Uganda

So now it is time to finally write about Uganda.  This is my first post because the first week here was extremely full of all sorts of adventures.  Later this week I am also hoping to write a post about my orientation week in Colorado Springs where I met many great people and was also a week of learning and revelation.  As many of you know, I am here working as an intern for a Christian, non-profit, engineering development organization called Engineering Ministries International or eMi.  I have been here for exactly a week now and am adjusting to life here in the city of Kampala. 

This week has been full of firsts.  Even when we arrived from the Entebbe airport to our apartment (after an hour drive of glimpsing into the shadows), we had to trip into our to-be apartment as the power was out that night (as it is fifty percent of the time or every other night).  I live in a small apartment with two awesome girls, Brenna and Katherine, the three of us each representing the three nations of the United States, Australia, and Canada respectively.  Some typical habits of a day in Uganda include waking up under mosquito netting, smothering on the sunscreen, boiling or filtering drinking water, thinking twice about what food to cook and eat, and unlocking and locking three sets of padlocks on the way out of the apartment. 

This whole past week has been a continued process of orientation.  There are seven interns in total, three of them returnees who got to show us the ropes.  We started with a simple walk around the neighborhood, and eventually graduated (or perhaps finally got over our jetlag) and made the more lengthy trek to downtown Kampala.  The first thing that I took notice of are the many walls, gates, and bars that make up the city.  The office is in a compound, but so is everything that can afford the security, even our group of apartments.  The roads are dusty and red, precarious huts and shacks are set up on the road selling goods, and the sun never stops beating down.  Tropical overgrowth is here and there with the more recognizable palm, papaya, and banana trees.  To get to the center of town we took what is called a ‘taxi’, but what is actually a big twelve seat van that serves as a public bus (and often fits much more than that capacity).  Downtown Kampala is a very chaotic place, full of people everywhere walking alongside very run-down, dusty roads packed with intense traffic.  I have never before been such a minority as I am here.  It seems as though everyone turns their head to see the ‘muzungu’ woman walking down the street. 

So far I have experienced many different parts of Ugandan culture.  On my first day I got to try a dish called Matooke which is made from mashed plantains that are similar to bananas but aren’t sweet.  Other popular local foods that I have discovered are sweet potatoes and a dish called Ugali which is a mashed concoction made from corn starch.  We can buy several of our fruits and vegetables from local vendors on the street.  I also rode a boda for the first time yesterday which is essentially a motorcycle taxi.  It isn’t the safest mode of transportation, but it’s easy to catch one and fun to ride in the open air. 

This past Saturday a group of us went to the nearby city of Jinja to see several construction sites for eMi projects.  It was great to see what good building practices are in Africa, and even more so to learn about how they are beginning to teach locals these practices, while at the same time giving them a good wage to work, and having opportunities to share the gospel of Christ with them.  Teaching effective and locally feasible construction practice  is a great way to tackle the source of the problem.  On Sunday myself and the other interns were brought by one of the fulltime staff to a Ugandan church service.  It was a solid three hours long (we were forewarned), but full of energetic singing and dancing.  We were asked as newcomers to introduce ourselves whereby I used the first sentence I have learned in the local language of ‘Luganda’, ‘Mulimutya ba sebe ne banyabo!’ which means ‘How are you all?’

Today I began work at the office and am very excited to dive into the projects that we will be working on.  I will be on a team that will go in a couple of weeks’ time to the DR of Congo to initiate a project to develop a power and water plan, and make revisions to an architectural master plan for a Christian university.  It has been fantastic to meet the group of people that make up the eMi East Africa team.  Every one of them is passionate about their work here and they are really like a family in Christ.  During this first week we were welcomed into the homes of staff members one by one and served dinner.  It was a great way to meet them and their families.  Even the local staffs are part of the family and I look forward to getting to know them better.

This week has been full of excitement and new things, but I think it is important to reflect on what kind of thoughts and feelings are running through my head.  I find talking and relating to the people here challenging and so I am praying to God for wisdom and boldness in my interactions with people as I work to build relationships.  Sometimes I feel as though I have a hard heart when I see the people living in such tough conditions.  It makes me frustrated that the world is so complicated and that I can’t just change their lives there on the spot.  Instead it takes almost lifelong devotion and a slow but steady progression forward.  That is why I think very highly of the mission of eMi.  Shelter and sanitation are core to aiding these people in need, and that is what this organization does, one project at a time.  And how much more will people listen to our message of spiritual hope when they have received it physically?

2 Comments to “Uganda”

  1. Hey Liz! Glad to hear your first week went very well. I hope that you continue to marvel at all the new experiences! I can’t wait to see pictures!! :)
    Love,
    Jen

  2. YAY! I am so happy your time out there has started well. Its good to hear about how you are doing! I love all your descriptions! I can’t wait to see all your pictures!

    Love,
    Erin

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