Friday, January 27, 2012

Country mice visit the big city

Yes, we feel like those country mice... It's not until you leave your home that you realize certain things about your home.

1. Dirty clothes and dirty feet and legs are normal to us but sure stand out in the majestic Ministry of Health building!
2. Flipflops and T shirts have become standard wear but we sure look shabby!
3. Cheese and meats options at the grocery store made me want to dance around.
4. A slightly air-conditioned store made me linger.
5. I felt the need to shower and dress up just to go out of the house in Kampala.
6. I forgot I was in Uganda momentarily. (Couldn't remember WHAT country I was in, but Kampala isn't the Uganda I know!)
7. It took us 20 minutes to decide what to eat at the food court in a mall (more than ONE option?! In Gulu, if you go to a restaurant, you don't need the menu, you just ask what they have that day because they likely only have ingredients for ONE dish, if that.).
8. I frantically looked around for the fans in the home we're staying in: NONE! But it's cool at night! You don't need them!

Kampala looks very different too - it's a city of hills, it's much more lush right now thanks to Lake Victoria (Gulu, we now realize, is BROWN in the middle of dry season), there are more diverse birds...

Culture shock within our own country! ;-P

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cottage Cheese

In honor of my dad, who can't stand cottage cheese, I made some today. (haha!)

Really simple, actually.

1. Heat milk to simmering.
2. Add white vinegar bit by bit. (I did NOT use rennet as called for in most recipes and it worked just fine!)
3. As soon as it separates and curdles, remove from heat.
4. Strain through cloth and strainer.
5. Rinse the curds.
6. Break up curds and salt to taste.

There you go! Some recipes say to stir in half and half or cream... I don't have that, so for now, it'll be more like farmer's cheese - a little drier than store-bought cottage cheese.

I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the whey - smoothies? Ricotta cheese? Feed to the dogs for protein? Nothing today though - one project is enough! Hopefully the electricity will stay on long enough to chill the whey and keep for tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Solar tomato sauce

I'm very excited about this! I made solar tomato sauce today. I haven't built a real solar oven yet, since I don't have the supplies, but here's what I did!

1. Kick the kids out of my "solar oven" (haha!).

2. Chopped up half dozen or so tomatoes, added pepper, salt, two cloves fresh garlic, oil, and small onion. Covered clear bowl with plastic wrap and poked some tiny holes in it for a little bit of moisture release. I lined my black bin with what foil I had and tried to bake some bread - didn't get hot enough.

3. I left it out all day - it didn't get above 150 degrees F, so my "solar oven" is limited until I get a piece of glass for the top, BUT it stewed my tomatoes! It smelled SO good as soon as I took the plastic off!

4. I mashed up the tomatoes for more of a sauce, but it could certainly be served on bread as bruschetta type topping, etc. Josh thinks it tastes as good as any restaurant sauce!

Medical work

"Auntie, can you give me medicine for the flu?"
"The flu? Well, tell me more about what you are feeling..."
Blank stare. Sister comes to the rescue.
"Auntie, she needs medicine for the flu."
After much poking and prodding, it sounded like every day she had a congested nose, especially at night. No fevers, no cough.
My diagnosis: allergies (the air is thick with mango pollen and smoke from burning fields and trash).

Not a day goes by that I do not use my medical skills. There is so much GERD (acid reflux) - interpreted as chest pains - so I treat GERD A LOT! This season there are also a lot of allergies - interpreted as "the flu" - so I'm treating allergies too. Mostly, my "patients" are people who come into my home. I haven't put out a shingle; I don't want a general patient population. I'm here to work with children with disabilities once I have learned the language and culture. That is my passion, my heart's desire, and even my training!

But it does keep my mind in the game to have new symptoms posed to me in new ways, in a new culture, in a new language! I found a pharmacy that I trust and can communicate with, so that is very helpful as I am still exploring what medications are available here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Grief in the joy

There is no place we would rather be than in Gulu right now. God is so good to us to allow us to serve him here, have compassion for people here, and live here.

But there are times that there is grief mixed into the joy and peace that God has gifted to us. Those times revolve around once-in-a-lifetime moments in family life. Like the birth of our new nephew last night, or the hospitalization of a family member; our baby niece and nephew sitting up for the first time and giggling; and even the everyday moments that could never be captured in an email or letter or photo.

God has taught me a lot about prayer through our directors who LIVE in prayer. They stop and pray at any moment and it is so powerful. Their relationship with God is real and present and immediate. So, as we live this exciting life on the other side of the world, I am so grateful for a God who listens to my heart and cares for His children omnisciently, omnipresently, and omnipotently! I can pray to the Almighty God for my family and friends who I miss so much and I know that God is listening and caring for us!

Baking lessons

I remember as a child, attending a girls' club with my mom and sister, through our local church in Cote d'Ivoire. I specifically remember my mom teaching baking lessons and sewing lessons... Now it's my turn!

My teenaged helpers have been interested in my baking. They are fascinated by baking and love the taste of all the sweets that come out of the oven. So, I promised them baking lessons. Now that my washing machine is working (I LOVE IT!) we had a lot more time in our day today. So, our first baking lesson: brownies!

The girls read a recipe for the first time - completely in the dark about 1/3 c and 1/4 tsp. So, first some basic math - really basic! Then, following the directions, the importance of mixing baking powder in well with the other dry ingredients, cracking eggs on the side of the bowl... so many little things to teach... that are very important!
They jumped around in excitement every time the timer rang (I didn't quite get the temperature right on my min-max gauge on the oven, so we had to keep checking). They could hardly wait for the finished product! They each made a batch - one batch to go home with them and one batch to feed us! :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

She survived... where next?

At church last Sunday, I quickly noticed a young girl with Down Syndrome and watched her discreetly (?) the whole service. Maybe 7 or 8, she was kept close by her 9 or 10 year old sister. Her older sister, literally kept her by her side at all times. When they stood together, she draped her arms over her shoulders. When they walked, she took her hand.

I asked the pastor if this girl attended school and she does! This is such a unique situation for several reasons. First of all, the child survived infancy. Down Syndrome is associated with low tone, poor feeding, heart defects... every child is different and God blessed this dear one with just the right combination and right family and community that she survived past infancy. She also survived a horrendous war! Secondly, she attends school. School is not free and often school is reserved for those who are seen to have potential to go somewhere with their education. Thirdly, her older sister clearly adores her AND is likely a huge reason that this sweet girl is alive today!

I don't know this sweet girl's limitations, but she did not speak when I saw her. Her older sister spoke for her. This may simply mean that she is slower to speak, shy, or just used to her sister speaking for her. But I praise God that He has placed this girl in that church, that community, that school, and I pray that through her life, through her sister's care for her, GOD WOULD BE GLORIFIED!

God does not make mistakes in creating nor in sustaining. This precious one survived, sustained by God - and now I wonder, what is her future in the village in Northern Uganda? Praise God that He is in control!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"O you of little faith" - on anxiety

"Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, "The hand of the our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8:21-23)

And reading about Jesus calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), Jesus said, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

When I first arrived in Uganda, I was very fearful at night. I was fearful of people breaking in while we slept. So I did not sleep. In my anxiety, I reasoned that I could somehow prevent a break-in if I just stayed alert (makes sense, right?! ha!). It didn't help that the children didn't sleep well at first either, so I was up with a child every hour anyway. The outside noises were different, the inside noises were different.

One night, as I was gripped with fear, God broke through that fear and reminded me that GOD is greater than me, greater than "bad guys," greater than snakes and rats. Nothing that "bad guys" can do can prevail against God and His children without HIS permission. God brought us to Uganda and God will sustain us and protect us. Anything that happens is NOT outside of God's control.

Three months later, in my Bible reading plan, I read through these two passages (above) on the same day. It's interesting to me that Ezra was "ashamed" to ask the king for protection because of what Ezra had told the king about God. I suppose that's a whole different topic, but interesting nonetheless. So, instead of hiring men to watch over them, they asked God to protect them. Afterall, what can man do against God?

In the same way, as the disciples panicked in the boat in the storm, supposing that they would perish as Jesus slept, they also forgot the sovereignty of God. Do you suppose that as Jesus slept, God might have allowed the storm to swallow the disciples, let alone Jesus?!

It is so easy to lose sight of the power of our God. But, "if God is for us who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) A night guard cannot protect me more than my God. A band of soldiers could not have protected the Israelites more than our God. A bigger boat could not have protected the disciples from the storm more than our God.

This does not mean that we are foolish and fail to exercise caution. We lock up the house, we do not flaunt expensive items, we do not leave our children unattended. The Proverbs are full of charges to pursue wisdom and not folly. So we pursue wisdom and trust the Lord to care for us that GOD might be proclaimed as great through that care. We may lose our lives, our possessions, our health, but this will not be a surprise to God and we can trust that this is the best for HIS kingdom.

Praise God for HIS care, HIS protection, HIS sovereignty. There is so much more to life than my fears and my feeble attempts to hold it all together. There is eternity! Praise God!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gracie day

Today I focused on Gracie's homeschooling. I've had some struggles with... motivation... for Ana this week, but she's doing better with that, so I was able to give Ana her handwriting work and then let her play StarFall while I worked with Gracie.

Gracie's work is revolving around the Ipad that we were gifted for her. I have an old baby mitten that I cut a hole in to help her isolate her pointer finger. Today, I put a tube of foam inside her hand for her fingers to wrap around as this sometimes cues her to keep the other fingers closed. Then her hand and the foam went into the mitten and her pointer finger out the hole. It worked pretty well.

We started with an easy shape game (Shapes for Toddlers app) - she rocked that one! I still have to hold her elbow so she doesn't overshoot the Ipad - I'm working on a set-up for this. So I even closed my eyes so that I wouldn't be subconsciously guiding her. She KNOWS her shapes - did awesome!

Then we moved to a different game that was a bit more complex ("which one is round" etc.) and she did pretty good. She got stuck on things that didn't surprise me like, "which ones are pets."

Finally, we worked on her actually communication app (Proloquo2). She was tired by then but caught on to getting hugs, kisses, and tickles for touching the right icons. The Ipad definitely holds real promise for her if she can get her fine motor under control!

Then we did read alouds and cooking - all in her wheelchair with tray for good positioning.

What a bright girl!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dek mit!

I picked up the boys for a day at our house today. As soon as I pulled the car up to Home of Love, Moses climbed in. The mamas wanted to bathe them and put clean clothes on them, so I waited till fresh clean boys reappeared and off we went. Moody thoughtful Brian was quiet as this time around I actually buckled the boys in instead of letting them sit unrestrained in the car. (we've progressed in our relationship!) I wondered what he was thinking. Enthusiastic Moses was no mystery.

Especially as he grinned at me and said, "dek mit!" (good food!)

I groaned inside and outside and tickled him. As one of my friends said to me after describing the boys glued to my body as I prepared food, I'm "the food lady." Nothing more than that! (Although I also feel like the rule lady!)

I stood my ground today and, although I had a few bananas and I boiled a dozen eggs and had some chapatis that I know they LOVE, when they refused to eat my nutritious (and not unsavory) lunch, I refused to feed them a snack for another two hours. You don't eat lunch, you don't get a snack right away. It was hard as they lurked about any time I happened to go into the kitchen, ready to eat ANYTHING (besides rice and beans and veges, of course).

We walked them back to Home of Love. It's a bit of a walk (but I measured it on Google Earth to only be one mile - surprising!) with the double stroller with 3 children in it and Josh carrying Moses who is like a lead weight. But in the cool of the evening it was a lovely way to be out and about in the community.

Unfortunately, when we were finally leaving the boys at Home of Love, they cried, clung to Josh, and looked pathetic. Nearly broke my heart! They spend their whole day trying to get food from me, pushing limits, being aggressive with Noah (who is apparently the main feature at the Rattin petting zoo - poor child!), but they have started forming some attachment, at least with Josh. The boys NEED a father figure!

So the good news is that they apparently enjoy coming to our home and don't mind our rules and structure. The bad news is that they apparently enjoy coming to our home but they live at Home of Love! Pray for these two boys and for wisdom in our relationship with them! Praise God that we get to be in their lives!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Standing in line

The pharmacy had a fragrance of diarrhea and those in line near me were coughing. They were clutching their notebooks which they had carried from the local clinic. Inside each notebook (essentially a patient's chart) was the "prescription" written for the pharmacist to fill. The doctor in me fought the pragmatic mom in me as I knew that I had to step into the crowded pharmacy and get to work on getting Gracie's meds in Gulu. I stepped in and realized that this was going to take awhile... I was NOT willing to stand in line properly so I WAS going to get cut in front of repeatedly. I settled in for the wait.

Proper line-standing-etiquette is deeply ingrained in Americans. You stand a certain distance away from the person in front of you. You stand confidently, avoid eye contact, and shift your weight to keep that place in line. You don't cut in front of someone else - that's a lesson taught to toddlers in the USA.

I have yet to figure out HOW to stand in line in Uganda in a way that makes me comfortable. I have discovered that it raises my ire to be cut in front of in the line. (I feel like a 6 year old as I feel myself getting upset that people are cutting in front of me!)

The reality is that I'm simply not standing in line properly, which means that I am inviting others to step in front of me. I am supposed to stand touching the person in front of me. Yes, literally snuggling the person in front of me in line. This signals that I am in line and that the space in front of me is not open for others to step into. I like my space... but I think I'll have to give up some of my personal space if I want to make it anywhere in line!

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