Friday, November 28, 2008

Taxi Park

This is the taxi park in downtown Kampala. Notice that it is the middle of the day and full of taxis. Traffic jam isn't a problem in the afternoon and at this time there is no waiting for a taxi. If this picture was taken in the evening, you would have seen empty spaces instead of vehicles.
Anyway, the tricky part is learning where each of the taxis is going. Each taxi has a specific route. When I first came to Uganda I frequently got lost or in the wrong taxi. You see, there are many guys around directing you to which taxi to get into. They get paid by the drivers when the taxi gets full so frequently they will just direct you to any one so that the taxi can fill up and they can get their pay. So, I've learned to try to read the signs on the front of the taxis instead of asking. If I'm heading to an unfamiliar place or a place that I don't frequently travel to, I spend quite a bit of time walking around and probably looking confused.
I remember one time a couple of years ago, I had walked around for quite some time without finding the taxi that I was looking for. Finally, I decided to go ahead and ask, knowing that when they directed me to the taxi, I should check the sign in front. I asked and was directed to a taxi. I couldn't find the sign so just figured I would take my chances and hopped in. When the taxi began its journey out of the town, I realized we were not heading in the direction that I was trying to get to.
Another thing is that the conductors will not stop the taxi to let you out until you get near to the destination that they are heading in. They know that if they let you out in the beginning that you are probably not going to give them any money. Then they have an empty seat which they have to fill. So, I just had to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. At least I got to see another part of town and explore a bit. I was lost but actually found a place that I had previously tried to find and couldn't.
Although I complain a lot about traffic jam and having to wait for the taxis, I still think it is a better alternative to owning my own vehicle. It's cheaper (no insurance or keeping the gas tank full) and I can still get almost anywhere I need to go (even some places that I wasn't expecting to go).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Well, today is Thanksgiving Day, at least for the western developed countries. Since I'm here in Uganda, I won't be celebrating it in the typical American fashion. Some years I have chosen to completely skip it and other years I've done things like go out for pizza with friends. Today I'm meeting up with friends from Eritrea and going to eat Ethiopian food. I'm not real sure the difference between Eritrean and Ethiopian food or if there is any difference. But, since the restaurant we are going to is owned by Ethiopians, I'll say we are eating Ethiopian food.
It's funny how the two countries are at odds with each other but for those living outside their countries, they tend to blend together. I guess this shows that for the majority of the people, the differences are not important. It's more of a government issue.
I've also noticed how even though I have no cultural ties to my Eritrean and Ethiopian friends, that we have a bond here in Uganda. We're all foreigners. It's easy to understand each other when we are struggling with a cultural issue here. It helps us to look at it from different angles and to come up with the conclusion that everyone does it different and that's just the way it's done here. I think it's has allowed me to see the beauty in the way different people do things. It's amazing how God created us all and gave each place a different way of living. But, we're all still His.
On to another topic: I ended up not meeting the landlord of the other apartment. He had to go out of town for a burial so hopefully we'll meet in the next few days. It's not looking like I'll be moved by the first of December though.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maybe, Just Maybe

I have been looking for new housing for quite some time and it's proven to be quite a task. Yesterday, I found an apartment that just might work. I'll be meeting with the landlord tomorrow and then will know if I'm moving or staying put.
I really like the apartment. The sitting room is large enough to turn into a classroom. (I can't believe I'm putting a school in my house). The two bedrooms are adequate size. Since I won't have a roommate, the kids will now have their own room! No more all of us sharing one bed! Plus the kitchen is a nice size and the apartment is on the third floor and there's a balcony for washing and hanging laundry!
Maybe, just maybe I will get to be settled in one place for a while.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Better Know How to Box

I hate evenings when there is too much traffic around town. It makes for an exhausting trip home. Last night was another particularly bad night for traffic.
Leaving the slum wasn't too bad. I was easily able to get a taxi and traffic crawled along at a slow but steady pace. However, luck changed when I reached the taxi park to change taxis to the taxi that takes me from downtown to home. There were only a handful of taxis in the park and absolutely none of them were going where I was heading.
This meant standing and waiting among a crowd that was steadily increasing. There were far more people in the park than vehicles. This meant that as taxis arrived heading the direction I was going it was a mini war to get in one. The first few I just stepped aside and waited. My thought was that the crowd would thin out and I would get one of the next few. But, for every person that got in a taxi, it seemed three more appeared.
Finally, I decided I was going to have to assert myself and get in a taxi. The next one that pulled up I was ready. I pushed my way through the crowd. I remember when I was playing basketball that the coach always told us to keep our elbows up to keep opponents out of our space. I kept my elbows out which helped me to jostle my way into the seat and to actually get a decent seat.
Once I was able to sit and catch my breath, I realized it is sort of like boxing when boarding a taxi from an overcrowded park. I had to throw my elbows around but also had to take a few hits. Luckily, the damage was minimal. Just a few very minor bruises.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Midas Touch

I'm not sure I'm remembering correctly or not, but isn't Midas the brand of car tires or something that has to do with cars?
Here in Uganda, there is a brand of cooking oil called Fortune. Anyway, today as I was riding in the taxi, I saw a billboard advertising for them. The billboard read: Give your cooking that Midas touch.
All I could think of was motor oil. Somehow it wasn't appealing to me to use motor oil for cooking. I know the Fortune cooking oil is not motor oil. Anyway, it made me laugh. To think how something in one place is something completely different in another place is amazing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Man on Stilts

I'm never short of new and funny sights around Kampala. This is a relief to the frequent sights of despair and poverty. Yesterday's sight actually made us all laugh. Traffic is a frequent nuissance here and most people get exasperated around the time of evening traffic. At every major intersection threre are three or four police directing traffic.
Yesterday afternoon as I was leaving the slum, I had to cross an intersection in order to board the taxi that would take me up to the center of town where I would then board another taxi home. As I was crossing the street, there was a loud whistling coming from a few meters away. It was an old man walking on stilts. He was dressed like a clown, wearing sunglasses and carrying a radio. The man proceeded to stand in the middle of the road and danced, while still on stilts. Since traffic wasn't moving there was no danger to him, but at least those onlookers trapped inside of those nonmoving taxis got a good laugh.
He even sat on a few and begged for money from those inside. I saw quite a number of people hand him coins. I think they were thankful for the break of monotony. I for one was glad to have the laugh.

Friday, November 14, 2008

An Abrupt Morning Wake Up

So, I live in an apartment which is usually safer than living in a house alone on a compound. At least that is how people generally think here- that thieves don't want to break into a place where there are many people. From my experience this has been true. I know I feel safer living in an apartment.
However, this morning in woke up to load thuds and shouting over my head. Something was going on in the apartment over me. The guy there was shouting for the guard. Everyone ran outside to see what was going on. That's the first rule of mob justice. Everyone runs to the scene.
It seems my upstairs neighbor had walked down the hill to pick up something to make for breakfast and returned to find a man in his house. One of the neighbors recognized the man as her cousin. It turns out that the man was high, lost and had entered the wrong house.
Now the debate was what to do with him. When a thief is caught here a mob will usually beat him severely or even to death. The neighbor began begging for her cousin's life.
I'm glad forgiveness was the order of the day. I don't like thieves but I also don't like watching someone being beat to death either.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Water Problems

So, last week I posted that thankfully our water hadn't been turned off recently. However, over the weekend the only time the water was on was during the night. This meant waking up around 2 in the morning to fill every available bucket with water to be used for the next day. Otherwise we have to walk down the hill, across a busy road and up another hill to use the local well and then carry the water back. We did this a while back when water went off and remained off for almost a week without even coming on during the night.
In addition to this, we discovered that the pipes from our upstairs neighbors are leaking into one of our walls. So we now have a wall that is peeling away. I'm just praying that the wall doesn't completely collapse before I'm able to move out of the house. Really I don't think it will but with the way the house is and the lack of responsibility of the landlord, anything is possible.
We've been in the house for six months and the guy can't even find the key to the door. Our way of locking the house is fixing a padlock to the door. Not exactly safe.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crazy Faith

At times when I think about where God has brought me from I wonder if it's real or if I'm dreaming, especially when I look at my last few years in Uganda. I came here the first time with no committed support. I keep asking myself how I managed. There were times when from day to day I didn't know where the next meal would be coming from. However, I survived and have kept learning more and more to trust in God. After all, He is the source of my provision, not man. It is He that puts it on the heart of man to help me to do His work.
I have to constantly remind myself of this fact, even now. When I look at the support I have coming in compared to the plans that I have, I have to constantly remind myself that my plans are not my plans. I can plan, but it is only God that can bring them to pass.
You see, I plan to start a school for orphans, abandoned, and other vulnerable children in January. When I look at my support, it looks impossible. In my own eyes, I think I need more than double what is actually coming in. But, I'm convinced that with God's help, that I should begin and that everything that is needed will be provided in His time.
To many this may seem crazy, and at times, I actually feel that it is crazy. However, I want to stretch my faith and watch as God does far more than what I can imagine.