BethM on September 17th, 2014

(This post was written earlier in the month and has been sitting in my drafts folder. I’m digging it out today in hopes of encouraging some more fall-like weather—this past week has been hot!)

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Today feels like fall.

Yesterday, a thunderstorm pelted us with nearly twelve straight hours of hard rain. The lightening woke me up in the night, and for most of the day the ground was soft and slippery and full of miniature rivers carved into the dirt roads. I had to walk slowly on my way to my teachers’ meeting at school, to keep from sliding in the mud. Rain here makes moving around inconvenient, but my personal feelings toward stormy weather remain the same: it’s the best.

No rainstorm this morning…but there is a sharp, cool breeze blowing. All the windows in our house are open (we live in the last apartment of a fourplex, and so we have windows on three sides). I pulled on a cardigan and a pair of warm socks. Yesterday I had cooked a pumpkin, and today Wesley used the leftovers to make pumpkin spice lattes. The clothes hung on our line are finally beginning to dry in the slightly chilly air after yesterday’s downpour. On the path that runs outside our home, the neighborhood missionary kids throw on light jackets and bike up and down. Friends come by to borrow carrots for vegetable soup, or to ask if I would like another pumpkin (the answer will probably never be no).

I know that there are not “seasons” here, in the American sense. We are in one of our two annual rainy seasons, and as we get closer to Christmas, things will become increasingly hot and dry. But today, I am experiencing fall.

Thank you, God, for the crisp beauty of this day.

Fall in my Texas home.

Last weekend, I headed over to the David Family compound on Saturday morning. Each of New Hope’s family group has a communal eating hut, or “banda,” and ours was due for a paint job! A visiting team had laid down the base color earlier in the month, but now we were ready for some decorating. After gathering around a few ideas I had sketched out, we reached a family consensus, popped open the paint cans, and dove in. Our designs included some favorite Bible verses, a few pictures, and “David Family” lettered above a framed family photo.

The beginning of a giraffe….

The paint job took us most of the day, with plenty of participation from everyone who wanted to pitch in. I took care of most of the lettering, and outlined a few pictures for the others to paint. My artist-friend Biru managed two of the walls all by herself! The process was almost as good as the end result—but the finished banda does look pretty spiffy.

Many helpers!

Today, I am in Kampala with friends for some rest & relaxation…plus shopping. We carpooled in with a driver and several others, but parted ways early in the day. Leaving the driver and vehicle meant we would utilize traditional Kampala transport for the rest of the day: bodas! A boda is a small motorbike with a long seat behind the driver. Out in the bush, we sometimes squeeze two or three on the back of a boda, but in the city it’s (thankfully) one passenger per motorbike. I’ve done a bit of boda-riding in and around Kasana, which entails riding side-saddle thanks to long skirts and such. But today was my first boda ride in Kampala, and I must say I was glad to be dressed in city clothes (jeans) and able to ride facing forward. Hanging on the back of a boda weaving in and out of traffic is a little intense and a lot exciting.

A boda ride from last year, in the village.

And finally, let’s address the snake-sighting incident. On Monday, I arranged a phone call with my family and decided to wander down the path to New Hope’s farm—very beautiful, very secluded, perfect place to talk. I walked back and forth on a particular stretch of the path, bush on either side. After retracing my steps several times, I turned around again and stopped dead: a python was slithering across the path I had just followed, not far ahead of me. Now, I find snakes very interesting—really I do. I even held a large captive python last summer at the Entebbe Zoo. But the element of surprise and the sheer size of the thing—stretched clear across the path and already part-way in the bush—did not strike me as anything but terrifying, and I immediately ended my phone call and dashed for the nearest civilization. Snake sightings at Kasana are supposed to end in the disposal of said snake, but I had absolutely no intention of taking on a gigantic python with nothing but an iPhone (is there an app for that?). When I went back a few minutes later with some willing helpers, the snake was long gone.

And yes, my heart rate did return to normal later that evening. However, I can now enjoy the fact that I have snake encounter under my belt—another rite of passage, perhaps?

Proof from last summer that I am not a total snake wimp.

BethM on August 18th, 2014

Why yes, I did request the phrase “I think I need some coffee.”

Let me be upfront here: I have never been good with languages outside of English. I tried to learn Spanish in high school…but I’m pretty sure the only thing I got out of that was the ability to start basic conversations, ask for the bathroom, and talk about dogs singing in towers. (Thank you, ridiculous language-learning curriculum.) But now, I figure a two and a half year commitment to live immersed in a language foreign to me is the perfect opportunity to try again.

Uganda is an overwhelmingly multilingual country. Different tribes in different regions speak different languages, or different versions of a similar language. It’s not uncommon for a person to speak three, or even four languages, based on the needs of the area in which you were raised. Here at Kasana amongst the Baganda people, Luganda is the primary language of choice. For me, the incentive to become fluent in the language is based partly on my job: I teach art in Primary school, and my younger classes learn exclusively in Luganda.

So with this in mind, I started Luganda lessons with my dear friend Aunt Agnes last month. We sit together, she talks in Luganda, I try to speak Luganda back to her, we both laugh, I scribble notes. It’s an enjoyable system. Sometimes I have specific questions; sometimes we learn whatever happens to come up.

On Saturday morning, we spent an hour learning basic items found in the market. And in the afternoon, we took a boda (motorbike) into the market together for a “practical” test. We wandered around the market, purchasing enyanya (tomatoes) and nanasi (pineapple) and ebitungulu (onions) and emboga (cabbage), and I listened to Agnes barter for prices, happy that I could pick out the numbers as they were spoken.

So while at this point my Luganda is extremely limited and sometimes results in humorous mistakes, I am loving the experience of learning a language by immersion. End goal: to teach without a translator. Possibly unattainable, but definitely worth working towards.

Taking our Luganda lesson to the market.


BethM on August 9th, 2014

A few weeks back, I wandered aimlessly to and filled an imaginary shopping cart. See, I was gifted with all sorts of art supplies before I came to New Hope, and I’ve had very adequate supplies for our artistic needs this term—plenty of paper, markers, crayons, and a few more fun supplies like watercolors and paint brushes. But occasionally I’ve found myself wishing for some more specialized items. Scrolling through pages of art and craft supplies on Amazon, I found myself adding googly eyes, pipe cleaners, pom poms, even craft feathers to my “cart”—little things that would make some of our projects just a little more exciting.

Then, just for kicks, I clicked the “submit my order” button, and Amazon informed me that shipping to my location is unavailable. Oh well, it was a fun thought. After all, pom poms and fake feathers are definitely not an artistic necessity.

Fast forward to this week. A team from the States had arrived at New Hope, carrying with them some art supplies from a group of my dear supporters back home. I had given them a very generic list of needs, not wanting to be overly specific (“I really need feathers and googly eyes” or “Please send pom poms ASAP” seemed a little dramatic). Last night, the supplies arrived at my house, and I enjoyed a mini art teacher Christmas as I sifted through what was included.

First I came across a pack of googly eyes. (Funny, I thought. That’s something I’d added to my imaginary shopping cart.)

Then I saw the bags of pom poms. (Excellent!)

And then there were the pipe cleaners. (Wonderful! Didn’t even have to ask.)

And then, of course, two bags of fake feathers. (Okay, now that is far too random to be a coincidence.)

So today, I am thankful for the wonderful people of Edna Hill who have supported me so generously in so many ways (some of which they didn’t even know). I’m thankful for fun craft supplies that are easy to come by in the States, but a very special treat over here. I’m thankful for extra art paper and paint brushes and popsicle sticks and stickers.

And that’s the story of how I got pom poms and feathers from Jesus.


BethM on August 6th, 2014

Let’s talk about milk.

Now, I appreciate milk. Milk and cereal. Milk in delicious cakes and goodies. Milk in pudding. Milk and cookies. Mmm, so many wonderful combinations.

In the States, our milk came pasteurized from the store. Here, the milk you find in stores is the kind that can sit on a shelf unrefrigerated because it’s actually some super sketchy chemical creation. The good news is…New Hope has a farm!

And on that farm, we have some cows.

And so every morning, usually between 7 and 8, you will hear the dinging of a bicycle bell. If you take a peek out your window, you’ll see a man on a bike with a huge milk can strapped behind him. He’ll show up at your door, and you’ll run for the nearest pot or pan, which you will hold up as your requested amount of milk is meted out (you’ll pay about 1,000 Ugandan shillings per liter, the equivalent of about $0.40 USD). Then, you’ll thank the milk man and head to the kitchen.

Unpasteurized milk can wreak some nasty havoc on your insides (no offense, raw milk fans), so you’ll probably want to set your milk on the stove top and bring it to a nice boil for awhile. You might be a little surprised at how quickly your innocent-looking milk will go from barely bubbling to foaming up and over the edge of your pan, which might lead you to keep your eyes glued to the stove top the entire time.

But of course…

…you might still wind up with spilled milk.

Oh well. It’s all worth it for that possibility of fresh milk and cookies, right?