Long Time Coming

29 01 2010

Project Site 1, Ggaba, Uganda

Sorry it’s taken so long, but my first week here as been a whirlwind.

We arrived in Kampala at night and traveled a dusty, bumpy road to the compound.   I was tired but caught a glimpse of the two guards with serious rifles on their shoulders.  Somehow the mosquito net gave me more security than the guns.

Compounds are a way of life in Kampala – almost like urban “building blocks.”  The walled gates don’t allow for a typical pedestrian culture, but for those without the means for compounds the streets are a virtual backyard.  Taxis, bodas, and vendors share the streets with playing children, chickens, and cows.  Drivers mostly navigate around whatever objects are in their the road, defying the Western concept of right-of-way.

Downtown is another beast altogether.  Streets are 30 feet wide with no real lane designation.  There is no difference between jaywalking and crossing the street.  The Owino markets is a maze of goods and humanity – something that would be nearly impossible to map.  I still do not feel confident navigating the hilly streets and the only solution is to get lost this weekend and find my way home without the breadcrumbs.

Somehow, there is order without infrastructure, and understanding without communication.  It actually makes for less worry and more trust in the invisible system at work.  (For the architecture friends:  I’m sure that there will be some kind of mapping project to come out of this.  I am serious.)  The cultural and physical differences are innumerable and the best policy is to start from scratch with a firm foundation in why I came here.

So after the first night with the nets and the guns and the roosters and the call to prayer, God began providing for my team and I here.  The fulfillment in work, in prayer, in ministry, and in fellowship is beyond what I could have expected.  Actually, it’s exactly what I would have wished to expect but that I never would have anticipated happening.

Our team leaders and staff live their lives in an open, honest, and free faith.  If God wanted His people to be a church – a body with many parts – rather than a group of people who go to church, I think He would want it to look like this one.

The fellow interns are ready and receptive for their work.  I am humbled by their commitment to come here and how God has worked similarly in their lives and mine.  It’s wonderful to be able to talk about ramp design one minute and about spiritual struggles in the next.

The Ugandan people are almost impossible to describe.  All I can say is that it is easy to establish a relationship with everyone you come into contact with.  Every exchange – with the boda drivers, the chipati makers, the guardsmen – is lasting in Uganda.  I already know the names of more people in the neighborhood than baristas at my favorite Starbucks back home.  One mzungu here described Ugandans not as happy people, but friendly people.  I would mostly agree so far – only because of the intense amount of suffering that is still present in living memory.  But I would add that the happiness and gratitude they find in their work, their families, their relationships, and their faith would put anyone living the American Dream to shame.

Work itself has been incredible – truly incredible.  We have visited project sites at the headwaters of the Nile and helped with truss construction; we have learned the basics of surveying on a campus site on Lake Victoria; we have met with excited ministry clients; we’ve been fed by local villagers; we have prayed together every morning and cooked together every night.  This week I was handed a master planning project in the nearby town of Ggaba –  I am almost in disbelief that my hopes of jumping right in have been realized.  The design process seems more tangible over here – communication flows easily between all design practices; projects are addressed and realized in a time frame that responses to the needs of the community; and simple designs earn their worth by solving complex problems.  We are required to assume nothing and be mindful of everything.  Even in the simplest task of cooking dinner it is necessary to find different solutions for water, electricity, cutlery, and ingredients.  My senses have enjoyed the wake-up call – it’s been exhausting but exhilarating.

Truly, I love this.  I joked before coming to Uganda that once I got here I might not come back home.  I think a part of that is true – I’ll have to come back to a place like this to pick up where I’ve left off.

There is much more to say, and I’m sure my posts in the future will be more frequent and less lengthy (I think I might have taken up all the room on the eMi Google listserv).  Thank you all for your continued support and your prayers.  I’ll be posting some pictures on the sidebar this weekend – so be on the lookout!

Love you, miss you, and God bless you all!


P.S.  To the Spring ’10 eMi girls looking for a counter to Facial Hair February – Makeup-Free March?  East Africa is already there 🙂




One response

31 01 2010
rachel b

i could pull makeup-free march.
i’ll ask the other girls if they’re in for it.

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