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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Friday, August 31, 2007

Russian Music

I stumbled across the Discovery Institutes's "Russia Blog" and found some terrific videos.

The St. Petersburg Chamber Choir

Listen to that BASS!

Not exactly bell ringing at Kolomenskoye

Also if you click here and look under "related" you can see all sort of Russian Bell ringing stuff.

This one is really good: The Bell Player of Feodorovsky Cathedral

And the choir from Kolomenskoye

I'll bet someone can enlighten me as to what they are singing...beautiful even without knowing.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 2:57 PM [+]

I'm baaaaaaad

This was my rating for the month of June this year...some months I can manage a PG, but I get a great deal of R's. Consequently, in many months my blog would not be allowed to be read in Northwest College dorm rooms. Be careful.

Apparently in June, the following words were used to determine my rating:
* dead (9x)
* death (3x)
* rape (2x)
* torture (1x)

Man...I must be a real sicko.

For kicks, I did St. John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily and he got:

He got nailed for the following words:
* hell (12x)
* death (4x)
* dead (2x)
* corpse (1x)

And his first homily "Against the Jews":

And here we have these words:
* death (28x)
* dead (16x)
* hurt (11x)
* pain (10x)
* murder (8x)
* dangerous (5x)
* torture (4x)
* breast (3x)
* corpse (2x)
* drugs (1x)

And now, having posted this, I've turned August into an NC-17 month!

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:51 AM [+]

Twice a day, a stopped clock is right

World Council of Churches says Christians face hardship in Turkey.

More than 500 years late in coming. Okay, I'll allow non-existance as an excuse for many of these years.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:11 AM [+]

Small Town News

Really, its only in a small town that two things would happen in regards to this story.

First, that it would appear at all. Second, that it would be treated with respect and without critical commentary...note the small part on page 2 about the weeping icon and the explanation of who St. Anna is. Can you imagine if this story was reported in our city paper (if at all of course) how it would have been told?

Here's to small towns!

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:02 AM [+]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What would [the post-modern] Jesus do?

Watch the video HERE.

You ever notice that when people pontificate about what they think Jesus would "be about" today that it is always their particular issues...often those they believe are being ignored by the wider Christian community? Oh yes, the issues on "Jesus' Plate" today: "you better bet it would be racism, the environment, globalization..."

Ah, yes, Jesus the activist. Surely one of those old Hebrew names for God include this, right? Jehovah-social justice-jireh?

What social justice issues did Jesus MISS during his time? Well he didn't condemn the institution of slavery. He failed to choose any women disciples, truly a staggering blow to the as yet blossomed women's rights movement. And speaking of globalization, he didn't say a single solitary word against the imperial globalizing empire of Rome...not a single word of protest. Heck he even befriended a few soldiers of that empire and did not encourage them to defect or quit, but rather encouraged them to be good and moral soldiers. Dang, that doesn't quite fit the MO of a modern day social justice teacher/activist. I'll give them the racism thing, but was it really a focus of Jesus' ministry to establish social justice? What percentage of what He said and did had anything to do with confronting social norms as being evil on a societal level?

I've said this before, but as I read (in the Bible, in case the people of Solomon's Porch were wondering) about Jesus' interactions with people, I note that time and time again people are taken off guard and Jesus - lovingly and perfectly - strikes at the very heart of the matter...within the heart of the person. I think when Jesus looks you in the eyes, the last thing you are likely to find is confirmation of your self-righteous perceptions of social injustices in the world. Maybe you are holier than me, but I rather suspect all politics, social issues, and the sins of others go out the window and instead I am to be confronted with the injustices I spew forth from my own heart.

Issues, issues, issues...Jesus' issue, if I may be so bold is YOU and it is me. I think these Solomon's Porch folks get so much right, but then so much wrong...not that I personally claim to have a corner on truth, but the Church does. Sorry, it just does and always has and Jesus told the founders it would be so. (yep, I'm all about bumper sticker theology: "Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it") You can get so wrapped up in "What would Jesus do" that all you can think about is making abortion illegal (on one end of the spectrum) or ending globalization (on the other end) that you stand to neglect/forget/or even label insignificant what Jesus HAS DONE. And that is: Conquered death so that the Church may live life in union with Him. Really it is the ONLY thing that Jesus said or did that without which we are told by St. Paul Himself we are stupid and wasting our time. Did you notice (I did) that in the exposition of "what we are all about" there was not a single word about this central and critical theme of Christianity? Seems to me that any explanation of the life of a Christian community ought to mention the role of Pascha in it...is it not the hinge upon which we move?

These folks may have made it clear that they have walked away from the reality of Jesus (my paraphrase: "what we believe literally matters less than our perception of what Jesus was about")...they seem just one step away from denying Jesus' literal existence or perhaps His Divinity or perhaps His literal resurrection...and why not, after all "everyone has the right to speak for God." When someone stands up at Solomon's Porch and insists that Jesus' Resurrection was merely a spiritual metaphor, or that Jesus was merely a man, who will rebuke him? Nothing new under the sun, this is just shorts, t-shirts, and messy haired episcopalianism.

No thanks, I'll trust those who were taught by Jesus Himself and who in turn taught their followers, who in turn taught their followers etc...we call this the Church and we don't need to ask "How should we do communion" and even if we did we certainly wouldn't answer it with the vague: "I've heard..."

The Church: Old and crotchety guardian of the truth...some would say stale and dusty, yes...but also never-changing and beautiful - as truth should be...check that...as Truth (being the second person of the Trinity) is. A Rock and not sand foundation. Hip today, passe tomorrow, The Church is not. The Church is what the Church is and she makes no pretenses about it. She is not here to APPEAL to you, she is here to CHANGE you.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 12:40 PM [+]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Orthodox Leftovers

I dare to speak/write about a topic which the truly pious Orthodox Christian would eschew.

Picture, if you will: You are having a fantastic dinner on a Tuesday or Thursday night (e.g. a meat lasagna made with Mozzarella cheese your wife and your goat made), and while the rest of the world looks forward to seeing this wonderful dish resurrected the following day for lunch, we Orthodox must settle for a passover to the following day during which said food has an extra day to age.

Be warned potential converts...Orthodoxy envelopes your life even unto your leftovers.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 12:31 PM [+]

What do we do now?

Burning Man gets torched early

LOL...the artist (perpetrator...sigh...what a judgmental label) seems rather happy about it:

Festival goers are calling it a "selfish act"...again a very judgmental label....can't we get away from labels? Really...wasn't this "artist" just fully demonstrating the notion of being countercultural? Your reap what you sow: one person's counterculture is eventually another person's idea of culture.

What do we do now? A very very good question.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:39 AM [+]

Do you feel safe?

The citizens of the United States are the most "heavily armed" in the world.

Why is this news? Seriously, what does this tell us? What is the point?

Check this out: "Firearms are very unevenly distributed around the world. The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons -- these images are certainly misleading"

Ummm...I never had an image of such regions as Darfur being awash with weapons, rather they are awash with PEOPLE readily willing - often en mass - to do violence upon one another (whether with guns, knives, sticks, stones, or bare hands). What does it tell us when there are places with FAR less handguns per capita that are none-the-less FAR more dangerous and violent?

It's not whether Nigeria has one gun per 100 people, its about WHO happens to be holding that one gun.

So if gun ownership scares and concerns you....ummmm....move to Sudan? Nigeria?

Of course, in the end we learn these numbers are all estimates. I'm sure they had reliable computer models that showed how many AK's are circulating through private (or worse yet: governmental) hands in Latin America and Africa.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:23 AM [+]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to "normal"

I was saddened to awaken to darkness this morning for my first official day back in the lab. Where did the summer go? I am praying for a fantastic September and maybe even an Indian summer. Much more to do.

I got a great deal of wood split, but that was about all I managed to accomplish lately...well Sue and I replaced the faucet on the kitchen sink and the back-splash with tile. However, I am still having the "sniffles" from my African cold as I now call it.

Last weekend we did the decidedly rural duty and pleasure of attending the Kitsap County Fair and Stampede. (And hey...could there being Serbian ancestry for Miss Kitsap Fair and Stampede?)

We didn't stay for the rodeo stuff, but we sure had a great time seeing all the animals, learning a bunch, and even meeting a miniature Hereford breeder from Sequim named John Johnston, from whom we bought 1/2 of a cow (about 231 lbs hanging weight). Later in September we also get to tour his ranch! And who knows, maybe he'll convince us to go with Mini-Herefords instead of pigs?

As if this weren't cool enough, I had a real cowgirl (she'd come over to warn us not to reach in to touch her horse) compliment me on my hat...I didn't have the heart to tell her I bought it at the feed store for $6.00

Some aspects of normal I find to be most welcomed. The commute into the city not being one of them. I don't feel like I've had my fill of farm chores...you know sweating my way through some pasture fencing and what not. Feels so good to be sore at the end of a long hard day...that first sip of a fine ale as you sit to rest, wholly self-satisfied for your day's labors, is a little taste of heaven.

Spending a day in the lab just doesn't do the same thing for me. I can't explain it further.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:56 AM [+]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

For Rade...

A huge folk brass band retreat. What's not to love? Check out the caption that accompanied this AP photo:

A Serb flashes 3-fingers Orthodox salute as he joins 'What cheer? brigade', a brass band from Providence, Rhode Island, playing in Guca, some 160 km (100 miles) south of Belgrade, Aug. 11, 2007, during the 'Dragacevo Trumpet Festival,' the world's biggest folk brass band gathering, a kind of Woodstock of the Balkans, which some call the craziest alcohol-drinking and pork-eating assembly on the globe.


...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:35 AM [+]

Friday, August 24, 2007

Remains of Alexei and Maria or Anastasia found?

Story HERE.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:06 AM [+]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Speaking of Fishing

The REAL story here has nothing to do with him being topless and looking all "BA" and what not. Yes, once again the media misses that which is important...sigh...are there any REAL journalists out there today? Or are they all paparazzi and political pundits bent on bending their stories to fit their political agenda?

For crying out loud: DID THE MAN CATCH ANYTHING?!?! And if so, what was he using?

I have my doubts, it looks to me like he is holding his rod improperly because the reel marks the center of gravity and is the place where you want to hold it in order to properly and most effectively set the hook. And I'd let him know too, if I weren't afraid he'd beat me up.

You know, pacific coastal regions of Russia have some EXCELLENT Steelhead fishing.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:26 AM [+]

Like Riding a Bike

Yesterday I did something I had not done in probably two years, which is amazing because of the extent to which I used to do this sort of thing.

I went fishing.

If you do not perceive this to be a big deal, then you do not know me. The Farm has taken so much of my time and the move here to Kitsap has left me "out of the water" in regards to techniques to use when fishing the Sound from shore, which is pretty much the only option for Salmon here.

Sue and I threw caution and responsibility to the wind, told Killick he was in charge, said a prayer for the chickens (specifically that said prayer would not be a meal blessing for Killick) and packed up the kids and some food and headed up to "Point No Point" to wet some lines.

I worried if I would be able to remember to tie a good clinch knot, but I soon found that such knowledge has been incorporated into a number of eternal synapses: once my fingers were entwined with that 12 lb test, they worked effortlessly with lubricating saliva applied at all the right times. Heck, I'll bet I could still do an awesome Egg Loop knot too!

Alas, I came home empty handed. But Sue nabbed a bright little Jack Coho (perhaps 2-3 lbs). You who are anglers know though, that even just standing half the day and rhythmically tossing and retrieving your offering to the salmonids of the Northwest is a joy...especially if you've not done it in years.

NEXT time, I hope to add to that joy the glories of setting MY Silver on the grill and not just my wife's.

That being said, it's good to know I have myself a quality woman who can land salmon at least as well (better than?) I can.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:03 AM [+]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kill them all

Go now...don't wait...and get your moose hunting license. If you love Mother Earth you will begin killing Moose right now. Sing with me: Come on people now, smile on your Mother, everybody get together and kill all Moose right now!

Moose emissions are causing global warming.

Honestly I cannot tell you how badly I want to pluralize Moose as Meese. And really, what a fun way to earn carbon credits...imagine how much bigger of a house I could morally own or how much more often I could fly on private jets by regularly hunting Meese.

I'm off to the range to practice.

Dude, I'm as green as Kermit. Hmmm...I wonder how much methane and CO2 frogs produce?

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:23 AM [+]

What happened in Ispas?

Did a small Ukranian village rise up against Nazi's to protect their Jewish neighbors?

Fr. Volodymyr Vinnytsky...

...who is supposed to have confronted - barefooted - an angry mob saying: "Calm down. I will not allow you to kill Jews...They are the same people as us."

I hope it is true.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:53 AM [+]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Creating Artificial Life from "scratch"?

Article HERE.

So, ummmm, from scratch meaning that these scientists will begin with simple elements found on the periodic chart, right? Of course not...and so the rain begins over the parade.

I suspect predictions of doing this in this time frame will actually amount to little more that a complex molecular "organ" transplant. Intelligent beings gathered around a microscope and injecting the premade necessary ingredients for a living organism is NOT my idea of "creating" life. Will this organism generate its own complex enzymes necessary for copying DNA? For transcribing DNA? For turning mRNA into proteins? Or will these little wonders be provided to it?

Will this organism be able to reproduce itself? A rather necessary component - I should think - for something to be considered living. Indeed, is this not the GRAND wonder of our ancestor, "The Selfish Gene": the mysterious strip of chemical components that somehow garnered the ability to copy itself?

Whatever happened to those attempts like taking a test tube full of muck and zapping it with lightening to see if all of these complex biological mechanism can happen BY THEMSELVES?

"This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role."

I am laughing. What "fundamental mysteries"? And "our role"? It would seem that if this achievement is actually achieved that it actually proves that intelligent design is absolutely necessary for the "creation" of life...no? Note the use of words like "hurdles" and "efforts" and "huge achievement."

And then this:

His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.

"We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened," Szostak said.

Ummm...somehow natural selection is going to get the nucleotides to gather in just the right order to create a fully functioning genetic system ready to generate...oh let's say: polymerase, for instance? Oh wait a minute...in order to generate DNA polymerase you will have to first have RNA Polymerase, Ribosomes, tRNA, and Amino Acids (for starters off the top of my head) where did THESE happen to come from? Puhhlease..."we aren't smart enough to design things" but you you think you can inject a few building blocks in and it will happen all by itself? Sorta like throwing a few engine parts together covered with JB Weld and expecting a functioning engine to materialize...maybe after stirring the pot for awhile?

Count me as being profoundly UNDERWHELMED when the announcement comes...if it ever does.

I am reminded of this old joke (except that the above efforts don't do it justice):

Scientists came before God to tell Him that He is no longer required to explain the existence of life, because they were now able to create life in the laboratory.

"Really?" God says, "Show me?"

"Sure," the lead scientists says. And then as he bends down he says, "All I need is a little dirt..."

God interrupts, "Whoah, my son, go and get your own dirt."

Or Polymerase, or Nucleotides, or Ribosomes, or tRNA, or mRNA, or ____________.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:22 AM [+]


I am definitely learning to be tolerant of spiders. Violation of the law (i.e. entering the house) is still cause for capital punishment, but otherwise I see them as comrades aiding us in the fight against harmful insects and I am able to leave them be, whereas in the past I could hardly suffer their presence near me. Don't get me wrong though, were one to end up ON me, I'd scream like a little girl and smash the thing amidst a frenzied and spastic dance of horror.

I've also noticed that I am more tolerant of dirt. A little dirt on the floor or on the walls doesn't seem to send me into fits anymore like it used to. Again, don't get me wrong, I still feel compelled to vacuum/shampoo and I still feel compelled to repaint our walls...I just don't think I'm losing sleep over it if you know what I mean. I think Africa is partly responsible for this latter bout of tolerance, another in a long list of pettiness that I am forced to rationalize in a greater context than I did before. Who of us could suffer concrete slab floors? How about no floors, just dirt/mud? Of course, now that I think about it, I have OSB floors...albeit ornately pieced together.

Anyway, even the most meticulous of cleaning in Africa cannot stem the tide of red dirt that flows into homes. Walking through our little mansion once with white socks and seeing the bounty that covered them within moments convinced me of this. So, whether the cause is "TIA" (This Is Africa) or kids, one can live with a little dirt.

By the way, here is a Nordstrom Rack in Uganda:

...right beside a trash dump.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:50 AM [+]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tropical Diseases and Watching the Weather

It is good to be home. I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to driving on the right side of the road, I guess the whole left side thing in Uganda never really stuck with me...though one could argue that driving on the left side is more of a suggestion in Kampala.

You know about Wednesday: I spent the afternoon wandering about the farm in a zombie-like daze marveling at how things have grown, until Sue finally ushered me off to bed. Thursday I spent the day splitting rounds - desperate to catch up for winter. I chopped until I was exhausted and my hands were blistered. It was wonderful.

That night, I felt a sore throat coming on while I slept. By morning I was miserable. Today is the first day I have felt better since then...I thought I was doing better on Saturday, but took a turn for the worse that night. In my sickness I happened to come across a show on the Science Channel about tropical diseases...not exactly what one should watch given the context of my physical state. No worms have breached my skin yet and since I feel better I suspect I just overdid things (lack of sleep, time change, and working so hard on Thursday) and it just led to a temporary retreat of my immune system.

Rain has been inundating us the last couple of days, making it feel even more like I have missed summer here. It's particularly bad news because we might lose our tomato crop for it. But there is a little bit of a silver lining because I feel less like I am wasting quality work days because of my illness. They tell us the rain should switch to more normal August weather starting tomorrow - but I trust my eyes to see when I wake up more than their models.

Everyday Uganda seems to get further and further away. I generally am trying not to be one to wander about with Uganda on my brain and it being the center of my every conversation, I expect people would quickly grow weary of hearing about it. There is little doubt that it has affected me profoundly, but I can see how my time spent there was also a time spent away from the reality of my everyday life which must now go forward. Nothing has changed outside of myself, I still face the same issues and problems albeit with a different perspective. Is is enough to change how I deal with them? That remains to be seen. I have certainly seen how I can fall right back into the same old ruts. You know, as a dog returns to his vomit. (Proverbs 26:11)

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:31 AM [+]

Friday, August 17, 2007

What does one do with what they have seen?

Intellectually? Emotionally? Spiritually? Physically? As I mentioned in the comments of the previous post: what I have seen sits prominently within me, staring at me and asking this very same question. This "thing" is multifaceted and it is somewhat hard to verbalize a description of the perspectives with which one can approach and walk away from the thing.

First...I am sharing my experience. Here, GrammaFaith snapped a pic of me sharing some pics and videos with the kids. Explaining, as best as I am able, both the wonders and the horrors of what I saw. Again, as I've noted before, no lions or elephants - just people and everyday life in and around Kampala. Perspective that I have gained (to be shared momentarily) is hopefully going to be "passed on" (aka Paradosis) to my kids.

Like explaining that this boy:

...probably has no idea what a "pokemon" is (despite his shirt)and that this old tire and a couple of sticks are very likely his only "toy." He was quite adept at rolling the thing around...perhaps oblivious to how sad his state appears to my kids with their seemingly unending supply of ever boring toys.

A young boy (patient?) who approached me at the UCI, to happily tell me: "I am fine!" Did he think he needed to tell me that? Was my expression that revealing as I wandered the campus?

As with all trips I have taken, when taken alone the return is always a serious time of quiet reflection (along with nether region numbing boredom). The perspective gained from seeing what would seem to be abject poverty first hand fillets one open and shows the ugliness therein. The pettiness...the moral failings I am far too swift to accept...the worries I suffer from my own unnecessary making...the extent to which I cannot tell the difference between needs and desires - or at least do not care to discern much between the two. All of these things you take home and then wonder to what extent they may lead to change in your own life. More joy? More contentment? More desire and the ability to live simply? More appreciation for what is truly important in life? Hopefully. Praying it does not fade, for the 9,000 mile change of context is brutal, deceptive, and far too comfortable.

Can one make a difference?

I have been spending a great deal of time wondering about why so many people suffer poverty in Uganda. Campaigns to "End Poverty" noble as they may be, I do not think will ever accomplish their goal, if for no other reason than what I was told both by my Muslim friend Isma and Fr. Peter: corruption from the top to the bottom. The government, like so many others, do not serve the people. Oh sure they may appear to and they will certainly do what minimum they must to maintain order, but money rarely finds its way intact to the project it was intended to fund. I think, in a very real way, such governments, where there is little to no accountability, no real opportunity to see them changed or reformed will ever keep their people stuck and stagnant. New roads are a prime example: the people of Kampala are literally sick of being asked the common billboard question: "Are you ready for CHOGM?" Many I am told are cynical from all of the cleanup and new road paving and the new hotels going up, for they know that once CHOGM ends the cheaply made roads will quickly deteriorate (for the money that should have made them a quality product is found instead in numerous relatives pockets), the hotels will be found mostly empty and the new garbage cans/service in the downtown area will likely cease.

Poverty is a complex issue, but the Ugandans I met have me convinced that it is indeed abject as long as the governmental corruption continues. And sending in a donation will only help for a time...a short time...and alas it develops some very poor habits. Projects that do more than hand out money or food are critical I think.

So, again, I am led to ask: what can one person do to help? Charities that work to build sustainable incomes would be my choice. Heifer international (they have an office right down the road from our project house), Argos (where Seraphim works), and others are great example. My friend Erica is currently building a very unique project to help the Uganda Cancer Institute which is horribly ill-funded and where people are dying quite unnecessarily...I will keep you all appraised as that begins to come online.

And, importantly, I am staying in touch with some of the people I have met there and I hope to be able to help them. I am, in fact, putting what is at the moment an obscure idea together to perhaps assist the youth of St. Sophia Parish, most of whom are orphans or are in some other way dependent on the Church and Fr. Peter for their well being and schooling. Anyway, it is a long way from bearing fruit and will be for sometime, but I am committed to examining the possibilities and if deemed possible I will pursue it vigorously. I will talk more about it as I continue to work out details and investigate a few matters...it stands to be a logistical nightmare, but worth it for them in the long run, I think.

I don't know if this answers the question or not. I think what is most important is that I go on asking that question of myself...everyday. What I have see stands to affect every aspect of my life: from speaking more sweetly to struggling vigorously toward living a more honest and selfless life.

No small task for one so self-serving as me.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 6:24 AM [+]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Goodbye Africa

For a dork like me, it was hard not to regularly think of that old Toto song "Africa" while I was there - especially when the recurrent Thunderstorms would rise up on many an afternoon. It occurred to me that the Ugandan Orthodox do indeed bless the rains there.

It does take a lot to drag me away from Africa (Three things really): my family, my friends, and my farm. All three could easily drag me away from anywhere. The lure of our American comfort is of course so very attractive as well...but I wish to nourish and tend to the seeds I've had planted in my heart...please don't let US customs know about this. I embrace the blessing of our affluence (health care, safe drinking water - from the tap no less, sane driving conditions, etc) while trying to discern those things in our affluence, of which there are many, which rob us of real life.

Speaking of customs, let me share the joy of my nearly 35 hour commute.

First, the most dangerous part of the trip: the dusk time 30km car ride to Entebbe. No matter the skills of Isma the wonder driver, it is treacherous. Isma and his wife gave us a wonderful parting gift: a beautifully carved sugar bowl made of African Black Wood - I told him that if and when I return I would bring him a gift as well, since his offer terribly ranked my gift of some country music (I thought perhaps a Cowboy hat!)

In Entebbe, the lines were slow and long...crowded and hot. The long day of sweating had begun. If terrorists want to blow up a plane, this would be a good place to try and gain entrance, I think. At long last we started the 8 hour ride up the Amsterdam, crammed into the seat next to a man who may have stunk as bad as I did. Then a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam...just enough to be bored to tears. Chatted with my wife briefly, got a good deal on a 1L bottle of Aberlour, and then finally bordered the plane for Seattle. 10 hour flight, with a screaming toddler.

Somewhere North of Scotland, a call went out for a doctor. My neighbor - a nurse - was the only one to answer the call. She then came and got ME because she thought I could help - knowing I worked with ID's. Someone had somehow stuck themselves while trying to pick up a needle dispenser that had fallen off the bathroom wall. So, I basically told them to follow the same basic procedure we follow in the lab when that happens (hardly ever in our lab)...and assured the poor woman that the odds were she would be perfectly fine - her concerns were perfectly warranted.

Finally at home, customs apparently flagged me: I really have no idea what I said to the customs agent, but whatever it was, it warranted everything short of a body cavity search and electro-shock interrogation. He asked if I had anything biohazardous in my suitcase, I told him yes: my dirty underwear. He didn't laugh and when he was done I was charged with repacking. What a waste of time. If you've never gone through customs before in Seattle, you get to collect your bags once there, then put them BACK into the airport's custody and then wait again to retrieve them at the regular baggage claim...the clock keeps ticking and I keep sweating.

Next came a cab ride in which the Indian cabbie told me of the glories of Buffalo milk. It was an interesting discussion. Thankfully there was no traffic to speak of, but none-the-less I just missed the 3:00 ferry - thanks you US customs. Sit and wait again. Tired beyond belief having had perhaps 4 hours sleep since...well who the heck can keep track of time at this point? Yesterday in Uganda is today here, and today here is tomorrow in Uganda, and Amsterdam is a hour less than Uganda and throughout the trip my cell phone has alwasy been and horu off of both...what year is it? After I huff my loads up the ferry terminal and then up the hill to where my family waits for me, I am a wasted man. And as she noted in her comments, I would not last too much longer.

What can I say, I think about songs a lot. For those many many hours, this ran through my head:

Im sittin in the railway station
Got a ticket for my destination
On a tour of one night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a poet and a one man band

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thoughts escaping
Home, where my musics playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:29 AM [+]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Heading Home

My plane leaves here tonight at 10:30pm (12:30pm Seattle time). I should land in Seattle at 2pm Wednesday, God willing. Your prayers are appreciated as I travel.

I am looking very much forward to reacquainting myself with my family and my little farm. Hopefully introducing them to a somewhat changed father and husband. Home...says it doesn't it? At times like this, "There's no place like home" has a very special intensity to it.

Even the thought of seeing Killick is warming my heart. There is nothing at home I have not missed.

Have the grill ready when I get home Sue, I'll cook.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:03 AM [+]

Befriending the Poor

Some self-professed "experts" and long(er) time expatriates will tell you it cannot be done. They would say the barrier between the comparatively wealthy and poor will always snuff out any hopes of real friendship. Some organizations even pre-warn their visitors/employees/volunteers about this.

The people here in Uganda have long seen rich westerners (to them, understandably, they are all rich - it matters not if the American is struggling to pay his cable bill) come and go. They come, as if riding upon some side show poverty themed circus attraction, and then when the $4,000 a ticket comes to an end they pack up and head home, while the poor Ugandans stuck inside the ride, return to their same state of well-being - often not very well at all actually. Yes, many a grand promise to do something for the Ugandan people have been made as the rides come through to their various finales, I am sure with the best intentions - but such promises have by now fallen on deaf ears and so more and more, the Ugandans know that it is only in between those times of coming and going that they may perhaps gain some assistance.

In return, the Mzungu ("white person"), knowing full well his respective economic position with the Ugandans he is visiting, may reach a point of wondering: all this hospitality, all of this show of interest directed toward me...is it all a ploy to get out of me what they can in the time I am here? Am I truly being befriended here...is what I am seeing normally done?

If I may use a trivial analogy: it is like the sole little boy on the block who has the only pool. He has reason to believe that his "friends" are more interested in his pool. Some will come right out and ask for its use.

Cynicism can set in for both the rich and the poor. The poor might perhaps begin to think the Mzungo is only buying his time and trying to assuage his guilt before jetting back to his comfort to forget about it all. And the rich begin to wonder if they are simply being manipulated.

The only failure with the pool analogy is a desperately critical one. A pool is a simple luxury that the less fortunate kids on the block would like to lavish in. For many of the poor in third world countries they are simply seeking health, well-being, and sufficiency for living another day. I might be grieved by a friend who "uses" me for the use of my pool...but how perturbed can I be for a mother to try and use me similarly in order to give her children a remotely decent lifestyle? A bit of schooling? Enough food for the week?

I do not know if this has happened here in my experience....but I am personally not going to let cynicism poison me. The fact remains, I am fabulously wealthy and I am living in luxuries I do not need and that VERY likely bestow no lasting benefits to me. If swimming pools were a life necessity, could we hold a false friend terribly guilty of being so? Perhaps we might even turn such falsehood into reality? And in the end...isn't our concern supposed to be about the extent to which We are being a friend and not the extent to which we are being befriended in return?

None-the-less, I grant the general notion that friendship is not easy in such circumstances. I should relate a story about the young man I have been training. While surely not living in squalor like some, he is, like most Ugandans, significantly less wealthy than I am.

Last Friday, I surprised him with the news that I was leaving for home on Tuesday. He had thought I was leaving on the following Friday and I could see on his face an expression of what I took to be grave concern. So, seeing the worry on his face, I encouraged him: "You will have no problems with the assay...don't worry I will be available to help you even if you do have problems."

He looked at me, put his hand on my shoulder, and smiled, "No my friend, it is not that. I am going to miss you."

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:49 AM [+]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Last Sunday

I spent my last sunday with the faithful of St. Sophia...along with Stacy, whose pictures these are.

Here the kids enjoy what I expect is a rare treat during "coffee hour." There is no spread of food, just some soda and maybe a box of cookies. PLUS, at least when guests are present, dancing and singing.

When Kelsey had heard some of my stories about the people of St. Sophia, she decided that she wanted to do something for them. And so she and Alexandra (our priest's daughter back home) took it upon themselves to collect as many icons as they could possibly get to fit into Stacy's luggage and sent it over with her. A fair number of these turned out to be of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr - including one which contained a swatch of the saints garments - and so here I am taking a moment to tell St. Elizabeth's story before presenting them all to them. Fr. Peter and the others treated this particular icon with the greatest of reverence.

And here is Father and Presbytera reading a little card Kelsey sent...they made sure to tell me to tell her and Allie THANK YOU! AND, thank you to all of my family for letting me come to Uganda.

A final picture of me and all the youth who so welcomed me...thank you Stacy for taking it!

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:41 AM [+]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Don't Walk...Drive to stop Global Warming

Lessons I learn from THIS article:

1. Laziness is one of the most earth friendly things you can do. Activists...well...are just too active - consider the food it takes to keep them so active in their activism. I'm guessing it must take 1000's of calories to hold up big heavy signs, scream, and march. And think of all the carbon absorbing plants the Vegan protesters will slaughter in order to maintain their activism...a green holocaust. They are going to get us all killed.

2. Which reminds me, why is it we never study the amount of green house gases we humans...ummm...produce. Poor cows get so much of bad rap. How about elephants? Whales? Dude, whales are huge...I'm guessing there is some old sailor's stories of a strange ocean phenomena that is now explained by whale wind. But, since I'm not smart enough to think about the millions and millions and billions of other animals and their waste habits:

3. Kill all cows...NOW. You see we cannot just stop eating them, because what are we going to do: turn them loose and let the live wild and free? See them roaming the wide fields of the West munching away at green house gas absorbing plant life and in exchange...ummm...producing more and more green house gases? No, it is unacceptable: kill them all. Man, we are going to have to have one heckuva big BBQ. Thank God we wiped out most of the Buffalo...just in time. New York would already be under 20 feet of melted ice cap if we hadn't.

4. Organic farming is worse for the environment than...ummm...regular old pesticide, chemical and drug ridden farming, and your friends won't like to be around you much either.

5. Even if the mass extinction of cows for the great earth saving BBQ is not done, we should go on eating them no matter what this articles says. You see, the story specifically - like an advanced technology cruise missile - takes a swipe at the Beef Industry. And suggests we ought to eat cereals and "pulses" (aka: beans to most of you and me). Ummm...so...I want to see the greenhouse gas math on this. I mean, since the Dormition Fast started I have been on a steady diet of Ugandan cereal and pulses and let me tell you something: I think you can spare the cows, kill me instead. Not to mention, these are PLANTS you are eating and plants do what with CO2? So the advice is: kill carbon absorbing plants and eat them, thus producing massive quantities of green house gases? Great idea...I want to see the data...heck I want to see the data being collected. How's come (yes, I wrote that) we only seem to enjoy measuring cow gas? I think eco-scientists might be obsessed or have some sick twisted perversion.

So, Anyway, I'm NOT just being lazy when you see me lounging and eating a hunk of cow...I am doing my part to save the earth. Thank goodness things are made so clear to us about how to be earth friendly. I'm chomping at the bit, waiting for the Feast: be very afraid you greenhouse gas producing cows, we will kill and eat you all.

On a serious note, as with all such scientist made "suggestions", if it gains popularity it could have a really negative impact on cattle farmers and their families. Some, of course, have no qualms about that happening but I am not sure that anyone stops to think if pop-sci blurbs like this, which can screw up a people's way of life would really have the desired earth-friendly benefit. Was it a good trade? Will anyone remember to ask about it once the deal is done? We usually don't like to recall bad deals we made. Of course, watch out, those who would not lament for the cattle farmer, YOUR industry or lifestyle may be next.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 1:43 AM [+]

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Few More Pics

This is a picture of the choir from the service out in Bombo. I just thought the headscarf was cool, even though I have no idea what the "Mother's Union" is...need to try and remember to ask Fr. Peter.

Three chalices and still, very long communion lines. This is from the Bombo service. After Matins ended we had this down time where we were all waiting for the Metropolitan to arrive, during which they had some of the choirs sing - including a children's choir that was an absolute joy to listen too. I have videos, though I fear the sound quality is not very good.

Miss Bell didn't have any sweet tea at this little country store outside Kampala, in a little town whose name I cannot remember.

This is a "Boda-Boda" - a motorcycle taxi. It is supposed - by some - to be the cheapest and most efficient way to get through the insanity of Kampala traffic. Of course, it also must be the most dangerous as these guys work so hard - by weaving in and out of traffic - to make it the most efficient. You could not pay me to ride on one of these. Here this guy and his client are riding past a furniture store - the furniture is out in the mud...covered, because we'd just had another massive downpour. Note the helmets they are wearing? Right. And I've noticed the ladies always ride in the proper lady-like style.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:42 PM [+]

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Just in case you heard reports.

Marburg Outbreak in Uganda

We've actually known about this since perhaps a week or less after I had arrived. The patients, yes plural, are/were being treated at Mulago where I work, but I am not amidst patients save for the few times that I have toured the hospital. Anyway...nothing to worry about they believe they have the outbreak contained.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:18 PM [+]

Not here to sightsee

One of the nicer houses to be found on the road up toward Bombo

There is actually much to be seen here in Uganda and I will no doubt face some amount of rebuke for not taking advantage of this trip to see things like the origin of the Nile, the Gardens down in Entebbe, or to a Safari. But I believe I am going to walk away from this trip with so much more...something I value much more and, I suppose, I always have. Being with people. My housemates, my coworkers, the people at Church, the people who work here at the house, and even the everyday people around the streets and the hospital. Hopefully I come home with far more that the wealthy tourists who hide in their wealthy hotels (or houses like this one) and go about on their expensive Mzungo adventures.

I sense that people - maybe us Orthodox particularly - have a tendency to see an inherit spiritual value in poverty. It is true in some regards, but in and of itself it cannot make anyone holy...I'm not even sure it can of its own power push one towards holiness. For some, it seems, it pushes them towards more sin. Of course, poverty lowers one's expectations which is a very good thing, but I find that those expectations are about as quick to change as are pop culture fashion tastes. Hence, I think, the problem with shoveling money to poverty stricken areas (at home or abroad) solves little and really, this is pretty much all our politicians can offer. Once the money is gone, then what? Give more...and then what?

But poverty, as I said, does lower expectations whereas wealth raises them. Sometimes I think expectation is a sin itself...at the very least it teeters on the edge of sin in some ways. The poor, having so lived with death and suffering, truly know what it means to have a good day...whereas we wealthy require cute thoughtful emails, calenders, or a song to remind us what a good day REALLY means and even then it lasts a few minutes when we return to our slumber of worrying about the Cable bill or whatever.

Poverty doesn't make one holy...please, there is plenty of sin here. But poverty is certainly a richer soil in which holiness can grow. The Ugandan people are a very religious people and I have marveled at how prevalent religion is here. Even in the lab one can hear the employees freely listening to religious music at their desks and one can find announcements for prayer meetings along side the notice for a peer reviewed scientific journal club on the bulletin board. I definitely sense a radically different feeling in Uganda in regards to this, reminding me of how material and secular we have grown in America. Our religion...so precious and life changing to us...is expected to be hidden.

Poverty does - without question - do the following: it necessitates community. We in America hide behind our TV's, our computers, our comforts...we have - we think wrongly - precious little need for others...we have technology to rub our backs as we lather in our ever-pleasing sense of self-satisfaction. Ever notice how things change when something happens? Like 5 or 6 days without power and suddenly you start spending more time with neighbors and friends: even if it is to note over and over again how awful the predicament is? Suddenly you start checking on people, making sure they are okay. Suddenly you ask if they need anything, since you were running into town anyway? I think you know what I mean. In times when we need each other...well...we need each other...even if in reality we could have managed it alone, trouble of any sort leads us almost like instinct toward seeking community. Ultimately I expect that in our affluence we have settled for something utterly unnatural. Being alone.

People...each other...community...religion and love are all somethings people tend to yearn for and need. But when the perceived need reaches a point of notation amongst the collective consciousness of people it magically materializes.

I've seen enough of what poverty cruelly deals out here for me to ever opt to sing its praises. But, struggles do bring out the best and worse in people and in so doing maybe it also brings some clarity? We seem to wander about in a daze in America. Poverty is too heavy a price for such clarity. There must be and I believe there are alternatives.

Perhaps it begins with seeing a "vacation" or a trip as being more about interacting and communing with people than with seeing the sights? Maybe.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:22 AM [+]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

When having HIV is a blessing

A shocking thing to say, believe me, I know. Attention given to Africa in regards to AIDS relief has been clearly helping - I am told by people who should know...particularly so in Uganda. My colleague tells me that when she first left Uganda in 2004, HIV was a death sentence, but today most people are getting the needed drugs...thanks in large part to the Unites States' PEPFAR and the EU's Global Fund. As a side note, I was told today (again by those who should know) that the US was well discerning in distributing their funds for use to organizations based within the US, while the EU was a bit overly trusting in giving their funds to the Uganda Ministry of Health where a significant (I would suggest every penny is significant) portion was squandered by corruption. Yeah, so toot our horn...but not too loudly.

So I have spent some time up at the Uganda Cancer Institute (short article HERE that discusses some the particular diseases - like KS - that we are working on). Having already spent some time at Mulago Hospital I knew a little of what I was to expect, but of course I was again overwhelmed.

In one bed is a child with Burkitt's Lymphoma (a horrible cancer associated with EBV and first described at this very Institute that often causes horrific disfigurement of the face). In the bed next to him is another child with the same ailment. One will die and the other will live. The difference between the two? Nothing except one happens to also have AIDS and thus will have access to funds to pay for his needed chemo drugs. The other child being unlucky enough - as it were - to have developed Burkitt's without AIDS, and thus will die. For the latter there are no funds from the US or the EU to help him and he will die.

Seeing kids - or anyone for that matter - with Burkitt's is not easy. I'll be honest: I just wanted to leave...it was too much for me to comprehend...too much for me to deal with. I maintained my composure though, smiling and talking to the kids and adults who were clearly and offensively-to-the-eyes suffering so horribly. Of course I felt terribly sorry for them, but the environment was so overwhelming. Nothing at all like the hospitals we know and expect back home - I don't know how to describe it. Individual rooms? HA! Nurses catering to your needs? SORRY, no money for that...bring a family member. It even looked as to me as though they were required to bring their own beddings. I was actually told that the cancer clinics had been recently painted and cleaned up for their open house on their 40th anniversary here - hard to imagine their previous appearance. Again, I could not take pictures of the kids or other patients...I just could not do it.

Here is an exam room in the outpatient clinic (make sure to click to enlarge):

And here is their kitchen:

The fuel to cook with:

As I noted before...bedside care...whether it be delivery of drugs or delivery of food...cannot (normally) be provided by the Institute, and so most times family members stay with their sick family members. Keep in mind, they often have to spend a month's salary or more just to GET their sick loved one to this facility and for many it means starvation or death to the family at home if they choose to remain at the hospital caring for their sick. And so what you end up seeing around the entire facility is a massive campground of people no doubt praying for a miracle.

So...what can we do? How do I wrap my head around this? One child lives because his Burkitt's is associated with AIDS (therefore his chemo is funded) and another dies because his isn't? Outside of just hitting my knees and crying : Mukama sisari! (my best attempt at "Lord have Mecy" in Luganda) I don't know what to say or do!

So I asked, how much money does it cost to give these kids their chemo. "Typically," I am told, "about 350,000 Ugandan Shillings." [Long pause of disbelief] Again Uganda has me undone...$200.00 dollars folks...to save someone's life: $200.00?!?

Hey, Michael Moore? You wanna talk about health care issues? Why not quit trying so hard to change the current political party ruling the US executive branch and make a movie about how a mere $200.00 can actually save a human life in Uganda? Right now...as I type...$200.00...perhaps even a child I personally met today.

Can anyone hear me out there? I cannot process it...how many times have I squandered $200.00 a month on crap like beer, oreos, and Pay-Per-View movies?

I am so lucky blessed that the work I am doing is being done here. I am so thankful for the experience I am having here...the motto of the FHCRC is: "Advancing knowledge and Saving Lives" but too often the REAL unspoken motto is "Publishing papers and building prestige for the Principal Investigator."

One of my colleagues is, in correlation with our work here, building a very unique charitable organization that will implement a methodology that capitalizes on the free market, private interests, the generosity of the average comparatively wealthy individual, and the industriousness, ability, zeal, and need of the average cancer patient's family members to generate SUSTAINABLE and RENEWABLE funding for the Uganda Cancer Institute. I have seen enough to know that I want to do more than just give, I want to be a part of it. Perhaps in so doing I can begin to wrap my selfish head around this all.

We've only just begun and I am very much on the sidelines watching as the plays are called. But when the game begins...when it comes time for the rest of us to help...I will let you know: over and over and over again.

Thanks for reading this far. You all likely know the following from the gospel of St. Matthew. What is striking to me...particularly now...is this this judgment has little to do with what we do with or for ourselves, but about what we DO FOR OTHERS. Given my experiences, I suppose - God help me - I can expect to be even more accountable.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:09 AM [+]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Please stay tuned

I am in the midst of some amazing things at the moment, but I am not yet ready to blog about it. I've spent the day and night dealing with issues revolving around the Uganda Cancer Institute and the work we are doing here. Today, a three year old little girl died here, she could have been saved by a mere $200 USD. Depressing, I know...but my direct connection and personal experience here has the opportunity to literally SAVE A LIFE for $200. Tomorrow I will have more to say about it.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 12:12 PM [+]

Monday, August 06, 2007

I'm on the left

The new pic over there is of me and Father Peter...an amazing man as I have mentioned before. On the way out to Bombo sunday Nabukeera wondered (with all his credentials) why he didn't stay in the west and teach there as he well could have. He said, in essence, "Why should I stay and teach there when they are already taught so much already. When I could come here and teach so much more to so many more who need it more?"

In case you did not read, he does more than serve as a priest (as if that weren't enough?!), he teaches at the University here, is a psychologist, and works along with a number of charitable efforts...not to mention the abandoned children he himself and his presbytera have personally adopted.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:43 PM [+]

Good Morning Kampala

As I said my morning prayers today, I watched the sun rise through my window (And everytime I see I can't help but think of the having "The Circle of Life" song cued up). Our view is mostly obscured, but Kampala is a city set amidst a number of notable hills (originally seven, but now I hear it is has spread to nearly 20) and I am able to see some of those distant hills. However, many - likely most - Ugandans cook on some form of charcoal and wood and thus the sky is often obscured with woodsmoke which makes the sunrise all the more surreal. I did not think to snap a picture of it...maybe tomorrow. The smell of woodsmoke is a sort of alarm click for me each morning.

As you can see, we live like some of the most wealthy here in Kamapala. Sitting on the veranda, my housemates and I often spend those times nearest the conscious hours of home chatting with friends and loved ones. The delay of ten hours has made work difficult - for if I need an immediate issue resolved from Seattle I am forced to wait until about the time the lab is shutting down here for the night. Of course, this is the wet season here and ALMOST everyday we are treated to an hour or two of the sky absolutely evacuating itself of all moisture. The red dust that surrounds us (try walking through our house with a pair of white socks on...within a minute they are covered in a red-brown layer, it is impossible to avoid or fully clean) turns to a clay-like muddy muck. Streets turn to rivers that could be rafted...though decidedly not White Water, it is Red Water through and through.

I've also been chatting a fair amount with Stacy as she prepares to come here. We are looking very much forward to hanging out and going to church together on Sunday. Even my housemate Nabukeera (formerly Jessica) is planning to join us there. I was astonished that she said she so enjoyed herself last sunday...not having any particular religious affiliation she none-the-less sat through a very lengthy Hierarchial Divine Liturgy done almost entirely in Luganda. Brave soul, that one.

Remember Stacy in your prayers, obviously this is a huge life-shift for her.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:59 PM [+]

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Orthodox Uganda

Today was a special day for the Orthodox of Uganda. Perhaps you do not know how the Orthodox arrived in Uganda? Well with the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the invasion of the Arabs, there was precious little chance for them to have received the Orthodox Faith. Surprisingly enough, Orthodoxy would come to Uganda through a decidedly indigenous quest for original Christianity - sound familiar?

An RC publication has some of the interesting details of how Orthodoxy was discovered in Uganda. An Orthodox source has some additional details.

Anyway, today was a celebration of the establishment of Orthodoxy in Uganda and so we traveled to where the first mission was established: a little village called Bombo about 26km north of Kampala. It was here that I was able to meet Metropolitan Jonah...likely the only met I'll ever meet.

He was a very friendly man and in fact embraced me before I could even kiss his hand, inviting me to join him at the altar during the service. One of my housemates and colleagues, Jessica (hereafter aka Nabukeera after Fr. Peter made her an official daughter and member of his clan and tribe) came a long way and said she had a wonderful time. We had traditional African singing (They have a gorgeous "Cherubic Hymn" which Fr. Peter said is of western origin, but I'd never heard it), drums, special choirs, rain, mud, trials of Ugandan rain soaked roads and almost getting stuck, being the only two Mzungus (white people) out of hundreds (actually upon further reflection this was without question the most populous Liturgy I have ever attended), and we got to see the Ugandan countryside, and of course witnessing unimaginable poverty.

I cannot bear to take photos of the most blatant poverty...it feels obscene to do so. I'm not sure I can explain why I cannot do it. I want to shout about our incredible ignorance and selfishness and affluence...but I know this is for me to internalize now. Anyway...compare and contrast your grocery store to the Ugandan equivalent that most utilize:

I realize I'm beating a dead horse in this regard, but this is my blog and frankly I am reminded everyday whether I cruise the pediatric cancer ward or I take a drive to Church...and so here it is.

But, my brothers and my sisters...if you could see the smiles on their faces as they sing in the choir...if you could see the joy they have in simply singing...you'd have a better picture of the Ugandan people. No their PURPOSE is not to manage a master performance of trophy quality, but rather to truly "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." A joyful noise....oh yes...a joyful noise in the midst of what we would - in our insane affluence - perceive to be unbearable. Sing to Him...and derive profound joy in doing this...this one little thing. And we...we meanwhile might grimace and grumble in our hearts for someone not turning the music page quickly enough.

They are a faithful people, a joy filled people...God, You know how they shame us so. We, so hung up in our too many of our American Orthodox choirs, worrying about who is following petty rules...whereas in the midst of poverty the Ugandans are happy for ANY voice to sing with them. A mother sitting down on a chair with her newborn in the choir? A PROBLEM? Quite on the contrary: beautiful. I could go on and on...but suffice to say that you and I, my brothers and sisters are full of pettiness. Funny how death looming so easily changes your perspective...what are YOU worrying about right now? Well guess what? A mother is at this very moment up at the Ugandan Cancer Institute watching her child breath his last...a final awful breath YOUR American child would never have to suffer because even if worse came to worse you could cancel your cable subscription and pay for the treatment. But of course most of you could keep HBO and your child breathing.

I truly feel when I enter these people's homes and they say to me, smiling (as they always do with great enthusiasm): "You are most welcome!" that I ought to prostrate before them. The way I feel right now, I have no doubts that it would be altogether appropriate.

They drink from the same cup...they are our brothers and sisters...portions of our body left uncovered in the cold. Surely we can do something.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:47 AM [+]

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Isma...the most capable driver in all of Uganda

So, let me introduce you to my friend Isma, our program driver. He and I talk a great deal about all manner of things and indeed he has been a terrific resource in better interpreting and understanding everyday Ugandan life in and around Kampala. He is Muslim and a fan of American Country Music..I kid you not - he LOVES Kenny Rogers.

Muslims and Christians in Uganda seem to get along very well - certainly better than in the Middle East. No one enjoys more legal rights or social freedoms than another and, as Isma tells me, the craziness of the Islamists has not found fertile ground here. Fr. Peter tells me that their Parish sometimes will have join events with the Mosque next door - and they will often help one another. In a real way they see themselves united in dealing with issues we American cannot fathom. To that degree I give rightful accusations of ecumenism some grace.

Anyway, I made a CD for Isma of some of the country music I like, he is very excited to listen to it.

Just one of the many people I am meeting here, and like so many Ugandans, Isma has experienced his share of suffering and tragedy. His father was killed when he was perhaps 10 during one of the civil wars and he is able to recall all manner of atrocities he witnessed while growing up. Paradoxically, like so many Ugandans, he is very quick to smile. How many lessons do I need, Lord?

I'll miss him when I leave.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:07 AM [+]

Friday, August 03, 2007


I can run over to Garden City (a mall) and buy a cell phone, a computer, a digital camera, a microwave, or just about any other marvel of technology...and all the while people are starving within a few miles and just up the hill people are suffering and dying from diseases that could be cured for far less than the cost of the digital camera that apparently SOME people are buying. (aka ME)

Save a life for the price of a camera? Racking my head...trying to understand...myself.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:10 AM [+]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"You Saved my Life, Take this Rooster!"

The Infectious Disease Institute is where our little lab is located; apart of the Mulago Hospital complex. This picture was taken in from the front door of the IDI looking toward Mulago during one of our frequent thunderstorms.

I am indeed seeing far more rain here than back in Seattle...it is cooler here too. Everyone back home seems to ask: "Is it hot?" And the answer is, not really. It is however muddy. Here is a pic of one road we managed to climb on the way up to St. Nicholas Cathedral: don't be fooled, the main thrust of water is running down a virtual canyon about 2-3 feet deep. Our driver did VERY well in his Toyota Corolla.

Wandering through the hospital and the Cancer facility is exceptionally difficult. We really have no idea how bad things can be. People come from all over Uganda seeking care for something their "witch doctor" could not cure. They camp on the hospital grounds waiting to be seen...the lines are long, VERY long and the doctors and nurses do the best they can with what they have to work with. But the people wait and wait.. and some out of necessity or otherwise, abandon their children here. Food is generally expected to be provided by the family and it doesn't always happen. The kids up at the cancer center are particularly heartbreaking...so very many of the diseases these people are dying from are completely curable were but a little more money available. As if this weren't enough, these people also face the threat of some of the most brutal and incurable diseases we have ever known. Even now we are hearing news of a Marburg outbreak. LORD...seriously...have mercy.

It is heart wrenching. Like I needed more perspective? Apparently so. A little more than halfway through this trip and Africa is clearly not finished with me.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:29 PM [+]

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