Monday, 12 July 2010

A Reflection From Greener Pastures

Time in Africa has an interesting way of sneaking away from you,
The pace is slow but there never seems to be enough hours in the day,

Having been in Uganda a week now, it's as if I never left,
With the exception of the jubilant welcome I received from the children and fast friends, life in Uganda has carried on much as I left it,

From the nerve shattering calls of “Halleluiah,” of Momma Rose before sunrise,
To the singing and dancing of the children after the sun goes down,
It’s no doubt there’s something special here,
Uganda has once again renewed its strangle hold on my heart,

There’s a peace about this place that surpasses all understanding, yet there’s always room for an adventure,

There’s something about walking down a red dirt road, long after the sun goes down, with close friends and nothing but the light of the stars to guide your way, that assures you the night is going to hold some adventure,

From the darkness comes the comments of “eh mzungu”
Safety is not an issue.

Upon reaching the highway we hire a squad of boda bodas and head into town,
The cloud of red dust marks our arrival into the dimly lit yet very busy town center,
Now, to find the match,

Having learned from past adventures, we send our Ugandan friends ahead to confirm the price of entry,
Us bzungus tend to raise the value of the dollar with just one look,
500 UGS is the report,
20 cents, affordable…for us
As we round the corner however the inevitable happens…the price doubles,
Our Ugandan friends are insulted, and vocally announce their displeasure, however we bow our heads and pay the new cover charge of 40 cents.

Decending into the darkness of the room we discover the place very full,
The mix of body heat, the hot air outside and the smell of body oder hits us in the face like a wet blanket,

The allegiances are split down the middle,
Half the room cheering for Spain, with the remainder for the Netherlands,

Tension is high with five minutes to half,
When suddenly we are engulfed in darkness,
The room and everyone in it disappear, we the linger of disapproval hangs in the air,
No power, TIA

Busy hands make light work however and with just 5 minutes left in the half time advertisements the screens, and the few lights in the room come to life with the buzz of the back-up generator,

Instantly the screen dances with commercials of washing machines, high end cars and western luxuries’,
Glued to the screen are the eyes of our Ugandan friends and
It makes you think, the darkness wasn’t all bad.

A tense second half and some overtime leaves Spain the champions,
The celebration that follows here in Mpigi comes only of an ignorance of that which has happened in Kampala,

We awoke the next morning to word of bombings in Kampala,
Just 45minutes away as we celebrated, others fled in terror,

A nation now mourns the loss of 80 of their own, as well as a sense of security that will take some time to regain,

Please keep Uganda in your prayers

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Monday, 5 July 2010

Home Away From Home

One step off the plane and already it feels like home,
The familiar smell lingering in the humid air,
The accents of the man at customs,

I missed this,

It’s 4am now and we need a place to stay for a few hours before we’re whisked off to the 10 acres and 52 smiling children,

A cheap room for a couple hours, easy,
Ask a driver, give him a tip and before you know it there’s a knock on the door and your friendly, neighbourhood Canadian pastor is telling you to get out of bed,

It’s good to see the Dickie’s again,

Familiar roads, familiar faces and a warm welcome,
I’m home,
And it’s time for some football,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

A Few Good Things

It’s rare that I flinch at the inner workings of Cairo traffic,
Having braved treacherous road crossings, survived many accidents and earned my metaphorical strips, I’d call myself a veteran of this madness,
Yet a close encounter between a tourist bus and our taxi has me gripping the handles tighter than normal,

I feel that time and time again I try to describe the Khan accurately to friends, family and other foreigners, yet words always fail me,

The minaret of Hussein’s mosque towers over the high walls casts an omnipresent green glow on the narrow alleyways below,
Shopkeepers, familiar in upwards of 5 languages, spout clever catchphrases (‘how can I take your money?’ and ‘I have what you’re looking for’) in attempts to usher you through their door,
Their minuscule shops lined with everything clichély Egypt,
Busts of pharaohs and the sphinx, sandstone pyramids, perfume bottles and pipes, papyrus prints and scarf’s are the standard,
And if these don’t amuse you, anything you need, want or desire can be found at a price,

It truly is my favorite place in Cairo and it’s where my father and I spent our final hours in Egypt,
Hunting with my local friends for some final gifts for home.
It’s a nice change of pace from the hotel,
Albeit selfish, and consumer, it’s still spending time with my father,
Showing him the vastness of the Khan,
It’s worth it,

The transition from the Khan to the airport was less than seemless,
It was Egyptian,
Bartering for the price of a cab, having them try and raise the price when you reach your destination, argue for a bit, and then find out (after he’s left in a huff) that you’re at the wrong terminal…repeat process,

Next stop, Uganda,
Home away from home,
I can’t wait,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

A New Cairo

The land of hot tea, crowded streets and fine fabrics,
Welcome once again to Egypt,

It’s timeless here,
While years pass, very little about this place changes,

The endless sound of horns still echo off the soaring concrete walls as traffic moves at death defying rates,
Nothing works when you need it to, yet a solution is always offered at a ‘fair price’
And a fine layer of sand and dust coats everything, after a few days here this includes the lungs,

I’ve never experienced Cairo this way before,
Staying downtown in a hotel,
It’s an Egypt removed, quantified.

Take in what you want, then retreat to the comforts of an air conditioned hotel room, relax for a few by the pool, before doing it all again.
I admit my life in Maadi was cushy, yet this takes it to a new level.
It’s easy to imagine how the Egypt experienced by the tourist and the Egypt experienced by those who live here are vastly different.

The perception of the hotel lobby, jammed with the high society Egyptians, smoking over priced shisha and sipping western tea is the most some people encounter before stepping on their tour bus and being whisked off the sights.

While I will be the first to admit there are some welcome changes with this Egypt (ie. the air conditioned room and the comfy bed), I miss the way things used to be,

Shisha down some dark back alley with shopkeepers and regulars,
Conversations about everything and nothing,
And believe it or not the frustration of shoulder to shoulder street traffic,

God keeps some fire inside my heart for Egypt and it mystifies me, yet I love it.
This love and hate relationship that Cairo and I share only grows deeper with every visit, impart due to some good friends.

Enter the Khan,
The narrow alley ways lined with shops, trinkets and crap that I so dearly love,
It’s where I’ve made some fast friends,
Granted the relationships were born out of them trying to swindle me and me trying to swindle them, however, thankfully they’ve grown into something deeper.

A phone called to one of these friends sparked a game of hide and go seek amidst the maze of back alleys before a reunion,

Just like old times I find myself sitting in a familiar shop, with good friends, sipping sweet hot tea and trying to convince some American tourist that they look great in some knock-off Ray-bans…it’s a beautiful thing.

Tonight is about catching up, introducing my father, and watching Africas final team fight for the chance at a World Cup win,

Football (soccer) truly has broken barriers within this little community of shop keepers and locals,
To see these men who typically spit on black Africans, now cheer for the Black Stars is remarkable.

Penalty shots has everyone in this little café on their feet,
A heartbreaking loss, God help the Uruguayan tourist around tonight.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Back From Hiatus

As the bags are being packed once again I looked at the walls of this journal and realized how remarkably quiet they have been,
Well much has happened in the last year, I've had little if any motivation to write my thoughts into something coherent (not they they are always coherent when I put things up here.)
Before I start something new I feel it somewhat important to recap where I've been this last little while, so in a whirlwind, here it goes, (for those that are looking for the most recent adventure this post is not for you, please check back soon.)

At the conclusion of my last visit to Uganda, I was amazingly blessed to have the opportunity to intern at my church (Peace Portal Alliance) in the outreach department under a man who is both a great friend, and mentor in my life.
As many of you know, I jumped at the chance, which included the commitment to full time studies in the field of International Development.
With that I began a whole new chapter of learning, or more boldly put 'an exercise in doing what goes against the grain'.
While I took to work within the church with ease, I struggled with the academic aspect of sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures.
While I managed to struggle through my first semester, (I breezed through highschool without doing much homework, that strategy does not work quite as well in university), my stubborn ox like temperament was slowly worked down by the collective wisdom around me and by the second semester my newly refined patience allowed me to endure.

Then the sun came up on January 13, and the world saw Haiti in ruins.
The 7.0 earthquake the night before left millions homeless and hundreds of thousands dead.
"I'll go," were the few words said to God that I thought little about, untill a week later when a friend announced her plans to go and asked me to consider and pray about it coming along.
God opened the doors;
Professors freed my schedule, gave extensions and eliminated midterms,
Friends, family and complete strangers prompted by God, donated the needed funds,
And a team was enroute shortly after.

With a strong, well grounded and overall great group of friends, I headed to Haiti just over two weeks after the quake.
As part of a team of doctors and nurses, we provided basic medical care to hundreds of people a day over the course of the next two weeks,
But more importantly, we were able to pray for each and every patient after they had seen a doctor,
A good friend and I had the blessing and honour of being that prayer team,

God taught me a lot through the lives of those people we prayed for,

Those who were believers rejoiced in the Lord for the things that they had,
Trusted in Him for the future, and drew strength from Him for the days and weeks to come.

Those who were not believers came and sat and hoped,
Sharing stories of those they lost and those they hoped to find again,

While my time in both Uganda and Egypt had prepared me for the immersion into poverty, God still used the time to humble me and teach me more about His overwhelming character.

As we flew home and discussed all we had encountered in Haiti, we agreed that despite the chaos, joy is abounding and there is much promise for the Haiti of tomorrow.

A solid few months of catching up in studies followed my return, another round of exams and finally a couple months back at construction and here I am again with my bags packed.

This time I am excited to have my father coming along to experience my homes away from home,
Pray for us and we encounter all that God has instore for us along the way,
And I promise to keep the blogs slightly more frequent than in the past,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,