All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fish and Chips

For the past two weeks, our good friend Walt was visiting from the U.S.  One day we took him out to the fish market for a "fish and chips" lunch (below).


We were offered pre-fried fish, but opted instead for fresh ones--which meant we had to be patient while they were prepared.  The ones we got were as fresh as they get--nice, plump Tilapia directly from Lake Victoria into the hot frying oil.  While they were being prepared we walked around a bit.


It's a very busy and bustling place--great for people watching if you like to do that sort of thing.  It's sort of like sitting in a busy airport and watching the people go by, except here the colors and smells and sounds are a lot more interesting.  Although it's the fish market there's a lot more than fish for sale.  Just about everything you could imagine is for sale up and down the crowded stalls and dirt roads around there.  It's as busy as a beehive in summer!

We got many offers for boat rides and fishing trips in the boats pictured here.  Sounds like fun--perhaps the boys and I will have to give it a go sometime.


The fish they fry up for eating here, and the ones being sold below, are small.  They get much larger--huge in fact.  Some of them can get as big or bigger than me!


If you're in the mood for chapatis or rolex (a common street food consisting of a chapati with 2 fried eggs rolled inside with some onions and tomatoes) they have those too (below).  And there was a guy grilling some intestines and other organs.  If you've ever seen the show Bizarre Foods, the episode on Uganda involved a walk (and taste) right here in this market.  Our kids love that show, but don't understand why it's called Bizarre Foods.  They think that most of the stuff looks good and normal and tasty.


One of the favorite pastimes for guys in Kampala is pool.  You often see an old billiards table propped up on some stones (this one is pretty fancy with leveling feet) to make it level, in a dusty or muddy neighborhood, with a bunch of guys gathered around passing the time.  In Indonesia it was chess.  Here it's pool.


We enjoyed getting to know this little guy with a wonderful grin.  He hung out and laughed and talked with us.  He never asked for food or any handout, but it was obvious he was hungry.  When our fish came, we shared with him.  He was very excited and thankful!


And here they are!  Perhaps you don't like fish...well, this was not like normal fish from the supermarket in the U.S.  It was super fresh, very mild, white, flaky meat, and it was done to perfection!  Seriously, it was the best fish I've had in a long, long time!  And of course the "chips" (fries) were hot and greasy and tasty!  And that homemade salsa stuff, with the limes squeezed all over the top and some salt to dip it all in?--scrumptious! 


Our oldest, Britt, will eat just about any animal part that's even remotely edible.  In fact, I've never seen him shy away from anything.  Ever.  In Indonesia it was grubs--both cooked and LIVE, snails from the rice patties, frogs fried whole--guts and all, boiled frogs,  big hunks of pig fat with the hairy skin still attached, and all manner of other interesting things.  And he loved it all.  When I took him on a six-day, five-night jungle hike, he gobbled down all sorts of innards of animals, from intestines and liver, to lungs and utter.  Yep, utterly delicious--er at least chewy.  They were giving us the best parts--the meat is just average stuff in those cultures, but the organs are the best so you have to share that with the guests!  And Britt never shies away.  You gotta give him props.  We may struggle to get him to take more than one shower a week and change his clothes once in a while, but how many teenage boys do you know that will first go for the head and tail of a fish while everyone else grabs the big, boneless chunks of meat?  He said these fish had especially tasty eyeballs and brain--no joke.  He likes that stuff, as many people in other parts of the world do.


As usually happens, Tyler managed to knock over his soda--not once, not twice, but three times.  This dear lady kept coming over and cleaning it up.  We felt bad, but she seemed just thrilled that we were all eating in her stall, and didn't seem to mind the mess we were making one bit.  One time she had her baby with her when she came over to wipe up the spill, and she simply plopped the baby right into Hannahs open arms, without even thinking twice.  Hannah's smile says it all--she loves babies!  But baby's face also says it all--shock and awe!  First it was the shock (or is that straight up fear?)


And then came the awe.  Wow!  Look at those blue eyes and pale skin and blond hair?  So strange.  I absolutely must touch it!  As often happens, Hannah became too fascinating for the baby to resist, and got her cheeks squeezed and hair pulled.  But she loved it!


If you come over and visit sometime, we'll take you to the fish market too.  You won't be disappointed! :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Go And Do Likewise"

WARNING:  The content in this post may be inappropriate for children and/or disturbing to others.

She's only ten--just a young girl. But already she's experienced more than a lifetime-worth of indescribable abuse and horrors. The man (a barbaric animal in my opinion) who repeatedly victimized her over several months, told her he'd kill her if she said a word to anyone.  He's still out there somewhere, having fled when the village school teacher realized what was happening. Her physical, internal injuries, and the disease he gave her, were such that the caretakers upcountry requested a medevac, so she could receive better care in the city hospital.


This past Thursday was Uganda's Independence day--a national holiday.  But for some of us it was just another day doing what we do--sharing Christ's love through serving people on the wings of MAF.  I was already scheduled to fly that day--a flight for a group of leaders from Watoto Church here in Kampala (more on that in another post).  But on Wednesday afternoon our MAF Uganda office was contacted about the horrible situation described above.  The girl's mom is young, and also has a nursing baby.  Like many in Uganda, she lives day-to-day, without excess resources to deal with tragedies such as this.  She certainly couldn't afford an ambulance trip by road all the long way to Kampala, let alone a medevac flight.  But MAF is unique--we're not like commercial companies.  We're here to serve.  

So after some communication between our operations team here in Uganda, and key people in MAF-International, it was determined that MAF-I would medevac the girl and her family and cover all the costs in-house.  The girl was obviously in desperate need of help, not unlike the man who was left for dead along the side of the road in Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan in Luke Chapter 10, of the Bible.  Jesus describes several people in that parable, who seeing the injured man, looked the other way and passed by doing nothing to help.   Eventually the Good Samaritan came along and not only helped--he went the extra mile.  Jesus then says, "Go and do likewise."

Below, the village where we picked up the young girl.  The airstrip is just visible on the far side of the town, running parallel to the horizon.


 It's all of YOU out there who pray and give and donate your time and encouragement towards the ministry of MAF--it's YOU who allow us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people like this young girl, both here in Uganda and in many other remote places throughout the world.  When our operations folks at our Uganda office explained to this hurting family, how thousands of people and churches all over the world help make this ministry possible, and specifically the medevac that was about to take place on their behalf, they were very grateful.  They wanted you to know.  This is what we do.  This is what YOU help make possible.  So, on behalf of this young family, and the many others that are helped throughout the world each day on the wings of MAF, thank you!


Originally, I was scheduled to fly alone, as we usually do--"single pilot" it's called.  However, since the family gave us specific permission to share their story and gratitude with you, both through photos and words, I became the co-pilot with a camera, rather than the captain on Thursday.  That seat was filled by our Chief Pilot, Greg Vine, who did a fantastic job caring for every detail of the flight.  When we arrived, the plane was swarmed by people (above).  Way off to the side, out of the commotion of the larger crowd, sat the young victim, her mother cradling a still-nursing baby, and a the sweet, boisterous caretaker who would accompany them to the city.  In contrast to the laughter, excitement, and chaos that was encircling the plane a hundred meters distant, the mood over here was quiet, sad, and tense.  Although we had been given specific permission by the family to take pictures, I was committed to being discreet with the camera, so I was too far away to hear the words exchanged between Greg and the family.  However, it was obvious that his care and concern was genuine and well-received by the family.  (Throughout this post, to preserve the anonymity of the patient and her family, I'm not using any names, nor showing any recognizable features of their faces, by which they could be identified.)


"Go and do likewise."  
That's what you see unfolding below.  (Left to right: The caretaker in the colorful skirt, Greg, the young mother holding her baby, and her 10-year old daughter, the patient, leaning against her.)


Greg did a great job of overseeing the careful loading of the young girl, and caring for all of the concerns of the mom and caretaker.  With MAF it's common for the pilots to pray with our passengers before departing.  In this case you could just feel the fears and tension of this precious family evaporate as Greg prayed--not only for the flight, but for each of them by name.  
"Go and do likewise."  This is what we're about!


The same care and concern that was shown to each of these precious people on the front end of the flight, was there again when we arrived in Kajjansi.   The young girl was carefully offloaded into the arms of her mother, and then directly into a waiting vehicle to be taken to the hospital.  


The next day my wife, Joy, contacted the caretaker to see how they were doing.  Tomorrow she's going to visit the mother and child in the hospital.  The caretaker said "they will be so very thankful to know that the wife of the pilot shows care and love...that will mean a lot!"  Medical treatment, though cheap by comparison to what we might pay in the U.S., is very expensive for a family like this, and they definitely don't have insurance!   They will no doubt have many tangible needs related to their medical treatment and general living necessities, being so far from home and extended family in this, the big scary city.  But beyond that, there's the emotional and spiritual needs.  In a case like this, the scarring and damage in those areas may well be even worse than the physical wounds, and could last years, if not a lifetime.  So, Joy will do what she can in the days and weeks ahead, to not only help with the tangible and obvious needs for physical treatment and care, but even more importantly she'll love this young girl and her mother, in the name of Jesus, and be a friend, and pray with and for them, and cry with them.  That's what she does.  She will be the hands and feet of Jesus to this young hurting family.  She will "Go and do likewise."

It's a team effort.  You play your part.  Our office staff in the UK and US and various home offices around the world play their parts.  Our operations team and office folks in our local Uganda office play their parts.  Our engineers play their parts.  I play my part.  My wife plays her part.   We all work together as a team to "Go and do likewise."  Thank you for playing your part!  Please pray for this young girl, her family, and so many others like them throughout Uganda and elsewhere who are hurting.  And why you're at it, lets all keep our eyes and ears open for someone near us who may be hurting and needs a helping hand.  And then lets "Go and do likewise."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Views From My Office Window

Here's a few views from my "office window".  
Below, an unusually clear view of Kampala, the city where we live.


Below is a more typical view of our city as we depart in the morning.  As you can see, it's normally quite hazy and dusty.


And a few closer shots of the downtown section.  Driving within this area is an absolute nightmare due to unending traffic jams!




Now, on the exact same day that I took the three photos above, I also snapped all of the photos below.  It gives a you a very good idea of the huge differences between the weather around the city here, as compared to the typical weather in the eastern and northeastern parts of the country.  About 30 minutes (flight) outside of Kampala, all of the haze and dust is gone.  There's often clouds and weather still hanging around from the lake effects of Lake Victoria, but the air is clear and the visibility is great!


A little further still, and the clouds are thinning. You can see the clear skies in the distance over toward the Karamojang area.  This shot, below, is taken near Kalongo.


And finally, vast, blue skies from horizon to horizon.  I love it out here.  It reminds me of the American Southwest.  You feel so small compared to the vastness of the landscape and sky.  This is near Kotido.  Notice the little circles of mud huts where people live, surrounded by the thorn fences.


Here we are on the ground at Kotido.


And this is Matany.  Again, this is only a little over an hours flight from the city, but look how different the weather is.  Crazy, hugh?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hawks

Almost every evening we have one or more of these hawks that come visit a tree in our yard (or "garden" as they call it here).  All of these pictures were taken from our porch (or "veranda" as they call it here).


They look like they could do a number on a small rodent like a rat.  But rather than hunting meat in our yard, they come to eat some kind of nut from one of our trees.  First, they perch up in the large tree above our swing, looking all over as if they're hunting.


Then, suddenly they dive off the branch and swoop down.  It looks like they're going to dive straight into the ground, but at the last second they pull up, wingtips grazing the top of the grass with one of those nuts in their sharp talons.  They pick them up off the ground where they've fallen.


The other night we had seven of them here all at the same time--there were some that were soaring above the yard, others sitting in the tree, and still others content to eat their nuts in the grass.  That was the first time I saw them willing to stay down in the grass to eat.  But it's the soaring ones that fascinate me.  I love watching soaring birds--makes me want to take some glider training.  Some day I want to go hang gliding too, and parasailing.  Oh, and skydiving.  Anyone want to join?


I don't know why, but I seem to have not taken a single picture with one of the nuts, so I guess I can't show you what they look like.  I'll have to remember to do that some other time.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Airplanes

I promised you I wouldn't get so deep this time, so I'll just show you a few simple airplane pictures.  These first two shots capture one of our Cessna Grand Caravans taking off and landing on a village strip.



Wherever the strip is in close proximity to a village, there will almost always be a crowd of people surrounding the aircraft after arrival--especially children.  Airplanes are fascinating!


Here's a shot of Lima Delta Romeo (LDR) touching down on our home field at Kajjansi.  Notice how the the dust curls out and around behind the aircraft.  Cool hugh?


When I flew in East Kal we dealt with very short, slippery, soft, muddy strips.  The challenge there was to fly an extremely precise approach and pinpoint touchdown and at a specific airspeed (translating to a specific ground speed) so that you could land AND stop without running off the end of the little patch of grass they called an airstrip.  Here, the challenges are a bit different.  Most of the strips here are considerably longer, and comprised of nice, hard gravel.  That makes the landing and rollout more comfortable, so the concern isn't as much that you're going to run off the end, but rather that you might bang up the prop and aircraft from all the flying gravel.  And it isn't even dry season yet!


Besides the Caravans and Grand Caravans, we also have two Cessna 206's.  Here's a shot of one of them taking off in Kajjansi.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

East African Eyes

OK, here's something you might not have known about me.  I love eyes.  That may sound a bit weird, but for as long as I can remember I've always liked eyes.  And not just peoples' eyes either.  We had a beautiful purebred Siberian Husky, when we lived in Alaska.  He had the most captivating, light blue eyes you've ever seen!  Our pet python in Indonesia (all of our pet pythons actually--yes, we had quite a few over the years) had very intense, crystal-clear, sinister eyes.  Have you ever looked into the eyes of a tiger, or jaguar?  It's like they can see inside you!  Well, either that or they're just sizing you up for a meal.  Haha.  I've taken a lot of very closeup macro shots of dragonflies and other insects over the years--their eyes are amazing!  In the case of spiders, all of their eyes are amazing!  

But it's peoples' eyes that are most interesting to me.  I'm sure you've all seen the very famous National Geographic cover photo, by Steve McCurry of the Afghan girl with the striking green eyes?  That's become one of their most famous and well-recognized photos of all time, and it's no wonder why.  Those eyes are absolutely captivating, and they're frozen in time by that image.  People are left to imagine--to fill in the blanks.  (Well, not anymore, since Nat Geo tracked the girl down and did that for you.  But you know what I mean.)  With a photo like that you can see the image over and over and over, and even years later it still pulls you in like it did the first time.  Why?  Because there's so much that's revealed in and by a persons eyes.   And yet, behind the beautiful catchlight lurks mystery, and intrigue, and untold stories.  A photo that captures a person's eyes, captures all of that intrigue and mystery, but doesn't actually reveal it outright.  You, the viewer, are compelled to imagine what the real story is behind the eyes.


As a photographer, I'm always looking for those striking eyes, and I love nothing better than to capture them in super, sharp focus.  But as a believer and follower of Jesus, it is the person behind those eyes that interests me most.  Each pair of eyes represents a unique and special person, created by God, in His image.  And He desperately loves each one.  No matter their skin color, social or economic status, family name, tribe, country or the myriad stories that are hidden (from our view) behind those eyes--the owner of each pair of eyes is not a mystery to Him--to the One who created them.  He loves each and every one equally, and desires nothing more than to have a personal relationship with them.  Perhaps that's what so intrigues me about peoples' eyes--they're like a shadowy window into someones soul.  And a soul is eternal, and I care a lot about where they spend that eternity!  I want each one to know the peace and joy that surprises all understanding--to know and accept the love of the One who created them, and sent his one and only son, Jesus to die for them.  No matter what stories are hidden behind the eyes, the story of Jesus is radical enough to overwhelm and change them all... forever!

So this is a post about the eyes of some of the East Africans whom I've met over here in the past few months.  I'd love to hear what you think in the comments.  Like everywhere else I've lived in the world, I find the people here to have very captivating eyes.

One day a Karamojang family was standing off to the side, watching the airplane.  I had my camera out and gestured to it and to them (they don't speak English) if I could take a picture.  They were happy to oblige (photo above).  They didn't pose or move or do anything different than what they were already doing.  (Well, I think the kid in the black shirt crossed his arms to try and look tougher, but the rest of them--especially the three on the left--never twitched.)  That's exactly how they were standing, and I just had to get the camera settings I wanted and snap the picture.  With the shadows created from the very bright African sun and their dark skin, it's a bit hard to see their eyes from a distance.  But when I was taking the photo I immediately noticed how striking their eyes were--especially the three on the left.  When I showed the picture, below, to Joy, that the first thing she mentioned--their eyes.


Here's a tighter crop of the above image.



In the above image, the guy's eyes were actually a bit hard to see because of the way the shadows fell.  But a few minutes later he had wandered over to watch what I was doing and I saw that he had the same type of captivating eyes that seem to stare into infinity, so I took another photo (below).  I really wish I could speak their language, so I could find out more about who they are.  But it would be impossible to speak all the languages in East Africa.  Fortunately, we fly people into each area who do speak the local language, so they are able to play that part.  And our part is to get them into and out of those remote places safely.  I'm glad I get to play a small role!


Earlier I mentioned catchlight.  If you haven't heard that term before, it refers to the specular highlight from a light source that's "caught" and reflected in someone's eyes.  In a photo, if there's no catchlight at all in a persons eyes, they will look dead... or psycho.  But some types of catchlight are more flattering than others.  If you take a picture with a point-and-shoot camera, while standing directly in front of the subject, and the flash goes off, you'll see a pinprick of light in the dead center of the person(s) eyes.  In my opinion that gives a very unnatural and unflattering look, like a deer in the headlights.  I much prefer naturally reflected catchlight--or at least an indirect or bounced flash if a flash (or more than one) is used at all.  

If the eyes are very sharply focused, and the shot is tight, and the light is right, you can often even see other images reflected in the eye itself.  In the shot below, on my mac at full resolution, you can actually see a clear reflection of me in the boy's eyes, as I take the picture...even though I'm probably 30 feet away.  Dark eyes like these are very good for reflecting light.  By the way, almost none of my images are posed.  Most, like the one below, were taken with a long lens where I was standing off in the distance, ready and waiting until the person turns of their own accord.  Then, in an instant I (hopefully) grab the eyes in crystal clear focus and snap the picture before the person realizes what happened.  Those are the most natural-looking images in my opinion. But you have to be careful so as not to offend people.  That's why I tend to have more pictures of kids--they tend to love having their pictures taken.  Adults, not so much.  


When taking photos here, because of how the harsh light of East Africa mixes with the nice dark skin of the people here, their eyes are often shrouded in shadow.  That only adds to the mystery.  If I had the liberty to position people better for a photo, or use reflectors or fill in flash, it might be easier.  But frankly, it also might detract from some of the realism.  I like the natural look.  But frankly, it's actually pretty tough to take pictures of adults here--they're really not all that excited about it.  You have to be respectful and careful how you go about it, as you don't want to offend someone, or worse.  This guy saw me with my camera and indicated that he would agree to have his picture taken.  Then he immediately snapped to attention like a perfectly straight statue.  I would have loved to move him somewhere else, where the lighting wouldn't be so harsh, or where the airplane wasn't distracting in the background.  But I got the distinct impression that this might be my one and only chance and I had better just take it now or never.  In some ways, the harsh light and the soldier-like pose sort of adds to it I think.  In a weird way it sort of reflects the reality of life and light out in the bush of East Africa.  Harsh and extreme, yet rigid and poised.


The younger ones, however, seem to love to have their picture taken.  At least in Northern and Eastern Uganda.  Not so much up in S. Sudan--but that's probably more b/c of the security situation up there than the kids themselves.  It's just not too kosher under the present circumstances, to be taking pictures of much at all when they're in the middle of a civil war.  So all of the pictures in this post come from Uganda.  Perhaps some day, when things cool down a bit up there in S Sudan, I'll get some shots from there as well.  This one, below, is right along the border between Uganda and S. Sudan.



I've found that a lot of people out in the villages--especially kids, but adults included--have very yellowish eyes.  I'm no doctor, but I know that's indicative of some health issues.  For most of us, the stories and struggles that are hidden (not so well hidden in some cases) behind many peoples' eyes here, would or should, at the very least bring tears to our own.  But frankly in many cases, to borrow a phrase from the movie A Few Good Men, I don't think we could handle the truth.  In our comfortable, western society, we're often sheltered from real pain and struggle.  We see it on TV but it's over there, somewhere far away in Africa, or wherever.  But not in our home.  Not our kids.  Not us.  


"Poor kids" we say to our friend over a steaming $5 cup of mocha...  Meanwhile those poor kids go without food for another day.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a mocha, but I just think we're often so detached from reality, in the suffering world around us, that we're completely unaffected by it.   We have NO IDEA what it means to suffer.  We can't handle the truth.  We don't even want it.  

I think we know, deep down inside, that if we ever were truly confronted with it first hand, we would never--could never--be the same.  Never again could we be comfortable in our detached complacency!  Our lives, our entire way of life, would be forced to radically changed... and to many of us, that would be the very definition of pain and struggle.  Unfortunately, for many of us, that also makes it virtually impossible to ever grasp or achieve true joy and contentment.    


Which is perhaps why it's so convicting and contagious when you see kids smiling like this (below). 


We've only been here 5 1/2 months and we've already been humbled and challenged in so many ways, as we've seen people who have almost nothing (materially speaking) and yet who have everything!  Some of them, despite hiding stories that we could never imagine in our worst nightmares, have true joy and contentment.  And thus, they are wealthier than the richest person in the world who still seeks more.  You can see it in their eyes!  And if you don't believe me, or if you want to see the flip side of it, look into the eyes of the person who has everything (materially speaking) and yet still seeks more.  You'll see what I mean.  

When you look in a mirror, which type of eyes do you see looking back?


Next time I'll have some new airplane shots, and I'll try to keep it a bit lighter. :-)