March 5, 2007
Jinja, Uganda

Dear family and friends,

Thank you so much for your letters.  I can’t even tell you what it means to me to have something in my inbox when I check mail.  Even if you don’t hear back from me right away, please know that I am very grateful for your letter and appreciate your time! 

We’re coming into week 4 here in Jinja, Uganda.  While time has gone by very quickly, I feel as if it’s been an eternity since I left home.  I’m so much older and wiser!  ;-) 

To be honest, my first week was very challenging as I was forced to face my own selfishness and misconceptions about life and circumstances.   

I just learned that the colors of the Ugandan flag are yellow, black, and red.  The black signifies the skin color, the red reminds us that we all have the same blood running through our veins, and the yellow is symbolic of the sun under which we all live. 

When we set aside race, social standing, wealth, age etc., we are the same.  We all have the same fears and insecurities.  We all find joy in pretty much the same basic things.  We all want to be better and make something of ourselves.  We all want to be loved and accepted.  When we realize this, we are able to understand, forgive, and love more in the way that God intended, I believe. God has been teaching me so much about where my thoughts, dreams and plans need to be and where I need “root” myself.

While I was lying in bed last night, feeling the humidity, and looking up at the ceiling through my mosquito net; I came to the realization that home is wherever you make it.  Life on this earth is very temporary anyway, so I can’t be too attached to “earthly” things.  What matters is that people are living without purpose or hope and I have the answer.

I want to live in the moment and never look back with regret or wish things different in any way.  My only purpose in life is to serve my Savior.  When I put myself in the center of his will, my perspective becomes His, my dreams are His, and my heart is His heart.

I don’t long for something else, because I know that I am doing exactly what I should be.  My life is satisfying and full.  Life here is way too short and eternity is way too long to worry about things that are fleeting.  Living in a culture where people are just struggling to survive really brings things into perspective.  What matters?  What would I do differently if I knew that this was my last hour on earth?  I am learning to live every minute to it’s fullest, love as much as I can, find joy in everything, laugh, and see that life isn’t about class or possessions.   

Yesterday, we had the privilege of going with Peter, a 29yo, well educated, Ugandan volunteer from the orphanage, to his village.  He’s been trying to have us out for a long time to see his sugar cane plantation and meet his family.  They spent the whole morning preparing lunch for us.  I was so humbled by their love and hospitality.  They greeted us at the door, saying over and over “You are most welcome, please be comfortable, you are most welcome.”  We always have to be careful with guys around here, but we’ve come to learn that Peter is engaged to a woman from Wisconsin, so he’s not looking for anything more than friendship from us.  

His family prepared a typical Ugandan feast consisting of Cassava root, Matoke = steamed sweet bananas, Chapati = like African tortillas, potatoes, rice, chicken soup, beef soup, and passion juice, among a few other things.   They were so concerned that we ate and drank enough, that we stayed out of the sun, and that most of all, we were comfortable.  It was such an honor to be with them.  Peter’s mama insisted that we were now her daughters and “please come back to see me.”

As we walked through a few different villages in order to get to the sugar cane plantation, little children rushed out of the dirt huts, yelling and waving at the “Muzungos,” their faces a display of unabashed admiration.  I blew kisses to one little boy wearing only tattered shorts, which made him blush and giggle!  Their innocence tore at my heart.   

We made it back home after a long walk back to the main road and a bumpy, crowded ride on a commuter bus. 

I want to take a minute to answer a few questions that have been asked in different emails from some of you.

What do we eat?

We are responsible to shop for and prepare our own meals.  Lunch is available, if we choose, at the orphanage, every day except Tuesday.  Lunch at the orphanage is often potatoes, matoke, and cassava, with beans, rice or carrots.  At the volunteer house, we eat a lot of Peanut butter and jelly, toast and eggs, rice, vegetables, pineapple, and mangos.

Oh, by the way, this “Starbucks girl” drinks instant coffee with boxed milk!  ;-)

I am still trying to figure out how to cook with a gas oven!  I guess this is like an extended camping trip.  What fun! 

Am I worried about AIDS?

When I am with those who have tested positive, I am careful, but not obsessive.  I trust that God will protect me and if I need to go through a sickness in order to become more like Him, then I will gladly go through it.  The same is true for Malaria.  I take Mefloquin and use bug spray, but I don’t worry too much beyond that.  I welcome the experience, if necessary!  Anything that doesn’t break me will only make me stronger.  J

Bugs, Snakes and other creatures?

I haven’t seen any serious snakes yet, just the common small snakes we have back home.  Yes, the bugs here are a little weird and sometimes disgusting!  I don’t really like cockroaches, but they aren’t too bad.  Geckos are ALL over the place.  Whenever we come home after dusk, after walking through the grass, our sandals are often wet with what we used to think was dew.  Upon further inspection, we found that this “dew” was actually little dead bugs!  I haven’t yet come upon anything I can’t handle.

What about the locals?

I am very intrigued by the local women.  They work very hard only to spend their money on getting their hair done and “Fancy” clothing.  They often live in great poverty, but that doesn’t matter as long as “they look good.”  I walk by every day and see them sitting in the entryway of their clay and thatched roof homes, weaving baskets, making beads for necklaces, or cooking on an open fire.  Most look very guarded and you can see a deep longing in their eyes, but I’ve found that they open up fairly easily.  With every encounter, I try to change their perceptions and prove that not all Americans are rich/selfish/rude.  Last week, I was hanging out in one of the baby rooms and the mamas asked me if I had been in town during the naptime break. When I told them that I had actually gone back and washed some clothes, they all looked at each other in shock and asked if I really knew how to wash clothes by hand.  I laughed and told them that I do!  I think they respect me a little more now!  J

I’m pretty careful about not making eye contact with any of the local men.  I’m not really in any danger here in town, but they are still extremely forward and will do anything to get a white girl to go out with them.  I had a guy following me on my way home last week and finally just turned around and asked him point-blank if he was following me.  He was a little taken aback, but assured me that we were actually going the same direction.  He kept asking my name, where I was from, and what I did in town.  When he didn’t get the hint that I didn’t want to talk to him, I told him straight-up to leave me alone.  “Oh, is it bad that I want to talk to you?”  I told him that I didn’t really care to talk to him, and again, to leave me alone.  He finally turned around and went back into town.  Riiiight…”going the same direction!”  Whatever!  ;-)    I hate to be so rude, but I know that here, in some cases, it’s necessary! If I were to have any problems, I know that any local around would help me in a second!

Okay, this is way longer than I intended, sorry!  Thanks again for your support, prayers, and letters; they are invaluable to me!!!

If you feel like writing, letters take about 12-15 days to get here. 

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

Love,
Kathryn

 

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