Saturday, December 20, 2008

We're home!

We flew into Washington DC on Sunday morning and we're staying with my parents at the Washington Navy Yard until we leave to drive to Michigan on Christmas morning. We plan to be in Madison/Oconomowoc from Dec 28 - Jan 6 or so. We're happy to be home!

In case anyone has not heard, we've made the decision not to move to Seattle for Nate's PhD program - he is more excited about a design engineering job than he is about research and teaching, so we're following his heart. :)

We're open about where we live/work/play/love - possible destinations include Denver, northern CA, Madison, and Washington DC...it all depends on where we find jobs.

Thanks for keeping up with our adventures...we'll keep this blog going as we travel through life!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Today we give what? Thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

We have the day off today, so we're preparing for a thanksgiving feast! Since we arrived in Africa and realized that cooking from scratch is the only way to eat some of our favorite foods (thai curries, spicy indian dishes, falafel, and baked goods), Nate has definitely caught a cooking bug! Who knew that I would be so lucky to marry a man who likes to read food blogs in his spare time!?! I love it. So anyways, today we're enjoying a thanksgiving meal with other eMi members and their families. Nate informed me yesterday that instead of making one dish, like we would be expected to do, we were bringing four: roasted winter veggies, sweet potato casserole, drop biscuits and pumpkin cookies with caramel frosting (these blogs are inspiring)! Its two hours before mealtime and it looks like we'll accomplish all except the biscuits. It's smelling lovely in this hot kitchen!

Since Nate refused to be photogenic with either of his veggie dishes, all I have for you is a picture of the cookies. You can find the recipe here (at www.kitchenscrapbook.com)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anniversary

21But this I call to mind,
   and therefore I have hope:

22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,*
   his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
   'therefore I will hope in him.'

25The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
   to the soul that seeks him.
26It is good that one should wait quietly
   for the salvation of the Lord.
27It is good for one to bear
   the yoke in youth,
28to sit alone in silence
   when the Lord has imposed it,
29to put one's mouth to the dust
   (there may yet be hope),
30to give one's cheek to the smiter,
   and be filled with insults.

31For the Lord will not
   reject for ever.
32Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
   according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33for he does not willingly afflict
   or grieve anyone.

- Lamentations 3:21-22

Today is the first anniversary of my father's death.  It's still hard to understand, but the hope I have in the Lord gives me some peace.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ugandans Love Obama...

And we do too!

Although it would have been fun to experience the excitement in Washington DC this morning (where 94% voted for President-elect Obama), we've enjoyed being in Uganda during this election because Ugandans LOVE Barack Obama.

Our intent is not to turn this blog into a political platform, but Nate and I can't help but say, "Woohoo!" We're excited to move back to the US in 6 weeks and be a part of a revived country. Okay, so some of you might not agree that there's been a revival, but we're hopeful that the decision that was made yesterday will lead to some great change.

We woke up at 5 am to watch the results come in with some friends...here's a picture of Nate and me with the Obama family :)

Love,
Alicia

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween!


We shopped for Halloween costumes at a huge, crowded, dirty market in downtown Kampala last Thursday afternoon. Sarah and Dan were going as the Wonder Twins - 2 superheros that I had never heard of. Since a few of their Embassy friends were also going as superheros, Nate and I decided that some villains needed to attend the party, so we went as Poison Ivy and The Green Goblins. Oh! And Romeo went as a pumpkin.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nutrition work in Kampala

Reading over all my blog entries, I realized that there might be some confusion about whether or not I'm working while were here. I am. :) The two clinics that I somewhat randomly contacted before we left DC have been great places to volunteer. One is an HIV/AIDS organization started by a Catholic Church really close to Sarah and Dan's home. Its called Reach Out Mbuya. I've been working with Juliet, their nutritionist. I've helped her to design some nutrition classes for the staff and also help to assess malnourished children who need nutrition therapy (PlumpyNut). I spend 2 days per week at Reach Out

The other 3 days of the week I've been volunteering at Hope Clinic - a somewhat smaller clinic with a more broad target population (not just people living with HIV/AIDS). Lexi, a fellow American who is volunteering as the community outreach coordinator, has done a wonderful job coordinating nutrition classes for me to teach in the community. I've loved these classes. I'm still doing Tuesday afternoon "Train the Trainer" courses, but we've also been holding child health classes for parents, staff training at the clinic, and health talks with local salon workers. Below is a picture of me with one of the groups outside the house where we held the session.

One of the main nutrition messages that cuts across all of my work is the importance of diet diversity. Literature shows that the best way to decrease deficiencies is to diversify a population's diet. So I spend lots of time saying things like, "add some greens to your posho (thick maize porridge) and g-nut sauce (peanut sauce)...greens are not just for poor people!" When I first arrived in Uganda I thought most people simply could not afford healthy foods like greens, but I soon learned that many could buy them but don't because they are associated with living in extreme poverty. Of course this is anecdotal - I haven't taken any formal polls - but its interesting!

Last, some good news! I think I have finally nailed down my project for my final paper at GW. The title will be something like this: Improving nutritional care of orphans through sustainable farming in East Africa.

Happy Halloween! Nate and I are going to a costume party tomorrow night as The Green Goblin and Poison Ivy - 2 villains from early comic strips. Hopefully we'll have some fun pictures to share soon.

Love,
Alicia

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Climbing Mountains in Africa

Nate and I seriously discussed climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro while we're here in Africa, but unfortunately the cost is a bit prohibitive. Instead we opted for a mountain that straddles the Ugandan/Kenyan border - Mt. Elgon. Our guide book describes it as "a mountain that has never really caught on with hikers...partly due to security problems but its also probably the case that Elgon lacks the popular mystique of Kilimamjaro, Mt Kenya or the Rwenzori." Regardless, we loved it! We covered roughly 45 miles over 3 1/2 days with our friend Brady - another volunteer at eMi. The Uganda Wildlife Authority requires that hikers travel with guides and guards, and highly encourages that you hire porters to help carry your luggage. So our party of 3 quickly turned to 9. We definitely enjoyed the company of Jimmy and Tom, our guides. One of my favorite memories from the trip is hiking behind Jimmy as he marched along with his gun and a large cabbage that he held by the root.


Mt_Elgon_12, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.


We each carried our own backpacks but the porters carried most of our food and our 2 tents. At each of the 3 camps we slept at along the way, there were pit latrines and a shelter where our entourage would make a fire and sleep. It was really nice to arrive at camp each evening and have a fire burning within minutes!

If I had to sum up the trip in 10 words or less, these are the words I would choose: challenging, beautiful, muddy, peaceful, awesome for our marriage, rainy and cold. While we don't at all regret hiking up Mt. Elgon, if we could do it again we'd definitely go during the dry season.

Not to sound too cheesy, but another favorite memory is simply walking along singing worship songs and praying silently. I did this to distract myself especially during the stretches of the hike when my body was just aching (or 'paining' as they would say here in Uganda) or I was horribly miserable due to the rain.

Speaking of praying, some of you have been asking how you can pray for us. The main thing we're wondering about is where we're headed next. For a while we were praying about staying in Uganda longer, but currently we're feeling like we should come back to the US. Nate is waiting to hear back from 4 more grad schools, but even once he hears from each he still needs to find specific funding/research. So the main question we have for God is whether or not grad school is a go and if so, where.

Stay tuned for more! Sarah, Dan and I are running the Kampala 1/2 marathon in 3 weeks. Plenty of running, yoga and spinning between now and then should get me good and ready!

Love to you all,
Alicia

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Come Let's Dance Trip Pictures!

I finally got to upload the pictures from the last two weeks. The internet here at work is mind-numbingly slow, so it takes a little while to get all the pictures up and organized. I’ve divided the pictures from our project trip into five different sets. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but I wanted to at least provide a small introduction to each. You should be able to click on the picture to see the whole set.

We had a lot of fun
taking pictures on this trip, I hope you enjoy them!

eMi East Africa – Come Let’s Dance Project Trip


CLD018 - The Three Amigos, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.

Come Let’s Dance is a ministry that was founded by an American filmmaker, Shane Gilbert, after she visited Uganda to film a documentary about street kid ministries. The ministry serves the poor and destitute of Kampala through a kid’s home, micro-finance and micro-business support, vocational training, and church ministries. It was really fantastic getting to be apart of the work they do. I was amazed at how grounded Come Let’s Dance seemed. They approached problems with realistic goals and expectations and it seems like they have been very successful so far.

Come Let’s Dance recently purchased a 20-acres plot of land, which they want to turn into a farm to feed 60 “orphans” at their kids home. They also hope to create a vocational school on the farm to train young men trade and farming skills. CLD does a similar thing with a guesthouse they use to train 8 young women at a time to become house help.


Amigos Site Visit


Amigos007 - Big Cow, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.

The Amigos Farm is a site that eMi (with Adam Both) designed a few years ago. It is very similar in scope to what Come Let’s Dance hopes to have for their farm. We spent an afternoon early in the trip touring the farm and asking lots of questions about agriculture in Uganda.


Katanga Slums Visit with Come Let’s Dance


Katanga006 - Slum Kids 5, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.

Many of the children came from the Katanga Slums on the north side of Kampala. Come Let’s Dance has started helping some mothers in the slum through micro-loans and micro-business opportunities. We had the opportunity to meet some of these women in their “homes” and to see what Ugandan slums look like. The kids seemed happy, but the poverty and filth these people are forced to live in is pretty horrible.


Team Trip to Jinja


Following our final presentation of our work to Come Let’s Dance, we took a two-day trip to Jinja to relax and recover.


East African Birds #2


As part of a trip to Jinja, we went on a boat trip to the source of the Nile River. We got to see tons of birds and we were able to get up close to some of them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Engineering Project Trip Thoughts

Well, we've finished with our project trip to Come Let's Dance ministries.  I am currently sitting in our guestroom overlooking the Nile River watching hawks building a nest and cormorants catch fish, listening to the sound of the river and of bird calls.  I am starting to process, not only this last week, but the last month.

On the surface, both project trips were structured very similarly.  The short-term volunteers are picked up at the airport and we immediately head out to the ministry we are going to serve.  The first day is spent touring the site and then sitting down with the ministry leaders to learn about their vision and their needs and desires. Following this introductory session, the eMi team meets to talk about the roles that we will be filling during the coming week.  We have devotions together before going to bed.  The next morning we wake up early and start on our tasks: surveying the property, sketching site layouts, taking soil samples, testing the water, assessing possible building locations, etc..  We don't return to the guesthouse until after dark for our dinner, devotions, and bed.  We wake up and do it again the next day.  At the end of the week, we present our work to the ministry.  Following the presentation the eMi team heads off for a day of relaxation and rest.  We share a "closing time" with each other, giving our highs and lows of the week and what we appreciated about our teammates.  It's really an awesome way to finish out the project trip.  Heading back to the eMi office in Kampala, the short-term volunteers will get on a plane back home and the rest of us will begin working on the final report, which we will provide to the ministry in the next couple months.

Reflecting on the past two project trips, I am surprised by how different my experiences have been.  The make-up of the team and the mission of ministry being served resulted in two very different experiences despite the similarities in engineering work.  The first trip consisted of a very young team, the oldest being 35.  It was a very lighthearted group that had a lot of fun together.  The group chemistry on the second trip was much different.  The group was significantly older and more experienced, as a result, the trip felt much more professional.  I enjoyed both teams thoroughly, gaining lessons and valuable experience from each.

The thing that I have been wrestling with the most lately is my differing reactions to the two ministries that we worked for.  It has been a real struggle to keep from being overly judgmental of the work being done by the ministry and the motivation behind the work.  I have found that my emotions toward a mission have really impacted my enthusiasm and energy when working for them.  As an engineering organization that donates its services, eMi is very deliberate about the ministries that it chooses to work for.  But when you're working in a third world country with a variety of Christian ministries, there are going to be inevitable differences in values and visions.  Some are going to be very different from my own.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is not up to me to judge the heart of an organization or a person.  Whether I like the people involved or not, both ministries that I have worked for so far are doing good and necessary work in Uganda.

Its been a good few weeks.  I have learned a lot about engineering in the developing world.  I have become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in working here, and I have felt incredibly blessed to be a part of the two eMi teams that I have worked on so far.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A picture is worth what?... its worth a thousand words

Sorry I have been so sporadic in my posting. Alicia has really been carrying the load when it comes to blogging.

I have been a little better about getting our pictures up onto Flickr. You can now see the pictures from our trip to Jinja that Alicia described below.

Also posted are some pictures of some of the birds we have seen here. There is an amazing diversity of beautiful birds here. I will have to use Sarah and Dan's East African Birds book to figure out which birds I have pictures of.

We also went on a trip down to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago. It was more of a park than a garden, but still very beautiful! Pictures from that are here.

Finally, I have posted the pictures from my project trip to Luwero, Uganda here. I promise to write-up a "trip report" soon. In the meantime you can head over to the blog my of project leader, Brad Crawford, for a very extensive description of the SOS Ministries project trip. The link to his blog here.

Alicia and I are leaving tonight for a project trip for the Come Let's Dance ministry. They are located about an hour west of Kampala. We'll be working there over the next 10 days - Alicia doing nutrition counseling and planning and me doing engineering and graphic design.

Thanks for your prayers and thoughts.
Nate

An Adventurous Birthday Weekend

Thank you to all who have asked about the car - it is fixed.  It simply needed a new battery.  I still owe the car mechanic 20,000 shillings ($12) since I didn't have enough cash with me when I went to pick up the car!  He didn't mind...said I could drop it by sometime.

This weekend Nate and I went on our first African adventure outside of Kampala.  We drove to Jinja - a city 2 hours northeast of Kampala famous for being the location of the source of the Nile River.  We camped right along the Nile.  The sound of the water was the best night-time noise maker!  Some friends of ours had gone whitewater rafting during the day on Saturday and we happened to be camping at the same organization - Nile River Explorers - that guided their rafting trip.  We hung out at a beautiful outdoor bar overlooking the river and watched the video of their experience.  We saw some amazing birds and also a monitor lizard in the river.  At first we thought it was an otter but then Nate took out his ridiculously large lens and zoomed in - it looked like a small crocodile (maybe 4 ft long?).

I'm 26 years old!  My birthday happened to fall on a Monday this year, so I convinced Nate that we should start celebrating Friday night.  Friday night was low key - running, yoga, reading and watching political T.V. Saturday we dropped Romeo off at a friends and left for Jinja.  Camping was great and Nate told me that we had an "appointment" at 10:00 on Sunday morning.  After enjoying coffee on the Nile we drove to the secret destination - Nile River Horseback Safaris!  Ever since my days in Denver, I've been begging Nate to go horseback riding with me.  He came through like he always does and planned a two hour ride through villages and along the Nile.  It was a wonderful surprise.

The Nile is beautiful - huge and surprisingly clean.  The banks of the river are covered with bright green plant life - it was a nice break from the dust and heat of Kampala.  Nate is posting our pictures to flickr now, so check out "Nate's flickr collection" under "websites we recommend" if you want to see some pictures!

On Monday - my actual birthday - we worked during the day but had some friends over in the evening.  We made hummus, guacamole, salsa and bruschette and our guests brought red wine.  We played the bowl game (a version of charades) and had lots of fun!  Oh and of course we had chocolate cake.  The Joy of Cooking was a huge help with the frosting that we took turns whipping by hand.

One more story than I'll leave you.  Today is a public holiday in Uganda, but nobody knew for sure if it would be until 6:30 this morning.  Its officially the end of Ramadan, but apparently the religious leaders decide this by seeing if the moon truly is full the night before the holiday.  A friend here compared it to our Groundhog Day...did the groundhog see his shadow?  So people are supposed to have day off, but that's tricky for clinics, policemen, guards, etc.  These people still have to work but do not get paid extra for their work.  This has brought up some heated discussions at the clinic where I volunteer.

I always forget to talk about my thesis I'm supposed to be writing.  Remind me...I'll tell you next time :)

Miss you all.  Thank you for your emails, e-cards and facebook birthday greetings!  I feel loved.
-Alicia

Friday, September 19, 2008

Car Craziness and Cute Children

Unfortunately this follow-up to my last email is not a whole lot better. In fact, it might be worse...but don't worry - I am taking it all in stride by telling myself, "It's Africa!"

So last I wrote, the Land Rover had been jumped, I drove around charging the battery, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to find that it was dead again. The update is that I now owe Sarah and Dan's friend Doug 50 kilos of steak (its all he eats) for all the help he has offered over the past couple days. He came over today, started the car, and then led me to Ssanga's Land Rover fix-it garage. This was just a couple of hours ago, so please pray that the diagnosis is not too costly. We're hoping it just needs a new battery.

The humorous part of this whole saga is the way the Ugandan guard looked at me when I said that no, in-fact, we do not need your friend King to come over and jump the car and drive it to the garage because I - a white woman - am going to drive it there myself. I guess I can't blame him - he was just looking to capitalize on this economic opportunity.

I had to be pretty aggressive to follow closely behind Doug as we drove to the garage. In the end it was quite exhilarating and empowering for me!

Oh - one more bit of humor. Nate asked the eMi team to pray for my safety on the roads while he and the team were away this week. The next morning he read my text message saying, "the car battery is dead again" He and the eMi team liked God's answer to their prayer.

Okay - a little bit more about something other than broken down cars...

Today I was walking with 2 Ugandan colleagues down a red dirt road to reach a clinic. Anyone who knows anyone who has every traveled to African knows that the children love to run after white people yelling, "mzungu!" They often say "bye mzumgu!" A friend of mine asked a Ugandan why they say "bye" instead of "hello." The reason she got is, "well, you are always leaving - you never stay." But today some children said something much more complicated to me in Luganda. I asked my colleagues what they said and Joel said, "Bye Mzungu! When you return, bring us some sweets!" Then later an older child said to me, "Mzungu, will you be my sponsor?" So African children really do feel the effects of these child sponsorship programs we are all reluctant to give to!

Its Friday! Enjoy your weekend.
Love,
Alicia

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

About driving in Kampala...

As Nate mentioned, I started driving this past weekend. It can be frustrating and scary, but I actually felt more comfortable than I thought I would. Nate left Monday morning and I walked to work since the clinic where I go on Mondays and Fridays is close to home. I had no need to drive Monday evening either, so the next time I got in the car was Tuesday morning. I had to do a lot of positive talk to prepare myself for this moment and I really was ready...but then...the car battery was dead. So I grabbed Dan's helmet and walked off in search of a boda boda (motorcycles that act as taxis).

I viewed this incident as a blessing in disguise - thinking maybe I was being protected by not having a working car. Tuesday night was nice - 3 girls came over for a ladies night dinner and before they left we tried to jump my car. I felt like 4 girls jumping a car would make our ladies' night complete! We read directions online to make sure we were connecting the right clamps to the right parts, but nothing happen when we tried to start the car. Even the guard and 2 other security guards could not make it work with the jumper cables. They did however push the car and get it started that way. I was excited as I drove around the neighborhood at 10:30 pm charging the battery....

But of course - this is Africa - things cannot be that easy! I came out this morning and attempted to start the car again, but it was dead again. Maybe its actually an electric car that must be plugged in at night?!? Luckily I have Wednesdays off, so it was not too big of a deal. But I still want to know what is going on! Why does this happen when my mechanical engineer is gone?!?

Well, hopefully I will have a more positive story to share soon. For now I will have to embrace this free time at home - perhaps I should begin working on my research project for my MPH? :)

Ciao everyone,
Alicia

Sunday, September 14, 2008

First Project Trip

It's been three weeks since we arrived, and today I'm leaving for my first project trip.  We're headed up to Luwero, about two hours north of Kampala to work on a project for the organization Sufficiency of Scripture (SOS).  We'll be there until next Monday.  I'm going to be working on some electrical, some civil, and some graphic design tasks.  I'll try to keep a journal of sorts while I'm there and post it on the blog when we get back.  I should be able to add a lot more pictures.

Since Alicia is staying in Kampala this week, she needed to learn how to drive the Land Rover.  On Saturday, her first time driving, she drove back from Entebbe (30 miles south of Kampala) in heavy Saturday evening traffic.  She picked up Ugandan driving amazingly quickly!  Better than I did.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two global health experiences in one!

We've officially begun our work here in Kampala. Last Tuesday we participated in a scavenger hunt with Nate's organization - eMi. It was right up my alley and a great way to get to know the city a bit more. Since then we have been traveling to work together in Sarah and Dan's rugged car (a must in a city with so many potholes). Without trying, we managed to find 2 orgs that are only 2 miles apart. So he drops me off about 1 mile from the Hope Clinic and then drives the other mile to eMi in time for daily prayer time. At the end of the day we meet up some how and Nate drives us to our house - a 15 minute drive. Someday I may say that I drive Nate home, but for now I am "letting" him deal with the wheel!...Driving here is ridiculously crazy, scary and unorganized.

So far we've been blessed with good health. I have had some trouble with excessive, horrible dreams at night - a common side effect of the malaria meds we're taking. For those of you who have heard about my normal dreams, this may not seem like a negative side-effect, but it is. I usually dream, but they often involve kittens and Christmas. All this has changed since Mefloquine entered my body. SO, I've decided to stop taking them. Mzungus definitely get malaria, but it is very treatable and not terribly widespread in the city.

Today I had a great afternoon at the clinic. I started a "train the trainer" nutrition program for people in various communities who are often major sources of medical information in their communities. Since Africans are often much more relational than Americans, we used our first 2-hour session simply getting to know each other. I introduced myself and right away someone said, "oh! like Alicia Keys!". Yep, exactly. Five out of the six attendees spoke English and one was willing to translate in Luganda - the most common language after English. We played nutrition games and talked about which topics would be best for the 6-week training. I was pleasantly surprised by the group's honesty and openess about what would and wouldn't work. Tomorrow I will start another class - this one is targeted towards parents and will likely focus on infant feeding, hygeine, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and diet diversity.

One last thought - I was thinking tonight how cool it is that Nate and I are here together. Our drives home are filled with stories from our days, and this makes me feel like we are both having a "double-time" experience. Working separately during the day and sharing transport, stories and food together at night is the perfect combination!

As always, thank you for your love and support! Enjoy fall for us in DC and WI (and wherever else you're reading from where fall is a beautiful season)

Love,
Alicia

Monday, September 1, 2008

Vacation is over!

We enjoyed one more day of vacation today since its Labor Day in the US. Everyone else in Uganda worked today, but since the US Embassy was closed, we stayed home with Sarah and Dan. It was a lovely day filled with exercise in the morning (Sarah and I went running - giving Ugandans a chance to say things like, "good exercise!" or "who is winning?" or "they are training"), shopping at the arts and crafts market, reading (a book I bought called Food and Nutrition in Uganda) and now cooking some homemade pasta sauce to eat with macaroni for dinner.

I've learned a few things about nutrition in Uganda (more from conversations with people than from my new book):
1) Diets here are starchy! Matooke, sweet potatoes, kassava, Irish potatoes, rice and chapatti are some common carbohydrates. While this is good as an energy source, it seems that people fill up on these foods and skip veggies that supply needed vitamins and minerals
2) Beef, goat and dried fish seem popular while chicken is by far the most expensive animal meat. Sarah says the price of chicken has tripled in the past year. Dan says it always tastes funky anyways
3) Most Ugandans grow some produce, but don't seem to eat it themselves
4) Peanuts are called "groundnuts" or g-nut for short
5) Milk and yogurt are available, but are often transported and stored without refrigeration leading to spoiled milk often enough
6) A decent meal at a restaurant has run us around $5-$8 - not bad, although more than I would have guessed

Thanks for reading! Writing about food helps me to learn the info I need to learn in order to be an effective dietitian here! As we begin our work this week, we'll write more about our nutrition and engineering work. Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Royal Ascot Goat Races


Goat_Races_066, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Royal Ascot Goat Races. It's kind of a big spoof on the Kentucky Derby and other fancy horse races. Alicia and Sarah dressed up with big pink hats.

As you can see, the goats need some encouragement to "race". Whenever the goats would get far enough in front of the pusher, they would stop to eat the grass. I think there was some betting going on, but I didn't put any money on the races.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

10 Thoughts From the First 24 Hours

1.    My trip into another culture started out a little rough when the African ticket agent at the Ethiopian Airlines desk in Dulles asked to see my credit card.  I could not for the life of me understand him.  He did not have a very thick accent, Alicia had no problem figuring out what he wanted, but he had to repeat "credit card" about five times before I realized what he was saying.  Alicia thought that this did not bode well for our trip to Uganda

2.    Somehow I managed to book our seats on both flights one row in front of the exit row.  I had thought that I had gotten us exit rows, but I guess I misunderstood the airlines seating diagram.  It wasn't too bad, but I think we would have slept a little better on the way over had we had more leg room.

3.    The coffee was by far the highlight of the flight for me.  One perk of flying Ethiopian is that they serve real Ethiopian coffee, and they serve it strong and hot.

4.    One of the first things I noticed about Uganda was how red the soil is.  The country is very lush and green, but anywhere the soil is exposed is a bright burnt orange color.

5.    Driving in Kampala is crazy!  I need to devote a whole blog entry to it so I won't even try to describe it here.

6.    There are lots and lots of birds.  I'll plan to devote another post (in honor of my mom) to the birds we have seen just in Kampala.

7.    There are no American chain restaurants in Uganda.  No McDonalds, no Burger King, no KFC, no Starbucks.  That blew my mind.  There can't be many countries left on earth that can say that.  Pretty cool!

8.    While coffee is the number one export of Uganda, there are very few places to get good coffee in country (according to Dan).  Uganda is a tea drinking nation, being a former British colony and they export their beans unroasted.  I guess no one has mastered the art of coffee roasting here.  Probably because there is almost no demand for it.

9.    The exchange rate here is about 1635 Ugandan Shillings to 1 US Dollar.  That makes for some difficult math at the grocery store.

10.    Walking in Kampala, people pretty much ignore you. This is a refreshing change from my experience in Thailand and Alicia's in India where people would stop and stare as you passed.  I don't think it's because the people here are so used to white people, it seems like they just don't find it that strange that your skin color is different.  That doesn't mean that taxi drivers won't still try to rip you off for being an inexperienced tourist.

More to come.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why can't there be just one time zone?

Its 1:15 in the morning. I feel like a princess as I sit under our mosquito net in bed typing on our laptop. I read a book for a while, then turned off the light and tried to fall asleep. Finally I whispered Nate's name and asked if he was asleep (an inconsiderate question, I know)...but I wanted someone to share my sleeplessness! Luckily, he couldn't sleep either and was even hungry. So now we're sitting here eating wasabi peas and nuts. Nate is trying to decide which pictures to share with you all.

Our flights here were fairly uneventful. The only unfortunate things were the broken reading lights and the horrible looking mushrooms they served with breakfast (see below). We flew from DC to Rome (8 hours, 40 minutes), stopped for fuel but couldn't get off the plane, then from Rome to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (6 hours, 30 minutes). From the airport windows, Addis looks like a very lush, fertile country. Neither of us knew it was so mountainous.



We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda only 30 minutes late. We made it through customs without a hitch and our baggage was waiting for us, which was excellent. A driver from the embassy was also waiting for us with a sign that said BOSSCHER. Nate waved to him as if to say, "that us, we're the Bosschers," but didn't consider that there were lots of other drivers standing around him who might have thought he was waving to them. I thought it was funny.

Sarah and Dan's house is amazing. Definitely more classy than our apartment in Alexandria, and we loved that apartment! When S&D got home from the embassy, we took Romeo (Sarah's shitzu) for a walk to an outdoor bar and tasted our first Tusker - an African beer. After a quick tour of the grocery store, Payless, we walked back home and had a nice big salad for dinner. YEP - we broke the rule of COOK IT, PEEL IT OR FORGET IT on our very first day in Africa. Its okay - I told Nate that I wasn't going to follow that rule anyways. If I'm sick tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be filled with regret.

Okay, I'm off to attempt the difficult task of sleeping again! As you can see by the clocks at the bottom of the page, our bodies still think its 6:53 pm, but I might be able to trick mine.

Thanks for your prayers and support!
-Alicia

Monday, August 25, 2008

We've Arrived

We're here in Kampala, safe and sound.  All the luggage made it intact.  More updates to come.

-Nate and Alicia

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Upcoming eMi Projects

It looks like I am going to be involved in at least three different eMi projects in Uganda this fall.  As I have very limited civil and structural engineering experience, I hope to learn a ton.  In addition to engineering work, I will be helping as a graphic designer and photographer for a couple of the projects; working to create fund raising materials.

Below are brief descriptions of each of the projects which I have gotten from the project leaders.

Sufficiency of Scripture:
We will be travelling about 2 1/2 hours North of Kampala to Luwero to work with a ministry called Sufficiency of Scripture (sosministries.com) who has recently purchased 100 acres with plans of building a ministry training center, primary and secondary schools, long and short-term missionary housing facilities and a ministry/worship center for the nearby community.  They are in the process of clearing the portions of the site where they intend to build so we can survey the land during the trip.  The site is an amazing piece of property that is beautiful African 'bush' and jungle.

Come Let's Dance:
We will be working with a group of architects and engineers in order to complete the design for a Farm Project for Come, Let's Dance (www.comeletsdance.org).  The property is approximately 20 acres and the ministry has the vision of implementing organic farming techniques to produce food and income for the associated community while emphasizing education, training, and empowerment. The goal of the design is to provide a working farm that fits within the local culture while still being a catalyst for positive change.  The farm will provide food and funding for orphans under the care of Come Let's Dance, training and support for individuals within the community to become more sustainable, as well as providing some housing for the poor.

During the project trip we'll provide a master plan for the site and architectural design for the first couple of buildings that will be constructed. We will design the site layout in such a manner as to allow multiple phases of construction over the course of the next few months or years.  Additional information on the project is located at http://emiea.org/projects/projectprofile_9072.shtm.

Construction Management Trip:
I will be joining a number of construction managers visiting from overseas on a tour of eMi's construction sites in Uganda.  There are two main goals for this trip.  The first is to see and experience construction management in Africa first hand.  This will be done by visiting both locations in Uganda where EMI has mobilized a construction manager.  At one of these sites we will stay for a few days and get our hands dirty with some actual construction.  The second goal of the trip is to visit potential construction sites to see the need these ministries have for a qualified construction manager.

As I learn more about these and other projects I might be involved in, I will update the blog.

5 more days!

One Year Later


0064_1, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.

Alicia and I celebrated our first anniversary last night with a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir from our honeymoon followed by a wonderful dinner at Restaurant Nora in DC.

It's been a full year to say the least, and it has been a incredible blessing to be able to share it together.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Barstow, CA


DSC_0799, originally uploaded by Nate Bosscher.

I just returned from my last trip to Barstow, CA. Since I flew into Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to make a detour through Death Valley on my way to Barstow. Obviously, it's aptly named. I got there just after sunrise and it was already in the 90's. By 8:00 the temp in the valley had reached 100! Crazy. If your car broke down on the one of the side highways you could be in big trouble. Cell phone coverage is very poor off the interstate and there often are no people within 20 miles. I don't understand why people live in the Mojave Desert.

Besides a 5 degree temperature drop, Barstow does not offer a whole lot more to see or do than Death Valley. I've had the 'pleasure' of making four trips out there in the past year and have gotten to know the three decent local restaurants pretty well. If I never set foot in Barstow again, it will be fine with me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

From One Nation's Capitol to Another

We've submitted our resignation letters, booked our tickets, gotten our shots, and picked up our malaria medicine! I'm not sure we're ready, but we're very excited.

On August 24th, we will be traveling to Kampala, Uganda to work for 4 months. Alicia will be working as a dietitian for a couple clinics in and around Kampala and Nate as an engineering volunteer with Engineering Ministries International (eMi).

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