Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Repurposing, Shepherding, Developing, and Growing

A photo essay on the last few days...

On Saturday Acacia and Liana were just being sisters waiting for the MAF plane to land. =) We welcomed old and new friends from Arua to our compound for the weekend as they came to attend to the installation of the new Bishop of the Lui Diocese.

We arrived in Lui on Sunday morning for the installation of the new Bishop right around 9 am. The service was set to start at 9 am and we walked into the cathedral around 9:10 as the opening songs were ending. They were very serious about keeping time for the celebration.

Lui has a long history of faithful men and women serving God starting with Dr. Kenneth Fraser, the first missionary in Lui. He is buried next to the cathedral he built. Dr. Fraser also started a school and a hospital in Lui which operate to this day.

When Dr. Fraser arrived in Lui, he built the cathedral next to a very old fig tree that had been a part of the slave trade in Sudan. He repurposed a tree that had long been the first stop for Moru people to a life of slavery and he made it a shade and resting place for men and women who would worship God freely.

Stephen Dokolo was installed as the new Bishop of the Lui Diocese. It was quite a celebration presided over by Archbishop Dr. Daniel Deng. The two central passages were 1 Peter 2 and John 10. Bishop Stephen was presented a staff as a symbol of his call to shepherd the pastors and congregations of the Lui Diocese. Join us in praying for Bishop Stephen, Bishop Bismark, and all the men and women called to shepherd the church in Sudan.

As we were getting ready to head home, I saw a man with two locally constructed beehives on the back of his bike. I quickly got out my camera and snapped a picture for some friends of mine in PA. Two fellow Nittany Lions have left the corporate engineering life in San Francisco have started Third Root Farm. Nick is new to beekeeping, but was interested in seeing pictures of local beekeeping methods. We LOVE the local honey. =)

If you are interested in any particular aspect of local culture and life here, let me know and I may be able find out more and snap a few pictures.

Michael stopped at the market as we headed home. The heat of the day and a long service under a tin roof had its effect on all of us. We kept hydrated, which makes a huge difference. I just like this photo. =) Notice Gaby in the driver's seat.

On Tuesday I spent a few hours biking around town hoping to connect with some of the other NGOs in Mundri that are working in the area of development. God had prepared the way for me that day because almost everywhere I stopped there were people around who had time to tell about their work and share prayer requests. I even just happened to see a sign for Mundri Active Youth Association when I was looking for another organization and followed the arrows to learn about a group I hadn't previously visited.

I also got to visit Women and Youth Empowerment Microfinance Institution, which is currently the only banking institution in Mundri. Despite the name, any person between the ages of 18 and 50 can apply for a loan or participate in their savings program.

Join me in praying for all those who are working in the area of development in Sudan. Also pray for me as I continue to look to scripture, read books, and learn from wise friends as I think about development in Africa.

Thanks to our guests from Arua who came bearing a gift of fresh fruits and vegetables, that night I made grilled zucchini in a citrus splash marinade with black beans and brown rice for dinner. Any dinner with fresh fruit and vegetables is such a treat.

David also brought seeds for us from his stock in Arua! Today Acacia and I planted a small herb garden in half of an old water can that was then used for mixing cement and now has been repurposed again. If they grow well on our porch, they will be transferred to a small herb garden next to the kitchen in a few weeks. Hopefully we will have basil, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, hot peppers, chamomile, parsley, chives, and oregano in a few months! With Larissa still in the US, I've been taking a leap and trying my hand at helping something grow.

This afternoon I organized my language notebook, reviewed my language learning plan, and studied some of the Juba Arabic that I learned at Sudan Christian Fellowship in Richmond. Pray for me as I continue learning Juba Arabic in Mundri.

So that was a bit about the last few days. Tomorrow Bethany arrives in Mundri, and we are all excited to go the airstrip to welcome her back. =)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Package Suggestions

Following Scott's package suggestion example, here are a few things I would love to receive in a package.
  • A letter or note from you!
  • Pictures of you and your family
  • Book suggestions (or a Kindle book gift-card)
  • CD's with your favorite sermons
  • Music CD's that you enjoy
  • Small supplies for science experiments (ex: balloons, food coloring, (Elmer's glue and Borax - when combined make a polymer))
  • Goldfish
  • Pretzels
  • Walnuts, Pecans, or Pine Nuts
  • DVD of a movie you loved
  • Flower or herb seeds
  • Bandannas (very useful and make great gifts)
  • UNO cards or other simple games to play with friends
  • Flavored Coffee (cinnamon, hazelnut, pumpkin spice, etc.)
  • Tea bags (mint and pumpkin spice are my favorites, but I love most teas)
  • Anything non-perishable from Trader Joe's or Elwood Thompson's
Of course please also feel free to send anything you think I would enjoy that I didn't suggest!

Note: I will be returning to America in December so anything posted after September probably won't reach me in time, but I'm sure my teammates would enjoy the contents of the package. =)

Please also put anything that could break or spill in a zip-lock bag.

Letters and packages in envelopes instead of boxes will arrive here much faster.

Here are few things I would prefer you did not include, but if you send them I'm sure the rest of the team or my friends in town will enjoy everything.
  • Candy or chocolate
  • Powder drink mixes
  • Books - I have a Kindle, and we have to pay for by weight to get our packages from Uganda to Sudan.
  • Very heavy items
  • Anything that doesn't do well in heat

Monday, June 27, 2011


Praise God for good friends!

Heather and David who used to live in Lui and are now living in Arua have already been such a blessing to our team. Now they will also be keeping a P.O. Box for us in Arua and helping get our mail and packages on MAF flights to Mundri.

If you would like to send me letters or packages you can post them to the following address. It will most likely take about six - eight weeks to arrive.

Christine Olmeda
World Harvest Mission
P.O. Box 355
Arua, Uganda

I really enjoy getting real mail, even if it just a note saying hi. There is something beautiful about holding a letter written by a friend in America that has traveled across the ocean and made it to my hands in Sudan.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adventures in Food

Cooking in Mundri can be full of the unexpected and is often a learning experience. Fuel prices have been very high recently (as much $70 per gallon in some areas of Juba last week), and we have not yet been able to find propane for our stove. In an effort to conserve the little propane we have left, we got some local charcoal stoves. It was my night to cook so I decided to make one of our Sudanese favorites, greens with ground nut paste and rice.

First I had to figure out how to light the charcoal. Thankfully Cecilia was cooking at the Bishop's compound next door and she gave me a few hot coals. After I walked over with my stove piled high with charcoal, she looked at me and taught me lesson number one. Little food, little charcoal. =) She rearranged the charcoal between the two stoves and I put a lot back in the bag for another day. I don't know what the outcome of the meal would have been with out her help! She also offered a few suggestions for preparing the greens. Thank you, Cecilia, for making several necessary corrections to my Sudanese cooking technique!

Success! A meal cooked without propane from all locally available ingredients. It didn't taste exactly like the Sudanese greens with ground nut paste that we all love, but it was pretty close.

Today I headed to the market to pick up a few things for Karen who is cooking tonight, and I spotted a fruit I didn't quite recognize. Fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce so we usually buy what we can get even if we aren't sure what it is exactly. I got home and cut one open and this is what I found. Definitely unexpected. It tastes like SweeTarts. It is good if you just suck on the seed, but we made into juice for dinner and it was EXCELLENT!

If anyone can identify this fruit, let me know!

Last year our team bought what we thought was a watermelon and when we cut it in half it turned out to be a giant cucumber. =)

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Over the last several days in Sudan I have encountered snakes, rodents, scorpions, and wild dogs. Even now as I sit and type at my computer there are the relentless flies and wasps flying at my face.

Well today on my way to church I encountered this rather large chameleon. Since I rarely come upon interesting animals much less one that I am not trying to remove from my house or personal space, I decided it was worth stopping and watching it for a bit. I called Karen, so she and the kids came running down the road to check our our lizard friend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

White Shirt

My 2008 Ukrop's 10k white t-shirt after two years of sweat and dirt in Sudan next to my 2011 Ukrop's 10k t-shirt after one day in Sudan. Aside from the color, the old shirt is also hard and stiff from being scrubbed hand in Omo then dried in the intense sun. The new shirt is still soft and comfortable.

Highlights From Days Two and Three

Bike Repair, Moya Ma Fi (Water Not There), Full Water Tanks, Broken Door Locks...

Day two started off with an early morning jog with Karen, Acacia, and Chai. Then I enjoyed a cup of coffee in my new insulated travel french press which is the perfect size since I am the only coffee drinker on the team at the moment. It was my cook night, so I started the process of going to the market.

Step One: Locate Bike - It was deep in the store in the far corner behind several other bikes.
Step Two: Clean Bike - It was covered in spiderwebs and dust.
Step Three: Fix Bike - The tires needing air was the simplest of the issues. My bike chain was pretty rusty and dirty. Michael brought out his new bicycle repair tools including a chain cleaning device and rigged up a gasoline bath for the chain. After lots of WD-40 and a few other tweaks, the bike was ready to ride.
Step Four: Add Spiff Bike Basket - The Massos had brought two bike baskets for market runs, so one was attached to my bike and the other to Karen's new bike.

With my bike fixed I was set to head into the market. Acacia joined me on Karen's new bike with the other basket and with our shopping list plus a few items for the Bishop's wife, we were off. The bike ride to the market wasn't as far as I remembered, but the main road is in far worse condition and very bumpy. I didn't see a single person I knew at the market, but I got to brush off my Moru and Arabic greetings. I really enjoyed the whole process of getting back to the market.

Check out Karen's blog post for more about the food and fuel situation in Mundri, prayer requests, and a picture of me and Acacia on our bikes sweaty and just back from the market.

On another happy note, both of the new skirts I got for Sudan so far have been very successful. They don't fly up when I bike or have so much fabric that it gets caught in the spokes and they aren't too hot. =)

Michael spent a good portion of the day replacing some of the door locks that were broken with new locks from Kampala. That night as I was locking up the team house to go to bed one of the brand new locks broke. It is broken in the locked position so the deadbolt will have to be sawed in half to get the door open again. The same thing happened to my door last year and Phil came to the rescue using the angle grinder to cut the deadbolt since Melissa and I were locked out of rooms.

The next day Michael and I headed out find out the status of the water projects at Hai Salaama and at BNTC. The water office staff were out of town fixing another hand pump so we will meet with them early next week. We biked over to the project, and there was no water flowing at Hai Salaama. Unfortunately there wasn't anyone around with enough English to tell us how long it has been this way or what happened. Monday we will head back with some troubleshooting tools and take a closer look starting with the electrical connections. We headed over to BNTC next and found water in abundance. The float switch isn't working so the tank overflows occasionally and the tarp used as a temporary tank cover is torn to shreds, but overall things look to be in great shape. We headed over to greet the students at BNTC, and we found them digging in the garden and picking some Moringa leaves for lunch.

That afternoon we had team meeting with the four of us (Michael, Karen, Scott, and myself). It was a wonderful time of hearing more about what has been going on with each person while we have been apart and praying together as well as some logistics and team business.

Note: I will NOT be continuing day by day posts, but for now as I transition back to life in Mundri they will probably be more frequent. =)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back in Mundri! Day One

A car on the airstrip as we are landing, snakes, heat…the familiar things of daily life in Mundri.

After a week in Uganda, I arrived back in Mundri safely on Tuesday morning. I was the only passenger on the MAF flight, but several of the seats were filled with my luggage along with most of the Massos luggage. The cargo area was filled with water project supplies, curriculum for the kids, etc.

On the first flight from Kajjansi to Arua I started listening to audio book, but once we climbed to the cruising altitude I put on my jacket and I was out. After waking up early for the flight, the thin air put me right to sleep.

After the plane refueled in Arua, I managed to stay awake during the second flight. As we were descending I saw a large spot on the airstrip. At first I thought it was a cow and I’m hoping someone from my team is there already to have the herder move it quickly. As I look up the airstrip I don’t see our team car in the left corner where we usually park. Then I notice the spot is moving QUICKLY straight down the airstrip. Turns out the spot was our team car! We usually drive down the airstrip to clear any debris before a plane lands, but they were still on the airstrip as we were landing. They cleared out of the way just in time. When I stepped off the plane I was greeted by the Massos, Scott, and our friend James. I stepped down onto the familiar red dirt airstrip, and the kids proceeded to tell me all about the excitement from their perspective riding on the car. Praise God for safe travels all the way to Mundri!

Somehow while I Uganda I had convinced myself that Africa wasn’t as hot as I remembered it. When I tell Ugandans that I live in Sudan, they almost always comment that Sudan is HOT. I thought that since the rains in Mundri had started it wouldn’t be that hot, but after one minute moving cargo on the airstrip I was very sad that I couldn’t find a hair tie to get my hair off my back. The reality is that the past two days have not been that hot in comparison to the dry season in Mundri, but I’m readjusting the heat and falling back into old habits like always carrying a sweat rag with me.

When we got to the compound I stepped into my familiar little house to find the curtains drawn and light pouring the windows. It was remarkably clean! The Massos had passed on the kindness that Scott showed them by cleaning out the entire house including Larissa’s room. They evicted a rat and cleaned all the rat droppings. They dusted the ceiling and walls. They mopped the floors with bleach. They found my sheets in a trunk and washed them. They washed my mosquito net. They put a mattress out in the sun to get rid of the musty smell and made my bed for me. They went above and beyond to welcome me to a clean house, and I am so thankful!

I spent the rest of the day unpacking, cleaning, and organizing. I fell back into the daily living tasks of life in Mundri. Even the hydrating process was comfortable and familiar as I poured myself a glass of water from the fridge, then refilled the pitcher from the water filter, then filled the water filter from the tap.

In the afternoon I stepped back into my room ready to tackle another trunk and out of the corner of my eye I saw another unwelcome visitor. There was a three foot long skinny green snake slithering on my window seat which then retreated to under my desk as jumped back out the door. Michael came to the rescue again and killed the second snake I have found in my room. The snake incident last year was a lot scarier, but I am still looking around a little more carefully when I walk in a room and flashing my headlamp on all the walls and checking behind the door in our shower before stepping forward.

At the end of the day after taking a shower and drying off smelling the familiar scent of a towel washed in Omo and dried in hot African sun, I crawled into to my bed, tucked in my mosquito net, turned on my new solar reading lamp, and read a few chapters of The Mysterious Benedict Society, a children's book recommended by a friend. On a side note, the solar lamp said it would require 10-12 hours of direct sunlight to charge, but after three hours of late afternoon sun in Sudan at just 5 degrees north of the equator, the lamp was charged.

At the end of day one back in Mundri I was looking forward to the next few days as I greet friends, see the water project, and visit Mundri Secondary School.

I am thankful that God brought me back to Mundri for this season of my life and for all the familiar things of daily life in Mundri.