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A Battle of Inches

It’s been some time since I’ve written (like months), and I was working on a newsletter and thought I should mention driving here (since I’ve asked for prayer for this specifically). As I wrote, the words came tumbling out and I thought “Man, I should put this in a blog!” So here it is…all about driving in Kampala…

“It’s a battle of inches…Just get your nose out there… They’ll stop for you…” This is the mindset Joel tells me I need to have when driving in Kampala; but to be honest, I struggle when the traffic is heavy here (which is a lot of the time).  It’s rude to push my way in.  I smile sweetly and wave a “thank you” as often as I can. I don’t know if other drivers appreciate my attempt to be polite or if they even see it as that.  This is definitely not the way I was taught to drive when I took drivers ed. a loooong time ago.

I don’t have pictures of the “jam” – I’m not comfortable taking pictures that close up…

But here is one of our road.  There’s little traffic on our road (for which I’m thankful).  The stress of driving begins after turning right or left…roadfromhome

Imagine if you will, driving down a road with irregular edges. On the left hand side (which is the side I drive on) there is the occasional pedestrian trying to go somewhere. The road is really for everyone so they want to walk on the road on which I’m driving…which is truly okay because on most of the roads near our home, there is no other place to walk…when I walk, I do it just like they do. Also on the sides of the road, there are deep trenches for rain water. I guess they’re about 2- 4 feet deep in most places. These are hugely helpful when the rains come, but I have this fear that one day I’ll need to call Joel and say, “it finally happened…I fell off into a ditch…thankfully there were 5-6 strong men around who for a minimal fee were able to help me out…the car makes a funny sound but it’s moving along slowly by slowly…I’ll be home in a bit”driving1

So…I’ve mentioned pedestrians and trenches. There are also the random bicycle riders. They are typically caring either another person, long (like 9-10 feet) pieces of sugar cane, large bunches of bananas, or long pieces of metal pipes. Rarely do they carry just themselves or something that would fit safely on a bike. They do their best to stick to the side of the road, but any bump to them can easily tip them into the trench. I slow down for bike riders. They’re doing the best they can with what they have. I admire their hard work.  (It’s so hard to get the pictures I want, but this gives you a bit of an idea – even though this guy is walking his bike.)driving3

Then the matatus or taxis…these are 15 passenger vans that can truly hold an almost unlimited amount of people. They are truly ALL over Kampala (and across Uganda). They are the cheapest means of transportation in the city so they are always seeking to make as much money as possible by loading their vans with as many people as possible. If the van isn’t full, they wait patiently for more to come. There are two important people in a matatu…the driver and the conductor. The driver goes along his route as he sees fit. He will stop on a dime if he thinks someone might want a ride. He is gifted in getting within inches (and I’m not exaggerating) of the cars around him. It’s impressive and scary and frustrating when he is willing for the inches to be centimeters and then millimeters and then gently rub against your car’s side and/or bumper in his effort to keep moving. The conductor is the man who collects the money and recruits new passengers. I use the word “recruit” because I’ve watched them coax and grab at people to try to get them onto their van. Often times you can see the innocent passerby is forced to pull themself away explaining they don’t need to go that direction. The conductor needs to be somewhat pushy to make money…I can’t blame these taxis for doing their best to eek out a living in a city full of other’s doing the same, but they sure don’t make driving easy for single passenger cars like me.  (You can see a picture of a taxi on the right side of the road in the second picture)

I’ve saved the most draining, and perhaps famous, for last…you can google the word “boda-boda” to see pictures of bodas carrying almost anything you can imagine. A boda-boda is a motorcycle taxi. They often carry people but it’s not uncommon to see them carry eggs, a mound of plastic jugs of varying sizes, small animals (like chickens and goats), raw meat, furniture…if you need something odd carried and it’s not bigger than a 6 foot book shelf or longer than a 9 foot pole, call for a boda! The sheer numbers of bodas around Kampala is dizzying. They’re almost everywhere (and I’m still not exaggerating).  (this is a nicer road, even though it is quite narrow)bodas In theory the concept is good…they use less fuel and are easily maintained. My issue (and the issue for many people) is the lack of rules they are required to follow. If it’s a one-way road, the bodas can go the opposite way. If all drivers are stopped for construction or a red light, the boda is still able to go. They zip in and out of traffic, flowing like water down a rocky hill. They go wherever they imagine they can fit. They often scrape their handle bars alongside a car without looking back or offering a word of apology. Many times the passenger will indicate the need to turn across traffic when the driver doesn’t. Again, I can’t blame them for wanting to make a living, and I’ve met a few very conscientious drivers. But for the most part, bodas cause the most grief and worry when I’m driving.driving2 I look forward to the time I get to drive out in the Texas panhandle again…oh to have wide roads, few cars, no bodas, and country music on the radio….

But I do want to say that not all roads are bad in Kampala.   You can see that some of these pictures have smooth roads.  There are some less traveled roads that we get to travel regularly and for which I’m exceedingly grateful!  I really shouldn’t complain…it’s just that I’m made for heaven where the roads are made of gold and I’m pretty sure there are no bodas!

It Happened…

It really did happen…Dara went away to school.  She was with us when we left last Wednesday, yet we returned today without her.  I have a hard time believing it’s real.   But here we are back in Mbarara missing 25% of our family having joined the ranks of many who’ve gone before us and survived despite the pain and child-sized hole left in their home and heart.

I could go on and on about how we miss her, and how faithful God is as He takes care of her.  But to be honest, I don’t want to get stuck in that circle right now so…It was a long trip to get her there, but it helped to have some lovely scenery along the way.

 

 

kenya We particularly enjoyed seeing the Georgia bulldog on the back of this matatu.  It kind of reminded us of our travels through Georgia…somehow 🙂 bulldog

After 13 hours of travel from Eastern Uganda to the beautiful Rift Valley, it was nice to finally arrive.  The next day we were able to meet her roommate (who shares my grandmother’s name).  She is also new to the school and they’ve hit it off well.  I’ve been praying for this young lady for months, and it was lovely to get to know her.  

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I have just realized I did a terrible job of taking pictures of her dorm room, but I did get these two.IMG_0056 bungee
 Everyone loves her bungee chair, thanks Gramma!!!

The door to her dorm is to the right of Dade, and a good family friend lives right above her.darandade

Here’s a family picture I’ll cherish forever.  family

 God has been preparing Dara for this day, and we are so proud of her.  Here she is walking away from us…(telling me not to take her picture).  We miss her terribly and at the same time look forward to seeing how God will grow her and use her in this stage of her life.

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Bucket List

Recently someone asked if I have a bucket list of things to do when we come “home”.  It started me thinking…what do I truly love doing when we come back?  I think the answer is easy: family, friends, and food.

Here’s some pictures from our last few weeks with family…not the best quality since most were taken with my phone (I was kicking myself for forgetting my camera, but thankfully the phone does really well).

We like variety so quality time with family comes in various shapes and sizes from rock climbing and “racing”

climbing

 

racingto a trail ride with Papa and playing on hay bales…ridingbonding running

 

Blade found some horse manure and was captivated.  It was dry so we let him pick it up for the picture only…poop

Hiking along the Canadian River (that was very cold – even if only my feet were in it)Canadian River

from Boys Ranch to Colorado…we had a great time playing with all of the Chambers family.  We played soccer in the yard and sardines after dark in the house! soccer2 soccer1 bonding4 bondingf5Back in Amarillo, Tiffany and Dara decided that it would be a great bonding moment to get our cartilage pierced, so now we all have matching left ears!  Slightly uncomfortable, but definitely memorable!piercingfrom Colorado we headed to Marfa to stay with Aaron and his family…notice the very strange shadow that my face casts on Aaron’s shirt…crazy!bonding3the kids had a great time catching up and jumping upjumping bonding2We are so blessed to have family that we love and enjoy, and who love us! Making good memories is the best!

 

 

 

Counting Down…

I think most everyone knows, but maybe not…we’re returning to the States, via a short detour in England, in 6 days!  We’re so thankful that God provided dear friends to share their home and others to share a car with us while we’re there.  Thank you! Thank you!

For those of you in the Arlington area, Joel’ll be sharing our first Sunday back – April 6th at Lamar Baptist Church.  We’d love to see you.  Our plans for the rest of this year are full of change…we’ll be in and around Texas for 4 months April-August.  Once we return to Uganda, we have about 3 weeks before we head to Kenya where we’ll be taking our baby girl to boarding school at Rift Valley Academy to start her high school career.  Here’s a link to the school website and a great video if you’re interested… RVA

We’ll return to Uganda with Dade in tow, and will spend the next 4 months wrapping up our 5 years in Mbarara.  We’ve grown so much in our time here.  It’ll be sad to leave, but thankfully we’re not going far!

We’re shifting (moving) to Kampala in December where Joel will start a new position with AIM in April.   We’ll have time to orient to the crazy, large capital of Uganda, learn some of the local language as well as some French, and get Dade settled into an international school to finish his 5th grade year.

So, while we’re back for these few months, we look forward to touching base with as many of you as we can and share with you our excitement for the future and what God is doing here in Central Africa.

We’ve had some great times these last few months leading to our going home…one highlight was the wedding of two dear friends…Viki and Elijah.  Here are a few pictures from that fun day!

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Happy New Year!

I know we’re 8.3% into 2014 (Dara just told me that), but someone whom I hadn’t seen in awhile greeted me this afternoon with a “Happy New Year!” so…since it’s been awhile since I’ve seen most of you, I think it still fits!

We anticipate so many changes this coming year…new adventures…sadness and joys…but am I ready? In some ways I’d like to rewind the hands of time and do things a bit different. But what would I change?

Would I change coming to Africa? Dragging my kids away from life as they knew it…dragging myself away from life as I knew it…saying there was something more important, more vital, than watching my nieces and nephews grow up (in person – not on Facebook); sharing birthdays and holidays with family; barbecues with friends; family vacations to fun, comfortable places; the good ol’ American dream…No, I wouldn’t change coming to Africa.

It has been a hard journey for sure. I’ve been stretched to my limits. Thankfully my loving Father won’t give me more than I can bear. He doesn’t want to break me, but grow me. I wouldn’t exchange the sufferings I’ve endured, or those my family has endured, for anything. It has all been worth it. It’s exciting for me to acknowledge this since it reminds me of something the apostle Paul wrote, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil 3:7) It’s true…Paul was right…everything is rubbish apart from following Christ!

I feel the need to add a disclaimer. The sufferings I’ve experienced are minimal compared to the sufferings of so many others (and I mean sooo many). But if Jesus was made perfect through what He suffered, which is what it says in Hebrews, than I have the hope of becoming more like Him through the sufferings He allows me to endure. I hesitate to say I’ve reached the point of raising my hand vigorously and saying, “Please let me suffer, Lord!” But I’m slowly beginning to realize what James meant when he said, “Consider it all joy my friends, when you face trials…”

Now that I stop and think about it; I wouldn’t change anything. God thankfully wastes nothing and is the expert when it comes to recycling! He is the Most Holy God, the Creator of the universe, and He is the One who holds everything together. He has asked me so many times these past few years whether or not I trusted Him. It’s a choice I make daily, and I’ve yet to regret it.

So, as I look to the future, I can smile and know that it won’t be easy, but who wants that?! (I’ll admit – sometimes I do..) But “If the Lord delights in my ways, He will make my steps firm. Though I stumble, I will not fall because He is the one who holds my hand!” (personalized from Ps 37:23,24)

By God’s grace I can smile at the future…2014, here we come!


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Special Moments

So I’ve been trying to delete pictures from my computer so I can free up some disk space, and I ran across these…

The first one is a bit of a story, but one I’ll never forget (mostly because my dad won’t let me).  When my parents were here, I invited my dad to walk with me to the ATM at the gates of the university campus.  It wasn’t a long walk and the weather was great.  We made it just fine but had to wait a bit as the ATM computer was resetting itself.  After a few minutes we were told that it had been that way since the day before.  So we walked to town, got the money I wanted, walked back to a grocery store to get “lunch meat”, and walked home.   It probably took us a little over an hour total, the day had gotten a bit warmer, and Daddy was giving me a hard time about all that walking for lunch meat.   But it was fun to walk and talk and show him more of my town.  I did  give him the choice to walk the most direct route home from the grocery store or the less crowded one.  Since he doesn’t like walking near cars and bodas who seem to be playing a game to see how close they can get as they pass you; he chose the bit longer, though less crowded, route!  

So…maybe 5 minutes after we left the grocery store the rain started…just a light sprinkle at first.  I carry an umbrella with me when I go for a walk (because the sun is just too bright here on the equator – it’s like having your own personal tree!).  He didn’t want to share with me, even as the rain increased to a steady but still moderately light rainfall.  When the rain was dripping off his nose, I suggested we could stop at a friend’s house; but we had maybe 150 yards to make it home.  Then…a friend of mine stopped her car and offered us a ride.  I told her we were almost home and would be fine, but thanks.  Can you believe, as soon as she pulled away, the rain began to pour?!  I almost wet my pants, which were soon so wet no one would have noticed, because I was laughing so hard!  It was so much fun!! Thankfully, Joel opened the gate for us and Mom was ready to take our picture…great memories!183

Here we are dry…I’m so blessed to be his favorite oldest daughter!073

Not at all related, but I love these pictures…Recently we were near Kampala for our regional retreat where we were challenged and encouraged to be disciples and disciple makers.  It was a lovely time with great friends in a lovely atmosphere with our super kids…

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honoring our awesome God….042

2 Worlds Collide

Some of you may know that my parents came for a visit almost 2 weeks ago…it was surreal to see my mom sewing in my dining room or my dad sitting out with Dade just whittling and talking.  The time flew by and I want to cherish every memory so I’ll share some of them with you (in no particular order)…

We’re on the tail end of grasshopper season – the rains have continued longer than normal so my dad had the privilege of trying them.  grasshoppers1Ruth’s sister, Sylivia, Ruth, and Viki were delighted when he tried them and…

grasshoppers2he liked them!grasshoppers3

Daddy also spent lots of time playing card games like spoons, Go-fish, and Emperor with us. He raced dominoes with Dade, filled up my water filter numerous times, and helped Joel tighten the zip line.  Mom played with Abrielle – who loved her and cooed at her almost every time she held her.  She also recovered my couch cushions – something I would never try to do – they look great!    130

135We went to Queen Elizabeth National Park and saw all sorts of animals (but the elephants were the favorite).
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We thought it’d be pretty cool if the crocodiles jumped up and tried to attack one of the Cape Buffaloes – like the National Geographic video…they didn’t…QE3

Dade kept making noises at the hippos trying to get them to look his way.QE4

So the boat driver steered the boat their direction and scared them out of the water…I felt a little bad for the hippos but a bit happy for my parents…QE5
I’ve done some math and estimate that every 2 years we get maybe 20 days with my parents.  That’s time shared with other family members and their jobs, so to have them here for 10 days all to ourselves has been priceless!!!!  I’m so very grateful they’ve been able to see our lives, meet our friends, and see why God has us here.  

family

(We were all laughing so hard because we had a 4 year old standing on a chair taking this picture – Andrew could barely hold the camera up and we’re just thankful he got almost all of us in the picture – Joel was smart and ducked!)

It’s sad to have them go, but there’s an underlying feeling that since they’ve come once…they can “easily” come again!  It gives me hope 🙂