Friday, September 25, 2009

My New Name

So last night, we were discussing clans and names and such at our home, and our family adopted us into the clan of the father, which is the clan children of the family belong to.

My name is Mubiru (Mu-bee-ru) and I belong to the Mmamba Clan.

*edit: there are 2 "m's" in mmamba. and in response to the questions about the meaning: best Drew and I can tell, individually they don't have any significant meaning other than identify which clan you belong too. Apparently, pretty much everyone here have all of the lists of names for each clan memorized, so if I was to walk up to a Muganda (anyone remember what that means?) and tell he or she my name, I would be instantly known as from the Mmamba Clan. Pretty sweet. The clan is passed down through the father, and you aren't allowed to marry inside your clan. Oh yeah, the Mmamba (in case anyone is interested) is a lungfish, so that's our totem or "symbol."*

Thursday, September 24, 2009

DAY 50!!!

Day 50. Ooph. That’s a long time. In fact, 36 days longer than I have ever been out of the country consecutively before. Q: Has it been hard not seeing your friends and family for that long? A: Oh yeah, at times…crazy hard. Q: Are you enjoying it, though? A: I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

I have found that I have had to go through this Q&A every once and awhile. It has been on this trip that I realize how much I value my relationships with you all back home. In fact, it’s a big deal to me whether I am growing with you all or not. It’s not just that I miss quoting Star Wars with Elliot & Grant, or throwing a disc around with some Fusion folk, or chilling with awesome people at ORU. I miss making mistakes with you all, I miss screwing up and talking about it, I miss finding this awesome verse and pouring over it with you guys. I miss having a core community that I follow Christ with.

Not to say that I don’t have some of that here. I love getting to discuss things through with my new friends and family here. And I definitely appreciate having Drew by my side to share struggles with and pour out with, but I don’t know, it’s not the same.

Ok, I’m good now. Thanks for letting me just let go of that.

I kinda wanted to talk about classes for a little bit. What all I am taking and what I am learning/struggling with in each of them specifically. So here we go!

Faith & Action: This class is essentially all encompassing of a North American (we have to throw in the North for the 2 Canadians in our group…) student’s experience in Uganda, Africa. How does it work? Basically we read a butt-load of reading, which can include but is not limited to: missions, studying in Africa, stereotypes, life, etc. Then we meet in class and talk about it. And when I say talk, what I mean to say is full-blown discuss it. And if the subject happens to be slightly controversial…well, lets just say thoughts are clearly expressed, and you better be able to support what you think. This class has been excellent so far and incredibly challenging. For the first time in quite awhile I have to really struggle with theological ideas and cultural ideas and not only come to some sort of conclusion about them but really look for supportive evidence, basically since Mr. Doyle’s Bible class (when we had to do those blog things on Ecclesiolae (sp?)…). Right now we are reading The Primal Vision by John Taylor, which talks about how Westerners treat Africa, and how we really should treat Africa both religiously and socially. I really like it, but it was written in the 50s, I think, so it’s been tough trying to find out how much has changed since then.

IMME Practicum: So this is pretty much like Faith & Action, but it only consists of the ME group (Missions Emphasis for those who are just now tuning in). Also, it pretty much just focuses in on the missions part, imagine that. Once again, massive discussions result from this class. Plus, since it’s a smaller group, we are able to circle up and look into each other’s faces…something about that just makes you want to debate more (oh wait, I’m supposed to use the word “discuss”). For instance, we recently read this article, “Karl Rahner’s Concept of ‘Anonymous Christians’: An Inclusivist View of Religions” by Norman Wong. Woah boy. It basically brought up the discussion of what salvation means and how we are saved, including this question: can non-Christians end up in heaven through their receiving the grace of Christ “without their realizing it[?]” (25). Let’s just say that was an intense “discussion.”

African Traditional Religions, Islam, & Christianity in Contemporary Uganda: Yeah, long name, we call it ATR for short. This class discusses how ATR, Islam, and Christianity are present in Uganda and their affects as well as their dialogue with each other. I really enjoy this class, not only does the professor put a lot of effort into it, but I’m learning so much about the culture and beginning to understand why people act the way they do here. For instance, there really is no discrepancy between actions and belief here. When someone does something or names something or says something…it’s very much influenced by and supports their belief. We have just begun to really dive into what ATR is and its different aspects throughout Uganda, and I’m really excited about it. I’ve been really thinking a lot lately about the language of myth and its importance in our life. Very cool stuff.

African Literature: Hands down, my favorite class. A) The teacher is absolutely hilarious and just plain enjoyable to be around. B) Once you get past the muzungu (white-man) bashing, the literature is incredible. So far we have just done poetry and a little bit of short stories, but the style is very unique to anything I have read before. The local culture just bleeds through their writing. You know how I was saying that there is no discrepancy between actions and belief earlier? Same is true with their literature. I really feel that I am learning the most about the culture through this class.

Survey of New Testament: So this is my only pure Ugandan class. The others consist of only North American students, but ATR and Lit have Ugandan profs. This course, however, is a gen ed here, so that means that Phil, Kelley, and I are the only USP (Uganda Studies Program) students in the class. I really enjoy the fact that we are immersed in an actual Ugandan class, and it is interesting to see how they learn and work, but the class itself is somewhat boring. I mean I’m learning a bit about NT history and such, and it’s forcing me to really study the NT which I enjoy, but I mean…it’s your basic gen ed…enough said.

So those are my classes. For the most part, I really enjoy them. They keep me pretty busy though. Each class comes with a huge reading packet, and often I have to check out books from the University Libraries. Apparently, the supposed idea is an average of 50 pages a week, but I have yet to read that little. Typically, I’m reading around 70-80. I definitely enjoy it though. It’s just a lot, and to be ready to discuss them all is a little rough and tiring.

As a side note, I encourage you all to read Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age by William Cavanaugh, maybe even just the Pilgrim section (pages 349-353). I have yet to read the rest, though I am certainly going to. It really encompasses what I have been feeling lately, this struggle between being a tourist: a consumer of experiences and sights individually or a pilgrim: one who engages in experiences and cultures communally. Very cool stuff, and something I’m really taking to heart.

Oh yeah, I’m also reading Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller right now, and though I haven’t really read anything “new” I am loving how vulnerable he is and just how he reveres this beautiful God of ours.

Hey, and don’t be afraid to comment…it’s kind of discouraging writing all of this and then not getting responses…so comment on Drew’s too…love you guys.

Well that’s quite enough for now. Thank you for your prayers. Peace be with you, my friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Photos of the House!

Hey all, I hope you enjoy some photos of the place where Drew and I currently live!

This is the front of the house, Drew is demonstrating how taking off your shoes before entering the house is a must.

The Front Door

They used to have a horse, and this is where it stayed, but I guess it died awhile back. Though this shack is no longer standing as it was torn apart in a massive storm we had a few days ago.

Rain-catcher. Pretty much the family's only source of water, though I've been told it has yet to run out.

Another shack in the back, which all sorts of things are stored, including wood for cooking.


Welcome to the toilets of Africa.

What you see here, is the classic basin, used for a wide-variety of things including washing clothes, bathing, and oh so much more. They are everywhere, and pretty much everyone uses them. Kinda like those white plastic chairs...

These are the 2 rooms directly behind our house, which our momma rents out. One of the tenants is a boda-boda driver (reckless motorcycle taxi).

Heh, our brother David knocking down some massive Jack Fruit (nastiest/smelliest fruit ever).

This is the little room designated for fire and cooking.

Kitchen table. Those flasks you see...they do a crazy awesome job at keeping water hot for a long period of time.

Kitchen running water, so that makes things interesting. Notice the green basin, told you they were used for everything.

The family cat, Max. He is ridiculous. Always scratching and biting your ankles...makes me miss my cat...a lot.

The Sitting Room. Notice the computer monitor...yeah, that's the tv. Horrendous soap operas are often playing on that thing at night.

No Mukono home is complete without a picture of the Kabaka (king for those who haven't been reading).

My bed, veiled in my life-saving/incredibly-annoying mosquito net.

Lastly, just for fun, I thought I would put up a picture of the back of our house in the middle of a crazy intense storm. Yes, the same one that demolished that horse shack.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Photos of the Family!

Hey guys, I just wanted to post some photos of the family, so you guys can see who I am living with! Unfortunately I just realized that I didn't have a very good photo of momma Harriet, so i'll have to post another of her later...

Drew and Momma Harriet at the Family Farm

Our cousin Lillian, she is 15 and in Secondary 1, though due to her father being sick and not being able to pay the full amount of school fees, she hasn't started yet and may not go at all this term.

This is Mark holding some Cocoa Beans! I'm not entirely sure how Mark is related but he is 6 and loves to play, especially with Drew.

Drew and our brother David, age 20 (i think), at the family farm. Apparently David has kind of been adopted into the family. He is going to a vocational school to learn to be a mechanic. He's pretty awesome and has been showing us around Mukono as well as teaching us how to do things like make Chapati (kind of like a tortilla)!

We have 2 other brothers, Joshua and Jonathan, but they left for boarding school after our 1st week here, so I unfortunately don't have pictures of them, but hopefully will get some before I leave. They are supposed to come back in late November.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Riots in Uganda

Day 40. So for those of you who have looked at my facebook profile (or the Palmers) in the last few days, there are probably some questions that need answering. Let's back track a little.

Uganda became a republic following its independence from the British, so in the constitution it was written that a president would be elected every 5 years and may serve for a max of 2 terms, aka 10 years. The current President of Uganda, however, has held his office for over 20 years! He has been able to do this because his party happens to hold the most seats in Parliament. Before Uganda was made a Republic, it was simply a region of several kingdoms, which the British brought together under colonial rule. After Uganda gained its independence, the kingdoms were still in existence and so it was written in the Constitution that the kingdoms may still exist for cultural purposes, but the kings do not have any actual political power. The problem is, though, that since the people all love their kings more than the President, they have gained significant power. The kingdom Mukono resides in is Buganda, which is one of the largest and among the 5 most powerful (or so that's what the Baganda, people of Buganda, tell me ;)).

Anyway, this Saturday was Youth Day for Buganda, and the Kabaka (which means king) of Buganda was planning on attending the annual celebration, as he does every year. On Thursday, the Prime Minister of Buganda went to go prepare for the Kabaka's arrival, but he was stopped by the military under orders from the President. The President declared that the Kabaka could not go to the Youth Day Celebration. Though this is a small insignificant event, this was a key opportunity for the President to demonstrate to the Baganda his power over their Kabaka. This, of course, cause an uproar amongst the Baganda (have you guys figured out the difference between Buganda and Baganda yet?) so by Friday there were major riots in the streets of Kampala, the capitol, as well as many surrounding towns, including Mukono. Then to make matters worse, on Saturday the President put the Kabaka under house arrest, so that the people could see how little power the Kabaka actually had. Aka, more riots...

What defines a riot in Uganda? Essentially a massive group of people in the streets burning things in the streets, throwing things at police, and pretty much anything that will convey their contempt with the President. How did the President respond? Send a gajillion military police to the riots, flooding the streets with tear gas, shooting live ammunition into the air, and beating/putting in jail those who are starting the trouble. By Saturday at least 5 people had died and 70 were injured.

The good news. None of us were ever in any immediate danger, as we were well protected by our families and the campus. Also, Mukono Town is back up and running with the riots settling down and restoration of political relationships beginning with the Kabaka and the President (what that actually means...i don't really know). Oh and Drew and I got to see the family farm and they grow Cocoa beans, Vanilla, and Sugar cane!!! Definitely good news. ;)

Welp, there's a quick update. I hope everyone is doing well and thanks for all your prayers.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mukono, Uganda: My New Home

Day 35. Woah. So I've got a lot to cover. The last couple weeks have been incredible.

So Drew and I met up with all but 1 (Jennifer, who we met up with in Uganda) of our USP group in the Amsterdam airport on August 25th. First thought: "Shoot, they all have had a day to get to know each other...I'm going to actually put forth some effort." Two weeks later: "I have some incredible new friends who all have similar passions to me, but diverse enough backgrounds to make excellent conversation and discussion." Anyhoo, we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda that evening and rode in vans and coasters (coasters are what they call buses) to Uganda Christian University in Mukono. The ride reminded me a lot of that first bus ride in Honduras junior year. We spent the night on campus and then the very next day Drew and I found out that we would be staying at the same house! We arrived at our new home just in time for lunch prepared by our "momma," who came running out of the house to give us big hugs and have her boys carry our stuff in. I was a bit overwhelmed at first. Our new home was not quite what I expected. It is a lot like houses are in Morazan, Honduras actually. Consisting of 3 bedrooms, a sitting room, a bathing room, and a kitchen, it is a small, cozy little house only approximately 10 minutes walk from campus. In the back there are 2 rooms separated from the house, which our momma rents out, and a room where trash is burned and cooking takes place. There is also a small shack which houses 2 latrines (those are fun, let me tell ya...). There is also this huge rain catcher, which is their only source of water.

The family consists of a mom, Harriet, and her 3 boys, Jonathan, Joshua, and David from youngest to oldest...ironic? Jonathan and Joshua left for boarding school a few days ago though, because they are in secondary school. David is in his twenties and goes to a vocational school studying mechanics. There are are also 2 girls who live at the house and one of the girl's young boy, but I don't know how they are related or how they came about living there. The youngest of the 2 girls is Lillian, who we see a lot more, and is pretty cool. The other, with the boy, I can't remember her name, but she is a bit older and has a mat-making business in Mukono-town, which is just basically downtown Mukono.

Life in this new home has been pretty awesome. Each morning, we wake up and have morning tea with a combination of bread and butter, binyebwa nuts, bananas, and/or pineapple. Usually just 1 or 2 of the above at one time. Then off to school around 8am and return at 7pm, where we have evening tea and talk with the family until dinner around 930-945pm. Finally, we bathe using a bucket of water and our hands (also a fun process), and go to sleep near 1030-1045. So that basically gives you a little background on our home-stay. We have really only spent like 5 nights, and not in a row, due to spending about 9 days traveling in Rwanda and Uganda.

How to describe my experience in Rwanda...I really have no idea. By the beginning of the trip I had begun to from a few good friendships with others in the program, but by the end, all of us in the ME (Missions Emphasis) had grown significantly closer together. I guess that is really the only way to describe my experience in Rwanda. Something so raw in emotion that those left in its wake are subject to being pulled together. I should start by saying that the ride to our first stop involved a 13 hour ride of 45 students, 5 leaders, and 4 drivers crammed into 2 vans and 2 all of our luggage...ooph. The first 2 nights we (the ME group) stayed in Gahini, Rwanda, where the East African Revival began. There we had the chance to split into groups and experience our first African church service. This was definitely a first for me as I ended up being presented as "the preacher" and was the only actual speaker for the service. I was pretty nervous, but my translator was pretty cool, and at the end, the leader in the community challenged them to truly listen and take to heart what I said, which was pretty sweet. The rest of the service was incredible as well. A whole community crammed into a little building worshipping the LORD, awesome. The next morning we heard a testimony from a lady, Canon Marion, who was present in Gahini when the E.A.R. broke out. Very cool stuff.

After spending 2 nights in Gahini, we moved on to Kigali, which is the capital of Rwanda. It was a pretty large city with people everywhere. Our first day in Kigali, we visited Nyamata Church, which was a memorial site for the genocide. Thousands of Tutsis flocked to the church for sanctuary, but the militia broke down the doors and spent 3 whole days torturing and murdering them! It was one of the most raw experiences I've ever had. When I first walked in, I was blown away by all of the clothes laid out on the floor and benches of the victims, one outfit of a young child especially blew me away. One of the 7 survivors of this massacre was our tour guide and shared what happened as well as his testimony. That which affected me most here were all of the bones and skulls on display. The next day we visited the Kigali Memorial Site, in the middle of the city. There were over 250,000 people buried in the mass graves at this site. The building also included information on other genocides as well as personal testimonies of the deaths of children in Rwanda. That hit me pretty hard as I imagined what the murder of my own siblings and parents would do to me. Following our tour of the site, we watched a documentary on the genocide of 1994 presented by U.S. News called "Ghosts of Rwanda." It addressed how little the world did to help, especially the US, and brought up a lot of discussion between the ME students.

Our third day in Kigali, we visited an organization called Food for the Hungry (FH). This organization works on transformational community development and provides people in the community with non-agricultural artisan income. We also heard from a missionary there, Kristi Walker, who shared her testimony and how it is to live in Rwanda, Africa. She was very helpful and I felt like I learned a lot. That evening, we joined up with the USE (Uganda Studies Emphasis) students and heard from Rev. Antwan about the process of national reconciliation. It is really fascinating how that in Rwanda, there is this thought that they must have reconciliation and that was the only way for the community to continue forward. I wonder what cities would be like in the US if they followed that ideal. On the fourth morning, the ME group visited a lady named Debbie Thomas, who taught us more about transformational development as well as using different areas of study and integrated them into community development. I probably learned the most from her as I began to question the motives behind my studying engineering, and how I should continue in my studies. That evening we heard from a couple lawyers who spoke on the Gacaca Courts, which are the communal trials for the accused murderers of the genocide. They will finally be finished this September after 15 years of trials!!! This concluded our Rwanda experience.

For the next 2 nights, we spent on Bushara Island just inside the border of Uganda. It was absolutely beautiful! We had to get to the island via canoes and basically just spent the 2 days there debriefing our experience in Rwanda as well as just hanging out and relaxing. This involved ultimate frisbee, soccer, rope swinging, and swimming! It was a ton of fun, and was a great way for us to let out all of the emotion we had been storing up in Rwanda.

Welp, the fun has past, and school has started. Classes started Monday morning and we are just starting to realize how much reading and work these classes will actually take. The last couple days have been super confusing, but I think I'm starting to find my way around campus and am learning how to work the library system as well get a sort of organization for studying and eating...The good news is that it is absolutely beautiful here on campus, and there are lots of places to just enjoy African nature, while reading the mass amounts needed for class.

So this about catches you all up. I'm sorry that it has taken so long, but things have been pretty hectic. I hope that everyone is doing well, and I would love to hear from you all! (though know a response may take some time.) I appreciate those who have been keeping me in your prayers and ask that you continue to pray for the family I am staying with as well as those I will be coming in contact with. Thank you all so much!