Monday, August 23, 2010


This week has been considerably more busy than last week. We've been overwhelmed by seeing many more Ik than we usually see. Ik from all over the Timu mountains have been footing (walking) to Kamion (another Ik center) in order to get a bag of maize flour from a free distribution. Unfortunately, they walk past our house and beg for things on the way. I've helped some and hid from others.

Besides seeing a lot of people this week, we also have a fundi (swahili word for builder) staying with us. He is working on several building projects. Firstly, he is going to finish making a brick grinding mill house for the grinding mill we had brought up to Timu several months ago. Secondly, he is going to make us a proper shed (as opposed to the temporary one we currently have). If we have the time, we also want him to construct a visitor's banda (outdoor sitting area) for us to receive people in.

Saturday was a big day for us. We needed to hire a lorry (big truck usually with multiple problems) to bring sand, bricks & cement up to Timu. We had originally planned to do this last Thursday but the lorry we hired never showed up and the driver & owner turned their phones off. So we started off early from Timu; the drive would be 1.5 hours each way. A neighbor of ours, Nachem, sent a man over with a bag of maize to be ground into flour in Kaabong. She also sent her daughter to tell us that she would be accompanying us to grind the maize. Terrill told the girl (Siti) 'no' because neither the mother or father had asked ahead of time. Siti proceeded to walk home and change into her best clothes in preparation for the trip. She was back within five minutes and ready to go. As it turned out, nobody else wanted a ride down to Kaabong so we ended up taking Siti and her maize. What I found funny about Siti the whole day is that she wanted to sit in the front with us, practically in my lap. Even when the back seat was empty; especially when the back seat was empty. She said it was too lonely back there for her. This highlights a cultural value in being with people all the time. Many don't like to be alone.

This is Siti with her youngest sister, Kunume.
Thank the Lord, we found a truck. We loaded 1000 bricks, 12 bags of cement, and a small pile of sand. The sand required that we go to the river with several men and shovels. They hand-filled the sand into and out of the truck. Then we were on our way back to Timu.

Now is the time when I should mention that it hadn't rained for two weeks. We didn't think the rain would magically appear on the day we hired a lorry to drive to Timu. We were wrong. We'd even called our friends in Timu just an hour before driving up there and were told that there was no rain. We bounced along as rain clouds grew in front of us. Rain is a problem when hiring a truck because the road to Timu isn't that good in dry season. In rainy season, it can be impassable. The truck made it to the last hill before our driveway. By that time the rain was pouring down and the road too slippery for the truck to make it. Our six loaders (young men looking to make money for school fees) jumped off the back of the truck and headed to our house. For the next hour we waited inside, sipping chai. I even had a chance to paint Siti's nails pink. As soon as the rain dissipated, the driver went back to work. The progress up the hill was slow. Ten men with shovels and hoes worked on the road until it was passable. An hour later, we were unloading bricks & sand near our house. The only harm done was to the environment in the form of a cloud of black smoke coming from the exhaust of the truck (and that was nothing new).

I have to admit that this was one of the most stressful days of our year. What I didn't mention in this narrative was how drunk people assailed us for rides in Kaabong. I didn't mention all the greetings and begging along the way, which delayed us going to the next appointments. I didn't mention that we lost Siti in Kaabong because a mischievous relative told her that we left her and she walked around town looking for us. And what about the rain that started while the loaders were shoveling sand into the truck. It gave them an excuse to leave early and only load us a small pile of sand. I won't expand on these because we don't want to remember these irritants ourselves. I'll just say that we're thankful for getting the truck up to Timu and we're thankful that Saturday has passed. Don't hear that very often, do we?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happiness found in second-hand clothes

The Ik love when we have visitors. Greetings go around. Husbands are looked for if a lady is single. Roasted maize is shared in the gardens. They also love what happens when the visitors leave (not that they love for visitors to leave). We usually ask that our visitors come with some clothes to leave behind when they go. This is just because it's so difficult & expensive for the Ik to try and get clothing. Many wear rags for months on end. Many get cold and don't have a coat. Very few have good shoes.

This was no different when Laura left us two weeks ago. She left behind some very nice clothes and the Ik have been the proud benefactors. At one point, I was asking people to buy clothing from me for a cheap price (10-25 cents) but these days I have many friends who give me gifts and like to receive clothing in return.

Below are two old ladies who received sweaters. Not only did we get a 'thank you' from them, they blessed us and our little hut for about fifteen minutes. It was almost a drama, where one lady would start dialoguing and the other would join her and build on the enthusiasm. Arms were raised, we were blessed with spittle and then came the next request...for a skirt too. ;)
These young girls all received new shirts. They are my next door neighbors, water carriers and frisbee buddies. {Jennifer, Lemu, Betty, Nancy, Namoi & Alice} It doesn't matter that the shirts are too big; from their point of view, it just means they can grow into them.
This is my good friend, Cecilia, who is married to our language helper, Philip. We've been spending a lot of time with her lately and have begun to appreciate her more and more. She visits our house almost every day, tries to help us learn the language, and even guides us to other villages for talks with Ik neighbors. She was thrilled to get a new dress and wore it during a game of frisbee. Laura, these Ik women say 'Ilakasuk'otiak!'....which means...'I am happy!'

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Some good advice

Before Terrill & I left for Uganda back in 2007, a friend of mine gave me some good advice. She was a former missionary herself and knew the uncertainties that I was going through. So many unknowns in my future. We had talked long and hard about how I could develop a sustainable life in Africa. Her advice was this: figure out what you need to survive over there and make sure you have it. She once had a friend who thought she needed her piano in order to survive her husband shipped her piano over and she was a happy camper. I thought on this...what do I need? It came down to two things. I need to get a good night's sleep on a comfortable bed (to avoid crankiness & stress) and I need to feel clean once in a while (something that I took for granted before coming to Uganda). The next step was to inform my husband of my needs and see if he could assist me in meeting these requirements. For the first two years, our house in Kaabong provided both a nice bed and hot bucket showers. When we started building our compound in Timu, we had to reconsider how to meet these needs. The bed was no problem; you can find them anywhere. The shower/bath was more of a challenge. First of all, it's chilly in Timu and sometimes difficult to stay warm (esp. at night). I think everyone would agree that a bath taken in the cold air is not pleasant. If I were to bathe during the heat of the day, I'd have several pairs of dark eyes watching me from the fence. Not my idea of fun. When we first moved to Timu, we were bathing out of a large basin. I also had trouble washing my hair by myself. I could never seem to get all the soap out. I became frustrated....until recently. Terrill has figured out a way to rig up a bucket shower in our bathroom. Now I can squat under the bucket and have a glorious 3-minute shower that warms me and gets the soap out of my hair. Yes, I've mastered the 3-minute shower. I'm sure my father is surprised because I used to enjoy 20-minute showers (although he would argue they were longer). Anyway, the point is that Terrill has helped me to meet some basic needs in Timu that will keep me healthier and happier. Thanks for the advice, Kay!

Below I have some contrasting pictures, just for fun. I went on a home visit to see a sick girl (12 yr old) who was having bad back pain. Usually, the Ik sleep on hard dirt floors in their huts unless they can afford a mattress. We're letting Nangoli Lucy borrow a mattress until her situation improves. In contrast, this is where we sleep in Timu. Not too shabby...I can't complain. The only thing to pester us at night are the occasional daddy-long legs.
This is a young girl bathing at the borehole (well) from water that splashes out while people are filling their jerry cans to take back to the village. I found it interesting that she was scrubbing herself with a rock. Definitely got those dead skins cells off. Too bad though, that you'd have to bathe in front of other people. Let's just say that some parts get washed more often than others. ;)
And this is my new shower! Thank the Lord for these small provisions.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Our cup overfloweth

It hasn't stopped. All week we've been receiving gifts of food from our friends and neighbors. I've eaten pumpkin every day. This once again confirms in our minds that they give when they have. An old woman came to see me this evening with yet another gift of pumpkin. She was thanking me for giving her some medicine for her grandchild. She told me that she'd only had one pumpkin this year and she wanted me to have it. Guilty feelings nudged into my mind. I want them to have good health. I don't want to steal their blessings...and yet it seems to be their joy to give. So, Terrill & I are receiving their gifts in the hopes that we can return the favor when dry season rolls around and there is no food in the Ik gardens. I think we've officially become part of the community. Pumpkin, greens & wild meat for dinner.
Whenever we go on walks and stop to talk to people who are working in their gardens, we usually receive a snack of roasted maize, fresh from the fire. This is our neighbor, Nacem, who was on her way home but prepared a snack for us first.
My new friend, Kuku, was bringing yet another pumpkin. Her father had heard that we liked pumpkin and had Kuku run to the garden to pick one for us.
Akoro, the midwife, stopped as we were passing her on the road and divided up her maize in order to give us half.
We walked through the garden of a man who had just trapped a duiker (small deer) that afternoon. His wife was preparing the meat and he insisted we take some. This was a special treat as the Ik don't get meat often.

Tomatoes, maize, beans, pumpkin, wild meat, cassava...and whatever else they have...they share. Maybe we could learn from them. May we remember the Iks' generosity when times get hard, and we're the only ones with enough to eat.

Friday, August 13, 2010


"Sister Visit" (sorry, a little too much time in the German book on Ik grammar today...) For three weeks last month we had the privilege of having my (Terrill) sister Laura visit us here in Uganda. We had a good time! Our first major adventure on the way to Ikland was a short safari in Murchison Falls National Park. Murchison Falls is where the entire volume of the Nile River passes through a 14 foot wide gap in the rocks. It's a pretty amazing thing to see. The park is also home to many of the classic East African wildlife species like elephant, hippo, buffalo, crocodiles, lions, etc.

This first photo shows Laura and me on our riverboat cruise of the Nile, at a point where they let you get off and have a photo op with the falls in the distant background.
The trip from Murchison to Kaabong was long and grueling, but Laura tolerated it well like the veteran of African road hardships that she is! We were kind enough to leave her a space in the middle seat roughly the size and shape of her self with a few inches to spare.
Another adventure we had in Ikland was hiking to the edge of the escarpment overlooking Turkanaland in Kenya below.
What fun we had reliving our childhood Africa experiences, this time as adults. We know the wildlife enjoyed Laura's being here (the geckos, slugs...and daddy-long-legs? No, the latter are GLAD she's gone), but so did the Ik. To this day people are asking where yeyo "your sister" has gone. K'a na ngo kij'ak "She has gone to our country", I tell them. This is met with understanding nods and reassurances of her imminent return. So, Laura, I guess you better start saving your money! We miss the good talks, episodes of LOST, nature walks...and maya waak (sorry, inside joke) Hurry back!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Birthdays & Bonding

Yesterday was Terrill's 30th birthday. We spent it with the Ik. There is probably no place else he would have preferred to be...although he might have liked a steak for dinner. But, he settled for pumpkin soup and peanut butter cookies and was a content guy in the midst of a pretty regular day. This is something I really appreciate about my husband. No matter what life hands him, he chooses contentment. So even though we had a busy morning with lots of visitors, even though he made countless cups of tea for people, even though there was no nice restaurant for his birthday dinner...he was happy.

Living in a remote area, we have to prepare for special days in advance. Whenever we're in Kampala, I ask Terrill what he'd like for the next holiday. He's usually full of ideas...being a visionary as he is. This year, he wanted a dart order that he might find some male bonding moments with the Ik. Saying that the dart board has been a success would be an understatement. Since we put it up, we've had men come almost every day requesting to play. It's not a foreign thing to them. Several have seen a dart board in a hoteli (restaurant/bar/hotel) somewhere or other. We're going to have to be strategic about when to let people play and for how long or else our compound will resemble a hoteli. We also don't want to encourage idleness in the men of Timu. Playing darts would give them an excuse to neglect their duties and leave more work to the women. One of the first games was played with Pastor Jacob (of the Pentecostal Church here) and his associate, Vincent.
Jacob is in red and Vincent in the green fleece. They concocted a plan to have a tournament on Sunday afternoons. We decided it would be fun to have a prize for the winner. For this game, Vincent was the very first person to get a bull's eye and we prized him with a bottle of coke. They couldn't wipe the grins off their faces.

What's next....Terrill's dreaming of tetherball...or soccer...or volleyball games with the Ik. As long as we're bonding, I guess it doesn't really matter what we play with them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peas talks

I'm not really a gardener...not even an amateur. I dabble in growing fruits and vegetables. Most of the time this involves buying seeds and asking people how to plant them. The Karamojong & Ik have shared many different techniques with me about how to grow things. There are some things, however, that they've never grown before. This is when the confusion starts. I bought a packet of Burpees Sweet Peas in Florida and brought them all the way to Uganda to see if I could grow peas from Timu. My friend, Lojore, and I read the instructions on how to plant them. I showed him the packet so he would know how they were supposed to look. During rainy season, they started growing nicely. The pods were getting bigger when I left Timu for our break over the summer. I thought Lojore would know to pick the peas when they reached full size. Instead, upon returning, I found all the plants dead and the peas harvested....but not eaten. Lojore had allowed the peas to dry out and had saved every last pea for me. It was thoughtful. In his mind, this plant looked like a bean they call K20. For the K20 plant, you let the pods get dry, then you harvest the beans and boil them for a tasty dinner. Even though I had showed him what the peas would look like at harvest, he acted from experience and did what he's always done with his bean plants. It wasn't a waste. From that one Burpees packet, I now have x20 as many seeds to plant during the next rainy season. Hopefully I'll be around for their harvest and I can show the Ik when to harvest peas and how to cook them. Lojore realizes that our small compound is not big enough for a nice garden so he's decided to offer us some of his land in order that we might plant more next year. He's also hinted that we should bring a tractor up to Timu for planting and maybe...just maybe let other people benefit from it's use as well. ;)

Friday, August 6, 2010

A gift of maize

Take a good look at this man. On Sunday afternoon, we passed through his garden on our hike to another part of the escarpment. He decided to come with us and be our guide. But before we walked any further, he wanted us to sit down and have roasted maize with him. His wife had a small fire going and had five ears of maize ready to be eaten. I was shocked. This was the first time an Ik had offered me food. I didn't even know this man's name. I hadn't seen him very often and he hadn't come for frequent visits to our house...but he offered me food. Who says there's no kindness and sharing among the Ik? Colin Turnbull, who wrote The Mountain People and described the Ik during a famine...obviously had never encountered the Ik during a harvest. We discovered that they share if they have something to share. Since Sunday, several more Ik have stopped by my house to drop off gifts of maize...the first fruits of their harvest. What a blessing to see this side of their culture. If you think of it, please thank the Lord for this man & his family today. Pray God's best for their lives. They've shown us a kindness. They shared maize and we shared beef jerky. They said it tasted very 'sweet'.
After our snack, our guide and another good friend, Lojore Philip took us on a trail that lead to a marvelous view of the Rift Valley and the border of Uganda & Kenya. Lojore sat with Terrill and explained the names of the multiple ridges that lay between our escarpment and Kenya. He could probably tell a story about each ridge and how they got their names. The Ik amaze me with their memory of dates and names.
And this was the goal of our walk: to view the the Rift Valley from yet another angle. Is this part of God's world gorgeous or what?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A house full of visitors

It's been a busy summer for us so you'll have to forgive the lack of blogging. First we traveled for several weeks to attend a wedding. Then we headed to the Kenyan coast for a week to attend a SIL conference with colleagues. Upon returning to Uganda in mid-July, we found Terrill's sister, Laura, waiting for us. More about Laura later. We just spent a wonderful three weeks with her. Time with family is precious and cannot be taken for granted. With Laura loaded into our Patrol, we headed northeast to Kaabong and showed her a good portion of the country. We arrived 'home' on the 19th of July and prepared for six more visitors the following day. Most of them were expected. :) Our good friends, Jacob & Georgia Reed, came over for a visit and brought a friend of theirs, Chris. Mutual friends, Tom & Jean Reed, showed up later in the afternoon with their new teammate, Ryan. We spent a week together at the Baptist mission. There was a constant flow of chatting and plans. We laughed, we cried, we envisioned a future together. Some of those who were visiting are planning on returning to Kaabong full-time to work as missionaries among the Karamojong. You can pray for their preparation and quick return. The Lord knows that we're excited to have other missionaries nearby. It was such a huge blessing to spend so much time with like-minded people. Below is how the kitchen looked most of the time. Hey...with nine people utilizing it...what would you expect. :) Our visitors were so gracious to help us with dishes each and every day. Jean, Georgia, Laura & I were the women of the Baptist mission for this week in history. It was also a treat to take the visitors up to Timu where we're currently working & living. They helped us open up our houses after a month and clean out the spiders.
Ryan, Tom, Jean, Georgia, Jacob & Chris. All good-hearted people who love Kaabong & the Karamojong. Can't wait for a reunion!