Sunday, January 29, 2006
Ugandan tea is wonderful, especially when used to make Chai, a sweet blend of tea and milk. Chai is the drink Ugandans serve visitors to demonstrate their hospitality.
After returning to the States from her previous trip to Uganda, Sara was craving some Chai, so went to Starbucks and ordered a cup. She was terribly disappointed, pronouncing it "not even close."
So Eloise and I brought back both some loose tea and tea bags, and continue to enjoy the real thing along with fond memories that come with every cup.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Frodo to Ben (unspoken): "So they do this to you too! I got a bath today myself, so I'd help you if I could. But it's just something you have to put up with."
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Saturday, January 21, 2006
But I promise you that your parents, your grandparents, your uncles and aunts, and your great grandparents are all very excited that you're here and that you're so perfect in every way.
And we promise to take care of you and spoil you -- and find every way that we can to put smiles on your face!
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Eating the local food is sort of a rite of passage when visiting Uganda. While we'd received mixed reviews from those who'd visited before us, most were positive. Sara already had several favorites from her earlier trip.
So on our first Monday in country, Lori took us to a local restaurant to introduce us to the food the Ugandans eat, in part to prepare us for our visit to one of the villages scheduled for later in the week.
Lori ordered a sampling of the most common food items. The staple of the Ugandan diet is Matoke, a green banana which is not sweet, and after mashing and steaming, has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Posho, made from corn meal, is another of the staples. We also had some pinto beans cooked with tomato and spices, and peas similar to navy beans. To round things out, we had some pumpkin, greens, chicken broth, and goat stew. While we ate with forks and spoons at the cafe, in the village one eats with their hands, picking up a portion of Matoke or Posho between the thumb and fingers, forming a scoop to pick up the beans or peas or some chicken broth or goat stew. We liked everything. To me, the food was very much like southern downhome American food.
I'm pretty sure that I could get used to it and enjoy it, but that the result would not be staying trim and fit like the Ugandans who push the matoke to the local town markets on their bicycles!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
I know lots of people have written about dogs and theology, so I won't do that here -- I'll just say that Winston and Scout aided my quiet times, and I'm thankful.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I answered, "Yes, I'm from America." He then was curious about where in America, and we had a brief conversation about Houston and Texas.
One of the contrasts that any American is struck with upon visiting Uganda is the vast difference in what we have versus what they have. The conclusion is obvious: we are rich, and they are poor.
But as this question and its implications kept coming to the forefront of my mind during the visit, some other interesting conclusions came to mind.
1. Uganda in 2005 reminds me a lot of the West Texas I knew in the late 40's and early 50's. The dirt roads, the lack of having "stuff," and people primarily making their living with their hands all were reminders of those times. And when I then reflected on the stories my parents and inlaws have told about their childhoods, Uganda now and life in American then seemed very similar. Most folks had little, lived primarily in rural settings earning their living by working the land, lived in houses that barely provided shelter and which didn't have electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing, and certainly by our current American standards, lived in poverty -- they didn't have all the stuff we have.
2. Uganda is rushing headlong toward urbanization, and with it, getting all of the "stuff" that the rich western countries have. What I saw was a mixed blessing. With urbanization comes the need to create jobs which are not dependent on working the land. While I saw lots of entrepreneurship in action -- small businesses operating everywhere -- I also saw crowds of people just standing or sitting everywhere in the towns, unemployed. Uganda is obviously struggling with creating jobs for all of the folks moving to town from the villages. That looks more like poverty to me than seeing the people living with little, but making their way, in the villages. The desire to have the "good life," living in town and having stuff, seems to be an infection that has been planted in Uganda from the west.
3. Folks who had visited before told me that I'd be struck by the paradox of how little people had but how contented they were with what they had. I too found that to be true. It's both a reminder that our worship of "stuff" misses the mark, and that contentment and joy are not linked to "having stuff."
4. Perhaps an even bigger contrast than the disparity between America and Uganda in terms of possessions is the difference in social interactions. We Americans are known for being in a hurry and getting right to business and then moving on. In Uganda, no social interaction happens without first inquiring about how the person is, whether they slept well, whether they enjoyed their food, how their family is, etc. Only after this social connection is made -- only after you have recognized them as a person -- do you proceed with business such as ordering a Coke. The richness of relationships in their society is light years ahead of those of us from the "rich" countries.
All this reminds me of the wise man who said that the answer to all questions is, "That depends." Am I from a rich country? That depends -- on how you define rich. If your definition of rich is material possessions, then the answer is yes. But if your definition is wealth in terms or relationships and valuing others, then the answer is "I'm visiting a rich country."
Monday, January 09, 2006
One of the comforts all during the trip was having a bottle of Coke. It just seemed to bring some normalcy in a strange place.
We also had some guacamole and some wraps here, and they were wonderful. The fresh fruit and veggies are a highlight of being in this part of the world.
It was also nice to get a break from dodging buses, cars, potholes, speed bumps, and all of the other things that make driving in Uganda exciting.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Saturday morning we rode into Kampala with Lori to help her do shopping -- Kampala is where you go for serious groceries. The traffic was really heavy, even for someone from Houston. It seemed that everyone in Uganda that had a car was on our road in Kampala. We made it to one shopping area where Lori bought some groceries and we had Cokes and tea. And we ran into the Naramores and Amy's parents at the store. Both Eloise and Sara were struggling with car sickness, and Lori hadn't even gotten started on her list. Thankfully Lori decided that we should go to the American Club and get an air conditioned day room which quickly turned into a room for the night. Lori and David then took off to do the rest of their shopping, which took the rest of the day. Eloise, Sara, and I sacked out, and it was good.
We enjoyed a nice dinner, a good night's rest in spite of the bank party going on which included Karioke, and were in much better shape to make the four-hour plus drive to Mbarara on Sunday.
This was taken the next morning after my breakfast of "dry" scrambled eggs (as opposed to "wet" scrambled eggs), toast, incredible fresh fruit, passion fruit juice, and good Ugandan coffee.
It was a great start to the trip!
Friday, January 06, 2006
Actually, the break from online publishing and podcasting was pretty complete -- I just stopped for a while. Hurricaines Katrina and Rita were the big cause -- there were opportunities to be involved helping provide care for victims, and blogging didn't seem as important. We also had a December trip to Africa to prepare for and take. While I really enjoy blogging, the break was a good one.
Now there are a number of things I would like to write about, so I'm firing back up. However, for now at least, I'll probably only be writing on this blog, and have no immediate plans to resume podcasting.
I hope you'll find some of the things coming up to be of interest!