Who shall dwell there?

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O Lord, who shall dwell in your tabernacle?

Who shall live in your holy mountain?

He who walks blamelessly, and works righteousness,

And speaks truth in his heart,

Who does not deceive with his tongue,

Neither does evil to his neighbor;

And does not find fault with those nearest him.

He disdains those who do evil in his presence,

But he holds in honor those who fear the Lord;

He swears an oath to his neighbor and does not set it aside.

He does not lend his money at interest,

And he does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be shaken.

Psalm 14 (LXX)

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By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:35

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And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lost heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6

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And the King will answer them and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25

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For the Lord God will help Me;

Therefore I will not be disgraced;

Therefore I have set My face like a flint,

And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Isaiah 50

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Some Scriptures which have been on the mind because of various lessons and readings and thoughts.

 

Obligatory Kyambogo Post

About a week or two ago I visited my friend Leah’s alma mater, Kyambogo University, as Leah was returning to apply for a position there. I liked it so much better (or just in a different way?) than Makerere University, which is the university that I live close to. Makerere has more of a reputation for being more western in its attitude and culture, whereas Kyambogo has a reputation of being a “humble” place. (Interesting that it’s a contrast between being western/American and humble). Anywho there were more people visibly studying at Kyambogo and it was way quieter than Makerere. It seemed I was the only mzungu to ever step onto the Kyambogo campus, whereas at Makerere there are almost always some visiting white folks. Just some shallow differences between the two schools. 

Being the only mzungu around increased my hesitation to take part in a photo shoot with a statue that Leah thought was a really good idea. Sometimes you don’t want to give people more reasons to stare at you, so I ended up just being the photographer. 

  

We’ve been alternating with being way too busy and not having much going on, but mostly I’ve been working at Wakisa ministries doing Bible studies and generally being friends with the girls living there and working with some students at Makerere to educate folks about abortion (what it is, what it does, how we can prevent it, how we can support women who are considering it or have already chosen it, etc.). 

In the midst of that my mom is visiting for two weeks! She came on a flight with Tara, a girl who’s staying with us for two months while ministering to the Sweazy fam. 

While my mom is here I’ll be showing her my haunts, involving her in the ministry we’re doing, introducing her to all my friends, and spending time just with her and the church here. It’s SO encouraging to have her here on this continent, in this country, in my house!  

  

    
    
   

Questionable things I’ve done in the past couple of weeks

 
1) let 5-8 year olds play with my hair 

 

2) slept without a mosquito net

3) attempted to talk American politics (code for Trump and Clinton) with Ugandans

4) ridden a boda home with a tank of propane between me and the driver

5) drank water out of a plastic bag of unknown origin


6) ordered 18 rolexes from a one-man stand (I taught everyone else in the line patience)

7) opened a drawer in my new house labeled “do not open”

8) eaten basically only street food (code for meat and fried things) for a day and a half straight

Obviously I like to live on the wild side. 

Elections!

Some people back home have been snowed in this winter. Here in Kampala, us bazungu are electioned-in. Since I came here campaigning has been happening all over the place: there have been motorcades of boda bodas doing tricks and taxis filled with people hanging out of windows waving flags. There have been people driving trucks with loudspeakers either announcing a candidate’s speech or playing pop music obnoxiously loudly (getting stuck behind one of these in a jam is something that you couldn’t wish on anybody, though hopefully we’re not in the habit of wishing bad things on anyone, right?). 

Every local human I’ve talked with has totally agreed when I tell them we decided to stay home the week of the elections. A lot of people here don’t even really go out during elections. So we’re chilling here. 

Except Heidi and I went out on Monday to visit some friends at RUHU in Nakuwadde, a village just outside Kampala. After hanging out with the kids at RUHU and having lunch with our friend Allen, we passed through Wandegeya, a busy area of town with a ton of traffic, in order to switch taxis on our way home. Apparently that day there were some riots in Wandegeya, and we just missed them. It had something to do with the campaign of one of the candidates running against President Museveni, who’s been in power 30 years. Heidi and I missed out on the rubber bullets and teargas, and were finally fully convinced that we should just mind our business at home this week. 

Which means that we’re making rugs out of old T-shirts, cooking delicious food (chocolate chip cookies, paneer, and shoe fly pie), reading, sitting in the sun, watching documentaries (one about Idi Amin, another called The True Cost which is about the fashion industry and convinced me there are even fewer places I can now shop for clothes because sweatshops and the earth), and prepping to move to another part of town in about two weeks. I keep thinking of it as our confinement, as if those of us living in this house are collectively a pregnant woman from the 18th century. 

People go to the polls Thursday (which is today, since I’m posting this when I should be sleeping). Please pray with us for safe elections (and safe post-elections), and for God’s will to be done in all this. In the meantime I’ll be making the most of some homebody time.   

 
   

Birthdays

 
Birthdays are nice things. I spent the first day of my life as a 19 year old rather typically for here: I left late to go to Wakisa (crisis pregnancy center), co-led a Bible study with the marvelous Heidi and hung out with the girls there. During lunch we went to a restaurant we frequent (it’s called Pizza Corner, and they really do sell real pizza, though we’ve yet to try it) in order to see a lady who works there who we’ve been getting to know. Alas, she wasn’t there, so we spent the rest of lunch walking around the market streets of Kampala looking for decently sized crochet hooks. I’d never seen anything like these streets until I came here. There are three or four story buildings just stuffed with shops which are overflowing with everything you can imagine: sponges, stationary, tools, clothes, shoes (and more shoes), brooms, toys (including creepy wind-up ones), food, cleaning supplies, pots and pans, and who knows what else. One of the streets we went down was so narrow and crowded with things that there was only room for a single car to get through the jam, and then once it did get through it would have to wait because other cars would be stopped ahead loading and unloading more stuff to be stuffed into the shops. 

After wading through all this (it had rained that morning, so it was muddy), we finally found crochet hooks that weren’t incredibly tiny. Success. The reason I’m buying crochet hooks in Uganda is that I’m teaching the girls at Wakisa to make things out of recycled plastic bags (caveras). And when I say teaching, I mean enabling, because when I brought my own project (I’m working on crocheting a mat out of plastic bags) some of them were fascinated by it, asked if they could work on it, and ran with it. Now that we have more crochet hooks, more girls can do that sort of thing if they have the inclination and want to try. 

I came home from Wakisa on my birthday to drawings and cards from Ava, Bo, and their cousins Hannah, Joey, and Gabriel (who are visiting). There were also balloons, and sweet messages from my family and friends which really were so so special. Thank you to everyone who said happy birthday! 

The day ended with peanut butter and banana chapati (delicious) and games and skyping with the parents. I don’t quite feel older, but nineteen sounds to me like my days of sitting at the kids table are over (she typed as a single tear slid down her face).

Also, I got two presents. One was a huge jug of coconut oil from the Sweazys (yes I asked for that). The other was seeing this billboard. I never would have thought that a SIM card could come with a rosary/blessing, but there you go.   

  
 

Puppies, proposals, and babies

  
This is Lady, one of two puppies that Heidi and Natasha picked off the side of the road about a week ago. One morning I came out of my room and there were puppies, because Heidi and Natasha are great and would bring home random animals they find places. We’ve almost settled on Lady and Lester as the names, I think. They’ve given me many opportunities to use my designated cute thing voice. 

  

We’ve been pretty busy recently. Mondays and Tuesdays I’m volunteering at a clinic for teenagers at a state hospital (more on that and my counseling skills later), Wednesdays and Fridays we spend time at Wakisa ministries, the crisis pregnancy center I mentioned before, and were Thursday we travel 2-3 hours both ways to go to Sonrise Baby Home, which is basically a house full of toddlers and the aunties who take care of them (this place is wonderful, adorable, heartbreaking, and loud). Throw in church meetings, dinner with friends, travel time, and being a human who needs time to read and pray and be alone in a room from time to time and there’s a lot going on. 

But don’t worry, amidst all these activities I still have managed to keep up an active social life. Today I received an almost marriage proposal from a boda boda driver, which freaked me out and provided Mama Tendo with an opportunity to give me some life advice. I’m glad it only took me two months to think to ask how on earth you know you can trust the stranger whose motorcycle you’re getting on.

  

You are very heavy

After a brief stint in the states for Christmas (but really to run around like a crazy person seeing family and friends) I’m back in Uganda! While I was home I relished every minute of the cold weather we got–sledding with my cousins, driving with the windows down when it was around 35 outside. I drank lots of coffee, ate bagels, made an IKEA run, hugged a lot of people, and was able to actually process my past two months and learn about what my people have been doing with their lives. It was a good time, but the kind of good time that was just refreshing enough to get me excited to come back to Kampala and do some stuff.

Everyone is happy I’m back and has been super welcoming–the TSA left me a note in one of my bags telling me they’d searched it (and taste-tested the peanut butter cups I packed), the first time I hired a boda boda I was told matter-of-factly “you are very heavy,” and I don’t know how many people have greeted me by saying “you’ve been lost!” Well, now I’m found. Welcome back Elizabeth–or as they say here, “Well be back.”

Details (Or a post partially written out of shock at my lack of posts)

An actual update

So, while some of you may have been content with random musings about Kampala’s food and atmosphere and how I feel about not living at home, some of you are probably wondering “what on earth are you doing there?”

The whole first month consisted of figuring that out, and that has also stretched some into the second month, so that I alternate between feeling like so much has happened and like I’ve accomplished nothing.

As soon as we came in October, our contact who leads the outreach to the street boys in the Kisenyi slum left for a trip to America, and didn’t come back for almost a month and a half. So I’ve only been able to do that specific type of outreach once while I’ve been here. Then we started going to a school called Raising Up Hope for Uganda (RUHU) run by the same man who does the slum outreach. RUHU is a primary school (nursery classes up to roughly 5th grade) for the village/town of Nakuwadde in Bulenga (so it’s outside of Kampala proper), but it also functions as a home for mostly teenage boys and girls who are not able to live with their parents. Our work there was mostly dealing with intestinal parasites by giving the children deworming medicine and treating ringworm fungus on children’s heads. Before treatment, we would give each class a lesson on proper hygiene, and I would also give a little talk about how we are made in God’s image. If we’re all little pictures of God running around the earth, we are definitely special and worthy of being taken care of. And owe it to ourselves to take good care of ourselves as well. If the kids are able to carry out the hygiene piece of things, then they’ll be much less likely to get ringworm and parasites, but some of the things that it would be good for them to do are either impossible (always wash with soap) or against the culture of kids (don’t share with sick people, only use your own towel etc.). We’d like to keep going to RUHU some, to keep doing follow-up and to keep building relationships with the teachers and kids. We’ll see what we end up doing in the new year.

Also during that first month, we visited and started to apply to volunteer at a hospital in Naguru, which is (I think) in Kampala, but sort of on the outside. It’s a smallish hospital with an emergency room, a children’s ward, a maternity ward, and a general medical ward. There’s also a teenage center there, which is basically a place where teenagers can get free health care and counseling. They have free disease testing (HIV, TB, etc., and pregnancy tests too), and mental health counseling, and teens can come in and have a consult with a doctor about whatever might be going on with them. When I get back I’ll spend some time at this teenage center, hopefully being helpful in some way (I still have no idea how I got placed there—it’s kind of a long story), and maybe get a better idea of what life is like for teenagers here. Heidi and Wanda (my partners in crime/loving people) are going to be working more closely with patients in the hospital, since they both actually have medical training, unlike Miss Elizabeth who showed up to Africa with “no skills” as I was told by an official at the hospital.

One of the things that Heidi and Wanda and I wanted to work on was finding ways to support women who have unwanted pregnancies. Abortion is illegal in Uganda, but it’s still widespread. And because it’s illegal, it’s normally a pretty dangerous procedure, not only ending the life of the child, but endangering the health and well-being of the mother as well. We were basically trying to figure out how we could help women who don’t want to be pregnant to make it through their pregnancies. We’ve gone around some places and talked with different people and read papers and studies about the situation in Uganda. That’s actually how we ended up at the teenage center at first—we were trying to get information about teenage pregnancy, and ended up talking for around two hours with some of the workers there about pregnancy, circumcision, HIV, the nightlife industry, rape, human trafficking, and other things. That’s one of the nice things about Uganda: you can just show up somewhere unannounced, and often people will take time to talk with you and answer your questions.

Another time we just showed up somewhere and made a valuable contact was about a month ago, when we walked into a crisis pregnancy center in Kampala and asked about what they do and how we could help. This organization takes in girls from 10-18 who are pregnant and have nowhere to go (families kicked them out, they have no family, there’s not enough at home to take care of them, etc.). They take care of their antenatal visits and deliver costs, they feed them and teach them to cook. They teach them English. They teach them agriculture and candle making and sewing and knitting. They do Bible study with them. I’m going to be helping with some of these activities, mainly agriculture, English, and knitting, as well as helping out with office work. Most of the staff members aren’t very computer literate, so there’s a lot of admin work that piles up and takes longer than it needs to. Who knew I’d be working in an office in Uganda!

Not sure how coherent that is, but that’s a mini update on some of the work I’ve been involved with.k

Not an update

This is not an update per se. This is a “hi I’m still alive!” post. Because I am still alive (and kicking), but haven’t been writing very much. And if I haven’t been writing on my own, I have no idea how to collect my thoughts to write here. But I’m gathering steam to write a real meaty update about all that I’ve been doing and where I (we) are going with our work.

Peace,
-Elizabeth

P.S. This probably applies to maybe one person, but if you’ve tried to text or call me and haven’t reached me it’s because I got a Ugandan sim card. I decided to pretend like I’m living here and get a local number, but then I realized that no one back home has my Ugandan number and probably doesn’t want to text internationally anyways. So, if you need to contact me, Facebook or email it pleeeeease.

Rain

Right now it’s rainy season in Kampala. My Ugandan friends say that it’s not supposed to be rainy season this time of year, but nevertheless there’s rain pretty much every day. Today was especially spectacular. It came in droplets that hammered the tin roofs and made it so that conversations had to be carried out as shouting matches. The streets emptied for a while as people took cover. Everything kind of stops and doesn’t work once it starts raining. Apparently, it’s acceptable to say “I was late to work because of the rain.” My friend Rema was surprised to find that in Boston you can’t give that as a reason to be late for anything.

But the flooding can get pretty bad, especially in slum areas. We live on the top of one of Kampala’s hills, but if one lives at the bottom… It gets messy fast.

We were downtown when the rain started, and we couldn’t really leave until it stopped. When we came back home, Heidi and I stopped by Joseph and Rema’s house to visit. We were sitting on their porch, and Rema asked if we would like some African tea. Then Joseph comes out of the house with a little tray and two mugs on it and says, “in our culture, we do not ask.” They also fed us katogo, which is a mixture of beans and cassava stewed together. Katogo basically means “mixture,” so I think there are bunch of different variations of the dish (I really think this, not because of my own experience, but because I googled katogo and read the Wikipedia article about it when I was making sure that katogo was what I ate and not the word for rainboot or something. I really know what I’m talking about). In any case, katogo is delicious, and as Joseph said, “not mzungu food.” Then Rema walked with us to get rolexes (“lolexes”) from a stand nearby. That’s what’s in the bottom picture. They’re basically omelettes wrapped in chapati, and they blow my mind each time I have one.

Peace, Elizabeth.