's a little iffy. Because it's so long, I think the teachers run out of things to talk about. And so they get onto things that have nothing to do with the Bible and these things seem to take up most of the time because apparently they are easier to talk a lot about. (haha) Lecturing the kids on good manners and stuff. But oh well. At least he came. I hope he got something out of it.

Bruno and me

Then another church was supposed to come and play against us in basketball. But they weren't organized, so they didn't show up. :/ SO I just hung out at the school for a while, watched part of “The Terminator.” (haha that movie is weird. I am not a fan at all.) But we didn't play basketball at all because all the guys were either home, sick, injured, or playing in the chess competitions. SO it was pretty uneventful there.

Oh, I also went to Yvonne's house today, and the whole family was there except for Morris. Mama Yvonne was like, "You've been lost these days!" Which means that she hasn't seen me for a long time. She also tried to convince me that Monica is learning English, and if I ask her how she is doing she'll say she's fine. But, of course, she decided that she was going to be shy. But it was really fun hanging out with them for a while! I love that family!!

Bridgett and Yvonne

Saturday, July 14, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 14

Today I went to my first actual African wedding!! It wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be, it was really long. SO I spent most of the time outside hanging out with my kids because they had shown up at the school for a choir practice that didn't end up happening. But it was really fun to see all the decorations and the beautiful dresses! And the wedding was bright green!! Oh my gosh! I loved it! And Veronica was the flower girl. She was KILLER!! She was so cute I couldn't even handle it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 13

Today was a parent visitation day at the primary school. So, they didn't have classes, they all just had to sit there, being bored, while the teachers talked to one parent/student at a time. So I had the choir finish their letters to their sponsors. I noticed that a whole bunch of the kids, including Yvonne, were staring at me so I was like, “What?” and Yvonne goes, "he thinks I look like you!" SO apparently my dream of becoming an African is finally coming true!!

As I was working the kids also kept coming into my office to talk to me because they didn't have anything to do. It was so much fun! I wish everyday could be as relaxed for them as it was today so they could hangout with me more. They don't need school, right?

A message from Anita to her sponsor Kelly.

Bruno, Yvonne, and Jane all wrote me letters and they were sooooo cute! This was Janes:

"Dear my friend Hillary
I great you in the name of Jesus Christ. I love you. I thank you for being my friend. I love your family. I love your hair so much. I wish I had hair like yours. I like dancing. Do you like dancing? I like singing. Do you like singing? My best song is Joy is coming in the morning time. 

May God bless you so much. From your friend Nakigozi Jane Bye Bye! 

And I will never forget you in life and death I will never and every forget you because I love you so much and you love me to because your my good, loving friend. I will never and every for get you."


I am really excited to give Courtney her letter from Blest Deborah. It is really cute. It starts, “Dear my lovely Courtney Sell…” (haha so cute.) Here's a picture of the two of us...

Then Jane came in with a storybook with like 10 stories in it. She said she couldn't read them, then went through and told me each of the stories from her memory because apparently she had them all memorized. So then she asked me to read “The Little Red Hen” in her class. So, I went to the back corner so I wouldn't disturb the teacher and stood on a bench and shouted the story to the 60ish kids in there that were in a huge pile of bodies right in front of me. They all liked it a lot and the parents who were waiting were all entertained I think. I think here just think I'm weird. But that's all right. Then, Eric said that I lied to him because I went to the p.3 class instead of his p.6 class. So I went in there next and they asked me to read a book to them. I didn't think they would be very interested in hearing me read a little picture book because they are older. But they insisted. So I read “Daniel and the Lions Den” and “Cinderella” to them. When I would look up some of the kids were just staring at me, totally mezmorized. (Haha) But now my throat hurts.

All right, so I'm getting pretty sick of the African guys. As soon as the fact is established that we are both single, I'm up for grabs. No matter how little English they speak, or how completely and totally pointless of a conversation we might have, I'm white. They want to marry me. One of the little boys at the primary school's uncle saw me when I was waiting to walk Mahad up to the secondary school where he lives. He looked nice, so I just smiled at him. Big mistake. He didn't stop staring at me. And when I was leaving he had his nephew came out and told me to wait because he wanted to talk to me. But I left anyway. So I was up at the school talking with some of the basketball guys and HE HAD FOLLOWED ME UP THERE!! ugh. So, I had to talk to him. This is how the conversation went after he introduced himself: 

Him: “How are you?”
Me: “Good, how are you?”
Him: “'s life?”
Me: “Uhh great. How about you?”
Him: “Good.” (long pause.)
Then he repeated the whole conversation again.
Then, Him: “SO, can I have your address?”
Me: haha NO!!
Then he finally left. phew!

hillary's uganda journal - july 11 part 2

This was on the 11th, I forgot to write about it, but I thought it was funny.

I watched the p.4 and p.3 debate today. It was so crazy! For one thing there were more than 100 kids in there! And for another, there were, obviously, two sides, and both wanted to win, so it was pretty much madness. With a lot of clapping, stomping, and shouting. But there was also organized shouting that apparently would encourage the person debating at the moment: "She's our girl! She's our girl!" haha 

The topic of the debate was, “Is rainfall better than sunshine?” Julius was on the Rainfall side, and after he had given his argument, he pointed over to the opposing side. "Do you drink sunshine or water!?" It was really funny and dramatic. The Rainfall side ended up winning so they all jumped up and started running around outside.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 12

Today we went to Lugazi!! I was really excited! I wasn't able to find Harriet though. I asked the head teacher if he knew who she was, or if she lived close by. But he couldn't even remember who she was. So, I didn't get to see my little twins. :( I hope I get to see them next time I go though.

I got to meet Nakitende Olivia. She's the child that is sponsored my friends, David and Lisa and their kids Austin and Abbey. And oh my gosh!! She is the most ADORABLE girl ever!! She was really shy though, and wouldn't smile or talk to me or anything for a while. She sat on my lap for a long time and I tried to get her to talk, but she was happy just sitting there not saying a word, staring at this strange white person speaking words she'd never heard before or couldn't understand because I butchered the Luganda so badly. But, she started warming up to me a little later. She started smiling and playing with me, but she'd still hide behind her friend a lot, or hide her smile behind her hands. It was so cute! Here are some pictures of her in the yellow dress...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 11

Today I was having the choir kids write letters to their sponsors. I thought I had told Jane before that my aunt and uncle are here sponsors, but apparently she didn't know, because when I told her, her face absolutely lit up!! She immediately turned around and told her sister Anita the news, and anybody within earshot for that matter. A little later after she had written her letter she comes running up to me, "Hillary, I'm going to go get my stickers!!" Let me tell you, this is a big deal. They love stickers here. You're pretty darn special if you get stickers on your letter!

Later I was walking up to the secondary school with Mahad and a few other kids and Jane told me that Monica missed me!! I'm not sure if you all remember this, but Monica is Yvonne's baby sister who was scared of me and would not smile in my direction if her life depended on it! So that made my day!!

On the way home I stopped by Yvonne's house because I hadn't seen her all day because she was busy during the letter writing time. So I met her cousin, I think her name is Claire. Anita and Jane were there, and there were a few other kids, but I couldn't really tell who they were because it was dark. Then Monica saw me, RAN UP TO ME, AND GAVE ME A HUG!!! WHAT?!

My life is now complete.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 10

Today we went to Troas. I had all the kids, who are sponsored, write letters to their sponsors. This took a long time because they need a lot of help since they're still learning English. There was a class in the U.S. who did “Hope for the Holidays” and got a whole bunch of stuff together that they wanted me to give their boy in Troas and some of his friends. The boy’s name was Innocent.

We had a lot of extra stuff so we asked him to bring a couple friends to get some gifts too. So, he came out holding the hands of a boy named Mukasa Eric and a little girl named Christine. It was so cute!

Then I read “A Bugs Life” to some of the kids. I really don't think they understood me too well, but they laughed at me when I made funny voices. So at least it was entertaining for them.

Then a group of kids decided they wanted to test me on my knowledge of Uganda. I think it gave them a lot of joy finding out how ignorant I am. haha

Sunday, July 8, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 8

A pastor from Kenya preached at church today. I think it was really good....I got lost a few times, but he was really expressive and he told some really funny stories. So I liked it. Then afterwards I watched one of the house competitions between the “Kings” and the “Apostles.” They are both teams that don't really know how to play basketball and all they do is foul each other and almost break the backboard when they chuck the ball up there. The final score was 18-10, after four 15 minute quarters. It was insane! haha

But I had Mahad and his older sister Vanessa to entertain me when the game got too crazy to watch. Mahad and Vanessa are the gatekeeper’s kids. They live at the secondary school and go to St. Mbuga primary school. I am pretty much in love with them! They are so cute!! I'm kind of confused though because I think they are muslim, but Mahad told me they go to the mosque and also go to church. Sooo...maybe they're both? I don't know how that works, but yesterday they were telling me how they were going to go to church. But anyway, I hung out with them all day and before the basketball game we watched a Nigerian movie together. These movies are ridiculous! Everyone loves them for some reason, maybe because it's the only thing that's available. Maybe I just got spoiled by “Lord of the Rings.” But they are partially in English and then randomly in Luganda, but the mouths are off because they were made in Nigeria with whatever language they speak. And I really can't tell when they're speaking Luganda or when they're speaking English because the sound is so bad. But these guys can't get enough of these movies.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 7

Ok, so this takes a little bit of explaining. I'm not the only American in the apartment right now. There are five other people that got here about a week ago. They aren't with ICN, but they did come with ICN last year, so that's how I know them. But anyway, one of the ladies had some kids come over today because they are sponsored by some friends of hers. So, we got to hang out with five kids from the choir. I read some books to them and colored with them. It's so amazing how well behaved they are and how they can sit for hours just listening to someone read to them. Kalongo David was the only boy there and he is SO adorable! He reminds me so much of my cousin Spencer and so I just love hanging out with him!

Sorry I keep saying things like this, about how people remind me of my family members....

I guess I'm missing them a little bit.

Friday, July 6, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 6

Today I went to a football game for the secondary 2 and 1 team. It's kind of like their JV team, I think. We lost 2-1, so the guys were pretty upset about that, for a little while at least. That is until something more exciting happened, like a goal in the game played after ours, then they forgot all about their game. haha. I think I have so much to learn from their attitudes about sports.

The only thing that was kind of bad today was that the field we played at was in the middle of town and had every secondary student from everywhere gathered there. And I think I was the only girl and definitely the only white person. SO, I drew a lot of attention, which I am not a big fan of. Some guys thought that they could be sneaky and they all think I have money, so they tried to get me to come to their school and support their football team because they don't have enough money to have a team or something. Then they were trying to get me to tell them how they can contact me. Good thing my phone was stolen, so I wasn't even lying when I told them I don't have a phone. Then they tried to steal my camera. haha

Some of the guys that I know from the football team were talking about this whole ordeal after the game, and they were saying how those guys were bad news, but how I was just too sharp for them. They apparently had heard the whole conversation, but of course they just left me to fend for myself and didn't say anything. How nice of them!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

hillary's uganda journal - july 4

Alright, so I found out that that actually wasn't Julius's mom. So good thing I didn't beat her up. Sam told me that in Uganda it is really, really looked down upon when people have children outside of marriage, and so they try to cover it up, I guess. So, since his mom abandoned Julius after she had him, this other lady decided to take him in as a son. I think it's a fairly new decision though, because he's always told me that he doesn't have a mom. So anyway, that's that, this lady is his mom now I guess.

I only got 1 1/2 hours of sleep last night, don't ask me why. I just laid in my bed for hours. So I was extremely tired today! I spent half of the day in and out of naps at my desk. Then at 5 I went up to play basketball, even though it had been raining all day. My flip flop also broke so I had to walk up there barefooted, which apparently is a crazy thing for a Ugandan to witness. So I had even more staring at me than usual. There's millions of kids here that don't have shoes, but when a white person goes barefoot it's weird, I guess. But it's so much easier walking barefoot in the mud than with flip flops, I'm thinking about starting a trend one of these days.

Bruno, Julius, me, and Masad

When I got to the school I couldn't find any of the guys at first, so Joseph (one of the boys in the choir) wanted to teach me chess. As he taught me, a huge crowd gathered. Which is pretty unnerving since it's a really difficult game with too many rules, in my opinion, that takes a lot of concentration. So, I had everyone telling me what move to make, and after each move telling me what I SHOULD’VE done instead. And then they decided that I wasn't playing up to their standards, so they ended up just moving my pieces for me. I'm not quite sure if it was very educational for me, but I think I got the gist. And I even WON! But I can't really claim that victory for myself. It was a team effort. haha

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

courtney's reflections - July 3

"if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Matt. 19:21

After being in India I have such a greater calling to give up my possessions to the poor. I have a responsibility to share what I've experienced. After everything I've seen, I feel responsible to change my way of living. How can I justify spending money on myself, on things I don't need after what I've seen? How can I continue living the way I did after seeing the poorest of the poor? At the same time, I'm learning that just because I feel called to live this way, I can't expect others to feel the same. I feel called to be a missionary some day, to live a simple life, to give my life for others, but I can't judge those who don't feel that way. All I know is, I have to obey God with what He's put on my heart.

India has changed my life. It's given me new perspectives and has ruined me in so many ways. My world has been torn apart. There are so many thoughts going on in my many questions unanswered. Processing all of what I've seen and felt is the next part of my journey. India was amazing and confusing. It was an adventure that will stay in my heart forever. I will never be the same. India has changed my life.

hillary's uganda journal - july 3

Today I met Julius's mom! Last year he told me that he had never met his mom. And then his dad died in the spring, I think, of last year. And apparently his mom heard about it and decided to come back and start being a part of her son's life. She came to the school yesterday just to visit and see how the school was, because, I'm not sure, but I think Julius still doesn't see her much, like he is living with someone else. So, she came with his little sister who might be one and a half or two years old. He says she is his real sister, from his mother and his father. But I don't know how that works. I'm just really confused with his family. But it was nice to get to meet her. Even though it was really hard for me to be civil to her because she had caused so much pain in my little boys life. I kind of just wanted to punch her in the face. But I controlled myself.

Monday, July 2, 2007

courtney's india journal - July 2

We got into our taxi to go to the airport. I sat there looking outside at the people, the little shops, the dogs, palm trees, taxis everywhere, all the trash...everything....thinking about that first taxi ride 3 weeks ago, how everything seemed so foreign and crazy and overwhelming. Now it was normal, ordinary, it was just life and I've realized how I've become so used to how things work here, the traffic, the pace, the smells and just the way of life in India. Not like I know everything there is to know, but I've just become really used to everything. I started to tear up in the taxi, because I didn't want to leave this place that has been my home for the past 3 weeks. I couldn't believe that this would be my last taxi ride in India...that our trip was coming to an end. I couldn't believe I was going home. I don't really want to go home, but I know I'll be back, if God wants me to. I don't know what it is about India that just captivates my heart. It wasn't a horrible experience being here, like some have told me it would be. It was challenging but it wasn't awful. It's taught me a lot about myself, about God, about the world. I'm definitely not the same person I was 3 weeks ago. I really feel called to live a more simple life, to not let things become so important to me. There is so much in my life that is unnecessary, that I can do without, when I remember all those people who have absolutely nothing.

hillary's uganda journal - july 2

I bought Bruno a cake today! I really wanted to buy the icing to write something on it myself, but they don't sell that. And the guy in the bakery part wouldn't let me write it myself, so I had to be content with brown writing and not as cool as I would've made it. I also wanted a soccer ball on it because he loves it so much. But the dumb guy didn't know how to draw a soccer ball. Even though, before he started on it, I asked him specifically if he knew how to and he assured me he did. Then he drew it on and it didn't resemble a soccer ball at all except that it was a circle. SO I made him take it off. (Like the ungrateful American that I am. Haha) But Bruno loved it of course because he is so thankful for everything! He probably gave me 10 hugs!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

courtney's india journal - July 1

I'll never forget tonight. It's our last night, and Sarah and I were on our way back from dinner going to our hotel. We walked by a sleeping baby on the sidewalk. He had to have been under a year old...laying down on a piece of cardboard, covered up by a worn-out little piece of cloth. As normal as this is on the streets of India, it really hit me because it was the first time I'd seen a baby sleeping by itself on the streets. And I guess it didn't affect me until later when I thought about it, when I pictured that little baby. Walking down the streets it's hard to be affected by all I see because I just get so used to it. The poverty becomes normal. The images of people laying on the ground is something I saw all the time. Picturing that little baby in my mind, I can't get it out of my head. Sleeping so peacefully, but knowing what a hard life that little person has. Why does this happen in our world? Why is there so much poverty, but also so much wealth? It made me question my own life, how can I continue living the way I do when I know there are little babies without a bed to sleep in? Little babies growing up learning how to beg before they can walk, before they can even talk they are pointing to their mouths motioning for me to give them food. Little babies...oh it blows my breaks my heart. For the first time I feel like my heart has broken. It makes me sad and confused that it happened the day before we leave. I feel like I've been so excited to be here, just loving the culture and the people and everything, that the poverty is just part of it all. But tonight I feel like things changed for me. I saw the injustice of our world, how unfair it is that millions of people are living on the streets when others are living in mansions. My heart breaks for the poor and oppressed, those who seem to have no hope, who live such hard lives. My heart breaks for wealthy Americans, like myself, who have no clue what it would be like to have no place to live, no clue what it means to be poor.

hillary's uganda journal - july 1

It was Bruno's birthday on Sunday. I remembered that it was his birthday when we were at church and here’s how our conversation went…

"Bruno is it your birthday today?!"
"No, it was yesterday"
"Oh I thought it was July 1st"
"Oh yeah, it is, I thought yesterday was the 1st."

He didn't even know what day his birthday was on! He was so cute. I didn't have anyone to sit with, so instead of going to Sunday School he sat with me in the big church. I didn't want to sit in front of the church like I usually do because there were other bazungu there, so I don't think I'm special anymore. (“bazungu is luganda for white people…plural of “muzungu”) But that's ok, it was nice having all the attention on them instead of on me for once! And when they saw me I felt like I was just one of the Ugandans with my little group of kids who sat with me up on the balcony part of the church.

Joseph and Bruno

After church, I went to the secondary school to watch their house competitions for basketball. It was interesting. I'm not really sure how they split up the teams. Apparently the “Judges” team has all the ones who have played the longest. And they pretty much slaughter the “Apostles,” “Prophets” and “Kings.” (haha) Doesn't sound too nice, huh? Although, I wouldn't necessarily call it slaughtering, since no one has a really good shot, not many baskets are scored throughout the game. Bruno and Julius and Mahad came and joined me up there too. Bruno has been my buddy lately! He didn't leave my side the whole time I was watching the games! And he isn't a big fan of basketball, he's a football (soccer) player, just like pretty much everyone else here. So it was really cute that no matter how bored he was watching those games, he just wanted to hang out with me!

Uganda Photos (click on photo to change)

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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.