We Love to Clean

Cleaning is always an adventure here in Uganda.

Fortunately the kids LOVE to clean.  The other morning when I was at home for the day watching Carol, Don, and Emma, they had the genius idea to clean all the shoes!  Then I had the brilliant idea to “find” another pair of shoes that needed cleaning.  MINE!  Carol and Don eagerly each took a shoe and scrubbed off all the red Ugandan dirt.  Thanks kids!

On the other hand, the kids aren’t always around to do my chores for me.

At our ministry sites we often helped out with cleaning… laundry, mopping, dishes… really whatever they needed.

We had the chance to go back to Elizabeth House and we spent the morning cleaning and the afternoon with the kids.

First, Taylor, Allie, and I mopped the main classroom space.  It was the most ridiculous mopping experience of my life.  I think I’ve told you about how we mop here in Uganda?  First you pour water from a bucket or a jerry can all over the floor.  Then you scrub it with a scrubbing brush mop thing.  Then you squeegee the water to the next spot, and then you might dry it off with a third mop or a towel or something.  I was on squeegee duty, and it is a huge room, so I would work really hard to get the water squeegeed out of each area and then out the door.  There were always at least two of us working on this.  Then, when we would get the room looking pretty dry, one of the staff would come and pour water all over the floor and flood the whole room again.  WHAT?  WHY?  After all my work??  So we would begin the squeegeeing again.  And then they’d flood the room just when we thought we were done.  This happened at least 4 times.  Probably closer to 22.  It was comical.  In retrospect it totally makes sense because they don’t want soap residue on the floor, so they need to rinse it somehow.  But at the time our hearts were just filled with melodramatic “NOOOOO”s.

killer turkey.

We also did the dishes after lunch.  When we do dishes in Uganda, there is one sink or bucket or basin or something filled with soapy water.  One with just plain water to dip the dish in and rinse it after being washed, and then a drying rack.  We had SO many dishes to wash, but with eight of us on the job, it went pretty quickly.  The only time that was mildly traumatizing was when one of the turkeys decided that it was hungry and meandered over to the dirty dishes and peck posho out of the bowls.  It turns out it just wanted to eat leftovers.  But we were all terrified that it was going to decide posho wasn’t good enough and that a mzungo would taste better.  I was glad that there were several dish washers and basins of water between the turkey and me.  That is the only reason I could keep my cool to take pictures of this terrifying situation.

The moral of the story: cleaning is scary.    I shall do my best to avoid it in the future.

Africa Days

We live in the city – not downtown mind you – but we aren’t exactly rural Africa.  We have a gate around our home, running water, electricity, and even a microwave.  I’d love to see northern Uganda, because I’ve heard that it is much more the Africa you think of with green grass, simple hut homes, and even richer culture than we have experienced.

However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t ever see or experience what you might think of as “real” Africa.  Many areas around us don’t have running water.  Some don’t have electricity.  When we are driving around, we often see people getting water where they can find it and carrying it back to their homes or sitting near the water doing laundry my hand.  Longhorn cattle hang out in the middle or round-a-bouts, and people all around us speak Luganda.  We often lose electricity – we never know when it will go out or how long we will be without.  We lead devotions by the light of kerosene lantens at times.  Roosters and goats wake us up in the morning.

The other day we had what we called a “true Africa” evening, where we no longer had running water AND the electricity was out.  TO bath the kids and wash the dinner dishes, we (and by we I mean Godfrey) had to haul water into the house in a jerry can and pour it into a basin in the bath tub for the kids and into the sink for the dishes.  Fortunately we have giant barrels that collect rain water, so when we lose running water we still have an easily accessible water source.  Fortunately we didn’t need running water or electricity to make butter toast on the stove (our favorite evening treat) and we took advantage of the power outage by laying out in front of the house to take in the magnitude of the stars in the sky.  It was breathtaking, and made me so excited to see the stars when we are on safari.  I can only imagine how amazing it will be.

Africa is full of randomly awesome murals and sayings

here we go safari-ing

Today Rachel and I leave on Safari.  While I am very excited to go on a safari, I also have had quite a few interactions with African wildlife already.

  • There is the cattle that competes with our boda bodas on the road, and the little goats that “maa” their hello to us when we walk to the supermarket.

    we can only assume the cattle herder is doing the herding from the comfort of his car.

  • Cockroaches often scurry around our front yard.  But remember – they are our friend.  Or at least they are Auntie Jessica’s friend.  I want no part in that friendship.
  • We have a mouse in our dining room.
  • Moses advised Jen one day not to wear a skirt at night when we were walking to get ice cream, because a monkey or a chicken would go under it.  She did not heed his advice and I am happy to report there were no major incidences.
  • I have seen two monkeys.
  • I have nearly been attacked by one turkey.
  • I have greeted several pigs.

  • One day a fly flew down my shirt.  The flies here are so slow that it took forever to find its way out.  In fact, I thought it was already out when I realized it was still down there.  Even with my guidance it struggled to find freedom.
  • That same night, Allie saw a pretty good sized tan lizard had found its way into our room.  We left the door open when we had to get back downstairs in hopes that it would find the exit and leave.  The only tricky part of this plan is when we got back upstairs we had no way of knowling whether the lizard was still in there.  We were pretty convinced that he was just lying in wait somewhere to jump out and scare us.  We tried asking him about his location: “Where are you Mr. Lizard?  Are you in my dresser drawer?  Did you crawl into Allie’s backpack?  Are you hanging out with my dirty laundry?  Are you perusing my craft market wares?  No, seriously, where are you?”  When he gave no reply we began kicking our furniture and bags.  When he didn’t come running out, we decided that he had clearly vacated the premises and it was safe to go to bed.  We hoped.

Time will tell if on safari we experience the same type of wildlife or perhaps I will see something new.  There is no way to know what will happen.

Oscar’s Joke

The other night Joshua headed to bed a little later than the other boys, and soon after going down to his room, he came back shouting for Mama Esther, as he was quite upset about something.


best. smile. ever.


he doesn’t look like trouble, does he??? 🙂

Here is what happened.

Oscar decided it would be funny (and let’s be honest – it was hilarious) to climb up into Joshua’s top bunk and wait for him there.  Then, when Joshua climbed up into his bed, Oscar scared him!

I love this for many reasons.

  1.  After we found out what Joshua was tattling about, we sat in the living room and laughed and laughed and laughed.
  2. This same joke was played by the summer missionaries a month ago and had the same terrified/hilarious results
  3. Oscar is only 5 or 6 and he though of this on his own.  He is so bright and it shows through his incredible sense of humo.
  4. The next day we said, “Oscar, you are so funny.”  He replied, “Yes, I am funny.  Thank you.”

one of many in a photographic series I like to call, “Oscar gets really close to Laura’s camera and makes funny face”

Toddler Woes

On Friday morning we went to another babies home.  I was excited to go because I had heard about this ministry for a while.  It is a place that Sara served when she first came to Uganda and a ministry site that most of Rafiki’s volunteers go to at some point while they are in Africa.  It is a baby home for babies who have been orphaned and abandoned.  Many of the babies here are adopted.  It makes me so sad to think about babies being abandoned – they are completely helpless and don’t stand a chance without places like Sanyu to take them in and care fo rthem.

The sad reality though is like many ministries in Uganda, it is understaffed and underfunded.  They do the best with the resources they have, and life there is better than the lfe these babies would have otherwise.  But it was still really hard to be there.

After failing at hanging up laundry because the lines were all completely full, Allie, Bianca, and I went to the toddler room.  This might have been the most stressful hour of my life.  I have no idea if there were 30, 50, or 1527 toddlers in this tiny room.  But it felt like way too many kids  Since this babies home is just a temporary home for these children, I’m guessing that it is hard to establish routine with the kids since there isn’t a constitent group.

Toddlers are tough.  I remember how I struggled to maintain order in the toddler room at the King CDC during college.  My teaching licensure starts at age 3, but I was still required to work in the toddler room and teach lessons in there  I couldn’t control 8 inne city toddlers in Minnesota with several people there to assist me.  I don’t know how anyone could control dozens of toddlers who were abandoned so young here in Uganda.  There was so much hitting and biting and climbing on top of each other and fighting over adults and peeing everywhere.  At one point, the corner of a board book nailed me in the head, thanks to a toddler who was ticked at me for not reserving my lap for him when he wandered away.  I felt like I was surrounded by chaos and even though Allie and I did our best to maintain some order with the children surrounding us, we felt helpless to help the room at large.

I was so thankful when it was lunch time and I could escape the toddler mayhem to give bottles to babies.

Let’s pray for the staff and children here.  I’m so glad that there are people who are passionate about helping toddlers – even when the work is hard and the numbers are against you.  Even though I had a tough day, I’m so glad this ministry exists and am grateful for the many people who come to Uganda to volunteer there.

(we couldn’t take pictures there, so let’s end this post with some Rafiki Kid Cuteness)

Jessica and I heading to church with Cocus and Esther

Carol gives Taylor a new weed every week after church. Like a good auntie, Taylor presses them in her Bible.

yes, we live off of Princess Avenue

seriously – how stinking cute is Esther. I love her.




My Mini-Me

Every now and then, neighbor boy Joshua joins us for our Bible lessons.  While we are careful to make sure that he is being a good influence on our kids, one day he totally wow-ed us.

I was about to read a book to the kids, and he asked if he could read it.  I was surprised, but passed the book over.

Afterwards, Biance said that he had clearly been paying attention when I’ve been reading to the kids because he was like a pro.  He read with expression and fluence, was careful to make sure all the kids saw the pictures, and even asked a comprehension kids at the end.  Who is this kid??  AND he kept the kids quiet and listening the whole time – even stopping once to put the book down and give an exasperated teacher look of, “I won’t continue reading until you show me you are ready.”  It was pretty much amaing.  But it was also a little unnerving to be so perfectly imitated… 😉

He then led the kids in the longest version of the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”  It was pretty cute.

Roommate Exchange Day

This morning we are heading to the airport so that I can exchange roommates.  Allie, my roommate for the last two weeks is heading home to Chicago, and my sister is arriving to see the ministry I’ve been a part of this summer and to go on a safari with me!  So exciting!  (the exciting refers to the Rachel section of this paragraph, not the Allie leaving part).

I’m writing this ahead of time, but I’m fairly decent at predicting the details of events, so I’ll just go ahead of and tell you about me and Rachel’s reunion.

The weather changes quickly in Uganda during fake rainy season, so even though Rachel’s flight came in at 7:45 am, we’d already experienced sun, rain, wind, and a brief blizzard.  When she finally stepped off the plane though, it was sunny and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  A perfect day in Kampala.

I wore my African headdress, and will all the freckles I’ve gotten while here, I pretty much look like a local.  I’m not surprised that Rachel didn’t recognize me when she came through the arrivals door.  Thankfully I’d written this blog post ahead of time, so I knew that she wouldn’t recognize me.  I planned ahead and printed off a sign with her name on it so that she would know which group was waiting for her.

You’d never think that Rachel had spent the last 24 hours traveling.  She looked like a model.  Her hair was in perfect waves and she was wearing an elegant evening gown.  I wasn’t sure if I should tell her that in uganda, everything turns the color of red dirt, and she might not want that look fo her silver sequin high heels and turquoise mermaid dress.  But then again, maybe she DID want that look.  In the end I decided that as a local (and her summer tour guide), I should fill her in on these sorts of things.

She sure wowed us with her response.  Without even saying a word, she unzipped a small zipper, spun around twice, and suddenly her evening gown had magically transformed into khaki pants and a green safari shirt.  The smal monkey perched on her shoulded really completed the look.  I guess she was more prepared than I gave her credit for. 

After a tearful hug and jumping for joy 17 times, we loaded her luggage into the van.  She sure overpacked for 10 days in Africa – I mean, goodness … does a girl really need 44 suitcases??  (Oh, this is my fault because I kept giving my mom a list of things to get for the orphanage?  Sorry for blaming you unnecessarily, Rachel!)

Once we got in the car, Rachel surprised me be pulling out a peanut butter cup blizzard from Dairy Queen.  I don’t know how she managed to get it from Minnesota to London and then to Africa without it melting, but it sure was a delicious surprise!

The End.

Goodbye Go Now

Once again, we will take a break from the regularly scheduled chronological posts to tell you about the current happenings here in Uganda.

Five of the summer missionaries that are here came through an organization called Go Now, which sends Texas college students on mission trips.  And today, the Go Now team is heading home.

It will be a quiet house here without Taylor, Biance, Jen, Richie, and Saidel. (Ok, there are still 12 kids running around, so maybe it won’t actually be that quiet).  But it is still going to be quite an adjustment.

Thanks team for serving Jesus this summer at Rafiki.  I think it is really cool that you were willing to give up your summers to go wherever the Lord decided to send you, and I’m glad that you ended up here in Uganda.  Thanks for using your gifts and talents to bless these kids and this ministry.

I pray that the work that you did here and the work that God began in you while you were here – that God will continue to see both through to completion.

Please join me in praying for this team.

  • Pray for their travels home – for safety and that logistically things go well
  • Pray for one member as she is heading to North Africa to visit her parents
  • Pray for the kids as they are sad to say goodbye to some pretty awesome aunties and uncles

Taylor, Saidel, Jessica, me, Jen, Allie, Bianca, and Richie

p.s.  after saying goodbye to the team and after watching them say goodbye to the kids, I decided that it will be too hard to say goodbye.  I can just stay here, right??

Everything that has Breath

First of all… sorry to give you two posts in one day yesterday.  That was lame.  I should probably make you wait an extra day for this post, but because I’m nice, I’ll give it to you now anyways.  You are welcome.

For one of our Saturday Bible rotations we talked about worship.  It was a reallyc ool morning.

At one station we made tambourines with paper plates and beans.  Because if there is one thing we have plenty of here in Uganda, it is beans!

Brenda and her tambourine 🙂


At Jessica’s station she taught them Psalm 150:3-6, “Praise him with the sound of the trump.  Praise him with the harp and the lyre.  Praise him with the tambourine and dancing.  Praise him eiwth the clash of the cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  (I’m sorry that you can’t hear the sound effects and tune that the kids memorized it to…)

Carol, Esther, and Don memoriing their Bible verse


At my station we read a short devotional about how God created crickets to make a noise to communicate and how God created us the same way.  We talked about different ways that we can praise God.  Then I let each kid come up and sing a praise song.  After each song we talked about why we sing that song to praise God.  I want these kids to grow up learning to think deeply about the words they are singing to praise God.  At the church I attend in Minneapolis, we sing a lot of hims that have new musical arrangements (and the new musical arrangements are AWESOME).  But I love that hymns have lyrics that cause you to think deeply about what you are singing and praise God with both your heart and your mind.  While “Jesus is a winner man” might not have the same theological depth as “From depths of woe I raise to thee my voice of lamentation…” I love singing that Jesus is a winner man and Satan is a loser man with the kids here and I want them to know what they are saying.  Anyways, after that we broke out the kaoos.  Perhaps Richie and I should have had a practice session with the kazoos because we quickly realied we couldn’t actually play them correctly.  We modified and fake-taught the kids to play the kazoos to worship God.

Kazoo Fun! Cocus, Uncle Richie, Annet, Oscar, and Jerom

It was a really fun morning, and one of my favorite things is that night when I peeked in on the kids’ devotional time, I saw Oscar using his newly made tambourine to praise god along with the normal singing, dancing, and African drumming.


“Come outside!  I don’t know what we’re doing, but it involves feather boas, so you know it is going to be good.” – Auntie Taylor

Carol and her feather boas. Yee-Haw!

“Please Auntie Laura, read a book to me.  I will be your best friend.” – Oscar

On Sunday I had a sighting of my favorite boda boda driver.  I wish I had a picture to share with you.  He was wearing tennis shoes, jean shorts, a thin black parka that was fur trimmed, BRIGHT yellow sunglasses, and an African hat.

Carol’s latest phrase to show excitement, enthusiasm, or just general approval in life is, “Yeehaw!”  It is basically the best thing ever.