Friday, December 26, 2008

Ugandan Christmas 2008

Our Christmas tree, complete with Jonah's Lego 'Holiday Train' and tunnel we had built for him here! Small presents mailed from Grammy and Grandma completed the ensemble!

If I had to choose one word to describe our Christmas this year, it would be ‘different’! Everything from the weather, the people, the events, to the absence of livelong traditions made for a very bizarre holiday. But, though missing family was at an all-time high, there were some bright spots. Here’s a picture story of how our Christmas went down, 10,000 miles from home:

Christmas Eve started as a typical day, with me heading to town to pay our (astronomical) electric bill and Alisha and Dani baking 15 loaves of banana bread to pass out. But as the day wore on, it became more Christmassy. We started by driving around to pass out some of the loaves to a few local neighbors we've come to befriend one way or another...

Christine, who runs a nearby shop that we frequent a few times a week to get such staples as casava (tapioca) flour and eggs

Joyce, a neighborhood seamstress who has done a masterful job of converting whatever cold-weather clothes we (foolishly) brought into warm-weather clothes!

After passing out the banana bread, we got ready for a Christmas Eve production downtown. This is in our yard, getting ready for a Christmas picture before heading downtown to the production. ...I'm not showing the actual picture we took since it will most likely be our Christmas card! (which will most likely be going out sometime in late January when we return home, by the way)

We went to KPC's (Kampala Pentecostal Church) Christmas production on Christmas eve downtown. It was an amazing production, with a choir of nearly 200 and an auditorium of a couple thousand, it certainly didn't feel like we were in Uganda! The little kids in the front are the Watoto children's choir. Our friend Doug (shown on-stage) is the worship pastor at KPC and led the singing, though his wife Dawn was in charge of the entire production and conducted the choir. All in all, it was an impressive night and the only time in the entire Christmas season that we actually felt like it was Christmas!

An amazing production - it was easy to forget that we were in Uganda, and for a brief moment it not only felt but looked like Christmas! On the way home from downtown, we counted just 28 places (out of hundreds that we passed) that had some kind of Christmas decorations up (it's not that people are scrooges - quite the opposite, Christmas is huge here - it's just another sign of the poverty. When many people make just $3 a day or less, hanging Christmas lights isn't a high priority.)

Opening presents Christmas morning, Mom did a great job of making our little mini-Christmas special. Since we had written Santa ahead of time requesting that he not come until January, when we'll celebrate Christmas back home, we were surprised that Santa came anyways to deliver a couple of little stocking treats! Special thanks too to Grammy and Grandma who had mailed a number of gifts for the boys!

The boys sporting their new Manchester United uniforms! Brodie is the only real fan so far, and Christiano Ronaldo is his favorite player. But I'm working on Jonah's and Graysen's interest.

After presents, we went to visit our newest niece and nephew Becky and Billy in Jinja. Other than getting a ticket it was a great trip ('overtaking a vehicle on the bridge' crossing over the Nile River - didn't know it was illegal, especially since I was following two motorcycles doing the same thing!) But we spent a great 2 hours with them. Auntie and Uncle were really excited that they recognized us right away, running up to us and wanting to be held! They officially join the family in two weeks when Brian and Shannon arrive in Uganda! Yay!

Brodie and cousin Becky, horsing around!
The 5 cutest little kids in Uganda! (an 'unbiased' father/uncle's opinion)

On the way back from Jinja (about a 2-hour drive), we stopped for lunch at the 'in your face, Chicken Place' or 'Chicken on a stick' - just a typical, ordinary Christmas meal - Ha! (This place was much quieter than usual. Usually there are 25-30 venders crammed around every car that stops!)
Once back in Kampala, we went straight to the ARA club to swim. Other than the 4 guards out front, we were the only ones in the whole place. Everything was locked up, but the pool was open thankfully. We had a blast with the pool to ourselves. There's no diving board so the boys always want me to throw them. Here's Brodie tucking into a cannonball!

Jonah is fearless and tucks early - he makes a mean cannonball!
Here's Graysen's best attempt at a canonball! (no further tucking occurs :) )
Swimming on Christmas - not exactly a long-standing family tradition! (Actually, it was a first for us!)

After the pool, we went home and Mom and Dani did a great job of throwing together whatever food they could find for dinner. We had planned to go out but didn't realize that the entire town shuts down on Christmas! After dinner, some of the eMi people surprised us by stopping by caroling! We joined them or the final two houses! Unfortunately, that evening our neighbors across the street had a *huge* party with loud, booming music! Not even Christmas music either! It was so loud sleep was not an option. It finally shut down at 12:30am so we could get to sleep! Overall, though it was definitely not the average Christmas we're used to, with some fun highlights mixed in (Becky and Billy, and swimming) we made the most of being away from family. And, having family like Dani and Becky and Billy around was a definite bonus! (Dani is not a big fan of pictures and did an artful job of staying out of most of the pictures we took these last two days!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

*Visa Update*

Well, God has answered another prayer, as we are now in possession of all 6 passports with legitimate visas!! I went to immigration this morning right as it opened and no one else was there. So I went in and the lady who had me take a seat was trying to set the time on a little clock her boyfriend (who was working in the same room nearby) had given her for Christmas. I didn't want to appear too obnoxious, so I kind of nonchalantly offered to help, which she was grateful for. So she found the two passports and gave them to me while I 'fixed' her clock. After I handed her the clock, I explained the dilemma and showed her that Alisha's new Special Pass was expiring today, telling her that we were leaving in 4 weeks. She said, "Oh, then I'll give you a visitor's pass for 30 days." I said, "Can you do that?" So she stamped her passport and verified that 30 days was enough, I said, "that would be great", she signed it and that was that. Unbelievable how easy it was! She didn't make me pay or anything!
So I thanked her and made a joke asking why the clock didn't come with any jewelry like a ring loud enough for her boyfriend to hear. They all got a good laugh and I walked out, kind of in shock at how easy it had gone. Thank you God. I'm pretty sure that woman has no idea how many people were praying for her, but I pray God gives her a special blessing this Christmas for the special blessing she unwittingly gave us.
God delights in giving us good gifts, and we are sure thankful for this one. Love and thanks for the prayers!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Immigration Dept. Blues

Before we arrived back in January, we had the paperwork submitted into the Immigration office here to get my work permit approved. However, eMi’s registration here in Uganda was set to expire in July, so the office had to prepare a pretty extensive application to reapply for NGO status (non-governmental organization) – includes a financial impact study, a report of what we’re doing and the local staff we employ, amongst other things. This NGO renewal was submitted in May. Consequently, when I applied for a 2-year work permit in February, I was told that I could not receive a work permit that outlasted the NGO permit so after months of delay, I was granted a 6 month work permit that actually did extend beyond the NGO deadline into October).

Graysen has turned into Mr. Make-Believe. He loves to dress up like he's Peter Pan, or Cap'n Hook, or Santa Claus. The funny thing is, the difference between any of the custumes he chooses are virtually indistinguishable from each other! He uses the triangle draped over his arm as a pretend shield, and the metal stick for the triangle as his pretend sword!

Once I received the work permit, we then were able to apply for Alisha’s dependant’s pass. (The boys submitted for a student visa and received that fairly quickly – those are valid until the middle of April, so they’re set for our trip home.) However, we were told that since my work permit was for so short, that she would just have to get a special pass (standard 3 month visa with optional 2 additional months) – so that’s what we did. However, after 2 months of waiting, they finally gave it to her but instead of tacking it on at the end of when her original entry visa expired, they gave her 5 months from when we submitted it, so she was shorted out a month. Irritating, but not the end of the world, right? Well…
So when my work visa expired in early October, I applied for a renewal. Unfortunately, our NGO renewal was still not approved so my work permit application sat waiting for that. Fortunately, I left the country a few weeks later for my Rwanda trip so I was able to get a 3 month entry visa upon returning to the country – so I am set for the trip home as well (a little background – it’s no big deal if you have an expired visa and are in the country. It only becomes a problem when you try to leave the country –they can fine you, try to get you to pay a bribe, or who knows what else. Usually, if you leave close to when your visa expires (say less than a month), they won’t give you troubles. So when I left in October, my 3 weeks expired visa was not a problem for me).

Graysen's class on the last day before Christmas break

Jonah's class enjoying their Christmas party snack

Because my work visa was waiting, we also had to wait on Alisha’s dependant’s pass since it has to be submitted along with a valid work visa. Finally, at the end of November, our NGO status was approved – 6 months after it was submitted. So we assumed my work permit would be soon to follow…but as I write this it still has not been approved!
Graysen and Jonah singing in the final Chapel of the year at school

So I realized shortly around that time that time was running out to submit for Alisha’s dependant’s pass, and since her visa expired in September, we could potentially run into some problems at immigration when we try to leave Uganda in January. Also, Danielle, who had submitted for a 1 year work visa the same time I did, was stuck in the same limbo situation I was, and her visa had expired in September as well. So I quickly put together another special pass application for each of them (Alisha and Dani) and submitted it – asking for 5 months so they would be covered from September past our January 21st departure date. Here is where the fun begins.
Last Wednesday, we checked and Alisha’s special pass had been approved! We paid the fee and gave them the slip and they said we could pick it up this coming Tuesday December 23rd! I was so excited that I didn’t bother to realize that they only approved it for 3 months – meaning her new visa will expire 3 months from the previous expiration date, which was Sept. 23rd…that’s right, it will expire the day we pick it up! ARRRGGGG!!!!
Brodie got to play and sing 'Angels We Have Heard on High' in front of the school at the final Chapel. Mr. Francis, his piano teacher, is seen adjusting his paper to prepare for the performance.

No stage fright whatsoever - even with a few little mistakes, he was unfazed! I wish I were that cool under pressure in front of a couple hundred people!

Basking in the glow of a rounding applause or his performance!

So, the next day, we checked and Dani’s special pass had been approved, but hers was approved for the 5 months that I had requested! ARRRGGGG!!! Why was Dani given 5 months and Alisha only 3 months makes no sense! So, after all our efforts and expense and probably 25 trips to immigration by Semei (the eMi office manager), we’re still not totally in the clear to leave the country! Oh, remember when I said Alisha was shorted out of 1 month of her visa earlier in the year?! ARRRGGGG!! It offers us a little consolation that virtually everyone else here has similar problems dealing with the Immigration Department.
Graysen in his guards costume for the Chapel show a couple weeks ago (every Friday morning one class from the school leads the Chapel and puts on a play of some kind)

So what will we do? At this point, I’m leaning towards just heading to the airport on Jan. 21st and letting the chips fall where they may. I’ve heard from others (and this was the case for me in October) that if you’re within a month of your expiration date that they don’t give you too much grief. I know several others who have been threatened with a larger fine but ended up paying just 100,000 ugx (about $50). I have never heard of anyone being refused exit.

Alisha & the boys watching the show at the school chapel
I also think that the fact that 5 out of 6 of us will be legitimate will help. I’ll hand them our 5 ‘good’ ones first so hopefully he won’t be into checking details by the time he gets to Alisha’s. If he makes a fuss about it, we’ll have $50 on hand and hope that he goes for that. I do plan on trying to resolve it this Tuesday when I go to pick up their special passes, but I have little hope of being able to make headway since nothing short of a mistake on their part would really be possible for them at that point (the person you pick them up from is different from where you submit it, which is different from where it is approved, which is different from where you pay! So, please pray for this all to work out somehow. We’ve tried to do it ‘by the book’, but apparently that isn’t going to work.

We had a Christmas party to honor our local staff. We hired a matatu to pick up all of the local staff and their families to bring them to the office for the party. All of us international staff cooked our best rendition of Ugandan food for lunch. In all close to 60 people were there!

I think what is going on with the Immigration Department has a lot to do with the fact that they have no computers. The amount of paperwork floating around that place is staggering, and it’s no wonder why the process is bogged down. Actually, I think it’s amazing that anything is able to be accomplished at all given the amount of paperwork. Room after room is filled with files that are labeled alphabetically by hand, crammed together so that 10 files come out when 1 is pulled.

The eMi guards - (L ot R) Head of Security Stephen, Richard, Gideon, Yokannah, Patrick, Emma, Joseph, and in front is Wilson. These guys play a huge part in our ministry - at any time of day or night 24/7, one of them is at the office and another at our house.
Obviously, there is no money for the Dept. to be overhauled with a new computer system – this is afterall a developing country! But I now have new found patience and tolerance for the DMV back in the states – there, at worst you experience a ‘bad day’. With a computer system, I think the Immigration Dept. here would probably improve to a similar level…so if anyone knows anyone at HP or Dell and wants to donate a few million dollars worth of equipment to the Ugandan Immigration Dept., please leave a comment on this post and I’ll put you in contact with the right people. If you do it quickly, it might just win me favor in getting Alisha that extra month back on her visa!

Not your typical Christmas season picture, but it's how we're spending this Christmas season! ...Hey, does this mean we can be members of the 'Polar Bear' club back in the states for swimming on Christmas and New Years Day?! I do feel bad for Santa having to wear that thick, cuddly suit in this suffocating heat and humidity!
If there were snow, Jonah would be making a snow angel. But as it is, he's warming up in the sun on the warm pool deck. (Doesn't it feel like we're a world away?!)

All of this visa stuff notwithstanding, one month from tomorrow we depart!!!…

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where do you stay?

In Africa it's customary to say, "Where do you stay?" instead of "Where do you live?" I (Alisha) got to thinking about that a bit. Back home it seemed I just expected to see the same people at the boy's schools and at church week after week.

We're really missing my niece Traci now that she's on her way back home. (Traci - Dani's sister - is on the left) She was here about 6 weeks and it went by too fast. She was great to have around and it was a big treat for Dani as well.
But here it is a little different. Many families come here for a commitment of just a few months or maybe only a couple of years. Then one day, they are off to another country or back home to start a new chapter of their lives. That's what made me realize: while people may "stay" in one place for a time, there is no guarantee that they will "live" in that place for very long. Accepting this new sense of "normal" has been a big challenge for me.Over the past few weeks in Africa we have had to say a lot of goodbyes. A couple of weeks ago a very sweet family moved back to the States. Although I have only known them for 10 short months, the wife especially, Pamela, was a great example for me here of how to live far away from home, to treat that new place as "home," and to honor God with how you live no matter where you "stay."

Last Sunday Alisha and I joined with some other eMi people to play in an ultimate frisbee tournament. It was a very long day (9am to 7:30pm). But in the end, we won all 5 of our games including the championship match, where we scored the last 4 points of the game to win it 9-8! (Our team is in black, the second place team is in yellow. I'm 5th from the left in back, Alisha isn't pictured).

Last night, we also watched our next-door neighbors and good friends (the family with three young kiddos our boy's ages) drive off for the airport to begin their eight week visit to the States, and then early this morning, our niece Traci left for home in California. In about two weeks, all of the interns but two will also be ending their stay here, as well as Liz (architect for eMi), who will moving back to New Zealand and then possibly on to Sudan. Soooo...... there seems to be some lonely feelings floating around here - especially with the Christmas season coming into full swing, and a few tears (okay maybe a bit more than a few), as we watch people we have gotten to know here move on to where God would have them "stay" next.

Graysen with 'Romeo', one of the long-term volunteers has a sister working in the U.S. Embassy here and this is her dog. There are many perks to being an Embassy worker, one of which includes having them ship your animals here for you!
Though times like this make us miss our family and friends so very much, I am not mentioning any of this to wallow in self-pity but to actually share something God is teaching me. Even as I write this blog, I am realizing God's truth: It really makes no difference where you "stay," but rather how you "live" for God in that place. Our niece Traci has been a perfect example of this truth: though she was here just six short weeks, she impacted many with her willingness to serve God.

The eMi Thanksgiving Table - a lot of people, though not quite as many as at the Taucher household growing up (I think we topped 50 back in the good 'ol days!)
Within the first few days of being here Traci had already organized times throughout the week when she would either ride public or walk several miles to a local orphanage to spend time with the little ones. She devoted three or four hours a day, at least three times a week, to just playing, cuddling, and praying for those children. Throughout this time she shared all God had taught her here with her friends and family back home in the form of emails.

The eMi group - 36 people in all came over to our house for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner
Unbeknownst to Traci, God was using these shared thoughts to rally several families in the States to serve through giving money for food and supplies for the orphanage. About a week later Traci joined Graysen and I on our weekly grocery run so that she could purchase simple supplies for the baby's home with the money sent from those hearing her story. It has been amazing and touching to see how God used Traci here in such big ways. While she could have just had a six week vacation in Africa, she opted for sacrificing her own comforts to do God's work instead.

We hosted 'New Zealand' night in honor of Liz, a long-term eMi volunteer from NZ who arrived with us but is leaving next week. We had 29 people over to watch the movie 'The World's Fastest Indian', which is about a Kiwi man who likes fast motorcycles.
Beyond her many hours at the orphanage, Traci also greatly blessed us Crawford's and Dani with her time, energy, smiles, encouraging words, and ever-willing attitude to help wherever needed. Less than 24 hours after she has left, we are already going through Traci withdrawals. COME BACK!!! :)I wanted to share one last thought which is actually an excerpt I read in a book today called 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Aunt Alisha holding Becky (top) and Uncle Brad holding Billy (below). Alisha's brother is adopting these two twins and hopes to be coming to pick them up next month!
The book is about the author's battle for life and purpose after suffering a very tragic car accident. Upon realizing that he would never be as "healthy or strong again" as he was prior to the accident, the author writes, "The sooner I make peace ....and accept the way things are, the sooner I'll be able to live in peace and enjoy my new normalcy."

The boys with their new cousins, Becky and Billy
These words shouted at me as I read them while riding the school bus home from swimming today with Brodie's class. In times of saying goodbyes, and in times of missing friends and family and the way things used to be back home, I need to remember as author Don Piper says, that what I need is not "mourning.....and going back over the way things used to be or what I used to have that I don't have anymore. Instead, I need to discover what I have now........" While it is sad to send off family visitors, staff members, and interns after their "stay" here is done, I would not trade the experience or the things that God has taught our family through "living" in Africa for this time.

After visiting the orphanage, we went to a nearby resort to let the boys swim. After a very quiet and lazy 45 minutes of swimming, all of a sudden a school showed up with 150 Ugandan kids! Talk about a free for all - those kids were so wound up the noise was deafening! But the boys had fun playing and interacting with them, so it was a good time still (though not at all peaceful!). Test: Can you find the only muzungu boy in the pool?! Hint - upper pool.
How amazing it is to realize that all over the world God is using each of us to reach out to others and share God's love not only through where we "stay" but moreso through how we choose to "live" day to day. We miss you all very much and can't wait to see you. We will be coming for a visit home in just under seven weeks. :) We are excited and so blessed to be able to have the opportunity to come home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Random November updates

A Family shot at the rock quarry, just before dusk

Brief, random updates over the past few weeks:

* We're very much enjoying having my niece Traci here for these 6 weeks. She is a great person and a lot of fun to have around. It's been a lot of fun for Dani too, as the two of them have been going out on the town some - karaoke, a concert, walking to dinner, etc. It's going to be hard to say goodbye to her on Dec. 3rd.

* Our water has been turning off for longer periods recently. It's mainly because the lines are so bad they keep breaking, but they are also trying to do some bigger repairs. This past week it was off for 2 days, so for the first time since we've been here we actually ran out of water in our storage tank. Unfortunately, Traci was in the shower all lathered up when it ran out, so Alisha had to bring her some water from our drinking water cooler to rinse off. It ran out at 1pm in the afternoon and the city water didn't turn back on until almost 10pm. The good thing was, right after it ran out, a huge thunderstorm rolled through. So, seeing it coming, I flew to the store on my motorcycle and picked us up 3 jerry cans and raced home from work. I put on my raingear, and joined by Jonah and Graysen, went out in the front yard to collect the water coming off our roof and store it in the jerry cans. The storm easily filled the cans, so we did have some water to flush the toilets with and give the boys a bath before bedtime. Boy were we thankful to have it come back on! I took a cold shower right before bed, but didn't care because I was just glad to see water coming out of the nozzle. But alas, the water is off once again this evening.

Traci and Dani joined us for a walk up to the rock quarry that's about a 1/2-mile from our house. You can hear and feel the dynamite from the blasts every now and then. The amazing part is that from chunks about the size of footballs, they are broken down into various sizes of gravel by hand with a chisel. We pass these guys every day, just sitting there pounding the rocks down into gravel less than 1/2 and inch in size. The sad thing is, you can get machine-graded gravel, but the hand-chiselled sort is much less expensive. The guys probably make between $1 and $2 a day.

Here are the piles of smaller rocks the guys work on all day. This picture was taken right before both Brodie and Jonah were reprimanded for starting to pick up the rocks to throw them. (Not seen in the shot is the small group of Ugandan guys standing behind me watching very intently as their handy-work is trod upon by two clueless little muzungu boys who would come dangerously close to undoing a half a day's work!)

*Work for me is going really well. My project from September was finished late last week, and now we're working on finalizing the Rwanda project and another small one I started this past Summer. By the time the interns go home in mid-December, they all need to be finished. But I am really loving my job, not only the project side of things but also the project approval process that Chad put me in charge of shortly after I arrived. I really enjoy meeting and coordinating with all the different ministries we work with to help them get their projects to a point where they're ready to submit an eMi application, and also juggling our schedule to try to match up with all the ministries waiting in line for eMi to do their project. It's a priviledge to be able to serve so many great ministries.

Brodie - he's looking older these days, especially when his mouth is open and you can see his big front teeth.

* I've been coaching Brodie and Jonah's soccer team at Heritage - the U7 team. We're pretty small and inexperienced compared to the other teams we're playing, but the boys try hard and do pretty well. We had a game this past Thursday and lost 4-1. Brodie is doing really well, especially for being a little guy. He practices all the time so he has good ball skills, he's just a lot smaller than most of the other players. But he's got a strong left foot, much stronger than his right interestingly since he's right-handed in everything else. Jonah is doing well too, though he's a 5 year old playing with 6 and 7 years olds so it's a little tough for him to keep up sometimes. But when he focuses he's really aggressive (read: "fouls a lot"). In the game Thursday, I had to mainly just get him to stop talking and start playing! He was pleading his case with everyone from the referee, to me, to the other coach, to a man walking by the field (seriously!) about the other team doing something that he thought wasn't right! Finally, I just yelled, "Jonah, let it go and start playing!" and Alisha started encouraging him. Once he heard someone telling him he was doing a great job, he didn't stop hustling the rest of the game. So much for my coaching - mom knew he just needed some encouragement. ...Next time I'll just threaten to bench him if he doesn't stop talking and play! ;)
*You can pray for security here. With rising food costs and the holiday season approaching, crime (mainly robbery) always ramps up around this time, we're told. Pray especially for our guards, who are on the front-lines. So far we've heard stories of more crime around, though not against muzungus so who knows.

Camera shy Jonah (he was just sitting there on the couch with a blank stare, until I told him I wanted to take his picture. This is the pose he produced in about 1/2 a second)

* Praise - the exchange rate here has skyrocketed in the past few weeks. I'm not sure I understand it fully, but apparently when the stock market and economy tumbles, the value of the dollar does well against the rest of the world (I know it doesn't work that way, but it's funny that that is what has happened). When we moved here in January, a dollar bought around 1710 ugandan shillings (ugx). It steadily dropped until late September, going as low as 1575. But then it turned and started climbing rapidly. Today, I checked and the exchange rate is up to 1911 (it topped 2000 last week!).

Graysen doing what he loves most - relaxing on the couch in front of a video (The Chipmunks)

* Alisha and I are running in the MTN Marathon - 10K race this Sunday. There are supposedly 10,000 people signed up to race counting all 3 races (marathon, 1/2-marathon and 10K). Most of the eMi people are running the race too, so it should be fun. And since they shut the city down for it, hopefully we won't have to battle the typical (ob)noxious mix of dust, exhaust, burning trash and fermenting trash smells that are standard for any other time we go running. I seriously think living in Kampala is worse than smoking a pack a day. Unfortunately, I'm not even getting the benefit of having that raspy, sultry sounding voice I'd be getting if I'd taken up smoking!

Using rainwater from the thunderstorm that we collected out front, Graysen volunteered to take the first cold bucket bath. Not the cleanest of water, but then again, not the cleanest of kids either!

Alisha and Graysen after his 'bucket' bath

* Our car here needs prayer. It is killing us (not literally, thankfully). We had to put 4 new tires on this month, have the front breaks re-done (pads and 1 of the disks), and now it's running so sluggishly that it barely makes it up the hills. So back in the shop it goes tomorrow. I would consider selling it, but I'm afraid that the next car will be just as bad. Please pray for wisdom as to whether we should hold on to it or sell it. I can't get a read on whether it's a terrible car or if it's just the nature of used cars here.

Santa Graysen in his sleigh

* My next project will be a youth training center and camp about 30 miles southeast of Kampala, right on Lake Victoria. It is a beautiful site and should be a great trip. I don't see anything out of Uganda coming in the Spring, but there's a chance of me going to Kenya and/or Zambia closer to Summer, which I would be excited about. I think I like the challenge of doing projects in other places, especially where there is less regulation and therefore worse construction practices. I also know that there are ministries outside of Uganda who have less opportunity to connect with eMi than ministries here since access to us is so easy for those ministries in country. I'm realizing that I'm starting to see the bigger picture for the impact that eMi can have as it relates to projects in more remote areas in Africa (as well as all over the world). The idea of mobilizing professionals from the Western world to get involved with missions work on a short term basis has really caught fire in me. It seems like such a doable thing for so many people who otherwise would never consider missions work - especially engineers and architects. I think eMi is a great model for other professions too. It's a tangible way of helping - using the skill you were given by God and refined in school to help people in a part of the world that doesn't have access to those skills. I look forward to the day when you hear about an earthquake striking somewhere in the 3rd world and only minimal death and damage is reported due to the missions work of groups like eMi and Engineers without Borders.

Dani and Jonah doing their best to play the role of reindeer for Santa Graysen (the whole of the shenanigans was Graysen's idea)