Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blocked Paths

So, many of my recent posts have been about something blocking a path. And this one will continue the theme.
An update on the fence that blocks my shortcut to the taxi from home: Many people opted to just climb through the barb wire. I, as well as most women, opted to take the longer route. It's not exactly easy to climb through a fence in a skirt while making sure neither your clothes nor your skin gets torn. The owners didn't seem to like the fact that people continued to climb through the fence so they chopped down a tree and added that to the fence. Now there is no option but to choose the longer route. There is no way through the tree branches, at least not without your skin being scratched.
Well, now there is a new fence up, although still without the tree branches. This one is in the slum that I've been working in. For as long as anyone can remember the field where we meet has been a big open field, there for anyone to use. The kids used the lower part as a football pitch and for other games. The upper part, where there is slightly more grass, was where the adults always met. Well, on Sunday, to everyone's surprise, we arrived to find the lower part fenced off. No one is sure who put it up or why. At first the kids tried to move to the upper part of the field. After being chased away by the adults, they decided it was better to climb through the fence and still play on the lower part except for when the upper part is vacant of adults. This has always been the case. They like the upper part for the grass as much as we adults do. With the number of people and the conditions of the environment in the slum, I don't expect this fence to last long, or at least I don't expect it to be standing perfectly for long.
But, now on to a more serious but less visible blocked path. I have dreamed of starting a school in Uganda for so many years. Next Monday, Feb. 2, was supposed to be the start date. Now this seems to be becoming less and less of a reality. As the date got nearer, I was informed of some things that HAVE to be done. I'm not sure how HAVE to be done they really are but since it could become a problem if I don't do them, I'll have to wait for them to be done.
It has been frustrating. I come from a culture where everything is done quickly and somewhat in order. Here there seems to be no order. Things are not done quickly. There is so much corruption that sometimes I wonder if I'm even moving in the direction of forward.
I've been told that the delays will only be minor. This remains to be seen. As for right now, the only thing for me to do is to continue setting up the classroom, making lesson plans, and continue praying that I will see God move things for me here.
By the way, as I'm waiting for the school to start, I'm still waiting for my work permit to be approved. It's now been around 6 months and it was supposed to be done in 3.
I'm praying that although this delay seems like a blocked path that it will be for good in the end. I'm praying that although I'm disappointed in having to wait that the waiting will mean things will be that much more in order.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Plant a Tree in the Middle of the Road or Better Yet Build a Fence Across One

A few days ago, I wrote about seeing a tree planted in the middle of the road. That was sort of funny to see, at least it gave me something to write about. It's now gone. However, the latest development in things in the road is not so funny and may not be moved as quickly.
I recently moved into a new neighborhood and quickly learned the shortest route from my house to board a taxi. Just two short weeks later, this route is no longer an option. On Thursday, as I was leaving home, I noticed wooden poles across the road. I immediately thought that was odd. Why would someone put wooden poles across the road? My question was answered when I returned home later that day to find that no longer was it just poles across the road. Someone had added wire to the poles, making a fence. Since I knew no other route to get home, I crawled through the wire. Not an option for daily passage, though.
The neighborhood is still trying to figure out who built the fence and why. It seems that someone has purchased that little piece of land. We're waiting to see if that same person will decide to build a structure (house in the middle of the road).
It has meant that everyone living on our side of the fence now has to use a slightly longer route to get to and from home. Just another small inconvenience of living in Africa. Who needs city planning? Just build whatever you want wherever you feel like it!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spare the Rod and Your Child Will Be a Brat

I think God gave us a little extra padding on the backside to be able to withstand a few spankings now and then during childhood. I don't know why parents don't seem to realize this, or at least some parents.
I know I don't have children but I've been around enough of them to know which ones are a joy and which ones I'd rather run from. Note to parents: Most people find it a joy to be around children who are disciplined and have good manners. Most people do not enjoy your children when they are undisciplined and bad mannered. In other words, if your child is a brat, people don't find it a joy to be around them.
I also know that no child is perfect. They will all have their moments when they seem less than disciplined or choose not to have good manners. But, this can be overlooked occasionally if most of the time the child is not a BRAT. Everyone is entitled to having a bad day once in a while.
Generally, I love children. I love being around them. I like watching them learn new things and hearing the silly things they say.
Recently, I have met a young child that I would prefer to spend the least amount of time around as possilbe. He's over two years old and is extremely undisciplined. I know two year olds can be difficult at times, but this one is beyond overboard. He constantly cries. And it's not even really crying. There are no tears. He's just whining and screaming. I've been around him a lot over the last few days. Any time he is told no, the whining and screaming starts. What makes it bad is that instead of sticking to the no, the parents then give into what they have just said no to. What does that teach him? Certainly not that my parents mean what they say. Then to top it off, the parents then tell him sorry. Sorry for what? Sorry for not giving him his way in the first place. They will probably be sorry later for not sticking to the no. They will probably later wish they had more frequently had a belt to bottom talk when as a teenager he is out of control.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Like a Tree Planted by the Water.......... or in the Middle of the Road

Uganda is a beautiful country but definitely not known for the quality of its roads. Most are unpaved and to say they are bumpy is an understatement. In fact, just this morning while going over one of these bumps I flew out of my seat to hit my head on the roof of the taxi!
In November of 2007, the queen of England came for a meeting in Uganda so in preparation for her visit, many of the roads were repaired. Just a little over a year later, there is little evidence of these repairs. It's like they were just patched long enough for the queen to visit and then things began falling apart again. When it rains, the huge craters in the road form small lakes which cars, whether they are filled with water or not, have to drive around.
Yesterday, as I was riding in the taxi on a much used road in the middle of the city, we came upon a tree that someone had planted in one of these holes. Whether the tree was there or not, we would have had to drive around the hole so I guess it was nice to have a bit of scenery to drive around.
I haven't been back there today to see if the tree is still there or not. Maybe I should check it out. If people leave it there long enough, we may even get some free shade while we are stopped waiting for the traffic jam to move.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Crack in the Peanut Butter

There are things in Uganda that I see and they make me laugh! This is one of them. A peanut butter jar that I just recently bought. As I was opening it, I read the label. One thing I like is that I can buy natural food here. It's made locally, no preservatives, no steroids, etc. This particular peanut butter even has NO ADDICTIVES.
Now I know that it was meant that there are no additives but it's also nice to know that there is no crack or any other addictive substance in my peanut butter either.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Living Under Construction

Ok, I love having a brand new place to live, but it would be even greater if it was finished. I moved in last week and was promised that everything would be finished by Saturday. Well, Saturday has come and gone and my place is still under construction.
I now have a front door (the key to it still hasn't appeared but I do have a door), all my windows and running water. I'm still missing a back door, all of my cabinets and have several leaks (due to now have running water).
The last couple of days it looks as though very little has been done. This morning no one even entered the place to work on it. I heard lots of sounds of construction from the apartment under me. Possibly there's going to be a new tenant soon and it needs urgent attention. Who really knows? This is Africa so I'm learning that it will get done when it gets done.
It seems life is sort of like a construction zone. I look around at all the dust around me and realize that my life has some areas that need some dusting off. I have a few leaks in my life and there are repairs that need to be done on my heart. Sometimes I can hear and feel the sounds of construction as God works on the areas that need working on. Other times it feels like He's not entering the area at all. I know this is not true. Just as the carpenters this morning never entered my apartment, I know they were working. They assured me that they were building the cabinets. Now I may not be as assured that the carpenters are doing their work, but I am assured that the Master Carpenter is busy at work. Even when I am despairing that I'm not changing, I am assured that He is busy making me more and more like Him. He is rebuilding the areas that need to be rebuilt and repairing the broken places. Sometimes silently but still, work is going on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Moved In

So, moving is always an adventure and this move proved to be no less of one. It started with getting out of the old apartment. Remember I've not had a flushing toilet or water in most of the house for almost six months. The landlord, for whatever reason, couldn't ever seem to get anyone there to fix it. Oh, and no electricity in half of the house either. And that problem was ongoing since before we even moved in. But, when it came time for collecting rent or any other payment, the landlord was sure to be there.
Of course he knew I was moving yesterday evening so he needed to be there to inspect the place. In other words, he needed to be there to see if he could figure out a way to get more money out of me. So, he arrived with a huge electric and water bill. Where the water bill came from nobody knows? Isn't it kind of hard to charge someone for something that doesn't exist. Then the electric bill was totally outrageous. He then began complaining about all the repairs that needed to be done. Then he had the nerve to tell me to leave the light bulbs in the rooms that the electricity actually does work in.
I was speechless, at least at first. Then I decided that I wasn't going to let him take advantage of me. I refused paying the water bill, accepted to pay only a portion of the electric bill, told him I was taking the light bulbs (after all what landlord provides you with them when you move in; I bought them so I was taking them), and told him I wasn't giving him any money for any repairs. I've been asking for repairs for months so let him fix them for the next person. I seriously doubt he will. It seems all the neighbors have the same problems.
He was being equally as stubborn and locked the gate so that the moving truck couldn't leave. After three and half hours of arguing, he finally let me leave. I didn't pay the water bill. I gave him what I wanted to for the electric bill and nothing for repairs. And I kept the light bulbs. By this time it was already approaching 10:00 at night.
Now came getting to the new place. We finally reached there at around 10:30 only to find that the apartment is not finished. It's a brand new apartment and it was supposed to be finished by the 5th of this month. Earlier in the morning, the new landlord had let me know that there were a few minor things that needed to be finished, one being that the place was a little dusty. A little dusty was an understatement. Dust was everywhere: the walls, the doors and on the ground almost a foot high! He forgot to mention that my house was missing a few windows and the doors couldn't lock. Oh and my shower leaks so I shouldn't turn it on.
I just laughed. What else could I do? At least he was very accommodating. His brother provided me security during the night and brought me water to shower with both last night and this morning. His mom brought me breakfast and best of all guys were there working on things when I left this morning.
I don't think it will be finished by the time I get home today. It will probably take a week for my apartment to look like a home and probably until around March for the compound to look livable.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hope for Wisdom

I've been using the book Hope for Everyday Living by Criswell Freeman as a nightly devotional. Last night I was reading and a couple of statements struck me.
"To become wise, we must seek God's wisdom- the wisdom of hope- and we must live according to God's Word. To become wise, we must seek God's guidance with consistency and purpose. To become wise, we must no only learn the lessons of life, we must live by them."
It seems that part of being wise is having hope. Earlier the reading read: "Wisdom and hope are traveling companions. Wise men and women learn to think optimistically about their lives, their futures, and their faith. The pessimists, however, are not so fortunate; the choose instead to focus their thoughts and energies on faultfinding, criticizing and complaining, with precious little to show for their efforts."
This brings me back to yesterday's thoughts on hope and knowing that I tend to lean more toward the pessimistic side. I really don't want to be a critical and complaining person. Maybe one of my resolutions for this year needs to be to work on being more positive. I need to work on thinking more positively (hope) and being mindful to speak more positively.
In searching for wisdom, I have to remember that the best place to go is the Bible, not to any other source or person. It is the best teacher on how to handle every situation.
I really like the sentence above: "To become wise, we must not only learn the lessons of life, we must live by them."
I've learned some really hard lessons in life, some more difficult than others. It would do me no good to have lived through those experiences and to have learned nothing from them. Stupider still, would be to live through those experiences, learn from the, but to not apply the lessons learned to my life. To not apply the lessons learned would mean I would most likely keep repeating the same mistakes. Therefore, would I really have previously learned the lesson or not? I guess that is where wisdom comes in. A wise person learns the lesson and lives by it.

Friday, January 2, 2009


I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6
Waiting on the Lord. Putting my hope in Him and His Word. I'm not very good at these two things.
I don't like waiting. I grow impatient. I want to take matters into my own hands, "fix" things for myself.
Hope is difficult for me. I'm usually a bit pessimistic, telling myself that I'm just preparing myself for any outcome of the situation. This usually means that I'm preparing and therefore expecting the worst. I think what it boils down to is that I fear being hurt or disappointed.
Right now I'm still waiting for my work permit. I"m frustrated. I don't feel very hopeful. I'm expecting the worst.
I know these are areas in my life that need some working on.
God, please help me to work on them. Help me to wait patiently. Help me to keep my hope and trust in you.