Tuesday, August 14, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 13

Well, I officially hate Ugandan dogs. They barked and fought throughout night. At one point, I went out to see what they’re doing when they go crazy. It’s so dark here at night that I couldn’t really see much, but it looked like the neighborhood kids were intentionally getting them riled up. If only I had my Uncle Robert’s pellet gun…for the dogs, not the kids.

5:15am came too soon, but a quick, cold spit bath did the trick to wake me up. We were supposed to leave at 6am, but the van couldn’t get into the fenced compound where we live. The girls and I decided to go down and try to go out to the van instead, but we were locked in. There are two guys who live here and their main job is to open the gate whenever anyone honks their horn to enter or leave. The older one is really nice, but moves pretty slowly at times. The younger one, who I’ll call Grumpy isn’t very motivated. It’s especially noticeable at 2 or 3 in the morning when someone is trying to get in after a night on the town. They can sit and honk for twenty minutes or more before grumpy decides to open it up.

Anyway, this morning, as we walked down to the gate I heard someone unlocking a door in the living quarters, so I assumed he would be out soon. After several minutes of hearing someone working on the lock, I decided to investigate. The older gentleman was trying to get out of his room, but couldn’t. I turned the knob and PRESTO! He was free. Unfortunately, he doesn’t keep the key, Grumpy does. So we had to wake him up and soon we were on our way. Onto the good stuff…

The drive to Kitongo was beautiful (It’s pronounced Chit-ongo. The KI makes a “ch” sound). There was a soft fog over the hills and valleys as we drove, again at breakneck speed. I think that’s Moses’ only speed. Today I told him he drives like my mom. I’m not sure he knew what that meant, but he smiled. To get to Kitongo, we passed Kasanda, where we would be visiting later in the day. We drove along some of the narrowest roads I’ve ever been on, especially at the speed we were traveling. The road was so narrow that whenever we would pass people walking or riding their bikes, they would dive into the thick brush on the side of the road. At one point we were going up a slight hill, and a slight curve, and we passed a guy carrying large gerry cans of water along the road. Nothing unusual there. He stopped and stared at the white people. Again, nothing unusual. Suddenly, to boys came roaring around the curve, oblivious to our presence. As soon as they saw us, both sets of eyes instantly tripled in size and they went careening off of the road and into the guy standing with his bike and water bottles. All of them tumbled to the ground in a mixture of bottles, tires and feet. It looked like everyone was okay, so we sighed a sigh of relief and then Moses and I had a little chuckle. He and I both have a little bit of an evil sense of humor. He doesn’t speak much English, but he and I are having a nice bond in the front of the van. It’s become my official seat, which I hope is okay with everyone else. Hopkins says she can relax more when I’m in the front seat because the police don’t stop cars with Mzungus in them. Interesting.

When we arrived, the kids started screaming and running to their welcoming spots. This has happened at several of the schools, but today was especially cute. They crowded our van and as soon as we stepped out, they started grabbing at our hands and were saying things like, “We well-uh-come you our vistahs” and “We are happy to well-uh-come you.” I most definitely felt welcomed.

They went through their awesome little routines and songs. Hopkins did her normal introductions, but his time she said something like, “this is Curt, soon you’ll be calling him Uncle Curt.” I like that. So, then we had to get down to the business of sponsorships and letter writing. It was a little confusing and Hillary definitely gets pushed to her limit. But we worked through that and got it done. Then we were offered tea and African pancakes. The pancakes were about three inches in diameter and tasted like a deep fried banana bread. Their made with bananas and cassava flower. The tea was made from things they grow right at the school…tea leaves, some spice that tasted a little like cloves and something else. That was the best snack I’ve had in Uganda. It was delicious.

After our snack we started mingling with the kids. As I was mingling and taking pictures, I saw a girl cleaning some kind of large fruit at the water pump. I was trying to make conversation so I asked her, “What is that? I’ve never seen one of those before.” She giggled a little and told me it was a “papa” which is the Ugandan way of saying papaya. Later I found out she was washing it off to give to us as a welcoming gift. She gave it to me a little later and I thought she was just being nice and said, “no, you don’t have to give me your papa” but she insisted. That was the plan all along. Soon other kids were bringing me things. Passion fruit, freshly picked coffee beans, and eggs. These were sacrificial gifts from very poor children. It was hard to accept, but they feel so grateful when they get to meet people who sponsor children. They have such a hard time figuring out why someone who lives on the other side of the world would love children enough to help them. They don’t really care why though. But they definitely feel grateful.

We played and walked around with the kids. They followed us wherever any of us would go. If we took their picture, they wanted to see it on the screen. Soon, everyone’s crowding around, straining to see. It becomes a bit of a madhouse, so I have to put the camera away. Courtney sat and talked with a large group of girls, as usual. I didn’t see Hillary much. Leslie had quite a following as she played with them, handed out stickers (which are like gold here! “Me madam! ME! Please Madam!”) and pulled out some super balls. She handed them to me and I threw them as high and far as I could and watched the kids scramble for them. We played this until the six balls were gone. Some were not about to give them up once they had them in their possession. Mary found that the kids like to copy, so she was leading them around the school doing different crazy things that the little girls would copy. It was really funny.

At one point, near the end of our time there, I snuck off down the road with my camera. Suddenly, I heard a timid voice saying, “Uncle Curt.” I thought maybe I was hearing things at first but then, I distinctly heard a little boy say, “Uncle Curt” and he came walking out of the bushes. He had been at the home of a neighbor to the school. He had a little piece of fruit in his hand and told me in broken English that the neighbor sells sugar cane and fruit to the children. He had a really genuinely sweet disposition and I enjoyed just sitting by a tree talking to him without a crowd around us. I asked if I could take his picture and he was happy to comply. Soon, another crowd had gathered. It was harder at this school to move around without gathering a crowd. It was a really nice moment for me though. One I’ll cherish. The picture is another one I will frame when I get home.

My time standing under the shade of this cool tree was interrupted by a summons from “Madam Hope” (Hopkins). It was time to go. The little boy said, “Don’t leave yet, I’m going home to get you some eggs!” I told him, “You don’t have to do that, the picture I have of you is the perfect gift.” But again, he insisted and took of sprinting down the dirt road.

I slowly sauntered with my entourage to the van, stalling for time. I knew we had to get going because we had another school to visit, but nothing was going to prevent me from waiting for this giving little boy. After about fifteen minutes of stalling, I finally said, “We’re not leaving until the little boy comes back with the eggs!” Just then I see him flying up the road in his Rockport t-shirt (a gift from his sponsor) carefully holding onto the pocket of his blue shorts. He’s got a huge smile on his face and as he huffs and puffs he pulls three fresh eggs from his pocket. This may be the best gift I’ve ever received in my life. Just thinking about the gifts from these children brings instant tears to my eyes.

We drove back to Kasanda and spent some time there as well. The kids put on an amazing program in this comparatively modern school. These kids were very sweet and took Leslie an I on a tour of the grounds. I was latched onto by a boy named Kayemba Sabiiti, in second grade (P2), who wanted to show me his classroom. Kayemba had a great smile and I noticed his eyes were kind of cloudy, but sparkled just the same. We finally worked our way there, but at the time, Leslie had started blowing bubbles for the kids, so a huge crowd was gathering around her. I asked if he’d rather show it to me later, he said “no” so we continued to his room, hand in hand, where he and a friend got a special pleasure out of explaining all of the posters and other artwork hanging in the room. It was another wonderful, quiet moment with a couple of great kids. As the time drew near for us to leave, I almost lost it when this little guy said, “I love you so much!” and gave me the biggest hug. Just taking the time to listen to him elicited such a powerful response. I believe with my whole heart that he meant it too. I told him, “I love you too!” because I do. I made sure Hillary took a picture of the three of us. I’m going to frame it when I get home. I think I may need to build a new wall.

What a great day, I’m exhausted. Tomorrow is an internet day and then I’m going to tape some interviews with some of the kids in the choir for the promo video. I hope I can get their real story out of them. Tonight I’m going to try counting dogs jumping over a fence…into the awaiting arms of a dog catcher!
Oh the other day I made up a joke after walking around in downtown Kampala…

Q: Why did the Ugandan chicken cross the road?
A: No one knows. It never made it!

I’ll keep my day job.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Oh Curt - what a treat to send us all those pic's and giving us even more of a glimpse into your world right now. Those kids are so precious and adorabble. Please tell Mable I love her and that big, beautiful smile of hers - give her a hug and a kiss for me!! Love and prayers to each of you! Stac

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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.