The past week has been a mad scramble to prepare to leave:
I took the train from Leuven to Brussels airport, about a 20-minute journey.
Flight departed Brussels at 8pm. Left-side window seat, and almost no clouds the whole flight until I got to Ethiopia. Stopped over in Paris to pick up passengers. Circled around brilliantly lit Eiffel tower as we took off. Flew down east coast of Adriatic, over Crete, and over Sahara — as dark as the mediterranean.
Shortly after sunrise we landed in Ethiopia. As we approached landing in Addis Ababa, the land struck me as denuded and eroding. There were almost no trees. The rivers were torrents of mud. Deep gulleys cut through the terraced hills.
I had a four-hour lay-over in Addis. There was an incredibly long line at both men's restrooms, and no line for the women. Then I noticed the prayer rooms next to the restrooms. The men's prayer room was quite full.
On the flight from Addis to Uganda, on my left sat an American man who was going to Uganda for two weeks for an organization called "Joni and friends". He was coming as a handy man with 60 pounds of tools to use to adjust wheelchairs and other handicap aids that had been sent through Joni's organization. When we saw Uganda's rich red soil below us, he exclaimed that Uganda's soil looked much like the soil in his home state of Georgia.
On my right sat an Israel woman who two years ago spent six months working as a volunteer speech therapist after completing her college degree. She told me about an Israeli-run kindergarten in one of the slums of Kampala that began eight years ago by helping a priest who was trying to help a large number of children. She said that the work proceeds slowly. They still hold the school in a church rather than in its own building.
She also told me about a project that one of her Israeli friends attempted. She gave some people money to plant trees and raise pigs. But they just came back to her asking for more money to feed the pigs, and in the end the pigs and the trees died because the people did not take care of them.
I arrived in Entebbe exactly on time, my usual experience with Ethiopian airlines. I then had to wait two hours in line to get my visa. After buying an MTN SMS card, I did not see the bus that I took from the airport to Kampala in 2010, so I made the mistake of paying a taxi driver 90 thousand shillings to drive me all the way to Kampala, when I could have simply walked off the airport property and then flagged a taxi or even motorcycle taxi (boda-boda) to get a much cheaper ride. I need to get back in the mode of saying no and bargaining hard...
I met Hannington at the "Oasis" mall in Kampala, where I had located a water filter for the handsome price of 80,000 shillings. But we remembered that he still had the "aquasafe" straws that I had given him in 2010. Why aren't these sold here? Instead, everyone boils water. That $15 straw saved me from buying countless water bottles in my round-the-world trip in 2010, and the only time I got sick from something I drank was the one time I neglected to use it.
After a thrilling boda-boda ride, which I recorded on video camara for posterity, Hannington and I purchased tickets for the 3am Jaguar bus from Kampala to Kigali and then went to his house to pack and clean up for the trip. Due to the typical jam, our 20-minute taxi ride to his duplex in Konge took us 1.5 hours. The taxi driver was constantly trying to pass people, which didn't really much to get us ahead of the competition. On the other hand, our attempts to pass forced many vehicles going the other way to have to swerve to avoid us or to slow down. I doubt that the driver has fully considered the propagating effects (implied e.g. by the traffic flow equations) of forcing oncoming motorists in jammed-up traffic to slow down suddenly. I thought about people stuck in a bad system. It calls for patience and consideration but often produces the opposite behavior.
While I was showering under the stars, I was struck again by how high in the sky the southern constellations are here.
Meeting with Anywarach Joshua
In the morning Hannington and met with Anywarach Joshua in his office in the Ugandan Parliament.
Joshua started us out with a discussion contrasting the political situations in Uganda and Rwanda. In Rwanda, when the international community suspended aid, Rwanda hardly felt the pressure. Rwandans have zeal and commitment to their country. Paul Kagame is a real nation-builder. Museveni is a good fighter but not a nation-builder. He is more about the interests of his tribe in Western Uganda.
Then he got down to business and started talking about what he wants to do in Nebbi. It's evident that he's been working hard and knows his people well.
I have promised to fund a small scholarship for students chosen by SACL. Joshua tells me about the other people who have been chosen to serve on the selection committee.
He also tells me about some of the projects that he has funded with the money he earns as a member of parliament. He has sponsored 5 guys in their university studies.
He says that SACL is now supporting 47 students at the primary and secondary level, of whom Joshua supports 20.
He tells me that he supported his friend Cwinyaai Lawrence to obtain a certificate of administrative law, and is now praying and expecting that God will open a door for him.
He tells me that SACL has planted about 80,000 coffee seedlings. To do this they bought their own land and created their own nursery. Joshua contributed money to buy 80 kilos of seeds and contributed 3.2 million shillings to buy pots for transplating seedlings. Coffee is a cash crop, which can bring 4000 shillings per kilo. It takes 4-5 years to begin yielding, but then gives continuous yields. He says that if each family plants 100 seedlings, it can have a very good yield. He says that it is not only members of SACL who can avail themselves of the seedlings. Every family that is ready to plant can receive seedlings, and they can show their readiness by digging holes.
He tells me that the goat project is doing well. But he says that the Irish potatoes did not yield well.
He also tells me about a housing project that he is working on. Some donors from the Netherlands are providing half the money for the project, and the Ugandan government has promised to provide the rest. Nebbi and the neighboring district of Zombo were selected to be one of 14 districts that are pilot sites. Joshua said that he fought hard for that. This project will help elderly people build brick houses with iron-sheet roofs to replace the mud houses with thatched roofs that they are living in.
He talks about two possible sites where a new school could be built, and invites my input.
He then shows me an application that he has submitted for a radio license, based on a similar and successful application made by Gulu FM. The proposed radio station would operate at 1000 kilowatts and would broadcast to a radius of 300 kilometers, reaching into Southern Sudan and Eastern Congo. It would be a community-based radio station. free air time will be available for community-related programming, discussion of cultural issues, and spiritual programming that will allow spiritual leaders to speak to issues in the home, including tips on raising children and consideration of all moral questions.
This prompts Joshua to give an extended monologue about how rights-based discourse needs to be balanced and blended with traditional cultural values. Increasingly, conflicts are framed as two rights clashing. He feels that the important issue of women empowerment has been afflicted by a rights-dominated mentality. He says that traditionally in Uganda, marriage is for life, and that there is not divorce in the sense of ending of the marriage, just separation. [This is in fact the traditional Christian understanding of divorce, starting from the earliest centuries of the Christian era and continuing long past the time of Constantine, and even today Orthodox practice and Catholic cannon law are based on this understanding.]
We then went to a nearby restaurant, where we had breakfast with another "green" (rookie) parliamentarian, who serves on the Tourism, Trade, and Industry Committee. He says that Uganda exports power, but doesn't distribute it internally. In his view, the right way to industrialize an economy is to begin not with big projects but with cottage industries. He and Joshua agree that one thing that could help Ugandan agriculture is to build cold rooms where produce can be stored until it is not in season; this requires reliable distribution of electricity.
After he leaves, Joshua and I resume our discussion of things he is trying to do for his district. He says that evangelical pastors often have to travel far, so he has been involved in buying bicycles for them. There is a man named Pastor Mike from Missouri who has taken this project on. They hope to increase the number of pastors who have received bicycles from 50 to 100.
Joshua then talks about the women's groups. He says that there is a Bertha women's group. It is named after Bertha Lennartz, a woman who worships with my childhood church. She has been praying for him for many years. She said to me, "I pray for him every day — well, almost every day — I have to be honest." When Joshua visited me in Minnesota, he and I visited Bertha in her nursing home. As we were leaving, Bertha slipped me $50 and told me to give it to Joshua. Joshua now tells me that he used that $50 to start the Bertha women's group. I remark to him that Bertha will turn 100 years old in just a few days, on September 1st.
After breakfast, we went to Cornerstone's head office, where I met with Eric Kreutter. Eric has been my contact person for Cornerstone.
Eric assigned a young man named Max to go up to the ranch with me. On our way, he told me that he was in his third year of religious studies at Makerere University. He said that what matters is not whether you are Catholic or Protestant or Muslim or Buddhist, but whether you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. This reflects the universal vision of Jesus that Cornerstone emphasizes: More than any other person, Jesus is a figure universally respected across religious differences, and this gives a concrete starting point for unity and dialog.
Does the universalist vision of Jesus espoused by Cornerstone water down Christianity? I think it can, particularly if one assumes that one cannot legitimately espouse beliefs that are distinctive to Christianity. But I don't think that it has to. I see the possibility of a full rather than minimal Christian universalism, which looks for commonality and correspondence with other religious traditions precisely because Jesus is the standard and fullest expression of truth.
I am part way through a book by Steve Clark titled, "Catholics and the Eucharist," written primarily for a Catholic audience. As a non-Catholic, I appreciate his convergent approach, which uses Jewish practices to clarify the meaning of the eucharist and follows the Protestant emphasis on the Word and the Catholic emphasis on the eucharist back to a time when the identification of the Eucharist with the Word of God was stronger though more implicit.
My thoughts lead me to discuss with Max the role that Jesus intended baptism to play in following Him. [...]
When we arrive at the ranch, Max takes me to meet Richard Hone, who is responsible for Community Development at Cornerstone's Ekitangaala ranch since the last time I visited. Richard takes me to the meet several CLA students. We discuss solar physics, farming, and birth control. My preference for natural methods of farming and birth control and my dislike of dependency on technology and big corporations invites challenges from them.
In the morning, Max came to my cottage. He shared a little of his story. He was dumped at the ranch, with no family. He felt like he was nothing. Cornerstone became his family. He is grateful and has chosen to define himself by what God has brought into his life rather than by what he lacks.
Then he started asking me about my minimalist affects and diet and hygiene. He said, "You're confusing me. You have a Ph.D. But the way you dress and take care of yourself makes people wonder. Maybe you are one of those people who study so much that they become kind of crazy." He said, "When visitors come to us, we like to think, 'This could be Jesus.' Maybe you want to be like Jesus. Well, Jesus washed people's feet, so he cared about being clean." I appreciated his caring enough to be direct. He listened while I told him about the time pressures I feel and my need to carry a light load. He told me that people will remember me for what I am [to them], not for what I do. He pulled out a nail clipper and began to clip the nails on my hands and feet. Then he washed my shirt and socks and got water for me to shower.
After showering, I joined an organizational meeting for the ranch which includes Richard Hone, a man named Stephen, and a man named Dennis. They switch back and forth between Lugandan and English. Dennis tells me that he knows Karl Buchholz. Since it is cold and raining, Stephen lends me his coat for the day.
Touring the ranch.
Richard begins my tour of the ranch by showing me the pine trees that had been planted since my last visit. Much work is involved. Weeds have to be cut down regularly. The fence must be kept in good condition so that the cows do not break in and destroy the trees.
We walk past bee hives. The bees here are agressive, so we are careful not to disturb them. Richard tells me that he is a beekeeper. They do not try to capture queen bees; they just build the hives and attract bees to move into them from other hives by scenting the hives with something that they are familiar with: the smoke used when harvesting honey. He tells me that he harvests at night with the aid of smoke. He does not need to wear protective gear. The bees recognize his scent.
He brings me to two small trees in a familiar-looking spot. These are the only two trees that survived from the trees that I sponsored to be planted during my first visit in 2010. The trouble is that we were not planting at the best time of year. The best time to plant is from March to May.
Visiting families in the bush.
We then visit some families in the bush.
Richard says: I work in over 70 villages. Each village has 400 or 500 occupants. Our resources are limited. We can't keep on giving to each family.
To be more efficient with their resources, Cornerstone Community Development holds agriculture seminars to help people move from subsistence to more of a business. They supply hybrid seeds that can give better yields. They try to give a good example and help them break out of the bondage of growing food for home use. He hopes to open their minds toward increase and a desire for more.
We first visit a family that grows maize. Richard tells me that he is encouraging people to grind their maize into flour before selling it. They can only get 1800 shillings per kilogram for the maize kernels, but they can get 6000 shillings per kilogram for the flour. Many people have a subsistence mentality and are simply unaware of how much more they can earn if they take their corn to the mill before sellling it.
We then visit a widow. I remember visiting her three years ago. She is HIV-positive. I take some time to examine the structure of her house. The poles are rotting, the mud is coming off the poles, and the walls are badly leaning. I ask Richard how much it would cost to build her a new house. He says that it would cost 320,000 shillings to build the structure and 220,000 shillings to put on an iron-sheet roof, so about 540,000 shillings in total. A little over $200. I ask about whether people might come together to build it. He says that it is easier to get people together to work during the dry season, when they are not busy in their fields.
He takes me to a large plantation. After I visited in 2010, I donated some money to buy land so that landless people in the community could have a place to plant trees. But buying a piece of land is not simple. There are vast tracts of land available, but it is difficult to get a clear title. Most land is owned by the king, and is available for lease rather than for permanent sale. So the land has still not been purchased.
To ensure permanent ownership, Cornerstone Community Development has offered to walk a potential seller through the process of obtaining a clear title to the land that they are selling to Cornerstone.
We meet the farmer who owns the plantation. His farm is ideally located, near the center of the area that Cornerstone Community Development serves. He has a long-standing relationship with Cornerstone. He sees the value of their work in the community, and he appreciates and has appropriated the improved agricultural methods that they have introduced. He is willing to sell a tract of land.
The farmer walks us to the corner of his property that he is willing to sell. It is a two-acre strip. We walk its length. He says that he is willing to sell it for 2.5 million shillings — about $1000. I tell Richard that I would rather buy one acre for $500, develop it, and purchase the rest when I see that the development is proceeding well. Richard talks with the farmer and then tells me that he has agreed.
We then go to Kakooge and have lunch at a small restaurant. Over lunch, we discuss how the new community plantation can work. Richard suggests that we use it for two things: (1) to demonstrate Farming God's Way (which I had talked about the previoous night), and (2) for the Fruit Project. He thinks that we should plant pine trees around the perimeter and fruit trees in the middle. He explains that the pine trees will shield the fruit trees from the wind. I suggest that for Farming God's Way we start out with a 16 meter by 16 meter demonstration plot.
I share with Richard how my community farm in Belgium works. It has about 120 members. Each member pays in 250 euro at the beginning of the year. Farm members help out with planting, weeding, and community events. Community work days are held on weekends. The lady who runs it is named Jen. She sometimes employs a farmhand to take care of the things that she doesn't have time for and that the community doesn't tend to. The current farmhand is an intern who wants to start his own community farm. Much like her current intern, Jen was trained and certified in organic community farming by an organization which has been working to form a network of small farmers. This network has begun to form in Belgium only in the last few years, although such networks of small organic farmers have existed for well over two decades in the United States.
When harvest time comes, Jen uses colored flags to tell people how and what they can harvest. One color means, "only harvest what you can use fresh." Another color means, "this is finished, so you can harvest as much as you want, e.g. for preserving.
Richard thinks that on our new Cornerstone community plot it would be a good idea to concentrate the working and harvesting on community work days. This would make it easier to ensure that the distribution of benefits and participation is equitable.
On our way back to the ranch, we discuss how much it will cost to get the community plot started. Richard estimates that it will cost about a million shillings:
300,000 ugx to clear the land, 480,000 ugx to build a "living fence", and 200,000 ugx to buy 200 seedlings.A "living fence" is simply a barbed-wire fence with a type of tree growing along it. The trees grow into the fencing and replace fence posts as they rot. His estimate of the cost of the living fence is computed as:
30,000 ugx for the poles, 120,000 ugx for one roll of barbed wire, 10,000 ugx for staples, 200,000 ugx in labor to plant poles and fix wire, 120,000 ugx in fuel for 6 tractor trips to bring trees.
On the way home, we visit a home where a widow's group meets. Fifteen widows meet here every two weeks and share challenges. They co-operate a formal savings scheme. The purpose is to keep generating money for loans to help with domestic problem solving.
If someone dies in a home, they contribute to buy bark cloth for burial. As Richard tells me this, he points to one of the trees from which bark cloth is made. He says that bark cloth for burial can cost 30,000 to 40,000 shillings. They also work together to cook food at funerals. When a widow has trouble paying school fees for a child, they will give her a small loan. Richard refers to these as "uniting issues".
The widows also carry out economic activities. They make baskets, mats, hats, and beads. They are currently planning a poultry project. It is still small, consisting of five local hens from members. Their plan was to have exotic breeds for laying eggs, but resources were limited, so they began with local chickens. Their dream was to start with 100 layers. Richard shows me the small chicken house that they have built...
Richard tells me that in two weeks each member contributes 1500 shillings to their savings. He says that once in a while Cornerstone Community Development injects 30 or 60 thousand shillings into their scheme to boost their morale and keep their spirit moving. He says, "Part of my work is sharing ideas."
Richard describes some of the challenges in raising chickens. Hygiene and health are critical. He says that preventative treatment, such as vaccination, is much less expensive than treating sick chickens. Vaccinations are a must to realize good results in poultry. The brooder is used for chicks. It precisely regulates heat, and provides good hygiene. When the chicks have grown, they are brought into the main house.
He plucks ripening beans from a nearby coffee plant and breaks a couple open. The husks are used as bedding for chickens. Old bedding contaminated with droppings is a source of disease.
Another source of contamination is water. Some farmers give chickens basins to drink from. But they should use feeders or drinkers.
Richard says: Don't use water straight from the tap. Leave it in a jerry can for a day first to let the chlorine come out. This also ensures that the water is at room temperature.
He continues: Chickens must be well-spaced. You have to love the chickens. You need to isolate the weeks ones and find out why they are weak and treat them accordingly.
As Richard fingers the coffee beans, he tells me that they are used in the traditional blood-brotherhood agreement. We each cut ourselves. Then we take the two halves of a coffee bean, and each of us dips one half in his blood and gives it to the other person to swallow. Your children become mine, and mine become yours.
He tells me that people steam coffee beans, dry and salt the berries, and serve them for hospitality. People talk as they eat the beans.
I walk over to examine some enormous vines growing from humps of earth. Richard and the widow come over. She says that after three years one can dig up the produce from a single one of those humps and fill a 100 kilogram sack.
When we get back to the ranch, Richard drops me off at the guest-house cottages. I walk over to the shop to pick up my tablet that has been charging.
On my way I encounter a woman and a man talking. They greet me. She speaks almost no English, but makes herself clear with gestures. She is evidently a Tutsi refugee from Rwanda. She tells me that I look like a Tutsi. She expresses admiration for my Tutsi appearance and expresses disdain for Hutu features. I try to respond in a pleasant way but am uncomfortable. Walking away, I regret that I failed to register any disagreement with her. All I would have to do is shake my head, look her in the eye, and say, "No." Such a simple response can do more to correct wrong attitudes than many words.
Outside the shop, I encounter a young man with a big smile. He is one of the CLA boys that I talked with the previous night. "Hi, do you remember my name?" "No, I'm trying to remember." "I'm Dan." Dan asks me: "What do you treasure?" It's a thought-provoking way to open a conversation. He waits patiently with his big smile while I pause to think. Then I say something roughly like:
Abstractly, I treasure what God has given. He has given His life. Everything comes from Him. People have value, because God formed them in His image. Life has value, because God is alive. Creation has value, because God made it.Dan asks me if I think that technology is diverting man from God. "Yes!" I exclaim, surprized at his insight into my thinking. I grope for words and begin to express thoughts along the following lines:
We tend to treasure what we make and take for granted what God has given. God gave man the task to build with what He has given. In the Genesis account, the woman is described as a "help-mate." So man has work to do, and his work needs to be directed to an end outside of himself. What we make has value because of this mandate and the prior value of the materials that God has given.
Concretely, I value gardening and learning about the world. I am very curious about how the world works and the origins from which things come.
I see the history of the world as technologically driven. God gave man the task of unfolding and making explicit the order implicit in creation. But man has corrupted this task by grasping for knowledge and control of creation apart from trusting and honoring the Creator. The history of the world is the progressive unfolding of the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.I have in mind to continue as follows:
God's judgment ensures that the culmination of this process manifests the difference between good and evil. His salvation ensures that good prevails.
But another of the young men that I talked with the previous night comes up to us and greets us, interrupting my labored discourse. They come with me to my cottage, chat with me for a while, and then go back to their dormatory to study.
In the morning, Richard takes me on his motorbike the seven kilometers along the dirt road from the Ekitangaala ranch out to Kakooge, a trading post along Uganda's main north-south road, which runs from Kampala to Juba in South Sudan.
This road is amazing to me. We pass many buildings nestled in the bush. People are everywhere. Half the people wave as we drive past. Children cry out, "bye Muzungu!" One could write for hours about all the things along this little stretch of road. We go past Richard's little Catholic church, a mosque being restored, and the well we saw being fixed yesterday. The butchery and the police station are just pole structures, without even walls.
In Kakooge, Richard sits with me while I wait to catch the bus going from Kampala to Gulu.
When I visited Richard in 2010, he told me that he was trying to save up money so that he could pay the bride-price to marry his wife. This was a huge weight over his head, and it was taking him many years to save up the money. So while we wait, I ask him about it. He says that he did it and they married in the Catholic church. He listed for me what he had to pay as a bride price:
2 cows 4 goats chicken for brother-in-law traditional dress for mother-in-law suit for father-in-law 4 kanzu (traditional wear for brothers of father-in-law) 8 traditional wear pieces for sisters of father-in-law 3 crates of beer baskets of bread, ghee, vegetables,
Suddenly the two men who are helping us watch for the bus shout that it is coming. I grab my things and run out to the side of the road where they are waving down the bus. I board and later realize that I left my water bottle by the road. I'm glad I didn't leave something more important.
Immediately after passing through Karuma, we enter the national park at the Nile rapids and continue towards Gulu. We pass several baboons on the road. The road is fine until we get to Kamdini, but from Kamdini to Gulu the road is very bad. The pavement is caving away on both sides, and in the middle are giant potholes. We sway and bounce and lurch as we weave from one side of the road to the other trying to avoid potholes. Much of the time we are driving with one wheel in the ditch, forcing pedestrians to run up the outer slope of the ditch to get out of the way.
When I arrived in Gulu, I purchased a pair of slacks from a road-side vendor. I asked how much he wanted for them. I would have happily paid 20,000. He said: 8000 shillings (about $3). I gave him 12,000. He said, "thank you."
I then walked to the Uganda Law Society to meet Conrad. I had met with Conrad and Joshua and Eric in 2010 at Uganda Christian University, where they presented to me the work of Saint Augustine Community Love. Conrad and Joshua were both in law school at that time.
Conrad took me into his office, where we discussed his work for the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society. He told me that 90 percent of legal cases in Uganda concern land rights.
After our conversation, Conrad took me to his house to clean up, gave me a clean tie that I could wear, and got me on a taxi going back to Karuma.
I arrive at Karuma at dusk. I pay to have my tablet recharged at one of the shops and take a nap on the papyrus mat on the concrete floor. Restaurants and small shops line the highway. I am struck by the fact that, though conditions are much more primitive here, my human needs are better accomodated. When I wait for the bus in America, there is nowhere comfortable to lie and sleep and the food available is expensive junk that I refuse to eat.
At 2:30am I finally board the Gaagaa bus to Paidha. The trip should take about three hours. My seatmate tells me that he is returning to his onion and garlic farm. We discuss the effects of the mechanization of farming on the future of Uganda for about an hour before I sleep.
Arrival in Paidha, Zombo District
At 7:30am a man awakes me saying that the bus is stuck and that someone has come to pick up the white man on the bus. I join a stream of passengers walking up the deeply gullied curve past a truck lying on its side. I am told that this truck has been lying there for about a week. Beside the truck a group of people is gathered around a makeshift camp of some sort.
An SUV is waiting for me, driven by Emma, Joshua's assistant. He takes us to Paidha.
When we arrive in Paidha, people are running and police are firing guns. We learn that they are after a thief. At the guesthouse I check into a room. The gunshots continue and there is much excitement, so we climb onto a pile of lumber to watch. Crowds of people are running, trying to chase the thief.
I walk with Joshua into Paidha. We meet a young woman whose husband died just a week before. Joshua expresses his condolances for the way the funeral went. Attending funerals is one of Joshua's main functions as member of parliament.
As we walk away, Joshua explains to me that the mayor served as the master of ceremonies and did not allow her the opportunity to speak and thank people for coming. The previous speakers took too much time, and rather than delay the serving of the food, he cut out the last speakers, including the man's widow. So she had no opportunity to thank people for coming. Many people were disgusted and did not eat much of the food. Joshua tells me that the mayor did not go beyond ordinary secondary school. He seems to think that the mayor would behave more appropriately if he had been better educated.
As we walk I ask Joshua about mob justice in Uganda. He says that a week ago a notorious thief was killed by a mob. Earlier he had stolen from and murdered a rich man who was beloved by the people. The police and soldiers arrested the thief and were supposed to escort him to be tried. But they said to the mob, "Here he is." Joshua tells me that the mob cut him and threw gasoline on him and burned him. He points to the slightly blackened depression in the pavement where they burned him.
We meet some of Joshua's friends at a restaurant along the main street of downtown Paidha. It consists of a woman standing at the edge of the street serving cooked beans. Next to her is a long table around which people can sit.
Joshua introduces me to Okello Alfred Big. Joshua has been calling him "Phoni" since they were boys, because Okello was the only person in town who rode a Phoenix bicycle. When I ask him what he wants me to call him, he says that I can call him "Okello", his family name. Okello's's T-shirt says Radio Pacis. It is a Catholic community radio station that broadcasts from Arua on two frequencies. 90.9 FM broadcasts in Lugbara, Kakwa, and English. 94.5 FM broadcasts in Alur, Madi, and English. The same content is on both frequencies.
Joshua lists for me the languages of the West Nile tribes:
He says that the Alur are the results of intermarriage of the Luo with the Lendu and Kebu. The Lugbara are the result of intermarriage between the Alur and the Madi.
He lists Luo langauages related to Alur: Acholi, Larigi, Japendhola, Kumam, Chope, and Jawo. Joshua says that these languages are found across Northern Uganda and into Kenya. His knowledge of Alur allows him to understand these languages and talk with these people. But he cannot understand the other languages in his own region.
I ask Okello about the programming on Radio Pacis. He says that they discuss issues of health, transportation, land, and family: health issues that people are not aware of and how to overcome them, safe transportation (e.g. not overloading trucks), land disputes, and domestic abuse, such as abandonment, polygamy, and alchoholism. They also discuss food security and cash crops.
He says that at the age of 14 many people drop out of school looking for work. I think that it is understandable. The trouble is that education tends to be very impractical. I suggest that it would be better for education to begin with a practical goal.
Biggie (Mike Jachan)
After talking with Okello, I talk with one of the orphaned young men that Joshua took in and brought up as younger brothers. He is called "Biggie". He was born with clubbed feet. Joshua helped him with surgery to correct this problem. Joshua sponsored him to do driving school and learn basic mechanics. (Drivers need to know basic auto repair, because cars here often break down due to age and bad roads.) He also gave 600,000 shillings so that Biggie could spend three weeks learning how to use local food from a man named Dr. Zalid David. Mike says, "I like working for the community." He tells me that he has a mom but lost his dad. He met Joshua at the restaurant. Joshua was playing pool, and Biggie was setting the balls.
Biggie is radiant as he talks about what Joshua is to him. "Josh is my mentor. He brought me to the light. I used to smoke because of frustration. Josh said, 'Don't give up.' He told me how he lost his mom when he was young. I took courage from him. He helped me. He took me to the doctor in Kampala [to get his clubbed feet treated]. I want to help other people also. There is nothing that I can do to pay him back. I can just do something for him to help the community. I think of him as my dad. Any prayer that I am praying, I always include him."
Biggie describes his main activities as driving and sensitizing people. His physician told him that he could drive small vehicles but not a bigger vehicle like a taxi van.
Biggie tells me that he wants to do for others what Joshua has done for him. I ask Biggie how sensitizing people works. He describes how he talks with people one-on-one about how they can live in a more healthy way.
Biggie talks about how to approach people in a gentle way and say, e.g., "Why are you smoking?" Their response gives him insight into how to share what he has learned and experienced. In a similar way, he talks with people about their drinking habits.
Biggie encourages people to eat local foods, rather than the more expensive and unhealthy foods that have come in. He tells me that in 1994 cancer was rare in his community. But around 2000, people began to change their eating habits. Now cancer occurs even among children.
As we walk past a giant billboard, he says, "they don't advertise any local things." Biggie also expresses concern about bad movies and copying western life.
Biggie describes how Joshua discipled him and the other orphans that Joshua took in. He says, "Joshua lived with us and said, 'you can be like me. You need to pray every day to God what you want.'" He says that Joshua encourages him to read and be current.
He says that Joshua told them: "What I'm doing for you, don't keep it for yourself only. You need to give it to some other people. If you start getting money, don't forget where you are coming from."
Biggie says that Joshua doesn't forget where he came from. He keeps his attention with what he has preached to them. He says that Joshua can stay in Kampala for 2-3 weeks [at most before he comes back to spend time in his district].
As I listen to Biggie describe how he talks to people about how they can live in a better way, I realize that probably his biggest impact on others is teaching people one-on-one how to live in a more healthy way, in the same way that Joshua taught him.
Biggie describes how he looks for people he can help: "I can find someone who was like me. I can ask if he wants to be like this. I can treat a sick person for free." Biggie tells me about a woman whom he treated. She wanted to pay him back. Biggie said, 'don't give me money.'
Biggie gives another example that shows how he thinks about paying back: "For three months a man had knee problems. I treated him. He wanted to give me money. I said, 'no.' He said, 'it is just my appreciation.' I called Joshua. He said, 'it is okay to take it if it is just his appreciation.' I took the money. Then I gave some of it to the poor people." He says that he likes working with the community to help the poor people.
Biggie says that the young men whom Joshua took in are like a family. "Emma and I and Joshua lived where he stayed. Up to now we are still together. When I am in Kampala, I stay with him. When he is in Paidha, he stays with us." He says, "Joshua makes us to be proud". He feels like he has a dad because of Joshua.
Visit to Bertha Women's Group (Sa Aug 24)
In the afternoon, William took me on his motorcycle to Odhure Village, located in Kalowang Parish. It was a spectacular ride along a mountainous dirt road full of gullies and potholes. We passed countless clusters of thatched-roof houses tucked into the thick tropical vegetation that covers the hills. The pristine natural beauty, densely populated with subsistence farmers, is unlike anything else I have ever seen. Along the road we enountered countless people. Most of them were carrying something. Women walked carrying babies strapped to their backs and a basket of food or a water jug or a bundle of firewood on their heads. We met no cars. In this region, and especially on the country roads, pedestrians far outnumber bicyclists, who far outnumber motorcyclists, who far outnumber automobiles.
When we arrived at the village, we found a fairly large group of women gathered and waiting for us. They stood up and begin to dance, sing, wail, and wave branches. As they continued this traditional welcome greeting, we assembled before the chairs and table that they had prepared for us under a mango tree.
This group of women is a community micro-credit union. It is named after a woman from the church I grew up in named Bertha Lennartz. I wasn't sure what to do, so I started giving a speech, with William translating:
I greet you in the name of God and Jesus Christ. Anywarach Joshua sent me to see you. In January, 2012, Joshua visited me in the United States. He and I went to visit a woman living in a nursing home named Bertha Lennardz. She is 99 years old. She has prayed for Joshua almost every day for many years, so she was very happy to see him. When we left, she gave me $50 and told me to give it to Joshua. Joshua knew that she did not have much money, so he decided to do something special with it. When he returned to Uganda, he used it to start your women group's revolving fund.
Bertha will turn 100 years old on September 1st. Bertha has been a widow for almost half her life. She and her husband, Bror, were missionaries in the Bahamas. He was a good man. He loved children and was a good Sunday School teacher. They traveled from island to island by boat.
When I visited Bertha in April, I asked her if she had ever experienced a miracle. She said, "yes". During a storm on the ocean, a wave swept her out of the boat. She was holding a baby. She felt hands pick her up by the shoulders and set her back in the boat. At first she talked about it often, but some people were afraid that this story would make people put too much emphasis on guardian angels, so after that she did not talk much about it.
I promised the women that I would tell Bertha about my visit to the women's group.
It turned out that I should have waited to address the women until they first welcomed me and presented themselves. So they stopped my speech and invited us to sit.
The LC1 chairman was the first to speak. He is the head of the village. In Uganda, there are four levels of local councils:
LC1, village level, LC2, parish level, LC3, division level, and LC5, district level.He said that since Joshua gave the money from the United States, the money is now assisting the women as a revolving fund, giving help to every household in the village. He said that it was his role only to hilight. The rest was in the hands of the women.
The secretary of the group, Everly, rose and said that they call themselves "Can Lalo Memer": "poverty can divide the women". She said: "When Joshua came to give money, we had already formed a group to do handicrafts. But we did not have a single coin. After his gift, each woman received 5000 shillings per week and had to bring back 6000. The amount lent each week has increased to 10,000 shillings. In all, 20,000 shillings per woman is lent out among 27 women.
Everly said that they now have an idea to get income apart from a revolving fund. In addition to doing handcrafts, they would like to have a common grinding mill. This would help them in a couple ways. First, the disabled ones, who cannot participate in digging, could be assigned to run the mill. Second, most of the women are caring for orphans and pray for money for school fees, supplies, and materials. The biggest challenge in procuring a mill is lack of finances. They are praying that God will give Joshua a way to come to support other activities.
The chairperson, Onim Judith, then arose and described more of the challenges they face: orphans, people living with HIV/AIDS, lack of clean water, and poor roads.
The women told us that they appreciate the work of a community member named Kumaketh Flavio Festo for his work in forming a youth group as well as forming the women's group. The women's group is now functional, but for the youth, they are still struggling. An elder of the village, Ocoki William, rose to speak and likewise refered to the youth group.
Everly rose again to give closing remarks. She said that a good leader fears God, knows how to talk to his people, and does the will of his people, not his own. She thanked God for creating Joshua, who is doing what the community really needs. "May God provide him with more, including more friends, so that they can see the community and the community can help others. Thank you for coming. We are praying for Bertha." She said that they now have 635,600 shillings.
As we rode away, I ask William how many women's groups it would take to saturate Joshua's constituency. He estimates that it would take about 560. SACL community development uses need assessment in deciding where to focus its efforts. The SACL program has been launching women's groups since it started in 2004. There are currently about 250 women groups.
In the afternoon, I join Joshua in his SUV and we race to Nebbi so he can speak at the Youth Day celebration. When we arrive, we find speakers addressing crowds seated under tents. The theme of the gathering is: "Investing in Youth Livelihood: path to 2014." Joshua assumes his place among the five dignitaries, and I am given a seat near the front. The leader of the youth organization hosting the event speaks. He says that president Museveni has committed to invest 256 billion shillings in youth livelihood over the next five years, titling it a Youth Venture Capital Fund. He says, "Our young people get involved in drugs because they don't have anything to do. There is support for start-ups. You have to have a good idea and present it." He quotes a village elder: "I know these people; they are working from this place, so you don't need security to ensure that the loan is repayed." He says, "young people, let's not abuse this."
He says, "let us take politics out of development programs. Elections are not until 2016. What we need is services to young people."
Other speakers echo the leader of the youth organization. One holds out the goal of transforming from a peasant to a modern society and becoming a middle-income country by 2040.
A government minister arises to speak. He says that 150 acres of land have been procured to create the sixth public university of Uganda here in Nebbi. He says, "Let's ensure that this country is the garden of Eden and the Pearl of Africa." He says that all this progress is thanks to the peace and tranquility brought by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) [President Museveni's party, which has been in power since 1986]. Applause follows. So much for taking politics out of youth advocacy...
At the conclusion of the youth day, two trees are planted and Joshua greets people for a while. Then we race off to launch a new women's group before the sun sets.
Pakwatch women's group
When we arrive in Pakwatch village, the women welcome us with the traditional welcoming ceremony. A team of SACL guys has worked for months to prepare them for this moment.
We take our seats while the women sing. When everyone has sat down, one of the women stands and offers a prayer. As usual, a small group of dignitary men are seated together off to the side.
After the opening speakers, starting with the LC1 chairman and the master of ceremonies, Joshua addresses the assembly. He speaks for over 20 minutes. He has their rapt and responsive attention. At the end of almost every sentence the women respond in chorus with affirmation or the expected word that Joshua has left them to fill in. Joshua has told me how when he speaks to crowds in his native language of Alur they are spell-bound; even those who are opposed to him are drawn in and moved by his rhetoric, and now I am seeing it myself. I infer from a few Biblical words and from his motions that he is telling the story of the good Samaritan.[...]
When we get back to Paidha, Joshua and I visit an internet cafe and have dinner together. We discuss how the scholarships should be defined that I have come to help create. The panelists that SACL has selected to judge the applicants have been informed that the students will be coming on Tuesday. No announcement has yet been delivered to the public over the radio, and it's already Saturday night.
Our discussion reveals significant differences in our understanding of what the scholarships should be. We eventually agree that the scholarships should be for post-secondary study, including university study or technical or professional training. The idea of the scholarships is to identify young people who have demonstrated responsibility for their community and have a vision for how to develop their skills so as to contribute to the community. [...]
We also talk about where we will go to church the next day. I express my preference for churches without sound systems.
At breakfast we discuss what church we will go to. Joshua decides that we will go to a protestant church. Emma drives us along the route by which I came into Paidha the day before. When we reach the deeply gullied mountain-side bend where my bus got stuck, we pull over and wait half an hour for busses and vehicles going the other way to be pushed by crowds of men through the point where they are all getting stuck.
We meet a young lady who knows Emma. She was supposed to preach on the radio this morning, but she has been stuck for several hours in the same bus that I took yesterday.
Now Emma cannot start the car. So I suggest that we go to the church that we just passed by. William arrives on his motorbike and brings me there. He hands me off to a man and then goes back to get Joshua and Hannington.
The church is named "St. Hillary". It is a Catholic church. The service is already in session and is packed to overflowing. People are standing outside the back and side doors, and every seat inside is occupied. The man takes me in the side door and brings me to the front. People bring chairs and set them along the wall to the side of the altar, and direct me to sit.
The catechist leads the liturgy from a book on a lectionary. During the sermon, William, Hannington, and Joshua arrive and sit in the chairs next to me. William tells me that the catechist is saying that Jesus persevered for us; if we persevere with him, we will share in his resurrection.
I estimate that there are 250 people inside the church and over 300 in total. I am seated by the harpist and drummers in front of the choir, maybe 50 or 60 people. The singing is really beautiful. Children dance in the central isle. During communion, the catechist gives two wafers to each person who comes forward so that it will be used up. When the people bring forward their offerings, most put 100 or 200 shillings in the plastic collection bowl, but one lady brings a basket on her head and another brings a basket of cassava.
At the conclusion of the service, we are welcomed and Joshua is given the opportunity to speak. He again tells the story of the Good Samaritan, relating it to their own hospitality to us and comparing Nebbi to Jericho and Jerusalem to their church. He emphasizes that the good Samaritan helped his neighbor without discrimination. He encourages people to have empathy and to help without worrying about what others will think. He reminds people of Jesus' summary of the law — love God and love your neighbor — and encourages the people to have a love that goes beyond the radius of denomination and affiliation.
After church, we visited Paidha FM. They had a list of charges for various types of announcements:
death: 2500 ugx personal: 100 ugx per word official: 250 ugx per word political: 20,000 ugx.For world news, they relay BBC programming. For local programming, they produce a program they call Vox Populis. They go out and interview people in the street. They also record people singing rhymes and songs. They told me that they are a community radio station, but operate as commercial. (Running on donations would be difficult here.)
I shared lunch with Ongiera John, one of the three young men who lives with Joshua. He is 22 years old, though he looks older to me. He told me that Joshua was a youth counselor in Nebbi from 2006 to 2011 before becoming MP (Member of Parliament) for Padyere County in 2011. He represented Pakwac up to Zombo. When the MP for Padyere died, there was a bi-election and people advised him to contest. By the official count he narrowly lost that election, but only six months later the general elections came and Joshua won thoroughly, by 7000 votes. Elections in Uganda occur every 5 years, so the next will be in 2016.
John told me, "Joshua knows how to stay with the orphans. Joshua picked me to be friends with him." John's father was a farmer but died when John was young. John left his mom in the village doing cassava and gee nuts when he was 14 years old and came to Paidha to start a second-hand clothing business. Second-hand clothing comes in bales. He did not have enough to buy a whole bale, so he negotiated to buy part of one. Over the last eight years his business has been growing. He tells me that he goes to Arua, buys a bale, and puts it on top of the taxi to bring it to Paidha. He uses this income to help his 11-year-old brother pay school fees.
Unjuku Women groups
After lunch we piled into the SUV to visit two women groups. On the way, we met a bicyclist who told us that the road was blocked. So we turned around and went a different way. After we hit a large rut, brake fluid started leaking and the brakes began scraping. So Joshua called his friend Seraph, who is the accounting officer for the Nebbi district. He came in his SUV and brought us to Unjuku Women group.
The women had expected us at 2pm, so when we arrived, many had already given up and scattered. Nevertheless, we were still welcomed by a relatively large crowd consisting of the Unjuku Upper Women group and the Unjuku Lower Women group. They performed the welcome ceremony and had us sit under the mango tree next to where the men who lead the village were seated.
After Joshua gave his speech, the women listed the problems they are experiencing and the interventions they desire:
lack of clean water poor community-access road (esp. rainy season) one water souce for the whole ward OVS (orphans and vulnerable children): orphans in every household grinding machine to be given to add into the revolving fund net ball for women a big saucepan for community functions support for orphanage to be created revolving fund for youth? more light to be thrown on SAGE (Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment, i.e grant for elders) start foundation (nursery) school for children
The women asked me specifically if I could help to start a nursery school. I thought that this sounded large and outside my expertise, so I replied that I would not promise that. They also asked if I would consider providing a grinding machine. I said that I would think about it.
I don't think that I will simply give a grinding machine. Better to enable a revolving loan or propagating gift so that many women's groups can get such a machine.
As we drove away, we drove past a training school for training nursery school teachers and a group of children pumping at a bore hole. I can see that the resources these women want are available even though access is currently difficult. With time I expect that things will continue to improve for them.
As we raced toward the next women group, Joshua got a call that they had given up and gone home.
So instead we visited the house in Erussi that Joshua has been working on for 8 years. His plan is for handicapped guys to live there.
As we continued home, we stopped the vehicle and talked with a woman who had been Joshua's primary school teacher. This prompted Joshua to tell me about the Christian Children's Fund (CCF). The Inspector General for the police started a project called the Saint Joseph Helper Project. This project helped Joshua as an orphan through collaboration with the CCF. When the Inspector General died, there was no longer a link between the project and the CCF, and so the Saint Joseph Helper Project died a natural death. Joshua and his friends started Saint Augustine Community Love to fill the resulting void. He tried to set it up in such a way that it would continue if he died.
In the morning, Dennis, manager of Paidha FM, came into my cottage to discuss the purpose and structure of the scholarships we would be offering the next day. I explained my vision of investing in young people who have demonstrated responsibility for their community and providing them with a network of friends and a mentor. He asked how the students would be selected. I told him that my ideas were still vague, and listened as he offered his input. He suggested that, after identifying viable contendors, we go to each student's community and hold a village committee meeting to ask them which boy or girl they want to send. He said to me, "[Here in rural Uganda] we still have a social fabric. We can go through it and it still works. We have leadership in the village."
Dennis wanted to know if I would want to fund any type of study or if funded study should focus on needs in the community. I expressed the idea that almost any study could benefit the community.
Dennis responded that I should take a week to come and live in a village. He said that it would cause a paradigm shift in my thinking. I realized that Dennis was right. I said: I'm traveling around in an SUV, and I feel that I'm not really seeing what I'm seeing. This hotel is like my room in Belgium. Joshua wants to make things nice for me. But I'm not experiencing what people's lives are like.
Dennis followed up with advice: Bring an idea, sell it to the people, and learn by doing. Come and live in community, and you will appreciate what goes around. Start small and expand. To create impact, you need to have the right strategy. If two students truly share the vision, you can have an impact.
Dennis encouraged me to bring my thinking to a focus: Try to bring the university to the people. Specific skills are needed. In a purely agricultural setting, we need to change the way we use our land. Education, health, and sanitation are essential. Use charisma to mobilize people for a common goal. Live with a household for a week. Bring friends back to the community with you.
So next year when I visit I want to take a week to live with a household in a thatch grass mud hut and participate in the typical daily routine: sleep on a papyrus mat on a dirt floor, fetch water and sticks for firewood, and do agricultural work, digging with a hoe, slashing with a slasher, and cutting with a panga.
I have concluded that to understand what is wrong with American society one need only observe our daily routine. Maybe understanding Africa is similar. The way to understand a society is to experience and thoughtfully consider its daily routine.
I spent the day visiting projects. We first visited Apoya village, where we walked down to the valley to see a bore hole that was dug in 2012. While we were walking up from the valley, we heard people on the neighboring hill beating and drums and celebrating. I learned that the neighboring village was celebrating the donation of a cow as part of the "send a cow" program. The recipient donates the firstborn kid (female?) back to the program so that the gift can propagate. SACL does the same thing with goats. Back on the road, we passed the celebration. People with drums were gathered under the fruit trees outside the church.
Goats (Okethi Vundha)
We then visited Oriwo Acwera Village, in Facala Parish near Erussi, where Saint Augustine Community Love is breeding goats. I recognized the site from my previous visit in 2010. We photographed several females with kids. The goat program has given out 8 goats to 8 beneficiaries. The beneficiaries were selected in consultation with their village as competent farmers. The project seeks to improve the quality of the goats. The first kid is donated back to the program.
As we walked toward the site, we passed through a cluster of thatched-grass mud huts. I saw a woman in a brick house with an iron-sheet roof. She was using solar cells to charge a cell phone, so I asked her about it. She said that it takes 5-6 hours to recharge the phone, and that the recharger cost between 45,000 and 65,000 shillings (2500 shillings = 1 dollar).
Coffee seedlings (Okethi Vundha)
We then visited one of several coffee seed nurseries SACL has recently set up. The seedlings were shielded from the sun not by plastic but by a canopy of grass laid on a framework constructed from wood poles and a tall grass whose stem looks like miniature bamboo. [This grass evidently has various names, including Elephant grass, Ugandan grass, and Napier grass.] It was lashed together with fibres of a plant. The entire structure was built with materials found nearby. The only non-local material used was the polythene bag ("pot") that contained each seedling. Under the canopy a man was working. He was introduced to me as Okethi Vundha, SACL's program head responsible for education. I had heard much about his skill with goat-breeding and agriculture and was eager to meet him. I paced off the rows and estimated that the nursery had about 60,000 seedlings.
Widow's new house
We then returned to the dirt foot path that ran through the valley where the nursery lay. I saw a girl carrying sweet potatoes on her head and bought some from her. I kept one for myself to eat raw and gave the rest to Hannington. Then William took me up the hill on his motorbike to see a house that SACL is building for a widow. The new house is brick with iron-sheet roof. It is next to her old mud house with thatched roof. I photographed the corner of the roof that was beginning to deteriorate. When I said goodbye to the widow, I gave her my sweet potato.
William then took me to visit a couple more people receiving assistance. I met Kumakech Docus, who is studying S2 at Erussi secondary school. Then I visited the house of a widow receiving assistance. As we sat outside the row of thatched mud houses, a toddler came by pushing one of the most fascinating and cleverly designed toys I have ever seen. It was constructed with great ingenuity and care from sticks and odd pieces of plastic and foam. It had four wheels and a handle with a steering wheel. The wheels were circles cut from the soles of old shoes. A plastic bottle was placed so that as one of the wheels turned it spun the plastic bottle. The plastic bottle had strips cut out of the side, so that it conceivably could be used to scatter seed.
Abonga Primary School
We then returned to the SUV, left Erussi district, and entered Nebbi district, where we arrived at Abongu Primary School. On the wall of the school was a sign that read, "Welcome to our US friends." The headmaster came out to greet us. The children had been on holiday since Friday, so only he was present. I learned that 791 children attend the school, grades P1 through P7. Each teacher has over 100 students and earns 300,000 shillings per month. Grades P1-P3 are taught in Alul. P4 is a transition year, and subsequent grades are taught in English. The headmaster was marking examinations. I learned that it was his fourth year as headmaster.
The headmaster said that Abongu Primary School was founded by the Orosi Parish of the Catholic Church in 1956, and the government took over in 1979. He then listed some of the problems that the school is facing and the partial assistance that they have received:
Meeting with the Bishop
After dark Emma brough Hannington and me to visit the Anglican Bishop in his home. He had been invited to serve on the scholarship vetting committee the next day, so he wanted to meet with me for some clarifications.
The bishop asked me to explain my vision for the scholarships. I showed him a summary that emphasized equipping students to further invest in their community. He was pleased. He saw the need to give the community the sense of value of education. He said that the community is a little bit hostile to people who are educated, because when the community invests in educating young people they often disappear.
The scholarship interviews and SACL community day were held in the main hall of a school in Erussi. We arrived at about 10am. Over 50 applicants were waiting for us. I sat with the other panelists around the table at the front of the room. We explained to the students the purpose of the scholarships. Then we handed out blank paper and read to them a sequence of questions. We gave the students about 30-40 minutes to write their responses. We interviewed the students in the order in which they submitted their response. We asked each student to tell us what they had done for their community, what post-secondary program of study they had been accepted to, and what they hoped to do for their community with what they learned. We assigned each student a score between 1 and 5. The initial interviews took us too long. At 2pm we had still interviewed only about 20 students, and by then 70 students had submitted responses. So Joshua accelerated the process by splitting up the panelists and having us interview students in parallel. By then we had a common feeling for how to evaluate the applicants, so the process went much more quickly. As dusk approached, people began to bring in food for the Community Day Celebration. After talking with Joshua, we decided to identify about 25 students for the second phase of the interviews. SACL would follow up by approaching each parish or village with a list of names and asking them whom they would recommend to represent them. Joshua explained that Cornerstone follows a similar philosophy, and through this the best qualified students are able to rise to the top. The whole process felt very scrappy to me, but seemed satisfactory in the end.
I spent this day wrapping things up in Paidha.
At 7am we departed for Kampala. I sat by Onencan William, coordinator of SACL, and Hannington sat with Okethi Vundha, responsible for education and the coffee seedling nursery. It was a valuable opportunity for me to get a fuller picture of how SACL works.
One of the tires on the bus went up in smoke, delaying us by an hour. When we got to Kampala, Hannington split off from us and we continued to Masaka by taxi van.
Kampala is the congested and dysfunctional hub around which everything in Uganda is forced to revolve, and, as usual, getting through Kamapala took as much time as traveling from the north of Uganda to Kampala. So we did not get to Masaka until about 9pm.
We spent the day observing teacher training class being taught by Arleen Buchholz. She was teaching cooperative group learning, and demonstrated it by having us study cooperative groups learning in cooperative groups.
We spent much of Saturday with Fred Mawanda getting a tour of two farms. Throughout these tours, Fred emphasized that African farmers need to think through the economics of farming. He said that most Africans cannot tell you their costs or assign monetary value to their time; that is, they only know their gross revenue and cannot tell you their net profit.
He also emphasized the need to improve the work ethic of African men. He said that most Ugandan men work 4 hours per day, though the women work from the time they wake to the time they retire.
Holy Trinity Community's demonstration farm
At 7:30am Fred picked us up and took us to a demonstration farm that his Catholic Charismatic community, Holy Trinity, is starting.
As we drove to the site, Fred told me his story. He has a Master's degree in agroforestry and spent six months in Italy studying the socioeconomics of agroforestry.
In 1993 Fred was employed by a tree-planting project that had started in 1987 in Kenya. From 1993 until 1997 Fred was responsible for distributing seedlings of more than 30 species of trees to farmers. He remained with this organization until 2001, when he resigned; at that point he had reached the highest level that he could attain in the organization, and he disagreed with the dictation from the board in Sweden that managed the organization, feeling that it was not listening. At that point he was responsible for monitoring and evaluation and oversaw 300 employees, reaching about 30,000 families.
After Fred resigned from the tree-planting NGO, he pursued an initiative to teach farming and better attitudes toward work in response to the needs and opportunities presented to him by his involvement with Holy Trinity.
Fred was born in Masaka and has lived there most of his life. He became involved with the the Catholic Charismatic movement in 1989 through his involvement with the university. He served with National Evangelization Team (NET), which involved outread to university and secondary students, leadership teaching, parish-based youth groups, and social and economic development. They wanted to help university students live a purpose-filled life.
In 1994 Fred was coordinator for Masaka Diocese. Most of the people in his charismatic prayer group were really poor. So the leadership of the group began to develop teaching about farming and work. They aimed to teach and demonstrate a work ethic.
Describing the teaching efforts of NET prompted Fred to describe to me some of the educational challenges that Uganda faces. There are two classes of youth: rural, and school-going. Enrollment in primary school is 80 percent, but at the secondary level enrollment is only 12 percent. Many people drop out for financial reasons, even simply because they lack money for uniforms and for eating lunch. While Uganda has promised to implement universal secondary education, it has not been rolled out, and secondary education is almost four times as expensive for students as primary education.
Fred described how education determines the level to which a person can attain. He mentioned that in the Karamojo region girls who are educated through P6 get more cows for a bride price than those who have less education.
Fred told me about a friend of his named Didas, who has a ministry to prostitutes to help them discover their gifting. In 2004, NET trained Didas, who at that time was a teacher. He then earned a master's degree in development economics and became employed in the ministry of finance. His service helps girls living on prostitution to get out. Fred mentioned 4 girls who are being supported and educated along with their children.
Fred described two cooperative societies that his Catholic community has started in order to promote socio-economic development: Network foundations limited, with more of an urban focus, and St. Atanasi, which focuses more on rural areas. The lives and social circles of urban and rural people are quite distinct and call for different kinds of programs.
As we drove toward the farm, Fred described the long-term vision. The total area of the land is 64 acres. It belongs to Holy Trinity Community. They want it to serve as a demonstration farm for the surrounding community, farming in a way that teaches economics, appropriate technology (so as to reduce labor requirements), and agronomics (the science of growing crops, involving how to space them, when to plant, when and how much to water, how to fertilize, when it is important to weed, and understanding when plants flower).
Most of the people in the region (about 80 percent) are subsistence farmers, and this is also true of the people in Holy Trinity. Currently there are 66 people involved.
Fred has been working with these people for over 20 years. He has seen that some of them work really hard and still don't make it.
Fred emphasized that farming has to make economic sense. Otherwise farms cannot remain when outside funding is withdrawn. Many people cannot put numbers to what they put into farming. So Fred asks them: "What is the value of your time?" "What did you spend to get that 1 million shillings?" Good, detailed records are key for profitable farming. Many people have no idea how to calculate their net profit.
As we drove onto the farm, Fred said, "We Africans cannot assign a value to our time. We just know that we have it." He introduced me and Onencan William and Okethi Vundha to Tom, the assistant farm manager. He told us that Dennis, the farm manager, was away teaching a program on intercession (prayer). As Tom and Fred showed us the irrigation system that they are installing, Fred talked about how people will spend many hours collecting firewood or carrying water without considering the value of this time. The irrigation system at the farm transports water from the swamp in the valley up to the fields in the hills; otherwise people would have to carry water up the hill.
I remembered that in the West Nile district and in Rwanda people are not allowed to own wetland, so I asked him about what restrictions he has to observe in their use of the wetland that the farm borders on. He told me that they are allowed to cultivate up to 10 meters from the swamp.
The farm currently purchases chicken manure from Kampala in order to fertilize the soil, which costs 12,000 shillings per sack. He said that they want to have chickens and cows to provide their own manure. He said that it is important to put potassium into the soil. For decades people have been shipping bananas to Kampala, and the potassium doesn't come back. I mentioned that the fundamental problem is that organic material doesn't cycle. Not a problem that Fred is positioned to solve...
Fred showed us the fields where they are growing maize. People had recently burned the ground cover and were digging and planting. Fred said that with a 2-wheeled tractor people can plow ten times as much land.
I mentioned that Farming God's Way is no-till and would eliminate the need for mechanized plowing. Fred expressed skepticism about whether Farming God's Way could scale up. My understanding is that it has been used at a mechanized scale by some of its promoters. [In fact, Farming God's Way was originally developed on a large scale operation and was scaled down to meet the needs of subsistence farmers, as explained in this overview on the Farming God's Way web site.] But I didn't have specific facts at hand. In any case, I anticipated that a full discussion of how to scale up a farm would expose fundamental tensions between my distributivist philosophy and the automation-driven approach of modern economics and would have derailed the tour Fred was giving us; moreover, he is the one who has actually accomplished something. So I kept quiet.
As we were leaving, we walked through the bananas and coffee. Coffee needs to be fertilized around the drip line. You can use spent coffee husks for chicken bedding; the mixture of coffee husks and chicken urea makes an excellent fertilizer. This kind of work can be done in the dry season, and is an investement that makes a big difference. Fred said that it is much cheaper to hire people during the dry season. During the wet season, workers demand more because they know that you need them. So a farm manager needs to identify tasks that can be done before the rainy season begins.
Fred next drove us to St. Jude Family Projects. As we drove, he explained to us that it is able to do what it does because of continued outside donations. Only a subset of the agricultural techniques that they demonstrate would be economically feasible for an African family that lacks outside support.
On the way, Fred talked about the problem of how to farm five acres efficiently enough to support a family. He emphasized that you need to look at the whole system of household labor utilization. People can spend six hours every two days simply gathering firewood and carrying jerry cans of water. A 20-foot well with a submersible pump can make a huge difference.
You can harvest a ton of maize from an acre and sell it for 600,000 shillings. But you need to subtract off the 150,000 shillings that you put into it. Many don't think of that.
As we drove along, Fred talked about the household economics of stoves and firewood. Stoves used for cooking are very inefficient, and on top of this, the kilns used to reduce firewood to charcoal (which is more convenient to use in cooking) are also very inefficient.
He first mentioned a more efficient "Eco Stove"; it consists of mud packed between an inner metalic casing and an outer metalic casing. [I later saw a hawker in Kampala selling a highly efficient stove. He was dancing and singing a song that he had made up to attract people to buy it.]
Fred told us that portable kilns are used to turn firewood into charcoal. The kilns used in the local system are only 30% efficient. But he said that there is a kiln produced in China and Japan that is 75% efficient. It is cheap and could greatly reduce the amount of time that people have to spend gathering firewood. A great business opportunity for some entrepreneur willing to track down the supplier.
Fred mentioned that ladies make money from selling firewood. But selling charcoal is more profitable. Typically a charcoal seller can buy each bag for 18,000 shillings and sell it for 25,000. You can sell ten bags a day if you make it a full-time job.
As we continued, I asked Fred how he met Noelle, the woman who put me in touch with him. I met Noelle at a summer outreach gathering in Detroit in 2007 or 2008. Shortly after I visited Cornerstone in Uganda in 2010, Noelle came to serve with them for three years; she returned to the United States shortly before I came for this visit, so I unfortunately never overlapped with her. But shortly before I visited, I connected with her by email, and she gave me information and contacts from her own travels in Uganda, Rwanda, Jordan, and Israel.
Fred said that he met Noelle at a leadership conference, one of the training programs that he runs with people in Holy Trinity. He said, "Cornerstone Development has been bringing people to our leadership program [from grades S4-S6]. She was sponsoring students to come for the training".
I also asked Fred how he became involved in the Charismatic Renewal. He said that when he was at Makerere University he was considering if God was real. A Jesuit chemistry professor invited him to pray. He attended a Life in the Spirit seminar for 8 weeks. When he came back to Masaka, he connected with a Belgian-French priest and began helping with the charismatic renewal in his diocese.
St. Jude Family Projects
As we drove into St. Jude Family Projects and Rural Training Centre, Fred told us that he has known the family that runs the farm for many years. The owner died a few years ago, but the wife is still living. They started with one acre, then grew to three, and then grew to eleven acres. They were both teachers. They did a course in organic farming in the United Kingdom, and afterwards initiated a training farm for organic farming.
Fred then introduced us to Daniel, who served as our tour guide. Daniel told us that he had just returned from studying agricultural engineering at Oklahoma State University. Daniel enthusiastically gave us a detailed tour of the majority of the sophisticated and carefully interwoven 19 agricultural projects that the farm runs before Fred's schedule cut us short. Here is a list of some of the things we toured:
resource projects: water pit to trap rain water, cow manure composting to produce methane, wood vinegar (a natural pesticide), plant projects: vertical plants, seedling nursery, bananas, coffee, animal projects: poultry project, goat breeding (disease-resistant local with large milk-producing exotic), pigs (large white for meat, land race for lard, hybrid), fish pond (catfish, I think), bees (using Kenyan-style hives), frisian cows
Daniel started by giving some historical information about the farm. In 1993 it was elevated from a family project demonstration farm of 3.7 acres to a training center. In 2000 it became an NGO.
Daniel said that all 19 projects have to correlate with one another in a circle of integration. But they also consider the profitability of each project. Each project should stand on its own. He said that the farm earns 50 million net profit per month.
Daniel began our tour at the entrance, where they demonstrate things that someone could grow who has only a small space to cultivate (such as someone living in a town or city). [...]
Fred's community and family
Fred then briefly showed us the community centre of Holy Trinity Community and introduced us to the residents (3 or 4 people) who take care of the meeting building, barn, and housing.
He then took us to his house, where we met his wife and children. When we arrived, huge pelting rain drops typical of tropical rain began to fall, so I tried to help his wife pull some clothes off the line before we ran inside. While we waited for the rain to stop, William interviewed Fred about the management structure of Holy Trinity Community, its service outreach to the broader community, and the leadership training that Fred has been involved in. It's clear that William has a mind for administration and is interested in good models.
Early Sunday morning we returned from Masaka to Kampala. Hannington met us at the taxi park. William and Okethi Vundha then returned to Paidha, and Hannington and I went to Entebbe to spend the day visiting Teo.
I met Teo randomly when Hannington and I walked into Katanga slum during my first visit in 2010. She was at a low point in her life, so I gave her a little money to help her restart her business and sponsored her children to attend nursery school for one year.
We got to Teo's place at about 10am. She lives with her three children in a room of perhaps 12 square meters. Her older daughter, Busiye, is in P3 (Primary grade 3), her younger daughter Sarah is in P1, and her son seems to be between 1 and 2 years old.
After about forty minutes, Teo took us by taxi to her church. Her younger sister, perhaps 11 or 12 years old, came along and carried the baby.
The church had a dirt floor and was built from poles and iron sheets. The service was already in session when we arrived. Much of the service consisted of people screaming into microphones. A man translated so that everything was said both in English and Lugandan. The woman leading the service introduced herself as the pastor and founder of the church. They gave us the opportunity to speak. Hannington told the story of how we met Teo. Then I gave a retelling of the parable of the sower.
Jesus told a story about a farmer sowing seed. Some seed fell on hard ground, like the dirt path outside the church doors. The birds ate the seed before it could even germinate. Other seed fell where the soil was thin. When the rain fell, the seed germinated, but when the roots tried to go down they hit rock [or perhaps buried polythene bags?...], and the plant withered. Other seed fell on soil that was prepared, but the ground was not well tended. The seed germinated, and the roots went down, but when the stock grew up, the weeds grew up too and choked the plants by taking away the nutrients and the sun. But some seed fell on good ground. It germinated, took root, and grew up, the farmer came and removed the weeds, and the plant produced seeds. Some of those seeds fell on poor ground, but a few fell on good ground and propagated the plant.
People wanted to understand what the parable meant. Jesus told them that the seed is the word of God. God is like a farmer. The ground represents the condition of our hearts. When we hear the word, our hearts can be so hard or our minds so distracted that we don't even hear it. Sometimes we hear it but only in a shallow way. We don't let the words penetrate and take root. There is no deep change. When difficulties come, we give up.
When people try to farm on hard ground like the dirt path out there, they tend either to give up on it or to attack it with pick axes. But that is not the way God farms. When Hannington and I visited Rakai, we learned about God's way of farming. If we left that dirt alone long enough, God would turn it into a forest, without digging the dirt or turning it over.
First, God would lay down a blanket of mulch. Then he would water the blanket. The blanket would allow the rain to soak in and soften the hard dirt. Without that blanket, the big tropical rain drops would pelt and crust the soil and the water would just run off. Then He would let little seeds settle through the mulch and germinate. Their roots would gently begin to work into the softening soil and make paths for air, water, and nutrients. Microbes would develop along root channels, helping the roots to absorb nutrients. Little by little, plants would begin to grow, at first scraggly and over time more full.
Sometimes we take the time to go deep and allow the word to take root in our lives. But God does not want us to stop there. He wants us to grow up.
When we grow, problems can also grow. Success can make us prideful. Our desires can deceive and divert us. We can become greedy for riches or undisciplined. To grow up and bear good fruit, we must become holy. We need God to prune and weed us. Maybe He needs to cut out some banana shoots, thin some maize, or train some vines. Weeding and pruning is the most difficult part of farming. Likewise, God's training is painful. But we cannot be fruitful if we do not allow God to clean out the things that divert energy from what gives fruit.
When we allow God to finish his work in our lives, we are able to bear seeds. Some of those seeds will fall on hard ground, others on rocky ground, and others on weedy, poorly tended plots. But if a couple seeds land on good ground, then the seed will grow up again and continue to propagate, and God will advance His kingdom.
As I talked, people seemed responsive and moved. The pastor gave other people the opportunity to come and share. Some people used the parable of the sower as a take-off point to talk about what God was doing in their lives.
The pastor used my sermonette to talk about how if you commit things to God then He will bless you and you will be able to give more money to the church.
We sang and danced some more. The sound system was turned to a level I found excruciating, and I spent much of the time with my fingers in my ears.
Then they had a session where they seemed to be trying to cast demons out of people. The pastor and a few others would gather around someone and start screaming at the "patient". The patient would act like they were having some sort of seizure or emotional breakdown.
Then they invited all the new visitors to sit in a line of chairs at the front. The pastor and her translator talked about how they were trying to raise funds for the building.
Then people in the line of chairs started going forward one at a time for a prayer session which consisted of kneeling in the middle of a group of people and saying some things, followed by the group shouting and screaming prayers at the person for maybe five minutes.
It seemed that Hannington and I were expected to go forward too. But I was not really interested, and after two and half hours of mostly screaming my patience was wearing thin. I said to Hannington, "I think that this train has gone off the rails."
So we went up to the translator and thanked him and said goodbye to some people and left. They sent us off warmly.
After church we went to the zoo. Teo's children seemed very happy there. After looking at the animals, we sat and talked while the children played in the zoo playground until late afternoon. I asked Teo the name of her baby boy. His family name was the same as the other children. I remembered that she was separated from her husband when we visited her in 2010, so I asked her about it. She had had some problems with her fish-selling business, in late 2011 as I recall. At that time she texted me to tell me that the authorities had fined her. (My understanding of the situation is that fishers are required to return small fish back to the water, but some sell them on the black market; I infer that Teo had bought and sold some of these smaller fish.) At that time her husband'ss relatives sat down with him and talked with him about taking more responsibility for his children. He had started supporting 50 percent of their school fees. But lately he had not been contributing much. It sounded like he tends to favor the children of his other wife.
Dinner with Teo and Busiye
We got back to Teo's house as dusk was approaching. No one was complaining about food, but it was dinner time, we had not eaten lunch, and there did not seem to be anything cooking, so I decided that we should go to a restaurant. So Hannington and I walked with Teo and her oldest daughter Busiye to a nearby restaurant. To avoid the television and allow conversation, we took chairs outside the restaurant and sat in a circle.
While we ate, I asked Teo whether she had thought about working with some of the other women she knows to share credit or start a business. She told me that she is part of a group of about 10 people who cook and cater meals for events. She is the leader of the group.
At the end of our meal, Busiye began to talk to me. She reminds me of my niece Analise, and is directive and socially and verbally very intelligent. She free-streamed for a while about her life, telling me about school and Sunday School and her family. She told me that usually they go to a different church where her dad goes to church. She talked about her faith and how she prays.
Then she invited me to come with her to the supermarket. She lead me by the hand, and when we walked in she started pulling things off the shelf and putting them in a basket. Some things I accepted, and other things I told her that we should put back because they were not healthy. We bought about 50,000 shillings (20 dollars) of items and walked home with Teo and Hannington.
Leaving Teo's house
When we got back to Teo's house, Busiye placed the bag of items on Teo's table. About 5 neighbor children came in the door to see what she had brought. Busiye knelt down and said that we would now humble ourselves before the Lord. She began to say a long prayer. After each line of her prayer, she paused and the other children repeated the line that she had prayed. She thanked God profusely for bringing "Alec" and "Uncle" (Hannington) and also said many things thanking me, not making a clear distinction between thanking God and thanking me. After the prayer, Busiye began to open the gifts and play with them and share them with the other children. I thought about how the social interactions would have been different in the United States. There was some grabbing of toys between two boys, but I did not observe anyone saying, "mine".
I spent Monday with Hannington and his friends. In the morning we visited Bernard and his wife Miriam again for a while and talked about the traditional stories of the Bunyoro peoples from whom the Bantu peoples of Uganda (including the Buganda) came.
Then we went downtown and met Hannington's old friend Byomere Farrel. They went to painting school many years ago. Now Farrel works as a printer. We toured the print shops where he works. The entire city block is filled with hundreds of small printers and print retailers. It was an amazing place to visit.
After visiting the print shop, Hannington and Farrel and I spent maybe four hours going from one computer electonics shop to another trying to find a way to have a keyboard talk to a cell phone that has email. My hope was to find a cheap and portable way for William, the coordinator of SACL, to have access to email while in remote areas. But we could not find anyone who knew how to do it. Seems like a lack of imagination on the part of manufacturers.
Then Hannington and Farrel and I had dinner at a restaurant. We spent the dinner talking about the history of Uganda.
In the morning I met Hannington's girlfriend, Vicki. The three of us went downtown to meet Anywarach Joshua. While I was checking email, one of the guys running the shop asked me if I remembered him from 2010 when I visited Cornerstone Leadership Academy. He hadn't stuck in my mind, but I was glad to meet him.
When Anywarach Joshua arrived from Paidha, we had lunch in a below-ground restaurant called the "Subway" with Chris, who does secretarial work for SACL and for Joshua. Joshua evidently thinks highly of his organizational skills.
Joshua spent the lunch helping me finally get clarity on how the SACL's orginizational structure is derived and perpetuated. All government is ultimately circular, and I was finally able to understand SACL's cycle:
The voting members elect the board of directors. The board of directors appoints the management team. The management team identifies persons who are sufficiently committed to be voting members.
Membership in SACL is open to anyone in the community who wants to get involved. To become a voting member, one needs to invest sufficiently in the community. Only voting members can be elected.
Joshua then got a private hire for me and Hannington and Vicki so that they could accompany me to the airport in Entebbe and see me off in time. On the way Hannington got a text from Joshua asking him to return to Paidha to help with the follow-up evaluation of students, and he and I discussed how to follow up from my visit.
I made the mistake of chatting with Hannington and Vicki until an hour before departure before going through security. When I showed my passport, the lady said, "Where is your Yellow Fever vaccination certificate? I cannot let you on without one."
I could not find the certificate in my passport pouch, and realized that in my rushed departure from Belgium I must have forgotten to put it in my passport pouch. She said that Egypt was very strict about yellow fever and was being especially strict now, and if I showed up without a yellow fever certificate, Egypt would find the airline 6000 dollars and she would lose her job. After chastising me further for being so late, she directed me to another man, who gave me a vaccination certificate in exchange for 50 dollars (which I paid for using 50 euro). When I got on the plane, I looked at it and realized that I had signed a bogus Kampala vaccination certificate dated one day prior to the date of my entrance stamp into Uganda.
When I arrived, I simply presented my passport without showing the vaccination certificate, not wanting to present a verifiably false document. After paying the 15 dollar visa fee, I was practically waved through after showing my American passport. My guess is that Egyptian security has more important things to do right now than make life difficult for the few American tourists "brave" enough to ignore the State Department's warnings (which I think often exaggerate danger to Americans) and come to give some support to Egypt's struggling tourist industry.
Egypt is currently under curfew between 9pm and 6am, so I spent the night in the airport until Wafik picked me up and drove me to his apartment in Mokattam.
For breakfast, Wafik took me to a cafe near his house owned by an American couple named Skip and Bonnie.
I spent the day working on my talk to be given at American University in Cairo on Thursday.
At breakfast, Wafik and Mary told me that today was a big day for her. She was going to give a presentation in order to petition for promotion from being an associate professor to being a full professor of internal medicine.
I spent the morning attending two classes that Wafik is teaching this semester. The semester is just beginning.
The first class was Mathematics of Music, at 9:30am. I counted 12 males and 6 females among the students. Wafik defined a periodic signal and got the students to think about how to prove that any multiple of a period is a period. He also talked about the role of repetition and variation. "Your mind wants to uncover patterns. To feel happy, you have to start to discover what is going on in the music. Repeating something you like is reassuring. It satisfies your brain that what you remember is coming back. But if the music never changes, after a while you get bored." He also said: "Compared to a simple repeating rythm, a complicated rhythm is richer. It makes you want to discover the pattern."
At 11:00am he taught Linear Algebra. He explained basic concepts of vectors such as length and dot product. I counted 25 males and 7 females among the students.
At the end of the lecture he posed a question:
How can a party win the majority of the seats in the parliament, while 74% of the voters voted for an opposing party?He said that he would give the answer at the next lecture.
After the lecture I got a tour of the library. The library provides on the ground floor a set of stations that provide assistance to every stage of teaching, learning, and research, beginning with what the professors present to the students and ending with what the students present back to the professors. A class technology assistant helps professors arrange for presentations. A technology assistant helps students with technological resources. A library assistant directs students to appropriate resources for research, writing, and help with presentations. There are multimedia rooms where students can do collaborative study. Lockers are available where students can store items. The library gives students a "home base" for their study, and tightly integrates a full set of academic services that in other universities would be scattered around campus.
I then walked around campus for a while. The whole campus was built new just a few years ago, and so there was the opportunity to build it in a planned and coherent way. The library is in front of a central square where students were manning booths promoting various student groups. A long mall runs through this central square, connecting it to two "wings" that extend at 45-degree angles. Between the wings and in front of the library is a large garden.
I then returned to Wafik's office. He talked to his wife on the phone. When he hung up he told me that the committee had rejected Mary's bid to become a full professor. The committee had not allowed her to give her presentation, and instead had examined her on knowledge outside her specialty of endocrinology. It also appeared that they had not actually read her papers. The committee said that her papers were not good, even though she had published twice as many papers as required and even though they were almost all published in international journals. The other six or seven applicants had been passed without difficulties, even though some of them had only the minimum number of publications and had published in local rather than international journals.
Wafik smiled softly. "Don't worry, it's okay. This kind of thing happens to Copts all the time in Egypt. If we suffer because we are Christians, it is a blessing. Actually, Mary has been through this before. She took her oral examinations for her PhD five times before she was passed."
On Friday we went to an evangelical church.
In Egypt, as in other Islamic countries, people work Sunday through Thursday. People go to Mosque on Friday. Saturday is also a day of rest.
Christians accomodate themselves to this reality by making their primary days of worship Friday and Saturday. Sunday Christian worship in Egypt is a minimal, early-morning thing.
Wafik goes to an evangelical church on Friday and to Coptic mass on Saturday. So on Friday we went to the evangelical church. We dropped off his son at the Coptic church that they normally go to on Saturdays, and then we picked up his father on the way to church.
The church is actually a Presbyterian church. It is located facing Tarir square, where the revolution protests occurred. You cannot see the church from the square, because the Egyptian government subsequently constructed a government building for the purpose of blocking the view of the church from the square.
I met Wafik in 2006 in the following way. I went to the Student Union at UW-Madison for a men's prayer group. But the prayer group was canceled. I asked God if there was a reason for me to be there. Then I noticed an older man studying a calculus book. I felt sorry for him, because it is hard to learn mathematics when you are old. So I told him that I was a mathematics teaching assistant, and I asked him if there was anything that he wanted help with. He said, "I'm the professor." He told me that his name was Wafik and that he lives in Egypt but graduated from Madison and comes every summer to teach mathematics in Madison. He explained to me many things that I was curious about regarding the history of Christianity in Egypt, especially regarding the origin of monasticism and the experience of Christians under Islam.
Then I told Wafik that I was looking for someone to pray with and asked him if he would like to pray with me. We prayed for a friend of mine named Phil whose skin cancer had recently recurred.
Later we prayed for Wafik's sister. She was diagnosed with cancer at that time. The doctor said that she could live maybe three years. Wafik said that she was married and had two small children. He said that his sister was becoming spiritually stronger. He told me that their father was an atheist and that their mother was devout. Wafik told me that if his God would use his sister's death so that their father became a believer, then it would be worth it.
Wafik's sister died about three years later. It was hard for her mother, because she was expecting a miracle.
Wafik and his family started going to the evangelical church regularly in 2010. They started going there more regularly, because Wafik's father liked going there; he had not liked to go to church before that.
Wafik started going to the evangelical church next to Tahrir square shortly before the protests began. He remembers that someone had a prophecy that something aweful/awesome (same word in Arabic) was about to happen in Egypt. So people were wondering about the meaning of this prophecy.
During the protests in 2011, the church opened its doors to the protestors. They allowed people to use the church for prayers. (Devout Muslims pray 5 times per day, and they try to do so in the prescribed way, washing their face and hands and arms beforehand and facing in the same direction, toward Mecca.) Also, when people were injured by thugs (apparently hired by the regime), the church set up a make-shift hospital in the church courtyard.
After church we had lunch at the house of Wafik's parents. Their apartment is on an island in the Nile. The building is an annular cylinder, with an open central shaft. To keep cool, during the day people open their windows to the central shaft.
Wafik's mother had prepared an enormous amount of food and was waiting for us at the table when we arrived.
After lunch, Mary took a nap and then called some people about her denied application to be a full professor, beginning with a retired man who had been a mentor to her. Her conversations were almost entirely in Arabic, which I don't understand, but it was evident that the political situation was complicated.
Mokattam cave church
On Saturday morning we drove to the most famous Coptic church in Egypt. It faces into a cavity in the edge of the holy mountain. To get to the church, you have to go through the garbage village where the Zabaleen live.
Zabaleen is Arabic for "garbage people." About 90 percent of them are Coptic Christians. They collect garbage from the city of Cairo and recycle it.
When we drove in, Wafik asked a man where to go. Wafik explained to me that the people who live here will automatically direct any vehicle that they do not recognize to the cave church.
We drove to the church through narrow streets piled high with garbage. I was amazed by all the little cottage industries I saw beside the road. I would love to come back here and study the system of recycling that the Zabaleen have developed. I have heard that they recycle 80 percent of the trash that they collect; in contrast, most industrialized countries recycle only about 20 percent of trash.
As we drove through the streets, Wafik told me the history of the church. He said that until the 1960s the Coptic church did not have a single church servant to minister to the Zabaleen, even though they were almost all Copts. People did not want to be with them, because they were dirty and coarse.
In the 1960s, a Coptic servant began to talk with the Zabaleen. They did not like him, because they felt that he was condemning their lifestyle and their drunkenness. One day when he was visiting them, a car hit a child and smashed in his skull. The Zabaleen were superstitious and blamed the servant. He took the child to the hospital. He prayed for the child, and the child was raised up. This was a turning point in his relationship with the Zabaleen. The servant founded the cave church and the Zabaleen community was transformed.
When we arrived at the cave church, we found that there was no service on this particular Saturday, so it was almost empty. At the front of the church was a man preaching to a small group. Wafik translated a little of what he was saying:
Anyone who believes in God, if he asks, God will do it for him. If you say to this mountain, "be moved", and believe, it will be done for you.The cave church is built into the side of Mokattam (the holy mountain). The Copts believe that God moved Mokattam in the 1100s in response to the prayers of Simon the shoe-maker. His ossuary is at the cave church. The story is that the Islamic ruler told a Coptic leader that he would kill the Copts unless they could move the mountain by prayer like Jesus had said was possible. The Coptic leader was told in a dream that Simon was the person who could do it. Simon objected that he was just a simple person, but the leader told him that he was the one. According to the tradition, in response to his prayer, the mountain rose up a few inches so that people could see under it and then was set back down. So the ruler spared the Copts.
Wafik asked the preacher in English, "How did you come to know God?" So he told his story with his limited English. He said that he had done many sins. He read Revelation chapter 9. He was afraid and did not want to be stung by the creatures from the abyss. He received a Gideon Bible. He read Romans 10:9. "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." He said that he was fighting his sins inside a long time. He was fighting with the Lord Jesus Christ to give him courage. He implored the Lord to give him encouragement and went out from his prayer very strong and joyful, like a bird. He said, "I have many testaments in my life. The Lord Jesus makes me always come over [overcome?]." He asked me to read Psalm 26: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?..."
Then he talked in Arabic with Wafik's children, Nabil and Sarah. He asked them some questions. Then he said a prayer with them. Wafik and his children repeated the lines of his prayer.
He told us that he memorizes many verses from the New Testament. "I understand the verses by the work of God. The Lord gave me grace and many chances to learn more English."
As we were leaving, the preacher told me that his name was "George". I suppose that his name is actually "Girgis".
After we left the church, we drove to the pyramids. But the men outside the parking lot were aggressive about "helping" tourists park in order to try to get money from them. They tried to stop our car and climb on top of it. Very few tourists have been coming because of the turmoil in Egypt, so people fight over the tourists. Mary was not comfortable with the situation, so we did not get out of the car. That was okay with me; the ancient sites would be interesting to see, but my main interest is getting to know Egyptians.
We then went to the university hospital so that Mary could talk with the former head of her department. The current head of the department had delegated her case to him. Mary was apprehensive about talking with him, since he evidently had been the cause of her failing the Ph.D. exam.
On the way, Mary said that the fight about her case was giving her a headache. She did not desire to pursue it. It would be easier to wait a year and apply again than to persue a legal case. Most likely her opponents just wanted to delay her for a year. But Wafik said, "This is for future generations of Copts. We have nothing to lose. People need to see that Christians have teeth."
While we waited for Mary, Wafik explained her situation to me. People are evidently jealous of Mary's success, and it hurts the pride of a Muslim to be outdone by a Christian.
When Mary returned, she reported good news. The former head of the department had said that she had a strong case. Maybe he sees the chance to assume a position of importance as the mediator, and by acting as the defender of the Christians, he can negate complaints against his past behavior. But, in any case, she was grateful to God for the favor given to her case.
In the evening, Skip and his wife, Bonnie, came to Wafik and Mary's house for dinner. After they arrived, we prayed together for the dire situation in Syria. Pope Francis had asked people to fast and pray on this day for Syria and the Middle East.
We had some discussion and dispute about Christian faith. Skip said that questions like whether Mary was assumed into heaven were not important. Wafik seemed to agree that such questions do not need to divide us, but on the other hand, he said that he desired to know the answers to these questions and would be willing to pay a lot of money to know the answers.
As we talked, Skip said, "When I am with the Lord, I won't care about this world any more." I thought that this was not right. God cares about what is going on in the world, and if we are with Him then we will care too. The Bible says that the angels are watching eagerly what God is doing in the world. Jesus says that those who are counted worthy of the resurrection are like the angels in heaven. And in the book of Revelation, God is doing things on the earth in response to the prayers of the saints who have died. This brings Him much glory and causes everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth to worship him.
I felt that Skip was right that we should not separate from one another because of our beliefs about these questions, but I also felt that we should continue to care about the answers.
Reflection: farming and trash collection
Seeing the Zabaleen and talking with Skip made me think about what it means to live in the world in a godly way.
Wafik told me about the monks who farm in the desert and make it green. I have thought that this is the most godly work that a person can do, because God brings life to the dried up world.
But I think that there may be a more godly work. The gospel says that God is a recycler. God isn't a throw-away God. Recycling trash images God. So maybe recycling trash is the most godly work that a person could do.
Farming and trash collection lie at the beginning and the end of the processing sequence of human industry. As the ultimate dynamics of a coronal loop are characterized and determined by the "footprints" where it is grounded in the solar surface, so the dynamics of human industry are characterized by the points where it is grounded in the land.
Sunday is the first day of the work-week in Egypt, so Sunday is only a minor worship day for Egyptian Christians. Wafik and I were planning to attend a morning worship service before going in to the university. Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of trouble transferring my talk from my tablet to Wafik's laptop, so we ended up skipping church.
At 1pm I gave a talk to the mathematics club. The idea of the talk was to compare deterministic and statistical approaches to forecasting of weather and space weather. Five students and three professors came to the talk. I had good interaction with them. The professors were all statisticians. They asked me questions about statistical filtering and climate modeling that were outside my knowledge.
After my talk, Wafik and I walked around campus and talked. He compared his experience with American and Egyptian students. American students are more hard-working. Egyptian students are friendly with professors, whereas Wafik feels a barrier in his relationship with American students. I agreed. I had found it easy to chat with the students before my talk, more so than with American students. I think that American culture is more peer-based.
On Monday morning Wafik took me to the airport and I flew to Amman. We flew east to the Gulf of Aqaba to avoid Israeli airspace and then flew north. I had a left window seat, which gave me a spectacular view of the Dead Sea. Here and there I saw green patches of desert agriculture.
When I asked the taxi drivers about going to nearby Madaba, they seemed to want to charge me the price of going all the way from downtown Amman to Madaba, so I instead took the bus from Queen Alia international airport to downtown Amman and then took a bus from downtown Amman to Madaba. My seatmate from the airport to Amman was the Libyan ambassador to Iraq. He said that he often visits Jordan on his way between Baghdad and Libya. His English was very limited. He seemed glad that Ghaddafi is finished and America and Libya are now on good terms.
When we got to Amman, a man helped me transfer to a servee taxi that took me to the bus to Madaba. He told me that he was an architecture professor and was moving to Iowa State in a week.
My seatmate on the bus from Amman to Madaba was a Palestinian refugee. He was texting in English to an American friend; he said that his American friend hardly knew a word of Arabic, even though he had been living in Amman for several years. He told me that many Palestinian Christians settled in Madaba after the war with Israel. His parents fled Israel for Jordan after the 1968 war. Even though he was born in Jordan, he is not the citizen of any country. He grew up in a refugee camp and was educated in a UNICEF school. He is now a civil engineer. He works in Amman and lives in Madaba.
When we got to Madaba, he offered to buy me a soda. Normally I never drink a can of soda, because I don't like to make garbage or rot my teeth. But I decided to accept his gesture. He walked me up the hill and left me at the tourist information office. A good place. I got a map and then explored the city. I toured a museum which restores Byzantine mosaics and then toured the church of Saint George, where I saw a fourth- or fifth-century mosaic map of the Jordan and Dead Sea area, including Jerusalem, Bethabara, and Mount Nebo.
Then I walked to the servee park and took a taxi to Mount Nebo. He offered to take me to see the Dead Sea and agreed on a total price of 18 dinar. He brought me back to Madabara just in time to catch the last bus to Amman. Then he wanted me to pay 25 dinar. We had a long argument. I gave him 20 dinar and got out and told him to get the police if he wanted to.
In spite of very limited communication, people helped me transfer to a bus that brought me within three blocks of the Jordan Tower Hostel.
I took the early morning bus from Amman to Israel. At the Allenby bridge we went through Israeli security. It was one of the most disorganized security operations I have been through, and the personnel did not seem very professional or well-trained.
When I came out of customs, I saw that there were two buses. One to Jerusalem, the city of God. The other to Jericho, the city of sin. I chose the city of sin.
When I got to Jericho I went through Palestinian Authority customs and tried to take advantage of the free wifi, but google blocked my Palestinian domain as untrusted.
I was tired of dealing with taxi drivers, so I walked the four kilometers or so to downtown Jericho. I noticed a sign that said something like 30 km to Jerusalem. I suddenly decided that I wanted to walk across Israel. I figured that I could get to my hostel in Jerusalem by evening.
I passed the local office of the Palestian Authority and chatted with three uniformed men outside. They said, "Welcome to Palestine."
At the center of town I found a tourist information center. Jericho is very old and contains traces of human habitation estimated to be 9000 years old. They had a lot of information about Palestinian culture. I would have like to stay longer in Jericho, but I was worried about how long it would take me to walk to Jerusalem.
Walking from Jericho to Jerusalem.
I walked through Jericho and followed the signs to Jerusalem. I must have turned down at least 80 offers for taxi rides. When I passed a security checkpoint, the soldiers could not speak English, but they seemed okay with my walking along a road designed for cars only.
I walked away from the road to experience more of the desert. I saw a square stand of date trees ahead planted in rows, reminiscent of an oasis. Then I came to a deep gulley. As I pondered how to cross it, a man came running out of the stand of date trees, shouting and motioning to me to go towards the road. I did so and soon came to a place where I could cross the gulley. Then I walked to the date trees. The man came out to meet me. He could only speak Arabic, and I could only speak English. He filled my nearly empty water bottle and gave me a half-kilogram of huge, freshly picked dates. He refused when I offered him a shirt and tie, but I insisted, so he took it.
I came to an intersection with a road that runs between the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. I turned right and began walking uphill into the Judean wilderness. When I got about a kilometer up the slope, I set down my water bottle and filmed a panoramic view of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. When I finished, I looked down and saw that my water bottle had tipped over and almost all my water had run onto the ground. I was already feeling strange, actually cold.
So I turned and walked back down the slope to the petrol station at the intersection. When I arrived I was flushed and breathing hard. I went into the men's room, drank copious amounts of water, washed up, changed pants, and rinsed out my shirt.
I had in mind to try again, walking along a dirt road that I had seen instead of the paved highway, so I approached three travelers at a table to ask them if the dirt road also went to Jerusalem. They did not want me to walk through the Judean wilderness because of the 40 degree heat, and they thought that the signs grossly understated the distance to Jerusalem. One of them, an older man wearing a kippah, took me over the Good Samaritan pass and dropped me off before he turned right. I saw that there were Bedouin camps along the way up the slope. So probably I would not have perished without water if I had continued up the slope. But I would definitely brings lots of water and avoid the heat of the day if I were to walk all the way from Jericho to Jerusalem. I imagine that the only way you could make it without carrying lots of water and without assistance would be to start out with sopping wet clothes (a good idea in general, I think) having also just drunk copious amounts of water and then drink your own urine (preferably only while it remains clear...). Humans aren't camels, and, as my dad points out, the human body is not designed to be able to stock up on water.
It took me between four and five hours to get to Jerusalem. Walking away from the road meant walking up and down very steep hills, which became more brush-covered as I got closer to Jerusalem. Ignoring the vehicles on the road, almost the only people I met were Bedouins. They greeted me and waved to me as I walked past their camps. I was amazed to see herds of perhaps 50 sheep feeding on the paltry stubble that grows in the rocky hills. As I got closer to Jerusalem, I saw a boy on a horse herding maybe 4 camels. We tried to talk to each other, but had no common language.
Outside of Jerusalem I came to a checkpoint. I walked up to meet a strongly built young man with a machine gun and explained what I was doing. He told me that it would take me maybe three more hours to get to Jerusalem. The security checkpoint was not built for pedestrians, and on the way out I scratched my shoes on some razor wire that was lying by the road.
As I approached a tunnel I met four bedouin boys herding a flock of sheep. Two of them were on a horse together One of them held out his hand and said, "one dinar". I don't know why he would ask for a Jordanian currency, and usually I don't give out money just for nothing. But I was feeling friendly, so I gave him a couple shekels from my pack.
As I walked through the long tunnel, many motorists honked at me. When I came out the other side, I could see the dome of the rock, so I knew that I had reached Jerusalem. Two boys came by jogging, and told me how to reach the Damascus gate.
I cut a shortcut through an Arab neighborhood. Some boys talked with me on my way through and said that they had a hostel where I could stay, but I already had a reservation at the Abraham hostel. They asked me what I thought of Islam. I didn't know how to reply, not wanting to say something negative, give a false impression of agreement, or have a long conversation. So they let me off and wished me well.
Since I had no map, I had to ask for directions to find the Abraham hostel. I came across an orthodox family building a booth for Sukkot (feast of Tabernacles), which starts on Wednesday after Yom Kippur. The man asked his wife to help him explain the way, since her English was better.
The man and his little son had the typical long braided hair on the sides of their heads. The Bible says not to make cuttings around the sides of your head. I suppose that this commandment is directed at a Canaanite tradition. But orthodox Jews go as far as possible to keep every command, so to make sure that they keep this command I guess that they do not cut their sideburns at all.
I arrived at Jerusalem hostel at perhaps 10:00pm.
I spent the morning recovering from my trip and walking through the old city. I entered the Christian quarter through the Damascus gate. The streets here are narrow and covered over and lined with small shops, so it feels like a giant indoor market.
In the afternoon I joined a tour to the Mount of Olives that left from the Jaffa gate. We toured a couple churches designed by the Italian Architect Antonio Barluzzi near the Garden of Gasthemene.
At 10am I started walking from Jerusalem toward Bethlehem. There were not many pedestrians along the busy road. The route was quite urban; I passed a single shepherd herding a flock of sheep, who waved to me. As I approached the checkpoint, I saw an olive grove full of trash. When I came to the wall, I went through pedestrian security without showing my passport. A Palestianian-looking man trying to go the other way was turned back. He seemed to have mental problems.
The security installation seemed almost surreal. The construction reminded me of a cattle processing plant. When I got to the Palestinian side, I spent an hour photographing the wall and talking to a woman who lived in one of two houses whose owners had refused to sell to the Israeli government when the wall was constructed in 2003. So the wall had been constructed in an incredibly convoluted way, so as to keep her house on the Palestinian side while putting Rachel's tomb on the Israeli side. She showed me an aerial photograph of the wall and told me that the Israelis built the wall to minimize the land on the Palestinian side while leaving Palestianian houses on the Palestinian side. A big problem with this was that people could no longer access their olive orchards. In the middle east, it has been traditional for people to live close together and go out to their fields.
I reached Bethlehem shortly before 2pm. After getting a map from a tourist information center, I visited the Milk Grotto chapel. The theme of the chapel is Mary breast-feeding the infant Jesus. I thought this profound. Mary is a symbol of the church (in church tradition, and suggested by Revelation chapter 12). 1 Peter 2:2 says, "As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation." The prologue of John's gospel identifies Jesus as the Reason of God.
After visiting the Church of the Nativity, I walked along the long, snaking ridge that is Bethlehem. I ran into an Argentian young man named Jaime who was staying at my hostel. We walked through Bethlehem University and then walked to the wall. He told me that he had lived in London for the past four years. He had recently been on a pilgrimmage to Compostella in Spain.
We took a taxi back to Jerusalem.
I ate dinner in the hostel. I sat near a group of people talking about Yeshua. One of them was a Torah-observant gentile name Yacov. He invited me to come with him the next day for a Mikvah and then to spend the 25 hours of Yom Kippur in front of the wailing wall fasting from food, water, and sleep.
On Friday morning I met with Krina, a tour guide whom I connected to via a young woman named Noelle whom I met during a Detroit Summer Outreach event. Krina gave me a tour of the City of David. We went through the tunnel of Hezekiah together. It was the most amazing experience of my whole trip, I think. Hezekiah dug it to bring the waters of the Gihon spring to the interior of the walls of Jerusalem, as recorded in the Bible. But it was rediscovered only in the 19th century. It takes about half an hour to walk through the tunnel.
At 1:30pm I met Yacov at the Jerusalem Hostel. We rode in the back trunk of an SUV with four other guys to a man-made cave outside of Jerusalem that contained a cistern. Many men were there to Mikvah themselves. Outside the cave sat a man who lived there. He was collecting contributions in a jar and chatting with the men. We went in and stripped and went down into the water. Each man went under the water several times &emdash; 7 times or 3 times. When we came out, we talked with the man with the money jar. He seemed to know everyone. He thought that basically all governments, including the government of Israel, were controlled by free-masons. He was warm and seemed to have good will toward everyone he talked to or about, including the Arabs.
As we left, the older man in our group explained that some of the eccentricity of the money collector might be because of his traumatic life experiences. When he was a child, he was playing football with other boys when Arab war planes came over the hill and shot them. He was the only one who survived. During the intifada in 2003, his only daughter was killed by a suicide bomber. Some Rabbis had tried to anoint him with oil, because they thought that he might be the Messiah. But he refused.
When we got back, I had my last meal before the fast and then walked to the old city. I got lost in the Muslim quarter. I came across the little wailing wall. No one else was around. Then I suddenly found myself with a close-up view of the dome of the rock through doors attended by two guards. I thought that only Muslims were allowed in, so I retreated to the exit. Just outside the exit were three young Muslim men. They offered me to join them in smoking hash. I thanked them and declined.
Then I came to a security check. I put my bags through, and soon found myself in front of the wailing wall.
In front of the wall were two blocked-off sections. The left side was for men, and the right side was for women. The left side was maybe three times wider than the right side. Behind the blocked-off sections was the observation area. I stood in the observation area. I compared the social dynamic of the men's and women's sides. Utterly different. The men formed groups in which they had discussions or followed prayers or teachings given by a leader. The women sat in rows and talked quietly with one or two other women or followed what was happening on the men's side. All the action was on the men's side.
I went to the entrance of the men's section and suddenly met Yacov and another young man with whom I had done the Mikvah. They invited me to join their group. While we were waiting for the others in the group to arrive, we chatted with a couple women in the observation area. Then we went together into the men's area. The six of us stood around a table with prayer books. One of the men, David, read out of an interlinear Hebrew-English prayer book. He read it in English but substituted some Hebrew versions of names and words.
After the prayer we sat in a circle and had a discussion. It appeared that we were all believers in Yeshua (Jesus) and that I was the only one who was not Torah-observant. Yacov said that he was saved 4.5 years ago when he came to Jerusalem as a Catholic. He said that he was "kicked out" of the Catholic church, then out of a Baptist church, then out of a nondenominational church, and thought that he was going to be kicked out of his Messianic congregation when he said that they were not reading enough Torah, but they had decided to incorporate more Torah reading in their gatherings. I refrained from questioning him about what "kicked out" really meant.
The group expressed very negative sentiments about traditional Christianity, especially the Catholic church. Their two criticisms were that the church had changed the traditions/commandments to incorporate paganism and that the church had persecuted Jews. I tried to object that evangelizing gentiles required engaging pagan tradition and sorting out the good and bad. But it seemed that in their view paganism was just bad. I think that we had fundamentally different views of God's disposition toward paganism. I might label my view as "incorporationalist" and their view as "purist" or "separatist". I think that the insistence of Jewish tradition on being pure and set apart versus the missionary impulse to accomodate gentile religious traditions have been in tension since the beginning of Christianity.
Then a young man behind us started preaching a sermon in English. He challenged the boys in the circle that he was in to have passionate desire for what God would give them in Yom Kippur. He gave a 45-minute sermon with stories that held their attention. When he started there were maybe 50 people in his circle, and by the end there were about 80.
When he finished, he lead them in a song in Hebrew and I went home. It was about midnight.
At 1pm I gave up on the water part of the fast because I had a bad headache and wanted to walk outside (in the heat) to experience the absence of vehicles in the street.
There was no traffic at all as I walked through an orthodox Jewish neighborhood. When I got to the Arab part of town, people were driving and eating and doing business as if it were a normal day.
I came across the garden tomb and visited it. A man in the tomb said that archeologists think that it was dug out in the iron age. But at the time of Jesus tombs were built in a similar way, so it gives you an idea of what the tomb of Jesus might have looked like. The garden was really beautiful.
Then I walked up the street between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. I first toured the top of Mount Scopus, from which you can get a nice view of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea as well as being able to see Jerusalem. Then I walked along the top of the ridge that is Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. I could see Jerusalem on one side and the the Dead Sea and Bethany on the other side.
I was unable to get to Bethany, because of the wall that Israel constructed in 2004. This is a great pity. Before the Via Dolorosa became popular in the era of the Crusades, Christian pilgrims would walk from Bethany over the Mount of Olives to the temple mount. But since 2004, this has no longer been possible.
So instead I walked along the wall and photographed it. I came to a gate by the wall that said, "Military domain &emdash; keep out at the risk of your [missing word]". There was an Arab-looking man sitting outside the gate. He indicated that I could go in. I walked a few paces in and saw in the distance a house with an Israeli flag on top and a man walking on the roof. I turned back. As I walked out, I observed a building by the entrance with windows that had been smashed out. Then I saw a man sitting in a shack near the gate. He seemed to be monitoring something on a screen. I got the impression that the wall had been constructed to accommodate this settler outpost, without concern for the fact that it runs through the middle of an Arab neighborhood.
The mount of Olives is almost completely Arab Muslim. I spent until late evening walking around on it. A teenage boy saw that I was lost. He lead me down to the main road and helped me get on a large service taxi to the Damascus gate.
I spent the morning working on my web log and planning for my walk across Israel.
At 2pm I started my walk from Jerusalem to Latrun. I had some difficulty finding my way until I realized that the GPS on my tablet would show me exactly where I was.
While I was trying to find my way, I encountered a man with a plastic water bottle. He walked up to me, pulled a plastic cup from his bag, and poured it full for me to drink. When he saw my distrustful hesitation, he poured himself a cup as well. Then he said, "Baruch atha, Adonai" (Blessed [art] Thou, O Lord), and we drank together. Then he poured me another cup. He tried to help me find where I was on my map, but could not figure it out. From what I have read, people in Israel have a network of important places rather than a system of roads in their heads, and they are not accustomed to reading maps; my experience with asking for directions has seemed to confirm this.
After more frustration trying to determine my location, I discovered that google maps on my tablet shows me where I am if I turn on GPS. This revolutionized my ability to navigate, and after this I was no longer tied to trying to follow main roads and could instead follow trails and paths.
After walking through the Jerusalem forest past the Righteous of the Nations garden, I came over a pass. I saw a hitch-hiker. A young lady stopped and picked him up and continued toward Jerusalem. I started down the valley, but changed my mind and walked up along the ridge toward the peak.
My motivation was that I was hoping to get a view from a ridge from which I could see both Jerusalem and the Mediterranean. I was not disappointed, and got a nice panoramic view that included both the Western precincts of modern Jerusalem and the Mediterranean.
But it turned out to be a mistake. If I had stayed on the main road, it would have put me on the parallel ridge to the north, which had an even higher view. Instead, that ridge blocked my view to the north, and I spent two hours crossing the steep valley in between, trying to avoid falling down the steep rocky slope and to avoid tearing my clothes on the abundant thorns. Most of the vegetation is pine trees and thorn bushes. By the time I got back to the main road, the sun had set below the horizon, and so I never got to see the view from the higher ridge.
But it was still quite an amazing view of the lighted villages as I walked down the sloping ridged hills toward the Mediterranean.
I can remember seeing an artist's rendition of Jesus talking with two disciples on the "road to Emmaus" from Jerusalem on the day of His resurrection. In the painting, they are leisurely strolling along a dirt country road that winds through gently rolling hills. This artist surely had never seen the Judean hills between Jerusalem and Emmaus. Emmaus lies at the western foot of these hills, and Jerusalem lies next to the watershed that includes the Mount of Olives. Between them lie the hills of Judea, which are long limestone ridges separated by deep, trecherously steep valleys. It may be seven miles as the crow flies, but it is a grueling, full-day walk from Jerusalem down to Emmaus.
On the map I had seen a number of small towns, and I had thought that they would be proper villages with at least a shop and villa or two where I could get food and lodging. But when I arrived at Eshta'ol at the foot of the Judean hills, I discovered that it too was just a gated community with a single point of entry and no businesses of any kind. When I stopped at a house and asked about villas, they said, "You have to go to Jerusalem." I said I had come from Jerusalem. They said, "You have to go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv." Wow. I was tired, and so after walking a couple kilometers along the highway, I lay down shortly after 9pm on some needles on the forest floor, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my Palestinian bandana gave some warmth when used as a blanket.
At 11pm I got up and continued along the road. It was a divided highway, not designed for pedestrians, so I walked along the vacant dirt track that ran under the adjacent utility lines.
At midnight I encountered a petrol station. It was the first business of any kind that I had seen since I left Jerusalem. I bought some hummus and white bread, which unfortunately was the healthiest food that I could find in the store, ate it, and continued on my way.
As I approached Latrun, the utility track diverged from the main road, with a vineyard on my right and a pomegranite orchard on my left. Shortly after 2am, I heard many voices in the woods to my left, and then saw LED lights and heard singing and clapping.
At about 3am I came across a group of about 16 young people standing around a bon-fire. The man leading them told me that the neighborhood they had just walked past was a place where Jews and Arabs lived together. He said that the youth group was having an event to remember the 1948 war. They had started out at 9am and were on a 24-hour walk with many other young pilgrims who were converging from all over Israel. They told me that they were also on their way to Latrun, so I walked with them. There were many other such small groups of pilgrims walking along the path. We walked past groups that had seated themselves in a circle for a time of discussion. A boy and a girl from the group that I had "joined" engaged me in conversation briefly. When I mentioned Saturday's Yom Kippur fast, she told me that she does things the opposite and fasts on all the other days. She expressed some negative sentiments about doing things "to show how Jewish we are". Maybe when she is older she will appreciate some of these things more. We then arrived at the gate of the Latrun monastery. My group sat in a circle and began to hold a discussion (in Hebrew, of course), while I walked up to the monastery and back.
When the groups got to a major road, a man told me that I could find Emmaus if I turned right and went down the road a kilometer or so, but I did not find it, so I came back and found several groups of pilgrims gathered in circles at the petrol station across from the monastery. I continued on my way toward Ben Gurion International Airport by following the signs to Ramla.
I became tired around 5am, so I lay down in some very comfortable thick grass and slept until after 6am when the sun had arisen. I saw that many joggers and bicyclists were going past me on the road. Nobody seemed to mind about the haggard homeless man sleeping by the side of the road under his Palestinian bandana, but I decided that it was time to get up and keep walking.
As I walked along, I came across a box of vegetables that was lying tipped over on the roadside and was finally able to get some food I considered healthy: a few tomatoes and a pickle. As I walked and ate, I observed the flat agricultural plane around me. I passed some large greenhouse-like sun shades with thick vegetation of some kind underneath. I saw two darkly tanned agricultural workers walking toward the the sun shades across the road.
Then I came to a sprawling, spaghetti-like intersection of no-stop highways at the edge of Ramla. There was no thought for pedestrians whatsoever. I did not see how it was possible even to enter Ramla legally without using an automobile, so I just walked along the edge of these roads. I saw another agricultural worker doing so.
When I entered Ramla, I saw a sign for a visitor's center, so I took advantage of the opportunity to wash my shirt, which had become filthy from lying on the ground, and learned that the cement factory had been established in 1925 so that what was becoming Israel (as Jews bought land in Palestine) could produce its own cement instead of being dependent on others. They let me recharge my tablet and gave me a chair to sit in.
With refreshed hygiene and GPS, I set out again and came to downtown Ramla. I saw no prospects for improved pedestrian circumstances, and I realized that if I kept walking to Ben Gurion I would not arrive in time to get through Israeli security, so I flagged a taxi and arranged a ride to the airport for 100 shekels.
Meditations on modern land fragmentation and consolidation
As I was approaching Ramla, I thought about how unlivable our world has become for life without automobiles.
When you insist on going by foot, modern life begins to seem very unnatural and even surreal. If I had made my walk in Bible times, it would have been a much more natural experience. I would not have had a tablet and google maps to tell me where to go. But I would have encountered people all along the way who could have told me the way to go, I would likely have found traveling companions, and I would have encountered places to get food and shelter and wash up as I walked along the way.
But now, from Jerusalem to Ramla, the only places where I could get food and kind of wash up were the two petrol stations along the way. Ignoring automobiles, the only human beings that I encountered were a hitch-hiker, a lady walking outside of a gated community, the family in the house I approached, the people at the petrol station, the hikers I came across, the joggers and bicyclists I saw, and the three agricultural workers. The only retail businesses I saw were two petrol stations. Similarly, between Jericho and Jerusalem, the only business I encountered was one petrol station, and the only humans I encountered not in automobiles were some Bedouins and a couple people waiting at bus shelters.
What would happen if Abraham or Jesus walked among us? We would lock them up. Abraham was a sojourner. Jesus wandered without a place to lay his head. They were homeless wanderers. We have made criminalized the way of life that they lived and made it unlivable. Yet in Bible times, hospitality to a sojourner was a point of honor and virtue.
When I arrived at the airport, I was immediately identified as a security threat, evidently due to my lack of any other luggage than a waist-pack and plastic shopping bag. They asked me where I got the Palestinian bandana in my pack, which I suppose didn't help my case. I was searched many times. But I couldn't help feeling that, for all the extensiveness of their search, it wasn't really that professional, and the complexity of the search combined with its loosely coordinated transitions between searcher operations meant that it would be only that much easier to employ distraction techniques and pull a switch at the end where one person who has not yet been extensively searched transfers items to another who has already been thoroughly searched. In my case, though, they guarded against my making any such transfer by doing a complete search of my person in a private room and then personally escorting me all the way through security.
If you really want security measures that get the most bang for your buck, you should pay people to try to break the system and then focus on plugging the holes that they uncover.
Thanks to the way the Israeli security personnel prioritized me, they completed their search of me in about an hour and a half and got me through with half an hour to spare and time to eat a sandwich.
By 3pm we had taken off from Ben Gurion. I was seated by a right window and so had a spectacular view of Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon as we flew North along the Mediterranean coast. Then we turned and flew over the tip of Cyprus and over Turkey. I thought that the mountains of Turkey were simply spectacular. Then clouds came in, and I saw no more land until we landed in Latvia.
I had made no arrangements for my night in Latvia, so I simply took the airport bus (number 22) to downtown Riga, took advantage of the free wifi at the airport to look up hostel locations, and then stopped by some of the many hostels until I found one (the third I checked) that wasn't booked up.
Accomodation in downtown Riga is very cheap. Served food is not. My night in Ala Hostel cost 10 euro (7 Lat). I could have bought breakfast there for 6 euro, but instead bought a "large" (relatively small) falafel roll-up at a cafe for over 4 Lat.
After eating a slice of pizza at another restaurant to justify use of their free wifi, I took the bus back to the airport and boarded my two-prop plane from Riga to Brussels.
From Brussels airport in Zaventem to my house I took bus 616. This bus in my mind kind of characterizes the bus system in Flanders. The bus takes an hour to get between Zaventem and Leuven (a 20-minute train ride). Usually there is no more than a handful of people on the bus on this long ride, and this was no exception; there was only one other rider on the bus. When bus 616 goes through Leuven, it briefly fills up with people.
In comparison with the African transportation system, I find Euro-American bus systems incredibly inefficient and artificially complex. In Africa, there are no big buses running long routes that are empty except for a brief interval while going through a city (when they are suddenly packed full of people), according to a plan devised by a large, centralized government bureacracy. The African public transportation system is based on regulated private enterprise. Supply naturally responds to demand as bus drivers choose to drive routes where demand is high. The conductor is a separate person from the driver, so the driver is not distracted with collecting and enforcing payment. A large number of relatively small vehicles drive between well-known hubs, so there is no need for maps or schedules, only basic familiarity with a network of important place names. The Euro-American system lacks a scale between big public bus and private hire taxi. In the Euro-American system, the private hire taxi drivers are too many, the bus drivers are too few, the buses are too big, and regulations are too burdensome. I am grateful for regulations that ensure safety. But our categories are misguided.