Monday, January 24, 2011

A couple of days

Well, I thought yesterday was worth a blog post and then this morning has already had some interest, so I will tell you about them. Yesterday(Sunday) started with a slow waking up and then a knock on the door. It was the farmer's (Michael) son Derek delivering the milk. We felt a bit like slackers until i thought it is only 7.30 on a Sunday morning! Fresh milk delivered to the door - what luxury we live in. Then, as we are eating breakfast we see a boda arrive (what is this?), so go and check - it is the vet (that we have been told by someone else also works as a plumber?! So, he goes down to the farm. We had no idea why he was here. He comes back and wants payment. Not so sure Ron rings to check but doesn't get response from the person who has said he should come. So... Breakfast done, milk boiled up (we've been told we should do this), we get ready for church. We had decided to shower in the morning for a good Sunday. Oh dear, no water... Wait a while. Ah, there is some, phew!
Off to church we go and we had no trouble finding the church. It is a different one to the one the children go to. It is called Miracle Centre Bugembe and is the church Robert goes to. We arrive in perfect time, look totally out of place, arriving in a car and being muzungu but... Robert fortunately arrives soon after us to make us look better. All this is significant because the first service has gone a bit late. The second service was meant to start at 10.00 but at 10.20 the other service comes out but TIA. Then, in we go, get introduced, Ron gets asks to preach sometime - a few sermons coming up! Then, we have the service. It is Student Sunday and the whole service was taken by students. Interestingly, students here means in secondary or tertiary level. Primary students are pupils. More significant though is that these students are so old. Education goes for a long time and it finishes a lot later than in Australia. Hence, a lot of them would have been in their mid to late 20s. It was a great service with lots of singing, dancing and performing as well as a great sermon. We got to stand up and introduce ourselves and then in the notices at the end give a greeting as well since Ron is a pastor! It was great, there were some fans that made it easier and the chairs here have a back - at the other church it is just benches. In fact the three hours flew by and at no time did I think, when this going to finish. The prayer for the young people was great. Included in the service at the end was a notice about bio gas. It was by a guy who runs an international organisation and there are grants available. This stuff is of considerable interest to both Ron and me, so with the service being about youth and the bio gas, we did feel it was a divine appointment. Another fun thing was the calling of the bands for marriage, this was the third Sunday and the couple stood at the front and it was asked if anyone had any reason why they shouldn't be married. Then, the church was all told how if you are a member then you should be contributing to their marriage. A meeting was to be held after the service about the wedding. This is community.
Robert very graciously invited us to lunch. So, since he let a whole lot of extras. So, we thought we could help out. Suddenly we had 7 extras hoping into the back of the car. That was fine until I turned to help and thought one of the children was happy to come into the front. He then let out the most ear piercing screams. You would have thought someone had stabbed in, no just the colour of my skin etc scared him silly. So, we made it safely down the road and they all piled out of the back seat!
Africans are incredibly hospitable. I think the meal that was meant for his family alone was simply stretched to include us. It is becoming a little bit of a worry, I am enjoying African food very much. We had matoki, and beef stew type thing. Very tasty.
We then went to come home but decided that we hadn't seen further down the road we always travel. On Friday we had been for a walk down the road near us but this was on the highway. (btw that walk was very interesting to - we got to the start of the town and at the first shop there were a crowd of people, then we heard raised voices, we made a reasonably hasty retreat - the locals were all gathering, we think it must have been a big domestic - some things are a lot more public here). Down the highway we saw the big sugar mills that process a lot of the sugar. In fact there are places when you drive that you could be anywhere. This was the case, the view of Lake Victoria is fantastic and then the sugar cane growing in the fields nearby. One could easily think you were in Queensland - though this probably looks better than Queensland at the moment! Then, we went through this road, had to get checked and sign to get through - I think it related to the sugar mills. And on home a different way.
At the gate, I get out and hear "Aunt Anne", "Aunt Anne"... The neighbour children rushed to greet me. This is such a joy. I told them to hop in the car and travel down to the main part of the village (probably only 100 metres) and they were very excited. Then, there was playing with the children etc. We are having supper with the children and mamas on a Sunday. So, it was dried fish (that was cooked in peanut sauce) and mutoki for dinner. Mutoki twice in one day! It was again deliicious. So, here you are, two completely African meals in one day - admittedly beautiful ones. After supper the children wanted to sing doe a deer... The sound of music is still a huge hit. That then went into Ron trying to teach them a song about loving God. Then, it was a fantastic free for all. Some of it very very loud - but the little girl Shamina on my knee managed to sleep (and to wet herself and me!). Ron also had Ibra on his knee. It was a great time of fun and fellowship with the children singing, shouting, praising God, playing the drum and dancing. We then had a talk and into the admin centre (home). The day of course was made complete by the mosquitoes in buzzing around - but I was able to have a nice cold shower to clean up!
This morning Ron had to go into town about the container so I decided to take some of the children to see their mother. Their mother was very very sick when they came here and has been able to recover a lot. So, we arrived at the village (that is commonly called a slum) to see her and their friends. We couldn't find her mum, she no longer was staying the hut I had seen her in last year. So, we socialised with others. Well, more accurately, the children from our village left me, and went and saw their friends while I sat with another lady and had children laugh at me. You do have to learn not to be at all self conscious (maybe teaching has prepared me for this). The children were quite afraid, these children do not normally see white people at all. Eventually with hands in the dirt I made friends with the children. I clapped my hands (good primary school fashion), they copied and then we moved on into a song. After a little while of much laughter and screams I had made friends. I am not sure why but they suddenly said "Good morning teacher". So then I traced in the dirt a letter 'a', and told then it was for apple. They were all instantly on the ground copying the 'a' . I thought that my colleagues in Australia were back teaching and I wasn't, wrong!
So, you can see that everyday brings different things. As I type this I am in a room full of people waiting to see Ivan. They are all totally unexpected but he was registering people to put children down to come into the village on Friday. So, more people have heard and come. the children are all dressed in their very best clothes some of which are good and others are a little worse for wear. They all wait patiently and I feel their pain as they long for a better life for children. The visit this morning reminds me so much of what our children have come from. Situations that you cannot possible imagine, makeshift places, rubbish in piles nearby and then the train runs through only metres from children playing (no boom gates or warnings).
On a brighter note is was so good to visit Juliette. This is the lady I wrote about in another blog post with photos. She laughs as she talks about me as her muzungu friend. I feel so privileged to go into these places and make friends with the children. I so so need to know more Lugandan. Juliette is making mats. Please pray for her to have people to buy them as this provides her food and rent. They are good mats but only come in one colour combination white and light blue. That is because they are made from the hard plastic that is used to tie up parcels - the stuff that is so annoying when you want to get into a parcel. Nothing is wasted here - you learn to think about what rubbish you make and what it could be used for.
Sorry about the length of these. Well done if you have got to the end...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

interesting times

Well this afternoon as I write there is no electricity (thank you God for a good battery) and there is a water shortage but we do still have some. However, these are practicalities which simply put us a tiny step closer to understanding reality for so many of the people around us.

Yesterday afternoon I was invited to a ladies’ group called Women of Hope. What a great name! Let me hopefully describe the afternoon to you. I arrived, thinking I was late. Oh, that’s right we are in Africa – gradually more women arrived. There was a time of singing in Lugandan and then prayer – African style which means everyone speaking at once. I sometimes try to sing with them when I can pick up words – I figure that way I will be able to say the words when I know what they mean. It also means that I feel involved. Then, there was a welcome and I was welcomed and introduced myself. That comprised the only English that was said publicly for the afternoon. Many of these women had had the opportunity to go to Kampala to a prayer gathering the previous Friday. There were great testimonies of what God had done, things like I was able to pray for the first time, God became real, I got a new song to sing that will be shared later. It obviously had been a great thing. Significantly, I was also made aware that a large number of them probably about 5 of the 25 that were there at this time had never been to Kampala before. Kampala is about one and a half hours away and there are taxi buses there all the time. In my terms it is a bit like living all your life in Bendigo and never having been to Melbourne ever.

Then, there was a sharing time and it was this time that was very significant. I had someone who translated some of what went on, and I was able to see different things because I couldn’t understand the language. To give you a little gist, they talked about how Jinja (the main town where we live) should not be in poverty but curses have been placed on it. That it should be a prosperous place but there is so much poverty. (as an aside, on Sunday we went for a bit of a drive and when you look at the beauty, the Source of the Nile and the wonderful climate and picturesque landscape we were thinking how this could be so much more). Then, there was some fiery stuff with a woman saying that women come and call themselves Woman of hope and then go and steal tomatoes. She had seen it. Someone else talked of thieving, that parents turn a blind eye to children coming home with things they have not bought. There was a passionate call for change, that people needed to stop sinning and things would change. This is the point that I would differ. It is terrible, though I am not going to judge. How could I, we always had food in the cupboard for the children and they never went to sleep hungry. What I would say though is, that if it is about sin then there would be more poverty. My heart went out to these women, desperately seeking for answers for change. Many of them are widows, others have husbands who are drunks and some have husbands that work. On the funny side, here are all these people living in worse conditions than I am here and I was the only one with dirty feet! For most of the afternoon I kept them hidden under my skirt – the advantage of sitting on the ground.

This experience, though not understanding a large amount of it, was very significant for me. I feel that this group will be important as I get to understand more of what it is like to be a mother, a wife and a woman in a village in Uganda. In some ways it is easier for me to see things differently when I see children. Seeing these women reminded me how fortunate I am, through nothing I did. I simply was born in Australia. Life is raw. I came home and then saw a lady that we had met when the team went to the nearby village. She is normally part of the Women of Hope (by the way, by the end there were about 45 women – normally there is more but the recent trip to Kampala reduced numbers.). This lady had taken us into her home, and we had prayed for her. Her son was ill but is well now – she had taken him for prayer in Kampala as well. So here she is outside the fence collecting water in a yellow jerry can. She was not embarrassed that this was what she was doing, it was just life. Just guessing it would be about 800 metres to her home from where I saw her and she would be taking the children and the jerry cans back with her. They weigh a ton. This is how she gets water.

Then, today I have been back to YWAM and been with lots of children. They are holding a program for three days for the children of these women. It was great and I feel like I am getting to be more part of the community as I was able to see quite a number of children I have met or had something to do with. Included in these was a young girl, maybe 16, who has been to church each Sunday we have been and has come all by herself. I spoke to her last Sunday and found out that she doesn’t go to school. She came and gave me a hug today. I wonder what her story is and look forward to hearing more.

There is so much potential for good things and I am praying that we will be part of bringing about good things for this nation. With most of the population of school age and under there is so much that could happen. Most people believe that education is the key. However, it has to have more than just results at school. I met a lady this morning whose son had done well but had not been able to go on to university and so she was not sure what the future holds. We cannot afford to have vain hope, it must be in the maker who knows how to make things different.

Sorry for the ramble – maybe this post is just for me to download.

Picture of all the children at YWAM

This is a young girl who is about 8 years old at most and her baby sister who would be about one

and this is how you get the baby in place.

Well, with a prolonged power outage, this didn't get posted until now. I will also add some photos from the children's events today. The first few relate to the big event at YWAM and then the later to sharing the afternoon with all the village kids in the admin centre.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Life is exciting

It doesn't seem to matter every day has at least one thing that means that I say "life is exciting", or "life is an adventure". Sometimes, that is what I say as cars are doing crazy things, or there are people everywhere, or I try cooking something that I have no idea what it is.

Today is no different, we have been into town and it is all an adventure in there. It is so busy with stalls everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Cars, buses, bicycles, boda bodas (motorcycles) rushing around amongst people. The rule of the road is biggest gets priority and that can mean anywhere on the road! We went to lunch at a place suggesting it is for Westerners and the taco I had, the inside was great but the "taco bowl" impossible! Ron had a chicken caesar salad that comprised of a plate of lettuce (good lettuce), some cold strips of chicken and a couple of croutons! However the drinks were great, iced coffee for me and a pineapple and coconut (pina colata) milkshake for Ron. So, basically nothing is predictable.

Home to the village. The children get to watch a movie on a Friday night and then one on a Saturday. Yesterday I put on the Sound of Music for them (my precious mum gave it to me for Christmas - bless her). Today they begged for it again! The following is a photo of approximately 25 children all piled into the TV room - there are neighbour kids and farm kids added to our children. The children are so so good, we do discipline them but there is never anything much. I watched in awe as about 8 kids crowded around my ipad and played a word game. No fighting, no thinking they all should even have a turn - just sharing together. This is so so common.

Then, I go to hang out our towels (for the second time - it rained briefly earlier so I brought it in) and next to the fence there is a little drive and then a water pipe that is leaking. Each day it has children constantly coming to get water in yellow jerry cans. Yesterday there was a group of friendly children while I was doing some digging and so I gave them each a lollipop. Once again there was so much appreciation. Then, today - they greet me with there is our friend. How humbling. I have taken their photo to show a little of the reality for people here. This is collecting water for all their needs. I asked if they have a mosquito net and the answer is no. Ron and I need to find the place in the market to buy some and then we will be giving them away lots and lots. It is hard to focus on the need without becoming overwhelmed. As the children watch the movie a couple of girls come up. They are friends of our children. Jane tells me - they are orphans, so I suspect the older girl (probably about 14) does the parenting! It is all so amazing that they are always happy.We certainly feel that we are beginning to build good relationships and are able to constantly show love. We find that it is much easier with children because they are so innocent and come from the right place. It is, and always will be with adults because they do see us as the money solution for their needs. Even there it is hard, a man working labouring all day will earn 5000 shillings - about $2.30. So we continue to pray that God will be using us, that we will use the opportunities presented and that we will always be messengers of His love.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting you up to date

Well, apologies for not writing more. I will try and get you all a bit up to date with what we are up to so far. It is a great place, we are having a good time and we are keeping busy. There is so much to tell and show you.
I have taken some pictures of our new home so that you can see things and also try and give you a bit of a glimpse into what life looks like for us.

We are living in the admin centre of the Village of Hope. It has four rooms that can be used as bedrooms or rooms for use with microindustry, an office, a big open area that encompasses the part that we fondly call the kitchen and then there is a bathroom. We have as 'our space' one of the bedrooms. It has a bookcase that we store our clothes in and a makeshift string that supports coathangers, though we only have two at the moment so not much is on that. Some things are still in one of the suitcases - things that we don't need at the moment but we will need. The bathroom is good, with a sink, a very large shower area that makes it easy not to get water everywhere and a flushing toilet.

Of course, the shower only has one temperature of water, it is operated by a knob that resembles the thing you turn on a gas bottle. The cold water isn't a problem as it is hot and we normally have a shower in the afternoon and so that is fine. The harder part is that the water is not predictable, it is most common to start to have a shower and the water cuts out, it usually comes back! We are very appreciative of the flushing toilet especially since about the second night I had the runs and vomitting. It was not very pleasant. We share our accomodation with Luke who has been here for about 6 months I think. The reason I mention this is because the admin centre has no ceiling i.e. no sound proof - everything (and I mean everything) is heard throughout. Fortunately, Luke wears earplugs because he doesn't like hearing the dogs in the night - he was saved from some awful sounds in the night!
The kitchen area has improved as we have gone along. It was a table full of lots of stuff. I have been able to clean a whole lot of this up and a beautiful buffet has been bought. This holds the food, cutlery and crockery. It is important to put all the food safely away, of course we have a friendly rat - not that I have seen it yet, just seen evidence.
The big room is used by us and the children. In the afternoon they have dancing and singing. This can be very pleasant and sometimes also very very loud. It has also been a good meeting place for the team and the children. We are working on boundaries for the children. Luke and the other couple who were here did that and it is becoming very obvious that we need to. The most iconic thing that happens in the day is that usually just as soon as I am about to sit down to do something the children come and say "we have come to mop". This is the process of putting lots of water on the concrete floor and dragging a rag over the floor. I have worked out that it is much more effective if I have swept first, so I try to keep the floor swept all the time - just in case.
Outside the admin centre is a banana palm. I have never seen bananas grow and every day we are able to see a difference in the fruit as it grows. We are not sure if they are going to be green or yellow bananas. We are hoping for yellow and that they get long enough to grow big and nice. You can see Luke in the photo as well.

As I write there are children around me, Ron's computer has just run out of battery and so they have moved to me. They want me to type their names. I have with me
Peter, John, Sharon, Sam, Paul all here.

I will publish this now, as we are heading off to a final dinner with the team but I will put more pictures and write more tomorrow. Sorry about the ramblings.
This is the car that we have bought. It will make getting around a lot easier and cheaper in the long run. It will also mean that we can take children, mothers to places that are necessary as well as pick up food as necessary. We are aiming to use it as little as possible and to keep walking lots.

As I now add to the previous post it is now just Ron and I here at Village of Hope as far as Mzungus are concerned. Luke has gone with his family for a trip to Kenya and Zanzibar as well as to climb Mt Kilamanjara. The rest of the team have left. We are now about to find out about life as it will be.

Ron is busy with a number of local people finishing off the house, so that the roof can go on as soon as the container is here. This house has certainly gone up quickly.

Of course there is more that I can write and I will very soon.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Big day

Today was a great day. It was very hot but full of good things. We are going really well with the building. The team is working very well together and the local guys are fantastic. It has taken about a bit over a week of work and there is just one more row of bricks before the ring beam! That means another house.
This is all added to by a visitor that arrived this morning. It was Juliette, a lady who if you have heard me (Anne) speak about Uganda, I will have told you about her.

She is the mother of some of the children here in the village. She has HIV and was unable to look after the children, in fact one of the siblings did not make it to the village. Last year I had the privilege of going to visit her and provide her with very small funds which meant that she could have treatment for other medical issues. Her life at that time was in continued danger, without the children coming into the village she would not have lived. When she saw me today, she was very happy to see me and grateful to be alive.

It for me was incredibly moving. It is such an honour and joy to be able to help these people and extremely humbling because so little means so much. Juliette has a baby who has malaria. Malaria is rampant at the moment in this area and quite a concern. Please enjoy the pictures.

The other highlight was that we were able to connect online via Skype with people. First of all it was with the Fooks's, and then with Anita & Stu. It was really easy - I didn't cry, but it felt really close which was good.
The hard part of today was that one of the children had to go to a burial of her father who she hasn't seen since 2007. Unfortunately, getting places takes time and she was unable to make it to the burial. We have just spent some time praying with her and a mother - that is the Ugandan way, to pray. It is such a great thing to be here, so out of our comfort zone of knowing what to do, but know God is in it all.
This is a great adventure - we will try and update with other news of the last week soon.