I am a Mzungu (ma-zun-goo) here. It means "white person" or "westerner". On the streets people will just yell "mzungu" and point at you or run up and touch your arm. It's just a little bit different then America where if you did that to someone who looked different it wouldn't be very politically correct. I'm coming to realize that being politically correct isn't really much of a concern here-which in some ways is kind of refreshing.
I am now starting to feel the jet lag wearing off and not feeling 100% totally lost, just a solid 90% now. I'm picking up some Lugandan (the local language, although there are other tribal languages spoken all over Uganda so learning some Lugandan doesn't necesarily mean I will be able to communicate with everyone in Kampala) and I am very good at speaking the official language of Uganda...English. Although there is a whole different language we call Ugandan English where the words have completly different meanings. For example people here will walk up and say "Mzungu-you are so fat!!" and they mean that as a compliment because if you are "fat" here it means you look well fed and have enough to eat. If a Ugandan hasn't seen you in a while, instead of asking where have you been, they will say "you've been lost, Mzungu!".
I'm still at AIM's guesthouse, Matoke Inn. The two other girls I flew in with moved into thier flat on Sunday and that is all the way on the other side of Kampala from me (about 20-30 minutes with no traffice, but more likely 45-1 hr). That was kind of a bummer-but we'll all go to church together and we have local cells so we can stay connected. The other girls will probably be my traveling buddies if we decide to get outside of the city on the weekends. The awesome thing about staying at Matoke is that there are AIM missionaries coming in and out all the time so I've gotten to met some really incredible people and they've taught me a lot about what life is like in "real" Uganda (outside of Kampala-Kampala has many comforts of western culture that many missionaries can't find in thier towns and villages). I think what I've enjoyed most is the authenticity of the other missionaries-both short and long term. There is no trying to impress each other with how much we love serving God or pretending that this is always the greatest experience ever. They are all honest about some of the struggles of missionary life and how tough and gruling it can actually be-but at the end of the day they would all say that God called them here and they will be obidient to that call. I think many of us in America could really learn a lot from that kind of surrendered attitude and heart ( I know I could). Just the idea that God doesn't call us to comfort or to a life of small pleasures. He calls us to be uncomfortable and surrendered to Him, to always live at the very end of our strentgh, the end of our courage, the end of ourselves because it is when we are at that point of surrender that we've actually gotten out of our own way enough for him to work through us.
A few other observations on life in Africa:
1) I coudln't tell you what Ugandan food is like yet- The Inn cooks Mzungu food, and the missionaries I hung out with this weekend all wanted Mzungu food that was not available to them in thier towns. But, I move out into Kampala either today or tomorrow so I'll be doing my own cooking with food that I can buy at market or the grocery store. One nice thing about Uganda-all the fresh fruits and veggies-delicious!
2) There are cows, and chickens, and pigs, and dogs, and storks everywhere. There will be cows (with gigantic horns) just grazing next to the side of a major street and there are even street signs that warn of a 50,000 shilling fine if your cow crosses the road! You'll see people on Bodas (motorcylce taxis) with 6 or 7 dead chickens hanging in thier hands, or even a live pig between the driver and the passenger. And then there are the storks-they are a specific kind I can't remember-but they are HUGE scavengers who are all over Kampala. They call them Ugandas Pigeons. Apparently, according to an AIMers mother who was at Matoke this weekend, they came into the city during the reign of Amin when there were bodies in the streets and they havn't left since (there are no bodies in the streets anymore).
3) A shilling is the Ugandan currency. The exchange rate is definatly in our favor. It is approximatly $2 American for every $5,000 Shillings-roughly. A boda ride-depending on how far you need to go- is between $.50 and $5.00 American; I just bought sandles at market for 20,000 which is about $9 bucks. I still freak out when I hear someone tell me that something will be costing me 15,000 because it sounds like so much!! But I'm figuring it out. The money here is much prettier then ours-lots of pretty colors!
1) After getting the worst case scenario directions in NY-all three of us got our visas, our luggage, and through customs with no problems!
2) Usually the AIM office likes it if we can go on "home stay" while we are here-which is make friends with Ugandans to the point that we are invited into thier homes so that we can really get a feel for what the culture is like. I'm only here for 2 months so I'm a little pressed for time; but I struck up a converstation with a waitress at a Mzungu restaurant the other day and she gave me her phone number and told me that she would cook myself and the two other girls I came with real Ugandan food some evening! So that was awesome that God brought someone within 20 minutes of my having that conversation with my coordinator. Please pray for that friendship.
3) I FINALLY slept through the night! I'm so excited about this. It is 6 am here, but I crashed last night about 8:30 so I guess in Uganda I'm just going to be a morning person (I've been up for every African sunrise since I arrived). Please just pray that my body continues to adjust.
4) Yesterday I felt the first pain in my throat that usually signals you are getting sick. My glands are pretty swollen up today but I'm feeling better after some sleep and I'm sucking down hot tea like it's going out of style. Please just pray that whatever little bug this is passes through quickly!
5) I start work tomorrow. I don't really know many details but please ask that God would just bless my time there and that I would have the eyes to see where He is already working and that I would bring a little bit of His love, His mercy, His grace into every conversation I have with the Staff and the Kids. And also please pray that my heart would be open to whatever God wants me to learn.
6) Please keep all of my new missionary friends working all over Uganda in your prayers! It has been such a huge blessing to get to know them and see a bigger picture of the global church and just how God is at work all across Africa and the whole world!
There is so much more I could tell all of you, but I've rambled quite long enough. I will say this: if any of you have ever considered coming to Africa-do it!!
I love you all, I miss you (I wish you could all be experiencing this with me!) I hear it is snowing in Nebraska...I can't say I miss that:)
"To be alive is to be broken, and to be broken is to stand in need of grace" -Ragamuffin Gospel