Wednesday, May 22, 2013

on dancing, plucking chickens, and other things Ugandans do better than me...

i've been giving this some thought recently.  despite a myriad of cultural differences that i sometimes find confusing/ exasperating, there are many qualities about Ugandans that i admire and wish that i possessed.  T and i came up with this list yesterday as we bumped over the pot holes on the swamp road to Bbira -

  • dancing!  this is a no-brainer, of course.  but even if they don't have the best rhythm or coordination (which is rarely the case), they are still great dancers, because they are completely uninhibited and free.  no matter how shy or how small, they are willing to put aside self-consciousness and jump into the middle of the circle.  
  • along those same lines, they are better at laughing at themselves and finding humor in a rotten situation.
  • waiting.  Ugandans are SO much better at waiting than us Westerners.  waiting in a traffic jam, waiting for food, waiting for the taxi van, waiting - forever waiting! - for an event to start.  and, in this waiting, they have the capacity to just be and not feel the need to be doing anything.
  • carrying things on their heads - an AMAZING talent!  i've seen so many things balanced on the head... from a loaf of bread (just bc they can) to a 20lb. bundle of firewood (WITH a baby tied to the back!)
  • visiting neighbors.  for no important reason.  
  • sharing.  food, money, time, kids - whatever.  (ok, the attribute of sharing your kids, i can't say i admire.  still trying to figure out my take on that one.)
  • making a little water go a very long way.  it truly seems like an art form to me, how many dishes and clothes can be washed with one jerry can of water.  (a jerry can is like a big, plastic jug that we would store gasoline in back home.)
  • another talent is their ability to consume a massive plate of food when given the chance, and then seemingly function physically at a normal level until given another chance to eat.  most Ugandans eat only one high-carb meal a day.  they MIGHT get a bowl of porridge in the morning and a cup of tea at night.  as a hypoglycemic American that can't go three hours without snacking, this seems unfathomable to me.
  • praying with focus.  i'm not saying their prayers are better than mine.  but their prayers are more focused.  they seem to come out from deep within, as if all that matters in the world is that God is listening to them.  
  • learning multiple languages.  my Ugandan friend may not have completed her high school education, but she can speak English, Luganda, Swahili, and a good bit of Luo (a tribal language from the north). 
  • being photogenic.  my goodness! - they are all breathtakingly photogenic.
  • singing acapella. in a small circle.  in the dark.  to just be there and listen is a soul-stirring privilege. 
now, if you are thinking this list is inspired as result of me trying to make up for letting off some steam in my last post... well, then you are partly correct.  but it mostly is inspired by some Scripture i have been meditating on the past few days.  these are verses that the 31 yr. old me has a much harder time living out than the 11 yr. old me did.  and as i walk down Nakirebe hill into the community around Suubi, i chew on these verses, asking God to make them real in my life.  i think the characteristic of Ugandans that i am most envious of right now is that i see them ingest these words of Jesus much easier than i do.

Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them 
and where thieves break in and steal.  
Store up your treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust can not destroy 
and where thieves do not break in and steal.  

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
This is why I tell you, don't worry about everyday life -
whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.
 Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air - they don't plant or harvest or store away in barns, 
because your heavenly Father feeds them.  
Aren't you more valuable to Him than they are?
Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? 
 Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  
They don't work or make their clothing.  
Yet, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed as beautiful as they are.  
If God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. 
 Why do you have so little faith?

So don't worry about these things, saying,
 "What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?"  
These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, 
but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, 
and He will give you everything you need. 
(Matthew 6: 19 - 21, 25 - 33)

i can clearly see that my African friends accept this mandate better than me, but i am wondering why... perhaps we (in the West) feel too entitled to the "food, drink, and clothes" bit.  maybe when you have so few treasures on earth, you feel more delight in the idea of storing all your treasures in Heaven.  what do you think? 


  1. Mika, this is one of the best posts I have read in a very long time!! Ah, the reminders of how blessed we truly are...You are God's daughter and His message was heard!
    Humbly reminded that I have so much and I really do not appreciate what He has given me!
    Thank you Mika! May He be with you always, shouldering any homesickness and troubles!!
    P.S. Would you believe I know how much you can wash with one full jerry can?! Back to civilization, we forget easily...

    1. Thank you, Noelle! We do so easily forget - you are right. That's why I write posts like this... so I can go back and remind myself later.

  2. God Bless you, Mika and Thomas, as you serve our Lord in difficult circumstances among strange surroundings. I'll never forget a lesson I learned from Kenyans about waiting. Wilson Kamau said to me, "You Americans are too concerned about the time an event happens. We Africans do not care when it happens near as much as we care IF an event happens!" I enjoyed catching up on your blog today. Haven't been reading here much as other events have kept me away. Praying for you and your family from here in Cleveland, TN.

    1. Yes, Bro. Alton, it is a matter of shifting perspectives and priorities, isn't it? Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for the legacy that YOU and your wife have left in this continent! And thank you for your prayers - I certainly don't take them for granted.

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