Saturday, August 11, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 10

This morning I got up early to head to the place where Hannington digs. I ignorantly thought of American farming, so I jumped in my flip flops and shorts and headed out the door with the farmer/preacher/assistant superintendent. The drive was about 40 kilometers outside of Kampala. I’m still not really sure of the kilometer to miles ratio, but it took us about an hour and a half to get there. On the way we had some fried and salted cassava, which tasted a little like French fries. We also had a bottle of coke, luke warm and served in the bottle with a straw. It was a fantastic breakfast. As we drove, I asked a million questions which he was more than happy to answer. We discussed the differences between our countries, including government roles, school systems, highways, and how the poor are cared for. Hannington is a talker and every question I asked was met with a dissertation on the subject at hand. He’s also listened intently to my explanations of American life. He has some very strong stereotypes of Americans that I needed to dispel, but he seemed to enjoy our discussion.

As we got closer and closer to his house, I started to get the feeling I was not dressed properly. This was deep into the bush and was the closest thing to a jungle that I’ve been in. My flip flops and shorts were not going to cut it. All around the countryside was lush green, and very tropical looking. Vibrant colored flowers were everywhere. We pulled up to a small, nicely manicured hut and Hannington announced, “We’re here.” We were instantly met by his grandma. Well, not his grandma, but the sister of his cousins aunt, or the mother of his aunt’s cousin…somehow they were related and she was older that him so he called her his grandma. That’s very common in Uganda as I’ve said before. Whoever you live with becomes your relative. I kind of like that tradition. Before we had arrived, he told me that his grandma was watching the place because his wife was staying with her mother due to complications in the birth of their eighth child. She couldn’t work the land, but was keeping people from stealing their crops while his wife was away and he was on the road checking up on the schools.

This tiny lady greeted me with the warmest smile and handshake and looked at me like I was the queen of England. She made me feel like royalty. I’d like to learn how to make my guests feel that way.

Hannington then took me on a tour of his acreage. We walked through a jungle area that had been somewhat cleared and he pointed out all of the different crops he was growing. He had jackfruit, bananas, matoke, coffee, sweet potatoes, corn, and sugar cane among others. This is a diversified plantation. All of these plants were on the side of a hill and then sprawled down into a beautiful valley. I’m not good with sizes, but it was a bigger plot of land than I had imagined. I got pretty chewed up as I walked down the side of this hill in my flip flops videotaping the whole way. I asked Hannington a few leading questions to get him going and just rolled tape. The man is a talker! It didn’t really matter what I asked, almost all of his answers came back to funding the schools to help the children. He is one passionate dude.

When we got back to the house, Grandma was waiting with warm tea in milk and a bowl of jackfruit for me. I noticed no one else had milk in their tea, but didn’t really think anything of it. It was really good and the jackfruit was an interesting new taste. I really liked it. Later I found out that one of the neighbors down the road likes Grandma and gives her a cup of milk every day. Today it was MY cup of milk!!! I didn’t find out until we were on the drive home. I wanted to turn around and give her a big hug and buy her a milking cow!

We met Hannington’s neighbors before we left. We had to do this so they would know I’m a guy who loves the children of the village schools and not some rich fat cat Mzungu who was loading Hannington up with cash. We needed to establish this because he wanted to make sure his prices didn’t get jacked up next time he went to market. If word got out that he was hosting a Mzungu, the assumption would be made that he was now wealthier and could afford steeper prices. The neighbors were great and got a real kick out of it when I took pictures of them and then showed them what they looked like on the camera’s screen. I guess it doesn’t happen to them that often.

We spent the afternoon attending a school debate. A three hour marathon with the honorable Eric as the residing chairperson. The subject was: Knowledge is more important than wealth. The debate went on for what seemed like hours…oh…because it was. Once in awhile, teachers would poke their heads in, but for the most part it was ruled by Eric. Arguments were laid out and were often interrupted by children jumping up and shouting, “Point of order!” or “Point of defense!” or “Point of Education!” among others. Eric, looking a combination of aloof, bothered by their interruption, and bored, would say, “Point of order accepted” or with a don’t-bother-me wave of his hand, he might say, “Point of education NOT accepted.” Sometimes after he did this, he would look over at Hillary and I, sitting near the door and his bored look would turn into his bright smile. It was hilarious. Near the completion of the debate he asked for points from the audience. A few people got up and gave points, but I think the crowd was getting restless. Then Eric said, “Are there any point anyone else would like to make? Such as our honored visitors?” and he looked directly at us and smiled. While the crowd cheered, Hillary shook her head “no” while his pleading eyes said, “please?” I couldn’t resist, so I gave a little speech on the fact that you can’t just throw money at problems and you can’t eat money. I ended with, “For me, I’d rather be poor and smart than rich and stupid!” It got a large round of applause. I’m not sure if it was because it was a good point or because they thought it was funny that a Mzungu got up and spoke. For the record, Knowledge won over Wealth.

Tonight, I went to practice with the choir. On Sunday, I’ll be leading a couple of songs with the worship team which is about 20 or so singers. I thought I’d be following them, but they really wanted me to tell them EXACTLY what I wanted them to do. Although I’ve led worship before with a band, I’ve never led a choir before, so it took me a little while to gain confidence, but it ended up being a lot of fun. I’ll write more later about how it goes. For now, it’s been a really long day. Okoye (I’m tired).

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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.