Weebale my friends.

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Thanks a million!!

 

Oli otya, How are you?

I can’t believe it is here. The last morning sitting in my favorite spot, the city still mostly quiet except for those early rising roosters, watching the sun begin to peek through the clouds on the east horizon. It is cool again this morning, the blessing that comes after rain in this gorgeous part of the world.

I will keep the blog up for a few weeks and then it will quietly disappear. Thanks to those that have been following. Have you learned a bit about Uganda by looking through my eyes? Could you see my heart for the people I love here?

Now I can’t believe I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face, Oh, yes I can. Just ask my family. It was two years ago when this process began,. Thanks to my dear friend, Patrick, who wrote the letter of invitation starting the process to receive sabbatical, He has provided the apartment while here and I am  forever grateful. I am indebted to my dear friends and colleagues, Tom and Stephanie, for covering for me at the university. I have missed them and will be ready to get back on the team.They are treasures!

Thanks to Carly, Timba and Ceasar for putting up with me, traveling with me and making me feel wanted and loved  over so many weeks. The conversations, meals and laughter are imprinted on my heart! You are all amazing, talented young people and I wish God’s best for all of you!

I still have work to do, projects and papers to finish, reports to write, but they will come in due time. I have done my very best to NEVER TAKE FOR GRANTED each beautiful and precious day I have had here. I am so blessed. Let me close with some of my favorite pictures.

Weebale. Thank you!

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NIna – you will be missed in Uganda but Texas will love you!

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The children of the Rwenzoris.

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The children of Kikandwa

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Ceasar at his finest – helping a tiny one get her water.

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I had to include a couple of safari pics so you would know I saw more than the leopard.

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Look very carefully at his feet.. sorry the croc is a bit blurry.

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No better way to close my blog than with a hug…

 

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Ceasar.Max.Genevieve.

It is a rare cool windy late afternoon here in Uganda. The sky is gray and the clouds are moving quickly across the sky. My time in Uganda is almost over and with it the blogs. Only two remain, today’s I have reserved for three more very special people that have each played a role in my life.

Ceasar

Ceasar

Let me begin with Ceasar. He has been my driver. But that comes no where to a complete description. He has also been my bodyguard, Luganda language instructor, grocery cart driver, bookbag carrier and more than anything else, my friend! We have laughed over many meals at our favorite restaurant, Cafe Java and had great conversations about life along the roads of Uganda. We have enjoyed pampering at Sparkles and he has patiently listened to me whine about city traffic. Thanks for keeping me safe, getting me places on time, waiting for me when needed and being a bright light during my weeks here! You are amazing!!

Max

Max

Next is Max. Max is the gate keeper. I can’t imagine a job waiting for someone to arrive at the gate but he has made me feel safe as I come and go from this apartment. Thanks for the constant smile and the trust and safety I feel with you downstairs.

Genevieve

Genevieve

Last but not least, is Genevieve. She is our housekeeper. What a joy it has been to come home to a clean house with today’s laundry on the line and yesterday’s ironed and put away. A few days I have been home when she has come to clean and we have had the most fascinating conversations. She is a woman of strong faith and often can be heard singing gospel songs as she cleans. Thanks for making my life so much simpler!

Francis & Beckham

Today I was in Kikandwa once again. Several years ago we met this precious little boy named Beckham. A busy rural road is all that separates his little home from KIkandwa Health Center. He and his mother often attend the events we have been part of over the years.

It was a big day for me today. Beckham finally met one of the people I most respect and admire in Uganda, Francis Kamuhanda. Let me first tell you a bit about Francis. He is not a high level government official or powerful wealthy entrepreneur but I think he is one of the most amazing people I know in this beautiful land. He is the headmaster of a primary school called Sure Prospects. He has a unique sustainable model of engaging and integrating children with special needs with those without. When I asked him this morning how many were at his primary school this term the answer was 530. Of that number, 180 have special needs such as blind, deaf, missing limbs, Down Syndrome, Autism and more. Here is what is so special about this school. Often in Uganda, there is stigma attached to those with special needs, indeed even at times, it is a death sentence. They are often hid away or put in institutions. At his school you do not find that at all. All the teachers and children learn sign language, they assist each other, laugh together, play together. It is beautiful to see.  So I was thrilled to ride with Francis this morning to Kikandwa to meet Beckham.

This beautiful boy is the ninth in his family and his mother is struggling to raise him alone after his father left them. Beckham has a contagious smile and captivating giggle but has significant special needs. When I asked Francis to travel with me, he obliged and brought a teacher with him. They spent some time with Beckham, evaluating him, playing with him. The tender way Francis interacted with Beckham brought tears to my eyes. You see, I expected that of my friend, Francis, and he did not let me down. Francis says the first thing he needs is an eye exam and perhaps glasses from Mengo Hospital. Then a visit to an orthopedic specialist near Entebbe will be in order. Beckham’s mother will be taught to help him to walk and complete other small tasks. My hope and dream and prayer is that one day very soon he will be ready for just the right school, hopefully Sure Prospects.

 

Beckham, Francis & Beckham's mom

Beckham, Francis & Beckham’s mom

 

Francis & Beckham

Francis & Beckham

Sunday Stovetop Snacks.

Two blogs in one day. Impressive. I just could not wait to show you what I made on this lazy Sunday afternoon.

You may recall that the oven is not functioning and using a gas stove has been quite the learning experience. But today I attempted making cookies on the stove top. Thanks to my sister-in-law Susan for introducing me years ago to baking cake mix cookies. We had a cake mix imported from the US so why not try?

Carly and Timba say they are good. Timba had his with blue icing icing. I must agree they turned out pretty nicely. It really was quite simple. So the next time you find yourself on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a cake mix, 2 eggs and 1/3 cup cooking oil and only a gas stove top for cooking, I highly recommend!

Enjoy!

Cookies1Cookies2Cookies3

 

Potholes and Progress.

Sorry that I have been off the grid a couple of days, but I am back. Yesterday we were back in the village again. Carly and Sandra launched their NGO!!! More about that tomorrow.

The 1 ½ hour drive each way gives me time to ponder…

Potholes… It is pothole season back home. After the freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw over the months of winter those annoying holes just seem to appear.  They begin innocently enough but can seemingly grow overnight into craters. By the time I return home, the attack to fill them will have commenced. Now they say there are sometimes potholes that can swallow a small car but I don’t ever remember being a witness to that spectacle, at home.

But here… well I will close with some pictures today telling the story. But in the meantime, let me explain a bit more. Most are not actually potholes in the traditional sense we think of at home but rather a creeping erosion from the edges aided by the torrential rains. Sometimes it is to the point the tarmac (asphalt to my American friends) is gone and what remains is the red clay soil. You can be so innocently heading down the road at 80kph and then the brakes squeal at the sight of red soil just around the bend.

But first, let me remind you of all that manages to share Ugandan roads; cars, of course, 14-passenger ‘taxis’ often loaded with twenty or more, huge intra-country buses, lorries, cattle trucks, smaller pickups and the incredible number of massive petrol carriers. Just beginning the list….  also, there are boda-bodas, (small transport motorcycles), bikes, people, cows, goats, dogs, wandering chicken and yes, in places, lazy baboons. No wonder I don’t drive here and admire the drivers that do so. Other than the fact that they drive on the left side of the road, I am certain the first time behind the wheel one of the above would meet its demise.

Oh, but the real fun is… construction… The road between here and Kikandwa is under construction and seems to have been for years. The highlight when you delay are the entrepreneurial men and women dressed in pink lab coats running for your vehicle laden with muchomo, fried bananas, g-nuts and assorted drinks. It is so hard to explain construction with my words. So I will end with pictures as they tell it much better than I ever could.

The potholes!

The potholes!

The cattle trucks.

The cattle trucks!

Construction

Construction

Construction

Construction

and more construction.

and more construction.

The baboon.

The baboon.

and of course, the snacks as you wait!

and of course, the snacks as you wait!

 

Here Kitty Kitty.

Oh my goodness! Guess what I saw last week? I can’t believe I have not told you!

I have been on about twenty safaris. Some time ago I lost count. I have been on safari in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. I have sat mesmerized as a lion killed and dined with her son on a kob (small antelope), watched a hyena saunter past the front left bumper of our safari van. I have admired giraffes, zebras, and even visited a white rhino sanctuary.  I have been witness to the thievery of baboons and even blushed at the sight of mating elephants. I have been in awe of massive hippos and elusive crocodiles at the great Nile waters’ edge but not quite seen it all…. Until last week.

Now, for the benefit of my Drake colleagues traveling with me to this beautiful land who have heard me whine over the years about this failure, my retort was always, if this happens, I need never return! I thought I could take for granted it would NEVER happen. Even when taking students on safari, my quip was, “Don’t ride in my safari van if you want to see a…… leopard!” You see others had been on the same safari in other vans and viewed this most magnificent but secretive feline but not me.

But it happened this year! Now Murchison Falls National Park is by far my favorite spot for safari and we were at Queen Elizabeth National Park so it will now have  a special place in my memory! Not only did I see the beautiful cat up very close, not three feet from it on another limb of the tree was its dinner, a freshly caught dead kob. He must have been taking a late afternoon nap before a late evening dinner.

I will close by letting pictures tell the rest of the story. Oh, and to my friends and family, I will hopefully once more be back!!!

Leopard3Leopard1Leopard2

Tick.Tock.Time……

So today I had two meetings that did not happen. They were scheduled – or so I thought. Not sure why the miscommunication. I won’t go into the details as to when or with whom. That is not important to my conversation. Why does it bother me when that happens? One of the things I like most about Uganda is the slower pace and lack of obsession with the time of day. Without their cell phones most Ugandans just might not know the exact time but would have a relative idea.

That is okay as the day is planned by events not timetables. Let me explain what I mean. If a meeting is scheduled for ten that means sometime in the morning. Terms are used such as midday or late day. Now I think midday should be high noon – but not necessarily so. And late day – no idea exactly when that might be. Remember the saying “to be on time is ten minutes early”?  Not so much.

Please do not get me wrong. After fourteen trips I absolutely realize it is the culture and I accept that… except when I happens to me… So let me ponder why….

Traffic – unpredictable to put it mildly. Now that school is back in session the traffic in the city has multiplied. Jams are common. I am used to getting across town in twenty minutes back home with little variation except in bad weather or after an accident. Parents may travel quite a distance to drop off and pick up a child which compounds their already complicated schedules.

Rain – everything grinds to a halt until the cloud burst passes.

That explains late but still doesn’t account for ‘not at all’. I have learned that simply it is the way it is. Now I have some colleagues that have adopted the idea of schedules, confirmations and punctuality. But they just may be the exception.

So to my very esteemed colleagues, I adore you and please bear with me when my culture bumps head on with yours. I really am trying. I must know what not to take for granted.