Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Photo journal

We've been having a lot of fun these past couple weeks with Mom and Dad Berry and Danielle, hosting Alisha's brother's team for a night in Kampala, and sadly saying goodbye to our dear intern friends. So I thought pictures would be the best way to share it all.
(top) This past Sunday we took a drive South to the equator. It was about 80 km and took about an hour and a half. It's more of a rest stop on the side of the road, but it was cool to finally make it there after being so close this whole time (our house is 32 km (20 miles) from the equator, as a crow flies). Oh, the water really does swirl in the opposite direction on the southern hemisphere, and drop straight down at the equator! (next) There were some local children nearby, and they had a homemade soccer ball they were playing with, so Brodie jumped all over that. So while Grandma and Grandpa shopped for souvenirs, the boys played a full-court soccer match with the local kids.
(next) Alisha and Dani sat and talked with some of the local kids not interested in the soccer game. (next) After the long day trip, we went to what is becoming our favorite places to go out to eat - the 'Coconut Shack', an Indian restaurant that is relatively cheap. And, they make omelettes and 'chips' (french fries) that Brodie can eat. (next) The group crammed into our little safari vehicle for the day trip.
(next) Alisha has been leading 'girls workout night' at our house each Tuesday for the ladies of eMi. So the men in the house hole up in our rooms as the ladies "Bring it" with Tony Horton, Shaun T, and the Beachbody workout videos. Shameless plug - for more info, check out: http://www.milliondollarbody.com/bbst/homepage.php?homepage_Username=AlishaC.
(next) Interns Zach, Heather, Jill and Jared with our boys on their last day. Sad to say goodbye to our friends, some of which have been here the whole time we've been here. (next) Intern Jared with Graysen - Jared was so good to our boys and was a lot of fun to have around. I got to spend a lot of time with him as he was on my project trip and then I was his mentor for his time here. There has just got to be a way to get him to marry into the Crawford family...LaBrie girls?? :) (next) Jill and Jonah - Jonah definitely had a crush on Jill as he always gravitated to her when she was around. Jill and Heather were also so good to our boys and served as our babysitters many times. (last) Alisha's brother's team in the food line at the guest house where they stayed for a night here in Kampala on their way to Jinja. From the reports we have heard so far they have had an awesome trip here in Uganda.
We are leaving in the morning for a week, to visit Sipi Falls and the town of Mbale in Eastern Uganda, then to Jinja for 3 days for some more fun (like whitewater rafting) and finally up to Murchison Falls State Park for our safari. Alisha's parents are so nice to be giving us such a fun vacation! I'll post all about it including pictures when we return at the end of the month.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brother-in-law's blog

If you'd like to see some cool pictures of Uganda and read about a short-term mission trip Alisha's brother is leading here right now, check out: http://briancberry.blogspot.com/. He's a much better photographer than I am, and plus it's interesting to hear a newcomer's perspective every now and then. Already, it's easy for us to look past certain things that used to stand out. We definitely fight against it, but it's somewhat inevitable.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

'The Visitors'

Mom and Dad Berry arrived safe and sound, only 2 days late! For those of you who don't know the story, on the morning they were set to depart, after having checked-in online and printed out their boarding passes, they awoke to an email in their inbox from British Airways informing them that their flight had been cancelled! No alternative plan for them or other path forward, just a cordial apology for 'any inconvenience it may cause'.
Well, to make a long story short, after 4 1/2 hours of tense phone conversations, they were finally able to catch the last 2 seats on a flight leaving 2 days later. (At one point, the best BA was offering was a flight leaving on July 21st!) Since those last 2 seats were in business class, they were forced to pay $900 extra to make the flight. What terrible customer service! Anyway, they spoke with the people at the airport and were assured that if they wrote a letter of complaint that they almost certainly would be refunded this extra amount. Fortunately, that was the end to their travel problems as the flights were smooth and their luggage intact - they paid for 3 extra bags full of supplies for us and treats for the boys! According to the BA airport staff, the reason the flight was cancelled was because they were short 1 cabin crew member! I still just can't believe that's true, but if it is, it's pretty ridiculous - I'm sure they could have found dozens of passengers willing to volunteer!

So, I can't tell you how happy we are to have them here! It is so fun to have family here with us, seeing where we live, walking the dirt roads and stopping off at the little markets with us, meeting the people that we've met, and even being in the car when we've been stopped by the police (just a common check-point on the road-side). We've been doing some fun things too, like going to the zoo, Didi's World (an amusement park of sorts), out to eat and lots of other things that we don't get to normally do. And to their credit, they haven't had a heart attack driving in our car on these wild Ugandan roads!

Work-wise, yesterday we finished our report for the Iganga project I went on in May! It's so nice to have that done - the interns worked so hard to get it all finalized, which included 13 bound copies of the 20 page written report and 30 or so 11x17 engineering drawings, plus appendices and calculation sheets. It's amazing how fast it all came together, and since the ministry has the funds necessary to proceed, it will be fun to watch it come to life in the coming months.

Since we were ahead of schedule on my project, I also provided the design for a Library/Computer Lab building on one of the other Summer projects trips that Chad led, so that was great to be able to contribute to both Summer project teams. I have also been working with Liz (architect) in our office on an out-door, thatch-roofed church structure for a ministry called 'Oasis-Bambejja'.

In the meantime, I have been working through the project approval process (if you remember, Chad is passing off to me the responsibility of receiving, approving and scheduling all the projects for our office) for our Fall projects. I will be leading a trip to a site 2 hours North of Kampala near Luwero, Uganda, as well as travelling to Kigali, Rwanda to help on another project and scout out my Spring 2009 project, AND it looks like I may be travelling to Zambia to help on yet another project too! So this Fall should be plenty busy for me at work!

We are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of my niece Danielle who arrives early Monday morning to live with us for a whole year! We are so excited for that. And, she is travelling over with Alisha's brother Brian and family and his team of 15 high schoolers and staff who will be here for a 2-week mission trip (Brian and fam are staying for 3 weeks to spend extra time with us). The next 4 weeks are going to be a great time around here, having family around and a lot of fun things planned, like a safari and maybe white-water rafting on the Nile!
Pictures: (top) We went and visited 'Hassan', a 2nd-grade Ugandan boy that Alisha's parents have been supporting now for just under 2 years (before we decided to move here). It was amazing to find out that he lives less than 5 miles from us! He was very cute and shy, and we had a great time playing with the kids at his school during recess. Her parents brought him a soccer ball and a bunch of clothes and school supplies - he seemed to be overwhelmed by it all since it was probably more than he's ever owned in his whole life combined! (next) We stopped for a family photo outside the Africa Renewal Ministries office - where Hassan goes to school; (next) Alisha organized a work day in Brodie's classroom at school, painting the walls yellow. eMi interns Jill, Heather and Jared all pitched in. It was a lot of fun, though I hate getting paint on me! (next) The women of eMi (most of them) at 'New Zealand Night' at our house last night. Liz showed us a New Zealand film about the native Maori people and whales ('Whale Rider'), and the ladies decided to dress semi-formal. From left, they are: Chesna Gamble (Chad's daughter), Intern Jill, Intern Heather, Architect Liz, Intern-Coordinator/Architect Megan, Intern Sarah, fellow staff Environmental Engineer Janet, and Household Engineer Alisha. (next) "Jet lag". Fortunately, after a week and a half they are now well-adjusted. (next) One of the things about living in a 3rd world country is that you have to learn to do things that you otherwise would never try to do back home. Case in point - the touch-pad on my laptop was broken, so after much convincing, we finally got Dell to agree to send the replacement part to the Berry's so they could bring it to me to replace. The problem was, to replace it, you have to completely dismantle the laptop! So, after downloading and printing out the 20+ pages of instructions, armed with my grounding wrist-strap attached to the metal fan frame seen in the background, I took it apart and got it back together and now amazingly, it works! (next) the boys with Alisha and an Ostrich at the zoo - I've never been so close to an Ostrich and couldn't believe how tall they were. They were around 7 feet tall! (next) You can't see the donkey he's sitting on, but I thought this was a rare, great picture of Brodie. Usually his fake smile is all we get. The boys each took a donkey ride at the zoo. But the funniest part about the zoo was the fact that the monkeys were not in cages! They had a few special types of monkeys that were caged, but the wild monkeys were everywhere, following you around in hopes of some food scraps. I was thinking that the other animals must be thinking, "Hey! What gives? How come they all get to roam around free?!"