25 May 2011

Miserable Missionaries

In early 2008, my health started to decline. I eventually became aware that I was suffering from burnout (or physical exhaustion). As I gradually regained my health I learned that I must monitor my own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

During my next furlough (time in the States), I was able to gradually recover. In the process, I learned a lot. One of the most effective measures I put into place was forming an accountability team, consisting of four women that know me well. To put it in their own words, they "have invested their lives in mine"!

A key realization we made was that I must pro-actively take frequent get-away trips. They are to be a time to unwind and refresh. A time to rest and recuperate. I think missionaries sometimes wear busyness as a badge of honor. But this is dangerous. We must give ourselves permission to set aside our busy schedules and take time to restore our souls!

And so, last month I joined my fellow-Omaha missionary friends - Julie and Ryan - for a lovely three days on Banda Island, in Lake Victoria. We had an absolutely amazing time!

 "Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake... " (Mark 3:7)

We had ample time and opportunity to explore...

... hours upon hours to sit and read...

... favorable conditions to enter our own thoughts and enjoy good music...

... the leisure to sip a cup of tea... or two... or three...

... and a perfect setting to watch an incredible sunrise!
"Be still and know that I am God."
- Psalm 46:10

"Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest."
- Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)

"Emotional fatigue can result from excessive work, but more often it is simply because the out-go is greater than the intake."
- Dr. Bob Brenner

"One has to find balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself."
- Jessye Norman

"Miserable missionaries are not very effective."
- Michelle Perry, Love Has a Face

23 May 2011

Dom's Banda Island

One of many storms we watched off in the distance

The cottage Julie and I stayed in

The three missionaries from Omaha, Nebraska!

This is Dom, the owner of the island

 It's very unfortunate, but Dom passed away on May 8th (just 2.5 weeks after our very enjoyable stay with him). All three of us were very saddened when we received the news.

Dom was an amazing man. So simple and so humble. He had a very generous heart, inviting folks to visit him and enjoy his island. He was so entertaining, with incredible true stories of his life. He was a great cook, making each of our meals a work of art. He told me so many things about the various birds on the island; he knew not only their common names, but their scientific names, as well.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him and to stay on his wonderful island!

Dom cooking over a wood fire

You can see Dom has both Julie and I grinning; it's a natural talent of his

I think a person could sit and listen to Dom's stories for hours. We sure did.

Dom uses a "torch" so we could see what we scooped up in the near dark

Dom welcomes more guests as they arrive.

Dominc Symes - a great host and a great guy!

19 May 2011

Ssese Islands, our boat rides

Boarding our boat taxi was an adventure in itself! There are numerous "porters" at Kasenyi Landing who offer their services to carry passengers from the dry land to the boat... for a mere 20 cents! My goodness, they are sturdy and strong! You can see from the pictures below that they use a different technique for men and women.

The guy behind my porter is carrying most of our bags. The white plastic bags contain groceries that we carried to Banda Island at the owner's request. Another guy carried the rest of the groceries.

Safely onboard!

The ride was long and somewhat tiresome. Julie had a bout of motion sickness from the very rough water. Our boat really swayed to the left and the right... back and forth... and up and down. It was almost dark by the time we got to our first stop, another island. From there, we shifted to a private-hire boat for the last 20 minutes.

The next series of photos are from our boat ride going back to Kasenyi Landing... after our stay on Banda Island. In the photo above, we are on the private-hire boat in the foreground. It came up alongside the larger boat, and while a few hands held the two boats side-by-side, we climbed onboard.

Ryan carried on an entertaining conversation with some of the passengers, many of whom were fishermen.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth at least 10,000 words. I believe you will enjoy the four videos I took at Kasenyi Landing, as we were carried on-board and as we headed out on the boat.

There is also a video of a storm on the island. We had to wait it out before we could leave.

Click here to access all five of them.

18 May 2011

Ssese Islands, Kasenyi Landing

The Ssese Islands are a cluster of eighty-four islands in the northwest portion of Lake Victoria. Forty-three of the islands are inhabited. The largest island, Bugala, is 25 miles in length.

The Islands are inhabited by the Bantu-speaking Bassese tribe. In ancient times the islands were one of the most important spiritual centers of the region.

The principal industry in the Ssese Islands is fishing for the huge Nile Perch, with much of the catch being exported.

We took two motorbike taxis plus a matatu to get from Ryan's apartment in Kampala to Kasenyi Landing, near Entebbe. The landing is where we would get a boat taxi to our destination - Banda Island.

The landing is a busy place, with all types of cargo being loaded onto the many boats.

Ryan is ready for our four-hour boat ride in the sun!

12 May 2011

Kampala, exploring the city, part 2

Kampala is the largest city (1.6 million people) and capital of Uganda. The city is said to be built on seven hills, although as the population continues to grow it's now more like 24 hills. Kampala has a diverse ethnic population, although the Buganda - the local ethnic group - make up over 60% of the greater Kampala region.

This is the view from Ryan's apartment balcony.

One day we hopped on 3 motorbike taxis to head out for lunch. While we ate our two scrumptious pizzas at a nice outdoor Italian place, a plane did aerobatic flight maneuvers right overhead. Although we're not sure what the occasion was, we enjoyed the entertainment.

A clever sign indicating the location of the men's "water closet".

One evening, we again hopped on 3 motorbike taxis to have dinner at Ryan's favorite pork joint. The pork is in the round compartment in the center. Starting in the upper righthand corner of my tray and going around clockwise, there's also avocado, matooke (cooked banana) with a sauce, a small pile of salt, cassava, greens, and sliced tomato. ALL very delicious and very inexpensive!

We also stopped by Ryan's favorite "street food" spot! There were numerous small kiosks preparing a large variety of foods and also a few selling other items. In this photo, I'm waiting for the young man to prepare a "rollex" - a clever way to say "rolled eggs". It consists of 2 fried eggs with chopped tomato, rolled up in a chapati. It was quite delicious!

Ryan is a diehard Manchester United "football" fan. Julie and I joined him one evening to watch Man U vs. Manchester City in the FA Cup Semi-finals (the most prestigious knockout tournament in England). He took us to one of his favorite hangouts - Yigona Guest House in the Mutundwe neighborhood. The place was jam-packed with well over 100 fans... all eyes glued on one of two TV sets. Manchester United lost to their local rivals Manchester City 1-0. It was an upset of sorts and Ryan was a bit disappointed with the outcome.

While we were in Kampala, there was a lot of unrest in the city. In many locations, we saw a lot of armed police and military. This large armored vehicle is designed to shoot teargas at crowds. The cost of basic commodities and the price of fuel has been spiraling in Uganda. Low-income families are really struggling to survive. Peaceful "walk to work" demonstrations have been held in the city twice a week during much of April. One of President Museveni's key opponents - Kizza Besigye - has been arrested numerous times as he participates in the demonstrations. Museveni ordered the police to crack down on the demonstrators, causing rioting, injuries, and even some deaths.

If you want to see some great videos from Kampala, please visit my video page!

You'll find a video of the flooded downtown streets that Julie and I encountered the morning we left the city, two very fun - and spontaneous - traditional dances at the church we attended, my wild and crazy motorbike-taxi ride in the downtown traffic, and one of a child entertaining himself with an old tire. Enjoy!

01 May 2011

Kampala, exploring the city

"Walking always on the same path spoils it."
- Ugandan proverb

I've always enjoyed seeing what's around the next bend in the road. My mom says that when I was very young, my mantra was often, "Gotta see, gotta see! All the time, gotta see!"

And so... I was excited to see Uganda for the first time! It is Kenya's neighbor to the west and is a part of the East Africa Community (along with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi).

This photo is at the border crossing at Busia, Kenya and Busia, Uganda. The large billboard is Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's president. He was recently re-elected for a fourth term; he has already been in office for 25 years! The young men in the pink shirts are bicycle boda boda (taxi) drivers. They're eagerly waiting for customers.

 One of two large bus parks in downtown Kampala; so much more organized than any in Nairobi!

Under each of these large umbrellas is someone selling their wares in the bus park

The three photos above are of a large street market area

Sikh temple

Shopping at a large outdoor produce market