Posts tagged ‘friends’

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 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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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

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)

 

December 4, 2018

Around Bukavu

While most of our friends left Bukavu the day after the wedding, Othy and I decided to take one more day to explore the city since neither of us had been there before. Mark and Karen surprised us with a delicious Sunday morning pancake breakfast, complete with locally grown strawberries and close to real tasting maple syrup that they make with maple extract (this is a Canadian saying this). While we enjoyed breakfast they gave us some tips on places to visit. Othy asked me what I wanted to visit first, and I chose ITFM (Institut Technique Fundi Maendeleo) because we weren’t sure what the weather was going to be like and the school offers one of the best views of Bukavu. We hired motos and began the winding journey up the hill. At a certain point the paved road ended and the dirt road was extremely muddy. My driver in particular was having trouble getting through it (Othy told me later it was because he was short) and I wondered if we would fall. Thankfully we did not, though the drivers wanted to charge us more because of it! The motos in Bukavu actually put tarps on the back of their bikes to prevent mud from flinging up and hitting their passengers. We walked through the ITFM campus and were shown around by the guy we met at the gate. Then we exited by the gate that faced the edge of the hill, and found the view that we had heard about. It was beautiful! Bukavu has such a unique landscape with the changes in elevation, the lake with islands in the distance, and several peninsulas, one of them taking the iconic shape of a boot. But with the change in elevation and rains are dangers of erosion and mudslides. Just across the road from the campus, the earth was a large eroded area that in only a few more years might actually reach the edge of the campus and the buildings there! Kids were playing there and standing on the edge of it and even climbing up it!

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The same moto drivers waited for us and we asked them to take us to the boot that I described above. On the way down the hill we passed houses that were built rather precariously on the hillside. We passed by the main roundabout Place de l’Independence. We also passed another roundabout with one of the traffic lights invented by Congolese female engineer Thérèse Izay and manufactured by Women’s Technology, although this one is not in the shape of a humanoid like the one I saw in Kinshasa and Goma. Once at the boot the drivers stopped at a parcel with a large tent. We asked the person at the gate if we could see the place, and upon entering we discovered it was an event space. They were in the middle of preparing for an event, and Othy ran into an old acquaintance! The tent faces the water and offers a beautiful view back to the city.

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Our third destination of the morning was to visit a hotel called Orchids that is supposed to be another beautiful spot in Bukavu. We first went to the restaurant and took tea, and then went for a walk to explore the gardens. It was an absolutely stunning combination of gardens, architecture, and another amazing view of the lake and Bukavu. The path meandered its way down to the water and there was something beautiful to see around every corner. The gardens were well landscaped and included many different species of orchid. I loved the simplicity of the clean white-walled buildings with rich wood windows and doors. There were a few larger buildings and then some smaller private cottages. Finally we reached the water where there was a swimming area and sitting area. I noticed that this was the place that Jess and Matt had gone to take their wedding photos because of one photo that they had posted standing on a pier by the lake.

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This time we decided to walk back to the apartment since it was only a few kilometers away. We rested for a short time and then went out again, this time to visit another school called ISP Bukavu (Institut Supérieur Pédagogique). The university has been around for a long time and is where some of the leadership at UCBC attended. Upon approaching the gate we discovered that we couldn’t go and see the campus for the sole reason that I was wearing pants! From the gate we could get a glimpse of the building blocks which have an interesting form. We walked for a bit from there, thinking that we might find a place to get some lunch, when Blaise called and we arranged to meet him at a restaurant called Le Gourmet. He didn’t make it in the end, but a friend of Othy’s called Beni joined us and we had a nice time hanging out. It was coming towards late afternoon and we had talked about the idea of going to Mark and Karen’s church called Le Phare (the Lighthouse) that starts at 4:30. Surprisingly Beni also attends this church and offered to take us there since it was only a short walk away. At this point it was only raining lightly and so we went for it. The service was on the top floor of a newly constructed building and so had a very raw atmosphere. I felt refreshed and challenged by the worship and the message.

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After the service I had made arrangements for us to visit Dachiku, a friend from UCBC and sister to another friend Butoto (we had seen him last in Kinshasa and now he is in Europe). Beni offered to come with us since it was dark and the road to Dachiku’s place is very muddy. Dachiku came and met us at the Eglise Ararati and from there walked to her house. We had to use the flashlights on our phones because the power was off across the city. What a strange feeling to be in such a big city and yet so dark. We went down some narrow steps that opened to what in the the daytime would be a view over the city. Their house was built into the side of the hill. It was so good to see Dachiku again as I was just getting to know her better during my time in Beni before the Ebola outbreak began. I think their family was also happy to meet members from the UCBC community where two of their siblings/children had gone to study. Dachiku and her siblings offered us some whole milk and bread (the milk was like yogurt). As we chatted, more of their family arrived until her parents and all of her siblings were there to greet us (they have a big family)! Othy sent Bututo a picture on Whatsapp and he was so pleasantly surprised! It was getting later and so we soon had to go. The family generously arranged for a driver to take us back since transit at night in Bukavu is difficult. What a full and interesting day it had been!

December 3, 2018

Bukavu Wedding

Our friend Blaise who came to pick us up at the harbour brought us to the place we would be staying during our time Bukavu. We were being generously hosted by Mark and Karen who are friends of Matt’s family. It was nice not to have to spend money on accommodations for this part of our trip! We dropped off our things and then took a short walk to a nearby guesthouse where several other friends of ours were staying. We saw Adelphine, Lauren, Mary, and Noe, Bethany and the kids. Othy went to get a haircut with Blaise and Regis and then later in the evening we had dinner with Mark and Karen and got to know them better.

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We took the following morning slow because the wedding was not until the afternoon. We then walked back to the guesthouse where we came upon Matt, Benjamin and Regis, members of Like Christ reunited! We worshiped together for a bit and then Regis and Matt started getting ready. Othy and I went back to our place to get ready and then went to the church which was only a short distance away. We met Noe and Bethany and took Lydia to look after her during the service since they were Jess and Matt’s “Perrain” (mentors) and were therefore part of the ceremony. The service was beautiful! Jessica and Matt both looked radiant. Reverend Dr. Kasali gave a thoughtful meditation on marriage that looked at the example of Mary and Joseph and how God called them, and calls us, out of our respective places and cultures, and at times brings a two people together to serve in ministry together. I also enjoyed hearing Matt and Jess’s vows that they had both prepared in English and Swahili. After the service we joined a procession of vehicles around the block and then went home to rest a bit before the reception.

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The reception was in a large hall that was nicely decorated with white, green, and gold, and had tables surrounding a large square open area in front of the stage where the couple and perrain sat. There were strings of white lights over the open space as well. It was a cool way to set up the space since everyone could see the couple well and the MC called in the bridal party in one by one and they had space to walk around and take time to face and greet each side of the room. Matt and Jess then surprised us all with a dance to the song “A Thousand Years” for which it was obvious they had done some practicing! It was so fun to watch them! The next thing on the program was the gift ceremony. Matt and Jess, the perrain, and the parents lined up, and groups and individuals took turns bringing up their gifts and greeting the couple. Othy and I joined the Congo Initiative group that went up together. Gifts took quite a long time because there were so many different groups who wanted to appreciate the couple and the mother of the groom! Unfortunately Mary wasn’t feeling well and so I took Lydia again for a time until the ceremonial part of things was complete. Finally the tables started going up to the buffet line to get dinner. Near the end of the evening the MC called up married couples to dance in a circle. At first I didn’t want to because I was feeling tired, but Othy convinced me and I’m glad he did because it turned out to be fun! Eventually the bride and groom came into the middle of the circle and the rest of the bridal party and as people started filtering out it was a chance to greet Matt and Jess and her family. It was a memorable day!

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The Texans Lawson and Dawson!

 

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.