Saturday, January 31, 2015


Anyone who knows me knows that I am domestically challenged. You generally don’t want me in the kitchen.  Mary Jane teases me about the cookies I make for our expat women’s fellowship, as in that’s all I’ll make.  I’ve been struggling with pizza dough here; it took me several weeks to forge a friendship with the yeast, and it’s a tenuous relationship at best.  I made pizza dough this afternoon, and set it in its usual place to rise, next to the refrigerator, with a hot kettle next to it for encouragement.

When I got the dough to roll it out, oh my heck.  Ants.  ALL over my dough.   I have no idea what happened; I’ve done this forever.  My friend Rosie used to blithely say that “we live among the insects,” but I’ve never shared her good humor on that front. 

So I did what any good Christian would do; I baptized them into oblivion with the hot water from the kettle.  Then I took the sopping mound of dough, added a bunch of flour... and rolled out the best pizza dough EVER.  Oh, the irony!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Powers of perception

In my experience, Africans are ridiculously perceptive, and have remarkable spatial skills.  Alison Barfoot told me long ago that "we drive by millimeters here," and she wasn't kidding.  I can't tell you the number of times a car has passed me with what seems to be literally an inch to spare.  Cars, taxis, and bodas move with impunity, passing by pedestrians with inches to spare, and no one is concerned.  Driving here has certainly increased my spatial skills.

I've been on the receiving end of a number of these perceptions over the years:  "You've reduced!"  "You've gained!" "You're whiter than when you left [for the four-month long holiday]!" and my favorite, "You're smart!" when I wear a new kitenge, or African fabric.

Today though, I had to laugh.  I wore a new kitenge to chapel, a fabric that one of the students from Tanzania had brought me.  Several people commented on the kitenge, but no one noticed that 1. I wore my hair down (which rarely happens; it's too hot), and 2. I had cut four inches off my hair.  

Perhaps it's because the women can, and do, change their hair so easily with plaiting and such.  Regardless, I was quite amused that no one noticed what was incredibly noticeable to me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

One Network Area = happiness!

MTN (the largest cell carrier here) recently announced that they had joined the East Africa One Network Area, which provides "affordable tariffs" to calls in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and South Sudan.  This is huge; calls to these countries used to be at exorbitant rates; it's ridiculous the airtime we went through at GAFCON in Nairobi.  So, this is a win-win for everyone in East Africa (except Burundi and Tanzania; I'm not sure why they aren't participating).

So, since this is such a good thing, how odd is it that I am sad that my phone no longer displays "MTN-Uganda"?  It was fun being in Rwanda and seeing the MTN-Rwanda.  For some reason, I feel somewhat bereft.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hallelujah - rain!!

It rained last night!  I never thought I'd ever be so happy about rain, but it's the dry season.  Emphasis on dry.  We're rather spoiled in Mukono, because usually it rains in decent intervals during the dry season, usually when it gets to be unbearably hot, but this year, we've been as dry as everyone else.  That means that it's hot and dusty.  And then it's dusty.  In case you were wondering, dirt roads that have a lot of dirt churned up on them are just as difficult to walk and drive on as snowy roads; the dirt is just as slippery.

So around midnight, we had a deluge for about three minutes, and then I think it rained a tiny bit more.  It was a joyous gift, I have to tell you.  This morning in chapel, the students were giving thanks for the rain, which "put down the dust."  I don't know that the grass is any less brown, but I am grateful for the brief respite nonetheless.

Yesterday, I was walking to chapel, and caught up with one of the students I'd not really spoken with since they returned.  We said hello and happy new year, then I asked how his family is.  He replied that they are fine, but it's dry, so it's hard to get water.  This is the reality in the village; one has to go get water, and when it's not there, it's not there.

The dry season is horrendously difficult, there's no two ways about it.  About two weeks ago, a newspaper reported that there would be no rain until March, so farmers shouldn't plant now.  And yet people need to garden to eat.  So we pray for rain.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Finding joy in the marking

From October to December, our students are on block placement, where they work in a church in their diocese.  When they return to campus in January, they must write a fieldwork report that describes what they did, the challenges they found, recommended solutions, and a theological reflection.  I did it when I was a student.

While reading one student’s draft field work report, I found this sentence:  “Spiritual preparation of my heart will be very important in my ministry to God’s people.”  Oh my, yes!  My heart is soaring.  I put two stars next to this sentence, underlined it, and wrote that I was rejoicing over reading that sentence.

This is something that I try to reiterate to my students as often as possible... that God is after our hearts, in everything we do.  Preaching, teaching, discipleship, leadership, pastoral care... all is of that is good, and doing it well is great, but it is how we open our hearts to the Lord that will affect our ministries the most.

Reading this is also a good reminder to me.  It’s been a rough start to the semester, and I’ve just wanted to shut down and just survive until mid-April.  However, that wouldn’t allow for “spiritual preparation of my heart,” and would certainly have a negative impact on my ministry to God’s people, which I do not want.  So I’m trying to see what it is the Lord is preparing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

And now for some fun

Yesterday, one of my Tanzanian students asked when I was coming to visit them.  Obviously, Tanzania is a large country, and you really can't get there from here.  I told him that I'm coming, and I really do want to come; I just need to find the time to traipse about East Africa.

Then I wondered how large Tanzania is, so I Googled "how large is Tanzania compared to" and let it autocomplete the word "states."  Google gave me this fun web page:, which lets you compare countries and states, and gives a graphic that overlays your two choices.  

I thought this was great fun, and wasted spent a fair amount of time with it.  I learned that Tanzania is 8.53 times as big as Virginia, but it is .55 times bigger than Alaska (e.g., Alaska is larger).  Really, the possibilities for map comparison are quite a lot - check it out!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Who needs snow?

Who says you need snow to go sledding? Kids were using palm tree fronds (trunks?) as makeshift sleds this morning before Sunday School.