Posts tagged ‘family’

January 12, 2019

A Temporary Home

Since the first week of November Othy and I have been living in the home of friends of ours in Lubowa, south of Kampala. It has been good for us to have a bit of stability and a place where we don’t have to pay rent for a short time. It is also a well furnished place which has allowed us to be comfortable and able to host now and again. So although these walls are not ours, they have seen various people who are slowly becoming more apart of our lives. It is exciting to be starting to grow some friendships here in Uganda! Here are some photos from some of our gatherings! It’s a good thing that Othy likes to take photos or we wouldn’t have any!

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Jerry, Safi, and their daughter

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Noé, Bethany, and their kids

For the first few weeks that we stayed at this apartment, our friends Noé and Bethany and their kids were staying in the same complex in the apartment of another EMI couple. It was fun having them as neighbours. Their girls would sometimes be outside and see us from our back door and wave and yell hello. Other times we would see them on our way to going for a walk or bump into them at the store. The girls have so much energy and excitement that they treat you like you are the best person in the world. On American Thanksgiving, the day before they moved out of the apartment and left for Kenya, we shared a nice meal together. We were sad to see them leave!

Othy imported two cars to sell in Congo and one for us to use in Kampala. It greatly simplified getting around and my weak back was also thankful for it. It is a blue Mazda Verisa. To celebrate our one month being married and having a car we went out to see a movie in theatres. The cinema has particular meaning for us because we went to see the Hobbit in 3D while getting to know each other back in 2014. This time we went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The following week we went to the theatres again, this time to treat Salama and Wivine since Wivine would soon be returning to Congo. The traffic was so bad that we couldn’t pick them up and instead told them to get a boda and meet us at the mall. We missed the 7:45 show but decided to go to the 10pm show instead! So although we were out past midnight, it was much nicer to drive home on empty roads!

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Rodrigue, Guylaine and family

Othy’s mother was in town for a few weeks to receive diagnosis and treatment for back pain. It was good timing that Othy and I were here and that Othy could drive her to and from appointments and run errands in town. I joined them on some of the outings. It was nice to spend more time with her and I also practiced more Swahili than I had in a long time. We brought Othy’s mom and Salama to the bus station when it was time for them to head back. Two weeks later we did the same for Obady who was travelling home to Goma for Christmas and New Years.

Christmas was the quietest I have ever experienced. The only decoration that I did was to buy white string lights and wrap them around a coffee table made of tree branches. Othy and I spent Christmas eve on our own, but Christmas day we were invited by Maggie to join a group for lunch. In the afternoon we decided to take advantage of the pool that is on our compound and go swimming for the first time! So although it was quiet, this Christmas will be memorable in it’s own way because it will probably only get busier and louder from here! On Christmas day Othy and I had a nice call with my family while they were gathered eating breakfast. We even took a family photo with those near and far!

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The fam!

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Fiston

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Olivia

The person who visited us the most is our friend Elysée who is from our Like Christ group in Beni and has come to Kampala for post-secondary studies. During our time in Lubowa we often attended Kampala International Church (KIC) Lubowa where he also attends and is on the worship team. He would come home with us after church on several Sundays. Our last Sunday spent together with Elysee was on December 30th which was also election day. When Othy picked up the car he also brought his guitar which meant that we could enjoy playing and singing some songs together. On this particular day Othy and Elysée taught me a song called “Fanda Nayo”, or “Reign Forever” in Lingala. I realized that I had heard the song before at the UCBC graduation. We wanted to give God praise on election day because we know that no matter what happens, he is the ultimate ruler and holds us in his hands. 

To bring on the new year we decided to have one last time hosting people in our temporary home. We invited several of Othy’s friends from his time at Ugandan Christian University (UCU) and Elysée came again. They are such a great group of people and I look forward to spending more time with them. As we waited for the new year we shared about the challenges faced this past year but also how God was working through them and how he has blessed us. For me 2018 was a year full of both. At midnight we counted down and shared a toast and were surprised to find that we could see some fireworks that were being set off in Kajjansi. We kept talking past midnight and so by the time we dropped everyone off at their homes and then came back it was almost 4am!

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What a year it has been indeed! Like the year before it has been another season of waiting. I was in a long-distance relationship with Othy and waiting to be reunited. I was working in architecture waiting to have enough hours to obtain licensure. I thought that once Othy and I were married the waiting would finally be over, but it looks like God has put us into another season of waiting, now as a couple. We are waiting for ebola to be contained, for stability to return to Beni region, and for elections to take place in Congo. But just like my time of waiting in Toronto, this time of waiting is not wasted. We are growing as a couple, finding ways to grow spiritually, and meeting incredible people along the way whose lives we have the opportunity to impact. The Christmas season reminded me that the Israelites were also in a time of waiting for the promised Messiah to come to redeem the world, and that now we are all waiting for Christ’s return.

The first week of January Othy and I spent time searching for an apartment. On January 6th we moved into a new place that we will have for at least three months. We are moving to a completely different neighbourhood that is on the opposite side of town than Lubowa. I will miss the calmness of the area and am sad that we are leaving a place when I felt like we were just beginning to grow some friendships there. I will miss the walks Othy and I would often go on exploring the area but hopefully we will continue the tradition in this new place. The new apartment is a good fit for us and hopefully we will find some community here too. Already after only two months we are ending a season and starting another.

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Creative Christmas decor

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Exploring the neighbourhoods around Lubowa

Fanda Nayo (Sung in Lingala)

Kiti ya bokonzi na yo Yesu ee éléki makasi
(The throne of your Glory so Jesus, is Powerful,)
Nani ako longolayo, po tovota yo té
(None can dethrone You, because we did not vote you)
Ba mpaka mikolo, ba mama, bilenge, decidé
(Wise men, children, mothers, young people all decided)
Ya ko tombola kiti oyo ya bokonzi, ya yaya Yesué
(To raise Jesus’ throne) (Repeat)

Refrain:
Yaya fanda nayo (Father Reign Forever)
Fanda nayo (Reign Forever)
Wumela seko na seko (May Your kingdom live forever)  (Repeat)

To vota kutu té (No one voted for You)
To pona kutu té (No one chose You)
Wumela séko na séko (May Your Kingdom live forever) (Repeat)

Ba polos kutu té (You did not need to give out Polos (bribes) )
Ba chapeaux kutu té (No need for hats (politician bribes))
Wumela séko na séko (May Your Kingdom last forever) (Repeat)

(Refrain)

 

November 24, 2018

Goma Visit

We took a an overnight bus called Trinity Express to get to Goma. It was a smooth ride with the only downside (yet significant) being that they played music for the whole ride. I wanted to survey the bus to see how many people were actually enjoying it. Even with earplugs I could still hear and did not sleep a wink. Both border crossings (Uganda Rwanda and then Rwanda Congo) were smooth and Othy’s brother Fabrice came and picked us up along with his friend Marie. They took us to a guesthouse called Bungwe where we rested until the early evening. Bungwe was affordable but had it’s little quirks. Half of it was a guesthouse and then at the very end of the property there is a 6 storey hotel under construction that doesn’t match the rest of the atmosphere. We were on the first floor of the hotel and the first room we were in had a broken shower drain and was very dark because it faced a retaining wall. We then moved into another room facing the garden that had more light. The rooms were poorly designed but one redeeming factor was cool sheets! It is too bad that a building that is brand new already has so many problems. That is why design is always a good investment! Fabrice picked us up at 4pm and took us to visit Othy’s sister-in-law (also Marie). I got to meet Othy’s newborn nephew Johan who was precious to behold! I suppose that I can start calling him my nephew! From there we went to visit Othy’s friends Marie and Anatol and their family.

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One of the main intersections with Mount Nyiragongo in the distance

The following day we went to the harbour to inquire after ferry tickets to Bukavu. We were planning to take a boat called Emmanuel but found out they don’t make the trip on Fridays and so instead bought first class tickets for the Mugote Ferry for $26 each. We then went back to the guesthouse for a few hours and then left again to visit other family and friends including Vital, an friend of Othy and his family since he was a kid. Vital and his wife gave me a beautiful yellow kitenge fabric that had verses about shining light. How appropriate since the song “Shine Jesus Shine” has been often on my mind as a prayer for Congo. On our final day in Goma we took the morning slow and then revisited Anatole and Marie and then Othy’s sister in law Marie. Later in the evening we met up with Othy’s friend Maurice who took us to dinner. When we were leaving the restaurant I asked if we could try to find a good place to see the glowing crater of the volcano. Maurice took us to a road that heads toward Varunga, but because it was cloudy we couldn’t see anything. Perhaps I will get a view of the crater next time! The following morning we took bodas very early to the harbour. It was crowded and chaotic and so I was glad we had our tickets already! To my surprise, first class was a room on the upper level of the boat full of sofas and arm chairs. We were off!

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A view towards the harbour

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My first impressions of Goma is that it is a city full of walls. It makes sense because Goma has experienced more insecurity than most cities in Congo. Although the city is on the side of beautiful Lake Kivu, there are very few perspectives to the lake because of all the walls surrounding the lakefront properties. The two areas where it is possible to see the lake is at the public beach and the harbour. An ever present landmark in the city is the volcano. If it is not shrouded in cloud, in the day steam can often be seen rising off of it and at night a mysterious red glow. The Nyiragongo volcano last erupted in 2002 and the lava flow went through and destroyed 15% of the city. A lot of that hardened lava has now been incorporated into the architecture, especially the walls. Despite all the walls, the people in Goma have the same Congolese generosity and hospitality, and neighbours seem to look after one another. I was glad to stay a little longer in Goma this time and be welcomed by family and friends.

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A soccer field we drove through that was very muddy after rain

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A typical Goma street facing Mount Nyiragongo

November 21, 2018

Safari with Family

Finally the day of the much-awaited safari arrived! Othy and I were up really early because we had plans to go to town to say goodbye to several of Othy’s family members before coming back to meet the drivers and pick everyone up. We had to leave Bwerenga so early that we discovered we were locked in and had to find away to break ourselves out (and fortunately there was a way)! We met the drivers in Bwebajja at 9am and then drove with one van to pick up Ron and Ingred at Nyange resort, pick up Othy and my things from Bwerenga, back to Bwebajja to pick up my family with Vikkie and Jeff, and finally we were off in both vehicles into Kampala to pick up Serges, Hortense, and Wivine. We did not get out of Kampala until after noon! The drive was long but smooth. We took the route through the park to get to the lodge because it is shorter and then we could take a small detour to see Murchison Falls. The roads were bad though and so our time estimates were off and we didn’t have time. We finally arrived at the ferry crossing at 6:30 and waited for thirty minutes to take the last ferry across at 7pm. We got to see the sun set over the nile as we waited. Once across it took another hour to get to the lodge. I had made arrangements for us to stay at Heritage Safari Lodge. I did quite a bit of research early on to find a mid-level priced lodging that could host so many people and have ensuite bathrooms (because another lower-cost option is to stay in safari tents!). We all found our rooms, and then came back to a nice open-air dining area for dinner. We were all pretty tired and so turned in right after dinner. We also had plans to get up very early the next morning for a game drive.

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Van 1!

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Van 2!

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By 6:30 we were all ready to go on our morning game drive. It was beautiful seeing the sun rise as we drove. One of the first animals we were surprised by was an elephant that was close beside the road. Unfortunately it mostly wanted to show us its rear end. Our second major sighting was of a leopard. We would not have seen it if not for our main driver Frank who stopped the van, pulled out his binoculars, and then pointed it out to us. It was very far away but with a zoom lens it was possible to see it quite clearly. I was amazed that Frank had noticed the leopard while driving! Vikkie managed to capture the image of it below! It probably sensed our presence because after a few moments it got up and moved down from the tree out of sight. I have gone on two other safaris, one at Queen Elizabeth, and one here at Murchison, and this was the first time I had seen a leopard. We continued driving and began to get all excited as we saw giraffes from a distance, but soon that became old news as we saw several close up. I think that these will forever be one of my favourite animals! Othy and Jeff took a selfie with one, joking that it did not want to smile for the photo. We also saw many beautiful birds along the way. I particularly liked the white ones that sit on the back of the herds of buffalo, but also small red ones that we saw now and then. We approached an area on Lake Albert that serves as a rest stop for groups on game drives. There were a lot of animals there as well including a wild hog and a grey crowned crane, the national bird of Uganda. We could also hear more hippos in the distance. We headed back to the ferry crossing at 11am. A group of men were playing some traditional music on stringed instruments. The next item on our itinerary was to go see Murchison Falls that the park is named after.

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Photo by Vikkie Chen

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Photo by Vikkie Chen

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The ride to the falls took an hour because the road wasn’t great. It was worth it though to see the powerful falls. At this point all of the water of the Nile is squeezed though a narrow opening. We learned from Frank that the block of concrete was an attempt at building a footbridge that lasted only a few months before it was washed out. There was a path were you could walk and see the falls from different vantage points. In some areas it was practically raining! We couldn’t stay too long at the falls because we had plans to take a nile boat cruise that leaves at 2pm. So we drove back to the ferry landing where the boat tours also embark from.

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We took a boat tour offered by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. It was a relaxing ride though next time I would choose either a pontoon boat or a private tour on a small motor boat because our boat was often too big to get close to shore to see wildlife. We passed a heard of elephants that we could barely see with the naked eye but unfortunately couldn’t get any closer. I still got a pretty good photo with my zoom lens though! I also used my camera like binoculars! On the way there were some beautiful sandy cliffs with hundreds of holes where birds had dug nests. From downstream the falls look like a delicate white hourglass and don’t reveal much of its power that we saw hours before. The boat anchored for a short time to a rock and they allowed some passengers to climb on the rock and take photos with the falls in the background. Al took one of her epic jump shots after which the boat crew said no more jumping allowed! I think my family was glad they came on the cruise, even if it meant not having time for a proper lunch. We made it back to the ferry landing where our drivers were waiting for us. It was 5pm and we were going to do one last game drive before going back to the lodge. Frank said that Murchison Falls is a very forgiving park in that if you don’t see certain wildlife in the morning, you will likely get to see it on the evening game drive. Before departing we decided to gather to take a group photo. It took a while to get everyone in one place and while we were waiting, a baboon climbed into one of the vans and later into the other one! Our drivers quickly chased it away and we had to laugh!

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The White Nile

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The bold culprit!

We switched vans this time so that the other group could benefit from Frank’s knowledge. It wasn’t very comfortable, but we decided to sit on the rack behind the pop-up roof to enjoy the view. We saw more animals as the sun started to set. Frank’s prediction of seeing what we had not yet seen came true. We saw another group of elephants in the distance, and at dusk we arrived where there were several other vans viewing a group of two female lions and three cubs. It was amazing to see! Another beautiful sight was a line of giraffes, all walking in the same direction with the sun setting behind them. Because we had gone on a detour to see the lions we were running a bit late getting out of the park and had to speed up. There were several vans in front of us heading out as well and one of them broke down on the narrow road and we all got stuck waiting behind them! Fortunately they fixed it somehow and we managed to continue on our way. We stopped two other times on the way for two other surprises. The first was a group of elephants that crossed the road in front of us, just before all light was gone. They were so incredibly close and large! Vikkie tried to get a photo, but only managed to capture a blurry face with glowing eyes! We joked that she should put the photo on Facebook and have people guess what they thought it was! The next time we stopped was for a male lion that crossed the road, but unfortunately only the group in the first van saw it. What an amazing day it had been! It felt like three days packed into one! We arrived at the lodge closer to 9pm this time and dinner was ready for us.

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Hartebeest that Frank called the stupidest antelope because it can forget that it is being chased by a predator

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Photo by Vikkie Chen

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The following morning we hit the road at 8:30am and this time took the route around the park. It was nice to leave a little later so that we could see what Heritage Safari Lodge looks like in the daylight. The lodge is composed of a cluster of self-contained cottages that are built using traditional methods. In fact, on the journey back we passed by several villages that were constructed in a similar way. We had several stops to make on the way back. We first dropped off Serges, Hortense, and Wivine, then went to the cafe across from Mikindye Country Club to pick up the rest of the garments from the seamstress. After that we split ways and Othy went with one driver to pick up my everyone’s things that we had stored at his brother’s place, while we went directly to a restaurant in Entebbe called Anna’s Corner. It was nice to be able to eat together and do some rearranging of luggage before taking everyone to the airport. It was bittersweet to say goodbye. On one hand I was sad they were leaving and on the other hand was glad that all the planning and responsibility was over and that Othy and I could enjoy being with just the two of us for the rest of our honeymoon.

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Heritage Safari Lodge – Photo by Vikkie Chen

 

November 19, 2018

Wedding Day! – Reception

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We arrived at Bwerenga Estate close to 5pm. Vikkie quickly adjusted my hair in the house and then we went out for photos. It was an interesting sequence of getting some personal photos as well as photos with all of the guests which is a Congolese tradition. Somehow it worked out and we had a good mix of both. When they weren’t in photos our guests were socializing and enjoying some snacks and the beautiful lake view. At dusk everyone was directed to their seats while Othy and I took a few last photos together. We walked up to the reception area and the MC announced our arrival and everyone stood and clapped as we walked to find our seats. The MC introduced the different groups of people who had come and invited them to stand one at a time. Then Othy and I stood together as people came and presented gifts to us. In Congo it is tradition for people to come up with their gifts and at the same time wave and greet the couple. Following the gifts Othy and I led the procession to get food. There were a variety of dishes and the food was delicious. Just when we had started getting food, swarms of small moths showed up. They were attracted to the lights and falling all over the place. They got in the food, down my dress, and I even accidentally sat on some getting bug guts on the back of my dress (after which a few people came to me discretely and informed me about). Fortunately the moths were short lived and started thinning out as the evening progressed. I was thankful that they were harmless however annoying. While people were eating Othy and I went table to table to visit and personally greet our guests. For dessert there was a beautiful table of fruit that was cut and presented in a creative way and even included our names! The time also arrived for Othy and I to cut the cake. The evening’s program ended with speeches by our parents. There was a beautiful bon fire near the reception area and my family set up a station for people to roast marshmallows and make smores. While some people headed out, others danced and socialized a little bit. The evenings festivities ended just after 9 because many people had taken a bus to get there and had to take it back to town. It was probably for the better because I was running purely on adrenaline by that point! Othy and I said farewell to people as they left, and finally we were just a few. Lauren and Ben stayed and prayed with us over the gifts that we had received, and finally we were alone! What an wonderful and full day this had been! Below is the speech that my parents gave. I am so thankful that they and my sisters and friends could be there to celebrate the start of this next season of life.


 

“On May 19, 1988 two of our beautiful daughters were born. The words that were on my heart the first time I held them were “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works your hands have made.” Those words bring to mind the Psalm of David that speaks about how we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so Elisabeth came into our family.

One anecdote we’d like to share about her is that she took her time learning to walk. She was very content to stay put wherever we set her down. When we would check on her she would be sitting in the same place surrounded by her toys and look up at us with a big smile.

As many of you know, staying in one place is not what she has done – Elisabeth became somewhat of a world traveler – France, Alberta & Quebec in Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Uganda and the DRC here in Africa.

And so here we are. We have witnessed today the joining of two hearts and lives. We are glad to be with all of you in celebration of Othy and Elisabeth’s wedding. We have met some wonderful welcoming people and thank them for their hospitality during our time here. To all of you gathered here. Thank you for celebrating with us.

Othy, we welcome you into our family and pray that the love you have for our daughter will grow deep and that together you will experience much joy and laughter, serve one another, respect one another, and keep communicating well with each other.

When we were married just over 35 years ago my grandparents were unable to attend our wedding. They did however send a letter that ended with a blessing that we would like to say over you. Othy and Elisabeth The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace, Amen.”

November 17, 2018

Wedding Day! – Religious Ceremony

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The veil is on!

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When our car arrived at the church, the place was already fairly full of people and the choir was singing. Vikkie helped me to put the veil on, and then we got out to arrange ourselves for the procession. We went down the aisle Congolese-style with Othy and his parents coming down the left aisle followed by Ben, and me and my parents coming down the right aisle followed by Lauren and my bridesmaids. Othy and I took a seat in chairs in the centre that faced the pastor. The Like Christ Kampala choir came up and sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness and The Joy of the Lord, then Light Choir performed, and then we heard a message by one of the pastors of BCCA. At this point I still had the veil on and was overheating! Rev. Dr. David Kasali was then called up to begin the marriage ceremony. He invited up both sets of parents and asked them for their blessing and support of our marriage along with the congregation, then gave Othy permission to remove my veil, and then had my parents take my hand, put it into his, and then together place it into Othy’s hands. He gave Othy and I an opportunity to say our own vows to each other, and then we exchanged rings. We signed the church’s wedding document along with our mentors (perrain), Lauren and Ben, our parents, and Rev. Kasali. The pastors and our immediate family and close friends came up and congratulated us. After that some music started an a group of women from the church came dancing down the aisle carrying blue fabric. They presented Othy and I with gifts of the fabric, a large wooden spoon, salt, matches, and an egg. The wooden spoon represented hospitality since it is used in Congolese cuisine to make fufu, the salt and matches represented flavour and light in our home, and the egg represented the gentle care that Othy should have for me his wife. The fabric was a good fit for us because it had an image of the world with several bible verses. Rev. Kasali also presented us with a bible and with money taken by the church in the collection. Light Choir came back up and started singing and dancing, and Othy and I stood up and joined in! It was a lot of fun and my parents and others joined in too! That marked the end of the ceremony and Othy and I led the procession out of the church. From there we went straight to Bwerenga Estate for the reception.

November 17, 2018

Wedding Day! – Civil Ceremony

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Matching dads

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Let’s do this thing!

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It was an early start to the day because we had to leave by 8:30am to head to the Congolese embassy. Vikkie did my hair for me and I did my own makeup. The dress I was wearing for the civil ceremony is one that my Mom found in Canada and now it will have special meaning when I wear it again. I also wore earrings from my Grandma who passed away three years ago. Othy and his parents arrived at our Airbnb, chauffeured by friends, and after some quick photos I headed out with him while the others waited a bit longer before departing. It took a little over an hour to get to the embassy and when we arrived there were already a few people there waiting and socializing outside. It was the start to a beautiful sunny day and I enjoyed being outside and welcoming family and friends as they arrived and taking some photos together. Close to 11am we were shown to the reception area where everyone was already seated and a space was waiting for us. Although it wasn’t planned we had the perfect number of people attend this part of the day as the setting was intimate. The ceremony was led by a civil representative who brought us through the parts of the Congolese family act. Then he called us up to say our vows and exchange rings. For the rings he had us hold each others wrist in an interesting way! We went on to sign the documents along with our two sets of witnesses. Othy and I then stood in front of the representative as he gave us some wise council and presented us with our certificates. We started and ended the ceremony by standing and singing the Congolese national anthem. We took a few photos in the doorway of the reception with family and friends, but kept it short since it was already 1pm and so everything would be pushed an hour later. My mom, the bridesmaids and I were provided a room where we could quickly change into our outfits for the religious ceremony, and then we left for the church!

November 15, 2018

Week Before the Wedding

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My family crammed into a photobooth while at the mall buying last items for the trip

On October 12th Othy and his friend helped me move my things into an Airbnb that I found for my family in Namulundu, Bwebajja and to go shopping to get some food basics. Then later that evening we went to the airport to meet my family who were finally arriving! It felt somewhat like a dream or a collision of worlds. There was my family in the flesh. In Uganda! We brought them back to the Airbnb and got settled before turning in. The next day we slept in considerably, went to the Forex and grocery store in Lubowa to exchange money and buy more groceries, and then went to the market in Kajjansi for fresh fruit and vegetables. It was fun to see things anew through my family’s eyes. That evening we cooked a bean stew with rice and played a game of Wizard that took fooorever because we kept being sidetracked by conversation!

The following day my parents went with Othy and I to the Baptist Central Church of Africa (BCCA) which is a sister church to Othy’s church in Beni and is primarily made up of Congolese people. We went to the Swahili service because Othy’s family was going to be there. It turned out to be a special children’s sunday. It was fun to see the kids direct the service, but unfortunately it went very long and was not over until 3pm! I was impatient because we were late for a meeting with the wedding planner and photographer at the wedding location. We finally made it there by early evening and didn’t leave until after the sun set! It was a long day!

Monday was the day of the traditional wedding when Othy’s family came by and met my family and presented the symbolic dowry which is an important part of Congolese culture. My family were real troopers because they spent all morning preparing a meal while Othy and I went to the Congolese embassy for a pre-marital consultation (it turned out to be a waste of time because we were supposed to bring our witnesses with us). My family prepared a tasty beef stew along with an appetizer of homemade tortilla chips with mango salsa and guacamoli. Yum! Othy’s family arrived at around 4pm. They came with about ten people who represented the wider family: Othy’s mom and uncle, his oldest brother and sister, an aunt, a cousin, and two friends. With a few people translating we had some conversation about the things we each do for a living and some aspects of Canadian and Congolese culture. Then they presented the symbolic dowry in the form of several gifts that included two goats, two woven baskets, a carved foldable wood table, two carved wood plaques, and some money for the value of 8 more goats (because in Nande culture ten goats are usually given). My family had also prepared some small gifts for Othy’s parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles. After eating we took some photos in the garden and then had some tea and chocolate before they headed out. Over all it was a positive experience and I was proud of my family for the openness in engaging in such a different tradition. They were not too pleased however about the goats because they didn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully Reuben, the caretaker at the Airbnb, was able to help feed them and bring them in and out everyday. Later on in the week Al jokingly asked dad what we should name the goats. Dad said, “Well one is black and one is white, so why not Othy and Lise?” I’m glad that we at least got a few good laughs from the experience. Eventually Reuben and Dad were able to find buyers for them.

On Tuesday we slept in again and I took my family to visit the craft market and a cafe near downtown while I went to a meeting with the wedding planner in Kololo. We took a matatu to the downtown and from there we took bodas to Watoto church which is near the Buganda market. We should have walked instead because the traffic was so bad that the ride was stop and go and not enjoyable at all, especially for my family’s first ever boda ride in Kampala! We lost each other in the traffic and I was thankful that we found each other again. I pointed the fam in the direction of the craft market and cafe, and an hour or so later came and found them. From there we took an Uber to the seamstress to try on the outfits that had been started and to give her some new outfits to make. Finally after the third try, my wedding dress was good to go and the bridesmaid dresses were looking good too. Mom also liked the dress that I had made for her that was a mix of Congolese and my own design ideas.

On Wednesday Al and Dad left early to go white water rafting on the nile near Jinja. The joke was that they were going to go down the Nile in a basket like baby Moses! While they were away I proposed to bring Mom and Jen to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens to explore for two hours while Othy and I had a meeting with Rev. Dr. David Kasali who would be officiating our wedding. I wish that I could have been in two places at once! After we picked them up again, I learned of some of the cool things that they saw like leaves that feel like sandpaper, tree roots that grow above ground, and some other majestic trees and plants. That evening Othy and I went to pick up Vikkie and Jeff from the airport. It was wonderful to be joined by these two good friends!

The following day I took everyone on a visit to EMI for lunch. To get there we took bodas from the main road and it was a much more enjoyable experience this time because it is a more rural area! Afterwards we went to the grocery store and market again, and then later in the evening we went to the Kasali’s place in Lubowa for a potluck dinner with other Congo Initiative staff who are in Kampala. In the evening I had planned to go and meet Ron and Ingrid at the airport, but Mom and Al offered to go instead because they could see how tired I was!

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The day before the wedding was a mix of emotions (as were other moments this week). I had done a lot of the planning for the wedding, and last minute changes kept coming which were out of my control and difficult for me to handle because I am a designer and perfectionist. One big change was that the religious wedding was moved to the BCCA church. The reason for this was because the church does not perform marriages outside of their building but informed us of this very last minute. My family took the morning slow and me and my sisters had some snuggle time. Later on we brought out the table cards that Jen had designed and mostly finished that just needed to be assembled together. They looked so beautiful! Othy and I then went back to the Congolese embassy for our second attempt at a pre-marital consultation and this time we brought our witnesses who were two of Othy’s friends and Vikkie and Jeff. We then discovered that our witnesses were supposed to be couples, but fortunately they let us put their names down and promise to have them there the next day! We also learned that the civil wedding would start an hour later. This brought me to tears because there was so much to fit in one day and it meant we would be lucky to arrive at Bwerenga just a bit before sunset. It was time to let the little details go and to focus on the fact that I was soon going to marry my best friend and mpenzi wangu (beloved). The day was finally here after A LOT of waiting! Vikkie treated Mom, Jen and I to a facial and then I went to bed early in an attempt at some beauty sleep after an emotional day!

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August 3, 2018

Highlights from Beni

Since my last post focused a typical day, this post shares some highlights from my first two months in Beni!

I lived for two weeks with a lively crew that included Jessica and two visitors, Blaise, and David. I enjoyed spending the evenings with them. Jessica, Blaise, and I (and Matt one time) went on runs together to ENRA which has a decommissioned runway. It is a beautiful spot that I would love for the owner to turn into the central park of Beni! I enjoyed David’s insights into politics and other topics (including an excellent impersonation of the French president calling Justin Trudeau’s wife “delicious”).

Only a few days after arriving I celebrated my 30th birthday. I invited Othy, Hortense and their two roommates to come for dinner. Everyone came dressed to the nines. Before eating we played a game of Codenames. It was difficult to play with language and cultural differences but we had a fun time! The dinner was chicken with cooked cabbage and fries. It was probably the toughest chicken I have ever eaten! Jess made a delicious cake and Othy and Hortense surprised me with gifts of a dress and wrap.

The second weekend after I arrived, Jess, Matt, Othy, and I went to visit Butembo. On the way there we had a flat tire, and the jack wasn’t working because it needed oil. Fortunately a moto driver stopped for us, went to get oil for us, and even helped Matt and Othy change the tire. In the meantime Jess and I were drawing the attention of a small cohort of children who had gathered on the adjacent embankment to see the site of two “wazungu” waiting on the side of the road. Once in Butembo Othy’s family welcomed us with open arms. We visited Othy’s parents, his brother who was in the hospital, and his older sister. We had dinner at Auberge Butembo so that we could stay late without having to go out again. Jessica and I shared a room there and Matt stayed with Othy at his parents place. The next morning Othy and Matt joined Jessica and I at the Auberge for a devotional time and then afterwards we had some fun taking some engagement-type photos. After stopping in on Othy’s family, we headed back to Beni. We were sent off with an abundance of delicious food including a live rabbit! The Tuesday after the Butembo trip I invited Lauren, Ben, Davide, and Othy to enjoy the rabbit together. It was tasty!

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Jessica left for the US at the end of May and a colleague from UCBC named Vivian came to stay at the house. I have enjoyed her company and it has been nice to be able to switch between speaking english and french with her. Othy would often come for dinner and we had a lot of fun conversations. Vivian went with me to visit a tailor to get a dress made and also inquire about the cost of making a wedding dress. We also went to the big market and she helped me in my search for fabric for bridesmaids dresses. There were a few fabrics I kind of liked, but no outright winner that I was ready to buy!

Soon after arriving in Beni, Ben, Lauren, Othy, and I were talking about the idea of having a double date at some point. The challenge though is that the international staff in Beni have a curfew of 7pm. But then I had the brilliant idea that Jess’s room was free and that Ben and Lauren could sleep over! So one Friday night in mid-June they came over, Othy brought a projector, and we shared dinner and watched Les Miserables because Othy had not seen it!

On the first weekend in July Othy wanted to visit Butembo just for a day to visit his brother who was now out of the hospital. I came along and we went on his motorcycle. We left at around 6am on a Saturday morning. It was wonderfully fresh and I enjoyed feeling the wind in my face and seeing the landscape around me without the windshield in between. Othy then stopped, we switched places, and he taught me how to drive! It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to having more chances to learn so that I can eventually ride on my own. Once we got to Butembo we visited with Othy’s parents and sister where his brother was staying. I’m glad I brought a skirt to change into because we were both covered in dust! Othy’s father than took us on a tour around Butembo to stop in and visit some friends and family, and also visit several plots of land that he owns and wants to develop. I took notes and drew quick plans for each property. I have no time now, but hopefully in time I can propose some ideas for these sites! It was hard to believe that we accomplished as much as we did in a single day! We had to head out by 3pm to make sure that we were back in Beni before dark. The journey back was a bit less fun because I was burdened with more gifts of food from the family and the road was much busier and dustier!

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Sketching a site

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A few days later Othy went to Uganda for his graduation from Uganda Christian University where he did his masters. I could not join him because I was in the middle of leading the GIS training and also the staff were not allowed to take the road to Uganda. I woke up early and drove to his place to pick him up and bring him to the terminal to get a taxi. I am glad that his brother and cousin could be there to celebrate with him. I am so proud of him!

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Othy was away another few days in July because he went with a delegation from UCBC to visit Uganda Christian University (UCU) in Uganda. While he was away I hosted Hortense and Wivine for a sleepover on a Saturday night. We did errands around town in the afternoon and then came back, had dinner together, and watched About Time. The next morning we got up early and went to the church together. At the end of that weekend I was starting to feel fatigued and had a sore throat. After several more days I still wasn’t feeling well and so Othy convinced me to go to the hospital to make sure I didn’t have a tropical disease. After a blood test we found out I had some Typhoid. The doctor prescribed me antibiotics and after a day or two I began to feel like myself again. This wasn’t a positive highlight, but still memorable!

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July 21, 2018

Wedding Invitation

Soon after arriving in Beni I had to decide how to share about my engagement with friends and family from home and also invite them to our wedding. I did not want to do a digital invitation because I knew that no matter what I did, I would not be happy with it. I decided to do it by hand and experiment with a calligraphy set that I got from my Grandpa. I wrote the sections of the invitation on pieces of trace paper and then cut them up and arranged them on a white board along with some yellow flowers that I picked from the garden. It turned out better than I thought it would! I experimented with taking pictures inside and outside that created different effects with the background (fabric vs grass) and shadows (soft vs sharp). The indoor photo was the winner, but I have included both here. I was glad that I found a way to do the invitations that made the process more fun! I sent the picture to friends and family in e-mails and included one of my favourite photos of Othy and I.

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June 16, 2018

Othy’s Visit – Family Time

The last part of Othy’s visit was to finally meet my family and see the area where I grew up. On Friday morning we emptied the car, did some work, and then in the afternoon I took Othy to Balls Falls. It had been so long since I had been there, and I kept missing one of the last turns to get there and so we had to turn around and backtrack several times! It was VERY windy, so much so I was wondering whether or not we should even walk around! We had even passed a fallen branch on the drive there. We proceeded with caution and hiked to the upper falls, then walked around the settled area where there is a small chapel, a barn, and a house. Unfortunately the buildings were closed to visitors but we still enjoyed walking around the grounds. There were large white tents installed everywhere, maybe in preparation for some kind of arts and crafts show. One of the tents had completely blown over! Lastly we went to the lower falls that is just adjacent to the cluster of buildings. Othy got a funny photo of me as we were walking over the pedestrian bridge and a crazy gust of wind took me off guard!

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For the sake of nostalgia I stopped in at Jordan Public School which is now vacant. Although there was a sign that says no trespassing, I couldn’t help but go and sit on the swings which were my favourite pass time during recess! From there we went to visit the old school house and then several of the shops along Main Street in the village, one from which we bought some delicious fudge. The last stop that I wanted to make was to visit my cousins who live in the house that I grew up in, but nobody answered the door. I drove us to an empty lot right by the QEW onramp where I was hoping we might be able to walk down to the water. There was no way down however, and so instead we climbed up onto a small incline where we were at least able to see the water. It was still so windy and we had to be careful not to get pulled off! You could see the wind pulling at the water drawing it away from the shore! On the way home I could really feel the wind pulling at the car. Al arrived later that evening. Mom made lasagna for dinner because she knows it’s one of my favourites! We came on the topic of what Al does for work, and then she offered to give Othy a tour of her workplace which Othy responded with a wholehearted YES! I also enjoyed seeing it because her job is so interesting, and her company recently moved to a larger facility.

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The next morning Jen and Chris came to visit. In the late morning Jen, Othy and I went and visited my Grandpa. Grandpa was very happy to meet Othy. Ironically, Othy knew a few words in Malay that he had learned from a visitor at his university. Later in the afternoon we went to Niagara Falls. It was a perfect day for it! We found parking and then walked alongside the falls while stopping to look and take photos now and then. While Chris went back in search of his water bottle, Jen and I explored the gift shop area. To get back to the car we went upstairs in the building and crossed over the pedestrian bridge. There were daffodils planted everywhere! Before we left for home we walked through a beautiful row of blooming magnolia trees. I was glad that I got to see signs of spring before leaving! My dad had shared with Othy before leaving for Niagara Falls that he was unimpressed with them, but Othy did not agree and neither do I. The amount of water going over those falls always astounds me!

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I’m going to miss this one!

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Back at home we had an appetizer dinner together. It was my idea so that Othy could experience the style of meal we have on special holidays. After dinner my family got into an intense discussion on politics, a very common occurrence at our family gatherings! Othy expressed some of his views from his experience in Congo, and then he smoothly changed the subject to express how happy he was to meet my family, how much he loved their daughter/sister, and if they would give their blessing for us to get married! I couldn’t believe that this day had come and this was actually happening! Othy and I had already planned that this would happen, but I was still blushing, smiling wide, and tearing up a bit. Then Al said something like; “Is your heart racing Lise? Because mine certainly is!” and everyone laughed. My parents gave us their blessing and there were hugs all around! Then we took a family photo (a nice one and a crazy one, also a family tradition!) and then played a game of Wizard. We didn’t stay up very late because my dad had to get up very early for work the next day. Othy said goodbye to him that evening because he would not see him the next morning.

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I finished packing the car in the morning and putting a few last things in storage, we took a farewell photo with my mom and sisters, and then Othy and I went to church with my mom. We had to leave pretty quickly after church because I had plans for us to meet up with Vikkie at the airport before going through security. Before we left, Ingrid stopped in to say goodbye! I got emotional when saying goodbye to my Mom who has always been an amazing role model, friend, and prayer warrior. Othy and I hit the road and managed to keep mostly on schedule! We stopped quickly in Stoney Creek to meet up with Othy’s friend (the same one who visited us in Toronto) who wanted to give him some things to take back with him. Once at the airport we dropped off the rental car and went to Terminal 3 to meet Vikkie. Vikkie and I got to chat while Othy waited in line to check in his luggage. She gave me some wonderful treats and items from her recent trip to Japan (the reason why we had not been able to meet up with her during our time in Toronto). Then we had a late lunch together at Freshii. Vikkie and I bid farewell to Othy because our time had run out, and then I bid farewell to Vikkie because I was flying out of Terminal 1. The time had come! I was about to embark on a big journey and also move into the next season of my life.

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