Saturday 25 January 2019
I’m 11 days into my trip to Uganda and as I continue to find my feet in a very different culture, I am helpfully reminded of these verses:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23
Everything here is very different and a bit strange.
Back home, if you ‘pop to the shops’, it means taking a quick and easy trip to buy a couple of things nearby. Yesterday, I ‘popped to the shops’ to buy a sigiri (a charcoal stove), a broom and some mangoes.
But I returned sticky, sweaty and sleepy.
I wrote in my last letter that driving on the roads here is crazy but it turns out walking around is even crazier. The streets are buzzing with tooting cars, people staring and shouting “Mzungu” (Swahili for ‘white person’), clucking chickens and bleating goats. The musty dust gets in your shoes and eyes and the smells of fresh fish, meat and chapatis fill the air. The few pavements that do exist are often ignored by boda drivers and are uneven and holey – you’ve got to watch your step to avoid falling into any deep ditches. Roadside sellers stand by their trucks, piled high with huge, bright pineapples and watermelons. Other, bigger trucks drive by, stuffed full with enormous cows, strung up by their horns enroute to the slaughter houses. Taxi ‘touts’ hang out windows trying to capture customers. (Taxis here are little vans that hold about 20 people at a time!) It’s all very chaotic and so far from a gentle stroll down Harpenden high street!
Communicating with locals isn’t easy either. I’ve been trying to speak some Lugandan by repeating words that I’ve heard. I’d understood that the word ‘nnyabo’ meant hello. I was proudly using it out and about but it turns out it actually means ‘madam’, which explains why some of the men reacted a bit strangely.
The majority of the locals do speak English though, which is good. But you’ve got to speak very slowly, pronouncing words and structuring phrases as locals do. My ‘host-mum’ calls it ‘Lugandish’. I still need to get used to this, especially speaking slowly!
As well as language, I’m getting used to social interactions, which are completely different from home. It’s a people pleasing culture where everyone is very careful not to offend others. In England, when we get to know someone, we might ask them about family or where they’re from. Over here, some may take offence or become suspicious if you ask such direct questions. Instead, Ugandans talk more about what is happening day-to-day, so I’ve got to get used to this!
With all of these changes, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed.
But what comfort there is in those verses from Lamentations, which remind us of our Heavenly Father who never changes. His compassions never fail, His great love for us always stays the same, He is utterly faithful to us wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
Our circumstances and our surroundings are forever changing but God gives us grace upon grace each day and He is with us every step of the way – what a huge comfort! It has been great to remind myself of this when I’ve felt a bit scared. When a little daughter of a butcher shouted “mzungu mzungu” whilst waving a bloody knife at me, I thought to myself “it’s ok! God is with me every step of the way!” I did the same when I first ‘popped to the shops’ and managed to burst a whole bag of milk all over the shop floor. Or when I felt ill the other day, or literally just now when a funny looking insect landed beside me. Lots of mad, funny different things keep happening but God’s faithfulness stays the same.
God has also shown me much grace through the loving kindness of my wonderful host family.
My ‘host-parents’ are helping me to find my feet in this strange new world. They’ve welcomed me into their home, they’ve taught me lots about Ugandan culture and are really looking after me! Their three kids, my ‘host-siblings’ are brilliant. I’ve loved playing with them and have learnt loads from them too! It’s been so interesting seeing what life is like for my host family. I’ve enjoyed trying Ugandan food, chasing chickens out the house before they lay eggs on the sofas and picking g-nuts with Teddy and the kids (Teddy is a lovely lady who helps with home-schooling). There are so many other cool things here, some that I’m probably forgetting. The storms are amazing, the birds are incredible and the other day we found four kittens in a tree in the garden!
Next week, I will start working. I’ll be attending lectures, chapel services, Bible studies, meetings and helping at Sunday school for the first time. Over the next few days, I’m due to move out of my host family’s house and into a nearby guest house. I feel like I’m going off to uni again – we’ve been busy sorting out furniture and things ready for the big move and I’m about to head to the shops to get some final bits and pieces. I haven’t got a set move date yet and there are a few complications, but my host ‘mum’ says it’s giving me a true taste of the Ugandan way of life! Whatever happens though, God is here every step of the way- do pray for patience and that we’d trust His timing!
Thanks for reading, I’ll write again soon.
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