Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Curtains that keep on giving

So...aunt Mary Jane brought a hand-cranked Singer sewing machine from the 1950's over to Uganda with her. She was going to teach me how to sew and we were going to do little projects together. It's been going great and I'm finding that I enjoy creating stuff out of nothing. Well, almost nothing...

I'm not a packrat by nature. The opposite really. I consider myself pretty simplistic in what I keep around our home and we organize and clear out pretty frequently. But I have kept one thing (that I wasn't using at all) for the past four years hidden away in a box. I just couldn't bring myself to give it away because it was a set of curtains my grandma Stutzman had made. Things are just more special when they come from Grandma. Back in 2009, we had contemplated moving to another Ik area (Kamion), and Grandma had made curtains for the entire house (multiple windows). Then when we moved to Timu instead, I had curtains that didn't fit my windows. So I kept the curtains hidden away for a later time. And that time arrived with the Singer sewing machine. 

The curtains finally saw the light of day after being hidden for so long. And Mary Jane & I have found the material to be a huge blessing. It is durable and it came in huge quantities. Being a missionary, I must be frugal with what comes from America...because it just ain't easy to get quality material in Uganda. (Yes, I'm married to a linguist and just said ain't.) 

The first project was to make curtains for several spaces in the kitchen to hide cleaning supplies, propane tanks and such. 
Next, we made curtains for the pantry shelves to hide them from prying eyes. 
Then, we had a rocking chair that needed a new seat cover. 
Then, Terrill remarked on our ugly couch pillow covers, and they were replaced with new ones. We also started tearing the material into strips and braiding it into rugs. Never done this before, but Mary Jane is a pretty brave gal and has jumped into many new projects with me. She had seen her grandma braiding rugs years ago and we decided to give it a try.
Here, Mary Jane has just finished making a cover for the sewing machine.
And yesterday, we made a baby mattress and pillow for the girls' doll bed. No picture yet. In conclusion, you never know what will come in handy years down the road...so don't be so quick to throw away what comes from Grandma. ;-)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Humble abode

Okay- these are the last pictures I'll post of the house. I promise. We're just so excited to be here and are enjoying all the additional space. Have I said that already? ;-)
Kitchen island
Kitchen cupboards
Kitchen/dining area
Guest/girls bathroom
Living room (medicine cabinet to the left) 
Girl's room
Our bedroom (bathroom in the back)
Our bathroom
Frontside of our bedroom (used as office for now)
Storage (attached to garage)
Solar set-up in storage
Front of house
Water supply
 These are before and after shots. Before, we were not set up to have family dinners. Now, we are. Everyone is happier about it.
If you've not read about some of the difficulties in us getting to this point, read the previous blog. ;-)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Building headaches

It's true, we're in our new house and are enjoying it immensely! It only took three months to build, which people say is really fast. Maybe, but it seemed like a year to me.

Janet and Lemu were playing with LEGOs yesterday, the same LEGOs I played with when I was a boy. I told Amber when I was a kid, I played with LEGOs. Now, I build houses (well, technically we pay others to do most of the building). There are some similarities between building LEGO houses and real houses.

One difference though, is that when you build with LEGOs, you more or less have control over the outcome. Not so building in Africa, in my experience anyway. Somehow, miraculously perhaps, the house we imagined took shape and became reality. But, in the midst of it all were untold frustrations: frustrations with suppliers, transporters, workers, and the quality (or lack thereof) of building materials.

In my daily journal, I kept a list of some of the frustrations:

-When the weather was good for transporting materials, no trucks would be available.
-The transporters I worked with would say they were coming 'tomorrow' but wouldn't come or even call.
-Building materials ran out (i.e. original estimates were off).
-The crew digging the foundation argued with me about who could and could not be on the crew (clan rivalries).
-The iron roofing sheets we ordered came in the wrong color from the wrong company (though we paid for something else).
-Of the five interior doors we ordered, four came hinged on the wrong side.
-None of the five interior doors fit the frames.
-Many of the shutters on the windows came not closing properly.
-The screen door came hinged on the wrong side.
-The gate we ordered came without spikes and is only lockable from the inside.
-For the fence, we ran out of barbed wire one course short of the top.
-The fence corner-post got broken on its way here.
-Because of the slope, the front side of our house is a good four feet off the ground (a mirror image of our old house which was four feet below ground).
-The toilets we received were not the toilets we paid for (in a town 9 hours' drive south).
-The tile we got for our bathrooms was not what we thought we were getting (much harder to install).
-The 'gray' grout I bought for the tile was actually white.
-I didn't get nearly enough tile mortar or tile grout to finish the job.
-The paint sprayer we got (from the US) wouldn't spray Ugandan paint. When I called the company's customer service people in Kampala, they said to me, "Why don't you use a brush or roller?"
-Amber's brothers came all the way here to help but couldn't do what they hoped because the other crews were 2-plus weeks behind schedule.
-Two members of the Ik unskilled crew were disgruntled with their pay (even though we agreed to it at the beginning), tried to pick a fight with the foreman, and caused some chaos.
-The masonry crew openly disregarded what I asked them to do and often did the opposite (because I wasn't paying them directly).
-The masonry slowed way down to stretch their days out because they were getting paid per day.
-Building materials ran out.
-The guy I ordered doors, windows, and lumber from lied to me and delayed shipping for weeks on end. Finally, he stopped answering my phone calls.
-The day we told the community to bring their hand-made gravel for concrete, we got absolutely mobbed. I put up rope barriers and told people not to bring more gravel to the site, but they just went under or around the ropes and dumped their piles all over the place.
-The septic tanks we had built are way too big for our needs. Apparently the builder wanted extra work.
-The customized paint we got to match the roof that was the wrong color, was the wrong color.
-Since the paint sprayer we got didn't work, we paid people to paint the whole house. Some of the walls were too wet, so the paint ran.
-The paint ran out, so I ordered more by phone. It got sent to the wrong town.
-The sand used for all the concrete and mortar had quite a lot of dirt in it, meaning the mixtures were weak. Under the paint in the walls, in some places you can just scrape the sand out with your hands.
-We offered the community a generous amount for carrying water, since the well is a long way from our house. So then they found a natural, though dirty water source much closer and got water from there.
-Did I mention that building materials ran out?
-The $1400 water-tank we got to hold rainwater now leaks at the outlet (thanks to me who made the hole too big with a hot pipe and burnt my hand in the process).
-Oh, and then we need yet MORE sand and MORE rocks and MORE cement than what was originally estimated.
-The vent system on our septic tank isn't working right, so now our bedroom smells like decaying cabbage.
-The wall over our garage door was made too short for our truck to fit in with the spare tire on top. The builders built the wall without consulting me. The solution was going to be to slope the garage floor so the truck could enter gradually. When we went to Kampala, I told them explicitly not to do the floor until we got back. They did it anyway. So now the truck will only fit in the garage if I back in with the spare tire near the front of the roof-rack.
-And the list goes on...

Well, that gives you a sample. Let's just say I chewed a lot of antacid tablets over the last three months. We had nearly daily---and sometimes all day---opportunities to relinquish our need for control and give the reigns over to God. I wish I could say I learned that lesson completely...but I can't. I do hope that we grew in our ability to go with the flow. If you don't, Africa can eat you up with stress and frustration. By God's grace we got through the building project and are now enjoying the (nearly) finished product. Our prayer is that this home and property will be a blessing to our family, to future occupants, and to the Ik community. Then all the headaches we experienced will be worth it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

We've moved!

This week marks a milestone in our life in Uganda. After three grueling months of building, waiting, and yearning for something just out of our reach...we've moved into our new house. October 31st was the big day. Since then, we've been putting things away, organizing, and cleaning the endless clouds of cement dust out of the house. I can't describe to you the freedom I feel in getting out of small quarters and into a living space with breathing room. It's actually given me a renewed motivation and energy for being in Timu. We're not just organizing our stuff...we're organizing how our new life will look with little girls in it. Pray that we would have wisdom and be attuned to the Spirit's leading as we decide how to be involved with community life in Timu. 

Before moving in, we had to travel to Kaabong to pick up a bed, couch and chairs for the living room. Calvin did a marvelous job of tying everything down. I didn't do so marvelously at driving us back to Timu, but we made it safe and sound. 
Poor Mary Jane had to ride in the back on the mattress with the girls. The girls didn't think it was such a tragedy though. 
A shot from the girls' room looking out into the kitchen/dining area. We love having all the open space.
Doing dishes in my new kitchen for the first time.
The girls in their new bed...the first that either of them has ever called their own. 
 I had given up on the hope of refrigeration in the house because it costs a lot to get a solar refrigerator and the propane refrigerators use up a lot of fuel. These past four years, we've been living without refrigeration. But then Calvin arrived! He installed an outlet underneath my counter that fits the cord for a cooler we use in the car (that usually hooks into the lighter). Now I can bring cheese, yogurt, butter and meat up to Timu and they'll last for longer. Notice that most of our 'wish list' is dairy....we REALLY miss dairy. ;-)
The girls are enjoying all the extra space as well. They're playing house under these chairs. For the first few days, they kept walking around the new house saying, "We're so excited."
 This looks unremarkable to you, I know. But to us, it means functioning, flushing toilets. The plumbing is now all hooked up with only tiny leaks.
I used to have plastic boxes filled with all our food. No more! Now I have cupboards in which to put things away. 
 More pictures of the house to follow...but for now, I need to make Terrill & I some afternoon tea.