Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hosting the East Africa Inter-University Games

UCU is currently hosting the East Africa Inter-University Games, with around 6,000 student athletes on and around campus, representing Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.  The campus is abuzz with cheers, whistles, announcers, music, and the occasional ambulance siren.  The first night, the Chaplaincy led a welcoming service, which was down on the new football pitch, and thanks to an incredible PA system, I could hear rather well at my place.  In fact, I was able to discern that the preacher was one of my students!  His voice, and his preaching style, are distinctive.  :)

That's one thing that I love:  whenever we host an event like this, we do more than just provide necessary services like food, accommodation, and medical care; the Chaplaincy is always present, front and center, to preach the Gospel and minister to our guests.

When I arrived on campus last night from my last supervision visit, there were about six games of croquet (or something that resembled croquet) on the grounds between Bishop Tucker and the theology library; I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland.  Nkoyoyo Hall, where we have large lectures and church services, has been transformed to a badminton arena.  The library grounds are host to kickboxing matches.  Every inch of available space is being used.  

The Games will conclude on Sunday; a photo album of the opening ceremonies is here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jesus, take the wheel

I’ll write something more thoughtful about Emmanuel’s ordination in a bit (and post photos), though I’d like to highlight something first:  I loathe night driving in Uganda. 

The good part about night driving:  bodas and people tend to stay on the shoulder properly after dark, whereas during the day, they take up whatever space on the road they want.  I think they realize that death may find them more easily at night when drivers can’t see them.  Now if they’d only realize that applies in the day as well!

The down part about night driving:  no or little ambient light, no or few lines on the road, and any that 1. exist and 2. are visible certainly weren’t made with reflective paint, vehicles with dim or nonexistent lights (front and/or back), and drivers who have an unusually strong affinity for driving with their high beams on, or switching them on right as they reach your vehicle.

I needed to be in Mukono on Monday, so I planned to leave Soroti after Emmanuel’s thanksgiving service, especially since I wanted to get through Mbale before it was dark, as there was a diversion because the road is being worked on (this time, I only had to ask directions once, and didn’t have to take anyone with me.  Hallelujah!).  Well, naturally, everything was delayed, and I left about 5:30 pm, and therefore had a good 3.5 hours of driving in the dark and very near dark, as the sun sets at 7 pm.  Yes, I probably should have stayed one more night in Soroti, but the advantage to traveling on Sunday night is that there is less traffic. 

Traffic jams in Uganda rival the DC area, and unfortunately, that doesn’t just apply to Kampala.  Therefore, one plans journeys around the jams as much as possible.  However, sometimes that means driving in the dark with all it’s, ah, contributions to the driving experience.  It brings new meaning to “Jesus, take the wheel.”  I think I've posted this article before, but it's simultaneously hilarious and spot-on.

Want to open a bank account?

Q: How long does it take to open a bank account in Uganda?
Short A: A lot longer than you would think.

Long A: Once a year, I receive a disbursement from the University to go visit my students on their placement, intended to cover transportation costs and per diem.

I’ve been quite reluctant to open account here for several reasons, chief of them being IRS reporting and the fact that this only happens annually. However, this year, the University began to disburse funds electronically, and I had to open an account.

I changed banks while I was in the US, and that was a fairly quick and painless experience (my old bank levied a 3% charge on foreign ATM transactions, and when one draws her salary from the ATM, it’s a bit painful). I chose a large and well-known international bank for my Ugandan account, thinking that they would understand an expat account, and that the process would run fairly smoothly.

Silly me.

I went to the bank on Wednesday, 3 December, to open the account, armed with a letter from the University, my passport and passport photos, because they go on nearly everything as proof of identity. My new friend Peter completed the application for me (even commenting, “Eh! Happy birthday!"). For salary, he figured out how to explain that I don’t draw a salary from UCU, but receive this disbursement annually. He said he would call me with the account number. I took him at his word. Silly me.

The good folk in Accounts have been wanting this account number so they can disburse the funds and begin the process of closing their books. I stopped by the bank on Friday, thinking that perhaps Peter forgot to call. Nope. The application was sent back, because there was an error. So I signed a new application, and Peter assured me he would call me.

I stopped by the bank again on Tuesday, thinking that all was resolved. Silly me. The bank manager assured me that my application was among those that was being fast tracked. I went on Wednesday. Nothing. I stopped by the bank again on Friday (this time in my collar, as I had been supervising a student), as I’d still not heard anything. I’m sure that Peter and the bank manager were quite tired of me, but in my defense, often the way to get things done is to “be on their necks,” as we say. And I so I was.

Happily, Saturday afternoon, as I was driving to Soroti, the bank manager called to say that I had an account number. As I was driving, I couldn’t write it down, and she said she’d send an SMS. That never happened, so I called this morning, got the account number, then fairly ran to Accounts to give it to them. Next year, receiving the disbursement should be a seamless process.

Peter mentioned something about coming to the branch for my ATM card, and I had wondered whether I’d receive it in the mail, as we do in the US. I think I’ll go next week, just to be sure that it actually gets there.

To sum up: 10 calendar days to open an account. Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Greetings from Soroti

Greetings from Soroti, where I have come for one of my student's ordination. I thought I was going to have a conflict with today, and when I told him, Emmanuel reminded me that he is my son. And so he is. I'm grateful that the conflict resolved itself, and I was able to come. 

The drive to Soroti can take up to five hours, and people often note that the road to Mbale (the next major town after Jinja) is good, but the road to Soroti is not good. Not good, of course, is code for awful. 

Imagine my surprise, then, when Mbale itself is a hot mess because they're tearing up the road in town.  The diversions got to be crazy, and when I stopped to ask directions, the man suggested coming wih me to show me, and I could give him money for a Boda bak. I didn't love this idea for any number of reasons, but said a quick prayer and unlocked the doors. A few minutes later I was near the road that my new friend promised goes to Soroti, though I was sufficiently confused that assuming I meet the same diversions on the way back, I'll have to find a new friend to guide me. 

Having said that, the road to Soroti is pretty good now. We'd think it is just the rough pavement, but it is absolutely bliss compared to what it was. However, the improvements stop at the Soroti district line; fortunately, I only travel a few minutes after that. 

Since I'm in the diocese where most of my discipleship group is, I've called to say hello. They will be attending the ordination, and I'm looking forward to seeing them. Godfrey already stopped by to greet me, and gave me a bit of flack for not coming to supervise him; I'm glad he's as annoyed as I was at the change of plans. 

Of course, I'm most looking forward to seeing Emmanuel's ordination to the diaconate. He's the new missions coordinator for the diocese, and I know he will do well. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Recent ordinations and thanksgiving

The second Sunday in Advent is a popular day for ordinations in Uganda; both Mukono and Kampala had their ordinations Sunday.  I had been invited to the Mukono ordination, but it began at 10 (and apparently went until 2 or 3), and I had already been coopted to celebrate both services at UCU.  However, to make up for my not attending the service, I did attend David’s thanksgiving at his father’s house that evening.

It’s always a joy to see my students be ordained; this is what they’ve been studying and working towards.  Several of David’s classmates also came, and it was simultaneously odd (because I’m not accustomed to it) and right (because they’ve been training for this) to see them in their collars! 

My goddaughter, Makable, in front of two of David's classmates, John (front) and Joshua.  They were also recently ordained. 
There were at least 100 people at the thanksgiving, and we were seated under tents on the compound.  When we arrived, the police directed us to the neighbor’s compound to park.  I have no idea how one goes about getting police to direct traffic and guard the cars, but I’m grateful they were there. 

While talking with David, he told me that UCU should have prepared him for his ordination.  I asked what he meant (because everything we do is geared towards ordained ministry), and he said that we had not prepared him for the vows he took.  I laughed, but I know exactly what he meant.

I had read the ordination service several times in advance of my ordination, but nothing can prepare you for actually taking those vows in front of God, the bishop, and the congregation.  It is truly awesome:  inspiring awe, admiration, and wonder, that God would call someone like me to this ministry.  It is also absolutely terrifying that God would call someone like me to this ministry.  There’s absolutely no preparing for that.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Grasshopper season. Yay.

In other news, it's grasshopper season. Fried grasshoppers are a delicacy, and are sold by street vendors everywhere. People set up iron sheets in an inverted come, with a light bulb in the center, to trap them. 

For some reason, the grasshoppers are enamored with coming into my flat. They are attracted by the two security lights at the corners of my flat, and I think they hang out under the window eaves to avoid the birds who also think they are a delicacy. 

I keep this container within easy reach in my kitchen to catch these little guys and return them to the outside. I keep telling them that there's no grass in here to eat, but they keep coming. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The struggle with two homes

I am so, so grateful for the people in both my countries who love and accept me as I am, even especially when I'm pining for the country I'm not in at any moment.  This blog post sums up my heart well.