Mzungu Memoirs

Archive for February, 2012

Life without Daddy

For the better part of the past two weeks, Robert has been gone on an eMi project trip.  It is something he does at least once, sometimes twice, a year, and is a major part of his ministry with eMi.  His latest trip was to master plan a university campus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, just west of Uganda.

While Robert was gone, Caleb and I were left to hold down the fort, something we have done many times over the years.  With Robert’s frequent travel, one would assume we are with familiar with functioning as 2/3 of the family, but each trip and absence brings its own challenges and circumstances.

The biggest difference between this project trip and previous ones was that we were not able to replace the absence of Robert with the presence of my mother.  Since Caleb was born, we have either traveled to visit her or she has come to visit us while Robert has been gone.  My mother’s presence is a great blessing and makes the transition to single parenthood a little more manageable.  But plane tickets to Uganda are a little more expensive than tickets to Colorado, and it just isn’t feasible.

Still, even though my mother could not come to stay with us, our eMi family here took very good care of us.  We were invited to dinner by several other eMi families.  Between dinner invitations, eating out twice and ordering pizza in, I only had to cook a couple of times while Robert was gone.  It was really nice as it just isn’t as much fun to cook when Robert isn’t around to appreciate my efforts.

Caleb and I managed to stay busy with our normal routine of activities.  The biggest challenge of our daily routine was transportation.  Without Robert here to shuttle us around on the boda, we had to walk or catch rides with friends.  I really missed Robert and the boda the days I would walk Caleb down to school and then have to climb up the hill all the way to the eMi office.  It is probably only half a mile, but with my computer on my back it sure felt a lot further than that.  And of course, I would have to walk to pick Caleb up from school as well, but we only had to climb half way up the hill to get to the road to our house which is fairly flat.  Caleb did a really good job of mostly not complaining.  It was always a nice bonus when we could catch a ride with someone.

I did have a bit of a parenting challenge while Robert was away.  Caleb was invited to spend the night at a school friend’s house.  I agreed to it before I really had a chance to think about what I was agreeing to.  I was uneasy about it all week as I barely know the parents, as in I have seen the mother occasionally at school but have never really talked with her and I have only met the father once.  I decided that I would feel better if I just knew where he was going, so I asked to tag along when Caleb and his friend were taken home on Friday (Robert had been to the friend’s house but I hadn’t). Feeling better but still nervous, I asked for prayers at a woman’s Bible study where I was after leaving Caleb at his friend’s house.

After Bible study, one of the ladies who attends called to encourage me in my role as the ultimate protector of my child. It spurred me into calling to check on Caleb and make sure he was OK. When I called the mobile number of the friend’s mom, I found out that she wasn’t even home with the boys, but she said she had “10 people at the house” and gave me the number for the home phone. When I called the house and talked to Caleb, I could tell something wasn’t quite right. I asked him if he wanted me to come get him and he said “yes”. So I called the lady who had called me after Bible study, and she gave me a ride to go get Caleb.

After we had picked him up, the friend’s mother called me I thought to make sure that Caleb had actually left with someone he was supposed to leave with. But she was calling to tell me that I was “impolite” for picking up my son. I may have burned a few cultural bridges, but my son’s safety and well-being is a little more important than being polite and culturally correct.  The hardest part about the whole thing was that I had to make the call to go get Caleb on my own without being able to discuss the situation with Robert.

Aside from that incident, things were pretty quiet for us here on the home front.  I could tell Caleb was starting to miss Robert when he started coming home with more disciplinary marks during the second week.  But I was starting to miss him myself.  I thought I was doing okay until someone at the office asked if I was ready to have Robert home to which I responded without an emphatic “yes!”  After that, things seemed to go downhill in the “missing” department, but fortunately we only had a couple more days to go.

Caleb and I know there are times that we have to share Robert with the world.  It is just part being an eMi family.  But it sure is nice when he comes home to us.

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Why do you say that?

One of Caleb’s favorite questions lately has been “why do you say that?”.  It is his wordy way of asking the typical childhood question of “why?”.  What can I say?  The kid has a flair for the flamboyant.  Actually, I kind of like the phrase as it can be used for a lot of the things we hear around here.  While English is the national language in Uganda, it is definitely not the English spoken in the States.  It is more like British English with an African flair.

Some examples of Ugandan English:

“I need to go now now.”     Translation: “I need to go immediately.” (Caleb’s personal favorite)

“Can you come pick me?”     Translation: “Can you come get me (pick me up)?

“I am coming.”     Translation:  “I’m on my way.”

“We go.”     Translation:  “Let’s go.”

“You are smart!”     Translation: “You are looking very nice.”

“My back is paining me.”     Translation: “My back hurts.”

“You are lost.”     Translation: “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Can you bring the balance?”     Translation:  “Can I have my change?”

“They have knocked me.”     Translation:  “They crashed into me.”

“I need to make a short call.”     Translation:  “I need to pee.”

“I need to make a long call.”     Translation: I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

So if you hear us using some strange phrases when we return to the States, please forgive us.  We are just speaking “Ugandan”.

“The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’   — Genesis 11: 6-7


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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

— popular English nursery rhyme

So, how is your garden growing these days?  Probably not so well this time of year.  Neither is mine, but not quite for the same reasons as yours.  Those of you further away from the equator are dealing with the long, cold nights of winter and maybe a little snow that makes the environment less hospitable towards growing plants.  For those of us who get 12 hours of sunlight year round, that’s not the problem.  Our problem right now is that it is Dry Season.  And while it does still rain during Dry Season, it is little and far between, leaving my garden a hot, dust and very dry place.  But during the months of Rainy Season I was able to capture (with the help Robert’s photographic prowess) some of the wonderful things my garden is capable of producing.

When we first arrived, there wasn’t much to my garden (i.e. in our compound) except some drying grass and a little bitty lemon or orange tree (it was inside the cage of twigs Caleb is watering in the picture to the right, the cage is to protect the tree from the dogs).  We’re not exactly sure which kind of tree it is as I’ve heard it called both by different people.    I guess we will have and wait to see what kind of fruit it bears, which will probably be long after we are gone.  It has since grown large enough as to no longer require the cage.  There is a lovely tree with pretty yellow flowers just outside our compound wall that overhangs our yard quite a bit.  Unfortunately, it was covered in a thick layer of Kampala dust when we got here, so we had to assume the leaves were green underneath the brown.

Not long after we moved in but before Rainy Season really began, our neighbor Maggie gave us some clippings from plants in her yard.  The guard stuck what looked like random branches in the ground in various locations along the compound wall.  I was really rather skeptical that they would grow, but they did.  Quite nicely, I might add.  We have three Birds of Paradise plants, one of which has bloomed twice, and a good size Angel Trump with beautiful pink blooms.  There was another Angel Trump that unfortunately didn’t do as well, I think because it was in the constant shade of the tree just outside the wall.  So I had it removed and have since replaced it with something else.

Maggie also brought us some little Bougainvillea plants she purchase at a local nursery.  She actually had to do that twice as a couple of them didn’t take the first time.  These plants provide function as well as form.  They grow up along ropes secured to the razor wire that runs along the top of the wall, and when they reach the top they send out runners that trace their way through the razor wire.  These runners help to obscure the unsightly razor wire with some greenery.  They also provide additional deterrent to would-be intruders as they themselves have thorns.  So far, two of our Bougainvillea have made it to the top of the wall and have been putting out runners that have begun to bloom quite prolifically, even in Dry Season.  One is a pretty creamy white color and the other is a pinky peachy color, depending on the age of the bloom I think.

I have added a few touches of my own to our little compound garden.  After admiring the Hibiscus blooms I kept seeing around town, I decided I wanted one of my own.  Robert found me a red one at a local nursery not far from the house, and I was thrilled to discover when it bloomed that it is actually a double Hibiscus which is my favorite.  I also had our guard plant the Poinsettia a friend had given me for Christmas where the Angel Trump had been dug up.  It seems to like its shady spot much better than the previous occupant, although it is a little hard to tell as it too is in a little twig cage of its own to protect it from the dogs.

I also tried my hand at a little herb garden, although the only herb I have been able to grow is basil.  But boy, did it grow.  We had so many basil plants we gave some to Maggie as well as the office herb garden which has rosemary and mint as well.  We also had a couple of rouge tomato plants spring up from the compost soil Maggie had given us for the herb garden.  Unfortunately, quite a few of the tomatoes became infected with something, but I was still able to get maybe a dozen tomatoes off the plants which we enjoyed over the course of a couple of weeks.

Right now, my garden isn’t doing much.  But I look forward to the day when the rains will return and my sleeping plants will awaken again and burst forth into loveliness.

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Signs Too

After some serious blogs the last couple of weeks, we thought a fun blog was in order.  We have found even more great signs here in Uganda.  Some signs are ambitious, cute, sumptuous or flamin.  Others are for mathematicians or zebras.  There are signs announcing the existence of emergencies, guaranteeing smiles or warning of changing priorities.  We hope these bring a smile to your face.

I might clarify that this sign is advertising flavors of ice cream, but it is humorous on many levels.



















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