Back to Uganda

I got an email today. This is what it said:

Shown below is the e-ticket flight confirmation for Beth’s flight. The paid invoice is attached.

So, the question of course is where is this flight to?

Right here:

We are going back to Uganda (just for a little while, don’t worry mom, we’re not moving there…although one person at church did give Beth money to help pay for our trip “to help you get home, not to help you get there”).

It was not that long ago that we in Uganda last, and in the last year Uganda has been in the spotlight (at least on facebook), our friends from Jinja had an epic trip across America, and we have just been living life. It seems crazy to me that we are going to have the honor of visiting a far away place again so soon.

Last time we went to Uganda was very much about learning. We had meet people who worked for Kibo, and it seemed that for us all roads lead to Jinja. We wanted to go talk with people who live in a village and face big hard issues of poverty and who live in towns and face hard issues of broken systems. We wanted to meet the people who have joy and see communities working to solve the problems they face. We wanted to try and understand a little bit of their lives, to visit the Church in Uganda and see God’s people in a different place and context. We wanted to experience and see how Kibo Group works “with communities in East Africa to reach their full potential, tackling poverty and injustice.”

We got to do this. The ripples from our trip continued once we got home. From our group one person is now living and working in Kampala, Uganda and two are working to support Kibo through their business Full Cup. All of us continue to be advocates for Kibo and sustainable development not only  in Uganda but in our own towns and lives. We all  saw and learned a lot. And we still have a lot to see and learn.

For my part, I feel like I have been able to speak with people about Africa in general, and development in Uganda with a unique perspective, and hopefully challenge them with some new ideas because of my experience last year. And I think I have been able to be a small help to Kibo Group as they work to communicate what they do.

When we got back one of the things that we were sure about is that it is important for other people to get to go and visit Jinja, to go and learn like we were able to. Kibo Group sees it as important, strategic, and core to what they do to have people come and experience Jinja, and we thought we could help make that happen for a few more people. So we committed to helping organize another trip. Our plan was facilitate the preparation, wave goodbye at the airport, and come back a few days later to pick them up and hear their stores. In the end though the staff of Kibo felt that it was important for us to be part of the trip so we could be part of what happens in Jinja in whatever roll they need.

So, now we have plain tickets.

Of course this time around is much different, we are not just going along for the ride, but actively planning the ride. And I’ll fully confess I am excited, nervous, overwhelmed and stressed out about the whole thing, and not acting in confidence that God has prepared us for the adventure we are undertaking. So, here is some good’ol online transparency for the whole world to see.

There is a lot to this. I am confident that what we are doing is important. That the long term fruit will be real and significant. But…

  • Soon we will start fundraising, and I worry about how much it is costing us to go. I’m tired of asking people to fund parts of  the work we do. Only a year ago a lot of you reading this helped us do this for the first time.
  • We are trying to challenge the people going on this trip to think in new ways about missions, poverty, and development, these are ideas that I am only starting to understand, how can I invite people into these new ideas that i am just starting to grasp?
  • There are plenty of people in our group older, wiser, and more experienced then us. How can we be leaders to them?
  • I have never done anything like this, the biggest thing I have ever lead and organized is probably a weekend camping trip or something like that. Trip to Africa on the other side of the world? Not so much.
  • oh, and that house we rent and live in? It might get sold soon so we will have to move. (sound familiar?)

So, here we are, on the edge of another adventure where we have to trust God to equip us, our community to support us, and the people around us to be open to what God will do through us.

I can’t say its a simple place to be in, but I am not sure there is a better place….

Biking in Tulsa

Because of where i live now i have been biking on the streets a lot more, which has actually been kind of fun. At around the same time the city counsel passed a complete streets ordinance which means that there should be even more consideration given to biking and walking in tulsa. I have some ideas about what would be good for biking in tulsa.

There are lots of people who know a lot more about this then me who are involved in planning this stuff, but here are my few ideas…
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First, so far i have found drivers in Tulsa to be courteous when it comes to bikes. I have had several times when drivers have let me merge in moving traffic, and I have not had any negative experiences so far. Not that i have spent much time in the streets, but so far so good. I think part of this is that i have decided to be really intentional about how i ride in traffic. I ride like a car, I obey traffic laws, and I take an entire lane when i feel like i need to in order to be safe or be seen (this web site explains what i mean by that).

The other day I saw the exact opposite of this. It was night time (as in dark) and i was driving down Yale (a busy arterial) in the left lane. Coming toward me riding in the gutter of the right lane was somebody on a bike, no light, dark clothes. I though I was going to see them get run over.

So, here are the first two things that i would like to see Tulsa do:

First, make explicit laws about how bikers are allowed to ride. Are bikes allowed to take the lane? Is there any situation where they cannot? Are the allowed on sidewalks?

Obviously some of these are already addressed in current law, but there are a lot of people who dont know the answers (like me…), so the second part is education first to bikers (like the guy riding the wrong way on Yale) and to drivers. I’m not so sure i know the best laws to make, there are plenty of people who have researched those issues, my concern is that once those laws are made they be effectively communicated to drivers and riders alike.

Secondly, bike paths, protected lanes, shared rodes, etc. There are lots of ideas and even some controversy out there about the safety and effectiveness of various kinds of bike lanes and paths. I hope that the city of Tulsa takes those differing views into account as they plan for bike infrastructure. They are issues that need to be understood. I might write some of my thoughts on this later…

I wonder what the possibilites are for an alternative grid for bikes. This grid would be made up of rodes that are designated as shared rodes (like 3rd going into downtown is now) that are not arterial. These could just be shared or could have designated lanes depending on the situation. The idea would be to find routes that allow fairly straight paths through neighborhoods (that is one of the hard things about riding through neighborhoods right now, you end up winding around a lot which is ok if your just out for a ride, not so good if your trying to get somewhere). So, there might be places where connecting two streets with some strategic short bike paths would make big improvements in the ability to bike quickly from one place to another. The truth is that a lot of this exists, its just not marked, which party just makes it hard to find. But, even more then that having an alternative grid that is marked and designated as shared roads seems to give legitimacy to the idea of biking on it, and would help drivers stay aware.

The second part of this alternative grid would be bike/walk paths that are designed to connect strategic places. These would create highways so to speak that would make getting across town quicker, much like 169 and the BA do for cars now. River Parks is a great example. The Mingo Valley Trail will be when its done. If the Mingo Valley trail was connected from 41st to 71st it would be possible to ride from where i live at 31st and yale to the 71st shopping area mostly on bike paths (where i would ride once i got there is a different matter…riding on 71st street to get to say…the movie theater…does not sound like fun at all…not that i go to 71st street much anyway). A few more corridors like that around town would be great.

One thing that would have to be paid attention to is how designated shared roads connect to the bike/walk paths. For example right now there are shared rodes on 34th street and 35th street that run into riverside. The River Park Trail is just a few hundred feet past riverside, but there is no way to get from 46th onto the trail without riding on the grass (not to mention crossing riverside in a way that is totally outside the normal flow of traffic). In this case crossing at 31st or 41st works perfectly well if you plan for it. The bigger point is that care must be given to how things connect together.

One place that needs carful consideration is highway crossings. The places where the surface grid crosses under the highways are particularly hard to figure out how to connect through them. The highways and IDL cut off a lot fo great ways to get form one place to another. From my perspective the problem is not that you have to ride a bit further to get to a place to cross, its that almost all the places to cross are crazy big intersections with lots of traffic going lots of directions. These can be navigated safely, but they are intimidating, which im sure turns a lot of people off to the idea of riding, and it does seem like they are some of the more dangerous areas. I don’t know that bikes and pedestrians need there very own ways to cross the highways, but carful attention does need to be paid to these areas.

This alternative grid for bikes seems great, but i actually have some doubts about it. Because everything in tulsa faces the arteries a grid the runs through the neighborhood does not really get you anywhere that you might actually want to go. 71st street shopping is a great example. So, in the end bikers and driver have to learn to coexist on any given road in tulsa, even the big arterial streets, or, the city has to be radically redesigned to make it so that everything, business and houses, are accessible from neighborhood behind it.

I think in the end this gets to the bigger idea of all of this. Planning for biking has to fit in with planning for growth, which has to fit in with planning for mass transite which has to fit in with planning for zoning, which has to fit in with….you get the idea. It all has to fit together. If biking is going to be a realistic form of transportation in Tulsa it has to be part of planning on every level (as does walking, and busses, and cars, whatever forms of transportation we as a city decide are important).

But, it seems that there is another set of issues, which is not so much about the mechanics and technicalities of how to build a bike lane, its more about accessibility, perception, and culture. People who drive and like cars have to not see bikes as a threat to their way of life, likewise, bikers have to not see cars as evil. The city has to legitimize biking through education, good laws and good planning, bikers have to acknowledge that bikes don’t work for everything and cars and trucks have to have their place as well. In the end this is all about developing a culture where it is possible to make a broad range of transportation choices…which seems way harder then building a bike lane.

Tulsa Transit: A Marketing Problem

I have used the bus system in Tulsa some, and I would like to more. When I have used the system I have enjoyed it. The buses are fine, drivers were nice and professional, free wifi, generally on time…all the things you would want from a transportation system. The system has it’s problems. Mostly the problems are around coverage, how long you have to wait for a bus, stuff like that. The truth is that i find the bus system relatively impractical, mostly because of the frequency of the schedule. Tulsa Transit knows this is a problem and they are working to fix it, which moistly is just about money it seems.

Now, before you get into this post to far I want to clarify something: Its going to come off as very critical of Tulsa Transit, and in truth that is not my intention. From the little I know I think Tulsa Transit’s leadership wants to be good, and understands these issue. Considering the resources they have (Tulsa per capita spending on transit is very low compared to peer cities..and not so peer cities. Our spending per capita on public transportation is lower that that of Springfield, MO).

But, it seems that there is a second level of problems that have to be addressed at the same time. Problems like headway and rout coverage are sort of technical in nature, and have essentially technical solutions (with some politics mixed in). Even if these technical problems were fixed I am not sure that tons of people would start using the buses in Tulsa. There is a marketing problem as well. Consider these two pictures of bus stops near my house:

These two stops, which are typical of many around town, seem to do two thing:

  • They tell the people who use the bus system that we don’t care about them…we can’t even bother to build a decent bus stop. We might not give you a place to stand that wont get muddy when it rains, much less a way to keep the rain off. Not to mention a sidewalk or a crosswalk.
  • Second, it sends a message to people who don’t ride the bus which reinforces any negative perceptions they have about buses and people who ride buses.

There is a scene in the movie Urbanized  which is particularly applicable here. In the scene the mayor of a big city is riding his bike on a newly constructed bike pathway. On one side of the path is a dirt road for cars. He sort of laughs and points out that bikes are on a nice paved trail and the cars are in the mud. But then he says why. And the reason if a very human reason. He wanted the people who rode bikes to know that they are important. That the city supported them and their pursuit of transportation. His answer was not about trends in walkability, or green, or sustainability, or  bike rights or anything like that. It was about how we treat people when we make hard decisions about spending limited resources.

So, I wonder what would happen if we put people first in our transportation systems? Tulsa Transit has to fix their technical issues, but I hope they also consider how the system treats people. It seem by doing this not only will people be given worth and value, but the transit system as a whole will be more used, simply because it  will be perceived as a place that takes care of the people of this city no matter who they are, and that by using the system you are not relegated to  second class status simply because we are unwilling to provide decent bus stops.

On Cell Phones

Here is an interesting map about cell phone usage. (although, i have to say, its a bit hard to translate…and it seems to have some contradicting data…but I am probably not reading it right…)

There are lots of little interesting things to notice as you move around and look at different countries.In many countries for example there are 2 cell phones subscriptions for every one person. Im really curious to know why. Is it because you need different companies to get complete coverage across an area? Do people just really like their cell phones?

The more interesting thing to me is the ratios of land lines to cell phones. Just scrolling around I only saw one country that has more land lines then cell phones and that is, unsurprisingly I suppose, N. Korea. Scrolling around various developing nations its crazy how quickly cell phone use has risen compared to land lines. It makes sense of course, the time and money investment to run a physical wire to a house is huge, then you have to do that for every house. Its much easier to put up a single tower that serves hundreds of houses. There are still big costs and issues to figure out (like unreliable power…), but over all it is more cost effective.

Of course all of this is just technology. In the end the most important part is how this technology impacts people. There is of course debate about the roll of cell phones in the developing world, but if it is something you are interested in this article is really interesting. The basic idea though is that cell phone companies are learning what people in totally different economic, environmental, and social situations need out of a cell phone. And people are finding really creative ways to use cell phones to increase their connections to other people, and economic opportunities.

 

On going to the dentist

We went to the dentist a few weeks ago. Beth does not like going to the dentist…most people don’t. For some reason I sort of like it. You go lay in a comfy chair, close your eyes, open you mouth, and somebody cleans you teeth. You don’t even have to do anything. When your done your teeth feel nice and sparkly.

I was thinking about this a bit though….going to the dentist is sort of a great expression of wealth. You know those Roman emperors in movies who have people fanning them and feeding them? Same thing. When you go to the dentist you are paying somebody to brush your teeth. Thats kind of crazy.

Ok, its a bit of a simplification…i mean they are cleaning your teeth really well, and they take xrays and stuff, but really, i could floss my own teeth, i just dont.

So, I wondered what the real statistics are on poverty vs. access to oral health care. Im sure they are out there, but I did not find much that was really easy to access (im not writing a thesis here…so, im not going to spend to much time on this!) But, it is true to say that “families with higher incomes were more likely to visit the dentist than people in families with lower incomes” in the United States. Which is kind of self evident I guess. A quick look through the 2011 WHO statistics for dentist per capita shows at least some correlation between being a relatively poor country and having a lower number of dentists per capita (Luxembourg: 8/10000, United States: 16.3/10000, Uganda: .02/10000, Congo: .05/10000. number 2, 7, 163, and 181 respectively on the world list of GDP per Capita). The US has the most per capita, which is not surprising really.

Here is my takeaway from thinking abou this though. If you can pay somebody to do something for you that is kind of amazing. We do it all the time. We pay people to cook for us, to bring us our food, and to wash the dishes. We pay people to make our double tall grande soy with ice whip 102 degrees whatever fancy drink, we pay people to mow our lawns, fix our stuff, and build things for us. Thats all great, and I am glad to pay people for skills I don’t have. But I want to respect those people…to see them as gifted people who do important things. And I want to appreciate the fact that I can go to the dentist and pay them to floss my teeth. I have great resources available to me.

One last thing. If your interested in statistics you should check out www.gapminder.org/. Its a fun little data visualization tool….which apparently can’t plot dentist per capita vs GDP per capita…but its still fun.

This year I…

  • Cut my hair pretty short. And I wish I would have done it a long time ago. I love it!
  • Started selling my cards more at local craft shows. I even have them in a retail store in Northwest Arkansas!https://www.facebook.com/mustachegw
  • Took a road trip along old Rte. 66 to Oklahoma City.
  • Got snowed into our apartment for a whole week. (Which I sort of loved.)
  • Started taking Pilates classes. (Which we LOVE).
  • Discovered that the stick of butter that is called for in my corn casserole recipe is not entirely necessary. I put a stick of butter in the microwave to melt it; made the casserole; ate it (& it tasted awesome, as it usually does.) The next day at lunch when I opened the microwave to re-heat a piece I found the butter like this. Crazy that I didn’t notice it was missing AT ALL.

  • Spent two weeks in Uganda.

  • Spent 2 weeks in Europe.

[Our typical lunch meal. Bread + Cheese + Nutella]

  • Went to a family reunion in Estes Park.
  • Started working full time at our church as the Guest Services Director. This is one of my favorite things I’ve done so far. It’s a wall of canvases in the Cafe Mosaic/lobby area.

  • Installed a coffee bar in our dining room.

  • celebrated our 8th anniversary.
  • moved.
It has been a full year. We’ve had some wonderful adventures, and shared life with some wonderful people.

The ___________ Parade

There seems to be a yearly controversy in Tulsa…the parade that happens on a date close to Christmas. What should it be called? Now, everybody has their opinion about this, and for some reason it is always a big deal. I thought I would throw in my $0.02.

This year of course there are two parades. The Christmas Parade and the Holiday Parade. The new Christmas Parade was started this year because people wanted a parade with the word Christmas in the name. I have to say that from the beginning I honestly thought the Christmas Parade was not a positive thing. There are several reason. Mostly because it is divisive. Ignore the religious aspects for a second. Tulsa, it seems to me, is a divided city any way. Its a small city, but people do not experience much of it (me included), we are very isolated in our small areas. A parade downtown should be an opportunity for people to gather in a part of the city that should belong to everybody, a place that should be common ground. Instead we have two parade, one in the south, one in the north (and the one in the south is at the mall, which is of course all important in a successful Christmas season).

Then there is the whole “Christ back in Christmas” thing. I have never been much of a fan of how we(I) as Christians form our own subculture rather then engaging and redeeming the culture around us. It seems that all this does is create a void in the culture around us, a void of redemption, a void that tells people around us we are scared of, too good for, or better then, them.

We went to the Holiday Parade. It was clearly void of references to Christ (except for all those people on the floats wishing us Marry Christmas). I don’t remember any manger scene or even an angel (but there was a really awesome snowman robot). But, here is the thing: this was by the choice of Christ’s people. All the Jesus stuff was down in south Tulsa at the mall. Instead of being willing to be a part of culture and proclaim Christ along side Cain’s charity for the homeless, a non-religious (or perhaps Muslim, I’m not sure) proclamation of peace on earth, the Salvation Arm’s drive to help the needy, and of course the robot snowman, Christ’s people preached to the choir. We should be joining with these organizations as they work to help those around them, just as we are to be helping those around us. Are we scared that God can’t stand up to the marketplace of ideas?

I honestly am hesitant to post this. Not because I’m worried you wont agree with me, but because it just adds a small voice to something that is already overblown, Everybody should have a parade if they want one I suppose. But, in the end I wish I would engage people around me instead of running away. The Holiday Parade tonight was a stark reminder of that to me.

Thirty Days of Thankful: Day 30

I am also thankful for travel & adventures. Specifically the ones we were able to have this year.

 

I saw Africa (or at least a small portion of it). And I saw Europe (again, a small portion of it).

{This is me turning 31 over a banana & chocolate Dutch pancake.}
{In Amsterdam.}
{Which was approximately the size of my face.}

I am a blessed lady.

Thirty Days of Thankful: Day 29

I know, I know. It’s December. (Well into December, actually.)

But I am thankful for people in our lives who care for us. Who look out for us. Who encourage us. And who challenge us. We are blessed.

Thirty Days of Thankful: Day 28

I am thankful for stories {books & movies} that remind us where we’ve come from. I just recently finished “Amazing Grace” {movie} & “The Help” {movie, then book}.

 

I am grateful we are where we are now, but am hopeful for more change {love for each other} to come.