Tuesday, 20 March 2018

"Poetry and Readings" Student Blog Post

Monica's Travels 
Monica Knaak

Greetings to all of you from Serere, Mukono and UCU!

I have been putting off writing this blog because I have not known where to start or what to say. This is certainly not for a lack of words, as this semester has been one of lots of writing, but rather deciding how to share with all of you about everything that I have been experiencing, learning and thinking about since the last time I posted. I have really tried to start this blog and have had many different ideas about how to go about this, but today I decided to share with you all a section of a longer poem I wrote this week for one of my classes about my recent experiences in the broader sense of my entire experience. I also am including a suggested reading list based on some of the reading I have done this semester. If you have any specific questions about anything or want to talk to me, please reach out as it is so much easier to talk about life here one-on-one.
Week 1 I was told, “you’re a pilgrim, not a tourist.”
We read that a pilgrimage was about “transformation of the self
Through the forgiveness of sin” (Cavanaugh, 2008, p. 349).
I never knew how true that could be – that I would truly be transforming
In ways I never could have predicted.
It involved “humility…a stripping away of the external sources of
Stability in one’s life…generally traveled on foot” (Cavanaugh, 2008, p. 349).
I didn’t know then what I know now about living daily
With cultural humility, without a sense of stability or routine at times
And with a walk on foot that challenges me.
Although I didn’t know then what it really meant to be a pilgrim,
I jumped on the USP pilgrim train,
Having no clue where it would take me.
Fast forward through 2 months of learning, reading, and listening;
2 months of talking, telling stories, and building relationships;
2 months of experiencing family life and learning the Ugandan ways.
And then “spring break” comes.
And like any good pilgrim, I was ready to engage, learn, and rest.
I met my sweet Serere family in rural Uganda
A mama, a grandma, a 9 month-old sister, a 19 year-old brother, a great aunt,
And 2 girls that were house help but were like my other sisters.
I never knew how fast I could come to feel like family.
They all wanted to sit with me and teach me their ways:
Shelling g-nuts, cooking their specialties, speaking Ateso,
Sweeping the compound, digging in the garden, and so much more.
They taught me how important community is –
They work hard together, eat together, and rest together.
There is something beautiful about resting with family
In the shade in the heat of the day.
During this time of enjoying beautiful views,
I read 
Jesus FeministAfter the Locusts, and 
“Education for Homelessness or Homemaking”
And I thought about the woman I wanted to become.
At the end of the week, I cried when departing, wishing I could stay longer.
As a pilgrim, I walked away with a new family, a new home,
And a better, growing understanding of myself.

My pilgrimage then took me to Sipi Falls.
Where I debriefed and hiked with my monks and friends.
I was returning physically exhausted and unprepared for the week ahead.
I was unprepared to transition back to life in Mukono.

My pilgrimage then took me through
One of the hardest weeks of the semester.
A week filled with tears, emotions all over the spectrum,
Conversations with many monks, and lots of self-learning.
But after a restful weekend of writing, processing, and sleeping,
I was refreshed and ready to be a student again.
While I still needed to ponder difficult questions and topics,
Hear difficult stories, and process many experiences,
I felt once again like myself and able to live well

In this place that I have come to love.

Monica digging with her mom in the garden
Tending to the fire in the kitchen 

After talking about my life as a student, I feel the need to write a book recommendation list because I have read SO many good books and articles this semester that have made me think a lot.
  • After the Locusts by Denise Ackermann – One of my favorites of the semester that is an accessible book of letters on theology and feminism and responses to suffering from a white South African woman post-Apartheid.
  • Compassion by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison – Such a good read about what it truly means to live out real compassion and about the importance of community.
  • Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey – This is the book I read for fun over my rural homestay and it is such a good, quick read that is all about the role of women in the church.
  • “Education for Homelessness or Homemaking? The Christian College in a Postmodern Culture” by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh – An interesting article about the purpose of education and our care for creation.
  • Community 101 Reclaiming the Local Church as Community of Oneness – I only read chapter 1 but chapter 1 was SO good and I am hoping to read the rest of the book at some point.
  • When Helping Hurts – An important look at how we help others as the church and approaches to responding to poverty.
  • Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – I haven’t yet finished this book, but it is a theological look at wealth and poverty in today’s world.
I am sure this will be a growing list, but I think that’s all for now.

Monica and other students in a Faith & Action class.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Life as a UCU Student

Part of being a USP student is becoming a Uganda Christian University (UCU) student. As UCU students, USP students have the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of UCU life; from living in the dorms and eating in the dining hall, to participating in fellowships and choirs, to joining sports teams.

Uganda Christian University has some of the best sports teams in the nation, and as UCU students, USP students are able to be a part of them-- not simply as visitors playing with the team, but actual members of the team. Hospitality in value that extends to all areas of life in Uganda; students find the same openness and generosity of spirit becoming a part of a team, as they do with their host families.

“UCU does an exceptional job of allowing USP students to get involved in on-campus activities. I have specifically seen this as the UCU soccer team has welcomed me with open arms. From the moment I joined the team, the coaches and players have encouraged and loved me so well. From walking with me to the market to get soccer clothes, to staying after practice to train me, they are always willing to go the extra mile to make me feel comfortable. Seeing my teammates throughout the day never fails to bring a smile to my face as their excitement and joy is such a blessing to me. I am very thankful for the privilege to be able to be on a team that teaches me so much about hospitality and relationships through their actions.” -Kathryn Evenson (Dallas Baptist University) 

"Walking onto UCU's campus for the first time felt like freshman year of college all over again, except three times more intimidating. Besides my appearance giving away the fact that I obviously didn't belong, my actions during the first two weeks screamed ignorance and my lack of knowledge about how to function in this new place. It was only when I established relationships with my roommates and joined the UCU volleyball team that I gained confidence in not only how to survive here, but how to thrive here. I quickly learned how gracious my Ugandan friends were with me through their gentle corrections of how to properly wash my clothes or how to speak Luganda. There is so much beauty in our common humanity. I couldn't help but smile when my teammates designated me as the all-time "score keeper" during our scrimmages, giggling every time I said "twunny" instead of "twen-ty." Differences in culture do not stop community from happening. I have seen evidence of this each night with my three roommates. Some nights we spend doing squats and Zumba videos, other nights we talk about the difficulty of college classes or what boys we are crushing on. My roommates have doubled as my seamstresses, hairstylists, and sisters. They never fail to wish me goodnight or good morning. Referring to myself as a Uganda Christian University student is actually starting to sound normal; it's a title I feel honored to have as part of my identity. I finally feel like I belong." -Sidney Blankespoor (Point Loma Nazarene University) 

The UCU womens volleyball team (Sidney Blankespoor third from the left)

Another way USP students are integrated into the UCU community is through taking classes with UCU students. These Foundation Studies (General Education) courses include Health and Wholeness, Ethics, Old Testament, and New Testament often fulfill requirements from students' home universities, while also giving them an opportunity to get to know UCU students that they might not otherwise encounter. Taking UCU courses exposes USP students to the Ugandan teaching style and classroom setting as well as gives them the opportunity to learn about a subject from different cultural perspectives.

Emily in her UCU Ethics class
"My UCU class has been more than just academics; it has been an opportunity to engage with UCU students and build friendships. Most UCU classes require group work, which means you are paired with a small group of students in your class to work with for the entire semester. My group members were some of the first people I met when my classes started and they have been so open and kind in helping me navigate life at UCU, even outside of class. Especially in the first few weeks of the semester, when everything felt overwhelming, the opportunity to bond with my Ugandan classmates was a comfort. Overall, the class has exposed me to a different style of teaching and learning, and pushed me to engage more in cross-cultural relationships." -Abby Millard (Gordon College)

“My UCU class is Health and Wholeness. I’m learning what being healthy looks like in Uganda. It’s interesting because I’m learning about topics, such as the different types of pit latrines, that I would not have learned about in the U.S. My favorite part about the class is the friends I have made. It was a little intimidating going to class the first day. By the next class, I was greeted by two girls who had saved me a seat with them. Now after lecture, we always go to lunch together and talk until we are done eating.” – Lynsey Mayberry (Messiah College)

You cannot talk about Uganda Christian University without mentioning the Christian community that exists on campus. USP students have an opportunity to joining fellowships, sing in the various choirs: such as the Chapel Choir and Mustard Seed, and attend prayer services with other students. They attend Community Worship with the greater UCU community every Tuesday and Thursday at midday, and every semester USP students lead one of the Community Worship services together with the Honours College students. They lead praise and worship the Ugandan way and show off their hidden dance moves, much to the delight of the UCU community.

"Joining fellowships and being apart of worship has shown me the unity we have as the body of Christ. It's so fun to connect with the students from a place of faith. Seeing the way they express their faith has helped me gain a more complete view of the church. I built such solid friendships in the fellowships I have attended and have felt so accepted by the community. As we all share testimonies, our faith grows!"- Lisa Reimann (Biola University)

The On-Campus USP students share dorms and rooms with fellow UCU students from Uganda and other African countries. They eat in the dining hall; which includes a lot of rice, posho (sticky cornmeal bread), beans, peas, greens and new foods like G-nut (peanut) sauce. They hang out with their roommates and friends in the dining hall, on campus and off campus. Things are different in a lot of ways from their home campuses, but at the end of the day, going to college in the US is not all that different the going to university in Uganda, and life is made up of figuring out how to live together, getting dinner with your roommates, studying for classes, staying up too late and making plans for the weekend.

USP students hanging out in the dining hall for tea
Engaging in the full-spectrum of life on campus allows our students to build meaningful relationships with fellow UCU students and get the full cross-cultural experience of being UCU students themselves. At the end of the semester, each student is presented with a certificate that confirms that they have completed USP and are now considered UCU alumni. True to Ugandan culture, once part of a family, always part of a family. This holds true at UCU – once a UCU student, always a UCU student!