Monday, May 2, 2016

Kampala

Amber and I used to pride ourselves in being the kind of people who couldn't and wouldn't live in a city like Kampala, with all the noise, activity, and pollution. We were 'bush people' after all. It's funny how perspectives change, often very abruptly. After eighteen months waiting for the legal permission to leave this country, and after our nervous breakdown in January, Kampala seemed like paradise.

It's not paradise, but our time here has been very good for us overall, and we are grateful for that. It's given us distance from so many stresses that used to be part of our daily life. No more people at the gate wanting this or that, no more medical crises, no more dreading weekends, no more soul-wrenching loneliness, no more undernourishment...and the list goes on. Instead, we have a lovely place to live here that affords us almost total privacy and anonymity, a place where Amber can homeschool the girls and I can do my linguistic work undisturbed, a place we can buy the foods we want, cook the way we want, and get adequate exercise, a place we can go to a racially diverse English-speaking church and a weekly home-group meeting less than a mile away, a place we can enjoy simple pleasures like Lebanese food, ice-cream, playgrounds, swimming pools, bookstores, internet access, school plays, and meetings with friends over lunch or coffee.

In this less-stressful environment, we are beginning to see more and more the physical, emotional, and psychological healing we need. Years of dreaded human interactions, years of exploitative relationships, years of mind-numbing humdrumness and soul-starving isolation, years of immersion in a world of mistrust and misunderstanding--have left their mark on us. Even in Kampala, we still feel very much like foreigners, strangers, people who can survive only by carving out a narrow niche in the seething possibilities of African city life, a life that still feels quite threatening to us at times. Our hearts very much desire a long period of rest and recuperation in our home country, but we are very thankful for this period in Kampala that seems like a valuable transition for us and the girls.

It's funny, we joke that the place we live in Kampala is as close to being in Timu as one can be in Kampala. And it's true: we live high on a narrow ridge, in a cluster of trees, with a magnificent view of the valley below. Only this valley is covered in brightly-colored buildings instead of woodland:

the view from our front porch
views of the sun are comparable too
The house we are renting is the guesthouse of some British doctors that have lived in Uganda for decades, giving their careers to help Ugandans through reconstructive surgery. Normally they reserve their guesthouse for short-term guests, but they were generous enough to let us rent for longer-term. The property has a pool, a sauna, a trampoline, a tree-house, and a lovely shaded yard. It's an ideal environment for our little family to pass the days in peace and security. It also provides enough props to let either me or Amber parent alone for a few days.

For example, in late February, Amber got to go to Dubai with some friends to attend a Christian women's conference. For several days, she enjoyed being pampered by a care-team from America. This included counseling, prayer, make-overs, massages, etc. After the conference, she had a couple more days to shop in the city's amazing malls and dine in some of the many western restaurants. It's pretty amazing how the Emirates have built a modern city literally out of the sands of the deserts!

enjoying fellowship with Christian women
at an aquarium
Dubai skyline
When we were having such a hard time in January, Amber's mother, Marilyn, and sister, Ashley, offered to come over and lend their support for a few weeks. This was such good news it brought tears of joy. An amazing part of it was that Marilyn's employer allowed her to use sick leave time to come over instead of using up her vacation time. So for the last three weeks of March, Marilyn and Ashley (who had never been to Africa) lived with us through the ups and downs of emotions and the realities of living in Africa. It meant a lot to us to have close family with us during that time! Toward the end of their stay, we went on a safari to Queen Elizabeth national park in southwestern Uganda.
the journey took us across the equator
Mercy & Immaculate waiting for dinner
Marilyn and Ashley soaking in the 'bush vibe'
cape buffalo
francolin
elephants
our family in safari spirit
Ashley and Amber taking coffee at a safari lodge
riding on top--look out for elephants!
hippos
the gorgeous Rwenzori mountains on the drive back to Kampala
We even got to celebrate Easter with Marilyn and Ashley, which was a bonus!
Mercy & Macky in their Easter best
Later in April, we celebrated Lemu Immaculate's 6th birthday. She's growing up so fast: we got her when she was 2 years, 1l months! Somehow, she ended up having two birth-days: one pool party shared with a boy from our church and another quiet celebration as a family on her actual birthday. Come to think of it, having two birthdays a year kinda suits her personality!
our girls having a blast in the pool
some pool antics from the 6 year old
birthday party shared with little Benja (on the left)
Another fun aspect of living in Kampala has been hosting our girls' uncle Hillary, his wife Lilly, and their young girls. Hillary was just elected the first Ik member of parliament in history, so now he and Lilly are transitioning to a new life in many ways, including having a home in Kampala. It's a privilege to walk with them and support them in small ways as they make this huge change.
Lilly, Amber, and the girl cousins
As some of you may know, we are planning to move back to the United States for an extended period. We'd love to be back in Florida by the beginning of the next school year. We were all set in December to apply for our girls' immigrant visas to the U.S., but through a bizarre sequence of events, our applications weren't processed until March 15. Recently we found out that the average processing time for the visas is five months, so that still puts us home sometime in August. But we have applied for expedited visas and are waiting for news on that.

In the meantime, Amber is homeschooling the girls, trying to get them through kindergarten so they'll be ready for 1st grade in the fall. For someone who never wanted to be a teacher, she is doing a great job, and the results are evident in the girls' progress. While she stays busy with that, I am slaving away at an Ik-English dictionary that I hope to finish by the end of June. And so we plod through day after day, eager for the news we long for but determined to stay present where we are, not to miss the blessings and growth God has for us in this season of waiting.

3 comments:

Sam Beer said...

Such a great update! It's great to hear that your time in Kampala has been a strong start to the healing process. May it continue so, and may you get the visas in time to be comfortably settled back in to the states when the academic year starts.

The Reeds said...

This is a great update. I want to rejoice in the respite you seem to have in Kla but I also know it comes from a place of heart ache as well. Praying you get home in the time frame you hope for.. Come on Africa... You can do it!

Richard and Sally Hoffman said...

Thank you so much for your loving note, which reached us just as we returned from our own “safari” a couple of days ago. You mentioned that you didn’t have much to say, but what you did say truly blessed our hearts greatly☺☺☺☺☺☺. More importantly, this current blogpost which arrived just after filled us in with many of the details about your own travels in the LORD since last you posted from Timu on February 15 – not only with the reassurance that He has kept y’all physically safe in Kampala even as His loving Hand has begun to heal you emotionally and spiritually, but with the hope and promise that He will bring to a successful completion all the matters we fervently continue to pray for, from expedited visas to a completed dictionary to your safe, sound, and soon return home☺☺☺☺☺☺.