Monday, September 29, 2008

Reality of Economics

I rarely hear news from the outside world, meaning the western world, while here in Uganda. But, recently I heard that the economy is still declining in the U.S. I've heard that there is much concern over this. I guess many people are stressed over their declining lifestyles. Maybe having to miss driving to the pool every day over the summer was too much to bear or not be able to eat out every night is a nightmare. OK, so I'm being a little sarcastic. I know that there are many living in poverty in the U.S. that are really concerned that their next step maybe homelessness if things don't improve.
However, I think that maybe this will be a wake up call to the U.S. as to the condition of most of the developing world. Most people in the developing world have lived for decades wondering where their next meal was coming from. I see these dehumanizing conditions every day in the slum where I work. Most people eat only one meal a day and it's not a cheeseburger and fries. Most of the children don't even know what these foods are. They've never seen a television or rode in a car. The majority will never have a chance to attend school.
These families live in rooms that are 12ft x 12ft. Can you imagine 8-12 people living in one room for their entire lives? There is no running water. Most don't even have toilets. I realized how closely people are living as animals the other day when I had spent the night at someone's house and was having to pee in the grass behind a building as hidden from view of others as I could find. Luckily, I didn't have to do anything except pee. For more serious bathroom business, people resort to using plastic shopping bags which they later dispose of in various places around the slum. Others have lived in this condition for so long that they don't even bother to try to be discreet. They just use the trenches in the alleys running between houses.
But, a lesson in all this: people still hold on to their faith and somehow keep their joy. That's one of the things I love about this slum. Despite the harsh reality of their conditions, people have a lot of love to share.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Women Who Raised Me

While at home last year, a friend told me of a book that she was reading that reminded her of me. The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell. I bought the book and tried reading it while home. I failed to finish. Although our stories are different, there are really many similarities, especially the feelings that are common to children who grow up in foster care. I still struggle with these emotions but over the past week I decided to try to read the book again. It's been a challenge but I have stuck with it and am about two-thirds of the way through the book.
I've cried and prayed many days over the last week. But, I've also realized that although there were many negative experiences in my childhood, I also had women who raised me. These women each gave me something that helped me to hold on for the next day. For them I will be forever grateful for standing in the gap.
It has also made me look at the many women I'm surrounded by here in Uganda. I work in a slum with many women who at first appearance look to be hopeless. But, as I get to know them more, I find that they have much strength, faith and hope. They also are teaching me many things and many of them have become mothers to me on this side of the world. So, while I still struggle with many issues of my childhood, I am seeing that although it seems I am a child of no one, I am also a child of many.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stranded in Kampla

On Saturday afternoon, I went to pick up the twins that had spent the last month with me. They wanted to come and spend the night so I said ok. I went to pick them up with little money in my pocket thinking that after getting them we would stop at an ATM then head to get something to eat. The first ATM refused to give me money. I thought maybe it was out of money, which has happened to me before, so I tried a second one. It still refused. So, I tried a third ATM, this time from a different bank. Still no luck. I had enough money to transport us to another ATM to try but was starting to get a bit stressed. What would I do if I couldn't get any money? So, we went to the fourth ATM. STill nothing. By this time I had completely run out of money and had no way to get us home. Not to mention that we have had no gas for cooking for the past week. So, we were all hungry, no money for transportation and stuck in town. I had about a minute worth of air time on my phone so called a friend to come to meet me and bring me some money. He brought enough that I could add more air time and call the bank at home to see why I was not able to access any money. After twenty minutes of talking to the bank at home, I was told that there was no problem with my account and that it should be working just fine. Another trip to the ATM revealed that it still wasn't working. So, my friend graciously gave us money for dinner and money to get home and for the next few days. The girls went home that night and prayed that we would check the next day and find the ATM working. We checked the next morning at what was then the 6th ATM and found that this time it worked!
It was a good lesson for all of us. I learned not to travel into town without enough money to retrn me back home. They learned that the bank doesn't just spit money out of the machine.
As for the issue of gas for cooking, we are still waiting. It seems that all the gas in Uganda is imported from Kenya and there have been some delays recently. As for now, we'll continue eating peanut butter sandwiches.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to Normal- Whatever That Is

So, schools started back here in Uganda this past Monday. It's the third and last term of the year so students are ready to get it over with and ready for the Christmas/summer holidays to begin. I delivered the young ladies who have been with me for the past month back to their homes on Sunday evening. I returned home to a quiet house actually felt quite empty.
Early Monday morning I caught a bus heading to the western part of the country to meet 4 other students, who are being sponsored by some very gracious friends, and to deliver them back to their schools. It was a hectic trip. I have discovered that no matter how many times they travel to and from school it is somehow impossible for children to be organized. At the boys' school, we discovered they had forgot to pack toothbrushes and towels for bathing. This meant a trip back into the main town to search for these items. Instead of back to school sales we found that shopkeepers take advantage of this time and hike the prices. After finally getting the boys settled in, it was time to do the same at the girls' school. Luckily they had me get what they had forgotten while we were shopping for the boys so we didn't have to make a repeat trip back into town. Finally around 8 in the evening I was ready for dinner and then ready for bed. It was another long ride back to the city the next morning and I wanted to try to get as much rest as I could. This didn't exactly happen. My friend's aunt decided that she wanted to go back to Kampala with me so I met her in town for dinner. We decided to share the room that I had already booked so that the price would be a little cheaper for both of us. She was bringing two chickens for my friend, both of which were still live and ready to make lost of noise for us during the night. She was fun to room with though. She doesn't speak English and I don't speak any of the western languages so our only way of communicating was through our made up version of sign. It was really comical so we spent a lot of time laughing.
The next morning we got to the taxi park early to get a bus back to Kampala. No buses. No mini vans. Due to the number of students traveling back to school, transportation was scarce. We were doomed to enter a small car meant for the driver and three passengers. We traveled back to Kampala with the driver, twelve passengers plus our two live chickens..... a very interesting trip indeed. Luckily everyone was in good moods and we shared a lot of laughs and stories along the way. Plus I made a couple of new friends: one nun from Kenya working at a school in Tanzania traveling through Uganda, a refugee from Rwanda that is currently "home" in Uganda from working as a security guard in Iraq, and a young mother on her way to take her first child to school.
I made it back to Kampala in one piece and should be back to my "normal" hectic schedule next week.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Single Parenthood

So, I've been too busy for sitting down at a computer to do much of anything except send an occassional quick email. This is due to the fact that schools are on holiday for a month here and I've been living with three young ladies. They have been a joy and blessing to my life but have kept me extremely busy. I have a new respect for single mothers.
These three young ladies come from the slum that I work in and wanted to come and visit my home. This weekend visit turned in to them deciding that they wanted to spend the holiday. Since I have the space and they are old enough I decided that it would be ok and fun.
We've enjoyed doing things like watching movies on my laptop, their first trip to the lake to eat fish, their first pizza and cheeseburgers, first time swimming and today the first trip to the zoo.
Anyway, this was just a quick update to say that I am still online but at a reduced rate for the time being.