Saturday, August 3, 2013

Week 21

We've hired a new Church building grounds keeper, Steve Lowaka...300,000 shillings/month.  Steve is 27, beyond mission age and is in school studying medical laboratory field. He has hired his cousin to mow.  The currrent employee leaves for his mission in late August.  Steve will be applying for a Perptual Education Loan this month to help him finish his last two years of school with minimal costs.

All mowing in the city is done by weedeaters/weed whackers.  Not lawn mowers as we know them in the matter the size of the lawn...very labor intensive.  The "slasher" walks forward and cuts about a 5 foot swath but it's a slow walk.  Imagine cutting an acre or more like this.
We have been assisting the branches in organizing their Public Affairs service project called  "Mormon Helping Hand's" (Julian has seen the yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" shirts throughout Pensacola following a hurricane.)  After one major natural disaster the news reported two significant groups provided help: 1) Mormon Helping Hands; and 2) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!   No matter where the disaster or kind of service needed,  the Church and its members jump in to help regardless of culture or religious faith or no faith at all. 

One of our congregations has chosen is building Tippy Tap  stations.  Because of the poor sanitation and personal hygiene, more children in Africa die from respiratory infections and diahhreah than malaria.  Educating community chiefs or leaders on the importance of handwashing can help save many lives.  Members of the congregation will first contact government leaders for their input on best locations for the stations, the local church will purchase the materials and the members will install and teach about personal hygiene.  great info at

Coincidentally, I saw a young boy this week rinsing his plastic bottles out in a creek on the side of the street that usually smells of raw sewage.  I didn't have time to take a picture of it but this not uncommon site underscores the lack of basic health information in Northern Uganda.  A Tippy-Tap is not going to prevent this little boy and his family from getting terribly ill but any step we can take to slow down preventable disease is a step in the right direction.

Pam:  Recently I heard about a Mormon Helping Hands project in which one of our congregations was installing a number of  "zebra crossings" throughout the city.  I was  fascinated that there was a city in Uganda that had so many zebras traveling through it.  I wanted to see if we could go there since we haven't yet seen zebras (they are in southeastern Uganda).   Hark!  They even have one in Gulu!  See the picture below.

Well, it will be funny someday but a week ago in Kampala was one to forget.  We left early Wed morning, got there around noon, unloaded ours and two missionaries baggage and then took off into outer darkness where we seached, nearly in vein, for a potential service project that our Gulu sisters could get involved in.  It is a story too long to tell.  Suffice it to say, that even with the GPS we began what should have been a 30 min drive back to our flat that lasted nearly 3 hours.  Two and a half hours into the ordeal, we were literally right back where we left from (the service project headquarters).  In the midst of this, the GPS turned us directly into the "Taxi park" where about 10,000 taxis and their angry drivers were hollering at us, banging on our car, knocking on our windows, telling us to get if there was someplace to go.  There are taxis 2-3 blocks in length ahead of us, 2-3 blocks behind us and 2-3 rows on each side of us.  I wasn't worried they would get so angry they would flip our car over cause there was no room to flip it over...we were just bumper to bumper and side to side.  And everyone is acting as if it our fault the taxis can't get out of the park!

"Get out of here!"  "What are you doing in the business district?", "Move over to that right lane!"
Most of it in one of over 60 tribal languages we can't possibly understand but we just smiled and nodded like we were going to do exactly what they were yelling at us to do as soon as we could do it.  It didn't matter...they kept yelling and banging on our car and windows.  How, I'm thinking, can I move anywhere when no one else is moving anywhere.  Some angry Taxi Park traffic director finally places a large metal sign in front of my car as if to say..."you aren't going anywhere you mzungu".  When the traffic moved forward about a foot, I just moved forward too and ran his sign over.  Some innocent bystander could see that wasn't going to deter me so he simply moved the sign out of the way.   We thanked him.

Pam had the idea to just roll down the window and talk friendly and smile to all these folks pounding on the car.   It worked.  As we were friendly they became friendly and one taxi park traffic cop finally, after an hour  and 15 minutes of going nowhere, blocked two lanes to our right so we could pull out to a side street and out of the park.  There we moved slowly for another 30-45 minutes trying to get out of the way of people walking down both sides of the car, both directions, bodas driving on both sides of the car towards us and away from us, large semi-trucks backing in and out across the one lane street...anyway... As Dickens said, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness."  I will never get fooled by that GPS again!

Some sights of the bus park below.  I wish you could have heard the sounds.

Two weeks ago there was a prominent member of the Church who passed away.  He was from the small town of Kitgum, about 2 hours north of us.  I've mentioned the town before.  It's an informal group that meets in the LA Hotel lobby you'll remember.  The member who died was Benjamine Bennett Oyat Balmoi.  I knew nothing of him but have since learned that over 500 people attended his funeral in Kitgum.  His daughter was just in our home last month presenting training on Church Public Affairs and the Mormon Helping Hands Service Day being planned in Gulu.  The family rented a large one would see at a PGA tournament or large outing at a country club.  He was a confidant of the President of Uganda who sent 10,000,000 shillings to the family to help cover the costs of the funeral.  Funerals are as big an expense here as our weddings.  Those that attend are all fed and a place to stay (even if on the floor on a mat) are provided for them. 

 “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” . Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cautioned against this attitude:   “The philosophy of ritual prodigalism is ‘eat, drink, and be merry, … [and] God will beat us with a few stripes’ (2 Nephi 28:8). This is a cynical and shallow view of God, of self, and of life. God never can justify us ‘in committing a little sin’ (verse 8). He is the God of the universe, not some night-court judge with whom we can haggle and plea bargain!
“Of course God is forgiving! But He knows the intents of our hearts. He also knows what good we might have done while AWOL [absent without leave]. In any case, what others do is no excuse for the disciple from whom much is required (see Alma 39:4). Besides, on the straight and narrow path, there are simply no corners to be cut (see D&C 82:3)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 33).

 Heading home just before our nearly fatal turn into the taxi park.
 Business district of Kampala.
 The traffic builds.  We are standing still.
 People carting everything they can off to the market on bikes, bodas, wheel barrows, in their arms, on their heads.
 3-4 levels of stores...some of these places are probably used as residences too.
Stuck in the taxi park.  Understand, please, when I say taxi, I'm not talking NY taxi.  I'm referring to  8-9 passenger vans that probably have 12-15 people in them.  We struck up a conversation with a couple of the neighboring taxi passengers out our window as we are just 3-4 feet from them.  At least we are in a car with a/c.  They are breathing hot air and carbon monoxide and who know what else.
 Can you balance 16 mattresses on your head?  Yes, those are all mattresses!
Finally, our escape route which eventually took us right back to where we left over 2 hours previous...following the GPS.  I entered our Mission Headquarters Office into the GPS.  I thought we were getting very close.  The GPS took us down a one way dirt alley to a dead stop!  After "recalculating", we found we were still 6 kilometers from the Mission office!

 Here is the "zebra crossing"...a people crossing...crosswalk.  No real zebras in the city.  I was thinking "deer crossing" or "cattle crossing" like in the states.
 Last Sunday afternoon it was about 62-63 degrees F.  That's cold over here so here is my good friend Roy on his way into Mission Preparation class....hat, scarf, long sleeve shirt and coat.  It's all relative...everything but the truth that is.
 Well, this was my 3rd or 4th parking ticket in Gulu.  (500 shillings/19 cents...the hassle is trying to find a parking place while you go pay the ticket so you don't get another ticket) First one this day.  A second one later that night. Got a pic of the fellow gladly writing me the ticket.   Wasn't even on the street, just near it so today I go into the place to complain and pay.  We had a good laugh together.   They asked me what I was doing in Gulu.  Missionary work, serving the community...the hospital, the school, building devises to help locals wash their hands after using latrines, etc.  They then offered me a free parking pass from today until "open"...meaning it never expires.  GREAT, I say.  Then they say it will cost 15,000 shillings.  I thought you said the parking pass was "free".  It is, they explain, but the sticker costs 15,000 ($6-7).  I bought it anyway (tell me what else you can buy for $6 that will last forever.) and now I feel like I have a key to the city.  King of Gulu I am!
Saw this sign between the police station and the municipal offices in Gulu.

1 comment:

  1. Miss you both! Ha Ha "Zebra Crossing"... Love, Gayla