Archive for ‘Journal’

June 20, 2019

Results Review

I just recently finished a 12 week workout program by Results App. When I lived in Toronto I would get enough exercise walking and biking to get from A to B, but after living in Kampala for several months, I found that I needed another way to get exercise and get rid of my restlessness. I currently work from home and so I don’t go out often during the day. I don’t enjoy walking or running where we live because there is a high traffic road and no sidewalks! I started the app hoping it would also help relieve back pain that I had been dealing with for some time. It has definitely helped! Over time my back pain and stiffness became less and less until now I almost experience none at all. The ab work has helped, but I think that working my glutes made the biggest difference. Overall I am glad that I tried the app. For now I will continue with it though may decide to seek an open source alternative sometime soon. Below I list out what I like about the app, what I think can be improved, and things to be prepared for.

Here are the things that I liked about the app:

  • It plans the workouts for you so that you don’t have to think about it
  • The user interface is very simple and easy to understand. There is a voice option that can be turned on to guide you through the exercises so you don’t need to be looking at your phone the whole time.
  • The workouts change up over time and gradually get more challenging based on an initial fitness test and feedback you give after each workout
  • The workouts average at about 30 minutes though they got on the longer side closer to the end
  • Short video clips help with proper form of an exercise that is unfamiliar
  • The videos are short and don’t require too much data (an important one for Uganda!)
  • I like that there are alternatives offered for exercises that may be too challenging (i.e. knee push-ups in place of push-ups), though I only use them rarely because I am stubborn…
  • The app is flexible and allows you to choose how many days you want to work out each week. After you choose, it reminds you to keep to what you said you would do
  • When late on finishing the number of workouts that week, it tells you how many days you are overdue, and encourages you to get back in the game; I had weeks where I was sick or traveling, and appreciated that it had a balance between keeping you to your goals without overly discouraging you at missing a target. It actually took me 4 months to complete the 3 month program.
  • There is an option to set a separate cardio goal that can be measured using the parallel Runtastic App. It is nice how the two apps share info. Runtastic offers a choice of running training programs that are also available under the Results membership.
  • The cost is $12CAD per month with tax. I’m on the fence with this one. It is much more affordable than a gym membership and yet I sometimes think how they must be raking in the money with so many people registered. I would challenge Results to make themselves more affordable so that lower income people can also benefit.

Here are things that I think could be improved:

  • The workouts sometimes became too hard, too fast. I’m stubborn and so I wasn’t always ready to give an honest review at the end of a workout; it could be cool if they assessed performance based on the time it took to do the exercises rather than just our opinion.
  • The stretches are the same every time. I think they could also be a bit more varied.
  • The second time I did the fitness test it measured my improvement to be very small when I think it was more significant than that. I think that the test isn’t accurate because there are only so many exercises (like situps, squats, or burpies) you can do in a minute with good form. So perhaps the time period needs to be longer or the exercises need to be more difficult to get a better sense of overall improvement.
  • I think they focus too much on weight loss in the app. I would like the focus to be more about being strong and healthy and reducing pain while increasing mobility.
  • The app always asks after every workout whether I want to share my results with social media. I would like a setting where I can turn this question off so I don’t even have to see it. I don’t think my friends need to know how many push-ups I did on Tuesday.

Things to be prepared for:

  • I didn’t realize how much jumping this program has! I can’t say I love it but am getting used to it and have seen biggest improvements in this area. Fortunately the jumps are quite varied and so they don’t get boring.
  • I still get sore after these workouts even though I am past the 12 week mark! I thought I would get past it in the first week, but how wrong I was! I tried Insanity for a month and was only sore the first week, but for this program the soreness keeps coming, probably because the bar keeps getting raised higher each time.
  • The improvement on my arms is a much slower work in progress and not as much as I was hoping for. I’m going to keep chugging away at it though! I found this Runtastic article about incline pushups very helpful and am trying to do them on days between workouts.

That’s it! I hope that you find this review helpful.

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June 14, 2019

Photos from Othy’s Time Away

Here are some photos from the time Othy was in Butembo and Beni.

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Reunion with CBCA English Service Choir

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Some of Othy’s students working on a practical assignment

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Othy and his interns who are helping him with some programming work

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Catching up with work colleagues

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Saying goodbye to family before making the journey back to Kampala to visit

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June 11, 2019

Home Alone

When I arrived back in Kampala from my trip to Canada, Othy had already left to teach a few intensive courses at UCBC back in Beni. We had purchased the plane ticket to Canada so fast that we forgot that Othy had to bring the car back to the border on the 27th, while I would be returning on the 28th. So we juuust missed each other. I was glad to be back in the place we are temporarily calling home, but it was strange and lonely to be there without Othy. The first week was therefore very long as I lived at home and worked from home, the only outings being to walk to the nearby store every few nights to pick up things like milk or bananas.

Fortunately I had an opportunity for a reprieve from the stillness as my former E4C project manager was in Kampala for a conference and wanted to meet up on the Friday evening for drinks. She proposed we meet at the rooftop bar of the Skyz Hotel, which fortunately was not that far from our place. I got there at 6, Mariela at 6:30, and we caught up and watched the sun set over the city before other friends and previous E4C fellows arrived. It was nice to catch up with previous fellows Trevor and Peter, and meet Doreen who applied for the fellowship this year. Since she lives past my neighbourhood she was able to give me a ride home.

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The following week would have looked much the same except that I got a call from friends of ours, Abi and Drew who were wondering if I could help tutor Drew in ArcGIS for a course he’s taking over distance. Because they live quite far across the city, they offered to host me for two nights in one of the cottages they have at Adonai Gardens. I brought my laptop along and in the times between helping Drew I worked on my own stuff. I enjoyed meals with their family and got to interact a bit with their young son. On one of the mornings we had a smoothy bar where I introduced them to banana, avocado and orange smoothy and they introduced me to banana, avocado, cocoa, and peanut butter smoothy. Yum! On the final morning before leaving they gave me a tour of the house they are building on a nearby property. It is built primarily out of local materials and has a lot of character. Drew is in the forestry sector and knows about many kinds of trees and pointed out some of the ones he has planted including one in the photo below which is a teak tree.

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That Friday Doreen invited me to an event hosted by InterNations. I had seen some adds on Facebook about this and it is gatherings of people from around the world now living in Kampala to help people to get settled, make friends, and get familiar with a new city. The people that I met were from many different places and cultures and it was interesting to hear some of their stories. I find meeting and conversing with new people a great way to get out of ones own head! It reminded me a bit of some of the cultural exchange that I experienced when Couchsurfing.

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On Sunday it was Othy’s birthday. For the second year in a row we were spending our birthdays apart! Last year we were apart for his birthday because I was in Nairobi for the E4C kick-off session. We joked that we had better be together next year or else it could be said that we have made it a tradition lol! The best we could do to celebrate was to have a nice long conversation on Whatsapp. The following weekend was my birthday. I decided to have an open house on the Saturday and invite friends to stop by whenever they wanted. Élisée came for a bit and then shortly after he left Patrick and Lynette came by. Obady came by for dinner and I made homemade tortillas for the first time and served tacos. Sunday was super quiet. It rained all morning and so I didn’t go to church and instead had a lazy day at home. That evening I had a nice long chat with Othy and later with my mom.

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Because the weeks felt so long without seeing many people, I was motivated to see if I could find Swahili lessons that would give me an opportunity for some engagement. Taking Swahili classes had been on my mind for a long time already, but it was as if my solitude was the final kick-in-the-butt that I needed to move forward with it. I inquired at the Kampala Language Center and was able to convince the instructor to let me join a course that had already been running for three weeks already since I had already taught myself some Swahili out of a book. It is a small class with five students. It has helped a lot to make the weeks go by faster and give me more energy! I am happy to be learning Swahili again since I feel like I have lost so much time from being away from Beni for this long.

Finally after one month on my own, Othy returned for a two week visit in between his courses! It was so good to have him back, even for a short time! I pray that outside events don’t prevent Othy and I from living apart from each other for so long again.

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May 22, 2019

Birds from my Balcony

One of my favourite things about our apartment in Kiwaatule is the generous balcony that is in front of our living area. Although we don’t sit out there often because of the dust that coats every surface in a day, we like to take breaks from our work a few times a day and walk out there and take in the view and the open air. I have also been exercising on the balcony a few mornings each week. I have a routine of waking up and mopping the balcony first before starting so that the tile isn’t slippery with the dust. In the mornings I open the narrow double doors to the balcony and keep them open for the whole day.

We also get to see a range of different birds of all shapes and sizes from the balcony. I recently decided to start using my zoom lens to try and capture some of them in photos. I have no idea what kinds of birds they are, only that they are amazing creatures! I hope to grow this collection over time. The idea to do this was inspired by two new troublesome neighbours in red who attempt to peck at their reflection in my window. The first time it happened it was early morning and I nearly jumped out of my skin until I found out what was making all the noise! Now I’ve learned to turn my light on when that happens.

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May 5, 2019

Unplanned Visit to Canada

My Grandpa passed away at the beginning of the month and I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able to travel home to go to the funeral. Friends of ours generously lent us money for a plane ticket for me to travel back. We bought the ticket and then a few hours later Othy drove me to the airport and I boarded a plane! Crazy! I arranged to stay at the DeWalle’s place for the first night because they live near the airport and were also planning to go to the funeral. It felt like I was in a dream to be welcomed by Jeff and Katelynn and then arrive at their house where Dianne had tea and cake ready. Since it wasn’t that late yet, we had some time to catch up a bit before we all turned in.

The next morning we got up bright and early, shared a dutch breakfast (something Dianne likes to do for company and it was oh so good!) and then headed to Niagara. I had a nice time sitting in the back chatting with Katelynn’s young daughter. Since we made good time, they dropped me off at my parents place in Beamsville. A few minutes later our family left to meet the rest of the extended family at church where we would drive together to the cemetery for the internment. Afterwards we returned to the church for the memorial service. Near the end of the service I joined the Lammers cousins in singing a song called “Who you say I am” by Hillsong. There was a luncheon following the service and it was good to connect with family even though it was short.

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Mom’s siblings

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Somehow we all got the memo…

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Cousins!

I stayed with my parents until Thursday and then headed to Toronto in the afternoon. Mom dropped me off at the Burlington Go station just like old times! I planned to attend my old Grace Gathering that evening which is still held at my old digs where Susan still lives! So I walked around the neighbourhood for a while going to some of my favourite shops, and then when I knew Susan would be home I walked in without knocking and surprised her sooo good because she didn’t know I would be there! I was able to congratulate Susan and Andrew on their engagement in person. Soon everyone else arrived and it almost felt like I had never left. It was interesting that almost at this exact time last year I was introducing everyone to Othy and saying goodbye. I stayed that night with Jess and Jeff.

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The following day I met Lucy from Adam House for a meeting at the city and then dropped into my office. The team was away on lunch when I arrived, but I called them and was able to join them. I was thankful to be able to put in some face time at work and meet the new staff who I didn’t know yet. At the end of the workday I walked to Vikkie’s new place to spend Friday evening with her. We ate leftover Japanese curry for dinner and caught up on lost time chatting and watching episodes of Once Upon A Time! We slept in and had a very lazy Saturday morning. In the early afternoon I left to go visit my friend Pamela who lives in Etobicoke. It took an hour and a half to get there by transit, but I was enjoying taking it again and having time to do nothing. I spent a few hours visiting with Pamela and then started my journey back before it got dark. I spent the next few nights back at Jess and Jeff’s place. I spent that particularly evening working on getting the blog post finished about the elections and the ebola. I was proud of myself for finally sitting down and getting it done!

I went to Grace Toronto the next morning. Since Jess and Jeff had to go early to help set up and lead worship, I went and spent some time at the nearby Tim Hortons and enjoyed a Canadian Maple donut… had to fit that in at some point! It was such a joy to be back at Grace and worship with so many familiar faces and songs. I joined a group for lunch after church that included Tim, Joe, Robb, and Rosemarie. I got to learn the wonderful news that both Tim and Joe are engaged! It was a very wet and windy day and so I headed back to Jess and Jeff’s after that. Later Jess and Jeff returned and we spent a nice evening together. They taught me how to play Cribbage.

On Monday I stayed at home and did some work and made arrangements to visit with three friends from my small group. They all came at different times and was so nice to catch up with them. Victoria and Season came by at different times in the afternoon and then Sarah came for dinner. On Tuesday through Thursday I spent full days at the office and also moved back to Vikkie’s place to have more time with her and because she lives not far from my work. On Tuesday Rolf took our whole team out for lunch at Terroni’s. It made me feel so appreciated and it was a great opportunity to catch up more with the group. On Tuesday evening Susan had me over for dinner and we had a wonderful time catching up. Then on Wednesday evening Vikkie invited Rachel to come to her place and hang out with us. I offered to make dinner and made a tasty lentil curry soup. I am sad I am not going to get to go on another Adirondacks adventure or camping trip with these two ladies for a while!

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On Thursday I took an extended lunch from work to meet my friend Petra for lunch in China Town. Later that day our work team piled into Rolf’s car and he took us to his place for drinks and to see how the renovations were going. I didn’t stay long because I had plans to go to a special evening prayer service at Grace Toronto. Unfortunately I got turned around and took the streetcar West instead of East which made me late for the service, but what I did get to see and participate in was beautiful. It was wonderful to see that Susan had fulfilled her dream of starting a choir at Grace! Afterwards I got to surprise many Grace downtown friends and catch up until we were almost the last people left in the church! I miss these amazing people! Since it was Good Friday the following day, Vikkie and I stayed up late watching a few more Once Upon a Time episodes!

Jen generously picked me up on Friday morning because I had accumulated too much stuff that I had purchased to take back with me. It was another rainy day. Before arriving at her and Chris’s place we stopped and picked up decaf lattés… gotta love sista time! Jen and I talked and talked and watched some episodes of Merlin with Natasha. I got to see more of their dog Bandit who is a very skinny but very tall greyhound. I also got to walk him the next morning since I was the first one up. We had a lazy morning and then our parents came by and we went out to the Lancaster Smokehouse for an early dinner. Mom and I shared a tasty three meat platter and between the two of us we still didn’t finish it! I ordered onion rings that were more like donuts! Mom, Dad and I headed home directly from the restaurant. Jen and Chris were planning to come to our parents for dinner on Sunday, but I wanted to go early so that I could go to the easter service at my parents church.

It was just Mom and I at church the next morning because Dad had to work. I enjoyed talking to old acquaintances and friends after the service. Al, Jen, Chris, and Natasha came by later in the afternoon and we hung out and then had lasagna for dinner (my mom spoils me….). We played one game of wizard and then it was already time for them to go because they had a long drive home. I spent the rest of my days in Canada at my parents house. I did work most days and then visited a few other people including Bob and Jane, Bob and Della, and Ingrid. Al came by to visit one last time on Thursday night and took me out to one of her favourite restaurants in St. Catharines. We ate a series of tapas including oysters, shrimp tacos, salmon tartar on deep-fried avocado, and liver brulé – all delicious!

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That same evening, a friend of Othy’s dropped off a keyboard that he had found for a good deal on Craig’s List. It is an old beast complete with floppie disk and is bigger than I thought it would be. It was going to be an interesting challenge to bring back. I started packing the easy stuff that evening so that all that would be left to pack the next morning would be the hard stuff. Fortunately all of my other things fit into a single suitcase. Mom was a packing superhero as always. The next morning she went out and bought bubble wrap and found some cardboard boxes in the garage to wrap the keyboard in. We finished with time to spare! On the way to the airport we stopped in at Al’s work and she helped us to saran wrap the box. It will be worth all the trouble to be able to play the keyboard and hear Othy play! Finally we were at the airport and Mom stuck with me until we dropped off my checked bags and then it was time to say farewell to her too. I am thankful that I had this opportunity to reconnect with friends and family after being away for a year. It was a long flight home to Uganda and I didn’t arrive until midnight the following night. Othy was already away for his work in Congo, but I was warmly welcomed at the airport by our brother Obady.

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April 26, 2019

Grandpa

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Dear Grandpa;

It is hard to believe that you are gone. I am glad that you are now with your Lord and Saviour, reunited with Grandma, and without pain or memory loss. I am so glad you were a part of my life and I have many fond memories. I will always remember how orderly and proper you were with your tasks as well as your language. Your garden and workshop always looked immaculate. I feel like I will have achieved something if my future workshop is half as tidy as yours always was! Even though it was your second language, you learned to speak English perfectly and you often corrected our grammar. Whenever I say “I am well” instead of “I am good”, I think of you! You had the biggest dictionary I have ever seen, and also the tiniest one that is only 5cm tall and is now mine. I think I get some of my joy of craftsmanship and growing things from you. I always admired your beautiful gardening and enjoyed getting tours of your greenhouse. You always dressed up to the nines on Sunday morning complete with classy suspenders. You had a sweet tooth for dutch cookies which meant we could always take seconds or thirds. Sometimes we would get ice-cream for dessert and always told us that it would get colder if we stirred it. You joined us with Grandma in games of Frustration, Chicken Feet, and Mexican Train. You had the first laptop that we ever saw and let us play the occasional game of solitaire. You always had a cheerful attitude and I think that it served you well as you got older. I feel like you grew a little softer and were able to express your love more often. You also kept your sense of humour until the very end, particularly the ability to make puns! While I was getting a ride with her to the funeral, my cousin Diane told me that during a visit, when she told you that she had married a DeWalle, you said “Does he drive you up de wall?” lol! I admire you for moving through old age with grace, even though I imagine it was incredibly scary and lonely at times. You weren’t very vocal about your faith but we could see it in your commitment to Grandma and to your church. You also loved to sing praises to God which I think I have gotten from you as well. I’m glad that you and Othy got to meet last year but am sad you were not able to have more time to connect. He enjoyed meeting you and speaking the bit of Malay he knew with you! I am thankful that I was able to come back from Uganda to honour your memory. When I was getting ready to go back, Mom sent me off with peppermints and dropjes, another wonderful tradition passed on from you and Grandma. Until we meet again,

Your loving granddaughter.

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Can still make a funny face!

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March 30, 2019

Challenges and Joys This New Year

It is hard to believe that it is already mid March. Life has started to take on a familiar rhythm which I am grateful for. In January we moved to a new apartment in the neighbourhood of Kiwaatule in Kampala and it has become home and is serving us well. Othy and I are both working from home. I am working part-time remotely for the same architecture firm I worked for in Toronto along with some of my own projects. Othy has been developing an application that he has long been wanting to push forward. So although we are very tight financially and living month by month, we are thankful that we always seem to have enough and that this is the ideal time for Othy to pursue this work. We are still experiencing the odd feeling of being displaced but are finding that God has us in this place for a reason.

We are still closely following news from Congo. The elections were very controversial. The month of December gave hope to many Congolese as the presidential candidates ran their campaigns. The opposition leader Martin Fayulu had considerable popularity across the country and particularly in the East while Joseph Kabila’s choice for successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari  was clearly unpopular. But then one week before the elections were meant to take place on December 24th, there was a fire in one of the warehouses in Kinshasa where voting machines were said to be kept. There were many questions and little evidence surrounding the event, but the government used it as a reason to postpone the elections by one week. Then a few days later the government announced that elections would be postponed in the regions experiencing Ebola and insecurity which included Beni, Butembo, and a territory in the west called Yumbi. The result would be over a million votes that would not be included. It was very suspicious that the postponement in those regions happened after the election postponement. It shocked me how the democratic process was blatantly removed from these elections, but somehow kept the international community satisfied enough not to interfere. It seemed like a very strategic move for Kabila.

News from BBC about postponement of elections

December 30th was election day. There were some reports of violence and tampering, but overall the day went fairly smoothly considering the challenges. Although they were inherently told that they could not participate in their rights as citizens of their country, the people of Beni decided to host their own paper-ballot elections to show that there was no reason to postpone in their region. This made me very proud! To prevent the spread of ebola they set up handwash stations and took voters temperatures. I think that the process of making a vote, whether or not it would be heard or counted, gave people a feeling of closure.  People were still hopeful that Fayulu could still manage a victory. The announcement of the election results was supposed to be on January 5th but got pushed back to January 10th which was another suspicious postponement.

It came as a shock when opponent leader Felix Tshisekedi was proclaimed the winner. Most thought that Martin Fayulu would be the clear winner. Fayulu claimed that the elections had been rigged and that he believed that Tshisekedi had made a secret power-sharing deal with Kabila. The Catholic Church had sent 40,000 witnesses to polling stations across the country and said that their data did not align but showed another candidate as the clear winner (not specifying who). Fayulu appealed to the supreme court against the result asking for a manual recount, but the court decided to uphold the results despite the controversy. The Financial Times obtained a percentage of leaked data and ascertained that Fayulu was the clear winner. Most people in the east believe Fayulu was the real winner of the elections and do not recognize Tshisekedi as president. They think that when Kabila realized that his successor was unpopular, he decided to find a plan B to retain power. I don’t think Tshisekedi will ever be able to visit the cities of Beni or Butembo without mass riots breaking out unless he makes some significant moves to improve security in that region.

News from AP News about mock vote in Beni

News from The Guardian about the delay in the announcement of election results

News from CNN about surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi

Financial Times article

There was another shock this month when Kabila’s party won 2/3rds of the seats in the senate, meaning that Tshisekedi will be unable to act independently and that Kabila will still retain a large amount of power within the government. Several candidates reportedly withdrew from the running because of demands for large bribes. This entire election hints of corruption and sets a bad precedent for how presidents in Africa have succeeded to fake the democratic process. The Congolese and international community wanted Kabila out, but he is still there, a puppeteer manipulating government from behind the scenes. Sadly I wonder if much progress is going to be made in the next five years. I try to remember that with God anything is possible. He has the power to change hearts.

News from Africa News about Senate Elections

Few! Enough about politics! Onto another difficult topic… Ebola! The fight to contain Ebola in eastern Congo continues since the epidemic was first announced last August. The epicenter has now shifted from Beni to Butembo and numbers are still increasing by a small amount every day. The virus was almost contained in Beni and no new cases were reported for 21 days, but numbers have increased in Butembo. There has been significant community resistance to containment efforts because of a mistrust of health officials. Some people who have contracted the virus and start showing symptoms are not bringing themselves in for testing and treatment. Oftentimes cases are being discovered after a death in the community and when many people have already been in contact with that person while they were contagious. I try to remind myself how much progress has been made and how much worse things would be if not for the ongoing response efforts. There are many stories of hope in the midst of the many challenges. More effort needs to be made in how health workers engage with communities so that trust can be established.

News from Reuters about involvement of Ebola survivors in patient care

The New Humanitarian: Story from a doctor on the ground about establishing trust

News from MPR News about infection control in health clinics

Despite all of these heavy thoughts hanging over our heads as we follow the news of what is affecting our communities in Beni and Butembo, life goes on and we find joy in the day to day. I thank God daily for Othy and for our second temporary home. I am thankful for time with friends and for everyone who has set foot in our home. A month or so ago our good friend Élisée was baptised and we took time to celebrate this new direction for his life. We hosted an alumni of UCBC who is starting to help Othy with his development work. We hosted another alumni who was in Kampala to take the TOEFL exam. Three men from Egypt and Saudi Arabia moved into the apartment next door and we quickly became friends. They were very hospitable and hosted us for dinner and introduced us to Arabian coffee and “carcade” which is hybiscus tea. We enjoyed learning about their cultures and now have places to visit if we ever travel to those countries. We have been going to a new church in the area called Mavuno. This past month we heard a good and challenging sermon series on prayer. It challenged me not to give up praying for the insecurity and the ebola even when I feel discouraged. God listens to us and answers prayer, but we need to trust His timing and purposes that are different than our own.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth”. – Job 19:25

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Like Christ reunion!

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Élisée’s baptism

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Our neighbours Atallah and Ayman

February 23, 2019

Goma Wedding

This has been a season of weddings. On the last weekend in January Othy and I took a long drive to Goma to go to Serge and Hortense’s wedding. It felt extra special because I have a relationship with both of them. Hortense is Othy’s sister and Serge was one of the key researchers that I trained when I collaborated with UCBC for my masters thesis in 2014.

Othy and I arrived in Goma at around noon on Friday. As soon as we crossed the border we were welcomed by police who pulled us over and wanted to take us to their office for not having the right insurance documents. What I don’t understand is how we could have had Congolese insurance when just arriving in Congo and not currently living in Congo! It is also silly that Ugandan insurance doesn’t cover travel to adjacent countries. We didn’t want to go to the office because we knew it would probably mean more trouble and more delays. While we were sitting there waiting, several friends who know us passed by, recognized us, and stopped to greet us and ask what was going on. One of them ended up helping us by paying the police off. Not a great habit to encourage but I’m glad we avoided trouble!

We stayed the first two nights at Bungwe guesthouse where we stayed on our previous visit. We visited the family in the evening who were all congregated at Obady and Marie’s house. It was fun to take part in the anticipation and see the ladies with curlers in their hair and their nails done. I held baby Johan again who has already grown so much! Othy’s sister Guylaine had thoughtfully prepared a Congolese dress for me out of fabric to match all of the other women in the family. It didn’t fit on the first try but they brought it to the tailor the following morning to get it adjusted.

The next morning Maurice came and picked us up so that the family could use the car. It was a beautiful day and Serge and Hortense looked radiant. After the religious ceremony we somehow ended up leading the parade of cars to go to Maji Matulivu for photographs, the same place that I stayed the first time I passed through Goma. There were a lot of family members who approached me to take photographs because many of them were unable to come to Othy and my wedding and they were excited to finally meet me. The extended family is so large and there are many people I still don’t know. A fair number of family and friends did not come from Butembo because it is a long, insecure journey and because a similar celebration was held for the civil ceremony in Butembo two weeks earlier. At the reception we sat with the family near the front and Serge and Hortense honored us with a gift of a cooked chicken and cake. Near the end of the celebration a group of the women went up to dance and I eventually went up and joined them. The women were pleasantly surprised that I could carry the rhythm, even if I was a bit stiff!

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The following morning we went to the english service at the same CBCA church and then went for coffee with Baraka, Shannon, and Jon who was in Goma on business and had also attended the wedding. It was wonderful to finally meet Shannon and to catch up with Jon who I last saw when I was in Nairobi back in May! We wanted to stay in Goma a few more days to reconnect with friends and family, but didn’t have the money for more nights at a hotel. Baraka and Shannon generously offered to host us for two nights at their home. I spent most of the day Monday catching up on work, and then in the evening we went on a bit of a tour to visit several sites with potential architectural work. Goma is in the middle of a construction boom and land prices have risen. It looks like there will be plenty of work for me in Congo when we finally settle there as we hope.

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We began our return journey at about noon on Tuesday. In the morning we visited with Serge and Hortense who had hoped we could wait a few more days and travel with them, but we were out of funds and decided we had to get going. While waiting for Othy to come back from a meeting, Serge and I got talking about his experience back in 2002 when Nyiragongo erupted. It was interesting to hear his first-hand experience and it reminded me of how tenuous life is in Goma in the shadow of that volcano. Othy returned and we headed on our way. Our friend Fiston (he visited us in Kampala a month or so ago) came through the border with us to show us his home which is on the Rwanda side. He took us to a place to buy some of Rwanda’s famous smoked sausages and to a cafe near his home to try some delicious whole milk. Finally by mid-afternoon we began our journey back to Kampala. We didn’t arrive until almost 4 in the morning! Despite our adventure upon first arriving, it felt nice to be back in Congo again. It was good to hear and try to converse Swahili again, visit with family, and experience Congolese friendship and hospitality.

 

February 13, 2019

Lake Bunyonyi

On the last weekend in January Othy and I took a road trip to Goma for a wedding. Since it is a 13 hour drive but takes longer because of crossing two borders, we decided to make two days of it if we could find affordable accommodations. We decided that Kabale would be the best place to stay as it is near the Uganda – Rwanda border, and is high in a mountainous natural area. We left at 5am on Thursday morning and the drive was a smooth one. The evening before I prepared three mix-CDs to play during the drive that we enjoyed! It took about 8 hours to get to Kabale. I didn’t have any time to do any research in advance, and so once in Kabale we stopped in town and I started looking online to see what kind of accommodations I could find, preferably somewhere we could get a taste of the nature in the area. I discovered that there were several lodges on Lake Bunyonyi which is not far from Kabale. The first affordable place I found called Josh Backpackers was too inconvenient because it would take an hour by boat to get there. The next place I found is called Paradise Eco-Hub. It is also on an island, but we learned there is a way to get there by car and park on a nearby peninsula. This was the best option for us because we needed to leave very early the next morning to continue our journey. The drive was 17km and took 50 minutes. The dirt road got narrower as we went and much of it followed the side of the lake where we took in some beautiful views. Closer to the end of our drive we could see Paradise Eco-Hub from a distance. We parked, gave them a call, and they came with their boat to bring us over to the island.

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The facilities are nice and they offer different types of rooms depending on price range. We took the cheapest (15 USD) which is a small room with a separate shared bathroom block, but they also gave us a tour of their nicer options which include cottages and “nests” built from reeds overlooking the lake. There are also steps that go down to a dock and swimming area, and an open-air, two-level restaurant. The construction is rough but still well done and clear that it is done locally without the use of large power tools. Othy napped while I worked a little bit. I couldn’t work long because their current solar system only supports the charging of phones. It didn’t bother me because I appreciated the silence after several months in bustling Kampala. I enjoyed taking photos of the surroundings and watching the many birds that were around. At 6pm I woke Othy up and we had dinner while watching the sun set. Right before the sun was ready to dip down past the horizon we walked down to the dock. This was the last thing we’d see since we would be leaving at 4:30 the following morning to get a good start on our journey to Goma. There was only about 5 hours left of driving but the borders take time, especially when bringing a car through. I’m glad that we stopped in Kabale and found this little treasure!

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January 20, 2019

Recipe List for Uganda

I enjoy cooking and in Toronto I had a list of favourite online recipes that I would often revisit. Unfortunately most of them don’t work for Uganda because I can’t find certain ingredients. I enjoy getting fresh produce at the market and so try to get inspired by the foods that I can find. So now I am developing a repertoire of new recipes that work well in Uganda. Here are some recipes that I have tried so far that have worked well and I may revisit (they don’t make this list unless I have made them more than twice). I will probably be adding to this list as I continue to find more that I like.

 

Carb dishes:

Patacones Con Hogao (Columbian-style Fried Plantains with Tomato-onion Sauce) by seriouseats.com (This recipe gave me a new appreciation for plantains!)

The BEST mashed potatoes by spendwithpennies.com

Loaded mashed potato cakes by spendwithpennies.com

 

Vegetable dishes:

Ginger Broccoli by geniuskitchen.com

Green Beans & Carrots W Tomato, Garlic & Ginger by justapinch.com

Okra with Tomatoes by foodnetwork.com

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatos by allrecipes.com

 

Meat dishes:

Chicken in Peanut-Tomato Sauce by congocookbook.com

Garlic herb butter roast chicken by cafedelites.com

A Great Pork Chop Marinade by recipetineats.com

Ultimate Garlic Pork Loin Roast by dinnerthendessert.com

Crispy Breaded Tilapia by finecooking.com

 

All in one:

Cauliflower, Potato, and Pea Curry by foodandwine.com. I can find cilantro on the occasions when I get to the main downtown market.

One dish chicken bake recipe by diethood.com

Chicken Pad Thai by dinnerthendessert.com. I replace rice vinegar with apple cider vinegar and can’t find bean sprouts, but the dish still tastes great!

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew by freshoffthegrid.com. This recipe calls for chicken stock that I have been occasionally making from scratch following a recipe from simplyrecipes.com

 

Breads:

Homemade Drop Biscuits by fundingzest.com. This recipe is something different but still quick for a special breakfast.

Homemade Flour Tortillas by thecafesucrefarine.com. I used this recipe to eat as tacos and then froze the leftovers for future quick pizzas, wraps, and chips! Yum!

Easy Thin Crust Pizza by thesaltymarshmellow.com. I have tried 7 or 8 different online pizza recipes since coming to Uganda and this one takes the cake. I also recommend their Easy Pizza Sauce.

 

Dessert:

Chocolate banana avocado pudding or ice-cream by kitchennostalgia.com

Orange banana avocado smoothie by texanerin.com This is one of my favourite smoothy combinations. It tastes like dessert but is healthy and so I usually enjoy it for breakfast!

 

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