Today was a difficult day. When I arrived at school, two of my little students, Mawejje and Maamu, were waiting for me with cuts from some broken glass. Another teacher had helped them clean up the blood, but they were waiting for ointment and band-aids. I got out my kit and gloves and tried not to cringe too much as I finished cleaning and bandaging them up. They barely flinched and did not shed a single tear.
Later on, during a lesson on Shapes, one of our boys, Yashire, pulled out a baggie with a spoonful of some white substance and was sharing small pinches of it with his classmates. (I know it sounds like drugs, but I think it was some kind of grain or sugar!) Some bickering and pushing ensued- as they were all very hungry. It is the Monday after a long weekend, and most of them probably hadn’t eaten much at home. My first instinct was to bolt to a local shop and just buy them some breakfast. On second thought, I decided that was probably not best in the long run. There are systems in place and I don’t want to disturb the order of things. I am the rookie outsider here.
A few minutes later, Teacher R. came to share a slice of cake she had saved from her graduation party, and they were delighted! She gave each child about one square centimeter. I expected them to immediately devour the bites, but most of them put the tiny pieces of cake into their pockets and ate them a few crumbs as a time. Then, when some had finished theirs, the others shared some crumbs with them. Then they started to fight over the crumbs again.
Obviously, this made for very little learning, except by me. What an eye-opener. I am humbled. I am heartbroken. And I am feeling a little hopeless at the moment. There is so much to be done! How do we prioritize all these needs? Some days, I feel like I am hardly contributing at all. Then I remember that God put me here...right here! He has a reason. I know that for now, my job is to show up and be their Teacher Sarah.
So, the day consisted of me giving a lot of hugs, breaking up a lot of fights, and sticking on a lot of band-aids. And I suppose that those things are more important than triangles, the letter H, and 2+2.
Well, we’ve been here for one month. I think it’s time for an update on the kids!
Daddy and Mommy take turns working at the school each day, while Andy and Bethany spend most of their time playing, eating, and sleeping at home. We brought some favorites from America, so the kids still get to play with their Duplos, stuffed animals, stacking cups, books, etc. They are also becoming good laundry helpers!
When we are feeling the need to burn off some energy, we take the children to one of the playgrounds in town, which are at the malls and a few outdoor restaurants in the area.
This boy is really into music and signing right now. "Peas Porridge Hot," "Happy Birthday," and "Jesus Loves Me" top the charts in this house! He also loves reading books and is working on learning letter sounds. He is fascinated by the chickens, goats, and cows on the property and has picked up the Luganda words for them! Vacuums and Clocks have dropped off ACE’s priority list because we don’t have them here.
Baby B is a full time walker now, and loves trying on all her shoes! She also loves opening and closing anything with a latch, snap, or Velcro. Bethy can say a few words (Mama, Dada, thanks, hi), but does most of her communicating through hand signs. When she hears music, she does an adorable little jig and makes everyone laugh!
On the Menu:
We are blessed with good eaters! They eat a lot of fruits, pasta, potatoes, bread, and eggs here. If it is peeled or cooked, it is generally safe to eat. We’ve recently found some healthy brands of dairy products (Kiira Jersey & Jesa), so they are now enjoying yogurt and milk again! We don’t eat a lot of meat here, so we get most of our protein from beans and eggs. They have also sampled typical Ugandan foods like matooke, chipatis, and samosas, which they enjoy.
I have chosen to continue breastfeeding Bethany in efforts to ensure her nutritional needs are met. I’ve been hiding our pediatrician-recommended vitamins and calcium supplements in their food as well. So, just in case they aren’t getting all the same nutrients they were in the States, we’re covered! But, truth-be-told, I think they are eating healthier now!
Out and About:
We are a spectacle around here, so the kids are very used to hearing, “Mzungu Baby!” They usually smile and wave and enjoy the attention! The Ugandan kids at school and in the neighborhood have been very welcoming, too!
There is one major culture-clash that our family has not been enjoying, however. It is tradition and common practice that when you see a cute baby, you run up, grab the baby away from the parent, and walk away saying, “Ah, Baby! I take you!” If you have spent any time around my children, you know that this does not go over well for us. (Don’t worry, they don’t go far. We aren’t letting strangers cart off our kids!) Women, men, boys, and girls have all done this… at church, at the shops, or when visiting someone’s home. I think the idea is to pay a compliment to the family, and also to give the mother a welcome break from caring for her child, but it doesn’t always work out for A and B. Usually, when the person sees that my child is not happy, she returns the kid. Then when a few people have tried and failed, they decide to let the children stay with the parents. It is an exhausting process! But we are finding that once the whole progression is performed once, the next visit goes better and the people are less likely to try again.
We are working to walk the line between being respectful of a new culture, not hurting feelings, and keeping our children comfortable and happy. This exemplifies the overall process of moving to Africa. It is a difficult balance. We are working to listen to God’s whispers as we make these little (and big) decisions each day.
She likes Malaika, so this time went pretty well.
Thank you for your prayers for our children’s safety, health, and well-being! God is hearing, and has chosen to protect them. What a wonderful feeling to know that the all-mighty Creator of the universe is looking out for tiny little Bethany and Andrew!
When we first arrived in Uganda, we were graciously taken in by Courtney, and we stayed at what we called "Courtney's House" for a couple of weeks. But now, we have our own place to call "home". A Ugandan friend helped us visit several places that were in our price range (thanks Edith!). We saw about five apartments in the span of a couple hours, quickly deciding that the very first one we looked at was right for us. It had just what we hoped for: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a water heater and even a bathtub (somewhat rare here). Plus, it had a beautiful view! We called back for it, and met with the property manager the following morning, and the place was ours! We started moving in, which, by vacation standards, we had a bunch of stuff, but by moving standards, we didn't have much. Regardless, we weren't ready to live here yet.
The view from our front door.
Master bathroom - complete with bath and water heater!
We decided that the first order of business was to find some beds. It didn't take long. We drove out of our neighborhood, down the bumpy dirt road, out to the main street of our town. Right away, Sarah spotted a bed shop. We found what we wanted, negotiated for a good price, and bought them. Then we had to negotiate with the truck driver for delivery, which luckily included carrying them up the stairs and assembly! Now we had handmade, wooden bed frames, but no mattesses (The shops here are very specific. We were at a bed store, not a mattress store. If we want to shop for more than one type of item, we go to a supermarket, which is the classification for all stores that have more than one type of thing.) So, we went back to the main road, until we found a mattress shop, and negotiated for what we needed. This time, we were able to stuff them into the back of our car, with one tied to the roof for the short, although bumpy, ride back to the house. Then it was off to the supermarket for mosquito nets, kitchen wares and other household supplies.
The next day, we ventured into a very busy furniture building area. Before I had even parked the car on the side of the road, we were being swarmed with sales folks. Apparently, the furniture game is very competitive here, and we looked like good customers. We chose a dining table and chairs (for the dining room that we didn't expect to have), as well as a sofa with two chairs, and a changing table. Again, we negotiated with a truck driver, loaded up and brought our furniture home. I think that we got a good deal on the furniture, but based on the enthusiasm of the sellers, I think that they got an even better deal.
Dining room! With some highchairs, and a sink.....
Our home is comfortable and in a nice location. We have three other families in our compound, all of whom have small
kids who love to visit and play with our children. We also have the other kind of kids: baby goats. Our backyard is home to goats, chickens and roosters. (One of the roosters needs a new alarm clock, because he starts crowing at about 4am.) We have a very Ugandan setting here, and are enjoying our new home!
Living room furniture.
Kitchen sink (duh).
From left to right: gas stove, gas canister, trash can, water cooler, fridge.
The split bathroom: toilet on the left and shower/laundry room on the right.
Some of our neighbors, just off the back balcony.
Well, we made it. We arrived in Kampala, Uganda a couple weeks ago, and it has been a whirlwind so far. The days have been busy, meeting new people, seeing new places, and starting to figuring out life here. One of the major things we have been figuring is our transportation situation.
Last time I was here, I (Nick) came without the family, so transportation was simple. Jump in a car with a friend, take a quick taxi ride, or just hoof it. However, plus a wife and two little kids, transportation becomes significantly more complicated. After several days of bumming rides from some local friends, Sarah and I decided that we wanted our own wheels. We searched a couple of local Facebook groups for options, and came across a reasonably priced SUV. We looked into it, and a Ugandan friend and I went to see it. To my pleasant surprise, it was a diesel! Petrol, known as gasoline to us Americans, is quite expensive here, going for about $1.50 per liter, which translates to about $5.00 per gallon. But diesel is decidedly cheaper, is supposed to get better fuel economy, and sounds way cooler! So, after some brief negotiations, we agreed on a price, and that the seller would take care of transferring the vehicle to our name, which was well worth it! The Uganda version of the DMV makes the US version look like a fun place to hang out. So, The Eidens are mobile!
So, after buying the car, I had to drive it. Now, this seems like an obvious statement. But, in Uganda, we drive on the left, and the driver sits in the right seat. Not only that, but add in traffic of a city of several million people, and very lax traffic rules, and you understand why my hopping into the drivers seat for the first time, in the vehicle I just bought, was a little stressful. However, shortly into the maiden voyage, I realized that the driving shouldn't have been my big concern. Rather, navigation is rather difficult here. There are very few road signs, and if you ask for directions, wherever you are going is "just over there." But, we are starting to figure it out, mostly though a combination of nightly map studying and daily trial and error, emphasis on the error.
We spend quite a bit of time driving most days, because Kampala is a big place, and we like exploring (even if some of it is unintentional exploring). After having me be the chauffeur for the first while, Sarah has taken the helm a few times, learning her way around our righthand-drive car and the city. This is great because she can get around herself some, without all of us in tow when she is headed to the school or elsewhere. She's doing great! She gets through the rough roads of our neighborhood smoothly, and drives with just enough aggression to get a turn at the busy intersections with no traffic control at all (you just have to decide it is your turn and let the other drivers know that you're going to go now!)
So, we feel very blessed to have our own means of transport, and yes, we hauled carseats for both kiddos all the way here. The vehicle looks very African on the outside, but still has some of our American life on the inside!