Show and Tell

Our time in Uganda was scheduled down to the minute, but our team was eager to carve out even a brief time to do some local shopping and buy gifts for our families back home.

On our last full day there, we were taken to a huge local craft market.  They dropped us off and said, "Okay, you have 45 minutes." 

Forty-five minutes.  (Clearly, this was planned by men.  While we’re at it, why don’t we do the Louvre in half an hour?)

So, after a brief lesson from our Ugandan host about how to haggle (and knowing full well I was going to stink at it), we frantically jumped in the fray at a break-neck pace.  Here’s a little corner of market (you can click on any of these pictures to see them enlarged):


Oh my word.  If you think it’s satisfying to shop for handmade, mom-made items in the U.S., just try it in Uganda.  I could’ve stayed there all day.

Below are a few of the things I came away with (several of the things I bought have already found their new homes with family members).

Here is an elephant for my son Adam, carved from teak wood:


Here’s a doll for my daughter Corrie.  You can’t see it in this photo, but there’s a tiny baby strapped to the back of this momma, just the way the African mommas carry their little ones:


Here’s a little djembe (prounounced JEM-bay) drum for my Joseph:


And an undungu (pronounced un-DOON-goo) for Stephen:


The fact that I bought my two noisiest sons NOISE-MAKING ITEMS should tell you how out-of-my-mind lonesome I was for them.

Next is a cross carved out of teak wood (Sophie bought an identical one).  I adore this.  The second photo provides a little more detail:  there is a dove in the center, with hands making up the rest of the cross.  In my own mind, I’ve worked this out to symbolize the Holy Spirit (dove) enabling us (the hands) to share the love of Christ (the cross itself).  Not bad for someone on malaria drugs, eh?



This next one is my absolute favorite.  It’s a nativty scene, woven entirely out of banana husk.  It especially struck me, because the day we were out in the village, we saw lots of mothers sitting under the tree weaving items out of these husks.  This is one of the common ways mothers make toys for their children.  I love this so much I plan to leave it out year round, not just at Christmas:


Our shopping trip took place immediately after I met our sponsor child, Dissan.  I saw this next little figurine, carved from soap stone, and I thought of him.  I bought it, brought it home, and I’ve put it on my kitchen windowsill.

I think of that sweet boy every time I every see it.



40 thoughts on “Show and Tell

  1. What About Mom? says:

    i don’t know why i’m always surprised at how abstract and elegant art can be from a developing country. that soapstone just wants me to stroke my finger along its smoothness.
    what does it look like from the other side?

  2. Queen B says:

    All are beautiful. I love the nativity and soapstone figure. What wonderful treasures!
    Those noisy things will so find their way to the top of your closet before too long…

  3. minnesotamom says:

    Was the haggling socially expected? Because I think if I were a poor Ugandan trying to make a living and a bunch of rich Americans came to my stand trying to get me to drop my prices I’d be pretty ticked. I learned as much in Brazil after a tripmate pointed it out. “Heidi, that’s around $1 they’re asking; can’t you just pay it instead of bargaining?”
    I stood corrected.

  4. pam says:

    What lovely treasures. My favorites are the nativity scene and Corrie’s doll.
    How wonderful to have something to remind you of sweet Dissan as well. God is so good!

  5. Melanie says:

    Oh haggling-
    I noticed a comment above. Some cultures expect you to barter. If you do not, they are offended. I am sure Compassion trained the group in what to do and how to communicate. :>)

  6. Shalee says:

    Love this Shannon. It’s gifts that you bought that reflect the artistry of those you went to visit.
    Love that last one. It’s precious indeed. What a great reminder of your new family member.
    The Cross and the nativity scene? Breathtaking.

  7. Megan says:

    Ooooo!! We have three of those dolls (in different dresses!). My girls have so loved them. They all named theirs, “Asha” because Craig met a gal named Asha while in Uganda and told us lots of stories. We also have one of the undungus – it was a gift given to Craig after he finished the conference he was speaking for. He was given it right before leaving and had to figure out how in the world he was going to get it home. hee hee. Somehow he managed, as did you.
    Thanks for showing your treasures!

  8. Doris says:

    That reminds me of a time when my daughter was a preschooler. I was putting away Christmas decorations. She asked me not to put up a wooden Josph, Mary, baby Jesus decoration. “it’s not Christmas; it’s everyday.”

  9. Candace says:

    Oh those are just beautiful and what a great way to share your trip with your family. I’m with you – 45 minutes would never have been long enough to spend shopping. Too bad there isn’t a way we can help support their economy from shopping online. I would love to own a nativity set like that. And yes – I’d leave it up as an everyday part of my home also.
    Thanks for sharing those – I love hearing about your trip!

  10. KM says:

    I’m new here…and just now leaving a comment. I actually saw you in a issue of Good Housekeeping. That’s not how I normally find blogs. I’m finding a knidered soul in you. I’ve been out of the country several times…and seen utter poverty. The first time in 1993 to Russia, when I was 18. I was changed forever. I couldn’t walk into a grocery store without crying for months. Anyways…thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m in the middle of teaching our kids about Africa. 2 weeks ago, Kenya and this week Egypt. We have a little sponser child in Kenya…It would be such a dream to meet him.

  11. Linda Sue says:

    How fun! Love that you bought noisy things for your sons and the soapstone carving is an eternal image isn’t it? That nativity set is the one that Shaun or Brian’s? kid set up with a monster in it – or at least a similar one. It is pretty and you bought things for exactly the right reasons – they will bring back to you memories of sweeter moments. RE: 45 minute shopping trips – are you SURE my husband wasn’t there?

  12. Susan says:

    Ooh- I love it all! I want so badly to go to Uganda and visit our sponsored child. We’ve been sponsoring her for 8 years now, and she has become a beautiful young woman. I hold a hope in my heart that we will meet her someday. You are so fortunate to have had such an amazing trip!

  13. Kristen @ We are THAT family says:

    I keep a nativity out year-round too! I love this one. It’s beautiful. And I discovered something else we have in common (besides the rock thing), we can do quite a bit of shopping in 45 minutes. It’s a skill few can master.

  14. Kellyn says:

    So wonderful to see all the things you brought back with you. The instruments are gorgeous! And the nativity is amazing. Hard to imagine the time it took to make each of these items.
    Thank you so much for sharing it with us all!!

  15. Christy says:

    I love the nativity set. When we travel, we try to buy one in different countries in a style that represents that place. It is amazingly hard to find in many places so that is great that you were able to buy such a great one.

  16. Becca says:

    The nativity scene is really cool! A great year-long reminder of the message of Christ’s birth and who He came for and who we need to be praying for — not just us, but the mother’s in Uganda as well.

  17. Fran says:

    Absolutely beautiful Shannon!! These women are Proverbs 31 women aren’t they?? They put me to shame.
    I love reading and seeing about your trip. We will never tire of soaking up all we can.

  18. Andrea says:

    Shannon, I’m crying. I cry every time you talk about Uganda…
    Thank you so much for sharing – may God RICHLY bless you, sister!

  19. Kyle says:

    Great treasures. I just found your blog and was reading about your trip. It looks like you are quite a remarkable person. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Mrs. Bick says:

    When our dear friend and children’s Godmother went on her mission trip to Kenya, she too brought us back African gifts. And our daughter has a doll very similar to Corrie’s. Ours is named Kenya and the baby is ‘Robi. We received a lovely Kenya cloth (in my favorite red!), and there was a loud toy for one of the darlings. Put away until they can appreciate the beauty behind it.
    Thanks for the post.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I love the carved elephant. When my husband visited Kenya he came home with an entire set of carved animals for our son. He has two giraffes, two elephants, and two lions. They are amazing!

  22. Marcia says:

    Treasures to remind you of treasured memories. how wonderful. I love elephants and stuffed dolls especially, and found the nativity scene awesome.

  23. Pam says:

    Thanks for sharing, Shannon. Your story and pictures took me right back to Rwanda, where we had an almost-identical experience (last day, 45 minutes… the whole thing). And the soapstone figurine and the memory you have imbued it with brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you.

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