How to Speak Ugandan

13 02 2010

I love the cadence of the locals’ speech, and since I cannot replicate it verbally I thought I would do it phonetically.  I have to admit that this idea is not my own – one of the former interns named their laptop “Kompyuutah.”

Spelling isn’t really an issue in Uganda either (my kinda country!) and changes depending on the emphasis within the word.  For example, a major nearby street is called Gaba Road, but with the accent on the first syllable it can either be spelled Ggaba or Gaaba.

So here’s some soothing sounds from Uganda:

“‘Zungu! ‘Uungu!” – Short for “Muzungu! Muzungu!”, which means “White person! White person!”  somehow it sounds a lot cuter (and actually is much more affectionate) in Uganda.

Aallo! – “Hello!”  I believe I am now saying this, too.

Faadah Gahd – “Father God”, usually heard in morning prayer by the local staff.

Waahk – “work”

Chaahych – “church”

Laahnch ees raaidy! – “Lunch is ready!”, said by the lady who cooks for the office.  Might be my favorite three words of the day.

Dis-ah one o, dat-ah one – “this one or that one”, usually used instead of “him/her/you”.

Aah you peeking meh? – “Are you picking me?” as in, “Are you picking up anything I’m saying?”, or “Do you understand me?”

Yuu aah mahy siize. – “You are my size”, usually heard in the market spoken by a Ugandan man in to a Muzungu woman.  Sometime followed with Taek meh to Amaarika.

I’m sure there’s more to come and the list will be much longer soon.  Thanks for staying posted…think I have another blog on the way before the weekend is over!


I Have No Money – I Pay You in Pig!

5 02 2010

Finished my first project today. It was a small residence for a ministry leader that was technically outside of our design purview (but I’m quickly learning that nothing is truly outside of it). It was a great refresher for AutoCAD (after my Rhino-only binge of the last year) and a great way to jump into work.

Upon receiving the drawings, the ministry leader called my project leader and offered us a pig. He said he didn’t have any money to pay us (obviously too shocked by the superior quality of my drawings to remember that we are a non-for-profit :-)), but he would gladly slaughter a pig for us and invited us to dinner. If we didn’t want to come down he would make a pork run up to our office. After cooking every day for the past two weeks, pork payment seems like the best kind of currency.

Cooking itself has been a great adventure. The Lorettas in the family will be proud to know that I made my own pasta sauce with the milk, butter, eggs and tomatoes we had leftover in the house. The eggplant parm is a different story, as was my guacamole with fibrous avocados, but all in all there have been more successes than failures. Seriously, I’m really enjoying having to think on my feet and solve a new problem each night: How will we wash dishes with no running water? How do we store leftovers if the fridge is broken? How do I mix a coffee cake with no electricity? (The answer: Use my stubby fingers.) All I can say is that Chris would like my methods, and Sal would love the results (seriously, Sal – try the sauce. Try it.)

And yet tonight we took a break. We met with a bunch of American women (and Josh – thanks for being a good sport) working and living in Kampala and went to one of the most expensive restaurants in the city (about a $12 expense). We feasted on Indian food for 2+ hours while enjoying great conversation and fellowship. Even though it was Punjabi flavored, it felt a bit like home. A little R+R after a non-stop couple of weeks was unexpectedly needed, and I am so grateful for it. Rachel and I even wore a little makeup.

Now, back to work. The internet has been touch a go for a while, so I’ll try to upload some pictures this weekend – especially of the kids. I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to download LOST before the weekend is through…

Love you all and miss you. Thank you for your continued prayers, updates, and love. God bless you all!

Surveying + Duck, Duck, Goose

3 02 2010

One of my rotations during our site survey was “Kid Distracter.” So I pulled my camera out of my bag and ran directly away from the Total Station. The kids followed me, and we eventually sat down to play the globally recognized game of Duck Duck Goose. The kids call it another name in Luganda, but were willing to make fun of the Muzungu with the camera and shout “UUCK UUCK OOOOO” before running and tackling each other.

I seriously love the kids in Uganda. I don’t think I’ll get tired of hearing the joyful call of “Muzungu! Muzungu!” followed with a wave or a hug around the knees.

Here’s some pictures, just for you, Daddio.

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 🙂


20 01 2010

Hello all!

Just a quick message to let you all know I’m safe and sound (and using a mosquito net).  I’ve been here for about 24 hours and am trying to quickly get over the jet lag.  We’ll start work next Monday after a week of orientation in the office.  Just a few first impressions:

1.  Bio Sand Water Filters are amazing.

2. The mosquito nets are actually quite pretty.

3. There’s always a bit of a breeze despite the heat.

4. I have my own desk!

5. The power has already stopped working once today, and the Internet went out twice.

6. The cure to a hot day is a cool shower at night.

Love you all and can’t wait to post some work progress!

Dia Vuma, Tuma Mina (Send me, Lord Jesus, I am ready!)

18 01 2010

…or as ready as I’m going to be.

Heading out to Uganda today.  I can’t believe it’s actually here!  I’ve been waiting since high school for this experience and I feel so blessed that I’m actually having it.

This week at orientation has been great – check the links on the side panel for photos with the other interns (  Everyone here is incredibly dedicated and talented – we fell into easy friendships through our common passions and hopes.  It’s sad to say goodbye to everyone, but I can’t wait to here their stories.  My Uganda team is especially gifted (no offense, Costa Rica and Canada) and I can’t wait to start working.

We’ll have a week of orientation once we arrive in Uganda, and we’re already learned a lot about the culture.  RULE #1 – Learn to ask questions indirectly.  RULE #2 – Learn to answer with your eyebrows.  RULE #3 – White women are “honorary men.”  RULE #4 – Be completely open to what God has planned for us and seek him everyday.

I want to give a sincere thanks to everyone who has been supporting me and praying for me.  I could not have done this without the help of family and friends who’s love has been so tangible over the years.  And for those who know my mom and dad – please check in on them from time to time 🙂

For those of you thinking of the victims in Haiti, this is a time to react with prayer and donations.  One of our eMi team leaders is currently en route to Haiti via a cross-country car trip in the Dominican Republic, and one of my fellow interns has family in Port au Prince helping with relief.  I’m sure that eMi will have a role in both the relief and recovery of Haiti, but until then please pray that they receive hope and compassion in this unbelievably horrible and tense time.

More to come later…heading to the airport in Denver now.  Maybe gonna make McDonald’s my last American meal.

Love always,



9 12 2009

My assignment for my time in East Africa has come through!  I’ll be building a secondary school in the village of Nyongrial Payam in Southern Sudan.  The villages in the South are overwhelmed with refugees from the North and have some of the highest illiteracy rates in the world (92%).  In 2004, only 3 hospitals served this region of approx. 15 million.  Please keep these refugees and their families in your prayers.  Please pray for the safety and recovery of the village and the 2 other eMI East Africa workers I will be serving with.

COST: $60,000 approx. for cost of building; school supplies; teacher training; reintegration programs for war-affected youths and child combatants; promotion of co-ed schooling

PROGRAM: 8-classroom building convertible to health care center

SITE: Nyongrial Payam, Southern Sudan, land donated by Balient County to PLCR

eMI will be working with an organization called Padang Lutheran Christian Relief (PLCR), which has been providing support for Southern Sudanese refugees since 2005.  We will be traveling to Nyongrial Payam in late February for a site visit and then continue our work in Kampala for the remainder of the internship.

From eMI:EA website:

The Malik Abiel Secondary School

Twenty one years of civil war has left Southern Sudan devastated. The war resulted in the deaths of more than two million people, five million others displaced and a virtual destruction of the entire infrastructure of Southern Sudan. Five million internal displaced people and refugees are currently returning to Southern Sudan from Northern Sudan and neighboring countries to find that there is nothing left not even school or basic health facilities in the region.

Padang Lutheran Christian Relief (PLCR) was formed in 2005 with the goal of assisting the most impoverished and destitute in the most troubled regions of Sudan. Named Padang, which is the Dinka word for different peoples coming together to fulfill a common goal. PLCR is committed to building a school in the village of Nyongrial Payam, a front line village during the war time. This school is aimed at helping 500 students in this village who presently take their lessons under the shade of a fig tree, sitting on makeshift benches. Sometimes the whole class shares one textbook under the tree which is often interrupted by rain.

There are no basic services, and the war has led to southern Sudan having one of the highest levels of illiteracy and poverty in the world.

As relative peace is established, education for the children will provide a way of promoting reconciliation, peaceful co-operation and long-term development in the country. PLCR believes that education provides the basis from which development can begin. Not only does education provide the children and youths with the knowledge to build their future, but it also acts as a stabilizing factor in south Sudan.