Monday, August 25, 2014

What a broken glass means

Today I broke a glass.  While this is hardly tragic, it was my favorite glass, one I had shipped from the US with my oodles of books.  I’ve had it for years, and I know I can’t ever replace it, or the sentiment attached to it.

I’m not a terribly sentimental person (I referred to one of John Donne’s poems as “sappy” my freshman year of college, an incident I remember because I had that same professor two semesters later, and she asked me if I still had the same opinion), and in the intervening years since that English Lit class, I would like to think that I have grown and matured a bit.  Now, I would never call a classic author’s work “sappy.”  My vocabulary has expanded since I was 18.

Last week, I had the joy of hosting the Rev. Canon Dr. Alison Barfoot while she was here for the Provincial Assembly, and during a discussion about something I have in my flat (possibly the potholders from the firm where my mom worked that I asked my bishop to bring), we got to discussing the little things that make us feel tied to the US. 

Yes, I have other glasses that were purchased in Uganda.  I brought over several coffee mugs in the book shipment as well.  I rarely use them, preferring the larger mugs that I found here, but having them, just SEEING them, reminds me of the United States.  I love seeing the hand-painted mug my best friend gave me, and I use it when I miss her.  I love the mug with the picture of the Bishop Tucker building that was painted by a friend who was a missionary here, and it reminds me of her.

Oddly enough, for me, it’s the very small things that have sentimental value.  I absolutely love my potholders.  I’m actually bringing some small Ugandan things to keep in my room at my mom’s, because when I’m in the US, I miss Uganda. 

I will replace the glass, but it won’t be the same.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Choosing your family members

Today, we had a tea after the service in honor of the Archbishop's visit.  I got to play with my niece/goddaughter, which was a joy.  I took it to be my auntie prerogative to introduce her to selfies.  :)  She liked my phone, but wasn't interested in smiling, until someone gave her a banana.

When I asked her parents if I could post the pictures on Facebook, they both said, "if you don't mind, it's fine."  I pointed out that she's not my daughter, so it's not my call, and her father insisted that she is my daughter.  We went back and forth a couple times, then I "was quiet" (gave up).

Family does indeed grow with whomever you choose to include.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ups and downs of social media

At the beginning of the semester, when I was giving my phone number and UCU email address to my students, one of them asked if they could friend me on Facebook.  I said that if they could find me, they could.

A couple weeks later, one found me, and just a few weeks ago, yet another found me.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this photo in his feed, with the caption "ma lecturer."

I had no idea he had taken the picture.  This must have been about mid-way through the semester, as we moved out of this room because when it is packed to the gills with 42 students, it's absolutely roasting in the afternoon.  I don't normally wear my collar to class, but I think that morning I had led the staff devotion, and never went home to change.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lessons from the supermarket

Today I went to Kampala to have lunch with a friend.  Earlier in the morning, the sky was looking a little dark.  The radio announcers talked about a “light drizzle” throughout the day.  What they meant to say was “small monsoon” in the early afternoon.  The heavy rains produced flash flooding in Kampala, especially where I was going.  I seriously thought there was a chance that my car could stall; the water had to be up to the sideboard.  The upside to that is that when it’s raining that bad, the security folks just wave your car in and don’t search you.

However, when one is going into the supermarket, you must check any bags you have (other than a purse) and for this reason, I no longer go into a supermarket with anything else because I’m afraid that I’ll get in my car without picking up my checked bags (which has happened).  Today, I learned that one must check one’s umbrella when entering the supermarket.  Perhaps this is just a public safety consideration, so that we don’t get the floor wet, but I wondered how many people would leave their umbrellas in the check station.  Note to self: don't go to the supermarket in a deluge.

I don’t like to pay Kampala prices for some things I can get in Mukono, like eggs, so I went to the small supermarket off campus to get eggs.  Except that the eggs were finished.  So I had to go to a supermarket in Mukono town.  I went to the cash register, and said I wanted to get a tray of eggs.  You can purchase them packaged, but it’s cheaper to get the tray of 30 eggs and wash and store them at home.  Yes, wash.  They stay fresh longer when they’re from-the-hen dirty.  The cleanliness of those eggs you Americans buy is why they need to be refrigerated:  to keep them fresh longer.

So, when I asked for a tray of eggs, the cashier was surprised.  She asked me if I wanted local eggs (as they had clean and packaged eggs).  I told her I did.  She asked again, and I again concurred.  She again asked if I wanted local eggs, so I asked if the other eggs came from far away.  She laughed, and said they didn’t, which made me wonder why the eggs I bought were considered local. 

Since this is Africa and all conversations in public places are public, another customer explained that the hens that produce local eggs are different.  Another cashier explained that they are layered, whatever that means.  Another customer explained that the eggs tasted different.  

I asked my cashier if bazungu (white people) don’t buy local eggs, and she said that no, we do.  And yet, for some reason, my purchasing a tray of local eggs became a topic of conversation at the cash register.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading the Koran... in church

Among any number of things I never thought I’d ever do in life, one of them is reading the Koran.  In church.  Actually, it was in the cathedral, but that’s neither here nor there.  Let me explain.

Sunday, the cathedral hosted the Provincial Coordinator for Christian-Muslim Relations as the preacher, and rather than just giving him the sermon time, they gave him the majority of the service.  I thought this was absolutely fabulous.  I’ve heard him speak several times previously, and he is a gifted apologist, evangelist, and teacher.

I had been asked to read the lessons for the morning, so I was sitting up front.  When the Coordinator saw me, he asked me to come up front to read various passages from the Koran to show that he wasn’t just making up what he was saying.

Had I known he was coming, I would have brought a pen and paper to take copious notes. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all the finer points of what he said, though he gave an excellent example of when talking with a Muslim we need to discuss Scripture in context, rather than just answering about an isolated verse, as they are trained how to twist Scripture.

For example, Islam teaches that Mohammed is the counselor that Jesus promised in John 14:16 (the Muslim commentary teaches that the Christians accept paraclete to mean the Holy Spirit, when it is really a corrupted form of a Greek word that indicates Mohammed).  Since they are taking this verse out of context, we must read the verses before and after a verse to get it IN context; when we continue reading to John 14:17, it ways that “…he dwells with you and will be in you” (ESV).  Mohammed died of malaria; we know where he is buried.  Clearly, since Mohammed is dead, he cannot dwell with us and IN us, therefore, the passage is referring to the Holy Spirit.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations.  Christians aren’t the only ones doing this; Islam is set to conquer the world.  Of the registered Islamic countries, half of them are in Africa.  Uganda is one of them, an ongoing “legacy” from Idi Amin.

From Meriam Ibrahim to Boko Haram to ISIS, I don’t think I need to explain that the threat is real, friends.  The church must be prepared, and the church must be teaching:  teaching how to share the Gospel, and teaching how to defend the Gospel from attacks. 

Barnabas Fund has excellent resources available to assist with this, and I commend them to you.  We use their Unveiled book in our classes, and it is an excellent introduction to what Islam teaches, how it contradicts Scripture, and how to share the Gospel with a Muslim.

Most of all, we must pray. We must pray that the Gospel indeed is preached in all the nations.  We must pray for hearts to love even those who would persecute us.  We must pray for the persecuted church. 

Trying to have fun

A friend introduced me to InterNations, an online expatriate group.  As much as I enjoy Mukono and the UCU community, I thought it would be good to try to make friends outside our little campus bubble.

In general, I’ve not been able to attend their mostly-monthly gatherings.  They tend to be on Thursday evenings, and we have Eucharist on Thursday evenings, and arriving in town at 8:00 just to turn around and leave at 9:30 or so (when I have to work the next day) isn’t really my idea of a good time.  I tried to attend the July function, but that was the night of the terror alert at Entebbe, and it took me an hour to get less than halfway to the event, and the radio was warning about checkpoints to get into the city, so I turned around and went home.

So, here’s proof that I’m trying to have fun.  I’m also trying to get my ThD off the ground, so perhaps the timing isn’t the best.

Of course, the first question that we all asked, after ascertaining names, is “what brings you to Uganda?”  Many are working with NGOs, doing noble work like studying how to prevent malaria in children, or working with refugees.  My answer is that I lecture at a university.  This leads to an inquiry as to whether I lecture at Makerere (the largest school in the country, based in Kampala), and what do I lecture.  When the answer to that question is theology, some people didn’t have a clue how to handle that little tidbit of information. 

I know I live in a Christian bubble:  I work with clergy and ordinands, and generally socialize with Christians who live on campus.  I have a fairly sheltered existence.  It’s one thing to know this, and another to essentially be slapped in the face with it.  Am I so sheltered that I don’t know how to deal or relate with a group of people who are predominantly non-Christian?  I fervently hope not.

I’m glad I attended the event, and will probably attend events in the future, as I’m able.  As an introvert, I rank mixers right up there with waterboarding in terms of things I enjoy doing.  However, I did meet some nice people, and for that, I am grateful.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Auntie privileges

In Africa, it’s common for nearly every woman to be an auntie, because of the emphasis on community, rather than individuality.  I’ve been called aunt or auntie by any number of people, to include children, and even one or two of my students.

One of an auntie’s duties is to be the first to meet the young man that a girl may bring home, and you generally only bring home someone whom you intend to marry.  The aunties wield quite a lot of power in the family; not only do they first meet the beloved intended, they also set the calendar and timeline for the introduction and wedding.  Then the parents are informed.

Esther is a dear friend who dates back to my student days, and she is a delight.  When she received a proposal that she was one, willing to consider (because she had had several, and most weren't worth considering), and two, willing to accept, she told me, which is a great honor.  

Then she told me she wanted me to meet him first.  Before the real aunties.  While this is a great privilege, this gave me no small amount of angst; what do I know about interviewing a prospective groom in Africa?

I asked Olivia, the former dean, what I needed to do in this interview, and she was as nonchalant as I was frantic:  “Oh, you just ask him what his intentions are, make sure he’s acceptable.”  Ah.  That solves it.  Ha!

So, when Esther brought her intended around, I had been in my collar, and decided to remain so dressed to up the intimidation factor.  Yes, I am that mean.  

The conversation went well; his intentions are indeed to marry Esther (and they want me to officiate the wedding!).  We had a lot to discuss, as they are from different tribes, she is ordained and he is not.  The tribal issues can be important, though neither he nor his family have a problem with it.

Though I was filling the role of an auntie, Esther is really more of a sister to me, so in conclusion, I told him that if he hurt her, I’d come after him.  He laughed, and I assured him that was no idle threat.  Then I think he took me seriously, which was my intent.