Monday, May 31, 2010

Holding Hands with Strangers

“But here in our beautiful Uganda we have more smiles than tears.

We have more love than hate.”

That was a statement made yesterday at a soccer game for war victims. I have never truly believed a public statement like this before. Statements about national unity are made in every country, but how often is it a resounding truth throughout the entire nation?

What kind of lesson can I learn from the people of Uganda? Every day I am asked more times than I can count how I am doing. And every single time it is a genuine inquiry. Everyone is sincerely concerned about the well being of their fellow man. Each day I am blessed by the charity of these people. I slipped on the gravel and immediately three people stopped and kept asking if I was okay. Later that same day, we were walking along the side of the road way away from the city and someone stopped and offered us a ride. That someone happens to be the youngest elected member of Parliament in Uganda’s history. Every time I meet someone, they shake my hand throughout the conversation. It's as if they are trying to connect with me on a deeper level. And, my favorite part of this culture is hand holding. Everyone holds hands everywhere they go.

It makes me feel so special when a Ugandan holds my hand because I know that it their sincere way of saying they've accepted me into their society. And, it happens more often than I would have ever thought. Don’t get me wrong, there are millions of charitable people in the United States, but this is the first time where I’ve lived in a culture that totally and completely embodies charity. It drives everything they do.

Where does such love and humility come from? Does it come from the so called poverty that they live in? Does it

come from the lack of interaction with the technological world? Or is it simply a character trait that these people inherently possess? Whatever it is, I want it. I want everyone to feel as cared about as I do when I interact with Ugandans.

So, as my friend Brittany said, I will "Stay humble. Become enlightened. Hold stranger's hands whenever they'll let you."

Picture 1: Melissa Thompson and Lois

Picture 2: Right before I busted my chin on someone's helmet. I have a pink hat on under my helmet.

Picture 3: Our raft! LtoR: Brooke Ellis, Scott Richards, Me, Oscar Moreno, Chris Gong, Rachel Finleigh, Angie Fairchild

Picture 4: Right after a big rapid. Please note the blood on my chin.

Over and Out,


Monday, May 24, 2010

Building Bridges

Scene 1

Uganda is leading against Kenya by one point. The sun is beating down on Mandela National Stadium and tensions rise as the game progresses through the second half. Uganda kicks the ball out of bounds and Kenya is awarded a corner kick. This is a crucial moment in the game.

Victor: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! He crosses himself while yelling.

Kenya doesn’t make the goal. Victor raises his rosary beads.

Victor: AMEN!!!!!

Angie: Looks like your faith paid off. Trying to control her laughter as she speaks.

Victor: I know! I need to pray more often!


Scene 2

People are packed into a large open room at a Born-again Christian Church. Plastic chairs are crammed in every corner. The temperature continually rises as the Sunday sun beats down on the tin roof. People start yelling and raising their hands in the air.

Enter President Museveni. Before singing the Ugandan National Anthem, crowd control pushes people back towards the seats.

Preacher: Praises to the Lord for allowing Mussevani to visit us!

Crowd: Amen!

Preacher: Lift your hands to Lord and join me in prayer. As directed, the entire room raises their hands above their heads and bows their heads.

The prayer is in Luganda and people respond during the prayer with many “Mmms” in agreement.

Preacher: Amen!

Crowd: Amen!! Triumphantly.

Preacher: Please welcome the President to our church.

Yelling and whistling welcome the highest ranking official in Uganda. Museveni speaks for a few shorts minutes about how grateful he is to be here. He makes no comments about politics, but he does tell the story of Christ feeding the multitude. Mostly, Museveni just waves.


Religions and their presence in the world have always intrigued me. After travelling all over the world with my father (England, France, Germany, Peru, Belize, El Salvador, and now Uganda), Catholicism has never ceased to make itself known. Christianity as a whole is always a predominant movement around the world. Unlike South America, Uganda has many Muslims. I’d even venture to say that the Islamic religion is second only to Catholicism when it comes to membership numbers here. There is even a Mosque about fifteen minutes from our house and countless women wearing veils. Being in an area with many Muslims as well as recently reading Greg Mortenson’s

Three Cups of Tea has made me realize how much I don’t know about this religion and what it really means to be a Muslim. Three Cups of Tea portrayed true Muslims as people who worship Allah and generally just want to do good in the world. Christians worship the Almighty God and also try to be charitable and good to the people of their world. Good works is also an integral part of the Jewish religion. From what I can tell, each and every religion worships a God of some sort and the teachings emphasize make your neighbor’s burden a little lighter. Yes, there are fundamental differences in all religions, even cultures and societies, but there are also many parallels.

But, if so many of the principles are the same, why are we always fighting with each other? If faith, hope, and charity form a solid foundation for a plethora of different beliefs, why can’t we just get along? Why are we as

human beings always pointing fingers saying “You’re wrong!”? Instead of building walls between people of different beliefs, we need to build bridges of trust and respect.

This past year at school I participated in a bi-monthly discussion group. Each week we would vote on the topic. One of our favorite topics happened to be entitled “How do you overcome the gap between Christians and Atheists?” Ultimately we decided there is no singular, correct process for triumphing over such vast differences. But, the group consensus was that trust needed to be established in order for both parties to feel respected and understood. Each party needs to come 70% of the way across so that we can overlap and catch ourselves if there is a weakness in our bridge.

But this brings me back to my initial point about the many similarities in principles between different beliefs, cultures, etc. What I just wrote is the way we, as human beings, should approach or differences, but it is often not the way we do approach them. And there is something very wrong with that.

How do we promote this kind of collaboration, understanding, trust, and mutual respect across cultures, religions, beliefs, races, or any other kind of dissimilarity in the world?

Over and Out


Picture 1 - Laundry day.

Picture 2 - Blythe opening her mission call. Temple Square!

Picture 3 - me eating a grasshopper!

Monday, May 17, 2010


As I sit here watching rain fall from a seemingly cloudless sky, my mind drifts to thoughts of home, friends, family, and life in the United States. But, almost as quickly as my mind wanders, I’m brought back to my reality by children asking me to play through our fence and by a large mango tree that is always watching over me. The contrast between the two lifestyles is as distinct as the difference between black and white.

The phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side” keeps coming to my mind. People have asked me how I could ever want to give up my easy, technology filled lifestyle, even for a moment. I, in turn, wonder what in the world I have done to deserve the opportunity to live with almost nothing and fourteen roommates for three months. To me, true beauty and luxury are found in the simple things. And the real luxury I strive after in life is the ability to have the time to sit, think, read, and get to know other people without worldly distractions like the internet. To me, beauty is watching a rainbow pierce through the sky after a thunderstorm. It is the pure love of a child and the comradery and unity of a real community. Luxury is knowing that at the end of the day, you’ve worked hard and done everything you can to make a difference in the world. I’ve never expierenced all of those luxurious and beautiful things in such a short amount of time. Now, I have and I’ve never been happier.

Thursday evening, while walking along the rocky, dust-ridden road, a small child came bounding towards Angie and me with a smile filled with pure joy and happiness. He didn’t say a word to us but held my hand as we walked. That simple love and complete trust is something I’ve rarely witnessed. It is something I will strive to obtain for the rest of my life. As I sit here recalling that moment, I only wish I could look into those love, pure, unclouded, wise eyes again.

Our projects are gaining steam. We had meetings all last week, and we started writing proposals. This week we have some more meetings to solidify plans, but then it will be full steam ahead! Some of the projects I’m working on are:

Soccer League + Health Lessons – Scott and I are developing soccer leagues at a few schools. There will be 3-5 teams at each school. The students will select 2 captains and the captains with our help will run team practices and drills. At the beginning of each practice, we will have a short 15 minute lesson on AIDS awareness, hand washing, or other similar topics. We will finish each practice with group discussions about other issues the students have interest in learning more about.

Toms Shoes proposal – This is my main project. Once we visit a neighboring village where many refugees have been placed, I’ll be able to do needs assessment and start making reliable contacts so we can place these shoes next summer. It will involve a ton of research and economic analysis. Wish me luck!

Other projects I’m working on involve teaching piano lessons at church, helping at business trainings, and helping with counseling services at local schools.
Other than that, all is going well here in Africa! The weather is great and the people are wonderful :)

Over and Out

Picture 1: Market Day in Mukono = Madness
Picture 2: I climbed up our small, humble water tower to see the sunset
Picture 3: The soccer field for Mukono Town Academy is behind these lovely ladies. (LtoR Angie, Jessica, Brooke Zollinger, Nicole, Kaile, Brooke E, Blythe)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Truly the Minority

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be in the minority? I’m not talking about our minorities in the United States, where there are 100-150 people from varying races and ethnicities to every 300-500 Caucasians. I’m talking about being one of 10-15 people of a different ethnicity to thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people of another race or ethnicity. What would it be like? How would I feel? Can I handle it? How would I or how should I be treated?

This is all I’ve been thinking about since I walked off that airplane in Entebbe, Uganda.

You can never understand what it’s like until you have lived that way. There are people who don’t like us, who make fun of us and think we don’t understand what they are saying because of the language they speak. No, I may not understand exactly what they are saying, but one thing that translates across the world is how someone can make you feel. I can tell when someone is saying something behind my back or is making fun of me because I don’t know what I’m doing. I can tell when people lower their voices and snicker when I walk by. It is not a good feeling, at all. When it happens, I wonder if I will really be able to accomplish anything here or if people will just shut me out because I’m white. But, at the same time, there are people who are more than welcoming and accepting. Just this morning we met with the Headmaster of the Mukono Town Academy and he told us several times how much they loved having us here and how when we are here, we are considered Ugandan and part of the staff.

My thoughts on this topic have increased as I’ve been reading the novel by Kathryn Stockett entitled, “The Help”. It’s about the civil rights movement and what it was like to be a black maid in the Deep South. It shows the different perspectives between the maids and the high society, white women. It was truly dangerous for any black person to voice their opinion. Equality was not an option. But why? People were fearful of blacks because they didn’t take the time to understand them and their culture. This is where I will change. I’ve been taught since I was a child to not be judgmental, but when judgment is something that surrounds you, it’s hard to not be like that. I tried to not be that person, the one who refused to try to understand, or the one who just avoided situations where I’d be forced to understand and adapt. Sometimes I succeeded in my efforts, but other times I failed.

I will not act indifferent or avoid situations where I’m the minority. I will embrace them. I will be as strong as every other person that has to be the minority every day. I will be the one who is helpful and excited to meet new people. I will be the one who embraces diversity and other cultures with every chance I get. And finally, I will be the change I wish to see in the world just as the people of Uganda have changed my world.

Over and Out,

Platform 9 and 3/4! The highlight of our London excursion

told you it was pretty :)

mixing cement!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

First Impressions


-Oh hey there's a monkey in that tree!

-Mzungu Mzungu! (White person! White person!)

-Our guard has a BIG gun.

-I've never seen windows on a plane fog up so fast from humidity.

-Please don't run me over Mr. Boda Boda driver.

-Eveything is cheap. REALLY cheap. We bought a sweet reed mat today for $2. And breakfast is usually 50 cents.

-Everyone is always smiling and happy to see you.

-Look! There are the missionaries! (We only waved to each other across the street, but I can already tell we're gonna be buddies)

-Time's up. I'll write more and hopefully post pictures from both London and Uganda in a few days!

1 day down, only 74 left.

Over and Out