Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Basketball, Coins, Republican Article and Christmas

It’s a good thing I’m here for a full 2 years because it took me over 18 months to even think about putting up a basketball goal! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve longed to just shoot some hoops. It’s so therapeutic. It’s so mind numbing. It’s so relaxing. It’s so Hoosier (which I hear is another way to say ‘redneck’ in Illinois). And now, Compassion has the first and only basketball goal in the district. It wasn’t difficult to make. The metal workers made the hoop and the carpenters made the backboard. Then we hung it on an electrical pole and viola! The kids have been trying their hand at it. It’s funny to watch them, or anyone for that matter, play for the first time. People don’t seem too enthusiastic about it, which is fine by me. That’s not why I put it up. I’ve seen basketball courts in other districts at secondary schools and they’re like ghost towns. There are cobwebs growing on the goals. The students would just as soon take a basketball and kick it around like a soccer ball than throw it into an iron hoop. At least I’ll get some good use out of it while I’m still here.

Human metal detector

I was walking back from the missionaries home the other day when I saw what looked like an old, weather beaten coin on the ground. It’s a little unusual to find a coin on the ground in a 3rd world country. People are definitely going to stop and pick up a coin here. Now I have to tell you that I have a great deal of experience in looking for coins. Many a summer day I would ride bikes with my dad and brother. The goal was riding the bikes, but the prize was finding money. I’d be cruising along lost in thought when dad would U-turn all of a sudden or almost break his neck trying to stop his bike to pick up a nickel or a couple of pennies he found. Dad’s like a hawk when it comes to that stuff and he trained me accordingly. But it didn’t stop there. We used to also ride by the McDonalds and Burger King drive-thrus looking for dropped change. Once we would find some change we would then bike to Dairy Queen and spend it all on a dipped ice-cream cone.

Well I picked up this coin and started to rub away the dirt. I soon discovered that it was a 1976 coin worth 1 Ugandan shilling. The smallest coins they use now are the 50 shilling coins (though you can get 20 shilling coins in Kampala but they’re worthless out here). One Ugandan shilling. I kid with the Ugandans that I want to buy something with it and they laugh and tell me that I can’t even buy a piece of candy or a nail with it, but when it was made it was worth the equivalent of 500-1,000 shillings today, which is enough to buy a bunch of bananas.

Rushville Republican Article

I wrote another article for the Rushville paper. In it I’m talking about my experience staying with the family out in the village. You can read it online here.

Community Hall Construction

The foundation has been dug and they are putting in the foundation on the Community Hall for the Compassion children. The hall will also be used by the church and 2 schools nearby. It’s exciting to stand in the center of the future hall and envision what it’ll look like when it’s finished. It is situated beautifully on the side of the hill and overlooks the soccer field in the valley below and the town just beyond it. We have fundraised almost half of our budget and in the coming weeks I’ll be beginning another fundraising project, so if you would like to help out this community and these kids… stay tuned.

12 days of Christmas

Believe it or not, Christmas is just about 12 weeks away! So, I’ve decided to write a weekly segment telling you how you can save money to use for your Christmas shopping by living like a Ugandan. I’m sure it’ll be quite interesting.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Painting Maps

I’ve started a project at Compassion in which I’m painting maps on their walls. I’m painting 3 maps. Uganda, the World and the USA. I’m painting the US because many of the kids have sponsors from the US and I want them to be able to identify where their sponsors are from exactly. I have almost finished my map of Uganda. It didn’t take quite as long as I expected, but it was tough. I had made a list a few years ago, before I joined the Peace Corps, of things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30 (won’t be long now). One of the things on the list was to paint a mural. About half way through my map I realized that I was accomplishing that goal without even really knowing it. I have a picture of me with my map on my flickr account. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. At least not an artist with any kind of pencil or brush. I like to think of myself as being artistic and I am a bit of a perfectionist. I do want things to look a certain way and I’m willing to put in the time to make sure they do.


IDP stands for Internally Displaced Person. Refugee if you will. I know I spend a fair amount of time on this blog talking about things that bug me and drive me a little crazy, but this is the icing on the cake and I’ve taken about as much as I can take.

I live in an office of the church next to the Canon, the religious leader for the Church of Uganda. Every 6 months or so the church has a mini-retreat. A hundred or more people come to pray, sing, fellowship, etc. And I have no problem with that. We’re worshiping the same God here. Hakuna Matata. What I do have a problem with is that fact that 20 or so of them end up staying in the big room directly next to my room. Ugandans DO NOT respect sleep time. The sun goes down at 7:30 here and I’m typically in bed by 9 or 10 at the latest. At 10, when the party is still going strong I go out and ask them nicely to be quiet. They giggle a little bit and I go back to bed. At 10:30 when they are even louder than before I again go in to ask them to be quiet. At 11pm the Jesus party is still going strong so now I’m livid. I raise my voice, telling them in their own language to Shut Up, that I’m SLEEPING next door and they are being very rude! Their response: more laughter at the funny, irate white man. I’m about to throw stones at this point. I can’t get them to be quiet, the only thing I can do is drown out their noise with my own, so I put on my headphones and listen to Chanticleer until I’m drifting in and out of sleep. I have to do this until they all go to bed at around 2am. Now I don’t sleep with music on or a TV on or anything. I sleep in silence. I don’t really sleep when there’s background noise. I float in a sub-conscience state, which isn’t really sleep. See me the next morning if you don’t believe me. I’ve told the Canon about it and he acts apologetic, but nothing gets done. Recently, when they were having prayer meetings mixed with morose singing mixed in I cranked up the BBC on my radio to drown them out. I’m sorry, but this is MY HOME! This is the one place in all of Uganda where I can shut my door, turn up my American music, music that isn’t created on a synthesizer and which words I can understand, and I can temporarily leave Uganda, and if you’re impeding on THAT, my one shred of freedom and independence, then I have a problem with that! You can charge me the ‘white man’ price for things, you can cram 25 people into a vehicle that holds 15, fine… but don’t you DARE impose on my peace and quiet! I was livid! I actually had to leave my home and stay with the 2 missionaries that live across the hill for several nights (on a side note, they did make brownies for me…with frosting).

The reason I think this is a universal Ugandan sentiment is that one night in Mbarara while staying at a hotel (remember, a hotel is where people pay to sleep), that same hotel had rented out their courtyard to a wedding party that played music at mind numbing volumes until 4:30am! I could do nothing to prevent my bed from rattling from the mega decibels that pierced the air. How can a hotel permit that? I paid for a night of sleep! Apparently that means nothing to a Ugandan!

Community Hall

I haven’t blogged much about it yet but construction has begun for a community hall which I’m raising money for for Compassion. Currently our kids meet outside and when it rains our entire day is shot. With the generous help of several individuals along with Sexton Church we have raised about half of what we need. Here in Uganda, you start construction with what you’ve got and then hope the rest of the money comes in. So we should have enough to build up to the roof line. I’ll be sure to post pictures as it goes up.

I’ve never believed more strongly in something being a God thing than this building. I don’t like to thing of buildings as being God’s will (except when a building is just outgrown). Buildings cost a lot of money, money that could be spent helping so many poor people, but the money for this building has just poured in from very unlikely sources and I can attribute it to nothing more than God’s hand at work. For those of you who have already helped, a sincere Thank You, from all of us here! And if anyone wishes to help… stay tuned.

Birthday wishes to Melanie and CJ

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nickle & Dimed

At least you’re not working in the restaurant business here! Let me tell you how it is… The new manager here, for example, works 7 days a week, 15.5 hours a day, from 7am to 10:30pm with NO DAYS OFF for the first 3 months. No… days… off!!! She has hours of paper work to log each day about food costs, purchases, labor costs, etc which she must do BY HAND! Any mistakes and it throws all of her numbers off and she can’t just change one, like in Excel, and it fixes everything, she has to go back through and re-add everything. Remember, No… days… off! There are very few customers that come in, 30-40 a day, so they are bored all day. I constantly come in and find the servers sleeping in the chairs. They serve “white people food” and have tourists stop in and eat on their way to the tourist spots. The meals for the customers costs about $2.50 a meal, but the workers here must eat rice and beans which would cost about $0.25 a meal, if that. And they eat the same thing for each meal, sometimes only eating 1 or 2 meals a day. And for all her efforts, she gets paid $1 a day. One US dollar a day… They would give anything to be washing dishes in the US and would still find a way to send 1/ 2 of their money back to their families.

Mountain Climbing

I went mountain climbing the other day to ‘get away’. The idea of physical exercise and solitude appealed to my soul. Finding solitude as a white man here is next to impossible. I had to sneak up the ridge I wanted to hike by beginning in a very isolated place. Once climbing, I could hear people yelling Muzungu at me from the homes and gardens below. On the way up, a small band of children began tearing up the hill after me, so I went into full commando mode and made a game of hide and seek of it. Once I reached the top I angled like I was going to the left but then ran (sprinted actually) off to the right and ducked behind the ridge while watching my back for tailgaters. My whiteness shines like a beacon in these parts and people are intensely curious as to why there would be a white man on their hill. Not to mention the fact that I must have money spilling out everywhere which I’ve brought to dole out to anyone who asks.