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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, February 29, 2008

The Grass More Green

It may be hard to discern, but in this picture, but the kids on the other side of the fence are watching "rich" bazunga children play in a small swimming pool - obscured by the tree. This was taken at the Sailing Club, which is the sort of place that caters to Bazungus if for no other reason than its prohibitive cost to most Ugandans. But the image here, and my experience of it, really got my thinking about things...again.

The boys stood there for at least an hour and just watched...just WATCHED! And I thought, how odd it must be to be so poor and see right next door comparatively wealthy foreigners having a little party. Can you imagine it? They see it all the time.

I would not make for a very good long-term ex-pat in Uganda. I see how most Bazungus deal with their "staff" and I would just have a very hard time dealing with it myself. I know it might just be me, but how do you easily discipline the mistake of turning your white underwear pink after someone just spent four hours handwashing your clothes for about as much money as you would spend at McDonalds for a snack? I realize the perceptive money gap...but I still would have a hard time...maybe its because I am so used to cleaning my own house and so I would just have such a hard time dealing with an employee who I felt was constantly doing me a favor.

I suppose employing Ugandans for doing work you could do for yourself is good for the economy here...I guess. But the money gap is more than relative, it's literal too as is demonstrated by the fence you see in that picture. And it weighs on me. I do not know what Ugandans say behind our backs, but in our presence they often (not always and not everyone) treat you as you would imagine an English Lord would have been treated in 1910. I cannot explain it very well, but I know I do not like it. It makes me feel very uncomfortable...I imagine it may spoil you after awhile if you return to the states to find you are just a normal Joe-Blow and people are not willing to submissively call you sir, tell you whatever you want to hear, and bend over backwards around you in the hopes that a few dimes may fall their way. (Though the recognition of its often insincere nature, would likely also drive you to really appreciate not having a big deal made of you...alas some people I am sure feed on it) I can almost here them: "So let it be written, so let it be done...here's 5 thousand shillings.") I know I'm being simplistic...just the other day I found myself unable to talk a vendor down on her price, but there is an icky feeling I get sometimes when that ugly wall that separates the wealthy from the poor is run into.

It is balanced by the sense I get while amongst those I consider my friends with whom I can agree that the west, despite all appearances is in reality neither healthy nor wealthy. Poverty isn't only about money.

I've bid those friends goodbye now and am soon to head out to Entebbe for the long, long, and lonely commute home.

May the hours pass swiftly...home...I love the word for all it entails and reminds me of.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:02 AM [+]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Monkeying Around with Nature

I was recently recommended and lent a copy of an odd little book called "The Monkey Wrench Gang." It is, I was to learn, the sort of manifesto for groups like "Earth First!" and other eco-terrorists...or saboteurs or whatever anyone might wish to call them. The book itself is funny, but it's root philosophy is radically different than my own with regard to the environment. And not only because the characters involve themselves in wrecking private and public property in the name of the environment (which of course most would certainly discourage) but because their philosophy begins with the notion (perhaps characterized by the name "Earth First!") that nature is always best left untouched by man and that man's presence somehow lessens the ontological goodness and soundness of nature.

Pristine, as used to describe a forest, means that men have not in any way "disturbed" it. And for some reason we seem to naturally feel inclined to think this is necessarily a good thing. It is an odd sort of thing to see man as standing outside of nature. From the atheistic point of view, man's place in nature is no different than any other animal and plenty of animals make a bloody mess of things in nature...though a "bloody mess" is rather a judgment call. Consider a giant Marabou stork nest high in an African tree here and you see the mess they make all around (they seem to generate their own brand of garbage) and the feces they leave everywhere: amidst the branches, down the trunk, and all over the ground...it's not terribly pretty, but you'd likely give the birds a pass as they are part of nature. But less grace is given for a man living in said tree who was spreading his garbage (even biodegradable garbage) and feces all over the place. Ah, an extreme example for sure...but, in truth...for the atheist, man must be no more or no less apart of nature than the termites here which build ungodly massive skyscrapers up out of the earth and then go our to wipe out other animals' homes: like those belonging to humans.

Now, I understand the difference that exists: there is little to bring balance to man's place in nature: we have no natural predators that would keep our population in check. And so man has the ability to make massive impacts on our environment. But this isn't the issue...the issue is whether ANY impact on the environment by man is inherently bad. And I, of course, would argue no.

From a theistic point of view, man is both priest and caretaker of the environment. These roles I believe are beautifully laid out by authors like Wendell Berry and Victor Davis Hanson and I am sure many others. They ascribe to the notion that man may actually tame and manifest additional beauty from the environment. That the environment is a part of the FALLEN world (contrast with notions of "pristine") and thus we as Christ's priests on earth may both alter, invest, and be provided for by the environment. Doing so properly necessarily implies responsible behavior and forethought about the future and sustainability AND beauty...none of which exists in any aspect of nature outside the context of man. Anyone who has made their way through a nasty tangle of thorns or thistles in a ridiculously dense forest may make the observation that men are not the only species than may overpopulate a particular region. Is a pristine forest really made less pristine if it's image contains also a log cabin and bit of pasture and a garden? It's a judgment call.

I would suggest for those who wish to believe that the act of a man clearing a patch of forest to plant a garden or raise some animals is a bad thing, that they immediately return themselves to a nomadic life of hunting and gathering...err...ummm...or just gathering. But of course, hunting and gathering rather does retain a certain impact on the environment.

Moderation in all things. But living close to the land gives one a unique appreciation for it and I would suggest that those who actually live off the land know a tad more about their environment than the city-slicker activist living in a 1 bedroom apartment in downtown Seattle does - even as the latter seeks to enforce through legislation their "knowledge" of the environment on the former.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:25 AM [+]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Home is where the heart is

Now of course, REAL home is in Poulsbo Washington where may be found my family, my farm, and my Parish. But I've gotten in the habit of referring to the Project House as "home"...such as in the context as telling someone in the lab at the end of the day: "I'm going home now." But as I ponder the use of the term, I am finding that I FEEL more at home in the lab with my Ugandan friends. In other words...in many ways...I find I have more affinity for most Ugandans than my American colleagues or likely most Muzungus I've met here. Good people though they are, there is no doubt I am a minority in many ways amongst most of them.

While watching the Baptism (see previous post), a woman came over and watched along with me and began asking questions though I don't think she expected that I could answer them. She noted how religious Ugandans are and then she asked me if I was religious, after having answered so many questions. I said that I was Eastern Orthodox and then she went on to ask: "Do you practice?" I said simply, yes...but of course the real answer would be: "I wouldn't be it, if I didn't practice it."

I find amidst my friends in the lab they I may freely speak my heart on any number of issues, and it is odd for one cannot comfortably speak of religious matters in my lab at home or in any of my work contexts...at least not in the same sense. And I can see the stark contrasts in social morals, and home for me in this regard is definitely not amongst the enlightened, liberal, and highly educated muzungus.

My Ugandan brothers and sister would say that the violation of someone's reproductive rights means they were raped, not denied the right to kill their unborn baby.

They count a large family as a blessing from God, not a social and environmental drain that ought to be taxed by the government to dissuade their coming into being.

God is foremost on their minds and in their hearts and they speak of Him readily, rather than noting "god" as a concept to be ridiculed as an adult version of an imaginary friend. Or just something not to be talked about at all.

Whether it happens or not in Uganda, extra-marital sex is wrong to them and furthermore, there is indeed a real right and wrong...not some amorphous tangle of unverifiable opinions.

And when I speak of the moral laxity back home (mine own included, but not justified), we shake our heads together and dismayingly wonder at what has become of us...in contrast to celebrating said laxity.

The list could go on and on.

Back in Seattle, I've always recognized my minority status in the context of my work and how home is a respite to familiarity and acceptance, but in Uganda the contexts are blatantly reversed.

Just the other day, in the context of a discussion about the much maligned term: "family values", I was told, very quietly, by one of my friends in the lab: "You seem more like a Ugandan than a Muzungu."

I laughed and told him that what he says is in many ways true, and I further said if I had remained an Anglican (which I wouldn't have of course)I would have been FAR more at home with a Ugandan Bishop than an American one. He understood quite well.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:22 PM [+]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A typical Sunday afternoon with Stacy

Stacy was good enough to invite me to join her at her sailing club yesterday afternoon. She told me we'd take a ferry to get there and so I met her down at the Marina. I was early and began pondering what sort of ferry this might be...of course I knew it would be nothing on the scale of the ferries I was used to, but perhaps a modest equivalent...carrying 40 or 50 people perhaps. Well, here is what showed up:

I knew immediately I was going to have a good time, and indeed, I had a wonderfully relaxing time in a lovely environment along the shores of Lake Victoria...imagine, Stacy gets to do this every and any Sunday she likes! So while she went out and did this (rather well I might add):

I kicked back on shore drinking a Bell lager, reading, and absorbing too much sun. The nice breeze was of benefit to both of us. As I sat I began to hear drums in the distance, banging out familiar African rhythms and tones, coming closer. You soon could hear people singing and in short order they appeared along the shore just down from the club's property. One might have thought, from the sound of it all, that they'd gone back in time to when Africa was WILD and these were the local natives executing some strange rite of passage...at least until you heard shouts of "HALLELUJAH!" Yep, this was not a native African custom at work...it was "Shall we gather at the River."

A very excitable bunch...decidedly pentecostal and I was able to explain some of what was happening to a non-sailing English woman whose husband was out trying to beat Stacy around the course. But their loud service was soon interrupted in typical Ugandan fashion:

Anyway, it was a very nice way to spend the afternoon hanging with Stacy and meeting a host of very nice people...even the Ambassador from Ireland. Yes, as a Muzungu in Uganda you can quickly fall in amongst the upper echelon of society with whom someone like me would likely never have the chance to spend the day. In fairness to the Ambassador, he seems a right nice down-to-earth gentlemen. Strange place, Africa.

So, to Stacy's friends and family: fear not...she's living well over here and has some pretty impressive friends, no?

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:08 PM [+]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Danger of Cynicism

The homesick counter reads about 6 days, but this is the time until I am scheduled to touch down onto US soil once again...my time in Africa is shorter by nearly a day...I leave here late Friday evening which would be Friday morning for those of you on the west coast of the USA.

As my time here winds down, I find I am already entering into one of those reflective sort of moods. I've not really done much of anything while here besides work and church, again...tighter controls on the finances of this trip (funding by Hutch now as opposed to UW) has forced me to be stringent with spending and since money is always personally tight(hopefully a democrat will fix this for me...jab jab) I generally restricted myself from much sight-seeing. I don't mind too much though...I find that interacting with Ugandans to be far more interesting than say seeing an elephant or chimp. One can see and learn all you want about critters like that on TV, but to interact with people is something that not even the internet can duplicate yet. Naturally if you have the time and money, do both. I perhaps had the former, but certainly not the latter.

As I have noted in several other posts the invisible wall between the "impossibly" wealthy (that's us) and the "desperately" poor (them) is difficult to negotiate and then when it is breached...or when you think it is...you also must wrestle with cultural and language barriers which only serve to complex the whole affair. It can be hard. I've seen what reminds me of...and I shudder to say it...Master/Servant relationships develop here between Muzungus and Ugandans. At times one can almost imagine the colonial era hasn't really ended...I'm not sure I am describing it well...as you walk around it's almost like everyone you meet is a potential "employee" of yours for exceptionally little money by your standards. They know it and you know it. They seek it, and you, unless necessary, avoid it. It is an odd experience and I am not sure I can fully explain it. It is perhaps the "natural" relationship that develops based not on power (as in traditional Master/servant relationships) but based on money.

And of course you are often sought out for money with outright begging. You will hear terrible stories. It grows wearisome quickly, and for those who stay here long term I am sure it is even more difficult. You'd like to help...but naturally you aren't wealthy enough to help them all. Plus it can very painful to build what you thought was a genuine relationship, only to find the friend had monetary goals in mind...so were they your friend? I don't know. For my par it's a little to easy to judge them from our comfortable positions in life, I rather expect they might judge us for our laziness, were they to see it in its full blown American glory?

Need. I've no real idea what the word means...most of us don't. Experiencing real need is so hard I am sure...and I've no wish to downplay the ill effect it can have when it drives people to see in others the obvious truth: we could help fulfill their need. It is a sin, I know...but not all unlike mine, is it? Do not my sins complex or even poison my relationships, even if not so overtly? Or maybe it is overt sometimes.

Seeing the ravages of poverty here and experiencing - even in the Church - that difficult barrier between the "have lots" and the "have lots less" I can see where the easiest course of action, the road much traveled, is to let calluses form all around your heart. To grow cynical for all the corruption here and all the begging and using that can go on. Cynicism is easy, for there is so much in the world to by cynical toward. It's a cop-out, an easy way to avoid the issue by essentially declaring the issue isn't worth addressing or engaging. But we are talking about people here. We as Christians have never been called to take the easy road or the popular road...particularly with regard to people.

We must strive to see beyond the sin and see instead the suffering person. To try and understand and to try to engage that person, despite what context may exist. Not easy sometimes...but I think when we do, we can find that therein is real treasure...real love and real potential for community. It takes two of course, but we are responsible for ourselves, no?

Now...looking homeward: what application do these considerations have at home?

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 4:24 AM [+]

Friday, February 22, 2008


What to do about Kosovo? What to say about it? I find myself in a quandry...thinking too much I suppose of the grander historical perspective by which Kosovo is clearly a huge part of Serbian history. The hinge point representing a battle that would end Serbian autonomy, thereafter being subject to Islamic rule which including Serb boys being torn from their mothers and dragged off to serve as janisarries, the imposition of the Jizya and dhimmitude. Truly if you want to understand the ethnic/religious strife we've seen in the Balkins you can trace it back directly to Ottoman imperialism.

Some LOVE to blame many of the world's current suffering on western colonialism and imperialism...and boy do we shower ourselves with guilt about it. But, I'm not sure there is any grand effort on the part of Turks today to try and make amends or even apologize for the suffering the Balkins have undergone in last couple of decades. Not saying they neccesarily should...I'm just comparing and contrasting the "rules of the game" and how they are applied. Anyway, I pray we are not on the verge of more misery.

News stories are just about worthless as I do not think I've ever seen an article that has truly addressed the issues. The love to discuss Serbia's ethnic cleansing that resulted in a NATO bombing campaign, but fail to mention the opposite ethnic cleansing that arose which resulted all too often in KFOR standing by and watching as KLA terrorists with "Alluha Akbar" on their lips wiped out lives and erased centuries old religious sites, relics, churches, monasteries, frescoes and icons. It Shifted the population dynamics even more to a degree to make independence plausible....maybe inevitable.

Admittedly I have sympathies for the Serbian people. Orthodox Christians have a rich history of dhimmitude under Islam...many have endured it for so long they no longer even recognize it and have even grown to support its mythologies in how such dhimmitude came to be. It is difficult to complain about a knife at your throat when you know nobody is going to take it away and it will slice if you speak.

Given the history, both recent and distant, Serbs living in an independent Kosovo have good reason to be worried...KFOR and the UN have not garnered much confidence from Serbs and it is quite reasonable to distrust notions that Kosovo is going to be a bastion of religious and ethnic equality. Revisionist historians have already perpetrated that half-truth rather successfully in regard to the spread of Islam.

But, contrary to much of current politically correct thought, we are not slaves to our past. We are not doomed to live up to the lowest expectations demanded of us by our past. We are free, even under tyranny, to act according to our highest calling and our highest principals. Violence is not the answer here...and were the Serbian people to hear my humble and worthless words I would plea for peaceful protest and diplomacy...nothing good can come of violence in this situation.

And to the Muslim Albanians who are so benefiting from my own country's weighty support: WE WILL BE WATCHING YOU.

I pray our lawmakers, worthless thought they may be, have heard the promises of this newly independent Kosovo...if they fail to live up to them, then I would hope we'd pull our support and do more than what we have done in the past which was too often to watch Orthodox Churches burn.

For now, let us pray for peace and REAL freedom.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:45 PM [+]

Africa is hard on computers

Well I came back to the house from the lab and tried to get online with my laptop and it could not boot up to Windows. A diagnostic seemed to point to a fried hard drive which means I've lost a lot of stuff. Thankfully there is a house computer, but it is shared and so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to post. We'll see.

One of my housemates had her Apple die on her here too...in fact it is coming home with me in the hopes of seeking repairs. There is a running theory that Africa is hard on computers with all the dust. It truly does get everywhere.

Anyway the logistics of getting things fixed has reminded me how often we take little things for granted in America, such as Computer Repair with plenty of new parts available, ANY repair with plenty of replacement parts available, mail service, or your favorite foods being always available at the market. You'd be surprised how many things you will have to sit and seriously ponder: I wonder if we can get that here?

Food is a big one. What the canteen at the University and Hospital offer has the potential to vary from day to day...it just all depends on what is brought in from the farms/markets that day. Fancier restaurants have little problems, but the smaller places just "go with the flow." No drive through fast food joints (that I have seen), no Starbucks (somehow American ex-pats here survive and probably save enough money to save a kid at the Cancer Center), no mega home improvement centers, often if you want something...like a sofa or bed or a BBQ it is actually the best and sometimes only choice to have it made.

Sorta like our high end BBQ the house got sometime after my last trip. Man, i=[j (NO JOKE...THAT LITTLE BLURB OF TYPING THERE WAS ME TRYING TO PREVENT A SKEETER FOR GIVING MY MALARIA)...anyway...this beauty can compete with any of those $500 stainless steel monsters you can get from Home Depot...PLUS, a metal worker gets employed and with the money left over you could save a couple of kids' lives.

Yeah...she ain't pretty, but I reckon she works.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:56 AM [+]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eating Out

So I'm talking to Isma (my friend first and driver second) as we were running some errands (i.e. Beer Run) and I mentioned that I recognized the road as being where the fancy Indian restaurant Khana Khazana is found (I get excited when the chaos of Kampala roads begin to have a recognition effect on me), he smiled and congratulated me - sometimes I'm very much like his student in this regard and he seemed genuinely pleased that I had gotten the answer right. Anyway, he then asked me if I had been there recently and I replied that just last Sunday we were there. Now, this place is pretty awesome, expensive by Ugandan standards, but not too bad when you've just exchanged US dollars. I think my meal that night cost me $17.00 including a couple of beers...but the atmosphere, service, and decor of KK is largely beyond any place I could ever frequent back home.

I confided in him that in America I would NEVER be able to afford to go to a restaurant like that, it would be at least two to three times as expensive as what I pay here. He kindly reminded me that for most Ugandans, what we Muzungus pay here is two to three times more than most Ugandans could afford...and then he wondered aloud how it is we eat out so much.

"Well," I said, "here I am not spending my money...so it is easy. But back home we try not to eat out much because it is so expensive."

"American's eat out a lot, yes?" He asked. Actually I'm not entirely convinced it wasn't a statement.

I told him I thought that they generally do eat out frequently, especially since in so many families both parents work. I also told him about the time that my wife and I first used a computer banking program that kept track of categories of our spending, and how shocked we were to see that next to rent our BIGGEST expenditure was "eating out." And we STILL had a big grocery bill to go along side it.

I think he was unimpressed that food (eating out or otherwise) took up the biggest chunk of our budget (no news for Ugandans I guess), but he was interested in two income families.

"So if wives stay home, do they cook?" he bravely asked having no idea what sort of feminist hornet's nest he was fast approaching, "because it is so much cheaper to eat at home. Maybe they would not have to work outside if they cooked at home."

I started laughing...trying to think of how much trouble this poor man would be in if he said something like this back home. And yet I did not wish to insult him and so tried to explain modern American woman's ideas of careers and "self-worth" and....it wasn't going anywhere with him I could tell. Hey, I'm in HIS country...where I expect working wives must still cook at home. I'm intent on talking to him more about two income families in Uganda....how common it is and what not.

Eventually I was able to say: "Oh yes, my wife cooks a lot. Even bakes her own bread."

"Really?!?!" He smiled widely, clearly amazed (another American woman stereotype breaking moment) "Your wife must be a very good woman."

Now, if you reckon I'm going to argue for the sake of all American women, you reckon wrong.

All of this said...I think we all know that Americans spend a TREMENDOUS amount of money on quick and easy (i.e. expensive) processed foods at home and on eating out. Taking some time to track the amount of money you spend eating out and figuring the fiscal benefit of slightly less quick and slightly less easy (and far more healthy) food isn't a bad idea...for many of you I expect it will blow your mind like it did (and sadly sometimes does) ours.

I hate to be an ongoing wet blanket, but I'll bet a good deal of chemotherapies here could be purchased with the money we could save.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 6:54 AM [+]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

For the healing of our souls...

I really didn't want to do another political post...I tried to resist...but...I just...couldn't....

I always reckoned that it would be the "religious right" who would be most likely to try to outright bring forth a theocracy here in America...I was dead wrong. It's the "religious left" and their "soul healer" Barak Obama.

Captain's Quarter's has the quote.

Nothing convinces me how wrong Obama and his disciples are when they say stuff like this: with regard to why most American's are in debt = healthcare. Excuse me...forgive me...but this is a big 'ol pile of steaming male cow fecal matter!

Unless you show me proof to the contrary (and you can't), I have NO doubts that the vast majority of Americans are in debt because they buy more crap than their budget can afford (the same reason I am in debt). TV's, DVD players, Cell Phones, Cable, Internet, XBOX, Nintendo DS for all the kids, hybrid cars, SUV's, iPODS, eating out (WHICH WILL RUIN YOU by the way!), etc etc etc. This is plain and stupid ignorance. READ MY LIPS: We chose to be in debt....we chose to be it debt! Our passions drive us to want more and more and more. We all know this don't we? Lord how we'd love to blame someone or something else...just like Adam did to Eve. Well, I suppose Obama and his wife have a government program for them too!

And are you ready folks: the Federal government is going to heal our souls!!! Not by chastening us and calling us to stop spending and encourage us to seek a radical ascetic life of spending within our means...NO...they will enable us to feed our passions under the mistaken belief - the sinfully dangerous belief - that we are in debt by no fault of our own. By jove...that is EXACTLY what the devil whispers in my ear everyday: it's not your fault.

Dude this stuff is worse than ANY of the religious mantras I've ever heard from a politician...I'm sorry but this is downright SCARY. Not to mention heretical.

Mrs. Obama...please...Christ trampled down death by death...not your husband. And we'd do far better learning that we do not need or deserve the vast majority of what we have, than to have the government give us more and provide us with the means to maintain what we do not need and cannot afford. Do you know someone who is in debt solely because of their health care needs or in general because of no fault of their own (and I'll assume such people also lack an XBOX, SUV, cell phone etc etc because they are struggling to live within their means) then bring them forward and let us help them. But please, a massive government "soul healing" program to remove debts we sinfully earned? No. LET. ME. SUFFER. MY. DEBT. Thank you.

Can someone give me an "Amen!"

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:39 AM [+]

Monday, February 18, 2008

As-Salāmu `Alaykum

I think today was one of the hotter days that I have been in
Uganda...but then this could just be my sense of things because Patrick
and I were wandering outside around the Mulago Hospital complex on our
way up to the Uganda Cancer Institute which is really the headquarters
of all we are doing here.

As we worked our way up the hill - and yes it was work in this heat -
we passed through numerous inpatient facilities which I can assure you
are unlike any inpatient facility you have ever seen in the western
world. Patient's families camp out wherever they can find space and in
this instance I noticed a number of men were saying their prayers
toward Mecca - of course it rather looked like the canon of St. Andrew
which will itself mark my arrival back home and thus was the odd
reasoning for these prostrating men making me homesick.

As we passed, I noticed a woman looking at me strangely. Now this is
not unusual...but as our paths intersected she looked right at me and
said, "As-Salāmu `Alaykum." Now, I knew that somewhere in the dark
recesses of my Religion Major trained mind I had the appropriate
response...but it was clouded with "Indeed He is Risen" and "Alithos
Anesti" and "Voistino Voskrese" which I reckoned would not be what the
woman wanted to here. I quickly gave up the quest though - being short
on time as we passed and simply said the same to her in return and
smiled....though I suspected it wasn't the right answer. Isma would
later remind me: "wa `Alaykum As-Salām" Oh well...Patrick laughed as he
told me that she assumed I was Muslim because of my beard.
It reminded me that the Ugandan Orthodox Church has largely succumbed
to the hairless heresy.

As I spent some time with a couple of patients today I remembered
reading yesterday that the US Government is ready to spend more than 1
BILLION dollars to insure that no Americans miss out on their
television when the big switch to digital happens. A BILLION DOLLARS!
Talk about an entitlement culture gone insane...care to even
contemplate what a billion dollars could do for cancer care in Uganda?
Spending time up in the pathetically underfunded Children's ward of the
UCI is something every American should do before redeeming their $40
digital converter coupon. When did luxury become a right in America?
And, by the way, if you have ANY form of healthcare in the USA, believe
me, it is a luxury compared to what I see here.

In American we expect someone (FEMA, Police, Fire Department,
innumerable federal programs etc) to save us of out any trouble we
might find ourselves and since we expect perfect performance in the act
of provisioning us, if they fail we will sue. Lord have mercy we are
spoiled brats...in Uganda here, they know they have no one to save
them...except perhaps a random Muzungu who might be passing by and
might further be willing to make a day pass by a little easier. Yes,
ours is an entitlement culture and theirs is a begger culture. In an
odd way, the latter makes more sense to me. But neither is pretty.
God forbid that I should ever open my mouth in complaint again.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:15 AM [+]

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Good Friends

We in Tanzania, if we are to speak for ourselves and for Africa, we know for sure that you, Mr. President, and your administration, have been good friends of our country

It's nice to hear, isn't it? I'm rather tired of all the doom and gloom spouted off about America's reputation being wrecked personally by Bush and how desperately it needs repairing. But that's a side issue....abstinence and faithfulness.

Bush: Keep Abstinence in PEPFAR

The "enlightened ones" of America...those who know abstinence education doesn't work...believe in reality that abstinence in AIDS prevention is analogous to creationism in a science class. I do love it when liberal intellectuals running to "save Africa" run smack into hardcore conservative values here. What a shock it must be for world-culture-embracing-rainbow coalition types to find that in some parts of the world, Jerry Falwell was a liberal. In such encounters one can see that looking down ones nose at others is practiced by even the most "enlightened." Anyway, for some ex-pat bloggers I've "met" here, Uganda has become a sort of mission field for the indoctrination of liberal values...so much for preserving native cultures, eh?

In a way, much of African cultural values are to the PC values of America what African Bishops are to Lambeth. They are of course related. I was recently asked: "What is wrong with the Anglicans in America?" Ummm...where do I begin.

Anyway, as noted in the article...the prevention plan is balanced: abstinence, fidelity in marriage, and condoms. I propose a plan to end the stalling by those who don't practice or believe in abstinence: Let the Africans decide. Guess who wins?

The Africans...twice!

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:57 AM [+]

The Cathedral

I'd never really had a good chance to see the cathedral before - I'd come to Vespers late the last time I was here and it was soon dark before I could really look around...so arriving early this time Sunday morning I spent some time looking around before Matins. The Church has a rather large compound here which includes the Church, various offices, the Metropolitan's residence, schools, and a small clinic/hospital. Behind the Church is small cemetery.

Interior pics of the Cathedral were not easily done because it was dark enough to require a flash and I turned it off so as to not disturb the services. St. Nicholas, as the cathedral, if of course far more richly decorated than St. Sophia (where I attended before), but the basic structures of both are very nearly identical.

The service was a mix of mostly Lugandan and English...with a few bits of Greek tossed in for good measure. The homily was entirely in Lugandan...so I was lost...but I have SOME recollection of the story of the Publican and The Pharisee. The Church was primarily filled up with students from the schools - far more than half of those present I should think. Congregational singing? Oh you better believe it. Their voices were lovely and I wholly enjoyed it...though the bells were a bit too loud, they were rung very nicely...similar to what I've heard recorded from Russian Churches, though not quite as crisp. I wondered, do Greeks rung bells like this?

Now, you will recall that the last time I was here I had a good deal of trouble with people at church assuming I was a priest...and I THOUGHT I had narrowed it down to the fact that there Readers are called catechists and they wear blue cassocks. So...not wishing to go through the 4 billions priest denials again, I left the cassock at home and became just your everyday lay-muzunga. So, I see my old acquaintance Photios (he was at St. Tikhon's with SubDn. Elias) and I rush over to greet him...seeing him in a black cassock I asked for his blessing and he recoiled and reminded me (did I ever know?) that he is only a Reader. I laughed out loud and all I could think about was that "TIA" is applicable to Ugandan Orthodoxy...in many ways, some cute (like this) and some not so cute.

So I brought a bunch of the laminated icons which I took to handing out to any and all who were interested. They absolutely loved them...and while most had to ask me to identify many of the saints, one gentleman was able to assist me in what was fast becoming a colossal effort. He could read Greek - far better than I could and so he nailed many very quickly. One very nice young lady would let me convince her that the writing on her St. Innocent icon was in fact English, but just an unusual font. She'd have none of it and so I had to translate from "iconowrite" English into real English.

Rdr. Photios then had an idea for some of the icons (since they had so much info on the back): teaching aids for Sunday School. So I gave a collection to one of the teachers and once one kid saw them and asked about them the poor teacher was soon swarmed with anxious to see kids. Clearly they will be effective in class.

The Metropolitan is apparently up in Greece where'd gone for the Archbishop's funeral and then just decided to stay for awhile. After the service I was invited to have tea, which actually ended up being a full lunch because they were having a special meal after a memorial service for an elderly priests wife. There we discussed many things, including politics. I was asked if I was a democrat or a republican to which I gave my traditional reply: "I'm far too conservative to officially be either." Another Ugandan parishioner volunteered that he no longer voted in their elections because it obviously did not matter. I thought to tell him that I knew how he felt, but then was I really willing to try and explain the electoral college?

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 3:58 AM [+]

Saturday, February 16, 2008

To everything there is a season...

...unless you don't have seasons.

I was talking to a tech in the lab about how I assumed we would do additional training in the "summer." He looked confused. So I corrected myself assuming that since Kampala is slightly south of the equator I should be specific: "Your winter." He still looked confused.

Patrick finally clued me in: "We don't have seasons."

Now, look, I'm not stupid so I knew being so close to the equator means you have very little observable change as the earth orbits and wobbles, but surely the technicality of summer, winter, fall, and spring are known? And Patrick asked me: "Why would it?"

Ummm...well it's a valid question. Along the equator the concept of seasons is experientially unknown and there is no necessity to identify them from a further unknown sense of technicality.

Seasons were a rhythm we once lived by in times past. Many things in our collective consciousness that we retain about seasons hearken back to our agrarian past...sadly these "traditions" make little sense to our cubicle predestined kids. It spills over into our Church life as well as I'll note.

So we might also ask why would a largely non-agrarian society like our own in America bother anymore to even note the seasons? Particularly in places where they are hardly noticeable? I mean I can see noting them if you need to change your attire to a large degree because of them...but otherwise, what use are their designations to us? And in turn, what use are they to Ugandans, who while being much more agrarian than us, can pretty much grown anything at anytime of the year? Why should THEY note seasons as we understand them?

I once told Patrick that the celebration of Christmas during our winter made a great deal of sense - even if we don't have any idea when Christ was born. I explained how our days change so much and how there is less and less light as we head into winter. He marveled at what this must be like. And I further explained that the celebration of God's incarnation is perfectly timed (pretty much) to coincide with the darkest time of the year. It parallels the hope of the coming spring because afterwards our days start getting longer and longer. I could see he understood by his smile...and he just said "Wow, that is neat."

"That is why," I joked, "everyone should live in the Northern Hemisphere."

He laughed and said, "No, it is far too cold."

It's funny here because one afternoon it will be in the upper 80's and humid and then the next day it will cloud over and plummet down to a bitterly cold 72 at which point people don jackets and complain of the cold. Lately they blame me for this...I simply tell them "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

I'm told Uganda has two seasons: rainy and dry. But EVERYTIME I ask when is the rainy season and when is the dry, I get a different answer. Personally, I think the seasons change here from hour to hour but are identifiable only by whether I am wet from my sweat or from the rain.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:13 AM [+]

Friday, February 15, 2008


Murderer Kazmierczak bought a holster from the same online supplier that the VT killer purchased a firearm from. We are still waiting to here where Kazmierczak purchased his guitar case.

There's no end to the stupid stories that get published after such a horrible act. As our culture turns further and further away from traditional notions of personal responsibility we will focus on the killers lack of meds or even where he got his holster.

I expect this might be the beginning of an effort to restrict online firearm sales. However, as someone who has in fact purchased TWO firearms online I can bring a bit of knowledge to the discussion that will no doubt be lacking once the politicians start debating. When you buy online you must provide the seller with the name and address of a holder of a Federal Firearms License - aka a legal firearm dealer. The weapon is shipped to the dealer who then is responsible for insuring that the end-user is in compliance with all federal and state regulations...just as if you went and bought it from that gun shop to begin with - except that it is a more complex and labor intensive process for the buyer who normally would chose to do so because of better selection or price. I'm not sure a suicidal mass-murderer cares about either - I rather expect we are just a society that shops more and more online out of habit.

In any event...I do worry about why we are seeing so much of this senseless violence. Everyone has a pet theory, I suppose. I just wonder if we just aren't seeing the beginning of our festering boil opening up completely. The maddening lack of meaning and purpose driving us further into despair as we find our affluence feeds not our souls. And without moral compass and our minds filled with all manner of conflicting thoughts and violent imagery...well...some of us just collapse. If any blame is to be directed somewhere besides the shooter, it should not be toward guns or online retailers...it should be directed toward the collective heart, mind, and dogmas of our society...which grows ever more soul-less. Should we expect less than the brutality of animals if we are continually told we are nothing more than such?

There is a Chimpanzee preserve here where they sell T-Shirts that read simply "98.7% Chimp." (I cannot recall the exact percentage) This is of course based on DNA homology and while cute, it does speak very well to the pervasive belief that you are your genes (A contention I wholly reject - on scientific and religious principals) What of human behavior then should surprise us if this is what we preach from the pulpit of popular science?

Prayers for the deceased and their families. And prayers for us who are left to try and understand.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:46 PM [+]

Small Victory for Freedom

Good news
with regard to a story I've blogged about before.

Whether Plan B can cause an abortion is up for debate...what irks me is two things: public policy that assumes people have a RIGHT to avoid natural consequence to irresponsible behavior and this:

"Patient access to appropriate care should not be undermined by personal, non-medical judgments"

What sort of medical judgment is involved in preventing the most natural thing in the world from happening? Plan B is appropriate care based on medical judgment? Puhlease! It is based on judgement that says: "Oh Crap! I don't want to have a baby!"

And this:

"If somebody deserves medicine because they have a medical need, a religious objection is potentially contrary"

Do I need to spell it out? Pregnancy or even potential pregnancy is NOT a medical need. Say it together now: Pregnancy is NOT a medical need. A severed artery is a medical need. A heart attack is a medical need. Melanoma presents a medical need. Running stomach while spending a month in Africa is a medical need. Pregnancy is something we might consider to be the NORMAL and HEALTHY result of a personal decision. (Ok, granted in exceptionally...EXCEPTIONALLY...rare cases pregnancy can be dangerous to certain people...but Plan B isn't really for them, is it? I mean if you know pregnancy is a health risk to you I would expect you'd make sure Plan A works, no? Of course not...what was I thinking.)

Plan B is a not a medical product. It is a tool. And if I own a hardware store and I opt not to carry a particular product, that is my RIGHT. Viva La Freedom!

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:07 PM [+]

What did I say?

Uganda ain't going to Lambeth...and neither are numerous other African Anglican churches.

I sure hope the Anglicans here know well that the American branch is falling apart at the seams because of this and more. Heck, Robinson's ordination is nothing compared to resurrection denying bishops.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:51 AM [+]

Cool looking Monk

In Kosovo today during the Feast of the Presentation. Albanian Muslim dominated Kosovo is preparing to declare its independence from Serbia...but I've been unable to determine what will happen then. Will KFOR remain to protect the Serb minority and what remains of their ancient religious sites? (Not that KFOR has always done a very good job of it).

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:21 AM [+]

As it should be?

We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be. Because we know what we have seen and what we believe - that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest

-Barak Obama (from his now famed Super Tuesday speech)

Well count me a cynic I guess, because I thought Jesus was going to be the one to remake this world, heal this nation, and repair this world. Wow...and people thought Bush was a religious nut? Tall order Mr. Obama...sorry to be a cynic.

By the way...did anyone stop to ask how exactly the world should be? I get the willies thinking about the government remaking anything "the way it should be."

I dunno...maybe I'm the only one who cringed at this speech's ending? I don't suppose anyone else heard his band strike up the Internationale right after Yes. We. Can?

By the way, did MSNBC's Chris Matthews really say after hearing Obama: "My, I felt this thrill going up my leg...he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament.” Spooky....avoid the Kool-Aid Chris.

Well don't get upset at me now, Obamanites, you can rest easy knowing my vote will not count come November. I live in a state in which one of the statues in the little video I linked to above may be found proudly displayed...so there's little doubt as to where my electoral college votes are headed.

I look forward to seeing the world healed, repaired, and remade as it should be.


...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:14 AM [+]

The Seething underbelly of Africa

Specifically, MY seething underbelly. I'm told in Lugandan it is called "Ekyidukano" (pronounded "Echi-doo-kano") which is translated as "Running Stomach." Sounds pleasant doesn't it? Ah the joys of discussing the origin of Lugandan words for loose stools...precisely what I came to Africa to do. Anyway, I thought I was getting over it, but it clearly still remains. Patrick has kindly volunteered to run down to the IDI clinic and see about getting some Immodium or something comparable. I'll likely head home a little early, drink my fluids, and relax for the weekend. Prayers appreciated, but worry is discouraged...this is not uncommon. I'm sure I'll laugh about it later.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 4:43 AM [+]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Under the Ugandan Weather

They warn you about it, but last time I escaped it. Yesterday, though, I came down with something that caused some hardcore stomach cramps and extreme water lossage. Feeling some better today, but I'll admit to being a little concerned...never had cramps like that before. Oh well, TIA.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:00 PM [+]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vespers for St. Valentine's Day

Since arriving in Uganda I've made it my custom to pray some Reader's services for my own spiritual benefit (of course), but also to help me from being a blabbering out of practice "fresher" by the time I get home. (Fresher is a sort of joking term teasingly applied to new med students here at Makerere University).

It has been a tremendous blessing to me to go through some of the hours each day and to go through Vespers as best as I can. And each time I pause to remember my wife and kids back home...I miss them and I am a lucky man to have them miss me in return.

I'm told Valentine's Day here in Uganda has only been celebrated since the 90's. One of the techs in the lab, while cursing his "requirement" to purchase flowers, told me today that it all started when a single radio DJ had to go and bring the western holiday to everyone's attention. I told him I had little sympathy for anyone who is currently able to embrace their beloved.

In any event: though the geographical context is reversed, I was reminded of this song today and it naturally fell right in line with the activities taking place inside my humble little Ugandan Chapel here. For Valentine's day it is the best that I can offer when half the world lies between us.

I miss you...and between my mournful visits to see my "homesick counter"...I pray for you.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 4:32 AM [+]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rich Man's Burden

One cannot remain unaffected by the poverty here, but fear not my friends, this post is not going to be another sermon about how we do not appreciate how good things are for us in America - true though it may be. For every right there is a left and for every light there is a darkness and for every something there is a nothing. I've blogged before about how people in poverty are predisposed toward certain sins, while people mired in affluence are predisposed toward a different set of sins. Is one better than another?

Christ taught that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. And He informs us of this truth right after we are witness to a rich young man turning away from Him for the sake of his wealth. Of course we may take comfort in the fact that our Lord reminds us that with God, however, all things are possible...and yet clearly something is going on here that is directly connected to wealth.

Are the poor without sin? Of course not. Are their sins in some way mediated by their impoverished situation? I would tend to think not. And yet, we do have a seemingly innate sense of "justice" that tends to offer more grace to a hungry thief than a fat one. If we steal from the rich to feed our family or to distribute it to the poor, is it LESS of a violation of the 8th commandment?

I should pause before I get myself into too much trouble in turning the reality of sin into something that is easily quantifiable or even one that is limited to the violation of rules and associated consequences seemingly imposed arbitrarily, even if logically. The issue, I think, isn't so much about the quantifiable things that we do, as much as it is about the unquantifiable essence of what we are and what we are becoming - which of course will naturally spill over into our words and actions like an overfilled dike which sometimes yields completely, giving way to all manner of ugliness.

We justifiably weep for the horrors we may see in Africa: poverty, war, and disease abound. Violence and suffering which we, in our ivory towers back home cannot imagine, are familiar "friends" to the majority of Africans. And yet, as I've noted before faith, hope, and love are far more publicly expressed here than home. Smiles come far more readily, for reasons I've long pondered and it may be as simple as having nothing forces one to find joy in the simplest of things. Consider the lilies... My how we worry.

Yes, weep for Africa and please do whatever you can to help...this messages stands without qualification and without reserve.

However...friends...while we watch and mourn for Africa in her bloody, violent, and painful struggle with a monstrous devouring beast, somewhere in some inaccessible place that is hard to see on our own bodies, an insidious parasite is feeding on us. It is quiet, unassuming, and stealthy beyond all measure...it even whispers in our ears without us knowing: "You are okay...you need not worry...all is provided for you" In its subtlety many have denied it exists, many forget that it exists, and many of those that yet remain deny it is a serious problem. Some in a fit of insanity - I assume - have even come to embrace and befriend it.

Because we cannot see its ill effects readily, the beast of affluence is killing us. Whereas the monster poverty is very easily seen and its affects well known and undeniable. So who is in greater danger? The man who is engaged in the struggle with the beast and knows it...or the man watching who is trying to help and fails to see the second more hungry beast stalking him? For you see, it is easier to see the evil of a child wasting away through starvation,or being blown up, than it is to perceive a child's soul wasting away through mucking about in the miry clay of plenty.

Isn't it time we wept for our affluence as we weep for Africa's poverty? Not because of social justice or any other temporal issues...but because we are both having our souls crushed by these beasts. And let me reiterate...do what you can for poverty...seriously...but do not forget the impoverishment of affluence. We are dying too though we do not see it in the headlines.

I wonder if the rich man's sin could be conceived of as not only love for money, but also as an inability to conceive of genuine need and how supremely dangerous that fact is to the soul. And so, the rich man's burden is not only the profound poverty around him, but also the soul destroying potential of self-sufficiency.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:42 AM [+]

Monday, February 11, 2008

How you see things

I stumbled upon this quote today:

A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.

— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It made me think of people. Piles of rocks though we may be, we are destined to be cathedrals. So, remember this when all you can see of yourself or others is piles or rocks.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:03 AM [+]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hey, I recognize that

So I'm spending my Sunday afternoon arguing with Mother Nature about the building African thunderstorms and my need to get clothes out on the lines to dry. I lose and it begins to pour down in tsunami-like quantities. Oh well.

So, we have around here in the project house all manner of movies obtained locally - which is to say that certain regulations aren't well maintained and thus there are a number as of yet unreleased flims...so I decide to relax the storm away watching "The Golden Compass."

I know, I know, I've criticized the book and the author and have refused to spend my money on it...but perhaps I should at least give it a chance, right? In the spirit of "tolerance and free inquiry" which, I'm told by the film, the Magisterium (i.e. the Church) does all that it can to stifle. But whatever, the Magisterium is a Roman Catholic term...I've no need to concern myself too much, right?

So I suffer through about 45 minutes of the film's preaching - yes, yes I get it: church bad, institutions bad, authority bad, church will murder to keep grand religious conspiracy intact...heroes are so called "free-thinkers" and those who push boundaries, rebels, and free-spirits. Yawn.

There's no light handedness here...the message is as clear as a Jerry Falwell Sermon.

But then the films brings us "up north" and we are introduced to the local home of the evil magisterium...and gee doesn't it look familiar. Oh yeah...that's subtle alright. This is when I'd had enough...besides it'd stopped raining.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 4:32 AM [+]

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Eh! Are your sure?

Sometimes in the training we reach a point where lunch just makes sense...such as downtime while we wait for results from an instrument. So when I suggested lunch yesterday I thought it would be no big deal, after all, it was noon. But Patrick seemed to have reservations that I couldn't quite discern at first...true, we'd been taking our lunches later than this before, and so I wondered if timing was the issue. I was hungry and he admitted he was too, but suggested that we (meaning Ugandans) usually do not eat until 1pm.

I convinced him to go regardless, suggesting we go across the street where they do a sort of made to order lunch that included "chips" (aka french fries). He finally gave in and we were preparing to leave when one of the students walked in.

"Where are you going?" He wondered.

Patrick gestured to me...which I thought odd and so I said, "lunch."

"Eh!" (Now...Eh! is something often said by Ugandans in moments of surprise and is not at all like the Canadian "Eh"...but as I cannot mimic it yet I cannot quite find the best spelling...anyway) he said, "Are you sure?"

I smiled, "Yes....today it is American lunch."

We continued on our way and we stepped into the tiny breakroom for reasons unknown to me - Patrick was in the lead. Our friend Emma was in there and when he saw us he asked, "Tea?"

"No," Patrick said, "lunch."

"Eh! Are you sure?" Emma said with great surprise, "It is only midday."

Patrick again gestured to me and after I'd finished laughing I said, "It is American lunch."

Finally we arrived at the virtually empty canteen and Patrick was speaking in Lugandan to the women at the order desk when I heard her blurt out, "Eh! Are you sure?" And when Patrick gestured to me I could have died laughing, and when the woman at the desk said "No, the chips will not be ready until one" I did die.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:17 AM [+]

Friday, February 08, 2008

My Class and my TA...a kindred soul

So this is my crew...my class (from right to left): Ronald, Apollo, Bosco, and Patrick my former student and now TA. Truly they are a joy to work with...if for no other reason than because they laugh at my jokes whether they understand them or not. While we all speak English, it is still sometimes a struggle to understand one another because they speak an English taught by the English and meshed with an African context. I often have to explain my anecdotes and sayings and once I do they STILL laugh. On a serious note though, they are intelligent and capable - at least as much as the students I've taught in the US, but far more joyful than any. Perhaps it is only my perception, but politeness and joy seems to be naturally impregnated in Uganda culture, for the most part.

I have particularly enjoyed spending more time with Patrick who has become a real connection for me to Uganda's culture. We talk about everything: the extent to which Museveni is a dictator, whether "The Last King of Scotland" accurately portrayed how bad Amin really was, what was in what I just ate, why abstinence and fidelity may be advertised in Uganda but not America, and all manner of other issues. Patrick is an acholi, an evangelical Christian (I believe THIS is the group he is affiliated with), and someone I consider a friend.

As with many Ugandans his life has been one that has seen its share of tragedy and strife. Raised in "the village" (which I now know to be pretty much synonymous with "country"), by the age of 6 he was in charge of 18 of the family's cows. He speaks with a gleam in his eyes of his life in the village which came to an end when Karamojong warriors (armed with AK47's) came and asserted their "divine right" to all cattle, specifically over the Okot family's cows. This combined with the horrific war with the LRA (and all that it entailed including kidnapped child soldiers) sent Patrick south into the Kampalan equivalent of suburban living.

As he sadly related this story to me, he began to get a look of disgust on his face as he told me about how he dislikes the city...how the developers in Kampala pile these cheaply built houses upon one another and how no one has any room to breath or stretch. And then the gleam returns to his face as he tells me how someday he will return to the village and raise cattle one again.

Indeed, we would seem to be kindred spirits. I hope he may someday do it and that the "strange" cultural and political turmoils that burden the people of East Africa may someday allow it.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:31 AM [+]

Thursday, February 07, 2008

American Women

So, I'm hanging out with some of the Ugandan Techs I'm training during lunch and they asked if I had any pics of my farm and so I began showing them the few that I had on my laptop, and since most of them included snow, they were patently amazed.

Furthermore I showed them a pic of our new chicken coop and explained how my wife had built it, at which time they stared at me incredulously.

I was confused until one of them asked, "Your wife built this?"

"Yes," I answered matter-of-factly.

With my original assertion confirmed they all looked at one another with a sort of chuckle of astonished laughter.

"Seriously," I said, "She built it. I hardly did anything."

One of them finally explained to me, "You just do not think of American women doing this...you think of them in fancy cars and fancy dresses...never getting dirty or sweating."

So...all you American women out there can go to my wife's blog and thank her for her shattering of racist,sexist,nationalist stereotypes. Ha! I reckon she's done more than Hillary and Obama combined. And I even neglected to mention that she is also a full-time homemaker and educator.

I considered mentioning that my wife isn't terribly unusual for American women, heck there are plenty of cowgirls, country girls, and even blood sweat and tears soccer moms...but then it occurred to me how one of a kind she really is and I let them believe it too.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:17 AM [+]

Monday, February 04, 2008

Warning Label

Yesterday I was drinking a coke out of its glass bottle when I noticed a warning label which stated: "Bottle for beverage use only."

I pondered this for a moment and could only conclude that THIS might actually be based on a true story and that Coca-Cola is worried about Bushmen lawsuits.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 10:31 PM [+]

Who comes to Africa

My plane from Amsterdam was unusually full of Muzungus...well okay, at least as compared to my last two trips on that flight (back and forth). I admit to enjoying playing a guessing game in which I try and discern what the Muzungu is going to be doing in Africa. Generally I perceive - from my admittedly limited experience - four general categories:

1. Medical research/aid workers (like myself)
2. Post-Modern hippies with a social conscience working for with some NGO
3. Missionaries
4. Adventure travelers

Now I realize you could break this down more...but it's my game to play so I make the rules. Appearance, eavesdropping on conversations, and seeing what people are reading all play an important role in successfully playing this game. Anyway, it occurred to me that I, myself, might be difficult to categorize.

I'm reading a book about living off the grid of modern technology (Better Off) which might tempt you to place me into number 2 or perhaps 4. But you'll need more data because my hair doesn't look like I just woke up from a hard night's sleep.

You might overhear me talking to someone about "the Church" and this would almost certainly put me down as number 3, and many - including myself would be tempted to end the game at such point.

But then...GASP...I'm found reading a scientific paper on Human Herpes Virus 8. Uh-Oh...now what? Number 1?!?! And yet talking about God? Reading a book you might assume is about reducing your carbon footprint? (It's not really, but it might look that way). Man...I am personally ruining the foundation of my own game!

So, in order to have fun with someone who might also be secretly playing the game I've decided to answer the question, "What are you doing in Africa?" with this:

"I'm here to get away from the extravagance of the west, to participate in the community of Christ, to help people suffering from horrible diseases, to train technicians to run an assay for a scientific study, and to just see what sort of crazy adventures a Muzungu can have in Uganda."

They may yet just write me off as a missionary...but so what. We are all supposed to be missionaries so I guess they would be right.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 6:52 PM [+]

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Good Morning Africa

Woke up to all the familiar noises and smells of Uganda....this pic is of my view of the windows from underneath the mosquito netting. Yes, the skeeters are quite noticeable this time. I never saw any last time I was here. The smell of wood smoke abounds (actually you can smell it all the time) but in the mornings as people rise and prepare breakfast it is particularly strong - it can often wake you up. But, this morning it was the cacophony of birds that rose me up before I would have preferred.

It's odd because there is a constant chirping of familiar sounding birds that will remind you of home (including roosters), but then the sounds will be overwhelmed by something you only here in the soundtracks of movies taking place in jungles...or if you live in Africa. One of them sounds like a particularly hacked off monkey. But it was the crows seemingly on steroids that had me nearly jumping out of bed. It was sitting right on my stinking window sill and might as well have been using a bullhorn.

Going shopping for a pellet gun today.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:10 PM [+]

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sunrise in Amsterdam

Currently watching it as I chat with the MRS who stayed up late to bless me with said chat. I already miss home...let the earth be swift over the next month!

I've gotten pretty familiar with Schipol airport. However it still freaks me out to see female employees cleaning the bathroom while I use it. Last time I was here I discovered they apparently have a key to unlock stall doors! I still have not figured out that reasoning, but some poor dutch woman sure got more than she bargained for that day.

Anyway, I hate traveling like this. Coming home is even worse because in that case you are hurrying up and waiting and waiting to get where you REALLY want to be. A couple hours to kill and then I'll be heading due south to the equator...trading the "first world" at 33 degrees, for the third at 88.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 11:18 PM [+]

Friday, February 01, 2008

St. Brigid

Today is the feastday of our farm! Clifton has up her Trop and Kont as well as her story from the OCA website (many years to his daughter Delaina!) It is also the namesday for our dear friend Sr. Brigid at St. Paisius, who insists on calling me (discreetly) Reader Papa Joe.

You'll recall some additional beer related aspects to her story (and a link to how we settled on the name.) Don't forget to pick up your St. Brigid Farm gear as well, on this her feastday! (from the shameless commerce division).

Holy Saint Brigid of Kildare, pray unto God for us (and our farm).

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:59 AM [+]

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