Well, this next post comes with a slight bit of humility, as I apprehensively make public one of my biggest fears in going to Africa. I must say, this is not my largest source of anxiety, but I fear it none-the-less. This fear...is Siafu. Go ahead, take a google images search for Siafu and you will know what I'm talking about.
Now, it is not an enormous secret that I am afraid of ants. I don't like them. I don't like the idea of them. I think that for the most part, they are an unchecked, unbalanced group that will make the occasional appearance in children's books but that ultimately does exactly what they want. Let me ask you(the reader that I think may still be reading this but which I also realize may have left this site a while ago when they realized that Siafu was an ant and not the name of the next iceage) this question: What kind of creature is able to lift 10x more than it's body weight? (Just as a note, that's way more than Hollywood Hulk Hogan could lift in his prime, and just a tad more than David Girardot could lift in high school) What kind of organism can fly, and also spend a short amount of time actually surviving completely submerged under water? That's right, when you flush these babies down the toilet, they're not dead, in fact, at that point, they're probably planning their next attack on your favorite box of cereal, or maybe even your face. These are your everyday ants also, we haven't even gotten to Siafu yet.
Siafu are driver ants, and are found in eastern African nations such as Tanzania and the Congo. They don't have special toxins or stingers. They bite into you, then they never let go. This is like something straight out of a Hitchcock movie (Though I must profess that I don't think I've ever actually seen an entire Hitchcock movie. But I have seen clips from a movie of his about killer birds...that's weird stuff) Their bite has been paralleled with that of a pitbull. In Tanzania, they have been known to kill bugs yes, but also lions and even anteaters (if the anteaters aren't safe, we're all in for it). Legend has it that Siafu have even killed an elephant by crawling up it's trunk and then drilling into its brain. When these guys migrate (which they do by the millions (or at least by the hundreds of thousands)) African's refer to it as "Nature's Armageddon."
Now, I know what you're thinking. These facts are great, but come on now, they're just ants. It's this kind of dismissive thought that will lead to our downfall. It's the exact same attitude of ignorance and superiority that led to the Dust Bowl of the 1930's (I actually cannot substantiate this with any facts and I apologize to anyone who takes offense at this as the Dust Bowl really was a terrible time). As another addition to the abomination which is Siafu, I recently talked to my Aunt who spent two weeks in Tanzania. She informed me that in all her time there, she never even saw one ant. This, I'm sure, was intended to reassure me, but after some thought, I think the opposite may be true. After all, if these ants travel in packs by the millions, where are they? Shouldn't we at least be able to keep track of them? To think that somewhere, maybe right under my feet are a million ants with jaws like Tasmanian devils and appetites like John Candy (in the movie The Great Outdoors) is a disturbing thought.
As one final, brief note, I should mention that I understand the ecological importance of such creatures and am ultimately grateful for them. I would not have that God remove them, simply, that He would control their thoughts of making me part of their diet. Sleep tight, we're all in for it.
Mail: The following is an attempt to relay my mailing address in Uganda for the first three months. I will be very grateful for any letter you can take the time to send. Yes, I think that I will have limited access to email and will definitely like receiving emails, but the tangible nature of receiving a letter is something that I would again be very grateful for.
My address for training (first 3 months):
Hunter Paris, PCT P.O. Box 29348 Kampala, Uganda
Tricks to ensure package delivery: Scribble religious symbols and biblical quotes all over the outside of the box (I realize that with my brothers especially this request may backfire on me in an incredible manner) Superstitions run high, and even corrupt postal workers (which apparently corruption is a required characteristic for employment in the postal service-sorry maz) are wary of intercepting religious parcels. Maybe even write "Brother Hunter Paris" to heighten the effect. Another trick is to write in red ink. Red ink is sometimes reserved for the most official letters and so makes intruders wary. Perhaps the best way to have packages delivered though is to contact a PC volunteer or a guest of a volunteer that is in the states and preparing to head to Uganda and have them hand deliver it. Finding this person though will be on me.
Letters sent by airmail take a minimum of 3 weeks. Packages take longer. Packages went by surface mail may take up to 6 months. Some mail may never arrive. Number the letters (and I will number mine) so we know if one has been lost in the mailing process. Also, write "Airmail" and "Por Avion" on the envelopes. For packages it is best to keep it small and in a padded envelope so it will be treated as a letter. The mail service is sporadic so be flexible.
Telephone: My understanding is that making this type of international call in Uganda is feasible, but problematic. Not to mention, probably expensive. I think that it is far cheaper to call Uganda from the States than to call the States from Uganda. Maybe I will be able to find an available phone and pull the old collect-call trick where I yell really fast what number to call before they can charge me anything. I will look into this when I get over there.
Email: Again, my understanding is that more and more places in Uganda have internet cafes. I will do my best to access these, but think that if I am able to get on the internet even monthly that would probably be a surprise. Also, I have been informed that I will not have a whole lot of available time during my first 3 months of training to go to internet cafes so this rate may be less for the first couple of months.
Telekinesis:This is probably the best form of communication as there are no tariffs and embargoes are down right now. However, I must advise caution in the content of your thoughts because I know, at least for myself, if the government was to get a hold of my thoughts, there would be a lot of important secrets made public and my dreams of becoming a Miami Indian would probably be under heavy scrutiny.
So I'm going to Uganda. Right now is when I post something really profound and insightful about travel and uncertainty and the rewarding depths of service and risk, but I'm having a hard time getting past that first part where I'm going to Uganda. I'm going to Uganda? Oh Peaches.
Someone once, rather harshly, told me that brevity is the mother of wit. As a little preface to this blog perhaps I should mention that brevity is not likely to occur as I am constantly barraged with superfluous thoughts that bare little relevance but which command authorship, and wit is just as unlikely to occur. Understand, that within this blog there will likely be numerous little asides, which hopefully will illuminate whatever subject we're on, but which will more than likely only prove to leave the reader, as well as myself, lost as to where we started from. I think that's a reasonable preface.
About Uganda: what I keep thinking about is Job 1:21 When Job says, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." I understand that my scenario is not even remotely similar to Job's, but at the same time, I know that when I step on that plane, a lot of things will be gone for me. I will have suddenly lost a lot (I understand that "lost" is probably not the best word, but it emphasizes my thoughts none the less), and the removal of such things will undoubtedly lead to great sorrow. At the same time though, I am beginning to see the tremendous blessings that I've been given over the past 24 years and my gratitude has grown substantially. I know that I will miss a lot about being in Fort Wayne(Which in my mind should have become our nations capital many years ago. I mean, look at the Old Fort. If that doesn't scream "Whitehouse," what does?), but I am so grateful to God for having allowed me to experience these. Christ is so good. I am starting to really see that. Along with Job 1:21 is the idea that though Job went through tremendous sorrow, he was faithful to God, and God blessed him for this faithfulness. I think that this may hold true for me as well (please understand that I am in no way trying to equate myself with Job, I simply see that he was true to God in a time of hardship, and this is of great desire to me). I believe that Uganda has the potential to be an incredible blessing. I simply want to be faithful during the coming time of sadness and open to whatever mystery I get into in the "Pearl of Africa." I honestly cannot do this without God. That isn't necessarily what some want to believe and hear, but it is the truth none the less.
As this is my first blog entry to my first blog ever, I would simply say that I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't even know if real people will actually read this. Maybe this blog site will post fictitious numbers about people actually viewing this site to make me feel better, and that may actually work. Also, it has become apparent to me that spell-check is nonexistent on this so please forgive any distracting errors that I will inevitably create. Ok, here we go.
Some may say I was a precocious child. Others may say my development resembled a plot from an episode of the 1990's hit series "Full House" (Honestly I don't know what this means except that it may mean I have a fetish for being freakishly neat and/or have at one time wanted to save a horse by bringing it to my house. Both of these are inaccurate though). While still others may say I am simply a finite being inhabiting a place in the space-time continuum. These people are all off-base. I love Christ, I enjoy cereal beyond what is normally considered acceptable, and there's a part of me that thinks the book "The Old Man and The Sea" may turn out to be a biography about my life (minus the whole fishing aspect, and the sailing too as my past has shown that sailing is not my forte).