Monday, January 27, 2014

Dry season

January has been a tough month in Timu. It's dry season, people are burning the grass everywhere, and all sorts of irritants annoy our sinuses. But we stuck it out, stuck to our work, enjoyed some smoked cheese that our family sent over in a package, and have made it to the end of the month. Now we're in Mbale (southern Uganda) and on our way to Kampala tomorrow. For the month of February, Terrill will be participating in a workshop that will address issues with the alphabets of five different Ugandan languages. He'll be a consultant for one of those languages. We're looking forward to this opportunity to get away from a dry Timu and for Terrill to learn a little something as a linguistics consultant. As for the girls and I, we have big plans: preschool activities, swimming and running errands. They love Kampala, so we heard no complaints from them about the trip. 

But looking back at January, here are a few shots of the girls. 
They've been climbing trees!
Walking with their cousin, Kitella.
Watching the fire. 
Terrill burned our yard in the evenings to make a fire-break so that no other fires would overtake our compound and cause havoc.
Lemu found a rubber duck in the grass that had been burned. The duck was badly wounded and required a bandage. I think all of my wound care is rubbing off on her.
They enjoy donning their aprons, sitting on my island, and mixing whatever happens to be in the bowl. 
They also enjoy rolling chapatis out. 

And does indeed save me time when washing dishes.
Janet has gotten into coloring and has learned to stay inside the lines...thanks to Grandma Velma.
Terrill was attempting to work but was 'hug ambushed'.  Don't ask me why she was wearing floaties. 

Ah...sisters. I'm SO thankful that they like each other...and I don't usually have to force it. ;-)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Baby Jesus's Birthday

Finally, after days of trying to load pictures on the blog, I've succeeded. But I cannot complain about internet connection or speed, because a friend reminded me recently that I'm blessed to live as a missionary in a time when internet is available at all! Even a mere twenty years ago, this was not the case. 

We spent Christmas eve and Christmas morning in Timu. It was a fun time for both us and the girls, making memories and explaining to them why we celebrate. Since Janet had just had a birthday, they knew what birthdays were. But it was still a pretty foreign concept for them to celebrate. They had helped me put up our small four ft. tree the week before. I had a string of white lights wrapped around the tree and Lemu would ask multiple times a day if she could turn the lights on. There is just something magical about Christmas lights; they seem to change the mood of any room. 
Christmas Eve we bought a chicken and had our day-guard slaughter it. We also bought a bag of sweet potatoes from a neighbor needing cash. So for dinner, it was baked chicken and sweet potato fries. We ate in the living room while watching the movie, The Nativity. It's a mostly accurate and child-friendly depiction of the Christmas story. The girls talked of that movie for days afterwards. They were especially drawn in to it because it involved the birth of two babies (John and Jesus). And my girls love babies! 

Christmas morning found us baking a chocolate birthday cake for Jesus. (By the way, I baked this cake on the stovetop in a skillet that had a lid. While Aunt Mary Jane was around, she helped me find recipes that would do well on the stovetop so we wouldn't have to start the oven up (and waste gas) every time I wanted to bake. Maybe I'm late to this whole concept of stovetop baking, but I think it's a pretty cool solution to the question of resource (our gas) conservation.) 

So the girls got up and decorated Jesus's cake with sprinkles and candles. And Terrill was making us a southern breakfast of eggs and grits. Add in some coffee and lit candles and it became quite the cozy scene.
We had a few presents to open, thanks to the generosity of our families. Below Janet is trying a new crocheted hat from Great Grandma Stutzman on her much-loved baby. 
 They also received a neat Nativity Playmobil from Great Aunt Karen. And when they opened it and saw all the pieces...can you guess what they were drawn to? If you guessed Baby Jesus, you were right. 
At lunchtime, we got dressed up in our finery and went to Kaabong to spend the rest of the day with our baptist friends. They had prepared a typical American meal and the mood was festive. It turned out to be our best Christmas in Uganda. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Right place, wrong time

When we first moved to Karamoja, driving on the roads was a bit risky due to armed bandits. Occasionally they would shoot at or rob vehicles on rural roads. In our early days here, driving back and forth to Ikland always took faith in God's protection over us. We just never knew what we would see around the next corner or over the next rise. Fortunately, we never encountered a single (illegally) armed person in our travels. And since 2010 or so, the government's disarmament program has really reduced the number of guns and violent incidents in the area.

On our way back home from Kaabong, the day after Christmas, our complacency was rudely interrupted. As our vehicle crawled slowly up a rocky spot in first gear, we heard a gunshot to our right. It sounded different than what I would've expected a gunshot to sound like, so we wondered then if it even was a gunshot. I thought maybe something on our vehicle had broken or popped. Despite having an uneasy feeling, all I did was roll up my window (as if that would stop a bullet). When we crested the hill and turned right, we heard two more gunshots also on my right. We also saw a lot of dust lingering in the air above the road, as if something had been running on it moments before. Both Amber and I felt something hit the vehicle, but even in that moment I was sure it wasn't a bullet (if Hollywood depictions of such things are even remotely accurate). Still, I yelled at Amber 'Get down!" and stomped on the accelerator.

Once a safe distance away, we started calling people to let them know what happened. The news spread rapidly throughout Kaabong and Ikland. For a couple of days, our Ik neighbors came to offer their condolences for that happened. Everyone was a bit confounded and worried as to why the 'enemies' would be shooting at us. No vehicle had ever been shot at on that particular road. So why now? And who did it?

The army arrested two groups of suspects. One group consisted of a young Ik man and an armed Karimojong member of the LDU (Local Defense Unit). The second group consisted of three Karimojong thieves who had been seen going into Kenya with two AK-47s the day before. Though the second group seemed more likely, the first group was detained because their stories didn't line up.

We have since heard a fuller report of what happened. As it turns out, we weren't being shot at at all. The Karimojong thieves were indeed returning from Kenya with stolen donkeys. They were on the road at the time we climbed the hill, and that's why we saw the dust in our headlights. As we approached the junction, our headlights revealed the thieves and donkeys to the Ik man and LDU member who were also at that very place. They shot once at the thieves who then returned fire (the second two shots we heard). After we were long gone, the LDU shot seven more times, injuring one thief in the arm. So it was all just a bizarre coincidence that all three groups were at the right place but the wrong time together.

Even though we weren't the target of the shooting, we are very thankful to God for his ongoing protection that allows us to keep living and loving in Ikland.

(Oh, and what hit our vehicle must've been sound-waves from the gunshots.)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Janet's 'First' Birthday

On the 22nd of December, Kaloyang 'Janet' Mercy turned five years old. It was her first time to celebrate a birthday. When I asked the day before what she'd like for breakfast, she promptly replied, "Pizza!" Not exactly what I was hoping she'd say. But in the spirit of her birthday, I was up at 7am making pizza crust and sauce. And for those of you who know me really well, it was a stretch to get me up at that time. 
Janet with her birthday pizza. We usually don't have cheese but my grandmother had sent a Christmas package to us in early December and it contained a packet of vacuum-sealed Muenster cheese from Ohio. Quite a treat! And yes, the cheese did well in the mail (hint, hint). Where did Janet get a hankering for pizza? Every time we visit Kampala, it's the girls' favorite food. It seems that the love of pizza is universal.

After breakfast, Janet unwrapped her very first present. She just stared at it for some time before we showed her how to rip the paper. But once started, she got the hang of it. 

Around lunchtime, our friends from Kaabong showed up for a proper party. 
 Janet tasting her birthday cake.
 And being silly afterwards. We think it means she is happy.
She had a few more presents to open after cake. Lemu is trying to help and eagerly awaiting for her own birthday to arrive.
It was a very happy birthday for our village girl. When we brought her into our home, we vowed to make her smile. I believe she now associates birthdays with happy times.