Geelong to Uganda

Geelong to Uganda
Google image of trip from Geelong (my home) in Australia to Karamoja, Uganda!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Karamoja at last!

I have arrived in Karamoja and wow what a place! I cannot even try to describe because I know I will not do it justice. So you will have to just come here and check it out for yourself haha
Ok so I'll try, and will post photos later too which should help but forgive me if it's too much info for you, I can't believe I've only been here a week, so much has happened :)

So I was in the capital city called Kampala from Thurs 22nd till Mon 26th first staying with an English missionary couple, then in a Guest House (like a B&B) with a group of 4 lovely and hilarious Americans; Michelle (a vet), Oscar, Paul & Ron (builders). We were meant to travel up here to Karamoja on the Monday but we missed the bus because it actually left at 4am not 6am as we thought! So we stayed one more day in the capital and then got up so so so early the following morning to ensure that we wouldn't miss it and as it was we didn't end up taking the bus we had planned to because the one that goes direct to Karamoja had broken down yesterday (the day we were meant to be on it! So thank God he is control not us, otherwise we would have been really stuck!).

So we hopped on one that took us halfway and then hired a minibus to take us the rest of the way. Such a typical African experience actually; what you expect to happen won't and what you don't expect to happen will.
So we finally arrived in Karamoja on Tuesday just in time for lunch!!! Lunch is always poscho (white potato-like food but more flour-ey) and beans and if we're lucky cabbage too (it all actually tastes better than it sounds, promise). Where we are in Karamoja is called Nabilituk to be more exact, in the south and so we arrived after a very very bumpy and fast 8 hours (the bus was flying along on the worst roads you can imagine, I think the drivers in Uganda may be the best in the world considering the vehicles they drive in the conditions they drive!) :) It is so hot here, imagine the hottest day you can in Aus and you got it, the sun gets to the intensity that is does at home only from maybe 1-3pm ‘though, but hot and dry.

Ok, so the people: typical traditional Ugandan clothing for the men looks similar to what people might wear if they are going to a toga party, all the time, with no undergarments on, plus add a stick, a hat with a feather in it if they are looking for a wife or a hat with no feather if they are not. They do not wear shoes either; even in the bush where there are thorns the size of a sewing needle (they can puncture tires!) This no shoes business is something I'd love to do but my poor pansy feet don't standup to the ground here. Today a group of us were sitting away from the main area in town just observing the culture and I saw the cutest little girl, maybe 3 years old walking/waddling across the street to be with some other kids and none of them had shoes they were just chilling out on the side of the street, which is what most people do here!
Sitting down in the town today we chose a semi-conspicuous place because whenever we go out of our set area (which I'll call home for the rest of the year - called a compound), we draw a crowd, literally people swarm all over us and the whole town turns to look at our strange-coloured skin. We wanted to watch, not be the ones being watched- we achieved this to a degree but we still had people staring at us for most of the time we where there and I had a beautiful little Karamojan boy come and sit next to me to work out what I was doing. I have learnt a few phrases and words in the past 2 days so I can say a few fun things to talk to the locals here for about 5 seconds and then we just stare at each other waiting for something to happen ha ha. It is so nice to see the smile on their faces when they see us talking to them in their language, and man is their language hard to learn! The words themselves are very complicated and hard to pronounce but I'm loving the challenge.

Ok so now to the animals (again see photos) but I must mention their sheep! They are nothing like the sheep I have ever seen before! The only way I can tell the difference between a sheep and a goat here is that the sheep have a down-turned tail and the goat's tail points up. The cows are gorgeous and tiny! Typically an adult weighs only 200 kg and is so calm and docile (again nothing like most cattle I've been around) and they look completely different to what I know. Think a small Brahman (actually the breed is called Zulu) with the hump like a camel on their backs and you get close to imagining them.
Yesterday was the coolest day because us vets (I get counted in this group which is part of what is cool!) went out to a monthly event where the organisation that Dr Jean started up 10-15yrs ago, KACHEP, spray the local Karamojan's cows, sheep or goats for free, against ticks, and the dogs and cats get vaccinated against rabies (this was Michelle's job yesterday as she is a small animal vet in Florida and loves it). As well as this Jean treats any sick animals for a low cost (just to cover the medicine) at the same time. There is also a vet from Germany, Karina, also staying here with her husband Simon (a theologian) who may possibly join the mission team here fulltime. Karina and myself got to be Jean for the morning and we'd receive sick cows into our office (under a shady tree) and we'd gather a history (name, signalment, symptoms, any treatment yet, etc) then do a physical exam from head to toe (TPR, check nose, mouth-mm & ageing, ears-very imp. for tick check, skin, feet- foot rot, around the udder/pisel, etc.) Almost every case was tick related which was cool because I have never had much to do with these little ectoparasites before and so learnt a lot! Then at around 12pm all of us and all the Karamojan men who had brought their animals along sat under the tree (around 30 of us including some shocked kids to see so many whites around) and we heard from Tom (Jean's husband) a story from the bible! Michelle, Karina, Simon and myself got up first and explained who we were with our Karamojan friend Joseph translating. Tom first asked the people if they had heard of the name Jesus Christ and some said yes, some no and the men that said yes said he was the son of God, born of virgin Mary and did miracles. Tom then said that Jesus has another name, the son of David. Then he told the story of David and Goliath and how little David as a boy defeated the giant Goliath through the power of God because he trusted that God would bring him victory, even over such an opponent that all the other men feared. He likened the story to the raids that the Karamojan people often have that cause fighting in their land. Then he said that Jesus was also victorious just like David. That he had victory over sin and death by dying on the cross and like David it didn't look like he would win because Jesus died, but Jesus proved his victory by being raised from the dead three days later. Then (this was such a cool part) Tom asked if they had any questions and one of the men (he talked a lot so I think he may have been the tribe leader) said "this is a true story so we have no questions, if we thought it was not true we would have questions, but we do not."

Such a great morning, I got to treat beautiful animals, talk to wonderful Karamojans and listen to the gospel being told in a way that these people can understand.
Another cool vet moment was in the afternoon we walked to a nearby manyata (small village of straw huts enclosed with a fence to protect their animal on the inside) and looked at a steer that had been attacked by a hyena last week. It was pretty bad, the abdominus rectus was all hard and granulomatous and there was some other gross things that I will not mention to save the non-vet readers, but ask me when I return more info if you'd like :) We will do surgery on it tomorrow to try and help. It was interesting to see the care, love and devotion this Karamojan boy, of maybe 17, had for this animal. Jean says well he is Karamojan and left it at that and I really see more now how real this ministry of reaching people with the gospel through treating their animals is. God is working powerfully here in this most different of places and I am learning so much.

I will leave it there and will try to post next week, I can hardly believe it has only been a week since I left Aus!

Please pray that I can continue to keep up my personal Bible reading and prayer time here in the busyness of life here (even though Africans take life slowly here we do not)
Also, that I can have strength and energy in this hot weather and working hard in it.
That I can pick up the language even more and be able to roll my r’s J
That the Karamojan people here would see God’s love through the mission work here and that I would be able to soon talk to them about Jesus myself.
Thank God for providing translators for us who cannot yet speak the language.

All my love, Mel

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Kampala the capital - a place of western influence and crazy driving!

I have spent the last couple of days deep in coversations with many different people and that seems to be the way it is here, rather than going and doing something, you just sit down and chat. I have been loving getting so many insights from the people I've chatted to about what life is like here.
For example Jean who I spent Friday with told me many things about what she has learnt about Uganda in only the three years they've lived here working for Pioneers International as a support team for full-time missionaries here. Such as:

God seems more tangible here; you think and pray to him constantly and consider him more than you do at home, e.g just driving around here is so dangerous and chaotic, vehicles everywhere and no-one obeys road rules it's so crazy (and I have been to Vietnam so that is saying something! haha) anyway so you arrive at a location and wonder how you survived- how did I get here, and they can sense God's hand at work in everything.

Corruption here that trickles down from high up in authority to doctors in hospitals to people on the street makes it so hard for the Ugadan people to make a life for themselves. Even the people who graduate from the Uni here in Kampala cannot get work because there is just no jobs. It is not what you know but who.

It can also be hard to make good friendships here with the locals because, where we would come from a culture that is to generally trust others until they disappoint you, then you are a bit wary until the prove their trustworthiness. The people here distrust until you prove yourself trustworthy.

As I meet more and more Ugandans I am struck by the way they live, only for today.
There are also many many underlying cultural things that you wouldn't understand unless a Ugandan told you, e.g. if a girl hasn't had a baby by the time she is 20 she is thought to have something wrong with her and so she goes out and seeks this so that she will not be looked down upon.

All in all, I am having a good time for the short while I have been here, the climate is very similar to the Australian summer and I have found the Ugandan people very warm and friendly! It will all be very different i think however when I head north to Karamajong. When I tell Ugandan people here that is where I am going, they say things like why on earth would you want to go there! It's so far away and they don't have anything there! It would be better to stay here in the city! But then I tell them what I am doing and that I think I may even prefer the country and they still look at me like I am an alie, haha well I don't mind I guess I am an alien really ;)

Anyway, things are very vague here in terms of planning, even for the westerners here they can't really plan much beyond the day or the next so I'll update you in that fashion and as things happen.

Oh you may have wondered why I wrote a place of western influence, well in many ways this place is truly African in stereotype but I was surprised when I got here to see how western/american-like everyone is dressed! And they have this mindset that anything western/white is good, down to the tv shows they watch here, a lot of it is actually rubbish!

Cannot wait to be heading to the country on Monday to see the wide open spaces and all the stars in their glory without the city lights to hide them!

Love Mel

Thursday, 22 March 2012

I'm in Uganda yay! The start of a journey.

Hi everyone! Just wanted to say that although it took long enough, and I think I watched like 10 movies as well as became good travel buddies with an English girl who was heading home, I finally got here and saw some VERY TRULY African things (e.g. large loads carried on heads, crazy traffic, masses of people in fantastic side-street markets & just people hanging around outside shack shop thingos, etc.). Also, I was the only white person (muzungu) it seemed in the whole place! So I got stared at a lot while in the taxi (will have to get used to this, was very weird for the first little bit - thought I had something on my face or something) but yes I made it safe to the missionaries house in Kampala that I am staying with only for a short while before I head to Karamoja on Monday or so :) Tomorrow I hope to be touring around Uganda's capital city, Kampala with Roger & Jean Tripp (the missionary here in the city not Jean Reed the vet) taking it easy and will catch up with some Americans on Saturday to maybe do some animal park sightseeing or white water rafting on the weekend!
Going to sleep now, will write again soon.
But am very healthy and happy :)
Love, Melissa

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

This is it!!!

I am about to head to the airport with my family :)
I will post as soon as I can when I get to Uganda
Love Mel

Monday, 19 March 2012

So close

The last of my preparations are drawing to a close. There are 30 hours remaining before I head to the airport and I am so excited. It is finally here!

The weekend just past was my long awaited cross-cultural course with MIST (Missions Interlink Short-term Training) where the mix of practical and theoretical learning, as well as meeting mission-minded people, strong in their faith and passionate about sharing the gospel throughout the world, wise about there own experiences, enthused me for my trip ahead and helped me to focus and gain perspective for who this year is about. God our Father, who loves us more than we can imagine by sending us Jesus.

It was in Adelaide (a beautiful state) and started off perfectly by being able to have lunch with a friend I met at NTE (Hayley Walker) in China town on Friday. Then off to my billets for the weekend, a missionary couple from Indonesia. Saturday morning rose early to Nepali sweet beans for breaky (yumm) and met another course-goer named Kelly. She is 20 and going to Tanzania for 5 months (this is just below Uganda) and we got on immediately finding out that we are very similar in how we are going and feeling and our humour too. If you're reading this Kelly I hope you got to Sth Africa safely :)
Then onto our first morning at MIST, met altogether at around 8am and the group of us (23 course-goers) got to know each other by asking four questions (1. Name, 2. Birthplace, 3.If you could be an Olympian what sport would you do?, 4. Where are you going on mission?).
The places of mission ranged from Africa (Sth Sudan, Uganda -me- and Tanzania), Cambodia, Indo, Thailand & PNG.
Getting straight into the learning we talked about what is mission, how do you define it? and stting in groups we brainstormed words that we link to mission: service, evangelism, outreach, compassion, ministr, growth, homesick, excitement, stress, sorrows, joy, purpose, perspective, faith, love, overseas (?), confrontation, hope, challenge, culture, Jesus, change, doubt, disappointment, poverty, commitment, tolerance, sharing, learning, gospel, relationships, justice, holistic, respect, etc.

Then we had to shorten down that list to only 4 words! We came up with Jesus, Compassion, Service and Love.

Then we talked about God's heart for mission and for people to know his glory and where in the Bible mission is talked about (all over the place!/everywhere)

"Whatever you are expecting to happen will not and whatever you are not expecting to happen will", "Pray before you panic" and "go fully qualified to serve, but fully prepared to pick up paperclips" were three memorable quotes for the weekend.

Getting into the practical side of cross-culture we (women) served tea and biscuits for morning tea dressed in a burka (not easy I kept tripping over the bottom of it!) to the men also dressed in various cultural dress from different parts of the world. This was fun and certainly an experience.

We then looked at "being in another culture" and the adjustments we will haveto make and learnt about the 'honour/shame' culture. Basically it was good to be reminded that if something unexpected happens it may be simply that there is a cultural difference that you have not understood so always be humble, flexible and teachable, willing to try to understand new things each day.

For lunch the Africa-going crew went out to a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurat and agreed to allow the MIST facilitator (Lorelei, a wonderful, well travelled missionary woman and now friend) to buy us unknown food and we would just eat first and ask questions later. So we ended up having a jolly old time eating away, lively conversation and enjoying each others company finding out after that the food we enjoyed so much was crocodile, jellyfish, fishlips, beef tendons, shark fin and softshelled crab (looked like a deepfried huntsman) - all with rice :)
For dinner we all went to an Ethiopian restaurant and the traditional had injera and wot for tea(yummmy) and afterwards stepped back into Aussie culture for St Patties Day party at the Fringe Festival on the streets of Adelaide! An amazing day!!!

On Sunday we met early again and shared in Communion (breaking bread and grapejuice, as symbols of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for us) together before the Church service but again it was with a cultural twist, sitting on the floor we were led through it by Barry Lock, a missionary who had been in Pakistan for 13 years, and so it aimed to be similar to what Communion would be like if we were in Pakistan :) 

After the church service (the church we were at for MIST is in a very multi-cultural area of Adelaide so again we got to share in cross-cultural activities/experiences) we continued on with the theoretical learning covering topics such as: communication, expectations & scenarios of what we might go through (if x happens what will you do/feel, etc.), handling cross-cultural conflict, culture shock, reverse culture shock (on return), re-entry (strategies to help adjust back to western culture) and packing/useful things/necessities, etc.

At the end of the course we sad somewhat sad goodbyes, we had all become suprisingly close after knowing each other for only a short time! But a few of us went to the beach while I waited for my flight back to Melb and had dinner together and prayed for each other. It was a very special weekend and a perfect one to end on as I prepare to leave my beloved Australia for another culture and what I am sure will become my beloved Uganda.

Please pray:
That I and all the other missionaries from MIST will continue to reflect on what I learnt at MIST.
That I will be able to say sufficient good-byes to the many people I am leaving here and not be too sad as I think ahead of the experiences God is about to show me.
That I would constantly be reflecting on God's grace and goodness and glory.
That I would pray first, before anything else and be steeped in God's word as I go out.
That I would be bold as I step out in faith and that God would protect me and use me to show others his character of love, mercy and grace, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Love Mel