Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lost and found

When you've not seen someone in a while, you tell them, "you're lost!"  I don't quite understand the origin of the phrase, though I hear it a lot.  I've been lost from blogging because of the proposal, as well as all that goes into starting the academic year and the semester.

Today, as I was looking for an index in "A Century of Christianity in Uganda," I noticed that there was a list of some of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries who served in Uganda.  There are only 693 names.  But look who I found (hint: it's number 326):

At some point, I'd love to research who this other Miss J. Hughes was.  She was "only" in Uganda for two years, and I'm inferring that she had only intended to come for a short time; others who left "early" had reasons for their departure listed.

I'm rather intrigued by this mystery woman.  Hughes is a common surname, so I doubt we're related, but wouldn't that be amazing?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

And so it begins

After an entirely too brief short holiday (about a week once the last retreat ended), the students began to return on Wednesday to register for the semester.  Lectures begin on Monday, and I suppose it really doesn't matter whether I'm ready or not; this introvert needs put on her big-girl skirt.

In order to make the chapel rota, I have to know who has actually returned on time (it's probably fewer than you think), and the best way to do that is to go to the dining hall.  The theologians are often the first to arrive for meals and tea, and generally sit at the tables on either side of the middle aisle, which I refer to as sitting on the banks of the Jordan.

The returning students have come to expect me to come to the dining hall during dinner on the Friday before lectures in order to pull together the team for the first week of chapel.  Last year, when I had so magnificently split my lip and chipped my tooth, I asked one of the senior students to do it for me, and he reported that people were annoyed that I hadn't come myself.  In my defense, I really didn't want them to have to eat while looking at the horrific mess that was my face at that point in time.

The new students were a bit shocked and perplexed as to why this white woman was entering the dining, and then sitting down to chat with students.  It's a joy to see them, especially as they're so relaxed.  That will change next week; I know I'm giving assignments in my first lecture.

I actually had a hard time finding the seven students I needed for the team; we don't put first years on the rota, and the returning students were slow to return.  Finally, I saw some of the third year students enter (why were they late?  Theologians are never late for meals!), and when I went over to tell them my grand plan for their life, one of the young women, even before I had the chance to speak, looked up at me and said, "I want to be on your team."

She helped fill up the team, which was fabulous, but those seven little words represented so much more to me than completing a task.  It's been a season of personal and professional upheaval, and in the midst of all that's going on, her wanting to be on my team was a beacon of light.  It may seem small, but it was a tremendous gift.  I am exceedingly grateful.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A life overseas

Every once in a while, one of Facebook's "if you liked that you might like this" is actually spot-on.  One of these suggestions is the blog "A Life Overseas," written by a group of missionaries as an online missionary community.

I found this a couple weeks ago, which I believe is God-ordained, as I think I'm [finally] going through the usual missionary/cultural adjustment:  I'm different here, why doesn't anyone think the way I do, etc.

Adjusting to the Dennisons leaving has been hard.  Awful.  Gut-wrenching.  I'm still working through it, and a lot slower than I would prefer.  This post was particularly helpful for me, and so well written.  

Growing up around DC, I'm accustomed to people moving in and out of my life.  I lived in the same area for four decades before I made a significant move (and what a move it was!), and while other expats have come and gone, this is the first really deeply significant friend loss I've had here.  I'm hating it.  

I'm glad that my head knows that God heals all wounds, because my heart just isn't there yet.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Retreating and winding down

At the end of the January semester (now renamed Easter semester; next is Trinity semester, and September is now Advent semester), we have a week of two retreats:  two days with all the students, then a day of leaving and the new guests arriving:  the spouses for the finalists arrive, with children in tow.  Then we have two more days of retreat with just the married finalists and their families.  

In previous years I tried to not attend since I'm not married, but I was quickly reprimanded.  I told this story to one of my students, and his reply blessed me tremendously:  "It's good that you're here.  You need to meet our wives because the relationship doesn't end here; it will continue."  Amen!  

Though this introvert gets quite exhausted and doesn't feel that she gets sufficient rest to prepare for the students to arrive on the first Wednesday of May (with lectures beginning the following Monday), the retreats really are a lot of fun.  The students are relaxed because they've finished their exams, and they actually smile again.  The lecturers may be stressed because of the deadlines for marking exams; I was working with my three students to get their dissertations complete so they could print, bind, and submit them before the deadline.

What I enjoy most about the marrieds' retreat is meeting the spouses and the kids.  The majority of families remain at home while the student comes here; it's quite rare for the entire family to uproot and stay in Mukono or Kampala, though it does happen.

A special joy for me was meeting my little friend Luke, whom I had the honor and joy of naming last year.  I'll get to see him again in December when I go to Kumi for his dad's ordination, though I doubt he'll remember me.

My student George, his wife Grace, Luke, and I didn't get the girl's name, though she's a helper.

Then there's little Jeremiah, who's a pretty happy kid, except when he's looking at a camera phone:

Poor Jeremiah... his dad's lecturer subjected him to selfies!
And now the campus is fairly quiet while we wait for the students to return next week.  It's a tiny bit eerie, though it is a nice change.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Repatriating a cat

The Dennisons left on Wednesday, which for me, was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.  I have been praying for them to hear clearly when the Lord wanted them to go, and I prayed for all to go smoothly with their exit.  The Lord graciously answered those prayers, even though the time frame isn't anything I wanted!

Mary Jane asked me if I would take their cat, Meri, and of course I would.  I've gone long without a cat, and have missed having one.  Meri knows me, and my flat is one of her hang-outs.  Here, she decided that she wanted to come inside for some reason:

Meri is a bit of a free spirit, so I've been a little concerned with how her repatriation would go.  Wednesday, David, one of Mary Jane's kids (and Meri's human) brought her down the hill while I brought her food.  I was hoping that if she knew her food had moved, she'd be more inclined to come.  

Around dinner time, I went up to the Dennisons with a tiny bit of warmed chicken to entice Meri down the hill, and it worked.  She scarfed down the food, and made herself at home all night.

I let her out this morning, and went looking for her at lunch.  She's used to coming and going at will, and I'm not always home.  I brought her down, she ate, and then made herself at home.  In my chair.

And then she found a place to hide during the thunderstorm.

I think we still have a ways to go, but the repatriation isn't going badly.

Monday, April 6, 2015

In other news...

In more recent news, reports are surfacing today that police have arrested members of an Al-Shabaab cell in Kampala, finding maps that indicated universities and hotels across the country that were targets. 

Please join me in giving thanks for this development, and pray that further terrorist operations would be discovered and disrupted.

Memories of September 12

Do you remember how you felt on September 12, 2001?  I do.  The shock and horror of September 11 had faded, and the reality that our land had been violated in a most atrocious way set in.  I was working at a government client, site and our vehicles were searched for days after.  We had entered this new reality of terrorism, and were forced to find a new normal with this invisible enemy.

That’s how Holy Saturday felt to me this year.  The shock of the Garissa attacks had faded, though the horror remains, especially as information about the perpetrators comes to light.  The wait to observe the Resurrection seemed to last forever; I desperately wanted something to celebrate.

I struggled with reconciling my beautiful, somewhat bucolic campus with this new reality.  I’m used to seeing askari (security) around, and since the break-in, I’m used to seeing or hearing them more frequently around my flat.  I’m used to seeing our askari, the police, and the army working graduation.  I’m used to the police post on campus.  I’m not used to the thought that potentially, the police post might need to expand to include some element of an anti-terrorism unit.  We have 8,000 students on this campus, and close to 1,000 staff.  I’d say that’s a high-value target. 

Mary Jane and I have both had conversations with people in which, when they ask where we stay, they invariably reply with something along the lines of “why on earth do you stay out there?”  It’s only about 17 kilometers to Kampala, but if you can do it in 40 minutes, you’ve had an epic traffic win.  If you can make the drive in less than that, and it’s either 5:00am on a Sunday, or the zombie apocalypse has happened.  But once you get here, you see the green lawns, beautiful gardens, and a plethora of birds and monkeys talking.  Apparently, we’ve just had monkey maternity season here, and we see lots of monkey families running around, with little ones of various sizes.  Mary Jane calls it monkey daycare.

I think what’s hardest for me about this is the cultural loss of innocence. African hospitality dictates that you do everything for a visitor; the world stops for visitors.  If you don’t know someone, they’re a visitor, and you treat them accordingly.  I’ve seen a man drive up a motorcycle to get a large bag of maize that probably weighed over 100 pounds.  Obviously, he couldn’t do it himself.  So he called to another man who was walking to come and help him.  The man came over, they got the bag on the back of the bike, and they parted ways.  To ignore him would have been extremely rude. 

Where are we going from here?  I don’t know.  We’ve become accustomed to having our cars searched to enter shopping centers.  We’re becoming accustomed to metal detectors to enter churches.  Will this affect how we treat strangers and visitors?  I don’t know. 

We did this after the World Cup bombings in 2010, and we found a new normal, though over time, I’m sure some complacency set in.  I wonder whether we’ll repeat the pattern.