Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I'm Learning

When thinking about what I wanted to say in this post, I kept coming up blank. There are just too many amazing stories I could tell. There are too many daily occurrences that I think to myself when they happen "oh, file that away for later." There is just too much! But really it is just enough.

It is just enough to open my eyes to the serious needs all around me.  Women, men, and children are struggling with HIV/AIDS when there are medicines available that could prolong their lives. There are women who get their medications only to have their drunk husbands take it from them, or beat them because they had to spend 3 days in the hospital just to qualify to receive it. Children want so badly to go to school, but their families can't afford it, or they live in a home where their father refuses to pay and their mother can't work hard enough to feed the family of 9 and afford school fees for 7. Then there are the rare families that somehow pinch out just enough to cover the cost of a child's school fees, uniform fees, and supply fees for a year, but that child receives an education that would shut down an American school for its ineffectiveness.

It is just enough for me to understand, not because I have read, but because I have experienced the harder way of life here. There is no such thing as air conditioning. Power outages happen daily, often multiple times a day, and sometimes for 4+ hours at a time. Washing machines exist, somewhere...I think. All of my laundry is done in a bucket with my own two hands. Food is cooked outside over a charcoal fire. Red dirt/dust gets everywhere (not an exaggeration). Bugs get everywhere. Refrigeration is rare. Red lights don't exist, nor do sidewalks, nor do stop signs, but there are lots of speed bumps. Most roads are dirt though, so it really wouldn't make a difference. There is a severe shortage of trained medical personnel. Water comes out of a well...I hope you live close to one, because a 2 mile walk in this heat without water is excruciating (For us Americans water comes from a bottle. We have to watch out for bacteria and parasites that our immune systems aren't used to.) This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I would not even pretend to understand fully why life is hard here as a Ugandan. But I have witnessed many things that I would like to attempt to relay to you.

Hospitals here are not places of comfort where one can trust that someone will know what is wrong and be able to fix it. Instead they are overcrowded, hot, and very heavy/sad places. In the children's ward there are no beautiful murals of trees and giraffes, in their place are red dirt walls with chipped paint and spiders.

I don't say all of this to write yet another story of an East Africa country that is desperate for relief. This shouldn't be another essay that makes you cry or feel bad for people living in 3rd World nations. I'm just trying to put into perspective that there is another world out there. Outside of our air-conditioned, cable ready, Wi-fi connected lives. And amazingly enough, the people here have almost NO IDEA! They don't think of their lives in comparison to the lives of 1st worlders. They are happy, beautiful, joyful people who simply get up every morning in a different situation than you found yourself in when your alarm clock woke you up this morning. And what is even more amazing? God loves these people as much as He loves us. His desire for them is that they live full lives for His glory. Odd, isn't that the same thing He desires for me and you? I know that I write a lot on the many reasons you should drop what you're doing and head to a foreign country, but I really can't help it. With what I'm learning, the only response I have is to write to the world that they should come and experience this too.

I'm learning a new language. I'm learning a new style of song. I'm learning a new diet. I'm learning a new way to carry things (on my head). I'm learning how to do things in a more primitive, yet strangely more effective way. I'm learning a new culture. I'm learning to say yes with my eyebrows. I'm learning not to ask what's in the food. I'm learning compassion. I'm learning about helplessness. I'm learning that I can't fix everything. I'm learning that I don't know everything. I'm learning that life in Uganda for an uneducated girl means that they need to find a husband, no matter what he is like. I'm learning that children sometimes were never taught to smile. Sometimes they've never been hugged or have never heard the words "I love you." I'm learning that when they are smiled at, waved at, hugged, and told "I love you" by a mzungu (me), that it means the world to them and instantly makes me their new best friend. I'm learning that God is the only thing getting me through the day. I'm learning that depending on Him for everything I need is scary, hard, and very frustrating, but SO WORTH IT!

What I'm learning in pictures...

Sweet Giftee who fell asleep in my arms. The doctors aren't sure what is wrong with her, but she is sick all the time and has thick joints. She is truly a gift!

Mary is going to be a nurse and so I let her do my malaria test. Notice which one of us freaked out...
We made Valentine's cards to hand out in town. This was Logan's reaction to my Valentine! 
This is Susan, the woman who prepares our amazing meals, and she LOVED her Valentine from the team!

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