Today was the first day of school in our new location! It's been difficult waiting for the past few weeks as the future of the school was up in the air. We did a lot of praying, hoping, crying, talking, worrying, and more praying.
Surprise! Surprise! God's plan turned out to be awesome! The new building is much larger, and has electricity, water, and storage. The children love playing football (soccer) and jumping rope in the big grassy field! What a blessing and a privilege it is to be here!
Today with our P1 class, Nick reviewed colors, letters, and sight words, while I did some one-on-one assessment. It is so nice to have the space to do two different activities! We also took some time to break out the new colored pencils and draw pictures of "Our New School!" We all enjoyed hearing "Jonah and the Big Fish," a favorite with our 5-7 year olds! The kids are so proud and excited to have a nice place to learn each day.
Thank you for praying and hoping with us! Enjoy these pictures of our beautiful first day back to school:
We're so proud of our little Andy. What a blessing he is! And it is also very nice to have a child old enough to sleep through the night, wash his own hands, and sometimes put his shoes on without help! We all enjoyed this birthday so much because he understands his special day and is proud to be three!
It is a privilege to have my birthday on the day before my son's. He even took me out on a date to the cultural show tonight! We came home early, though, when we found out that staying up past bedtime and drinking soda (a very rare treat) do not work well for his tummy. We both had to have a change of clothes because of a little throw-up incident. But we enjoyed the Ugandan singing and dancing!
Birthdays usually involve lots of family and old friends. There were a few sniffles here and there (only by me) as we opened up e-cards from far-away grandparents, but mostly laughs and smiles.
Even though we missed seeing our dear family and old friends on our 2013 birthdays, we really did have a very nice weekend. God has brought some new friends into our lives (through Freedom Church), who we cherish already! John, Lisa, and Caleb are so sweet and a lot of fun! We have enjoyed getting to know them in the past few weeks, and had a great time celebrating with them this year!
Andrew got a new drum for his birthday! He's a natural.
Balloon fun with the neighbor kids.
Great beginning to our date- a kiss from my handsome guy!
Ndere Cultural Center
It is an honor to work with such loving people through this God-driven organization!
In our circle of American friends in Uganda, there is a phrase that is often used in effort to lighten the mood of a rough day or frustrating experience: TIA- This Is Africa. It reminds us that things are different here, and there is just no sense in expecting routines and details to work as they do in the US.
The first month or so we were here, I didn't have the camera out much. I was just taking it all in. But lately, I've been wanting to share some of the things that make Africa unique! Keep in mind that these sights are completely normal here- we see them nearly every day. I am amazed at the beauty, strength, and resourcefulness of these precious people! So, please enjoy this little drive-by tour of Kampala! (Click on the photos to enlarge and see captions.)
Teaching classes, going to church, and feeding hungry people were on the list of things we planned to do during our year in Uganda. Wrangling goats and eating freshly slaughtered chicken just hadn’t really crossed our minds. But God sometimes has new experiences waiting for us that we never would have planned. Here’s a little story about an unlikely friendship started right in our own backyard. (We asked our new friend, through a bilingual neighbor, if it was okay with him for us to share this story with you all. He was delighted.)
It is common in Uganda, for houses and apartments to have staff. This is not limited to the rich, like in America, as most properties have at least one person employed and living on site. Where we live, the groundskeeper/gate opener/guard is Frank. Sarah and I are getting to know Frank a little bit, but Andy has taken to him rather quickly. A large part of that is likely the emphatic “Boyyyyyy!” with a huge smile every time Frank sees Andy. Andy loves to say “Thank you, Frank!” whenever he does something for us, especially opening the gate to allow our car into the driveway. Between Frank’s English and our Luganda, we have a fairly limited range of topics to discuss. This was the extent of our relationship with Frank for the first few weeks residing here. But lately, Frank has opened up a bit, including playing ball in the driveway with both our kids, and letting Andy help with the animals that he takes care of here at the house. The goats, aka lawnmowers, go out each morning and return in the evening. Frank has allowed Andy to “assist” in bringing the goats back in a couple of times. Our two-year-old got quite a kick out of holding onto a baby goat’s leash as they both scrambled up the big hill. We may have a little farmer on our hands!
Recently, Andy and I noticed a rooster milling about the area where Frank cooks his food, right outside his little apartment. Upon further inspection, we found the chicken was tied to a bush. Later that night, our beloved Frank knocked on our door holding a hot pot of chicken. I answered the door and Frank gestured with the pot and handed it to me. I nearly dropped it because it was so stinking hot! Apparently, I’m a wimp. I thanked him and rushed into the kitchen to set the pot down, and then the two of us sat and ate. Frank indicated that the last piece was for “Boyyy.” I tried to explain that Andy was going to sleep, but that I would give it to him tomorrow. Frank’s usual big toothy grin was reduced by about half, so I knew he was pretty disappointed. I thanked him about ten times as he left.
Just then, Sarah emerged having put Andy to bed, and I told her what happened. We both agreed that, for the first time ever, we would get our son up out of bed. I carried Andy and his piece of chicken down to where Frank was washing dishes, much to the delight of them both! Andy sat in the driveway eating his chicken, while Frank beamed proudly that his little friend was enjoying his cooking. I asked Frank if he had chosen one of the loud chickens (lots of crowing around here). He answered, “Yes. Chicken,” apparently having no idea what I was asking.
While Andy was still chowing down, Frank popped into his apartment and retrieved a blue student workbook. He brought it to me and opened it up to the first page, holding it so he and I could both see what he had written. He read me all of the letters of the English alphabet and all the numbers 1-10, working hard to get them each correct. He then took me through the next several pages of basic English lessons. Every now and then, he would look at me for assistance, but he had clearly been working very hard, and was rightfully proud of his progress.
One of the things that Frank read from his book was, “This is an apple.” A couple days later, Andy, Bethany, and I brought some apples to Frank, and we all practiced saying “This is an apple.” I am so proud of this man for working hard to gain new knowledge, and I am so glad that Andy and I get to be his friend. It was an honor to share his chicken, especially since I knew that there would be one less “cock-a-doodle-do” the next morning! God is helping us build relationships with the people here, even those we never could have anticipated.
Friends and family have been asking what our days are like here. A little while back, I recorded our goings-on, and here it is! Some days we have other evening activities such as Literacy Class at Kwagala (kwagalaproject.org
), and Nick often has meetings with Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (kyampisi.org
), but this is a typical school day for us!
6:30- get up, breakfast- toast, bananas, yogurt, coffee for the parents (and ACE wanted some noodles and beans from last night)
7:00- get ready for school, put away dry dishes, check the laundry on the line- still wet
8:00- drive to school in Naguru, teach P1 class- Letter J, Tens and Ones, Shapes, Jonah
(Nick stays home with A and B.)
These are some of the kids from our class: Udda, Nakalembe, Aisha, Medi, Mawejje, Yashire, Praise, Shadia, and Maamu.
12:00- Chris and Courtney arrive at school- Games and Singing Time!
2:00- arrive home from school, eat lunch- leftovers from what Nick cooked earlier-scrambled eggs, beans, and corn- yum!
3:00- family super market trip for a scrub brush, pasta, yogurt, water, and to talk to the internet provider about our plan
4:00- nap for Bethany, prep for supper- peel and soak matooke, boil tomatoes, chop onions and garlic
4:30- write this blog post, play with Andy, watch Frank the grounds-keeper chase the chickens
5:00- FaceTime with family
5:30- finish preparing supper- peel tomatoes, cook veggies for sauce, mash matooke
This is the start to most of our meals-- fresh tomatoes, carrots, onions, and peppers.
6:30- family walk/hike, find cool rock formation, visit with neighbors
7:30- arrive home, clean-up from supper, playtime, yogurt and crackers for the kids
ACE's vacuum fascination is back in full swing, thanks to my anniversary gift! (Yes, those are Christmas pajamas...his choice.)
8:00- bedtime for Bethany, Bible Time with Andy
8:30- bedtime for Andy, Bible and prayer journal- Psalms 24-25, Numbers 15
9:15- watch Food Network Star online, start a basin of laundry soaking in soapy water
9:45- check email, mess around on Facebook, get ready for bed
10:00- bedtime for Mom and Dad
We had a day off from school and took a family trip to the Uganda Wildlife Education Center. Here are a few photos of the fun and relaxing time we had together!
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.