Thursday, June 29, 2006

Time to move on

Friends and Family,
I just told all the children and staff at the school goodbye and caught a bicycle taxi to this Internet cafe. It was very difficult to say goodbye when every class greets you with huge grins and a loud welcome! The headmistress held a farewell dinner and gave me the gizzard of a chicken, as that is supposed to be for the honored guest that is leaving. Ugh!

I have about 50 minutes of power so I must write fast. The library is a smashing success. The children are still in awe and their eyes dance as they walk in and look at the books. Last week, I trained all 3,225 children in the lay-out of the library and procedures for check-out. This week, I started meeting with classes again. I met with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes and the students checked out for the first time in their lives! Amazing. They were wonderful about choosing books they really liked. I was impressed. The library is constantly busy with teachers checking out books, also. Or, if there is time between classes, there are always teachers sitting around on the floor reading books. As I said before, what we wanted to happen - has happened!

We have learned quite a lot this year. Last year, one person staying and training 850 students wasn't too bad. However, one person training 3,225 students and staff was a bit of overload. Since my group left and I returned to Mbale, I have worked six days a week, 12 hours a day. It has been a tremendous task trying to fit in the library with computer training, also! Next year, we will plan differently, so that we at least have the computer training finished and some of the student training, also, before the group leaves. But it has been a fantastic journey and I am so thankful to have been a part of these precious children's life. Thank you for your part in enriching not only their lives now, but in the future, also.

Things have been a bit crazy at Okumus'. Wilber's brother died in another town. The family was responsible for traveling to Mbale to a blood bank to bring blood for the brother. By the time they had money for travel and reached Mbale, he died.

Coming back from Rwanda three days ago, Wilber was passing a van. A bicycle with two people lost control and the people landed in Wilber's windshield. They were taken to the hospital in critical condition. Wilber was detained by the police for some time, but eventually allowed to leave after posting bail.

Sarah Okumu went this morning for some surgery. She was in the 'nicer' part of the hospital. The small corridor had dirty walls and was very dark. Her room (in a ward) was set apart by large torn curtains. The room had not been swept; there were still the remains of the last persons lunch everywhere, and her sheets had not be cleaned. The walls were filthy dirty as was the ceiling. She was to have surgery at 8:00. At 1:00, they informed us because we didn't have electricity today, they could not sterilize the tools for surgery, and the doctor said he didn't think they should go ahead. He had already sent Wilber to the pharmacy, as you have to provide gloves for the doctor and his helpers. The problem was he needed size 71/2 gloves, which took Wilber forever to find. You also have to supply your own syringes. Oh, my! That is the Okumu news from my home away from home!

Mercy Okumu, their six-year-old daughter, is adorable. The other day I came home around 6:30 just exhausted thinking crazy thoughts like I wasn't sure I could teach 1,000 kids the next day. :) Mercy met me at the gate and said, 'Welcome, Auntie.'
She then followed me in the house to sit down. She put her arms around me, gave me a backscratch, then kissed me on both cheeks and said, 'I love you, Auntie!" From there, I retired to the bedroom, had a good cry, and spent time in prayer and Bible study. The first verse I opened to in the Bible was 2nd Timothy 1:24 - And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men (children and women :), apt to teach, patient!

After a chaotic day, I needed that reminder! By the next morning, I was ready to go once again!

My life has taken on a normal Ugandan procedure. I try to sleep through the 5:00 wake-up call from the Islamic University for prayers. Next the roosters start in fairly early. Later, Sarah is up, with a big rag mop, bending over mopping the floors with the rag in her hands. This is the only way I have seen things mopped here.

Then my day varies according to whether we have electricity. The days we don't, I wash out my clothes in the tub and hang them on the line. The next day when it comes on at 6:00 in the evening, I iron the clothes. I wash my hair on alternate days so I can use the hairdryer when we have power. Though we should have electricity on alternate days, even on our good days, it goes off about three times in the afternoon anywhere from 1/2 hour - one hour. You just never know. Keeping things refrigerated is definitely a problem. Would you believe they actually don't refrigerate eggs or butter?! Milk can be boiled on a charcoal burner to make it last longer. Actually, the scent and light of the kerosene lanterns is rather relaxing after a long day. I can now even take cold showers without gasping!

Mercy and I leave for her school at 7:30. I drop her off and keep walking down the dirt road. There is a bicycle taxi driver, (slightly 'slow' young man) who thinks it is funny I want exercise, so he joins me in the mornings for a short walk with his bike. Then at the next corner, on some days, there are two secondary school guys that like to walk with me to ask me questions about America. Last, I stop in at the local kiosk/store by the school to say hello and grab fresh rolls for home when he has them. I have forgotten to bring pop bottles back three days in a row, so he always waves and yells, "Tomorrow?" I reply, "Tomorrow!" :)

The sights on the roads to school are many. There are chickens everywhere, goats at times, women carrying their babies on their back and items on their heads, children darting out in the road from filthy cement homes, with no doors - just dark openings, carrying large water carriers which they will take to the local well to get water for their homes before going to school, many school children in uniforms - many uniforms totally full of holes and dirty, children with old shoes or barefoot, etc.

The school is built like a compound in a retangular shape. All the classrooms have windows. The proper way to learn is to yell your lessons as you repeat them back to the teacher. When you have several classes with over 100 students each yelling lessons around the compound, one feels like he/she must be at a UT football game! Often, one or two of the classes will be singing songs as well! The teachers' desks are located directly outside of their classrooms. They assign lessons and sit outside! The children attend school from 8:00 until 5 or 6:00. Only the youngest ones get to go home earlier. When they arrive in the morning, everyone participates in cleaning the compound. The boys cut the grass with machetes; girls and boys use stick brooms to sweep the cement rooms, as well as the dirt around the outside of the classrooms; floors are mopped; and trash is picked (as they say).

So is life in Mbale, Uganda! Each day as I have devotions, I am so grateful that I have had the honor to spend a part of my life in this wonderful country, with these wonderful people, who so much appreciate all that everyone from America has done in making their lives brighter!

Tomorrow morning at 8:00, Wilberforce and I will catch a bus at the Kenyan border. We will then be with the Masai Tribe where he will be preaching for a few days. I believe I catch an airplane next Wednesday, with a day stopover in Washington, DC, to visit my Ugandan 'grandkids' and their parents.

Take care. I will write a wrap-up letter when I return if not sooner. Be sure and check the website for pictures of the library:

Love and best wishes,

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