Sunday, September 26, 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Got a call yesterday that some old friends would be in town and could we get together for dinner. 

It is like having our own kids coming to Africa to see us.  Pres. Eustache Ilunga  from the DRC and Robert Hokenson from Salt Lake City came to dinner and it was great fun.

Eustache was the mission office manager in the Congo when we were there.  Since then he has a new position of Employment coordinator for the Africa East Area and the same month he accepted this new position they made him Stake President of the Kinshasa Stake. 

Robert Hokenson was over all water projects for the church when we were in the Congo and took a trip with us to that great water project in Luputa.  We will always remember him jogging around the village one evening with about 300 kids following him where ever he went.  Robert is now over Microfinancing for the church (or something like that).  They have come to Uganda with Elder and Sister Byrd to talk to microfinancing groups in Kampala trying to find places to refer members for help in developing businesses.
Eustache was very good to us in the Congo and we love him and his family.  Robert reminds us so much of our son Ben.  He has the same crazy sense of humor and laughs just like Ben.

So you see today was a great treat for us to get to see two very special people who we never want to forget and who have become part of our lives.  --  just like our kids coming to visit.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Well, it's a , it's a , , , well, what is it?

Are we stepping back in to prehistoric times? What is this thing? A Pterodactyl? A Aepyornis?

We had to go to the Barclay bank this week. Not the branch close to home but the one right down town in the middle of the traffic nightmare. We parked in the first parking place we could find which happened to be several meters from the bank but walking was less hazardous than trying to get through the downtown gridlock (so we thought).

As we walked along the sidewalk dodging the pieces of broken concrete Farrell grabbed my arm and pulled me to the side just in time to miss being drenched in a bucket of . . .

I looked up in the tree and there sat 3 huge birds. One sat on a large nest while the other two perched on the branches. They were right in the top of this huge tree.

I was remembering my Congo days and my "pig poop" experience and I felt a great relief that Farrell was aware enough to pull me out of the line of fire. This is not some Utah Seagull or pigeon this is a very big bird that stands about 3 feet talll with a 6 foot wing span.

We have seen this bird flying through the air looking like an airplane with it's huge wings flapping.
We have seen them standing on water tanks on top of buildings.
We have seen them standing in the very tip top of large trees.
They are HUGE! They are UGLY! They are way too big to walk under when they are sitting way up in a tree.

But actually these are not the only odd birds here in Uganda. There are some huge crows that bombard our apartment every day cawing so loud you think they are right in the apartment with you. We haven't been able to catch a picture of the crows yet.
We have other strange long beak birds that sit on the roof top of the buildings surrounding our apartment.
All these birds are rather large and fly without any difficulty.
There are many beautiful, colorful birds of all sizes including parrots. At least we have been told there are many parrots but we havent' seen any yet.

Uganda's national bird is the Grey Crowned Crane. A beautiful bird that has become their treasured logo and is featured in their flag and coat of arms.
But my favorite are the Guinea hens with their black featheres, white dot markings, little splash of red on their head and their fat little bodies.
But the mystery remains as we try to identify these huge, ominous birds and we are at a loss . . . so here is the challenge my grannies:
The first one to identify this big, ugly bird wins a real Ugandan drum.

You are going to like it so get busy and identify this ugly prehistoric beast . . .

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Really, This is the Equator!!

Who ever thought we would be on a mission in Africa right on the equator?
There ought to be a park, a reserve, a monument, something to really designate this special place here on our world.  But no, just a few souvenir shops and  a yellow line across the road but still pretty exciting to stand on the Equator.  Bet you have never had your left foot in the Southern Hemisphere while your right foot was in the Northern Hemisphere.(well actually you may have as the Equator passes through about 10 countries)

Come on now, let's get a little excited.  This is the equator, you know, that intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass.. . .  the imaginary line on the Earth's surface equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole that divides the Earth into a Northern Hemisphere and a Southern Hemisphere.(That def.'s for you Lincoln and Ethan and Kade) 
That's right The Equator - it is right here in Uganda just an hours drive from Kampala.  We crossed the Equator the first time we went to Masaka.  The road is dusty as it is all under construction but it is there and we got to transverse it July 22, 2010.
Here on ther Equator we experience the quickest rates of sunrise and sunset in the world.  It is daylight and within 10 minutes it is dark.  Same in the morning,  it is night and in 10 minutes it is totally light.  There are12 hours of day and night throughout the year (or almost). 
Their is a unique experiment they do at the Equator.  For a price they will show you the gravity pull in the different hemispheres.  You stand on the southern Hemisphere side of the Equator and watch water go down a drain.  The water will circle clockwise.  Then you go 20 feet over to the Northern Hemisphere side and watch the water drain and it drains counterclockwise.  If you stand right on the Equator the water just swooshes down the drain hole without circling either way.  Pretty amazing!

You can have such an experience by paying 20,000 Ugandan shillings for the privilege.  But only if you have Ssimbwa along with you who tells the man that you are rich Americans and can afford the big price.  Actually we got the privilege for about $2.50 after Farrell refused to pay the muzungu price.
Eddie and Ssimbwa were with us  for our first Equator experience and they seemed to enjoy watching our "first" and agreed to pose for us.  There are probably a hundred pictures of them at the Equator floating around the world with all the missionaries they have taken to see this landmark.
Well, it was one of those firsts for us, one of many in Africa.  Don't think we will forget this first for a while.

Oh, and by the way, it seems that the little experiment is not as valid as we thought .  It all depends upon how the water was introduced and the geometric structure of the drain.  I could have done with out that little bit of reality - I got pretty enthralled with that experiment.

A first in the lives of two little boys.. .

Did we say that we are living right on the equator. . . that this is the tropics, the middle of the rainforest . . . that we have exotic birds and flowers and the seasons kind of roll in to one big long beautiful summer . . . well, go figure . . .
It rained torrents of rain with great claps of thunder.  We were working in our office at Kololo Chapel when the sky started falling
When the hail started it was a deafening roar in the church as the hail hit the metal roof.
The lawn was flooded and water was running like a river.
Ssimbwa, "My children have never seen this before."
What do you think Wilson?  The sky is falling!
William, how are your hands?  How long can you hold an iceberg?
First time to see, touch feel and eat snow
Enjoy, it won't last long.
The first in the lives of two little boys.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This is Uganda

We have been holding back on our blog about our trip to Kamuli and the water project turnover (see blog Aug 15th).  We have talked about the trip and the adventures but not the turnover ceremony held at one of the schools that benefited from the project.

As we pulled into the school yard of Lwanyama Primary School we were greeted by hundreds of children, at least it looked like hundreds.
Some were playing instruments, some where dancing, all were pretty excited to see the Muzungus
Many parents and community members had started to gather.  We greeted the mothers and this grandmother, all of who were dressed in the Ugandan national dress.
The children gathered on one side of the yard all dressed in their school uniforms even though school is in recess for the term.  They were very polite and organized, sitting together in anticipation of the festivities.
It was a big occassion apparently as Her Honorable Rebecca Kadagu,Deputy Speaker of Parliment came to be a part of the ceremony.  Rebecca is from Kamuli and is their representative in Parliment but she has also been appointed as the Deputy Speaker, a prestigious position especially for a woman.  She is a "doer" working very hard to help the people of her district.  She was present to acknowledge the value of the gift given to 19 schools in her district and to say thank you to us for bringing the project to her area.
We cut the ribbon on the latrine, we washed our hands at the washing station and we assessed the work done on the rainwater catchment system for the school.
The LC5, Steven Mubiru was also there representing the area.  He is the highest ranking, elected officer in the district.
We were escorted to seats in the yard and seated next to Her Honorable Deputy Speaker.  She is a delightful woman who obviously loves the people she serves and it is obvious that they love her.  In fact she is known through out Uganda as a very active official working hard to improve the lives of the people of Uganda.  When ever we mention that we met the Deputy Speaker Rebecca everyone knows her name and says only good things about her.

We sang the Ugandan National Anthem.  It is a beautiful song about hope and good things to come.

Ugandan National Anthem
Oh Uganda! may God uphold thee,
We lay our future in thy hand.
United, free,
For liberty
Together we'll always stand.
Oh Uganda! the land of freedom.
Our love and labour we give,
And with neighbours all
At our country's call
In peace and friendship we'll live.
Oh Uganda! the land that feeds us
By sun and fertile soil grown.
For our own dear land,
We'll always stand:
The Pearl of Africa's Crown
The anthem is sung on every occassion and everyone knows the lyrics.  They sing it with heart felt enthusiasm.  We can't help but sing along as it is a great anthem.
Her Honorable Rebecca asked me why the new latrine only had 2 stances for the girls while the boys had 3 stances plus a urinal.  I told her I had asked that same question of Hannington, our monitor.  Seems someone was thinking like a boy. but be assured, that won't happen again.

The program was long but very entertaining with the children singing songs and reciting poems about hygiene and sanitation, about being strong and studying hard, about being clean and pure.
Over half of the children were without shoes.  Most all of the children had on uniforms but many were very worn, missing buttons or in disrepair.  They were clean and neat and very well mannered.  They performed with great gusto and always with a wonderful smile.
A young woman came out on the field and danced while the children sang about even though you may be disabled you still can dance and sing.
She performed the traditional Ugandan dance with a wrap around her hips which accents the movement of the hips.  The dance looks quite difficult and is very energetic.

It is tradition that when the children dance that you give them coins (small denominations ).  You tuck the coin in the wrap around the dancers hips and then you can dance with them showing your enjoyment at their dancing.

Elder Barlow was so touched by the message that he jumped up and placed some money in her hand and then he couldn't contain himself and started dancing with her.  It wasn't long before the LC5 was up dancing and a lady came and wrapped a scarf around Elder Barlow's hips so everyone could see his hip action.  I was filming the scene and never did get a still picture of the dancing but you can see the dance on Youtube at Kamuli water project turnover ceremony

Her Honorable Rebecca had us stand up and presented us with presents, A purse made from natural plant fibers and then theyproceeded to dress us in the Ugandan national dress.

A Gomesi for Sis. Barlow
and a Kanzu for Elder Barlow
Traditional dress and traditional bow from a woman to a man, actually you are suppose to kneel and wait for the man to take your hand and lift you up.  That got a great roar from the crowd with much warbling and cheering.
Not  very flattering outfits on Muzungus but traditional and seen where ever you go in Uganda

Betty is the community mobilizer that makes sure the community takes care of the gifts given them through water and sanitation and she also trains the community in good sanitation practice.  Hannington is our project monitor or our eyes on the project when we are not there.
Music for this occassion was very unique and included a wooden xylophone, drums and an interesting fiddle/guitar instrument.  The music was different, very African and surprisingly loud, well they did have a couple of amps to help the volume.
An exciting part of the entertainment was when a character dressed as a woman came out on stilts to dance.  they had on an interesting wooden mask but my, how that character could move on those stilts.  His feet were tied to a bar on each stick allowing him to raise his legs and dance.  If he fell he had no way of jumping off or catchining himself.  But, he didn't fall and he put on quite a show.
He ran towards the children and they all took off like a shot, screaming.  He was pretty scary and larger than life on those stilts.  Pretty amazing!

Of course you can't go to such an affair with out eating and we were given quite a feast of goat, chicken, beef, rice, irish potatoes, matoki, pasta, cabbage and pumpkin. 
We took only a taste of each thing and the server came up to us and told us we were "cheating the meal" by not taking a healthier portion.
The missionaries were given a plate and utensils but everyone else just got a plate.
Two students were assigned to watch out for our every need and they brought us water to wash our hands before we ate.  They were so sweet to all of us and stayed right with us through out the visit.  After eating dinner there were some more speeches in the room where we were eating and I got up and left to get another battery for the camera.  The two girls were standing right out side the door so I visited with them and ended up giving them a CTR ring.  I explained to them that it was meant to remind them to "Choose The RIght".  They got excited as I told them that they were in charge of what they chose to do with their lives and I was giving them this ring to remind them how important it was to choose the right.
As we got ready to leave there was still much dancing going on.  How they can keep this up for so long is the question.  Hannington told us that the parents and children were waiting for us to leave so they could eat.  We got right out of there when we heard that.
Good bye!  Will we ever see you again?

As this project is one the Glenns did before they left we should say thank you Elder and Sis. Glenn for a project well done.  We took care of the gifts, your Gomesi and your Kanzu.  We also got your two live chickens, your bag of sugar can, papaya, oranges and many many thanks for the water and sanitation provided by Humanitarian Services of