Archive for the ‘Uganda’ Category

Return to Uganda

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

In early January we were happy to leave the “Polar Vortex” which had invaded northern Indiana and head to sunny warm Uganda again. The experiences of our two-day travel are hopefully never to be repeated—everything went wrong which could have gone wrong! However, after 15 hours of uninterrupted sleep after we finally arrived, we were very happy to be back “home” here.

hotel neighborhood

hotel neighborhood

We are being lodged in a quiet hotel near where we formerly lived. We have a huge room with a sitting area and a small kitchen which includes a “cold-drinks-type” refrigerator placed in a walk-in closet. Every day the person who cleans our room folds the blankets, arranges the pillows, and adds a flower/green to our bed in a different way. We have taken a couple of walks in the area; there are many large up-scale homes. We have noticed changes in the past 1 ½ years in the city where we are located. Right now the air quality is extremely bad; there is a constant deep haze which makes it difficult to see the hills sometimes. New construction is still going on everywhere. The big noticeable place for us was near the office. When we left, they were digging a large hole and now there is a huge 5-storey mall nearly finished. Some roads that we often drove on have been repaired. A number of the street vendors have been cleared out but Friday market in Kamwokya is the same.

It has been fantastic to meet so many of our friends again. The first day we were here, Maureen came to visit us. She is going to school to become a Public Health Worker and is enjoying it.

office staff

office staff

The office staff have changed some in the past 1 ½ year but again so good to see them. We were able to contact and visit with others who have recently left the office. We also were able to visit with or at least talk on the phone with several Uganda partners. And of course, it was fun to meet up with Stephen and Deanna during their time in Kampala.

During the work week our standard day begins with a large breakfast here at the hotel. It has been the same for 17 days! It is good but big so that after the first morning we asked for ONE breakfast which we share and 2 coffees.

breakfast-first course

breakfast-first course

We begin with a plate of fresh fruit (mango and pineapple), followed by a Spanish omelet, meat (either bacon or sausage—and there is a lot!), garnish of tomato and cucumber, toast, and coffee. We get to the office about 8:30, work, lunch at nearby restaurants, work, back to the hotel about 5, tea, games, and a salad supper which we make ourselves. We have gone out for several great evenings also!

Oh yes, we did come to work! Our first day was to empty the storeroom of all the old files which had been “dumped” here and do a broad sort by years.

beginning project

beginning project

We returned any financial files for the last 7 years to the storeroom to be kept for auditing purposes. During the rest of our two weeks we sorted by partner or organization. Any financial receipts (older than 7 years) could be burned. We found folders labeled wrongly or filled with a variety of topics. We had stacks and stacks of papers not even in folders. But at the end of two weeks we had most things sorted, labeled, and some files even in chronological order. More work could be done but we feel we made progress. We did spend one day sorting and organizing a box of South Sudan files to be sent back to Akron. When we finished we had a large 30” x 60” x 30” container full of material that needed to be either shredded or burned because it had names, contact information, or financial information on it. We wish we were here for the bonfire! And that doesn’t take in to account the many waste baskets we filled and emptied with material that went out to the trash because it was not “sensitive” documents.

Now on to Arusha, Tanzania!


Friday, May 25th, 2012

The past several weeks have been a series of saying good-by to our many friends here.  This blog will mainly be photos of people.  To most of you they may not mean much but to us they mean a lot.  These are the people who have made our past 15 months a special time.

We held an AGM (Annual General Meeting) to which our partners and friends are invited.  It is a general business meeting but also a time to learn from each other.  Two people talked about their programs—a new peace project in the west of Uganda and a SALT experience.  We also held a “panel discussion” on “Uganda’s Known Killer—Corruption.”

We held our last team meeting and were able to say goodbye to our present service worker and SALTer.  We welcomed our the new Country Representative.  We had an all-day Advisors’ Meeting and ended the day with a supper which included MCC national staff and their families.

We took one last trip to visit one of our Global Family school projects.  MCC supports 30 girls at the school and also supports projects that help everyone at the school—energy efficient stove, solar lighting, lightening rods, etc.  The Sisters there have become very dear to us.

And of course, our last farewells to our National Staff in the office and those that help us around the house.  It has been hard to say farewell but we know that the MCC program will continue.

Lake Bunyonyi

Monday, May 21st, 2012

One more jaunt before we leave Uganda for now.  Our new rep arrived the first of May and is now taking over.  So we took a long weekend to visit Lake Bunyonyi.  We had earlier seen the Lake from mountains above when we drove to Rwanda in November.  We knew we wanted to return to explore it more even though it is a 7 hour drive from Kampala.

We left our car at a secure site near the lake and took a boat to our lodging—Jajama Panorama.  The “resort” is located on the side of a hill overlooking the lake.  Such beautiful views!  This is at the end of the low tourist season and we were the only ones staying; we had personal treatment!  Mercy served as our host and cooked delicious meals and Martin kept the wood fire going so that we would have hot water.

Lake Bunyonyi, located about 6000 feet altitude, is surrounded by mountains rising up to 7500 feet.  It is considered the second deepest lake in Africa and is one of the few freshwater lakes in East Africa that is considered safe (disease-free) for swimming.  We didn’t swim even though it looked inviting.  We did paddle our own dugout canoe two mornings looking for birds and enjoying the scenery and the peacefulness.  “Lake Bunyonyi” means “place of many little birds.”  We saw quite a few birds and were able to photo some of the larger ones.

We hiked around the resort.  It rained during our first night so some of the paths were a bit slippery.  Ron waited at the bottom of one small decline as Sally Jo came sliding down!

One afternoon Sally Jo hiked up the hill and along the terraces and hilltop.  She was “guided” by two primary school boys. This is a highly fertile area and farming is done on terraces.  She saw much maize, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green beans growing.  She also went out to a point where much of the lake was visible—it is a long narrow lake with many inlets and many islands.  One island is named “Punishment Island.”  [The Bakiga (ethnic group in this area) used to leave unmarried pregnant girls on this small island with a lone tree  – to die of hunger or while trying to swim to the mainland (swimming skills were rare). This was to educate the rest, to show them not to do the same. A man without cows to pay the bride price could go to the island and pick up a girl. The practice was abandoned in the first half of the 20th century.  –from Wikipedia, though we heard the story numerous times.]

We very much enjoyed the relaxing few days—scenery, birds, water, games.  Now to the final days of packing, one more all-day meeting, and final good-bys.  It has been a good 15 months here.


Sunday, April 8th, 2012

We realize that we have not posted many photos of Kampala itself.  This, then, is just a collection of pictures.  It’s hard to capture this city of many contrasts.  Kampala was originally described as a city of seven hills—comparing itself to Rome.  A description of Kampala now says a city of at least thirty hills!  As in any large city—population 1½ to 2 million—one can find nearly everything.  There is the modern mall and the local market.  There are poorer sections and high class sections.   There is food to buy beside the road and there are fabulous restaurants.  There are a lot of new buildings being built.  And in Kampala there is nearly always traffic!


Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

We have a variety of places to purchase what we need.  We have big modern stores which are similar to those back home.  There are various craft markets for buying “souvenirs.”  There are little shops along the side of the road—or on the road.  And then there is one of the largest markets in East Africa, Owino Market.  Here one can buy anything you desire—from food, to clothing, to household items, to cloth, to televisions, to traditional medicine, etc., etc.  It is also easy to get lost as the aisles twist and turn.  Sally Jo accompanied our house helper one time and they even got lost!


Sunday, March 18th, 2012

We have often smiled at the signs that we see here.  There are many signs—for all sorts of things.  There are “religious” based signs and there are signs to educate.  There are commercial signs and informative signs.  There were many signs for which we didn’t get a photo but we smiled as we passed by.

Divine Brothers Driving School
Blessed Bar
Life in Abundancy Supermarket

We love the creativity at work!


Indian religions

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

We have visited two temples in Kampala – one of Jainism and one of Hinduism.  So far we have not been able to learn much about the temples but have found them very interesting.  There are currently more than 12,000 people of Indian origin living in Uganda, but this is a far cry from their heyday. In the late 1890s, over 30,000 Indians, mostly Sikhs, were brought on 3 year contracts to build the Uganda Railway from Mombasa  to Kampala.  Some died, while others returned to India after the end of their contracts, but around 7,000 chose to stay. Over time, these Indians became very prosperous and dominated the entire economy, which caused resentment among the African population.  In 1972, the then President of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of his country’s Indian minority, giving them 90 days to leave Uganda.  In recent years they have gradually been returning.

The older of the temples is of the Jainism religion.  This Indian religion prescribes a path of non-violence toward all living beings.  It is a very ancient religion coming out of India 9th to 6th century BC.  We do not know when the temple was built but we do know that the sand-stone building was made without the use of a single nail.  It is a beautiful building with intricate architectural features.

Swaminarayan (1781–1830) is the central figure in a modern sect of Hinduism known as the Swaminarayan Faith.   The Swaminarayan community in Kampala acquired a good house in 1996 and started renovations to accommodate a place for worship.  The Shree Swaminarayan Mandir(temple) was constructed with the use of only stones and bricks and without steel bars. It has steps leading up to its entrance so that as one moves from step to step, he/she leaves behind sin and reaches near to God.  The socio-spiritual activities of the Swaminarayan faith aim to inspire a better and happier individual , family and society.


Saturday, March 10th, 2012

The Bahá’í faith was founded by the Persian mystic Bahá’u’lláh in the 1850s.  It is an inclusive faith, incorporating other religions.  Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Islamic holy texts are used in their services.  It is egalitarian; it regards all humankind to be of equal worth.

The Bahá’í faith began in Uganda in 1951.  During Idi Amin’s time the Bahá’í faith was banned. Today the community is growing with widely ranging estimates from 19,000 to 105,000.  The Bahá’í Temple in Kampala is one of only seven Bahá’í Houses of Worship in the world. It is the only one on the African continent and is known as the Mother Temple of Africa.  It opened on 15 January 1962.  We see it every day across the valley from our verandah.  The well-kept grounds are a wonderfully quiet spot for walking or just sitting.  It also is a perfect spot for weddings!  (The Mother Temple for North America is in Chicago.)

All Bahá’í  temples have nine sides.  Since we were not allowed to take photos inside the temple the following is a description from Wikipedia. “The inside of the dome is painted a pale blue; the rotunda, into which are set nine enormous windows and fifty-four small windows, all filled with green, amber and pale blue glass, is painted a brilliant white, while the columns and the lower walls are painted a very pale green. All this lends itself to an effect of lightness and airiness which is intensified by the large green and amber glass-filled grilles which stand on either side of the huge doors.”  During a service the nine large doors are wide open giving a view of the grounds. Nature is a part of the atmosphere.


Friday, March 9th, 2012

Islam arrived in Uganda from the north and through inland networks of the East African coastal trade by the mid-nineteenth century.  Muslims today are more prevalent in the south-central and eastern parts of Uganda than in the north or southwest.   Approximately 16% of the Ugandan population claim Islam as their religion.  Kibuli Mosque, the first mosque in Kampala, stands on Kibuli Hill.  The early building has been replaced by a mosque built in 1941.

The imposing Old Kampala Mosque, (also known as the National Mosque or Gaddafi Mosque) was completed in 2006 with money from Libya, mainly Muammar al-Gaddafi.  The mosque itself was started by the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1970s but the project stalled after the dictator’s overthrow.  It is said that the  mosque can hold 5,000-9,000 worshippers, depending on sources.

There are many small mosques in the rural areas.


Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Religion matters to Ugandans.  The majority of Ugandans (more then 80%) call themselves Christians –Roman Catholic, Church of Uganda (Anglican) and many other denominations including Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal and Orthodox.  About 16% of the population is Muslim, and the remainder practice traditional or other religions.

There has been a history of antagonism between religious groups in Uganda — both between Muslims and Christians, and between Catholics and Anglicans.  This antagonism has been recurring since the time that these religions arrived in the country in the 19th century, when they were competing to convert the King of Buganda.  He played them off against each other to prevent any of them from becoming too powerful and becoming a threat to his rule.

Our next several blogs will be about religion in Uganda—as we have seen/experienced it.

The Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) assembled a band of enthusiastic missionaries after reading H.M. Stanley’s letter to the Daily Telegraph requesting missionaries for Uganda.. The first two representatives of this group arrived at the court of the Kabaka on June 30, 1877.  Eighteen months later, on February 17, 1879, a group of French Catholic White Fathers arrived.

The presence of these rival versions of Christianity created controversy. CMS felt that this was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the Protestant missionary effort. The Catholics on the other hand, could point to the fact that they had been planning to evangelize the lake region of Eastern Africa for many years.

Some of the problems between the Kabaka and the missionaries were described in our blog about Namugongo.  The Kabaka “gave” the Anglicans land on Namirembe Hill and the Catholics land on Rubaga Hill.  (The Mulsims were given land on Kibuli Hill.)

The first Anglican (Church of Uganda) cathedral was completed in 1903 and resembled  a Buganda building of sun-dried bricks and thatched roof.  It was destroyed by lightening in 1910 and the present cathedral was completed in 1919.  It sits atop Namirembe hill in Kampala overlooking the city.  The cemetery contains the graves of some of the early missionaries—and one early Mennonite missionary to Tanzania (Elizabeth Stauffer).  If someone can tell us how she came to buried here, we would appreciate it!  When we made a trip to Uganda in 1969 we stayed at the CMS guesthouse next to the cathedral.

The Rubaga Cathedral also known as St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral stands on Rubaga Hill overlooking the city.  The construction of St. Mary’s Cathedral took place between 1914 and 1925.

There are a number of other denominations and many small Pentecostal churches both in Kampala and in the rural areas.

(Much of the factual information above comes from Wikipedia and online Dictionary of African Christian Biography.)

We have often attended services at All Saints Cathedral in Kampala which, for political reasons, is the seat of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. Namirembe, the original cathedral, is viewed as too closely connected to the Buganda kingdom and not neutral enough to represent the whole country. We have also attended a few other churches in Kampala as well as others as we travel around the country. We have had opportunity to worship with Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, and attended a Pentecostal wedding. We also observe many small churches from the outside along the streets and rural roads.