Sunday, August 19, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 16

Today I fell in love. My marriage to Leslie is as strong as ever, but I have another love...Matsiko, the children’s choir. We spent the day with them on the outskirts of Kampala and at the Botanical Gardens along Lake Victoria. It was another work-day for me. We had to get video footage and photos of them in their performance costumes for the promotional materials. Work has never been so fun.

Moses pulled up to our apartment in a small bus. It had more seats than the van, but it wasn’t as big as a school bus. As he pulled up, he ran out of gas, so we had to coast down the street to the gas station. (It reminded me of my first date with Leslie, where we coasted off of the highway and had just enough momentum to get to the gas pump.) Anyway, we got gassed up and were on our way, one hour late on American time, right on time in Uganda.

We drove to Lusaka to pick up the kids. When we got there, Straxy was pulling the costumes out of grocery bags. Apparently, last night, when he went to pick them up from the dry cleaner, they hadn’t done them as they had promised, so he just took them as they were. Resty pulled out an iron and started pressing them, so they’d look good for the camera. The kids got dressed and into the bus and we headed for the hills of Kampala, two and a half hours late Uganda time. I told myself the morning sun I so coveted wasn’t really that important.

We spent the next hour or two taking photos and videos in some remote hills. The kids were great, but were starting to lack focus and energy. I didn’t see the same fire I normally see, so I suggested we get some food in these kids. We made stops at several stores along the road and cleaned them out of chapattis, splash juice boxes, mandazi (which are supposedly donuts, but taste more like bagels), bananas, and water. Their enthusiasm in the bus picked up as soon as they had some water and madazi. We then drove to the Botanical Gardens for lunch and afternoon filming and play.

Many of the kids had never been to the Botanical Gardens, nor had they seen Lake Victoria, which is only a small distance from Kampala...maybe a half hour drive. As soon as they saw the water, the volume level went up as twenty-six children excitedly chattered about what they were seeing.

We entered the gates the gatekeeper to not overcharge us for entry (they charge extra for cameras and even more for video cameras). While the kids went to use the restroom, our driver, Moses asked, “Did you see that monkey? There!” As I looked up a black and white monkey ran away from us and over a small hill. I ran to get my camera, but he was gone. Leslie and I headed with Moses toward the place where we had last seen this fairly large primate. Then Moses pointed up into a large tree and said, “There!” We looked up and couldn’t see anything at first, but sure enough, there were four monkeys up in that tree. We walked right up to the tree and took some photos and video as they looked down at us. We tried to coax them down later with a banana, but they wouldn’t. So, at least I have one picture of an animal we don’t see in the US.

After lunch we spent the next couple of hours moving around this beautiful park. The choir behaved and performed wonderfully. Sam has really trained them well. This talented, twenty three year old man has really dedicated his life to these children. He’s really tough on them, but loves them intensely. He dreams of running his own music studio, and I have no doubts that he will accomplish it.

After I had gotten all of the photos and videos I needed, I told the kids to grab a friend or two and find a location and I’d shoot their picture. They excitedly grabbed each other and headed for a spot to get their picture taken. I had no idea how excited they would be about this. They moved from spot to spot forming new combinations and poses as they went. We slowly move across the park, as they worked in front of me and yelled, “over here!” as soon as I snapped a shot. The resulting photos were the best shots of the day. They were having such a fun time, that I quickly filled up the card on my camera and had to download them onto my laptop so I could shoot some more. The thing that amazed me was how much the groups intermingled with each other. No one seemed to care WHO they got a picture with. They were hugging and posing and laughing, until we started losing the light and it was time to go home. We got some photos with the kids we sponsor, but soon several others joined us. They’re ALL our kids.

Our kids

At one point, as Leslie was taking a photo of me with Julius, he wrapped his arms around me and whispered, “You’re my dad.” Hours later, I still can’t think about it without tearing up. I get the feeling he likes how it feels to be able to say that to someone. I hope I make a good dad.

Julius, me, and Jane

On the ride home, I loaded all of the rest of the photos on the laptop and started going through them to see how we did. The kids started standing up on the bus and commenting about each picture. It was a lot of fun for both them and me. Rarely does an amateur photographer get such instant and positive feedback. It was really fun.

We dropped them off at church. They prayed together and then Sam warned them that it was getting late and that they needed to go straight home. He emphasized this several times and finally said, “You know I have the authority over you, and I will spank you if I hear you stopped somewhere on the way home! Understand?” “Yes!” “Are you sure?” “Yes!” “If I hear that you didn’t go straight home, you might as well start preparing your backsides for a good spankin’! Understand?” “Yes” “Okay, give these people hugs and go home now.”

We got the best hugs...and I have no doubt they went straight home.

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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.