Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tea Plantation in Uganda

This photo of "tea pluckers" at work harvesting tea leaves was taken on the road between Mbarara and the Queen Elizabeth Game Park. The tea fields are beautiful, and tea is one of Uganda's export crops. It's worth clicking on this photo to get a larger view.

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. Posted by Picasa

Ben Meets Great Grandmother Stapp

Despite appearances, Ben and his great grandmother actually got along well. Ben's just yawning in the photo, not screaming as you might think at first glance. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Look's like Ben's posing for this shot! Posted by Picasa

Ben and Frodo at Bath Time

Ben to Frodo the dog (unspoken): "I don't like this bath thing -- can't you help me?"

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." Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nana, Ben, and the Rocking Chair

Eloise got some quality time in with Ben yesterday morning before coming home. Ben loves being held and asleep during the day so that he can be awake and keep Mom and Dad up during the night! Posted by Picasa

Frodo Checks on Ben

The first thing Mark did when bringing Ben into the house was to show him to Frodo. Frodo is not sure what is going on, but he's very interested in this new little person. Here he's getting an upclose look (and smell) of Ben, who's in the crib. Posted by Picasa

Ben -- Coming Home in Style

Getting all bundled up and strapped into his carrier was no big deal for Ben, but it was sure new duty for Mark and Kathy. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Mark Changing His First Diaper

Getting to watch Mark change his first diaper was priceless! Considering how much advice he was getting from Ben's two grandmothers, not to mention me, he really did quite a good job. Posted by Picasa

Ben and Me

Ben and I also had a good conversation, and you'll notice that his eyes are wide open and that he's paying good attention. I'm sure that speaks to how bright and intelligent he is! Posted by Picasa

Nana Hughes with Ben

Ben's paying close attention to what Nana is telling him, as he should. This conversation went on for quite a while, and it was hard to tell which of them enjoyed it the most. Posted by Picasa

Ben and Dad

Mark looks a little wide-eyed, but he's getting the Dad duties down quickly. Posted by Picasa

Ben and Mom

Life's always better when you're on Mom's shoulder! Kathy looks like a natural! Posted by Picasa

Benjamin James Hughes, 1/20/06

Ben, on your first day in this big old world, you don't look like you're too sure that you're going to like it!

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! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Eating African Food at Friend's Corner

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!

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Winston and Scout

Winston (the lab) and Scout (the shepherd) were our constant friends in Uganda. They belong to Shane and Carole, who were our hosts while in Mbarara. I know that they (the dogs, that is) still miss us, because we spoiled them rotten. I was the early riser of the group, and Winston and Scout were always anxious for me to come sit on the porch and drink my coffee -- which to them meant scratch their heads and throw the blue rubber bone. Winston was always the one who would retrieve it, and then he and Scout would spend 5-10 minutes playing chase and "fighting" over possession of the blue bone. They provided hours of amusement and entertainment, and frankly I miss them too. The porch was also where I journaled -- and rarely did I get more than two or three sentences written before a dog head would suddenly appear on the page.

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.

Winston Posted by Picasa

Scout Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Are you from a rich country?

On our first night in Uganda, I was visiting with the night watchman at our hotel, and he asked me in a friendly way, "Are you from a rich country?"

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." Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 09, 2006

Coca Cola and the Equator

This photo was taken on Sunday at our stop at the Equator on the drive from Kampala to Mbarara (Eloise, Lori, David, and Sara, l-r).

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. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The American Club, Kampala

As wonderful as the first night was at the Central Inn, getting to spend the second night in Uganda at the American Club (A.R.A.) in Kampala was near life-saving.

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. Posted by Picasa

First Night in Uganda

We arrived in Entebbe at 9:05 on Friday night, December 16, and after clearing customs and meeting Lori and David Earles, nothing could have been better than the short trip ending at the Central Inn, where we were able to get Cokes, bottled water, and lay down after 20 hours of air travel.

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! Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 06, 2006

I'm back blogging!

After about a four-month sabbatical from blogging, I'm back.

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!