Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things I guest blogger Caroline Smellie

My friend Carolyn Smellie in Mbarara recently wrote a blog about what she misses while living here in Uganda.
I think it's a clever, funny round up that applies to us too! You can see more of her blogs here...

I Miss...

Everyone who moves to the mission field experiences some sense of loss. There are things that we all miss and give up to be here. Some things are more significant, like the birth, death, or marriage of a family member or close friend. Having your children grow up near their cousins. Participating in family reunions. Other things are much more trivial. It's not unusual for people to move to Uganda and crave things like Chick-fil-A and Dr. Pepper. Some miss the fast internet speeds and unlimited downloads. 

At this point, my list of things that I miss looks a little different:

One stop shops... specifically, Target. Yes, Uganda has some very creative convenience combinations, like a car wash with your dinner or a pedicure at the gas station, but it's just not the same. On average, it takes three locations, two phone calls, and one boda ride to get all my shopping done for the week.
Being anonymous. This is a big one for me. I miss being able to blend in and go unnoticed. As soon as I step out of my compound gate, I have to be "on" and aware of the fact that I'm always being watched, often being singled out, and sometimes being followed. How do I cope? It involves a combination of sunglasses to give me a sense of privacy, an ipod playing to drown out the comments, and an umbrella to block the stares.

Sidewalks. I appreciate the pedestrian culture in Uganda, but there are no official provisions made for it in Mbarara. Sidewalks can only be found in town, and even then, you have to watch out for the bodas that drive up and down or park in the middle of them.

City noise ordinances. There's a sports stadium (a.k.a. grassy field with a set of bleachers), a large boys' boarding school, various bars with huge loud speakers, and an event grounds right at the bottom of our hill. Because of science and the incredible amphitheater effect, we get all sorts of music blasted right up the hill and into our apartment building all hours of the day and night.  And then there are the neighbor dogs... I listen to this soundtrack on repeat every day.

    Customer service. Now, this can be deceiving on first appearances. In your average grocery store, there's usually a 1:1 ratio of workers to aisles. They sit on a stool in the aisle or walk behind you, at close range, as you shop. It does seem like it could be helpful to have so many employees just hanging around waiting to help. Sometimes I can't find the product I need, and sometimes I ask an employee if they know where it is, and I alwaysregret this. 
    The truth is, though the employees are more than willing to help, they don't usually know what it is they're looking for. To their credit, they've probably never tried or heard of many products the store stocks, and the stock is constantly changing. Since many of the products are imported from China and Dubai, the purchaser will bring over a few of each item to see how they sell. This means a constantly changing and always random assortment of products that don't have an official spot in the store or known use to the employees. So when I ask for "ginger ale" or "brown rice," they'll make a valiant effort to search the whole store. But if I couldn't find it on my own, it's not there.

    Seasons marking time. While I don't particularly miss scraping ice off windshields or the suffocating humidity, I do miss the changing of season and how they help mark the passage of time. Is it July or December? It all feels and looks the same here!
    Outdoor baptism in December? Why not!
    4th of July picnic

    Systems and structures that allow for productivity. I don't tend to think about things like road maintenance, quality control, law enforcement, and general organization until something goes wrong. I didn't realize how much predictability and comfort these systems and structures provide for the average citizen until they were severely lacking. Apart from high school government classes, I'd never spent much time thinking about what it would be like to establish a country, create and enforce laws, build and maintain infrastructure that serves its citizens, and ensure that everything flows well and makes sense in the bigger picture. And then I moved to Uganda and starting thinking about it all the time.  

    A vehicle and the freedom it brings. Though driving here brings its own set of stresses (see "systems and structures," or lack thereof) it's great to be able to pop into town or over to the grocery store without too much hassle (see "being anonymous"). On rare occasions, I get to ride in a friend's air-conditioned vehicle and put all my shopping bags in the trunk rather than walking in the hot sun and then calling a boda to help carry my things home. Those rare occasions are a real treat!

    In Luke 14, Jesus tells his disciples to count the cost of following him. He describes our Kingdom work as being like building and battle. He says, "Sit down and see if you can afford to follow me." Living in Uganda has certainly caused me to count the costs of following Jesus numerous times, yet it always comes down to this: He Is Worth It.

    1 comment:

    1. Even though we are living in Fiji, I can fully relate to all your experiences, and also agree with your closing sentence !