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)