Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Smile, or Frown?

Why do we always answer, “I’m good, how are you?” to anyone who inquires on our life? Why is it expected you paste a smile before all asking eyes? Why, is it because we are afraid they’ll hurt us? Are we scared they’ll ignore our pains? Are we intimidated by their plastic face?

Why do I do it? What am I afraid of…

It’s only when someone comes and turns our life up-side-down that the pasted smile is flipped. If it were real, it may stay a pleasant upward turn of the lips. But, plastic smileness shows a frown when turned up-side-down.

Why do we draw curtains, telling others they can only see the sunny side? Why do we use faces as protection for our hearts? It’s as if we have glass hearts, as if we’re afraid to trust such a treasure to any open hands. As if, by disguise, we can make them believe we have it all together. But why do we do it, when we all know, it’s fake?

Because we know, we will break. It’s not how many times we’ve broken before. It’s not just how difficult it is to pick up the pieces. It’s not that we truly believe they have it together, they don’t think that even of us. It’s how we think they’ll react to the scattered glass. Will they dance around, playing with the fragments? Will they scream and run out? Or, when the door is opened and the break is eminent, will they stop, pick up the pieces and help clean up the mess? It’s not who breaks, or how they break, or even when or where they break. What matters, changing even smiles pasted and frowns shining through, is Who they can turn to. If even One stops, picks, and helps, a smile can become real. The plastic can melt, the glass even better protected. But you have to open. It can’t be love any other way.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

UGA 101

Sooo…. I got flu. I’m staying home from Church today, and I though I’d update you on Uganda 101. Here are some tips for staying in Uganda I’m sure you’ll need (when you come to visit me, that is!)

  • First off, it’s NOT rude to stare here. You’ll find hundreds of eyes watching you at any given moment, and they don’t mean to be rude.
  • If you hear someone honking at you, it’s not to tell you you’re wrong or doing something bad. It’s to let you know, there’s someone behind you that' might pass you. Or, it’s to try to get you to climb aboard one of the taxis (matatus).
  • In the aspect of time, you’re not late for a 3 o’clock appointment until it turns 4. But, for the courtesy of us Americans, most people on mainland try to “keep time.” (But, if you want to make sure they do, just ask them to “keep time.”)
  • You, as a “white person,” are a Mzungu. You WILL get called at by street kids while walking on public roads.
  • In modes of transportation, the bodas are a must to know how to ride. They are little 250 horse motorcycles that you hire to take you anywhere within city limits. Even if you just want to walk, you’ll probably get offered at least half a dozen rides.
  • They want you to dicker in the market and sometimes in the tourist shops, but not in the supermarkets (like convince stores).
  • When people greet you in a friendly matter, it’s a full hug in which you first put the head on one shoulder, then switch and put it on the other. Or, if you’re less familiar, you shake the hand by putting fingers fist underneath the other’s hand, then switching and putting it over the thumb.
  • Most people walk, so you have much, MUCH traffic in the streets with the hundreds of bodas and the cars and matatus going around the people, who usually walk in the middle of the road.
  • Nobody moves in the rains. When it rains, expect delays in all areas of life.
  • The speak a different language, even though they speak the same one you do.

           1. You don’t “live” somewhere, you live where ever you are. You “stay” in your house.

           2. You don’t “move” from one house to the next, you “shift.”

           3. You don’t “go” somewhere for an appointment, you “move.”

  • If you stay near a hotel, expect loud music ever weekend night. All night.
  • If you receive a gift from a Ugandan, don’t open it in front of them. That’s rude. (Don’t ask me why…)
  • If you visit a church, be prepared to speak. Be patient, the service may take all day, even if your message is short. And then be courteous enough to accept any dinner invitations.
  • If you go to a restaurant, you call the waiter, “sebo”(“say-bow”), and the waitress, “nyabo”(“nyaw-bow”). That’s “sir” and “ma’am” in Luganda. They may of may not understand your English, so if might take a while to get your order right. Double-check what they think you said,  or… you might not get your order right.

So, I think that’s enough to get you started. You now have a glimpse of a little of everyday life in Jinja. I can’t speak for anywhere else. The Islands have another set of rules, and I’m still not sure of any of those ones. I’m still learning about this place, Jinja, Uganda.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL (My Annual Christmas Letter)


Dear friends,                                    

I hope this finds you in good health and in warm, confortable places with those you love. I pray a special blessing on each of you. 

Well, it’s been another year. It’s Christmastime again. But, for me this year is not just another Christmas, again. There are obvious reasons that I could give, I could try to sum up this year’s happenings, or I could try to give a little bit of insightful thanksgiving. But I choose to try to combine them all.

Last year I told of the journeys of the Bob Peterson household, and I left off at my Uncle Stan’s house in his basement. I left off waiting to go to try to fulfill yet another of God’s callings to my family. We left Dufur, traveled the Western United States, moved into Uncle Stan’s and felt the change in our lives from beginning of the year to the end. But that was last year.

Today I stand on a different continent. I now dwell in a country I had never even heard of, before 2007. We have felt God’s miraculous powers and His amazing Grace pouring over us all through this season. He has proved in so many ways His love and that this is indeed His will for us at this time. I feel ever so present, His plans are only just beginning. I know, He’s not finished with me yet. I’m here for a purpose, and this move was as much for my growth as my parent’s work. It’s changed me drastically.

I have learned so much in this year alone. If I was to flip back through my journal entries of this past year, a key phrase would be, “I’m not the same.” In the past, I never really felt changed. I knew I wasn’t the little “angel” (notice, that’s in parentheses. my brothers would disagree.) that plagued the halls of Dufur Christian Church. But I was still the pastor’s daughter. Today I stand as Janae Peterson, for the good or bad. I know not exactly who that is, yet. But I know, I have a lifetime to find out who I am supposed to be in Jesus. I can’t help but gape in wonder at how far He has taken me already, half way around the world! But, seriously, I no longer talk in Oregonian English all the time. My best friend even says, “Janae, I can’t understand you. Speak English, please.” And some of my favorite foods are chapattis and rolexes. Yup, I didn’t think you’d know what I was talking about. [Chapattis are like tortillas, only they’re like, cooked in oil. And rolexes are like Spanish eggs in a chapatti.] And never do I find myself calling us Americans “white people” anymore. We’re “mzungus,” and that’s how I know us. I’ve learned that staring is not impolite here. (Seriously, you have like two hundred eyes on you every minute you’re out in the town.) I’ve learned that you can live without power, and have to here quite often. And, I’ve learned that it’s “always two until it’s three.” That was told me by Aunt Keeky before I ever knew what she meant. Literally, if you say two o’clock, the person isn’t late until three.

In April, we had a very generous man call and ask how much we needed for the flight tickets to Uganda. He paid it all. So, on May 19th, we headed to the airport with our 18 pieces of luggage and barely made it to the plane in time to board. But, we made it. As we stepped off the plane, the air fell on us and we felt the new pressures of life changing, both on our shoulder and our hearts. From Kampala to Jinja, I just let thoughts run through my mind as I stared into the darkness of the new world I was to dwell in. We had the great blessing of getting to stay in a house already set up for a family about the same size as ours, and to this day, when we visit, it still feels a little bit like home. And, nearly two weeks after leaving America, we moved into our new “home.” Through the next couple of months, we had workers around the house, painting, paving, cleaning, etc. And we visited the Islands only enough to help some. As our lives change, so did our expectations for them.

As Thanksgiving and then December and now Christmas appeared on the calendar, the illness of home fell harder and heavier on each of us. With the passing of Summer and now Fall, we are all ready for snow. We all would love the coolness of winter, and, to put it bluntly, I’m having trouble feeling sympathy for those of you with air-conditioned/heated homes complaining of the snow. I’m sorry. Can’t feel it. If only I could actually want a fire to be lit in my home, or wish I had a coat, I might feel a bit better. But, *ahem*, I’m sitting here, in the dark, sweating in shorts and a tank-top. And I know my family is feeling quite the same dilemma. It just doesn’t feel much like Christmas without snow. We’re missing the usual things we get at Christmas, like Mrs. Hunt’s cinnamon rolls and fires and snowball fights. And, it doesn’t seem right without a real tree, these plastic ones are SO fake.

For me, it’s been the friendships that I have left and am trying to cultivate that have been the toughest. I have felt so far away from those I love. I read a wonderful little poem in school the other day:

“I cultivate white roses
in January as in July
For honest friend who freely
offers me his hand.”*
And for those who with me
don’t wish to stand
I cultivate white roses.

I know I am in a January with a winter so often too thick and cold for roses. But I thank God for those who have helped me cultivate them, even now. July is so far away, summer is distant.

*Jose Marti [originally in Spanish] (I added the last two lines to sum up the rest of the poem.)

But, as I sit here, I cannot say how thankful I am for so much love. We have had, on average, at least one package per month for 7 months! Oh, I can hardly express my explicit gratefulness for this fact. To my Grandma, Mrs. Stockoff, Berea Church, and so many others who have sacrificially sent boxes for us, I can’t express my thankfulness—here’s a big air-hug to ya’ll!!!!

Thank you, and merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good year.

Janae Peterson

MK in Uganda, East Africa

The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift is still being given today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Random Mix of Thoughts

Sitting on my American mattress, you might not think you were in Uganda. Leaning against the cement wall, you may conclude you were in America. Staring at this American laptop, you’d not know you were away from the place you’d always known. It’d be very hard to tell, unless you looked around you.

Sitting in the sun, you’d know you weren’t in Oregon during December. Riding in the car, you’d feel the difference. Being stared at by the pedestrians, you’d know you weren’t in your homeland.

But this is where I call home today.

My feelings mix and churn me like electric mixers the milkshakes that I crave. My heart breaks in little ways, until I feel I can hear no more of this life. I read of my friends’ trials and trails, and wish I could help. I hear my friends have problems, but know with the deepest pains—I can’t change the world.

These past few months have been very difficult for me. With changes in my social life, and changes in my spiritual life, I find it very challenging to re-adjust. With changes in my every-day life, I find it hard to be meek and obey. With changes in my surroundings, seven months isn’t yet enough to help my turmoil. I eat pizza and remember Papa Murphy’s, grateful to my mom for the work, but yearning for the simplicity of take-outs. I read in Science about the stars, memorizing Orion and finding Deneb on star charts—but never able to complete the assignments for lack of the Northern sky. And I remember, these stars are the ones my best friend would see if she looked. I watch the clouds, remembering the comfort I had in the fact I saw the same clouds my family did—but that was when I was in Oregon. They’ll not see those ones. I jump for joy when handed a tootsie roll, but remember when these were a meager sample I’d pass on for a carrot. I check the weather, but not once have I seen a snowflake here. I see pictures of snow, watch Christmas movies of the cold, winter nights, and dream of a slight chill down my back. But I sit and sweat in place. Reminiscing about warm, cozy fireplace mantels with a crackling fire all ablaze, I open my eyes to the fire being all around me in form of Sun and shine. Not an Oregonian December.

Some of you have asked what I miss the most here. In the best way that I can, I have tried to express the answer to that question here. There are indeed many things different, but the differences could never be explained fully in the printed word. Never in a thousand words or a thousand libraries. The things I miss are the ones I took for granted in the States. The usual yearnings—like wanting family around for Christmas and feeling the hole left by friends no longer there—are there, too. But those are easier to relate to and understand. “Yet these three things remain: faith, hope and love.” And these I cling to.

As there is only a week ‘till Christmas, we are supposed to turn our eyes toward Him. Well…. it’s not just because it’s Christmas. He lives every day and accept our praise throughout the year. And though I may gripe on all these things, He deserves the credit for every smile I find to shine. 

I believe in snow,

even though it’s hot today.

I believe in sun,

even when the clouds are gray.

And I believe in God,

though He tells me not my way.


Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days Till Christmas


On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree!

Seriously, who wants a partridge in a pear tree? It gets more absurd as the song progresses. But how many of us actually  know the meaning behind these seemingly meaningless words?

It all started back in England. In the time when you weren’t permitted to even say such a word as “Jesus.” So, these clever people came up with a clever way to wish their fellow believers a merry Christmas with meanings that would portray their true passion. That way, Christians could walk the streets singing about 5 golden rings, and no one’d know they were actually talking about the Laws of Moses. The translation might vary a little from person to person, but here’s how it’s mostly said to be:

“My True Love” is God the Father.

The first day of Christmas is actually Christmas Day.

1. Partridge is Jesus, and He’s in a pear tree because there was no room in the cage

2. Turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments

3. French Hens are the virtues: Faith, Hope and Love (1 Cor. 13:13)

4. Calling Birds are the four Gospels

5. Golden Rings are the books of the Law, the Torah, a.k.a. the Laws of Moses.

6. Geese are the six days of Creation (Gen. 1:1-2:1)

7. Swans represent the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits and tongues (1 Cor. 12)

8. Maids stand for the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12)

9. Ladies are the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)

10. Lords are the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17)

11. Pipers are the eleven faithful disciples

12. Drummers symbolize the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed

And the twelve days are the days between Christmas and the eve of the Feast of Epiphany.

So there you have it. Next time you sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” you can know what this song meant to the Christians of old.