Thursday, August 9, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 7

Today was a lot of fun. We got to see the Lusaka kids from St. Mbuga School playing sports. Leslie, Courtney, and Hillary went earlier than Mary and I. Mary hung around for awhile at the school while I went and talked with Sam Straxy. Straxy is one of the “trainers” for Matsiko, the kids choir. He is an amazingly talented musician, yet doesn’t know one chord. He helps lead music at church and usually what happens is the singers start singing and he figures out what key they’re in and starts playing along. You’d never guess that he doesn’t have sheet music in front of him, he plays so well. I think he’s the overall leader of Matsiko and is busy preparing them for their American tour and he’s the one I’m trying to coordinate with while I’m here. My task is to put together promotional pieces for the choir, so I’m going to be filming and photographing them in as many situations as possible so we have enough raw footage for any of our needs. I told him we’d like to film interviews with some of the kids and he gave me a warning that I wasn’t really ready for. He said that whenever a Mzungu goes into a poor neighborhood, the neighbors often assume we are giving money to the family we are visiting. He told of a family that was visited often by an American. Later, the neighbors attacked them and demanded the money that the Mzungu had given them. He said it doesn’t always happen, but you have to be careful just the same. Everywhere we go, our new Uganda friends tell us that when Ugandans see white people, they see dollar signs. It’s one of the reasons they seem so nice to us. I think even our new friends here overestimate the resources we have. We are definitely rich by their standards, but it’s not the never-ending supply they imagine.

Anyway, after talking with Sam for awhile, Mary and I walked down the hill to the school and found out that many of the kids were already at the sports field. She tried to give us directions, but decided to send a couple of little kids to show us the way. She said it was a “little bit of a walk.” By the time we wound our way through several neighborhoods, at least a mile, following these tiny guides (who held my hands the whole way), I was huffing and puffing. Exercise was the last thing I had on my mind! But the children of St. Mbuga had other ideas. They pulled my hands in all different directions, begging me to come play with them. As I entered the large open space, I looked down and saw hundreds of little shoes, all black, lying in a gigantic pile. As I surveyed the field, I saw maybe 150 barefooted kids in different games, supervised by maybe three adults. You had kids playing football (soccer) on a couple of different “fields.” Some boys were throwing an American football, playing keep away and calling it “Roogabee” (rugby). A huge group of girls, surrounded Courtney, and were sitting or standing in a circle, or a big blob, playing various word games, dancing games, and story telling games. There was Leslie, walking around with her own posse, trying to take photos with kids hanging off her arms. Hillary had her own entourage that followed her wherever she went. She flitted around from group to group. Mary chose to play soccer while I gravitated toward the American football game. I felt pretty good because they always through it to me and I was the only one that could throw a spiral. They oo-ed and ahh-ed every time I threw it. This may be the last place in the world where my athletic prowess can be appreciated. It was a lot of fun and I tried to make sure to throw a pass to each kid there at least once. Not many of them could catch the passes, but they had a great time trying. When the ball would get loose, a kid would dive on it and then all the boys would pile on top of them. There would be maybe 15 kids on top of one little boy and they all jumped as high as they could before they came slamming down into the pile. I kept thinking the kid at the bottom would come up crying, but they almost always came up laughing!!!! These kids have an astonishing level of pain tolerance. I think I would’ve been crying a few times. Everywhere you looked, there were kids doing things that would be considered dangerous by U.S. standards. Kids chasing each other with stick, kids running barefoot over the rocks, kids tackling each other only to get up laughing or hugging. I only saw a few boys get in minor scuffles during the whole, hot afternoon.

To the side of one of the fields, a man had set up a stand and was selling sugar cane to the kids. They seem to really like it and it’s really cheap at just a few pennies.

As the sweltering afternoon wore on, I gravitated toward to the more sedentary areas of the field. Of course, wherever I went, my guides were at my side. I think I was part of an “Adopt a Mzungu” program. We got involved in Courtney’s area where they were playing a story telling game, led by the chatterbox, Mabel. She cracks me up whenever I see her. She runs the show wherever she goes. [She and Eric, the little boy interviewed in Hillary’s video, are the school “Prefects” or “Head Girl” and “Head Boy.” They are considered the best students in the whole school and are placed in charge of a lot of responsibility. They are both born leaders.] Anyway, at one point she was directing everyone on what to do, so I teased, “Mabel, who put YOU in charge?!?” Without missing a beat, she threw her hands out, palm up and said, “Well, GOD did!” It’s hard to argue with that. Yesterday, I was sitting with Eric and asked him, “So, Eric, are you in charge of the little kids?” because I had seen him standing with the little preschoolers helping them sing the songs when the school sang for us. He said, with his usual serious tone, “I’m in charge of ALL the kids.” They take this Prefect stuff seriously. Oh, while I was sitting there talking to him, this tiny little girl, maybe 1st grade, came up to him and handed him her corrected papers. He went through the whole book and gasped in approval at ever page. He looked like a daddy who goes overboard to give his child positive reinforcement. It was a moving moment for me.

I’m so glad we’re getting to spend extra time with the kids at St. Mzungu. The more time I spend with them, the more I fall in love with them. They come from the poorest of circumstances and live in shacks. They have very few clothes (pronounced Cloe-thez) beside their school uniform and their shorts and t-shirt that they wear on “competition days.” Most of them say on their forms that they live with their parents, but the truth is their parents are whoever takes them in. Many of them live with uncles, aunts, grandmas, or people from church who care enough to provide modest shelter. They’re almost on their own in the world. Yet, they soldier on. The motto at St. Mbuga is, “Never Give Up!” which is perfect for these kids. Each hour I spend getting to know their little faces that light up whenever we arrive, I want to mend all their torn little uniforms and give them new t-shirts with a brand new logo on it. It would be so easy to do that if we were in the U.S. but resources are so scarce here. I wish my mom and Leslie’s mom were here with their sewing machines. They could do wonders! I wish shipping a large load to Uganda wasn’t so expensive. What’s a Mzungu to do? I know I won’t sit still. They are too valuable to let slide through the cracks like the generation before them.

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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.