Thanksgiving

Thursday, 26 November 2015 | 23:09

Looking back over the past year, I have much to be thankful for. God definitely has a way of giving us far more than we expect. To be truly thankful requires that we actually name that for which we thankful. So, what are some of those things on my list?

  • A job where I feel that I can do good work and where I’m appreciated.
  • A wonderful church family (I’ve said this one several years in a row, and more significantly every time).
  • A warm, comfortable home.
  • The liberties we enjoy, particularly that we can freely and rightly worship God without fearing for our lives.
  • A better concept of my potential role as as missionary, gained after the wonderful month in Uganda.
  • Taryn. A year ago, if you asked me if I would be engaged within a year, I would have laughed. But, God does have that way of giving the unexpected, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What does the next year hold? I may have my ideas, but one thing of which I can be confident is that my list next year will have things on it that I couldn’t even dream of now.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Cake

Saturday, 29 August 2015 | 09:52

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You’re probably thinking, “uh, yes, Stuart, that is indeed a cake.”

But, you see, it’s not just any cake. It’s my first cake from scratch. You’d think that with all the cooking I do, this milestone would have been reached a long time ago. But it wasn’t. Growing up, I always heard how difficult it was to make a cake from scratch (or at least not worth it when boxed mixes were readily available). However, I’ve been spoiled by those around me baking their cakes from scratch, which means I realized that there’s an additional component to the boxed cake mix flavor profile: chemical.

So, what to do? Conquer those fears and learn how to do it! Oh, and sign up to bake the cake for a coworker’s retirement party, because a one-and-a-half week deadline tends to motivate me quite well. He requested a white cake with chocolate frosting. So, a white cake it is.

Of course, I go to my first reference, The Joy of Cooking, and open to Cakes and Cupcakes. What I love about this cookbook is the About [insert category name of what you are cooking] lessons before the recipes in each section. In this case, it’s five pages. Oh, dear. Now I’m really getting worried. Oh, but at least there are two more pages of About High-Altitude Cake Baking, which is good, because living at 4700 feet above sea level puts me in that category. But then it starts with, “Cakes baked at high altitudes are subject to pixielike variations that often defy general rules. … The only real rule is, alas, that there is no rule.” and I begin to think I’m doomed again. But, and here’s another reason I love The Joy, there follows a collection of the sea-level recipes modified for high altitude cooking, complete with modifications for 5000, 7000, and 10,000 feet.

Anyroad, above you see that my High-Altitude Two-Egg Cake from last weekend wasn’t a complete and utter disaster as I feared. In fact, I’d even venture to say that it was a complete and utter success. My experimental test subjects fellow church members at Sunday potluck seem to have agreed. Yay! Cake baking fears banished! Press on to baking tasty things!

Sunrises

Monday, 18 May 2015 | 18:39

Sometimes there are advantages to an early drive to work, and this morning was no exception.

It’s been rainy the last week or so, and this weekend the weather was such that the temperatures dropped a bit as well. Not by much, but enough that the rain here on the plain was snow in the mountain peaks. That, combined with the perfect break in the clouds at sunrise, provided a glorious pink/orange hue cast upon the mountain peaks to the north and west.

It’s one of those sights that I love about this place. Some say the Snake River Plain is desolate and boring. I find it beautiful. It’s actually the second time that’s hit me in the last week, oddly both related to rain, something we don’t actually get much of around here except at this time of year. That was last week when I stepped out of the building at work, on my way home, and was greeted by the aroma of sage immediately after a rainstorm. Perhaps beautiful isn’t the best way to describe a scent, but I think you get the idea.

A couple of wonderful scenes in the orchestra of God’s creation.

Spring Arrives

Saturday, 18 April 2015 | 11:15

There were already the signs of spring here when I returned three weeks ago, but this week they really broke out in full. Or, in some cases, I finally saw them.

It was yesterday when I came home from work that I saw the first blossom on the plum trees. It turns out that this other tree, which receives more sunlight, had a head start. This morning, the blossoms were bursting forth in abundance.
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And the non-tree flowers are in bloom, as well.
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Even the raspberries joined in the show, putting their first leaves on.
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And, finally, the chickens started laying while I was gone. By now, they’re up to full production again.
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It’s funny - I’ve only had chickens for three years now, but they’ve become such a normal part of life. The sounds, the sights, the routine of watering and feeding them, and especially their eggs. It would be strange to not have chickens…
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Sunday Hike

Saturday, 28 March 2015 | 16:54

Finally, with a repaired flash card reader, I present photos from the Sunday, 08 March, hike!

Jim, Joshua, and I took an afternoon hike up one of the rocky points near the clinic between Sunday church services. From this point, we could see four districts, each with their own mountain, although Mt. Moroto was only barely visible through the haze and required some imagination to see the outline (which is why I have no photo of it here).

Here’s a few photos to get the idea (as usual, all can be expanded by clicking on them). The full album is available here.

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Around Here

Saturday, 28 March 2015 | 15:46

On Wednesday afternoon, Christopher, Taryn, and I went to Namalu for the weekly market day. I hadn’t yet made time to go, and so the day just before leaving the country was my last option. Great planning, huh? ;) I did manage to find a couple of blankets that I liked, as well as a good example of the local footwear - tire sandals. Good items for show and tell. :) The market pretty much lines the street in the center of town. The photos here also show a bit of the more permanent set-ups.

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On the way down country to Entebbe on Thursday, we encountered a herd of cows in the road. Not your everyday event at home, right? You pretty much drive really slowly through the herd, it seems.

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Also on the way down, I was reminded of one of my observations from the first day in-country: how direct the advertising is. A perfect example is this beer billboard by the side of the road. Instead of implying that the beer is a good value, which is what I’m accustomed to, they come right out and tell you that it is.

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On the flight over the Atlantic, the flight attendants had us close our window shades after crossing over the northern British Isles, I suppose so people could sleep if they wanted. Thankfully I looked up at the flight tracker in time to realize we were crossing over the southern tip of Greenland. I’m glad I did. It’s kind of crazy to think that I went from seeing banana trees to the Arctic in less than 24 hours.

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If Home Is Where the Heart Is

Saturday, 28 March 2015 | 14:57

AKA: The Entry I Didn’t Think I’d Be Writing

How can it be possible that I’ve only been here for a month? Or how did the month go so quickly? Yes, it’s a strange mixture. Bear with me if you can; things are connected.

On the one hand, I just got here, but it feels like it’s been ages since leaving the States. The routine definitely contributes to that. It’s a five and a half day work week, punctuated by the Sabbath on Sunday. The strong missionary community also contributes to it. If you want to be a loner, this isn’t the place. When your close community is composed of five families and four singles and you interact with them every day, not once a week, you build relationships more quickly. Yes, of course I long for those back home. I miss those relationships dearly and I’ve treasured the simple conversations held by e-mail. But to have what has felt a second home - that I never anticipated.

On the other hand, I just got here and it feels like I’m leaving so soon. Which is very true. It really only has been a month. And a month wasn’t nearly long enough.

Which brings me to the title of the post. I never anticipated that I’d fall in love with Karamoja this much. Whenever I’ve moved, the new location pretty quickly comes to be home. Home isn’t where I grew up or where I used to live. Home is where I live. I’ve never before had the experience of visiting a place and thinking of it as home, especially a place to which I had never been and about which I knew very little. But so it is.

There’s the aspect of the basic functions of life here, too. There’s so much uncertainty amidst the known. Sure, I may have plans for the day, but far more often than I’m accustomed, those plans fall apart. I really have no option but to place my reliance upon God and His promises. It’s something that should be no different based on the location, but here you must. So much is out of my comfort zone, but His grace abounds. He has granted confidence to me like I’ve never experienced before, yet I didn’t realize it until my departure began looming. To not be confident in His plans as better than my own would result in frustration. And that’s hard for this engineer who likes to plan things in detail. It’s something that both worries me and serves as hope for my return - that I would continue to put my plans in perspective. I know God uses trials to form us, but in this case it feels like He’s using a gift to do so. A gift He intends me to carry home with me.

Going, my expectations were few; I wanted to start figuring out how I could use my background/skills as a missionary. He did more than that. It’s hard to describe the joy I’ve felt, but after eight years of feeling that particular missionary call, and then to actually be doing it is simply wonderful. It’s that feeling of “this is what I was made for”.

There’s a vulnerability in going somewhere completely unfamiliar. Typically, I close up when overwhelmed by the unfamiliar. But that didn’t happen. Rather the opposite, actually, and that caught me off guard. What might have been overwhelming became comfortable, and it wasn’t a conscious effort on my part. It’s like He set me up to show that He provides in ways far exceeding what I would ever imagine. And He provided more than confidence, more than joy in the work, and more than being open to the unfamiliar. And this is the part of the entry that was never even a possibility in my mind. Why should it have been? Who in their right mind expects to travel two continents away, for only a month, and find someone with whom he shares so much? Especially me, the guy who is quite particular. And for the feeling to be reciprocated. I couldn’t imagine such things a month ago, yet here I find Taryn and me deciding to date. So, there, it’s public. I can be as dense as a brick at times, and this is no exception; apparently everybody else at the mission saw it before I really realized it myself. We’re going to have to figure out how this long-distance relationship is going to work, but knowing that we have so much support is a blessing and reassurance. If this is meant to be, as we believe it is, those challenges become what I like to call “just details”. Even to hear myself say that reminds me of the work God has wrought in me over the last month - forming me to trust in Him. So if home is where the heart is, that makes two homes here on earth for this one heart.

Note: While this entry was technically written after I had already left Uganda (on the flights), the topic has been heavy on my mind for the last few days, so that’s why it’s written as if I haven’t yet left. Indeed, a big part of my heart hasn’t left.

Hydration

Friday, 20 March 2015 | 10:59

Staying adequately hydrated seems to be a challenge, no matter where I live. I knew that even working in an office, I don’t drink enough, but here I need far more. The challenge comes when I don’t realize I’m dehydrated, particularly when I’m working outside. The constant wind during the day really helps to ease the heat, but that’s only because I’m sweating. Which means I’m losing water. A lot of it.

Typically, I’ve been drinking between 3 and 5 liters of water per day before dinner. Which generally seems to work fairly well, but I can tell that I’m still dehydrated.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to tag along with one of the teachers to a village Bible study (there will be another post on that). The walk was about half an hour each way and very enjoyable. Nearing home, I started to feel lousy, but figured it was just the sun getting to me. So, I came inside to rest and drank a quart of diluted gatorade. I expected to recover fairly quickly, but instead felt worse and worse (cramping, fatigue, chills, poor circulation in my feet and arms, dizziness). Two hours later, it was off to the clinic to get tested for malaria. Tests came back negative, so it wasn’t that. So, back to the house and the wonderful regimen of ORS began. The main challenge is that when really dehydrated, the body doesn’t want to drink, since being nauseated is one of the symptoms. So you basically have to force yourself to drink, and the flavor isn’t exactly delicious.

After lying down for an hour to try to get my cramping to go away, with very limited success, one of the missionary associates brought me some crackers and conversation. It turns out that both are what I needed - the crackers for energy and conversation to get me to drink (believe it or not, it’s true, I drink more water when talking) and to lift my spirits. By a little after 2200, I was feeling well enough to head off to bed.

Today, I’m still drinking ORS instead of water, but the homemade version, which I find to be far more palatable (especially with the excellent cane sugar here, which has a better taste than the sugar back home). And, to give my body a chance to recover (I’m still not feeling back to normal), I’m taking the day off from work and staying in the shade.

So, here’s to hydration. Sometimes, you just can’t drink enough and need to get out of the heat.

Jet Lag Solution

Sunday, 8 March 2015 | 21:40

Well, I accidentally discovered a solution to jet lag. No guarantees that I’d be able to reproduce it, but it worked! Here’s how:

  1. Only sleep three hours during the night before the trip. This way, you start out sleep deprived.
  2. Stay awake all night on the overnight flight over the Atlantic. Weird Al can help with this.
  3. On the afternoon/evening flight take two Benadryl to deal with the perfume in the cabin and then forget that you took Benadryl and order wine with your dinner. It doesn’t have to be good wine, even the stuff that approximates vinegar will do the job here. Sleep like a rock for five of the eight hours even though it’s the most crowded flight so far, which is good, because you have negative legroom. An extra bonus: when the flight attendant asks if you want ice cream a few hours later, you’ll barely be coherent, but just enough to manage to say “yes”.
  4. Get picked up from the airport and go straight to bed at the motel and sleep until you wake up.

Hey, it worked and I appear to have zero jet-lag effects! Of course, getting up at 0600 instead of 0430 helps… But don’t argue with success. I’ll gladly accept my blessings when they come along like this.

Welcome!

Thursday, 12 February 2015 | 22:26

Welcome to yet another attempt at a blog. I think it’s my third and I shut down my last one in 2010. But, lately I’ve thought it might be useful for a few things, so here it goes. I’m keeping it simple this time. :)