Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I meant to publish these sometime in the winter, better late than never right?

From Sis. Marjorie Hinckley:

I love the sights and sounds and smells of a bustling city in a foreign country. I love the peaceful green hills of the countryside. I love the color of autumn leaves against a deep blue sky, the sound of a bird, the scent of pines. I love the sight of temple spires reaching into the heavens. Every day brings something beautiful if we are just willing to look up and see it.

God’s World, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!

Thy mists, that roll and rise!

Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag

And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag

To crust! To lift the lean of that black bluff!

World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,

But never knew I this:

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart,--Lord, I do fear

Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year.

My soul is all but out of me—let fall

Nor burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


So they told us that cultural shock would be worse coming back than going to Uganda. So far I believe it. It's hard getting back into the rythm of things, but it's all good, and I'll get the hang of it. One thing that's been fun and a little frustrating is I think I've had a little insomnia lately. I only slept 2 hours (naps here and there) in 50 hours. It's frustrating being exhausted and coming close to falling asleep but not quite making it. It's fun when I wake up from those short naps, cause I feel really anxious or stressed and immediately think in Dutch, "where am I again?"
Sunday was probably the hardest day of my life. Seeing people again was awesome, saying goodbye to people was hard, saying goodbye again to Holland is also hard. At Church I chatted with an older lady who we used to eat with. She told me that she doesn't want to live anymore. After Church I chatted with someone we baptized, he's had a major case of depression for the past year and can't get out of it. He says his desire for life just isn't there, he still has a testimony and comes to Church still, but he's having problems with everything, and depression isn't helping. The last person I saw was a girl I baptized. One of my most special memories on my mission was with her, we had so many great appointments. Well she told me she doesn't believe in the Church, Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon anymore. It hurts so bad.
So last week Thursday Harry picked me up from the airport and I rested at his place for a couple hours and then went out with the missionaries, visiting old investigators, they're going to try to start teaching them again. I got to visit with Br. Stewart. He still loves Iowa! How could somebody not?!!! He hasn't even been there, but ever since he was little he's always loved Iowa. Friday I had a great day with Br. Harry. We spent the day in Aachen, seeing where the old Holy Roman Empire capital used to be. We ran into the missionaries. It's so funny, we ran into the missionaries in Uganda several times, I ran into them in Madrid and Sebastian, ran into them in Den Haag, and then again in Aachen. Sunday was one of the hardest days of my life, Friday was one of the most special. I think it's natural for missionaries to feel like failures if they don't baptize. You feel like you didn't help the ward grow and almost like you may have not been worthy for Ensign-like missionary stories. I had those-type feelings on mission about Eindhoven, the only city I didn't baptize in. Driving back from Aachen we had a good conversation about things and then he talked about a member in the Church who he gives a ride to, who has a bad leg. I remembered that my last week in Eindhoven we found a person with a bad leg. So when we got to Eindhoven we went to visit him. Holy cow it was him!! It was so nice to see him, that he's doing great, goes to Church and all. We were driving to the station and then I remembered an investigator I wanted to see. So we went to see him and then we crossed an intersection and I asked how Freda and Collins were doing. He said that Collins got baptized and they both moved to England. Harry also told me that Job Vogels got baptized. So three people that I taught or found in Eindhoven got baptized. Of course I learned several new lessons about missionary work that day, but more important, I felt one of those tender mercies of the Lord and that He does love us and watches over His Church everywhere. Special.
Saturday I spent the day visiting old investigators and members in Heerenveen, way up north in Friesland. I biked 10 kilometers to visit some people and then it started raining...hard. "Lekker Hollands Weer" is what they always say (Nice Dutch weather, or kinda typical Dutch weather). It was fun experiencing that again...the whole day. I went with Swently to a young men's activity, bought lots of chocalate, visited more people, and then ate with Ludmila, Sulli, and Swently (a family we taught), had a short spiritual thought, family prayer, and then we slept downstairs and watched Spiderman 3! Sunday I was in Leeuwarden and luckily it didn't rain the whole day like it did Saturday.
I think Monday was the longest day of my life, up at 5:30 in the morning, so 9:30 PM Sunday night Utah time, and then arrived in Provo midnight Monday. About 25 hours of sunlight! It was fun being called Elder Beck again, I miss that. It was fun being in the airport and noticing again all the English being spoken around me, and seeing how Americans are fat. So in Holland you generally have to pay to use public restrooms. Yeah, that's not cool, but the restrooms there are so much cleaner generally than restrooms here.
So yeah, I'm sad to be back, but also excited and anxious to do things.
I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago a neat experience I had my last day at the Crane School. The kids really wanted to see my pictures from Gulu, Northern Uganda. They especially wanted to see pictures of the people up there. It's interesting how curious they are about other people in their own country. To me they are all the same, but they see people from other tribes differently. I showed them pictures and pointed out to the kids that they have a nose, mouth, ears, and eyes, and so do the Acholi people. I tried showing them that even though their tribes fought a war for 20 years, they are the same as them.
When I said goodbye to a kid there he said, "Kasey, when you are president of America and a country comes to beat Uganda, you come and help." LOL.
Hopefully my blog entries won't be boring for now on.
This is in the internal displaced person's camp in Northern Uganda. This place was the worst poverty I've ever seen, and it's a lot worse in other camps I hear.

This kid loved playing with my shoes and legs...and leg hair (ouch). I've never seen an African with leg hair, so naturally they think it's really odd, along with white skin. Kids try to rub the white off.

This is the women's grassroots development group. We gave them all Starburst, and they loved it! I'm trying to get their organization a computer, so if anybody knows where I can find one, let me know.

This is another women's group that protects vulnerable children. They need a camera and a computer. With a camera they can have someone arrested who beats their kids by taking pictures of the scene when they show up.

So the girls and I cut Kindra's really curly hair. So we thought a glued on French mustache would look good on me. I'm thinking about growing one out now...or not.

This is Hamis. This guy is one of the biggest studs I've ever known. He is Honorable Fred's assistant and did so much for arranging me to come to Parliament. We gave "Leadership and Self-Deception," "Anatomy of Peace," and the Book of Mormon to read. He wants to start a NGO with me that teaches principles of peace to schools, families, and communties from those books. Soon he'll probably want to get baptized too. He's also trying to come to BYU's Business School. I'm going to look into scholarships for foreigners, if anybody knows any info that would help, let me know.

The Nile! In the background is an island where lives a guy, who people say, can walk on water.

HA! We played red light, green light with these kids. It's so fun watching 300 some kids running toward you.

Teaching business class.

Cute kids at Crane School

My funky tan. Some of that is dirt too.

These kids were fetching water at the well down there, when I pulled out my camera they all ran toward me. I usually tried taking somewhat interesting pictures with kids. Here, they are all flexing their muscles.

Grabbing the bull by the horn. Not really, though. Cause I'm not grabbing the horns. And it's not a bull.

Coming back from Parliament in Kampala. I think I look like a missionary.

Ahhhh yeah!!

Heck yes!

Probably the most amazing thing I've ever done!

My favorite! That's me falling out in the front. I think this was where I felt like I was thrown into a washing machine, just getting tossed everywhere.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

America the Beautiful

America, Sweet America, God shed his grace on thee, and Crown thy good with Brotherhood, From Sea to Shining Sea

I'm excited to come home. I love America.

I feel like I have so much to do when I get back to Provo. I have a few businesses I want to start and either want to start a NGO or get HELP to do a teacher training program. I want to start something that can sponsor kids to go to school in Uganda. I also need to get two computers for organizations in Gulu and one digital camera.

So many things have happened the last two months. It has been one life-chaning adventure after another. Hopefully Provo won't be too boring. But there's a lof of fun things happening- rafting the Snake, camping adventures, family reunions, Zion's National Park, weddings, jet skiing, etc. So yeah, I take it back, Provo won't be boring. There's so much I want and have to do.

This trip has been everything I wanted it to be and more. I feel like it's springboarding me into what and how I want to become.

I'll write about the last couple days later when I'm back. There's so much to write about. I am so physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted right now. It's been a mini-mission almost the past couple days. I've visited so many investigators, new members, and members. It's just been a rollercoaster, some people doing really well, some people unfortunetely not doing too well. I feel really helpless for those that aren't doing that well. Sundays were always rough days on the mission because people wouldn't come and was a lot like that. Yesterday was so special having family prayer and scripture study with a family I taught...and then watching Spiderman 3 in a slumber party.

Tot ziens Nederland, Mweraba Africa! Hello America!

-Why does ice cream have to be so good, I would have saved like 20 euros in Spain if Gelat0 and Helado weren't so good.
-It seems that people who walk with their hands behind their backs just seem wise.
-I think I had malaria when I was really sick a little over a month ago. A girl in our group had the sam symptoms, went to the hospital, and was told she had malaria.
-I enjoyed a really nice walk on the beach last week in Den Haag. I wanted to see the sunset, but I was also super tired from coming from Uganda the night before, then going to Amsterdam briefly, and seeing people in Den Haag. I forgot that in the summer the sun sets around 11:00 PM. But I ended up staying up that late anyway, chatting with Albert and Cynthia. Albert's from Ghana, and was baptized in October, Cynthia is from China and was baptized when I was here. They're going to the Temple in October. Good people.
-Water is so powerful. We are so dependent on it. Gives new meaning to "Christ is the water."
-Goodbyes are the worst. It was hard saying goodbye to the Crane School kids (I got some notes from some of them), and my business class students (they're all supposed to email and give me money when they're all rich), and Parliament peeps. I told everyone I would come back, and I will. It might be next year, in 4 years, or even 40 years, but I'll come back. It was hard saying goodbye to my friends in the group. Even though many of them go to BYU', it's still hard cause things won't be the same. I got closer to them than I thought I would.
-What do people think Spain is like? I didn't really have a clue, for some reason I kinda thought it was a desert, but not at all. It is so gorgeous! The scenery that I saw reminded me of California, Montana, Israel, Ireland, Scotland, Arizona, and Utah.~
-I threw up on my last day in Uganda. It was good, cause you have to get sick from the food at least once in Africa.
-The North Sea looks pretty disgusting.
-Some bus and tram routes were changed in Den Haag, which confused me a little, cause that's pretty much the only way I know the city.
-I wish every returned missionary could return to their mission. It has just been amazing getting the same missionary feelings again, visiting the cities, and the people. I had the same 'scared to go home' feeling by the train tracks in Arnhem, which was my last feeling. I had the same 'they might not be home' feeling visiting some people in Den Haag, where we would always get dogged...and they weren't home. I ran into the sisters in the tram in Den Haag- they asked for referrals, so I gave them a list of people I used to teach. So I've done the same in Rotterdam, Arnhem, and Eindhoven. I heard that Kor, who we baptized, stopped going to Church. I dropped by and surprised him. He was so shocked and excited to see me. It was so much fun! Instantly I felt like a missionary again, by sharing a spiritual thought and committing him to come back to Church, it was a powerful and special experience.
-I've gotten 2 business propositions in the last week. A member in Uganda wants me to invest in his tour business. I ate at my favorite doner kebab in Den Haag with the owner and he's selling 2 restaurants and wanted to know if I wanted to buy them....Dad? I got the phone number of the owner of a Surinaams and Indonesian restaurant. Provo needs one of those.
-What a night and day difference coming from Africa to Europe. It's a really weird feelings and makes you feel a little guilty almost. In Getxo, Spain for example, the green 'go' light is a green cartoon guy. Come on, is that really necessary. I really shouldn't complain, it's just sad seeing how much money there is here and how people there lack money for basic necessities.
-I need to learn more about the Basque people and why they want to separate from Spain. It seems like everything is going perfect there--it's a really nice country there and I'm sure they would hurt from separation. I think there are only a few who want it.
-The 5-6 hour ride to Getxo was beautiful! I talked to Ivan a good chunk of the way. They also showed the second Planet of the Apes in Spanish. That movie is lame no matter what language! Ivan was really worried that I didn't have a place to stay. I think he was finally convinced that I was looking for an adventure. And it was! It's a really gorgeous town. I arrived at sunset! Wow! So I slept on the beach, listening to the waves, looking at the stars. Except for getting sand all over, the mosquitos, and being awoken at 6 by city workers, it was perfect. The next night wasn't so much fun. I wandered Madrid until 2 in the morning looking for a place to sleep. Madrid closes all the stations and parks, so I slept on a bench. Ha, it was funny, I really felt like a bum. Yeah, traffic was loud, and it was cold, so I really only got like 2 or 3 hours of sleep. The next night in the airport was better.
-Here in Holland I have had bad luck with public transportation. I've missed so many buses, trams, and trains, or they come really late. I have bad luck with backpacks too cause both of them are broke.
-I went to the Temple last week Saturday. I had it perfectly planned out, but then ended up missing a train which messed up everything else. But despite my plans being wrecked everything ended up alright and I made it to the Temple afterall and had a great time. Things work out like that.
-I arrived in Spain one day too late. Real Madrid finished their season the day before. The bull fighting season ended in May, and the Running of the Bull isn't until July. So I have to come back to Spain to do all those things.
-What is it about sunsets, sunrises, stars, and water that makes you think deep and about higher things?
-Bilbao and San Sebastian are both very beautiful cities where hardly anyone speaks English. Same with Madrid actually. I wish everyone could experience the thrill of just showing up somewhere where there's a communication barrier and going from place to place. It's exciting.
-On the trip from Mukono to Rwanda, there were lots of beggars at the rest stops. It's interesting that the white people didn't give money, but the Africans did.
-On the rafting trip it was fun pulling the girls into the raft when we were thrown overboard.
-I love it how Europeans clap when the plane lands. We should start doing it in the U.S.
-So I've been on this brown craze lately. I bought some brown shirts, brown ties, and almost a brown suit. I was with Mark van der Donk and he noticed this and asked if that meant I like brown girls now that I've been to Africa?
-I really like the song, Dare you to Move
"Dare you to move...
...Between who you are and who you should be, Between how it is and how it should be...
...Dare you to move, Dare you to lift yourself off the floor."
-I'm going to Asia on my next trip. China, Indonesia, India, Thailand...not really sure. But I'm going to go in December, or a year, or 2 years...but I'm going.
-Think about when someone's hurt you. Now multiply that by 2 or 3 or 100 and that is how much you've hurt Christ. That neat thing is that He will forgive you, if you forgive that person who hurt you. Amazing how that works. The Atonement is so beautiful and sweet like that...and is often learned through experiences, which makes it difficult, but so worth it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

24! (Tick tock, Tick tock)

I think I'm the first blogger to mention Skyler and Rebekah's engagement. Congrats kids! Rebekah will be a good addition to the fam, as will Bret.

Finally I’m 24! 23 was such a lame number. Yeah, Michael Jordan is 23, it was a great year and I just didn’t like being 23. Not all ages are created equal. So now I’m the age of one of the coolest TV shows ever, yes! It’s interesting, though, I was born at 5:03 PM in Provo on June 10th. 5:03 PM June 10th in Provo is 2:03 AM June 11th in Uganda. So actually my birthday here is June 11th, I guess that was the case on my mission too but I didn’t think about.

This has been an incredible week! I know I say that probably about every week but WOW! I went to Northern Uganda. The State Department says it’s one of the most dangerous places on earth…it’s not, at least I didn’t feel like it was. I’ve felt safer there than some parts of the US. When I first arrived I wasn’t planning on going to Northern Uganda because I’ve heard it’s really dangerous but I’ve been talking to lots of people and everyone has said it’s safe except the missionaries, but they’ve never been. I guess HELP’s board of directors were upset that we went spontaneously to Rwanda, cause supposedly that is a dangerous place too (it’s not). So they said we had to have an organization we would go with and still would have to have permission from the board of directors. At Parliament I made contacts with MP’s from Gulu. We talked with the Opposition Leader and the woman representative of the Gulu District, Honorable Betty. She arranged everything for us—hotel and organization contacts. I didn’t think they would let us go to kinda get back at us for going to Rwanda. We wanted to leave Wednesday but heard nothing from HELP. So around 7 Wednesday night they called and gave us permission, along with the “be safe, don’t do anything stupid” speech. Dave, April, April, and I were ecstatic that we were going. So we called Betty, confirmed, and were all set to go. We left early the next morning, met up with Hon. Betty in Kampala and went on the 6 hour bus ride with her husband. The ride was interesting, that’s probably the closest I’ve ever felt to getting in a car accident. This huge bus went so fast on this little road that had many pot holes; even when the bus drove on the shoulder it still went really fast and was tipping. I’ve never heard of police pulling over cars in other countries, but they pulled over our bus and told the driver to go slower. The bus’s horn was so loud, annoying, and long. It had different noises and could play a short annoying sound. I think it has that because there are so many villages around the road. The Nile separates the wealthier districts in the south and western regions from the underdeveloped districts in the northern and eastern regions. It was fun seeing the rapids on the Nile and monkeys all over. I loved seeing the countryside and the African savannah with tall grass and Africa-like trees. When we crossed the Nile, immediately you could see a difference in development. It was a night and day difference, I was so surprised. In the south people live mostly in real homes and even the grass huts are nicer, but in the north mostly everyone lives in a grass hut. Buildings for businesses are in worse shape as are the roads. During the war the LRA made it to the Nile and were stopped by the Ugandan forces. There was a standstill for a long time and as the LRA lost its northern support, they terrorized the people in the northern districts by killing, abducting, and placing landmines all over. They abducted kids from schools and their homes to fight as soldiers or be wives to soldiers, Joseph Kony, had over 50 wives and 200 kids. It was weird thinking that as we crossed the Nile. We also passed by several Internal Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps.

We arrived in Gulu and dropped our stuff at our hotel- Hotel Kakanyero. We went to the district office where we met members of the local councils and a couple of MP’s. They’re having issues with NGO’s. I’ll talk about that later. We went to SOS Children’s Villages and talked with the director. Two major problems they have in the north are what to do with all the orphans and the child-led households. SOS trains “mothers” who will take in 10 orphans and make a family. SOS supports them financially, pays the school dues, etc. The only thing that bothers me is how the guy said that they don’t need fathers because their role is to provide money and that is taken care of through SOS. At the hotel we ate a pretty good dinner and met an American lady who took us to her hotel and we watched a really interesting documentary called Uganda Rising. It was really educational and really sad. Friday we got up early and went to two women’s organizations. One is about protecting vulnerable children and the other is a grassroots development organization. SOS didn’t need much help from us, but the other two places need financial help and things like cameras and computers. I’m going to see if I can get USAID to donate that or other places at home. They were so excited to see us at both places and got very excited when we mentioned possible projects like teaching them business and English. We went exploring and visited some neighborhoods near Gulu and then ate at a traditional restaurant. That very well could have been the most disgusting food I’ve ever had. The Acholi people seem taller and stronger than other tribes, their language has a lot of nasal, but their English is easier to understand than other tribes. I was disappointed to see generally more people smoked. I noticed they were kind of similar to Rwandans, more reserved and somber than Ugandans in the south, probably cause they’ve experienced so much.

Saturday we went to Unyama, an IDP camp. Nathan and a couple other guys showed us around. We walked all over the camp, talking to people, playing with kids, etc. The whole experience there was so overwhelming and one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. In the 90’s the government decided to relocate all Acholi into these camps to protect them. People were uprooted from their villages and forced to live in these congested communities. At the start they weren’t protected well which made it easier for the LRA to kill and abduct more people. The intentions were probably good but the IDP camps have deprived men of providing for their families, which has meant many just drink, causing all kinds of problems. Congested living has made AIDS and all kinds of disease more apparent. We saw so many drunk guys, at 10 in the morning, and kids with pot bellies and dirt and flies all over them. The situation is much safer now but they won’t go back to their villages until a peace treaty is signed. The major stumbling block to a treaty is the International Criminal Court charges against Joseph Kony and other top commanders. It has been several months since people have been attacked by remnants of the LRA. They showed us all over the camp, hardly anyone spoke good English. They thought we were doctors so they would come up to us and show us their injuries. The kids are kids of course, happy, full of life, though, there were some kids who were just terrified of us. Man, it was so sad knowing the story behind these camps and seeing that things are just as bad as their descriptions, but it hurts so much more seeing them. I pulled my hat down to cover my eyes a couple times, it was just too much.

Our American friend, Kathy, who we met Thursday, and who we had run into a couple more times invited us to a performance by the Acholi dancers. They are really good. It was really entertaining to see real African traditional dancing. Kathy is trying to get them to tour the US so they can raise school funds. She wanted to hear their stories, so we separated into 6 groups and they told us their stories. Three of the four guys in my group were abducted as kids and forced to kill. Several members of their families were killed. They showed me scars where they were beaten and told me how they escaped and their education ambitions. One guy mostly spoke for the others because he said that they would cry if they told their stories. I’ve done so much research on the war and heard so much, but seeing these people, talking to them personally makes everything come to life and hits me harder than expected. What amazes me the most, though, is how willing they are to forgive. Already, several members of the LRA have turned themselves in, and are accepted back into the community through a traditional reconciliation process. I asked them all if they would even forgive Kony, without hesitating they said that they were so ready to forgive. That is amazing, I’m not sure if I could even forgive Kony. It says a lot about them as individuals and as a people when they are willing to forgive the killers of their family members and their abductors and torturers. After eating we went to Noah’s Arc where night commuters used to go. Night commuters have stopped commuting every night but the places are still used by street kids. When we arrived it was really dark because the electricity was out so we couldn’t even see who we were talking with. I took a couple pictures with a flash they helped me see their faces. I talked to some kids who have lost their parents so they sleep at this place and do little chores to get food. School is out of the question because they don’t have money for the school fees and Uganda’s universal free education hasn’t really arrived in the North. It was good for us to talk with them, encourage them, and just be their friends. The whole day was really exhausting and overwhelming, but so educational, inspiring, humbling, and just what I needed. I’m really glad I went. I feel different. I feel like I have some actual goals to work for that I know will help. There’s so much I want to do when I get back. It was a good birthday present. I’ve had so many incredible experiences here in Southern Uganda, Rwanda, and now Gulu. I just don’t see how I could ever be the same again.

We have some really cool and interesting people in our group. We’ve started doing Yoga regularly. That stuff is hard but fun. A couple of the girls are going to massage therapy school when they get back, it’s been an extra relaxing bonus with them here. I didn’t really notice the stars here in Africa until the other day but you can see them so well here. They don’t really learn about stars here so it’s cool telling them about the constellations like the Big Dipper and Orion. Kids here don’t know what hugs are. People just don’t hug, it’s not part of their culture. So we go to teach at Sis. Haspher’s school on Mondays and Wednesdays. Last Wednesday we had waited around the corner for the others to show up. We tried to make sure they couldn’t see us, but when I peeked through a bush, they saw me! They started screaming and then as we walked to the school they all came running out. It’s such a funny routine we go through with them; they love seeing us! I’ve kind of adopted a family here. I’ve been going with the missionaries every week and we’ve been teaching this family, Br. Daniel and Sis. Grace. They are a very nice humble couple who are excited about the Gospel, excited about baptism, and just so eager to learn. I’ll miss their baptism, but I’ll stay in touch with them. I think one of the things I’ll miss most about being here is taking walks alone, waving to the kids, who are always screaming, “Mzungu!” (white person). We have a rule that you have to be with at least another person, but I’ve been able to side-step it by going with the missionaries and walking back. I have really enjoyed those times alone. I finished my fourth book, Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Kozol. It’s about the South Bronx and how dangerous and impoverished it is there. It’s really sad reading about these things in America. The richest and poorest congressional districts in the US are very close to each other.

So this will be my last blog entry from Uganda. I’m not sure if I’ll type up entries in Holland because it’s expensive to use the internet there. Last week I was depressed about going back to normal life and having to focus on myself again. That’s bothered me since my mission. The mission is this incredible selfless time where your focus is helping others, but then you come home and it’s about your major, studying for your education, doing everything for yourself. It’s sad going from a selfless way of life to a selfish one. That’s how I was feeling, but now I just feel anxious about getting back and helping the people here through different ways. My three goals for the 7 weeks were: to understand international development better, personal growth, and make a difference. I feel like I’ve accomplished all three and am anxious to run with those goals. I’m going to miss it here but I also know that I’ll be back. I’m really excited about a teacher training program and think that things could really fall into place. I need to learn a ton more about development, but also feel like I want to do something different than what I originally wanted to go into. I’m sad to go because there are so many projects rolling and so much to be done here, but I’m more than satisfied with the experience it’s been and what I’ve been able to accomplish.

So I’m off to Holland from the 13th to the 25th and am super excited about seeing everyone there, biking the cities and countryside, and eating Indonesian, African, Suriname, Turkish, and Dutch food. I love thinking about Europe and all the food choices they have there. Food is definitely one of the reasons I love Europe so much. I’ll spend three days in Spain and a day in Aachen, Germany.

Life…is beyond good, it’s super good and there’s so much to get out of it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Kasey, the Tourist

WOW! Carrie's engaged, Dallas is going to Cleveland Spanish speaking! I love you guys! Being away definitely makes ya love family more...I've always loved them of course.

WOW! There really is no other way to describe this last week…especially Friday and Saturday. I rafted the Nile River! It was incredible, probably the most amazing thing I’ve done in my life. We planned a trip to Jinja to do a day of workshops and then Saturday we were going to play. Jinja is where the source of the Nile is located and where Gandhi’s ashes were spread. We heard there was bungee jumping so we were all planning on doing it. The plan was to bungee jump Friday night, Saturday we would shop for souvenirs, eat at an American restaurant and then go to the Nigeria-Uganda soccer game. Well the bungee master’s back was really hurting Friday night, he said he would be fine the next day, but he was still in pain (I’m guessing drinking all night didn’t help much). So we were all really down, until we found out about rafting, we decided to do that instead. It was an all day trip so it meant we couldn’t do those other things, but it was so worth it. I’ve never been rafting before, but what a way to start. The section we did had 5 class 5 rapids, 2 class 4’s, 2 class 3’s and several smaller class 1 and 2’s! We talked to some guides and kayakers who travel all over the world rafting and kayaking and they said this was the best place in the WORLD to raft. It’s the second most intense river in the world to legally go rafting on, the 1st is the Zambeze River. But several people die on that river each year. Another part of the Nile also has some pretty intense rapids but there are 80,000 hippos in that section. Hippos kill more people than any other animal. So the part that we did is really the best combination of intensity and safety. We started out by practicing getting down, forward/backward strokes, getting out, getting back in, etc. Then we headed down the river. The Nile is gorgeous! There is so much wildlife. We saw a crocodile, bats, monkeys, tons of different types of birds—even several bald eagles. They are actually fish eagles, but are closely related to North American bald eagles and look just like them. We flipped three times but probably should have flipped several more times. The morning part of the trip we faced rapids after rapids. Class 5 is the highest class they can legally take clients on. They are so much fun! They have really funny names for each rapids. We went down Total Bunga, which means Totally Crazy. There was a 12-foot drop. We went down the drop and then got tossed around at the bottom and finally a big wave just threw us. I’m not sure what it was but at Total Bunga and then at Bad Place I just got thrown. When we flip they tell us we just have to take it and stay cool. That was hard. At Total Bunga I got thrown and then I felt like I was put in a washing machine—I couldn’t tell which way was up and wave after wave was hitting me down and making me do cartwheels in the water. So yeah, after like 5 or 6 really frustrating seconds I was up and just floated down to everybody else. At Bad Place (ha, I love the name) we were going down, then into the rapids, and then really just unexpectedly flipped. That one was really fun because none of us were prepared for it and we were all thrown far. The waves didn’t keep me down as long as Total Bunga. Bad Place was incredible, though. We’re talking like 300 yards (3 football fields) of rapids. At Overtime, there were crushing waves and tons of large rocks. We went through it pretty carefully and were stuck for like 10 seconds on a rock, but yeah, that was fun too. There were a couple slower parts of the river where we just swam. It was so relaxing and fun doing flips off the raft and just being carried by the current. We saw so many grass huts and locals washing their clothes. The Nile is so beautiful. The whole time I couldn’t believe it…I was on the Nile, I was rafting! I loved the wind and whitewater into the face. I think I first learned about the Nile in 1st or 2nd grade when we talked about Ancient Egypt. It’s so cool to actually go to the Nile and enjoy it. It’s so hard to describe Saturday, there really aren’t words to describe the excitement, exhilaration, beauty, and grandeur of the Nile. I just love seeing the diversity and beauty of God’s creations and really experiencing them.

Last Monday I went to Parliament and mostly spent the day chatting with Hamis and MP’s and learning about Uganda. We’re starting lots of business classes. We have four groups that we teach one to two times a week. It’s really fun being specific with them, discussing their business ideas, and applying the things we’re teaching them. I’ve been helping out at the Crane School still, and we’re going to Sis. Hasifa’s school now. Sis Hasifa is one of the most amazing members I know. She was a Muslim but was baptized a couple months ago and is now just so intense and excited about learning the Gospel, telling her friends and family about it, and helping people. We’re going over there and showing her how to hold Family Home Evening. We have so much fun at the Crane School. I really think that the way we help them the most is by just inspiring them and being their friends. We’re teaching them English and literature but it’s the one and one stuff that really makes a difference. I love asking them what they want to be and helping them set goals to reach. Some of my good buddies are Captain Frank, Captain Fahad (because they both want to be pilots), Dr. Samuel, Honorable Moses (he wants to be a member of Parliament and says that I must also add His Excellency when I say his name), and Pastor Timothy. These guys are fun. One of the girls graded the paragraphs that they were supposed to write, and Fahad wrote, “Kasey is my best friend and will be President someday. It makes me happy that Kasey will never forget me.” So I need to become the President now and never forget Fahad (that part will be easy).

At Parliament we learned a lot more about the health care system. Pres. Bush set up a Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria where people can get free medication for those diseases. The problem has been corruption, ugh. The Minister of Health and several other people embezzled millions of dollars out of the fund. Minister Muhwezi fled to the UK and had until May 30th to come back to Uganda. He did, but most think that nothing will happen to him because he was a high up general in Pres. Museveni’s army when they overthrew the previous government. But it is causing good political discussion here as several MP’s are saying that nobody is above the law…so we’ll see what happens. Ugh, I’m not sure if abortion is as black/white as I thought it was. Hamis was saying that when girls are raped, they will often do ANYTHING to abort the baby. They will use hangers, long knives, or drink a mixture of bleach and gasoline to kill the baby because there is so much shame in teenage pregnancies in this society. They even have a clinic where girls can check in anonymously and stay there during their pregnancy to avoid the shame.

Ok, things are rolling with Honorable Fred. That’s how you address members of Parliament (MP’s) here. I didn’t meet him until last Wednesday. He came to our house and we talked about our program on Friday. He told us how excited the schools were about us coming and how several other schools wanted us to come. So we started talking about ways to reach out to the schools in his constituency (130 of them). He is going to arrange a teacher training workshop on a Saturday where the teachers of schools will come and we will give different workshops. He also said we could give trainings at the teacher training schools. We’re all so excited! We feel like this is the best way we can reach out to as many students as possible. So Friday we took off for Jinja at 7:00 in the morning. Honorable Fred and Hamis picked us up and drove us out to the first school. We went to a really rural village where nearly every person in the village is involved with sugar cane growing. It was such a beautiful drive. There are high hills and lush, lush valleys. They treated us like royalty at the schools. They had an assembly and wrote out this speech personally thanking us for coming and kind of asking for funds. So we had several different workshops that we rotated the students through. We had games, motivation, hygiene, and girls’ maturation. We also had a workshop for the teachers. The district minister of education came and sat in on the workshop. I was involved with games but heard that it went really well with the teachers. Thank you to those who sent me stuff. The teachers asked questions and they girls really felt like they helped the teachers improve their methods. It was fun driving with him. He waved to everybody, shouted greetings, etc. When there is a death in the family people set out their blankets on poles and spend days there. When he saw this he would get out and talk to the family. We went to a more urban school later on, night and day difference. They spoke better English and were more rowdy than the other school. But we had really good experiences at both schools. Dave and I did games and had a blast! We played hokey pokey, boom chicka boom, the tooty tott, red light/green light, and octopus. Ha, when we all broke after the assembly at the second school, I had all the kids run after me. One of the girls said it was just the funniest thing seeing 300 kids running after me. It was a fun day…and exhausting!

So Tuesday the pigs next door were squealing SO loud. I really thought they were dieing or something. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anything like that in my life. People here mix up their r’s and l’s a lot. It’s funny. In Church they always say, “let us play” when it’s time to pray. Mmmm, our cook, Edith, makes us really good Ugandan food. We eat lots of squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, cassava, bananas, etc. They really like their starch here. I have hot sauce that I put on my food to give it a little seasoning.

Things are really rolling here with setting up teacher training and business classes. I think I’m going back up to Parliament some time this week and arranging the teacher trainings. Hopefully I’ll be going up to the North on Thursday.

Life…is good.

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