Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Rural Homestays in Kapchorwa

It was the midpoint in the semester, just as students were starting to feel a little weary of the school assignments that have been piling up, and most of us felt ready for a change of pace. With the late nights spent writing midterm papers finally behind us, we piled into two vans early on a Friday morning for the five hour drive to Kapchorwa in eastern Uganda. Our target departure time was 8:30am sharp, so keeping time was important, but once we’d all settled into the vans and taken off down the road, we took off our watches, put away our phones and relaxed into life with a very different sense of time.

The vans rolling out of the UCU parking lot
Each student was dropped off at a home somewhere along the road between the village of Sipi and Kapchorwa town. As with the Mukono homestay drop offs, no one was exactly sure what to expect from this week spent living with strangers in a new village, so the vans were filled with a little nervous excitement and a lot of hope for the best.

Molly and her host sisters carry her things to their home
Zachary meets his Kapchorwa mama
And with that, rural homestays began. A week of making new friends…

Geralyn with her host mama
Julia with her baby brother Simon

Learning to cook and make juice...

Kat helps her family prepare a meal
Alexis makes passion fruit juice during a visit to Kat's Kapchorwa home
Learning to milk cows...

Kendra learns to milk a cow
Getting the full coffee experience...

Kat helps her family harvest coffee berries
Jansen serves coffee that he helped harvest, pulp, roast and grind
Helping out around the compound...

Laura helps sweep her family's compound
Sam sorts peas while hanging out with his twin sisters
Helping to carry water...

Louise takes a jerrycan down the road to get water for her family
Hosting the staff when they came for visits...

Julia pours tea for the staff during a visit
Katie and her host sister "give a push" to the staff after a visit
And, of course, enjoying the stunning scenery of Mt. Elgon!

Jessica and her host mama during a hike to a nearby waterfall
The week came to an end much too fast, but each student left with yet another valuable experience that will stay in their hearts forever.

To debrief the events of the week we stayed at the Crow’s Nest, a lodge in Sipi, which has arguably the most spectacular view in the world. (We're not biased!) Overlooking a beautiful green valley and the gorgeous Sipi Falls, it was the perfect spot to catch up with each other, discuss the questions we had about the week, fill up on delicious food, hike to three different waterfalls and just soak in the beauty of the glorious hills. 
Morgan gives us a pep talk before we leave for the debrief hike
Students stop on the top of a hill while the fog rolls in
Students take a rest under a waterfall during the hike
We ended our time with a Sunday morning worship service at the top of the hill – a beautiful way to stop and remind ourselves of God’s presence after a week of learning to love the world around us with big hearts and open minds.

Julia leads us in prayer on Sunday morning and shares some insights she gained from the week
The view from the hilltop during our worship service

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Daily Life

A beautiful sunset viewed from the top of the Honors College complex
Sometimes daily life is challenging because it’s just that – daily life. We want to do BIG things in the world, to make change and be changed. Sometimes the routines of daily life sound boring, hollow or even silly in comparison with our big dreams of making a difference in the world.  

USP and Honors College students go for an early morning run at the track
Students take a break in a local coffee shop while walking around Kampala
Big things do happen here at USP. We do have deep, life-challenging conversations with each other. We do encounter God in new and powerful ways as we join Ugandans in worship. Our host families do share pieces of their lives that change our perspectives forever. And these are all wonderful things, experiences that stick with us forever.

But a big part of our time here is just doing daily life. And that is okay.

Julia takes a selfie with her host family
Living daily life in Uganda eats away at our expectation that we just always be making change and being changed. Yes, we are called to live as people who believe in and work towards a beautiful future. But we are also called to be present and faithful in all of life, in the mundane just as much as in the most pivotal moments.

Kendra and her host mom at a family member's wedding
Jansen and his suite mates hang out in Thelma Hall
In Uganda we learn to enjoy being present as we cook dinner together, take tea, sit in the darkness with our families while the power is out, sit in class and listen to our lecturers, walk down the roads and pathways at a leisurely pace, go to soccer practice in the evenings, laugh at our host siblings goofing off, admire the sunset, take yet another lap around the track… Maybe it is routine. But it’s life. And part of our journey is learning to find joy and meaning in all of it. 

Students stop at Katie's hostel for tea time!