Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday night at Suubi

Collecting thoughts can be such a daunting chore sometimes.   My thoughts have been pretty daunting to me these last two months.  I’ve sat down several times with the full intention of making all these little, wayward, random thoughts come together and organize themselves so they could be presentable on paper.  Goodness! – There are so many new ones to process, and they just haven’t been very co-operable.  I‘ve grown weary of trying to wrangle them.   But, for whatever reason, I feel determined tonight to snatch a few and see if I can get any sense out of them.
First, a few, simple observations…
-        -  I am thanking God that there are no rodents in my house!  Geckos and bugs are plentiful, but no sign of vermin, and I’m so so glad.
-          -Homeschooling is giving me a great sense of accomplishment and it is teaching me a lot; hopefully my boys are getting as much out of it as I am.
-         -Africans spend an ENORMOUS amount of time and money on their hair!  My African-American friends already knew this, of course, but I’ve just become enlightened of this fact.  Wow, it is a lot of work! 
-          -Speaking of hair, mine is getting less attention than ever these days (not that I really ever gave it very much to begin with).  Still not sure who I will get to cut it around here… though I’ve had lots of offers to get it braided!
-         - BBC radio is wonderfully informative, and it has replaced my nerdy habit of listening to NPR back home.
-          -Nutella is heaven in a jar!!!!  Now my grandma need not worry about me getting too skinny in Africa.  For sure, I’ve got to learn to control myself!
-         - I think it is very ironic that my extremely casual husband (who only wears ties to weddings and funerals) is now a missionary in an extremely fashion-conscious society.  Who would have thought we would move to Uganda and find out they care a GREAT deal about looking “smart??”  Their “smart” wardrobe may not be extensive, but, by golly, they wear what they’ve got!
-          -I had decided that chameleons were very cool pets… until Judah collected 5 of them.   Now my reptile love has run out.
-          -I never thought I would move to the equator and wish I’d packed a fleece blanket!  Rainy season is pretty chili.  Really, the only thing I’ve determined about the weather here is that it is dramatic and never boring.
-          -This week is Mission’s Convention at our home church, which does make me rather homesick - since it was always my favorite week on our church calendar.  BUT it was also a week that would usually conclude with me tearfully asking God when it would be MY turn to be a missionary… so now here we are.  I smile about that and can’t let myself be homesick too much. 
And, now, on to a few deeper thoughts that I feel the need to smooth out with words…
All the newness of living here is starting to become normal, I guess.  Some of that “new normal” has been easy to appreciate and some has been a challenge to adjust to.  The easy part… we thank God every day that we are here at Suubi Village, as opposed to living in Kampala (the capital city).  There are definitely perks to being in the city, such as shopping plazas and restaurants – not to mention other mzungus (white people) to socialize with.  But I wouldn’t trade all those amenities for the feeling of community that we have here.  Loneliness and isolation isn’t something I’ve struggled with yet.  God has given us great favor in that we’ve been accepted warmly and fully by everyone here. We are being treated as though we’re part of the fabric of Suubi, and not just guests or visitors.  And what a beautiful community to be part of!  At this village, there are about 1,000 children, plus moms, teachers, and other administrators.  As I learn each of their stories, I am reminded over and over what a special thing Watoto is doing and I’m amazed that we can be a small part of it. 
The other easy part of being here is that Suubi is just simply a beautiful place to live!  Kampala is dirty, crowded, and smells like garbage and diesel; Suubi is like an oasis of 200 quiet, majestic, and peaceful acres.  We’re right on top of a small mountain (about 1 mi. altitude), so the view off our balcony is amazing.  I know, I mention this every chance I get!  But when you come visit me and you stand on our balcony, you’ll understand why. :)
Ok, then, the not so enchanting part…  There’s just a multitude of conveniences that my spoiled, Western self misses every day.  The power goes off randomly and frequently.  The water is usually there, but our water pressure is TERRIBLE.  The only faucet that we can get water out of is in the bathroom, and that is literally just a trickle.  We have a shower head, but not enough pressure to get water out of it, so it’s just bowl baths all the time.  (and, of course, no hot water unless we heat it.)  No water in the kitchen means we take the dishes to the bathroom to wash them in a basin as well.  Then, all the water we consume has to be purified first and stored in plastic containers.  It is quite a chore just to keep them filled up.  Everything domestic is quite a chore.  I must interject here that T does an amazing job of helping when he’s at home.  I really don’t know how I would manage without his help, yet, still, I feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above water each day.  I’m washing clothes in a bucket or else walking a mile to a washing machine that I can borrow.  Cooking takes a chunk of time, since there are no fast, convenient meals.  I do miss frozen pizzas!  As you can guess, these responsibilities along with homeschooling leaves me with very little personal time and energy. 
I didn’t mean for that to be just a long paragraph of me whining and venting frustration, but rather a realistic picture of our daily life.  There are certainly moments of frustration, but overall, I am not frustrated.  I am learning Phill. 4:11, to be “content in whatever circumstance I am in.”  I said I’m LEARNING – not every day am I a great pupil!  But God provides me with many teachable moments.  Like this very moment right now…I’m sitting on our bed in the dark under the mosquito netting… hoping to finish this blog before my computer battery dies because the power is off.  It is 10:30 here.  The kids are in bed, and T is at a Friday pm prayer meeting here on the village.  From my window, I can hear the prayer meeting going on just up the hill a bit.  I so wish I could just bottle up the sound for you… the cicadas are chirping and praising along with a chorus of human voices.  I can hear their prayers – sometimes reverent and sometimes fervent.  And I can hear their own songs they are singing to their Maker – in the dark.  It is pitch black out there.  I don’t know how many are gathered or how long they will stay.  But what better is there to do on a Friday night?  There are no movies to go see, no restaurants to spend too much money at.  I could lay here in my bed and listen to them sing all night.  All we need, we have.  Here we have so little, yet we have so much.  I often feel empty and full all at the same time. 
Then, I say we have so little… but I’m often presented with the fact that me and my family still have a great deal more than our neighbors.  For example:  Last Saturday was a trying day.  T was out of town, and me and kids were without power and water both.  (though we did have two new packages from home, which was a very timely blessing!)  so, I went to bed that night just feeling put out.  Then, the next morning at church, I listened to the village pastor explain to everyone that the price of charcoal has suddenly shot up (charcoal is what the mom’s cook with), and for the time being the children need to be helping their moms gather firewood for cooking.  I walked home later to my little gas cooker and quick flame, thinking about how ungrateful I often am. 
Yes, I could go on and on about the lessons God is teaching me.  And my head is still full of more thoughts that need to be smoothed out.  But this is getting to be a very long entry already!  And the chirping and singing is still going on out my window.  I think I’ll just close the computer now and join in.  I really, truly have nothing better to do on this Fri pm. 


  1. Always love the sharing of your thoughts! btw...contentment IS a 'learned' character trait. Paul said, "I have 'learned' to be content..." You just happen to be getting an advanced course in it right now!!! But he also instructed Timothy that..."godliness with contentment is great gain." you are definitely are coming out way ahead!!! The fullness of the life treasures God is adding to your life is immeasurable by worldly standards!!! :) Love ~ ~ mom

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  3. I've travelled to Kenya a few times and I can relate to much of what you are talking about in terms of village life and hardships without electricity and running water. But mostly I remind myself to be grateful for I am often there as a visitor spending time in hotels where the conveniences are much greater than the villages. I wish everyone could see the hardships and realities of daily life in Africa so we could learn contentment with all of our blessings. I wish you joy and strength as you live out your dreams of being a missionary. God bless.

  4. Mika, you are doing a good job of explaining what life is really like - both for yourself - and for those to whom you minister. I have two suggestions for you: FIRST...have T install an electric water pump into your water line - and buy a couple of those large 100 gallon black tanks to put enough water in for those times when the water pressure is so low. SECOND...hire some help with the housework. I think you could get a full time helper for $100 per month - but even if it is more it will be well worth the investment. I know you are tough - and I know you can do your own - but it will free you up to do things for the Lord and to minister to your husband and children. I hope I'm not taking too much liberty here in suggesting these things but it's because I've served in Africa for 20 years and can feel the struggle you must be in.