Saturday, January 31, 2009

Contacting Us

Just a note to everyone that we can't seem to get at Michelle's e-mail from here so please send anything for her through my (Jeff's) e-mail for now until we get things straightened out.

... and Disorientation

Written on Jan 22/23

We arrived in Kampala a bit weary and tired from the 2-day journey from Toronto. We were very thankful that we had a day room in London, which gave us a few hours of quiet sleep. (Thanks Clementina!) We were relieved and thankful that all our connections went smoothly and our luggage arrived intact. We were also extremely pleased to find Rev. Dr. Carolyn Langford waiting for us at the airport in Entebbe.

We arrived in the rain and drove from Entebbe to Kampala. Once in Kampala we found ourselves in a small local hotel in the middle of Kampala. It was clean and secure and hospitable, but not quiet! All day and night we could hear the horns, the discos, the Obama inauguration address (repeated several times), crowds, whistles, shouts, and a myriad of other noises. Needless to say, we did not get much sleep!

Carolyn managed to pick up a few African literature books from the book vendors on the street (the books are literally laid out on the sidewalk), so were are looking forward to reading Things Fall Apart and Black Mamba and others in our spare time.

After changing money, crossing the roads (quickly and carefully – pedestrians do not have the right of way), running a few errands during the day, another woman volunteering at AWIST arrived from BC Wednesday evening.

Thursday morning was our departure for Bushenyi, our new home. We were thankful to leave the bustle of Kampala and take a cross country bus trip (5 hours) south-east. The only hitch in the day was that the bus did not actually go to Bushenyi (despite being advertised as such). So after arriving in Kabwohe with Carolyn and Paulette, we were stuffed into a taxi with 3 other people and our luggage precariously tied in the trunk (6 suitcases), praying that the ropes would hold and the microscope lenses would not end up on the road in small pieces. The 20km to Bushenyi were thankfully uneventful, and we arrived safely at the Kitungu Mothers Union Complex, our new home for the next 3 months.

We will write more about the Mothers Union later – they are the Ugandan equivalent of the Anglican Church Women, so needless to say, we are very well looked after here! We are also next door to the Bushenyi Medical clinic. There are some local shops across the street where we can buy bananas, bread, and such. Our new home is a semidetached guest house with a kitchen, several bathrooms, and 2 bedrooms. Every day is a new experience, and we will share more stories (and hopefully pictures) soon.


Our orientation with the Canadian Forum for Global Missions was very beneficial. One of its main purposes was to make us more aware of other cultures and the assumptions that we make about the world because of our own pre-conceived cultural expectations. In an effort to expose us to different cultures, we visited a Hindu Mandir, A Muslim mosque and the Six Nations reserve near Brantford. The most profound of these visits was to the Six Nations reserve. It is one thing to read about the details of residential schools and land claims issues. It is another to hear the stories of pain and frustration from the people affected by them. It is easier to understand some of these issues in the news when you meet the faces behind the stories.

At the orientation we also spent a fair bit of time discussing world issues. The session that we found the most useful was a movie called “Life and Debt”. This movie illustrated the negative effects of globalization and capitalism on Jamaica’s development. It opened our eyes to some of the bigger issues in our world, but at the same time was a very clear movie to watch. We would highly recommend this video all of you. The stories shared by Jamaicans in the movie make abstract economic terms understandable and personal.

We were sad to leave our 22 new friends, all of whom are travelling to various countries around the world in the next few months (mostly in Africa and Latin America). The wisdom and insights from previous experiences will likely be invaluable in the months to come.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Leaving Home… The Journey Begins…

Last week was a busy week packing for our trip. We were collecting last minute items and organizing our luggage for the last few days. It’s amazing how much there was to do. We were so busy it didn’t really sink in that we were leaving our home for four months. Actually I think it was our cat, Jazz, who first noticed that something significant was happening and that we were both stressed about leaving home. As the week went on she became more anxious and a lot more clingy than normal. More than once she looked up at me and gave a whimper, as if to say, “I don’t want you to go”. I realized that her anxiety was reflecting the anxiety that I was feeling about leaving home. Amidst all the busyness, I needed our cat to tell me how I felt.

The thing that struck me the most was when I woke up yesterday morning. She was in one of her favorite spots in our bedroom window looking out. It was as if she knew that she was going to be leaving home and was saying good bye. It reminded me that I would need some time to do that before we left. We took a few minutes to walk around the neighborhood to say good-bye and to pray for the people around us. Then we took a few moments to say good-bye to our apartment. It was important to mark that time of transition and it made me thankful for the timing of the trip. We weren’t leaving home and going straight to Uganda, but were staying in Canada for a few more weeks. We’ve been warned about culture shock by several people, but I didn’t quite expect it to start already. I guess our world has started to change significantly. Home will be somewhere else for four months.

There were two reassurances yesterday which I am thankful for. The first appeared on our walk around the neighborhood. As we walked by the dam at Sturgeon Falls and watched the water, we noticed a rainbow in the mist. It was a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness and that everything would be better than alright. The second reassurance was our cat again. As we let her into Michelle’s parent’s house she immediately hid, but as the night went on she slowly ventured out and began to explore. First in the room we let her out in, then the entire upstairs. She even broke out of the enclosure that Michelle’s parents had carefully made for her and started exploring downstairs. I can only hope that I can be as brave as our cat in our new surroundings.

Today we began our orientation program with the Canadian Churches' Forum for Global Ministries at the Scarboro Missions Centre. The program lasts until January 15th. It looks like it will be very useful in getting us prepared for working in a new culture. We hope to make a few posts while we are here to let you know what we are learning.