Heart for Uganda

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Watercolor Fun

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 5:35 PM

One of our friends, Sarah, left a few watercolor sets at SMK for the children.  One afternoon when Mourie and our new little friend, Mary, were over playing, we decided to experiment with watercolors.  Both girls had never used them before, and it was so much fun to watch them explore the watercolors and create their first artistic masterpieces.

 


 

Mary (left) and Mourie



Mourie's masterpiece

Uganda Weaver Birds

Posted on April 14, 2015 at 3:40 AM

 

 

Uganda has these lovely, chatty little birds called Weaver Birds. They have a brilliant yellow body and are constantly in motion. I had the pleasure of watching a tree of these birds one morning. They are very social birds that move to a different location about every 15 seconds (difficult to capture their picture). The make round nests out of twigs and leaves, and they can often be found upside down. They make a melodic singing noise, and when many are gathered, it sounds like a choir. They are their most active in the morning time, so they can act as an alarm clock early in the morning.

Look Who Lost a Tooth

Posted on April 12, 2015 at 12:45 AM

Our Mourie lost her first tooth last weekend. As a child, my Mom did an exceptional job of making those childhood milestones special. I celebrated Antwain’s milestones with him, and it has become one of my great joys to be present for the childhood milestones of the children at SMK.





 

In America, the Tooth Fairy is a common myth parents use to trade their child’s tooth for some small money. My Mom kept the Tooth Fairy legacy alive when I was a child, and I did the same with Antwain. When Mourie discovered her tooth missing, she shared that Uganda’s Tooth Fairy is actually a Rat, which is crafty enough to eat the tooth after leaving a Ugandan shilling coin in its place.

 

When Mourie lost her tooth, we did not give the Tooth Rat the opportunity to pay us a visit. Instead I traded her tooth for a Ugandan shilling coin, and we are saving her first lost tooth for her Mommy. For me, it was a special privilege to be there during this moment in her childhood.

 

My Girls

Posted on November 10, 2014 at 7:25 AM

Tina (Senior 1), Moureen (Baby Class), and Petra (Primary 6)


My girls are growing so quickly.... too quickly.   They make me smile and my heart to swell with such incredible, consuming love.  Each of them has their own distinct personalities, but they love one another like sisters.  I LOVE watching them interact with one another.  There is a special bond there.  This past weekend, we were visiting Tina's Secondary school. 

 


While I try my very best to remain impartial and fair with the children I work with, my relationship with Tina (My Kangaroo) and Petra (My Princess) was cemented prior to moving to Uganda.  Moureen (My Lovey) was an unexpected surprise along the way.  I am still navigating that fine line between displays of love and favoritism... some days I feel good, some days I really blow it.   My wish for each of these girls is to grow up with confidence, opportunities, and much love!!





Day at the Beach with Mourie

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 9:20 AM

I haven’t really shared a lot about Moureen on my blog.  It has not been intentional, as she has become a significant part of my daily life at SMKOM.  Moureen (or Mourie, as I affectionately call her) came to SMKOM a year ago.  She is one of the youngest children living at SMKOM and had a tough time adjusting to boarding life which is how our friendship began.  Over the past year, she has really blossomed as she has become more comfortable at the school.  She has brought great joy and activity to our home, and I feel very fortunate to watch Mourie emerge back into herself.  It has been a special gift!


While our last visitor, Maddee, was here visiting SMKOM, we took Mourie with us to the beach in Entebbe. I don’t believe that Mourie has ever been to a beach, and it was so delightful for us to witness Mourie’s introduction to Lake Victoria and the beach’s sand.  Mourie does not take to new experiences easily.  She is very tentative and reluctant needing a trusted hand of support and lots of encouragement to coax her forward.  But she could have probably played there all day, exploring the textures and shifting of the sand.  I was so proud of her explorations that day and glad that we shared it with a new friend!









 

Family Inquiries

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 6:30 AM

Mother's Day with my children: from left- Antwain (9th grade), Petra (6th grade),

Tina (8th grade), and Isabella (10th grade)




Growing up I always dreamed of having red-headed babies (or at least one). I was not particularly fond of my own red-hair or fair complexion, but I knew there would never be a doubt about who that baby belonged to. The Lord had different plans for me, so I got those red-headed babies through my niece and nephew. Definitely still super special…

 

As Antwain’s mom, I have had my fair share of sideway or double-take looks, a couple sneers, and a whole lots of truly bizarre, yet inquisitive questions. I stopped paying attention to the looks years ago. I try to have a sense of humor or at least understanding about the questions. (Sometimes I fail at that.) It is natural to be curious about how families form. I don’t ever mind sharing part of Antwain’s adoption story to new friends. I am proud of Antwain and my ‘Ugandan sons and daughters.’ I enjoy talking and bragging on them. After all, that is a big motherly benefit.

 

But I have yet to wrap my mind around stranger inquiries…. Perhaps it is my personality or the way my parents raised me, but I would NEVER have the courage, nerve, and/or desire to ask a perfect stranger a personal question. I have gotten more than my fair share of truly odd, uncomfortable, and downright inappropriate questions asked of me while living her in Uganda. Maybe because I am a muzungu (white person) there is a certain comfort. White people are thought to be friendly and open with others. Maybe there is the assumption that I should have to answer these questions. Or maybe I am just finding the most-forward, brazen folks in Uganda’s very large population.

 

As my children get older, personal family questions can be a nuisance or at least tiresome to answer. Sometimes they can be hurtful. Sometimes they find it easier not to accompany me to some places. Sometimes they make up their own responses to keep follow-up questions to a minimum. Sometimes I know they wish we all just looked alike and blend with others.

 

Here was my latest experience this weekend while walking in Kampala with little Moureen, who is 4 years born to Uganda parents. Mourie and I had just crossed a busy street, so I was holding her. A man estimated in his 20s approaches me saying, “Hey. Why is your baby black and you are white?”

 

At the sheer absurdity of the question, I kept moving eyes facing forward and not commenting. My companion was not so easily deterred asking again, “Muzungu, why do you have a black baby?”

 

I paused for a second to look at my companion expecting to see a smug, teasing look on his face. I was truly stunned when I saw a genuine curiosity. Without much forethought, I replied to the first thing that entered my mind saying, “Her father is very dark skinned.”

 

“Really, even though you have no skin color, she was born like that.”

 

“Like I said, mister, her father has very, very dark skin.”

 

Thankfully our exchange was then ended as I approached a boda-boda motorcycle to take Mourie and me to our final destination. The man continued walking with his head bobbing up and down in seeming acceptance. An older woman, who obviously overheard our exchange, shot me a scornful look as she passed. For a half-second I felt badly for my crass, flippant reply, but then I thought any person with the audacity to ask a perfect stranger such a question had it coming.

 

Another Side of Antwain

Posted on April 23, 2014 at 8:35 AM

For this blog posting, you will indulge me to brag on my son. Antwain continually surprise and amazes me, and I am so proud of the young man that he is becoming. He has really found some great comfort in his Secondary School, Taibah International Secondary School. The school’s philosophies are very Westernized and different from the majority of the other Secondary Schools in Uganda. Taibah focuses on nurturing and molding the entire child. With healthy, positive character the school believes that students will perform academically to their fullest potential. Antwain’s outlook about school has altered dramatically in a positive direction since coming to Taibah. For that I will be forever grateful to this school and the supportive staff (teachers, matrons, and administrators).

 

This term at school, Antwain (known at school as Christopher, his middle name) has had the opportunity to allow his Performance side to shine. Every morning at Taibah, students meet together in his peer group, which is comprised on his classmates. There is class mentor (an assigned teacher on staff) who takes time to check in with students daily and facilitate activities/discussions promoting selected character traits (like respect, integrity, honesty, etc). Each Friday, peer groups take turns presenting that weekly character trait to the entire student body through a dramatic skit.

 

I came to Taibah the day after Antwain’s peer group had done their skit. As I was signing Antwain out for a weekend visit, two teachers shared how much they had enjoyed Antwain’s performance. He had surprised his fellow peers and teachers by his humor, acting abilities, and self-confidence. The teachers laughed when recalling his performance. It had really made quite an impact on them. As we were leaving the school, I asked Antwain about this performance. He shared he was proud of himself and stepping out of his comfort zone. I was proud of him, too.

 

A week before the current holiday, I was able to attend the Music, Dance, and Drama competitions at Taibah. The student body was divided into 8 houses which engage in friendly competitions in both Sports and Arts. For this day, each house presented a Poem, Small Music Ensemble, Large Group Folk Song, Dramatic Skit, and Cultural Dance before parents, guests, and a panel of judges. Antwain performed in both the Large Group Folk Song and Cultural Dance components of the competition. As I sat watching him perform, I was mesmerized. There was a natural glow about him when performing… He was indeed confident, truly spectacular, and an active member of his peer group. My kid has some great dance moves!! Ultimately, Antwain’s house won the competition.

 

I often wonder how this experience here in Uganda will shape Antwain in his future. Would he be having these same experiences in an American school? Would he embrace being a part of a group promoting culture? Would he be so openly proud and confident? Would an American peer group allow his character to mature as it has in Uganda? I guess there will never to be a way to know for certain, but I do pray that his character continues on its present course!

Re-Evaluate

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 3:25 AM

I have enjoyed writing my blog and sharing my personal antidotes from Uganda. But lately, my blog has reached a stale-mate, and I have reevaluated its purpose. Initially, I began writing this blog as a way to communicate stories of my daily life or important updates to close family and friends back in America. But really, how many times do they want to hear about the same things over and over again? It was fine for the first couple of years when everything was new and fresh, but I am now within my 3rd year living here in Uganda. There is a more established pattern to my life here now.

 

So I figured it is time to turn my attention away from exclusively talking about me. Uganda is a country rich in events and news that has really stretched my westernized thinking…sometimes to the maximum. While I don’t want to get political or opinionated, I do feel compelled to share another culture’s belief system and way of living.

 

In addition, I have met some phenomenal people doing some outstanding work here within Uganda. They are amongst the most generous, ambitious, devoted, Christian people I have had the pleasure of meeting. I am inspired by their works and daily sacrifices. I recognize that I don’t have the financial resources to support each of their projects, but I do have this forum to shout-out and highlight the communities and people’s lives being profoundly impacted by their direct works.

 

My priority, allegiance, and greatest love will always be sharing the extraordinary works of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood and Change The Truth. After all, they are my family, my home, my primary purpose for living here in Uganda. Other organizations and projects have been inspired by their works and used their philosophies and projects as their role model of excellence. Quite a compliment issued to both organizations and their awesome visionaries, Rosemary Kavulu and Gloria Feinstein.

 

So as I embark on this next chapter of my blog, I hope to create an eclectic, interwoven relay of personal account, local inspirational projects, and national issues. I will make every attempt to keep my opinion or editorial comments to myself, as my goal is not to offend or make westernized judgments about Uganda or its people. After all, this country is now my home, too. Lately, at the end of each day, I have challenged myself to not assign judgments of right-or-wrong but finding means to understand the cultural differences. And that is why living in Uganda will never be a boring experience for me, and I have rekindled my passion for writing this blog.

The Malaria Club

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 1:50 AM

Last week I battled my first bout of Malaria. I managed to dodge it for 3+ years, but it finally found me. I have seen the effects of this terrible illness, so I have intentionally taken additional precautions using daily anti-Malarial pill. Recently I took a break, as the pills were giving me very strange, vivid dreams. Not cool to slack, and hard lesson to learn. Needless to say, I am back on the wagon taking my anti-Malarial again.

 

Malaria is an illness transmitted from an infected mosquito. Its parasites settle in the liver causing flu-like side effects, including high fever, joint pains, headache, loss of appetite, stomach pains/nausea, etc. I have witnessed some pretty narely cases in both children and adults, it can be especially brutal in adults. It is an unpredictable illness, which if gone untreated can turn dangerous (even deadly) quickly. Here in Uganda though due to the high prevalence and dangers, Malaria medications are widely available and extremely cheap to purchase is any local pharmacy or doctor’s clinic.

 

Thankfully for me, I had only a mild case. The doctor shared I caught the Malaria early. Only a few parasites had a chance to set up residence in my liver. But man… it knocked me down for a week. Joint aches and body aches painful to even the slightest touch. Loss of appetite. Unpredictable moments of profuse sweating. Dull headaches. Extreme fatigue.

 

After a regime of intense medication, lots of rest, and ingesting a small ocean of liquids (water and fresh juice), I am on the mend. I am noticing that I am not a spring chick anymore, as my strength and appetite are slower to come back. Although frustrating, I am glad to be on the other side with each day better than the previous. So while I now officially have my membership to the Malaria club, I do hope I don’t have to use it ever again!

Date with My Favorite Guy

Posted on December 8, 2013 at 3:50 AM

While our dates are not as frequent as I would like. We often visit the same places. And they often pass by too quickly. But I revel in the opportunity to go on an Antwain Date.

 

Our ‘Dates’ started when Antwain was just a young boy. It was a label for those special occasions, usually just the two of us, not always planned, and completely about our quality time. It has been a time for us (me in particular) to stop and realign the focus to what is truly important…our family.

 

Yesterday we enjoyed an awesome date with one another. We went to a pizza parlor popular for their homemade, stone-oven baked pizza. It is located a hill overlooking the landscape of Kampala… really lovely. We enjoyed eating, talking, and watching a Ugandan rainstorm.

 

Particularly as Antwain matures and is away from my direct supervision while boarding at school, these dates have provided the golden opportunity to talk openly, honestly, and privately. Our topics vary, but we have the policy that nothing is off-limits. Questions are safe to ask. Dreams are encouraged to be shared. Debates are inevitable. I never fail to laugh and be amazed by this young man.

 

We returned back home in-sync. Relaxed. Connected. I revel that feeling amidst the hustle and bustle of life, and I cherish them more now than I did when he was younger. While he cringes with his adolescent spunk, I end every date by sharing my promise that these moments will never end for us, regardless of age, location, or any future additions to our family. I will always savor my Antwain time!