Saturdays

Pumpkin spice lattes and football. Back in the United States, those were my two favorite things about this time of year. My Starbucks intake increased dramatically in September and October, and Saturdays were spent cheering on all my favorite football teams, from my little nephews’ games to the NCAA games on television.

I’m not sure it ever dawned on me that someday everything could change.

Saturdays in the US were spent supporting my nephews' football teams.
Saturdays in the US were spent supporting my nephews’ football teams.

Pumpkin spice lattes have turned into Stoneys and Novidas.

Driving around in my Camry with the windows down has turned into boda rides and boat trips on Lake Victoria.

Instead of cheering on football teams, I’m cheering on groups of Ugandan children just running around an open field being silly.

My Saturdays have changed. And while I miss the old… I love the new.

Since I arrived almost two months ago, I’ve spent a Saturday taking supplies to an orphanage in a village. I spent another Saturday visiting a village on an island. Another Saturday I walked a 10K to help raise awareness about child sacrifice. And today we went back to the island to help run a jigger clinic.

A year ago when I sat in my comfy Colts chair at my nephew’s football game and sipped my latte, I never imagined that a year later God would have me at a jigger clinic in Uganda. To be honest, I wouldn’t even have known what that was. But today, I found out.

We thought "she" was so precious in her little red dress.
We thought “she” was so precious in her little red dress.

While we expected the people to come in masses to the clinic where jiggers would be removed, no one actually showed up. Since the process involves using a safety pin to cut around a jigger buried in the skin, then squeezing it out along with a bunch of disgusting bodily fluids, I can’t say I’m completely devastated that there weren’t a ton of people there.

We thought our mission had changed. Instead, we would play with the kids. But while doing so, Tiffany discovered our first patient, a little girl in a red dress who had jiggers in her toes. Tiffany scooped the little girl up and we followed them to the clinic.

The child was probably three or four years old, and once her filthy red dress was removed so the child could be bathed, we were shocked to discover the “she” was actually a “he.” This precious little boy was wearing a red dress, probably the only thing he had to wear.

Tiffany and Allison were quick to put on gloves and grab washcloths to start cleaning the boy and prepping him for the jigger removal. He didn’t fight it. He didn’t cry. He just kind of sat there in the water, allowing them to clean his soiled body. The love that Tiffany and Allison showed this child reminded me so much of Jesus, who was never too good to do things for those who were dirty.IMG_4094

Finally, the nurse took over and started to work on the removal process, and just as it was time for us to leave, more and more children showed up, their tiny African feet filled with jiggers.

Saturdays are so different now. Today I really stood back and observed what was going on around me. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, wanting to capture everything in photos and now in words, but I did feel a little overwhelmed today and really got to thinking, “Where do I fit in?”

It was wonderful and simple to know my role on a Saturday back in the United States. I was an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a niece, a cousin, a friend. Here I’m just Natalie on any given Saturday, a child of God trying to find her place in Africa.

Bloody mornings and impending terror…

Between spitting up blood each morning and the likely terrorist attack that will occur here in Kampala, it’s been quite a week.

And we’re only halfway through it.

It’s common for me to wake up each morning, go to the sink, and spit up a bunch of phlegm. My sinuses are constantly draining junk. But when I spit on Monday morning, it wasn’t phlegm. It was blood. Not blood in the spit, but straight blood.

My CT scan from today's hospital visit.
My CT scan from today’s hospital visit.

I quickly examined my mouth, thinking maybe my gums were bleeding from something, but they weren’t. I spit again. More blood. This went on five or six times until eventually it wasn’t blood anymore.

If you know me well, you know I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Needless to say, spitting up blood while living in Uganda wasn’t exactly the best of feelings in the entire world. I have God to thank for keeping me calm through my phone call to our personnel director who said she would escort me to the doctor.

My blood pressure was fine. Temp was fine. Chest sounded clear. They took blood- all of my counts were good. I wasn’t in any pain. It was quite perplexing to both me and the doctor. She determined that maybe I had a cut in my throat that bled, and that would be the end of it.

However, I woke up Tuesday morning and spit up even more blood. Back to the doctor I went. This time they did a chest x-ray to rule out something like pneumonia. Chest x-ray was fine. She referred me to an ENT.

Today I was at the hospital from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., waiting to see the ENT doctor, seeing him, and then waiting even longer to get a CT scan. When I first saw the doctor, I showed him the pictures I’ve taken of the last two mornings and the blood I spit up.

“Whoa. That’s a lot of blood,” he said.

After the scan, the doctor did an initial review of the film. He didn’t see anything wrong, but said that doesn’t mean my sinuses aren’t irritated, possibly from the change in environment. What I find odd is the fact that I haven’t been in any pain, nor do I feel any sinus pressure.

He said the complete report might show something different, but that whatever it is, it isn’t that serious or it would have shown in the scan. Still, I’m a results girl. I don’t like not knowing the exact reason why I’m spitting up blood every morning. He prescribed me some antibiotics and a steroid, as well as nasal spray, and I’ll wait to hear what the full report says.

My mom wants to know why I’m handling this so well. To be honest, I haven’t had much of a choice. What good is freaking out going to do? I did have a few breakdowns today, just simply from feeling like a lab rat with all these tests and not knowing what’s wrong with me. But I definitely have faith that God is with me, and that I will get through this, whatever it is.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about this week.

It started with a few discerning emails from the American Embassy stating that Americans should avoid shopping malls, festivals, large gatherings, and other places frequented by white people, until further notice because of the attacks in Nairobi (which is around 400 miles away from here).

Sure, we can do that. We don’t go to places like those very often anyway.

The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.
The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.

However, the American Embassy also has visited our school for the past three days. We’re a clear target for terrorists. While this is true even on a day-to-day basis, it’s never been more imperative that we increase our security at school.

I know, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere. They happen even in the United States, and violence occurs at movie theatres and elementary schools and shopping malls. But when your own government (both U.S. and Ugandan) flat out tell you that you’re a prime target for an inevitable attack in Kampala, it’s kind of scary. It’s more than kind of scary.

Ugandan police have increased our security at school until further notice. Luckily, we’ll be surrounded by armed guards until things settle down.

Today my roommate and I went to the grocery store. As we pulled into the parking lot, soldiers not only took out our backpacks and searched them, but they also went through the backseat as well as the trunk of the car. While it’s reassuring that they are thoroughly searching every vehicle, it’s a little unsettling to know that it’s come to this here in Kampala.

But what breaks my heart more than anything right now, is the fact that one of my Kenyan students lost more than a handful of friends in the Nairobi attack. The attack there not only occurred close to us physically, but it has broken the heart of a student I love dearly. I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.

Please keep us all in your prayers. I’m not the only one dealing with confusing health problems, and there’s an entire school and city on edge right now just waiting to see if our home will be the next victim of senseless violence. I’m learning to have faith like I’ve never had to before.

Shining where I’m placed…

I never really understood how youth pastors did their jobs. How in the world did they spend day after day, weekend after weekend with a bunch of teenagers? How can they possibly enjoy spending so much time with kids?

Sure I realized my passion for working with kids when I was a sports writer in Georgia, especially after one I knew and loved was fatally shot and it turned everyone’s world upside down. I knew then that the times I felt most alive where when I was with teenagers.

The hot sun shines down on Kyampisi, Uganda and all its beautiful trees.
The hot sun shines down on Kyampisi, Uganda and all its beautiful trees.

Things changed. I moved to Indiana, and while I still had my share of amazing students, it wasn’t like it was in Georgia. I ended up leaving teaching, only to realize a year and half later that it really was where I belong.

Here I am now, back teaching high school English, only this time at a Christian school in Uganda. Working with these kids here has made me realize something… I get it now. I get how the youth pastor’s do their jobs. They work with simply amazing kids.

Overall, so far my experience here has been a great one, but there are some issues that are hurting my heart. Issues that are bringing out insecurities in me that I haven’t felt since high school. And it has nothing to do with my students. My students have actually become my escape. I enjoy being with them.

I think some people find it odd. I was told it’s encouraged that we sit with students in the cafeteria, and since I’ve started doing so, my days have been better. Some find that strange, I’m sure, and I almost questioned myself a few times about why on earth I would rather spend my lunchtime with a bunch of teenagers than adults?

We are to shine like a sun over this calm, Indiana lake.
We are to shine like a sun over this calm, Indiana lake.

God gave me my answer when I was reading the book of Matthew the other day:

“You’re here to  be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve kept you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house, be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

God sent me to Uganda to be a light. I will do that in whatever way He wants me to shine, and I honestly feel like the number one way I am to do that is with my students. If people think it’s strange, then so be it. I’m here to be light, to “bring out the God-colors in the world.” And I couldn’t be happier.

A true survivor if I ever met one…

IMG_3841“That’s Allan back beside Collins,” Mandy whispered in my ear this morning at a village church in Kyampisi.

I turned around and saw a nine-year-old boy talking to Collins. I immediately noticed the scar that extended from the back of his head and around the side. I began to tear up. That was Allan, the little boy who survived child sacrifice.

I’ll admit. Today was going to be rough for me. It’s the regular season opener for the Indianapolis Colts. Sundays in the US mean church, lunch, and football all afternoon. For me, here in Uganda, that’s just not possible. But instead, I found myself in Kyampisi with some of Ugandan’s most beautiful children. And there’s honestly nowhere else I’d rather have been.

The church wasn’t very big. Some were dressed in their Sunday best, while others clearly wore whatever they could find that day. Before we even sat down, a little girl grabbed my hand and walked with me to my seat. I asked her what her name was, but she didn’t speak English. That’s OK. All she needed to read was the smile on my face, and I’m hoping that showed her some love.

After church, some of our friends showed us around Kyampisi. We saw homes they were building for families who have been victims of child sacrifice, and we even got to see a house my friend Mandy did some fundraising for.

It was strange to be in Kyampisi. I have watched a few documentaries about child sacrifice in Uganda, and apparently Kyampisi is one of the biggest and worst areas for it. I’ve heard about it and read about it, but now I was finally seeing it. Kyampisi is crawling with witch doctors who are quick to tell someone, “Bring me a child sacrifice, and you will have wealth and prosperity.”

That’s what happened to Allan. He was playing with a friend one day when he was abducted. They not only castrated him, but they also took a machete to his head and neck. They cut out a part of his skull for the sacrifice. It’s literally a miracle that Allan survived.

Allan knows who did it. Everyone knows. But the man was released from police custody because of lack of evidence. This is common with child sacrifice. And that’s why it continues.

I got to meet Allan today. I got to meet his father. We went to their village home and sat in their living room. Allan was given medical treatment in Australia, and he had a photo album filled with pictures from his trip there. Allan was excited and full of life, the only sign of his tragic experience was the giant scar on his head. We also know that inside Allan is very fearful, but on the outside, he’s just a kid like any other.

Allan‘s survival was a miracle. His best friend George, who was also castrated for child sacrifice, was also a miracle. Most kids’ stories end in death.

IMG_3878

It was emotional to be there. Every little hand that grabbed mine (there were lots!) made me shiver as I wondered if they would be victims of child sacrifice someday. It breaks my heart to know that anyone has so much evil in them that they would kill innocent children. Not just kill them, but mutilate them, decapitate them, and then eat their organs or drink their blood. To me, humans just aren’t capable of that. Only monsters.

I hope to get more involved with Kyampisi Childcare Ministries. I hope that there’s love and hope we can bring to the families who have lost children to child sacrifice, and that there are things we can do to keep the children safe. No one, not children or their parents, should have to live in such atrocious fear.

Please pray for Kyampisi and those who work there daily to be a light for God in such a dark area of Uganda.

“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 48:22

 

A day out of the city…

My “Africa Mix” was the only CD we had with us. My roommate Debby and I were jamming out to IMG_20130831_111001Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” when we were stopped at a traffic crossing. A young boy selling bananas approached the car.

“No thank you, sebo!” Debby said to the young boy, who then heard our music and began dancing beside the car as we waited for the traffic police to let us through the intersection. It was a great start to the long day ahead of us.

The car was loaded with toilet paper, rice, tea, sugar and soap we had purchased to take to the orphanage in Bulamo. Bulamo in normal conditions would be about 30 minutes from Kampala. But in African conditions, it took us almost two hours to get there.

I was mystified at the beautiful Ugandan countryside. So much green, everywhere! Sometimes I felt like I was in the middle of a jungle.

We did some “off-roading” to get to the orphanage, which was down a long lane with lots of bumps and holes, chickens and cows, and of course, children, who would smile, wave, and yell, “Mzungu!” as we drove by.

IMG_20130831_120842The orphanage was thrilled to receive the supplies we brought them, and I walked around the compound with Debby as she introduced me to all the wonderful staff and children there. It reminded me a lot of Lifesong Zambia, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love walking around the compound.

Soon after we arrived, we met up with Bruno, Debby’s sponsor child. I’m not sure I should call him a “child,” considering he is 19 years old, but he still has one more year of school left before he goes to university. Bruno walked around with us for awhile and then we started the journey to Bruno’s father’s house.

Again, it took us about an hour to travel not much longer than a few miles. Bruno filled us in on how he was doing with his studies and his plans after graduation. He wants to study tourism at university, and with that sweet smile of his, I can definitely see him succeeding!

Debby had told me that Richard, Bruno’s father, would likely have all their nicest things out for our IMG_20130831_112601arrival. Sure enough, as we walked into their “house”, the couches and coffee table were covered in lace doilies. We were given the royal treatment, as Bruno’s step mother served us ice cold Cokes. Bruno’s little brother, Peace, was pretty overwhelmed by the two mzungu’s in the house, but he smiled big when Debby gave him the toy car we got him earlier in the day when we bought supplies.

We talked with Richard for a few hours, mainly about his profession. Richard is a butterfly catcher. How amazing is that? When he has the money to pay for his license to catch them, he spends days at a time traveling across Uganda and catching the most beautiful butterflies you’ve ever seen! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone so passionate about something like that, but what made Richard even more special is his love for God, which was just as apparent as his love for butterflies.

Debby, whose heart is one of the biggest I know, wanted to help Richard pay for his license so he can get back to butterfly catching to make money for his family. I was more than happy to offer to split the cost with her, and we gave him the money he needed for the license.

After saying goodbye to Richard, Mary and Peace, we took Bruno to where he could catch a taxi back to school. We might have gotten a little lost then, even to the point where we stopped and asked for directions and the lady said, “You are really lost!”

Eventually, we found our way to Garden City where we enjoyed a nice meal at Café Javas and did some window shopping at Nakumatt.

While the entire day was pretty amazing, I think one of my favorite moments came after we left Garden City. We were stopped at a light when a young, thin boy approached the car to ask for money or food.

“Do you want to give him your leftovers or take them home?” Debby asked me.

I was thrilled that she thought of that, and I handed her my box of food. She rolled down her window and handed it to the boy who smiled and said, “Thank you!” We were stopped at the light for a long time, which was totally worth it to see the boy sit down in the median, dig into my leftover club sandwich and fries, and smile the biggest smile I had seen all day.

Needless to say, it was one of the most fulfilling days I’ve had since I’ve been here.

Sorry Satan… you lose.

Confession time. When I listed my biggest fears before I came to Uganda to teach high school English, I left the biggest one off the list: I was horrified to teach at a Christian school.

With some of my students my last day at North Side.
With some of my students my last day at North Side in 2011.

There’s no question that the majority of my students at Troup, Northrop and North Side loved having Miss Trout as a their English teacher, but not every experience I’ve had with teens has been pleasant. The worst experience I’ve ever had was with a group of Christian teenagers at my church in Georgia.

I thought working with the youth group would be perfect. I was in my first year of teaching, and putting together my love for God and for teens seemed like the perfect combination. I accepted the challenge of working with a group of sophomore girls. I was ecstatic to be a part of the youth group! I would be a mentor for these young ladies, and I figured it would also help ME stay in line in other areas of my life.

The exact opposite happened. I was open with the girls about my past, like my crazy partying days at IU, and it totally backfired. Their allegiance was to their previous small group leader, a young, pretty, married woman they had known their entire lives who was now leading a different grade. They refused to accept me. My heart was open to them, and they completely shut me out.

It was bad. It was hurtful, and my heart still aches when I think about it. I ended up leaving in the middle of the year, as well as leaving the church, because it was so bad. There was no reason for me to stay when they refused to let me into their lives and their hearts and learn anything from me. I was shattered.

These feelings all came back after I agreed to teach at Heritage here in Kampala. Satan really tried to attack me by saying, “Natalie don’t you remember what happened in Georgia? You can’t teach Christian teenagers. Christian teenagers hate you! Remember?” Satan is so good at reminding us of our insecurities that have been buried for years.

A few days before school started, and my nerves were already out of control about this whole “teaching Christian kids” thing, we were told we had to sign up for a committee. Our options were: special events, performing arts, enrichment, and spiritual life. I didn’t even think twice about it when I heard “spiritual life.” I signed up immediately.

It was like Satan attacked me again. “What are you doing? You can’t talk to these kids about God! Look at the mistakes you made in life! If they find out, they’ll turn on you just like the kids at church in Georgia!”

Satan is such a dirty liar.

Waiting for the rest of the youth group to arrive at last week's kick off.
Waiting for the rest of the youth group to arrive at last week’s kick off.

Can I tell you that I already know these kids love and trust me? Not only do I make them write essays and read books, but I also tell them about everything God’s done in my life and what He can do for them… and they still respect and love me?

Yesterday in my 12th grade class we got into a deep discussion and somehow my testimony came up. As I was telling it, I was starting to have those awful feelings and wonder if I would forever lose them if they knew where I once was in life.

But I kept talking.

And when I was done, one of my students said in his beautiful Kenyan accent, “Awesome, Miss Trout. Thanks for being honest. So many Christians lie about the dark times in their lives, but you aren’t afraid.”

Satan has consistently reminded me of what happened in Georgia so many years ago. But once again, God is the victor. What Satan once used to tear me down, God is using for His glory.

“And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, what could stand against?”

The tragedy you don’t even know about…

I knew people were starving.

I knew children were being forced to kill their families and become soldiers.

I knew AIDS and malaria were taking the lives of thousands and thousands of people.

I knew witchdoctors were destroying the lives and souls of the people of this beautiful continent.

What I didn’t know was that children were being sacrificed. How did I not know?

I feel like I’m pretty current on the tragedies that claim so many victims here in Uganda, but I had absolutely no idea that children, innocent and blameless children, were being sacrificed by their own communities and sometimes, their own families.

Today, some of my co-workers and I participated in a 10K to raise money and 1235116_194109344093303_1813041655_nawareness for Rose’s Journey. We even got to meet Rose, who once walked more than 50K to escape her family, a family that was active in witchcraft.

People in America don’t understand how active witchcraft is in Africa, or how dangerous it really is. It seems like worlds away when you’re in the US. It seems like something that just can’t be real, but it is real, and it’s claiming the lives of children.

One of my friends works with another organization that rescues children who are victims of witchdoctors. She told me about one little girl who was found on the brink of death in the middle of a field. A witchdoctor had cut her tongue off and she was left for dead.

Rose told us more about child sacrifice this morning before the 10K. She told us about the witchdoctors and the things they promise people who “believe.” Want to make more money? A witchdoctor might request a child sacrifice. It might be your own child, it might be someone else’s. The rest of the ritual usually involves drinking the blood of the sacrificed child or eating parts of certain organs. The results are supposed to be wealth and good health for the person who partakes.

In one national magazine, an interview with a witchdoctor revealed that they often don’t even kill the child before removing their organs for sacrifice. Instead, the children die after the extraction.

The article also revealed that members of high society sometimes use witchdoctors to get what they want. One witchdoctor said a female member of parliament came to him because she wanted to keep her seat, and in order to do so, he requested a child sacrifice and she agreed.

IMG_20130824_071605Doesn’t this all sound so unreal? Can you even believe this happens today? It makes me sick to think that the Ugandan government isn’t doing anything to stop it. There’s little the government can do against witchcraft, but you would think something could be done to stop the slaughtering of innocent children.

I know these children being sacrificed are so far away from most of you. But things like this take on an entire new meaning when it’s happening just down the road. Someone’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, brother, sister, is being sacrificed. Does it really matter how far away it is? The fact is, it’s happening.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have met Rose today and to walk for her wonderful cause. I hope to learn more about Kyampisi Childcare Ministries and what can be done to help these families who have either lost children to sacrifice or have children who need medical help after a near-sacrifice. Sometimes causes jump out at you and grab your heart so tightly that you just have to get involved.

Please join me in praying for these families and for the future of the children of Uganda.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.””
Matthew 19:14

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Additional information on child sacrifice in Uganda:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8441813.stm

http://www.theage.com.au/world/australians-take-lead-in-fight-for-survivors-of-witch-doctors-20121228-2bz8n.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8444047.stm

http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Child+sacrifice+on+the+rise++report/-/688334/1674568/-/24ivi7/-/index.html

Just a morning trip to Surgery…

It’s quite disturbing that the clinic the school sends us to is called, “The Surgery.” It gave us all quite a scare the first night we were here and were told, “If you start to feel sick, have a fever, chills and body aches, let us know and we’ll take you right to Surgery.” (Imagine hearing that and NOT knowing “Surgery” had a capital “S.”)

With my poor excuse of a digestive system, I figured I might end up there eventually. I just didn’t think it would be only a few weeks into my stay here in Uganda. But sure enough, some nasty things started happening on Friday, and by Monday, they were no better.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Many went to the Surgery over the weekend, and three others were headed there in IMG_20130819_084704the school van on Monday morning. It was suggested that I go, just to make sure I didn’t have a parasite or anything.

Richard, one of the drivers at school, took us downtown to Surgery. Once we registered, they asked if we wanted to go in as pairs to make things go faster. We agreed. ANYTHING that would make the process quicker. Wayne and I were having similar issues, so we went in as a pair.

HIPPA does not exist in Uganda. Patient confidentiality…none. Let’s just say Wayne now knows my entire medical history, including the starting date of my last menstrual cycle.

After talking about my symptoms, I was handed a small Dixie cup for a urine sample, a clear little bottle for a stool sample, and a paper for the lab where they would take blood. I was shown to the restroom where I would uh… you know, and then told where to take everything.

So there I was, walking with my urine-filled Dixie cup and stool sample (in a clear bottle) to the different places they were to be taken. Dropped off my stool sample a few doors down, and then took my urine up a flight of stairs to the lab.

Then came the really tough part. If you know me well, you know I hate having my blood taken. I have horrible veins and am often poked and prodded multiple times until they find a vein, and then it’s a matter of finding a vein that doesn’t collapse or “roll.” Can you imagine my horror hearing they were about to take blood from me… in a clinic… in Africa?!

I was led to a room where I was told to lie down on a padded, wooden exam table. I looked around and saw a few spider webs in the corners, wide open windows with no screens, a couple of giant canisters of helium, and I told myself not to freak out.

Another nurse came in and the two of them searched my arms high and low for a potential vein. Finally, they found one in the back of my hand. They ended up using a butterfly needle that they typically use for infants, and the pain began. They were young, very kind ladies, but it was frustrating to hear them frantically speaking in Luganda and me having no earthly idea what they were saying.

IMG_20130819_095811I felt like the process was taking forever. Naturally my anxiety began to kick in, but then something stopped it. What was there to be afraid of? Of course God had me safe in His arms. Sure it hurt as they moved the needle around to get the vein, but I had faith that the pain would be over soon. And it was.

I returned to the waiting room to wait for my results. It had completely filled up since I left. There were people of all nationalities spread from one side of the room to the other. Once Stephanie came out we decided to get some fresh air. As we did, we saw Richard talking to a young man with both his hands completely bandaged up and some nasty open wounds on his legs.

“Boda accident?” Stephanie asked.

“Yes!” he said, shaking his head sadly.

I asked if he was the driver or the passenger, and he was the passenger. He went on to tell us how he is a musician. He can’t work without the use of this hands, and from the looks of things, he wouldn’t be using them for a while. I told him that I’d pray for him, and I loved the look of joy on his face when I said that. I feel like today God gave me peace in that clinic and also to this young man we met.

Finally, after we had been there for a few hours, I got my diagnosis: food poisoning, bacterial infection, and a yeast infection in my stomach (same as a few other people from school). Apparently my digestive system is depressed. Who knew that your digestive system could be depressed? Poor thing. So it was all kind of a chain reaction- food poisoning, bacterial infection, depressed digestive system, yeast infection in my stomach. I got a whole bag full of pills I’ll be taking for the next week or so.

The doctor and nurses really were wonderful, and the facility was clearly better than any I could have gone to in a village. What I’m really thankful for today is the fact that school administration wanted us to go see a doctor. I’m so blessed to work for people who care about the wellbeing of their teachers. Although I’m still feeling icky, I realize that I’ve still got so much to be thankful for.

I said I’d never teach again…

In December of 2011, I packed up my belongings at North Side High School and left the profession of teaching for what I thought would be “forever.” I gave away nearly all of my teaching materials. After all, I was never going to teach again. Why hold on to all those things?

Fast forward to today: I am not only a teacher again, but I am a teacher at an international school in Uganda. God certainly has funny plans for us sometimes!

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been a high school English teacher. I’ve had a year and half of teenage-free life. It’s been great, and it’s been sad. I miss “my kids,” as I so often call them.

Today was the first day of school at Heritage International School in Kampala, Uganda. All six years I taught in the US, I was nervous on the first day of school. But this, for so many reasons, was pretty horrifying for me. With God’s help, I survived.

5:00 a.m. I awoke to a mosquito buzzing in my ear. So much for that mosquito net around my bed. I could go back to sleep for another hour or just get up. I tried to go back to sleep, but the mosquito wouldn’t leave me alone, and my mind began to race with the typical first-day jitters.

6:30 a.m. I left the house and walked to school by myself. The sun was slowly rising, it was cool outside, and I had wonderful prayer time as I made the trek to Heritage. It was so serene as I thanked God for the simple things like palm trees and sunrises.

7:30 a.m. From the teeny kindergarteners to the towering seniors, Heritage was flooded with students of all sizes, ages, and nationalities. Many of my high school students greeted their teachers they were familiar with. It made me think of when I was at North Side and Troup, and students would greet me with hugs and high fives. Now, once again, no one knew me. I was just “that new English teacher.”

8:30 a.m. The morning assembly was well underway! We sang a few worship songs, prayed, and new teachers were introduced. After the primary grades were released, the middle and high schoolers stayed for additional information. I gave the presentation on the school’s “Honesty Policy” and had to talk about my Journalism class so kids knew what they were signing up for!

IMG_20130815_1048289:45 a.m. These kids already impress me. The high school was divided into four teams for “team building” out on the basketball courts. I experienced something I never once saw in the US from teenagers- encouragement and support. If someone messed up, someone else would say, “Nice try. You’ll get it next time!” It was clear that they look out for each other. They have a bond that students at large high schools will never understand.

10:50 a.m. The cool and dreary day turned into a wet one. Rain fell from the sky as I prepared my classroom for the 12th graders that would be there in 30 minutes. As if the thunder wasn’t loud enough, the pouring down rain on the tin roof of my classroom made it incredibly loud. Nerves started to come back as I anticipated the seniors walking into my classroom. There were only eight of them, but before they came in I started to feel like the little kindergartners coming to school for the first time.

11:20 a.m. The seniors naturally sat in the desks in the very back of the classroom. No problem- I just moved closer to them. What a group! They come from India, South Korea, UK, Germany, Uganda and Massachusetts! They certainly made me smile a lot with their questions and comments. One student and I especially hit it off. He is the one from the US, and he loves the NFL and NBA. The students got a chuckle when I high-fived him for liking “real” football.

12:45 p.m. Five students. You might think it’s a dream come true, but teaching that small of a class can actually be quite a challenge. The good thing is, they are great kids and have a great sense of humor. They come from the U.S., Canada, South Korea and Uganda. They asked lots of questions about Journalism, so I’m hoping lots of them sign up!

1:40 p.m. I sat at my desk in an empty classroom as yet another gecko scurried by my desk. My day was done. While I have to stay at school until after 3 p.m., my day of teaching was finished!IMG_20130815_104900

Now, after a long walk home in the rain, I am home with just our dog, Simba, and Domalee, our househelp. I am more than satisfied with my first day at Heritage. I know I said I’d never teach again, but I’m so glad that God’s plans for me were different!

Do you hear what I hear?

IMG_20130809_174901The view of the hills astound me. The taste of Stoney has me addicted. The feel of a warm handshake from a local leaves me filled with joy. The smell of the fresh African air on a cool morning brings a smile to my face each new day.

Sight. Taste. Touch. Smell. Africa certainly appeals to all of these senses in a major way.

But I have noticed that there is once sense that it constantly overwhelms: sound. The sounds of Kampala, Uganda never seem to quit. It could be early morning, middle of the afternoon or late at night. The sounds are constantly flooding my ears with beautiful noises, both natural and man-made.

I’ve been here less than two weeks, but I have already come up with a list of common sounds heard around Kampala and my home here.

“Mzungu! Mzungu!”
If I had a Ugandan shilling for each time I’ve had that shouted my way, I’d be a rich lady! I have seen many different “official” definitions of the word, but around here it simply seems to mean “white person” or “visitor.” It’s commonly shouted in markets and along the streets. Sometimes people are trying to sell you something, and other times they just want to be seen. Apparently it’s not necessarily derogatory, but it’s much nicer when a Ugandan says, “Madame!” or “Nyabo!”

“My heart will go on…”
Doesn’t Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic make you want an ice cream treat? Apparently they think so here in Kampala. This must be a favorite of the ice cream man around here, because it’s what he plays as he tries to make a living selling ice cream off the back of his bicycle. Another favorite is, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

a“Beep! Beep!”
Whether traveling by boda, taxi or car, you can’t avoid the constant beeping from other vehicles. It’s not like America where a bunch of road-raged drivers are taking their aggression out on other drivers by honking their horns. People here honk simply to let people know that they are there, and to make sure they are seen. This is crucial to a town like Kampala where there are always people walking and enough bodas to fill the state of Texas.

“(Insert Arabic call-to-prayer here…)”
Wow. Muslims like to pray early. The “Call to Prayer” is announced over very loud speakers, and I wake up each morning at around 5 a.m. when they start. The sounds of the Arabic language and Muslim prayers to Allah echo throughout the city multiple times of day.

“Caw! Caw! Caw!” “Roof! Roof!” “Cockadoodledoo!”IMG_20130804_142647
There’s really no end to the animal sounds in Kampala. Dogs are constantly barking, birds singing and roosters loudly exclaiming, “Cockadoodledoo!” I’ve heard bird sounds here I’ve never heard before, some of which sound like monkeys and others like crying babies. The animal sounds sometimes leave me feeling like I live in a zoo!

“Doot doot doot dooooot!”
I am not sure who got the kids across the road a recorder, but sometimes I really wish they hadn’t. While I enjoy “When the Saints Go Marching In,” I tend to be less impressed with it at around midnight, coming from a recorder. However, it’s always beautiful to hear a young child making music.

“Swish, swish. Swish, swish.”
I am amazed at the Ugandan desire for cleanliness. Each day I see street sweepers, men and women with tiny brooms, sweeping the dirt along the sides of the road. Yes, sweeping the dirt so it is free of trash and other debris. The “swish, swish” of their brooms reminds me of the great pride they take in keeping their city clean.

The sights, smells, tastes and touch of many wonderful things around Kampala leave my senses overwhelmed and overjoyed, but it’s the sounds that have truly captured my heart and made me happy to call this new place home for a while.