Camp LifeMusana CampsOccupation

Old Hat, New Tricks

My first few weeks in Uganda have been characterized by learning new applications for skills that I have picked up throughout my life. I have certainly been challenged already, and I also know that I was being prepared for these challenges in ways that I could not have possibly orchestrated myself.

As we do not currently have any groups at camp, I have been able to spend my time getting oriented with construction and maintenance responsibilities. In preparation for a movie shoot that had been scheduled for this week, I spent nearly a full week inspecting shower houses and the kitchen for mechanical problems and bringing them up to speed for max capacity. This included everything from repairing sink drains in the kitchen to replacing shower heads to tightening loose faucets. It seems I have become the resident plumber already as I ran a new underground drain line for the kitchen when it clogged. This particular project was not complicated, but it still took two and a half days to finish with heavy rainstorms both days that we tried to do the ditch work.  The only maintenance project left on my current list is to rebuild tp holders in the latrines. The little rollers that hold the tp are always missing and we haven’t found a Home Depot that stocks them yet, so it is time to put my Amish ingenuity to work! I have drawn heavily on my past experience in the plumbing industry, yet seemingly simple repairs can be so frustrating as even mediocre supplies are either unavailable or hours away at a supply store that might not sell them anymore. For instance, a 10 month-old shower valve that needed a new handle could have been repaired in ten minutes if we had had a matching cartridge on hand. We could not find a matching cartridge in town so we had to chisel the old valve out of the wall, install a new one, and will need to plaster and paint the wall before the project is complete.

As already mentioned, there was a movie shoot scheduled to take place here at camp. The dates kept changing (as is so common in this part of the world), until it was finally pushed back until after a week of ROPES Camp starting November 6. It was a huge relief to me to have a few extra weeks to prepare, as I am still trying to get a handle on my regular responsibilities without the added strain of a camp full of unprecedented activity. My responsibilities when the crew does arrive will include keeping sawdust stocked at the composting latrines, trash cans emptied, taking my turn on-call with the other maintenance guys, and possibly running to town for supplies as needed. I will be very actively involved with ROPES Camp as well, although I have not been given my assignments yet. Depending on the needs I will probably either be a counsellor with the teens 24/7 or teaching and helping with activities. I am very much looking forward to this week and I know that whatever my role is, I will draw heavily on my training and experience with Honey Brook Youth Center and Honey Brook Camps.

My first actual assignment here was to take over the billing for construction supplies and equipment as they go out for various departments. I am slowly bringing up to date the billing for the numerous logs. I am very grateful for the introductory knowledge I have of Excel even though it has driven me crazy in the past! Eventually I will also be working with the accounting guys in the main office to streamline our inventory management and billing process. I have never taken on a project quite like this one, but am excited to utilize what little experience I have with QuickBooks. Efficiency will be key here as there is so much to do in construction and maintenance with a small crew to do it all.

Our current construction project is a new guest house which is already booked for December. It is slowly coming together with all hands on deck installing cabinets this week, laying tile in bathrooms and finishing electrical. My part of the project this week was to help prepare and install pine tongue-and-groove boards for the ceiling. These boards arrived oozing wet and have been stacked in front of fans since arriving. All the boards need to be run through a sander at least once; some are sent through 4 or 5 times before they are ready to varnish. Finally by Thursday we had enough of boards prepped to start installing ceiling. This part of the job I enjoyed very much! It took me back to the hours I have spent installing T&G in horse barns back home. The boards are more crooked than #3 lumber at home and nearly every piece needs to be shaved somewhere to make it fit, but at the end of the day it is a beautiful finished product.

I am learning the art of navigating some brutal trails with a four wheeler, but my preferred and primary mode of transportation is small dirt bike which is provided for me while I am here. It is a bit different from the GSXR600 that I used to ride but I still prefer two wheels over 4! Even here, the trips to Walmart when a motorcycle was my only transportation made the adjustment to hauling tools, humans and laundry on a boda feel almost seamless.

I am very thankful that God has led me here, and I am even more grateful for the many ways that He has prepared me for such a time as this through circumstances that I might not chosen, enjoyed or valued at the time.

Even my discovery of trail running has already proven valuable. I am getting to see country around camp that I would never see if I were not out training for my next race. Running trails here also opens up a lot of opportunity for connection and conversation with folks I would not be likely to even meet otherwise. (More on this later J)


Until next time,

Keep adventuring. Keep exploring.