uganda

  • A Day In Uganda

    Dear Live It Everyday community,

    I decided that yesterday I would wake up and document my day. Living in Uganda is never dull and every second is unpredictable. So I thought I’d record a random day and luckily for you yesterday was a golden example of my chaotic life.

    8 am

    Wake up to the noise of a lizard’s quick feet (pat pat pat) crawling past my face and learning electricity has gone out. Great start to the day.

    No electricity means I better hope my electronics had enough battery power from the day before to carry me through the black out. Unfortunately, my computer was completely dead. (I guess work will have to wait.)

    No matter, the day is still redeemable because fresh coffee waits. I walked to the kitchen for a spoon from the silverware bin. The bin is dark so I always know my six and eight-legged friends are crawling around. I chose a spoon, dodge the creepy-crawlies, wipe it off, and proceed to my dreamy French press. What would I do without it?

    After coffee I head into town for work. After four months of driving on the same roads I always feel convinced that I have every inch memorized. Gaping potholes, giant sand dune-like bumps, rocks, old nails, and animal surprises dominate Ugandan roads.

    Even if I think I’ve memorized the road, there is always something new. For example, yesterday I had to dodge a pile of bricks that took up most of the road and were as tall as the hood of my car. In Uganda, they cover the larger potholes with huge lumps of dirt and rock or, my personal favorite, brick.

    Now, why does a tall pile of brick help the pothole situation? I mean, I guess running INTO a stack of brick is better than bouncing through a shallow pothole?

    I just don’t get the logic. But that is my life. Dodging potholes and piles of brick.

    I arrived to my office to find a group of men working on the driveway that I use to pass through to park at my office. They were making brick and their water jugs, men, and barrels were covering my pathway.

    I rolled down my window as a fellow approached. I don’t know what it is but I can tell very quickly whether or not someone is trustworthy and honest, and with this guy I smelled a snake before he even said hello.

    He greeted me, half-heartedly. In return I said, “Hi. Can I pass?”

    He said something about their work and I told him, “Well I work at the center. And I’m carrying in 200 Kilos of flour today. Can you move your supplies so I can pass?”

    Then, out of nowhere, “You ran over my brick!” He accused as he pointed to a pile of wet brick from the night before with a tire mark all the way through the row.

    “Excuse me? I did not run over your bricks.” I said firmly, obviously unimpressed by his behavior and showing him I am no pushover.

    “Yes you did! You ran over my brick!”

    “I did not!”

    “They said it was you!”

    “Who?”

    “People around here! You ran over my bricks last night!”

    “Sir, I did NOT run over your bricks. I don’t work at night. ”

    At this point we were both heated. He thought he had found an easy target (someone to cough up money for mysterious damage). And I was ticked he had blamed me and thought he could treat me that way.

    “Now let me pass,” I demanded.

    At that point he argued that he owned the road (driveway), allows me to use it for free (for five seconds as I pass through), and that we had spoiled his bricks and he would no longer allow us to use his road.

    Did I believe it? Not for a second. However, in my time here I have learned to choose my battles carefully. So angry and disgusted I turned off my car, slammed my door, and carried all 200 Kilos from the roadside, across the driveway, and into my office. I decided doing the extra work was better than speaking another word to this guy. I think my glare was enough revenge and he probably felt bad watching me carry 200 kilos from so far just because he was stubborn.

    My assistant got to work shortly after and told me the man owns pieces of the roadside but NOT the driveway because it is a government road reserve. He just wanted me to pay something either for the brick damage or my determination to use the road. Guess where I parked today? (I moved their supplies and pulled right in.)

    After the mishap we left town to head to our children’s club located in a village about an hour and a half away. I was still boiling with anger by the time I was halfway there. Something in me decided to calm down and enjoy the rest of the day, so I let the music take me away.

    We made a stop to visit the home of one of our newly sponsored kids. While we were meeting with the family we took note of a storm coming in, which is weird considering it’s the dry season, and with the dry season only comes heat and dust.

    As a heavy wind rolled in dry dust swarmed all around us. We ran to the car and once in I clenched my teeth back and forth realizing how much dirt had gotten in my mouth. I touched my hair and felt the coat of residue. Ahh, nothing like a breeze of fresh dirt.

    As we drove on I mumbled to Sandra, “no flat tire, no flat tire” because the week before was … convenient.

    Flashback

    Seven days ago I had two visiting friends (Cassie and Isaac), my pastor Titus, and my assistant Sandra in the car as we drove to club. As we approached the main road to the club I noticed it looked different today. It was covered in trash and rock, someone was “working” on it the Ugandans informed me.

    I told the group, “I hope we don’t get a flat” since that tends to be a monthly norm.

    Isaac, my mechanic at home, reassured me, “Well if you’re going to get a flat tire I’d rather be here anyway.”

    Cassie, on the other hand, mocked, “Yeah! If we’re going to get a flat it might as well be right here, right now, on this very road!”

    *PUM PUM PUM PUM PUM * was the failed testimony of my back left tire.

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    Titus covered his smile of disbelief with his hands and cowered in the corner.

    Isaac gripped the handle.

    Cassie was sliding down in her seat, ashamed.

    Sandra was laughing.

    I was in a daze saying, “No … no ….. NOOOO ….”

    To conclude: I totally made Isaac change the tire.

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    Back to yesterday

    We made it safely, and smoothly, to club. We were greeted by about 40 children all lined in two rows across the drive-way singing, clapping, and dancing to our arrival. A bit cliché, I know, but they’re my students and I adored every second of it.

    After our club we headed back to town. This particular region is known for the narrow back roads with a mountain backdrop. It’s my favorite drive out of the whole week.

    Yesterday, however, it went sour. A motorcycle taxi (called a boda-boda, or boda for short) was speeding with a passenger behind him. He lost control and misjudged the space he had, and he hit my car.

    I immediately stopped the car realizing he must have left a scratch and clearly broke my side mirror. I opened my door to find a dent as well.

    The guy approached my vehicle limping (theatrical attempt for pity). Did I buy it? Need I say?

    I let the pastor handle it first to see if they could reconcile without my involvement. I let them speak in their own language for a few minutes then as they transitioned back into English I realized the conversation had gone South.

    “How much does a mirror cost?” The driver asked, now looking at me.

    “I don’t know.” I replied.

    He and the pastor bargained a bit and concluded for maybe $20 or so.

    “Alright. Then you pay me.” He declared.

    I laughed, and mocked, “WHAT! I pay YOU? Was that the negotiation? Come here.”

    He looked at me strangely like I was the crazy one.

    “Come here!” I said again.

    I finally got him to come to my point at the front of the car. Another boda was approaching from down the road.

    “Look. As soon as YOU hit ME (doing the math for him) I immediately stopped my car. I didn’t pull over, I didn’t turn my wheel; I stopped as soon as you hit me. Now watch this. I have a demonstration for you.”

    He looked at me confused, not sure where I was going with it, so I reassured, “Just watch.”

    As the next boda came closer I turned to watch him. As he approached the car and slowed I kindly waved him on so he wouldn’t have to pause at our crash site. To my surprise (just kidding) the boda and his three passengers passed by my car with no problem and no damage.

    What I did next may have been over the top, but irrationality demands more elaborate demonstrations.

    As the boda and his three passengers passed by with no problem I leaned forward in fake disbelief and clapped proudly. After they passed, I kept clapping, said, “Wow! Did you see that?!” and turned around to the driver whose mouth was wide open.

    The best part was the group of children surrounding us who joined in the applause.

    Then I got serious. “So you see. I parked my car exactly where you hit me. You had enough space to not damage my car. All of these bodas have passed with no problem and no damage. The broken mirror is your fault because you didn’t slow down. Now, you pay me.”

    He continued to argue so I counted every passing boda who succeeded my test. I counted to ten before I gave it a break.

    We went back and forth because this guy is the poster-child for irrationality. We had about 20 witnesses who were all telling him it was his fault and his responsibility to reconcile the situation. But, like I said, I can smell a snake.

    He began pulling out every possible excuse. (I guess he realized the fake limp didn’t stir up my pity) When that failed, he tried every other way to put the blame on me. When all else failed, he called me racist.

    At that point I got in the car and asked Titus to handle him, again, before I would lose it and throw a right cross.

    Sadly, nothing panned out. It wasn’t his bike and he had no license, so even tracking the bike would lead to a dead end. This guy was truly a snake. He lied, blamed, made excuses, and acted the entire time. He wouldn’t own up to his mistake and every trap we set for him still couldn’t keep him down because the region has NO police and no way to turn in an immediate report to some authority in the area who could be of real help.

    I took his name (probably fake) and the bike number. As my last move I threatened to go to the police but deep down I know they too are corrupt. I’d have to pay them to do their own job and most likely fail since the region is so far and we had no legitimate information on this guy.

    We moved on.

    I returned home late that night. To what? No electricity, no fan, and no electronics to even document this story. And, to top it off, our cook had broken my French press and I consequently messaged my supervisors to ask them to send me a new one and accidentally wrote, “no Cara for coffee until it arrives.” I thought it was too funny to correct and I am finding out what life is like without coffee. Maybe I’ll write a novel for that catastrophe.

    Here in Uganda everyday is a bad day, truly. Every single day something goes wrong. I think if I ever have a good day it would be the day I don’t leave my house and the electricity remains.

    But despite every surprise, roadblock, chaotic plot, and problem I realize that I have it made. You see, I’m on the same continent where Ebola is striking down the western nations. Warring neighbors surround me. I’m north and west of some major sex and labor trafficking zones. I’m east of a nation where a terrorist group kidnapped hundreds of young schoolgirls to be wed and never returned them home. I’m surrounded by countries characterized by war, terrorism, trafficking, and crimes much worse than the daily things I have to conquer. Uganda is recovering from her past and is trying to enjoy and maintain peace.

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    In perspective I often think of my colleagues in the West working in Ebola stricken hospitals. I think of my missionary friends breathing deeply through the sound of bombs bursting down their very own street.

    My bad days are bad … I’m covered in dust. I’m victim of corruption and liars. I find toads and lizards under my feet when I walk around at 4 am. I work with troubled children, deadly viruses and diseases, and extreme poverty. My car is damaged and my patience is constantly under pressure … But at the end of my bad days I always try to have a good laugh.

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    Could the bad day have been more unrealistic? Could the bad day have been more convenient than a flat tire at the butt of Cassie’s joke? Honestly, in Africa, I’m absolutely sure it COULD get more unrealistic and “convenient.” Africa is funny like that.

    Still, on your bad days, think of those in worse conditions.

    And when it is all over, have a good laugh because there isn’t much else you can do.

    From Uganda, Cara Hope

  • What Live It Everyday Means To A Full Time Missionary

    Uganda.

    I've been here for eight weeks launching the program and in that time, I've interviewed more than 50 families to potentially enroll their children in the program. Home visits have been a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

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    Most of the children live in huts. One hut I evaluated housed about 14 people; they were like sardines. Their villages reside over an hour outside of the closest city and the majority of the families live off of their own crops, only ever selling for a mere bar of soap or an attempt to scrounge up just enough shillings for school fees at the very last minute. (Here, children can attend school initially without paying their fees. Eventually, near the end of the semester, the ones who have not yet paid are sent home.) The interviews are held under the shade of tress surrounded by chickens and goats at my feet. I shake very dirty hands that have just come from attending children, animals, or working in the field. And today, I ran out of hand sanitizer. Sigh.

    The home visits have allowed me a brief glimpse into the daily routine lives of my students. I've met their students. I've met their families. I've seen their living conditions; I've witnessed their simple life raw and up close.

    In the interviews, I ask certain questions to later assess a family's level of poverty. The list of questions include inquiring about the source of their drinking water. Today, a family told me they drink from a well. I've yet to see a traditional well in Gulu, so I asked where it was.

    "You passed it on your way here; you crossed it," the family told me.

    "Well, (punny) by golly the only thing I passed and nearly fell into on my way here was a dirty pond, AKA a glorified giant standing puddle!" I thought.

    "We passed it? We passed a pond." I decided to say instead.

    "No, it is next to the pond. You will see it on your way out." They assured me. On their evaluation I checked the "safe drinking" box and wrote "well" as the source. There have been about four interviews in that area of homes.

    After the interview, we left to venture back to our car. The entire time I was checking around my feet and was ready to leap like a Broadway ballerina because an hour before, I watched a black Cobra cross my path. Talk about a rough day. Venomous cobras, nearly falling in dirty ponds, empty hand sanitizer...what would be next?

    We reached the pond (glorified puddle) as Titus helped me across the rotting logs. I wasn't seeing the well, so I asked where it was, guessing it could be behind the tall African grass. "It is here," he pointed to another pond, an actual pond, but one clearly infested with bacteria. The pond is what they were calling a well. Their "well" was a small spot where people bathe, wash their motorbikes, and collect drinking water from the murky, brown H2O with green bacteria hovering on its surface.

    "This...is not...a pond." I slowly contemplated out loud. My team laughed at me. "Sandra, pull out those evaluations and change them to unsafe drinking water, source, pond, please." I required of my assistant.

    We keep a first-aid kit in the car because home evaluations are where we witness the most unfortunate situations. Multiple times, I've gone back to the car for clean water, gloves, alcohol, Neosporin, and Band-Aids to care for an open wound.

    I once called over a little boy who appeared to have pink all over his skin in the distance. As he came nearer, I realized it wasn't a skin deformation or anything biological, but instead it was a series of open wounds and scars all down his face, neck, chest, and arms. "What happened?" I asked. "He was thrown from a Boda-Boda (motorcycle)," his mother told me.

    This family lacked any minor form of treatment to care for his wounds. His skin was peeling off like a severe sunburn and awful, make-me-queezy things were coming from underneath.

    I don't think Live It Everyday needs to just be an inspiring "go do this" or "feel this" kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, living life and living it to the fullest is plain awareness. Sometimes, living it everyday is silly knowing that you have it made. Your life is most likely surrounded by clean water and a fully stocked medicine cabinet, things that make a difference between life and death in other areas of the world.

    So today, just live it out knowing that you're blessed. Live it out in awareness that other parts of the world are suffering, but to them it's just normal life. Live today as passionate, or compassionate, and do something about it. Be aware! And feel blessed.

    Still hiding from the cobras, Cara

    To see more about the program that Cara is coordinating, click here. To give, click here. To read more about her adventures on her personal blog, click here

  • The Side-View: Savoring The "Now"

    Do you ever catch yourself looking forward just like those professionals tell you to? We’ve been trained to look far, far ahead into the future journey to plan, prepare, and eventually reach our goals. (As if we really know our goals, anyway. Many will change over time.)

    My job has me traveling in and around Gulu, Uganda everyday. The surrounding districts I work in can almost be an hour away, so I find myself in new territories navigating around potholes which in Uganda are pretty much giant, gaping malicious black holes. I have to keep my eyes open for bikers, pedestrians, and large trucks whaling around corners and curves covered in grass taller than my Toyota Rav4. While driving, I find myself looking forward every single day. (Gold star on my car insurance, right?) I stare blankly at the undefined road ahead of me, preparing for anything to maybe, potentially come my way. I look forward preparing for those problems and any potholes that will surprise my path. I stare ahead only focused on the destination and moving forward to reach it. Do you ever get tired of looking forward?

    3 This photo was taken when I was driving through a mint field to one of my home visits to evaluate an applicant for Chidlero.

    Today, I let my friend Peter drive since I had never visited the Lakwana district. As he drove, my team and I were allowed to enjoy the ride, but I still found myself staring ahead at the blank, orange, winding road. Why was I still looking ahead?

    I turned my gaze out my side-view window and instantly fell in love with the new scenery. My view was covered in green trees, cascading landscapes, untame grass, rolling hills, and beauty untold. I love my job, and I love where I am. So why have I always focused forward on the blank, winding, undefined road when the side-view has always been so much better?

    I get so caught up in the stresses of life that I am always planning and working for the complete product. I am never satisfied with the small chunk I’ve accomplished because it has yet to add up to anything. It is hard for me to celebrate one day of home evaluations or primary school scouting because the program still isn’t built, or anywhere near completion. It is hard for me to enjoy the scenery of today when I am bracing myself for imaginary potholes and curve balls that may never appear. Lately, I have been making efforts to savor each day for its own scenery and small accomplishments.

    We must look forward to our destination, I still agree, but we can’t forget to gaze into the side-view of where we are right now to memorize and absorb beauty. Furthermore, we must feel content that it may not be the destination but it is nonetheless a treasured moment of the journey.

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    It can be difficult to gaze into the side-view because in the very moment you are taking it all in, you are passing it. You may merely have a second at each spot, but the beauty can last forever.

    Enjoy the side-view, too.

    Until next time, Cara

    Follow Cara's adventures in Uganda on her personal blog. Donate to her organization, Childero, here. Keep up with her on Instagram here (where she posts the best videos and photos of her sweet kiddos). 

  • Refining Moments -- A Missionary's First Day in Uganda

    Well, *slump and sigh*

     

    I am here. Uganda, the pearl of Africa. Initially, visitors only remark on characteristics like the afternoon heat, the exhausted smells, trash abstractly painted across every way, terrible dusty orange dirt roads, and the bustle of the BodaBoda (motorcycle taxi) drivers who WILL run you over.

     

    Mmm, but not me. Uganda is more. I stare at Uganda like an artwork the way the dusty orange roads contrast against the green banana trees growing along the side of the road brushed with the background of the bright blue sky. I love the brilliant colors. The roof on every house is a different shade of red and the people with their ebony skin just makes their ivory smile stand out and shine a little brighter.

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    There are many refining moments to this trip. I am here for a year in order to launch a new program called Childero. The program financially sponsors children for the educational, nutritional, and medical needs but my heart is in the mentoring part. You see, five days a week I get to hang out with orphaned children and encourage them. That's it, the foundation really. Just encouraging, mentoring, and building up.

     

    But these are refining moments, and today was simply day one. Day one didn't include any of the description above because day one is simply falling into a brand new culture. I am a goal oriented person, I like to see things accomplished quickly and programs are just the opposite.

     

    When you volunteer you see the finished product, errhh ... DEVELOPING product since I believe everything is always developing. Well with me, you get to see it from ground up, and let me tell you the ground is cold, hard, and infertile. But we will get a garden one day.

     

    But for day one, here are my highs and lows.

     

    High: I bought a local phone and got the Toyota RAV4 that I will use for the program. If a RAV4 doesn't scream humanitarian in Africa not sure what does... The headlights are safari certified.

     

    Low: Phone tech not my strong point. I struggled with the device and SIM cards for long enough and have to visit the store again tomorrow.

     

    High: I bargained and got the phone for $20 cheaper.

     

    Low: I miss people from home. I miss my room that I call my sanctuary.

     

    High: I saw a GIANT bird in the city and got so excited. It was a massive colorful flying bird and I freaked out calling it a dinosaur... NO ONE better comment with their obviously googled name of the bird because Dinosaur makes it all that more mystical and wonderful. It looked like it could eat an eagle for tea time AND someone confirmed that it is a carnivore. Bon appetite, birdy.

     

    Low: I am sleeping under a mosquito net and am scared my knots won't hold and it will drop on me in my sleep lol. Woosh, splat!

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    Last High: I get to visit the NILE River this weekend.

     

    Living it everyday has highs and lows, and lows are just fine as long as you bask in the highs. So, bask in the highs with me and let the lows refine us.

     

    Until next time with my quirky details. Cara Hope Starns.

     

    Epilogue: I am sitting all alone in the common room at 12:40 am when a rampant beast started attacking the door!! #OnlyInAfrica. It is scratching madly trying to get in... The door is rattling. Well, I am still as a stone praying it walks away in failure. If you don't hear from me again you'll kno....

     

    Like she said, Cara is in Uganda for a year developing and jump starting an organization called Childero. You can donate to this wonderful organization here and keep up with her personal blog here, for more information. As always, the Live It Everyday team is thankful for our contributors and those in our community who truly Live their lives Everyday. We love you, Cara! 

  • Everyday Conversations Change The World

    Passionate, abrupt, impatient, and mischievous. Hi, I’m Cara. I'm the new contributing writer for Live It Everyday’s Everyday Conversations, I proudly represent the World Peace line that clothes passionate people and although I'm the international guru, I'm actually a pretty average person. (Besides my star qualities of quick wit and awkward nature.)

    Headshot (4-24-14)A few things about me:

    • I live off of dark coffee, pizza, and music.
    • So far I can run a solid 2 miles and I’m learning my 5th language but I fail at all things requiring hand-eye/don't-die coordination.
    • I fear rushing water and butterflies. Yet behold, I like bats.
    • Embrace the weird.

    On a more serious note, I believe that everyday conversations can change the world. I believe there are more people out there like me, passionate people who believe peace can overcome chaos. Passionate people who are fueled from what inspires them. Passionate people who inspire others.

    Passion is contagious, and so are everyday conversations. 

    I told you before that I am average. But my thoughts are not. My mind tends to wander from thinking about what I'm eating for dinner (pizza), to my crammed hourly schedule, laughs about something ridiculous I did earlier that day (perhaps running into my bathroom door, bruise as evidence), and then somehow I will be gazing on a sunset horizon as I drive to work and my mind will turn to the world. Images of human trafficking, acid attacks, honor killings, orphans, diseases, poverty, political injustice, abuse, rape, and crime after crime that humanity faces infiltrates my maybe-not-so-everyday thoughts.

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    This is my mind. An average person stuck between the tugs of a normal and radical life. I find that I am inspired by the injustices of the world. My passion, my bite-back, is fueled by my roaring anger. I speak my mind, I tell people my thoughts, and I am determined to start a movement that an everyday conversation can change the world. A single conversation with one person has the potential to open up your mind and broaden your perspective.

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    Gabon - Silly (4-24-14)

    In these posts, you will read more about how a normal life collides with passion and determination to change the world. I promise that you won't solely land on stories but on challenges. Challenges to live life to the fullest, that inspiration would become respiratory, and that you would believe in the good that thrives among all things, to live peacefully everyday. What about you? How do you challenge yourself? What inspires you? Quite simply: How do you Live It Everyday?

    Costa Rica (4-24-14)

    The movement is contagious; proceed at your own risk.

    Until next time, Cara Hope Starns

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