Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Need for Flexibility

The first picture was from last Friday. The builders had finished pouring a slab of cement to make the roof of our bathroom. Terrill has gleefully decided that this slab will be where we sit to have tea in the evenings. Now for the flexibility part: the builders announced to Terrill that we didn't have enough supplies to keep going. We also realized that we were running low on funds to build. Another problem that arose around the same time was that our solar system in Kaabong started to malfunction and we were losing power every night. Candles are romantic and all, but it starts getting ridiculous when I have to shower in the dark. Friday was a stressful day with much on our plate, and thus we decided that the only solution to our problems would be to make a trip to Kampala the next day. We packed late into the night and awakened at 3am when a mousetrap went off in the ceiling. Those pesky bush rats. We were on the road by 5:30am and decided to try and make the whole trip to Kampala in a day. The Kotido road was clear and a lovely light lit the sky as the sun rose. After a few hours of driving, we made it to Amuria. The Amuria road is one of the worst we've ever driven and I was praying for the bumps to end for two hours. On this road, we ran into a trouble spot. A bridge is in the process of being made but is not completed yet. At the moment, vehicles must drive through sticky, swampy mud. Every time we drive this way, we get stuck behind a big truck who is stuck. This time, Terrill pulled off the road and assessed the situation. We couldn't pass. We waited for 45 minutes and during that time, the truck pulled up enough to allow us to pass on one side. Thank the Lord for his mercies, or else we'd have been in Amuria the entire day. An hour and a half later, we spotted tarmac and praised God for it. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing and we landed in Kampala traffic around 6pm. It was a great treat to attend church at Calvary Chapel Kampala the next morning. On Monday, we also dropped off seven buckets of honey at Malaika Honey company and had dinner with the owner, Simon Turner of Australia. We're still trying to find a solution of how to transport the honey down to Kampala in a mode of transportation other than ourselves. Simon has been very supportive in this endeavor. On Tuesday, we headed back towards Jinja (east) to stay for a night in Mabira Forest. This year for our birthdays, we decided to spend one night in a 'geolodge' in Mabira Forest, a 'supposedly' uncut forest. We've spent the last 24 hours enjoying forest life and such. There is nothing better than a cup of tea and a good book while sitting in the forest. Now, we're back in Entebbe and getting ready for a week of chores.

A friend, Esther, and Pastor Jacob dumping honey that would go with us down to Kampala.

More dumping of honey...
Dry Karamoja hills...
Just another day in Kampala...but the chickens made us giggle. He'll have a mess to clean up.
Terrill & our guide, Kasozi, beside a rubber tree in Mabira Forest.
Sap from the rubber tree between Terrill's fingers.
Old fig tree: our guide told us that pygmies used to live in the shelter of these old trees. He said that the pygmies have since integrated into the wider Bantu society, but that they are still identified by their short stature.
Makaranga tree: it has short, spiky branches coming out of the trunk...for it's own protection?
Mabira Forest butterfly

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rock Bathroom & Grass Roof= Terrill's Dream

Rock bathroom (shower-side) added onto our house. Walls up, waiting for a cement slab on the roof.
Other side of bathroom (latrine-side). Air bricks are dispersed along the top for ventilation but I was dismayed to learn that they're at eye level and people can peek in at us. We'll have to make 'blinders' for those.
This view is looking over the top of the bathroom wall towards Kaabong (south).

The guest house has a completed grass roof. Almost ready for inhabitants...
We hired Ik women to tie the grass in bundles to be thatched.
Some Ik men seeking shelter from the hot sun...still very little rain in Karamoja. It's starting to come but very slowly.
This is Pastor Jacob, Ik PAG Pastor in Timu. He's helping us in the project and also enjoying the playground.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Women standing outside the gate and observing progress.
An Ik man, Gabriel, who hopes to sell us his aggregate pile.

My friend, Lemu, begs for a photo. This hill behind our house is full of rocks that people break to make aggregate to sell us.
Our cook, Veronica, stirs a pot of atap (posho). The equivalent to this might be cornmeal mush. She is an educated Ik woman who lived in Kenya with her husband until he died this past year. She packed her bags and moved back to the mountains. She will most likely be a language assistant for me as her English is excellent.
Our small cooking hut, situated right outside our compound fence.
Freshly-cut grass that will get put into a thatch roof in the next three days. The men have arrived from Abim (3 hours south of Kaabong) to make us a special roof. We liked the roof they put on our house so much that we invited them back to complete the guest house roof.
One of the men prepares bamboo for the structure of the roof by skinning off the outer layer.

Beginning of the latrine area for the guest house. The back door leads into this area and a shower/bucket bath room will be added beside the latrine.
Freshly plastered steps that lead into our house from the front door.
Freshly plastered guest house with new doors & windows.
Beginning of the bathroom for our house. The back door leads into this rocky latrine & shower area.
Back door of our house, as seen from the inside.
Inside our house, plastered walls & floor. This is the kitchen area, bordered by a partition wall that separates our bedroom from the rest of the house.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Clouds But No Rain

As we drove home from Timu yesterday, clouds covered the sky. We were coming down a mountain and could see rain to the west but it didn't quite reach Kaabong. The grass remains dry and brittle. We continue to pray that some rain will fall this year and give the Karamojong/Ik a renewed hope.

Doors & Windows

On Friday, we started another journey up to Timu to check on our builders and to supply them with food & hardware. We discovered that they had installed all the windows and two of the doors. We were very satisfied with the work. They are also starting a process of plastering around the doors/windows/and between the thatch roof and wall. This is important to keep rodents and reptiles out of the house. While taking pictures of the work, some Ik young people watched me attentively through the window.
As Terrill proceeded to instruct the builders of what he wanted done next, I ventured off to pay some people. First, we had to pay for honey that was brought to us previously. We're still putting the honey in buckets and taking it down to Kampala when we get the chance. Next I had to attend to those who had worked for us during the week. I paid four women to gather firewood and bring it to the cooking hut for future cooking needs. I paid ten women to take jerry cans down the hill and gather water from a well...and then to bring them back up to our building site. They deserved every penny for that kind of work. The builders use the water to make cement. I paid several men who have been doing manual labor in mixing the cement and handing it to the builders. I paid some old women for letting us use their beans and tea when the cook ran out of these supplies and needed more. At one point I brought out a bag of clothing that Larry, Mary & Cassidy had brought for us to give away. I was going to let the Ik buy some of the clothes cheaply. Utter chaos ensued. I guess this is what happens when you don't have much. They crowded around us and clothes started to fly. At least most of them were honest enough to pay for what they were taking out of the pile. It was like a garage sale on steroids. I narrowly escaped with my sanity and Terrill got us out of the compound as quickly as possible...but not without first loading up more honey, three Ik women and their corn (going for grinding), and a Karamojong man. We had to turn down four chickens that the women wanted to take. We've cleaned up enough chicken 'mess' to know better. Terrill also pulled several Ik women out of the vehicle after telling them that there wasn't enough room and them getting in on the other side of the car against his will. We just have to smile at them in hindsight. We're going to try to relax this weekend and recover from the craziness of it all. Back to Timu on Tuesday...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back to Timu

After our visitors left, the next course of business was to procure supplies from a town called Mbale, located about seven hours south of Kaabong. A friend from Kaabong, Sister Mary of PAG church, was also traveling to Mbale and we hooked up with her for the trip. We left on Friday morning and arrived in Mbale by 5pm that day. During the weekend, we spent our time pricing supplies, buying and loading them on a truck coming north. The work wasn't very restful but we did stay in a nice hotel and got several hot showers. You can tell where our priorities lie. :) Being that this was a new experience for us (buying hardware supplies from Mbale), Mary was gracious enough to introduce us to people and give us a hand. Mary owns a small shop in Kaabong that does quite well and she travels to Mbale monthly. We shared a lorry (10 ton truck) with Mary to haul our supplies up to Kaabong this time. The truck was loaded and on the road by Saturday afternoon. Mary traveled with them to oversee the supplies while we stayed on in Mbale, waiting for a mason to arrive from Kampala. The mason (who is working on our house in Timu) arrived on Sunday evening and we started our drive back to Kaabong then.

We looked forward to an evening drive as the air is cooler and we wouldn't get so dehydrated. We usually drive during the hottest times of the day and feel sick by the time we reach a destination. So, we started driving and had an enjoyable ride until passing a place called Soroti. At this point, we still had six hours to drive. What we forgot about night driving is that you can't see the potholes as well until you're on top of them. It was a bumpy ride, to say the least. It took an hour longer than usual because of road conditions. Going through an area called Amuria, we had some more complications. A lorry was stuck in the mud (thankfully not our lorry). We went around him (from the other direction) but found that the road got more narrow and several other lorries were behind him as well. The trucks were too big to turn around, the road was too narrow, and the mud was a danger to them. So, the drivers were all sleeping and waiting for the first lorry to get out of the mud...most likely in the morning. It was 12am at this point. Terrill stopped the vehicle and we all got out to assess the situation. It was almost impossible to pass the other trucks because they were in the middle of the road and the road dropped off about three feet at the edge. We decided that the passengers should stand along the edge while Terrill attempted to pass the trucks. He was inches from the other vehicles and inches from us....but he did it. Spectacular maneuvering! We all breathed easier when the ordeal of passing was finished. The rest of the journey was uneventful except for being surprised by the number of rabbits we saw along the road. We were home by 4am and in bed by 4:10am.

The next day our focus was to find a truck to take our supplies from Kaabong to Timu. The other truck had broken down along the journey and had barely made it to Kaabong. We transferred all the supplies into the PAG church while finding another truck. The Lord was on our side and we found a truck willing to travel on Tuesday.

Bright and early on Tuesday morning we were loading a truck with windows, doors, timbers, bags of cement, water tanks and a few other miscellaneous objects. The road to Timu isn't very good either, but it was a piece of cake compared to our previous trip. We found about 100 Ik waiting to see us. As soon as our doors opened, greetings and requests started coming our way.....medicine, air time (for cell phone use), clothing, honey, food....the list goes on. The truck soon arrived and was unloaded by some Karamojong who were with it. The Ik were perturbed that we didn't hire them to be unloaders. They forgave us but told us not to do it again. ;) We did our business and paid for some honey that we were taking to Malaika. We got the masons set up for work and gave instruction. I delivered groceries to the cook and discussed her salary. The menu was beans and corn mush (atap) for lunch. We were almost ready to leave when the elders called Terrill over to a corner of the compound for a special meeting. Twenty-five men sat in a semi-circle and looked right at Terrill. He called for Pastor Jacob (PAG church in Timu) to come and translate the proceedings. The head elder presented two issues: the community of Timu needed a grinding mill and a clinic for pregnant mothers.We told them that we would prayerfully consider these things and this seemed to be a good enough answer to appease them. At this point, they allowed us to embark on our journey home. It's time for a break!

Missing our Friends

Larry, Mary & Cassidy have been gone from us for a week now but I'm still processing all that we talked about and experienced together. It was nice to see familiar faces every day for two weeks. It was nice to share a part of our lives with them and know that they've gone home understanding the work a little better. It was nice to strengthen our bonds of friendship through joys and tears. Through our many discussions, I {Amber} was personally challenged to reflect upon our purpose in Uganda once again. I don't want to do work just for the sake of doing work....nor good just for the sake of doing good. I want the work and the good to speak of something bigger than myself. I want the imprint of Christ upon what we're doing. I've also reflected more upon how important clear & effective communication is in the message of the gospel. The work seems to start with learning a peoples' heart language and reaching out to them that way. I'm finding that it's difficult and frustrating to rush ahead and start the work without learning about the people and culture through the language first. What a blessing it is to have friends who bring our thoughts back to Christ and his message!