Saturday, January 31, 2009

a bit of important self-definition.

If any of you wanted to know what God's been doing with my heart while I've been in Africa, I don't know if I could tell you. I can say that it was full to the bursting point, nearly every day, with an ever-expanding definition of love; that I was learning so much but at the same time couldn't put my finger on any of it. It was only upon returning that I've started to see where the growth has been in my heart, and now it's only fitting that I testify to a big part of it. If you love me, you may want to read this. No guilt trips if you don't, but I feel that you'll understand me and this past year a little bit better.

I feel like this note is an explanation I owe to many of you. Please don't worry, but I need to get this out of my brain. In a good way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, here goes.

Somewhere in this past month, this trip saved my life.

Honestly. I was heading nowhere good. I'm not the kind of person who would ever, EVER, do anything to harm myself (so please don't freak out, loved ones). But every day was a struggle to get out of bed, to put myself back into my routine and wait for everything to go wrong no matter how hard I tried. I didn't want to *be* anymore. I was literally and emotionally tired. Broken. And still breaking. I couldn't find much of me left. And when you feel bad enough to where you wish you didn't exist, but firmly stand against the idea of suicide, it can get pretty incapacitating at times when you're just sitting there, alone with your thoughts. Very alone.

I actually Didn't.Want.To.

It wasn't just for the days immediately preceding the trip that I felt this way, but weeks and months at a time. Sure, there were great, wonderful times last summer that were key to lifting me out of the deep depression from last winter, but somewhere around the time that the days were getting darker, I felt like I was losing the battle again.

I asked myself- what on EARTH happened to me this past year? A boy broke up with me. So what. That happens. My family was falling apart yet again, not to mention the individuals within, and as the only child I felt like it was my responsibility to clean up. But all of these things I've taken on before. More important than any of these things, I gave up. Subconsciously, then very consciously.

I let an enemy come in and steal nearly everything that was on the table. In fact, I said "Here, I'll help you," and piece by piece I fell apart. I no longer had the strength to resist
anything. I had the ideas of strength, the remnants and memories of the strong young woman I had started to grow into, but no actual strength. And I was ashamed of myself for it.

I don't think things were immediately better the moment I stepped onto Ugandan soil, or even when the plane from Nashville took off... maybe it started with the decision just to go this year...maybe it didn't. I know by the end of 2008 I was desperate for change, and while I knew that Africa couldn't be my easy out, my fix-all, I also knew that I couldn't
live in America any more. Because I was barely alive inside. So I prayed my heart would awaken while I was there, through forgetting about my situation and trying to be open to someone else's.

I don't know at what point things changed for me on this trip, but they leave me here, changed for certain. I know there were moments that had a big part in it, like talking to Betty at the top of the Adrift Bungee tower, and taking the very conscious plunge towards the Nile 150 feet below. I think that was the first time I truly trusted God would take care of me in exactly a year. And every time I got a crazy piki driver, or walked barefoot through filth somewhere, or had to go out by myself at nighttime, I could feel myself trusting him a little more. I was beginning to think my God could do anything again, and most importantly, that he could do this for me. To tell you the bits of strength and wisdom I witnessed from friends in Uganda (both locals and volunteers) would take another entry entirely.

As I sat in church the day after returning to Nashville, my heart overflowed with gratitude. For the past month, God met me. He said, "Here you are. This is you. And I am here, too. I wasn't really that far away."

In 2009, I've felt like myself again. I feel beautiful inside because I don't feel alone inside like I did last month... and I can't even fully explain why, because I never turned my back on God, but I just couldn't feel Him there like I wanted or needed to at the time.

to wrap up this mini-memoir, I've been thinking highly about this verse this week (something I read first thing when I got home in Katie Davis' blog):

"We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."- 2 Cor. 4:8-12

Good riddance, 2008. In 2009, I am a new creation. And
life is at work in me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


(from yesterday's journal entry)

This morning, I woke up in Kaihura, with the sun, after about an hour of rooster crowing. I had a cup of tea and conversation with Faith and the guys who were also up early to start digging on the well while it was still cool. There was much waiting, heat, and sweating: waiting for the bus to Kampala, waiting for 4 hours during the ride to town, sweating immediately after arrival in the heat of the day, waiting in traffic to finish some errands in town... about 5 hours of waiting in a nice missionary's house where I could shower and repack my bags, and then a 3 hour wait in traffic to Entebbe. 

Bribes paid on Friday: 1 for 20,000 shillings to a rude Kampala policeman who claimed my driver ran the one stop light in town that probably wasnt even on, and he wanted to take us to the prison.

Weird foods eaten: 2 grasshoppers, and Fanta Passion. I'll let you guess which was my favourite.

Random thoughts during the flights: "Grasshoppers taste like pork rinds." "Is it weird to find it weird when I blow my nose and the snot is clear instead of Uganda-dust/dirt colored? or to go to a toilet where there isnt a 5-10 second delay before you, um, hear things hit bottom?"

I have had a week's worth of experiences in even one day. Kaihura to Kampala. Kampala to Entebbe. Entebbe to Amsterdam, to Detroit, to Nashville. Roughly 3 hours of sleep in a two day span means that the entire thing felt like a huge CHUNK of day. Went from 50 degrees, to 80 or 90, then to 8 degrees (Detroit) and back to 30 at home. From village life, to bustling city, and then back to westernized civilization. And the contrast through it all brought this strange, weird "leaving" feeling. "I am a visitor here; I am not permanent," played through my head at times.

Here I go. Back to life. The weirdness is inevitable, and it will creep in, but I think I'm ready for it.

will type up more soon, about experiences in Jinja and Kaihura that I couldnt type because of lack of internet. Actually there was internet for the most part, I just had better things to do that sit at a hot internet cafe for 2 hours a day :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009


the sunset outside of Love and Hope internet cafe is breathtaking.

and is a stark contrast to the boy sitting to my right playing Grand Theft Auto II. What?

to the west, to the west.

tugende, we go.

Leaving for Kaihura tomorrow, to join Global Support Mission and hang out in Kaihura for a few days before returning to the states. Saying goodbye to Jinja feels like I'm saying goodbye to all of Uganda already, even though I know I'm not. I wish I had more time with Suubi, with Amani, and with the volunteers who are making this their makes my life richer beyond belief to be here.

for now, let's pray my flights are still at the same time they were a few weeks ago, because i cant access my account info from here... um. please.

tonight there's a party at the boys home... i'll go, we'll all dance, and i'll pack afterwards... hopefully can spend some time with Achiro Betty and Rachel and Kimby too...they deserve a blog of their own to follow. I love them all.

til then,
see you soon. :-/

Monday, January 12, 2009

less and less asleep.

Across the train tracks from Danita (quite literally) is the village of Soweto. The past two Sundays, some of the Suubi ladies have taken Amberle, Melissa, Katie and I over around 5 pm, and shown us something truly amazing about their culture. These women are Acholi. And several times a week, they dance. Ohhhh, do they dance.

The walk into the village is almost surreal. As soon as you cross into Soweto (over the train tracks), your nostrils are filled with the smell of latrines, your feet are covered in red, red dust, and your hands are grabbed by a growing crowd of 10, 20, 30 children who follow you all the way to your destination. A large clearing which is soon filled by the "Luo Foundation Group," a group of men and women and even jja jjas. They are often drinking homemade spirits, or water, as they start to play on drums made of gourds and some made of cow hide.

The women place us in the midst of the line of dancers, and we dance barefoot until the twilight (when we must begin to find enough pikis to reach home). The drumming is amazing; the women dance with such joy and such a spirit... I wish I could do it justice with just words. You know that you are horrible at this dancing, but they love for you to participate. Amberle says we are like Mzungu television: they will yell and holler if we do well or if we do poorly. And oh, do they yell. "Ai-yi-yi-yi!!!!" is the main cry. There's a huuuuuuge crowd, half children and half teens and adults.

The whistles sound and we dance, we attempt footwork and cabina-shaking that white people just cant do... but it's liberating. The women cheer, and Mama Santa gives us lots of thumbs up. Even the other Mama Santa joins in on dancing and drums... it's amazing.

It's been one of my favourite experiences here... to kick up the dust and then when we get home, watch it run in rivers of red from our feet as we shower and end the day in our nice, ultra-nice home... even in Jinja, we are so blessed. I'm so thankful to LGH for letting me come and see another side of Jinja... it's really something.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

nkwagala nyo nyo nyo...

I couldn't ask to be in a more amazing place in my life right now. This week has been jam-packed with more heart than I thought you could cram into a single week. From dancing barefoot in Soweto, to getting to know the boys at Caring Place Ministries by teaching English and playing lots and lots of soccer, and visiting our friend's sister in the childrens' hospital here... it's humbling, it's breathtaking, and at the end of the day, you are a very good brand of just plain dirty (I'm beginning to think that red clay runs through my veins and simply pools at my feet by the end of the day).

Amani kids say hello to all their aunties and uncles... and the mamas are still inspiring as always. We shared in Bible study this past week about things we were grateful for this year, and to hear what was on their hearts makes you feel so very silly in comparison sometimes.

I am on my way out to Danita for another Suubi buying day with the new women in the group. It's very, very hot and we're all drinking tons of water. And then tonight we'll say goodbye to some great volunteers who have been here with Young Life. Hopefully will write more later on. Until then, blessings. Love.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Who thought you might find me in a coffee shop/internet cafe in the middle of Uganda? There is a very nice one that has opened up in town, and I'm coming here to try and upload some photos... but it is a very stark contrast to the scene through the window of pikis and bodas and red dirt and people walking, some with roasted nuts in baskets or bananas on top of their heads.
Today we're making our first trip (well, my first trip) out to Walukuba to see the women of Suubi. Take a visit to the Light Gives Heat website in the entry below to learn more. I'm so excited to finally meet the women I've been reading so much about; the women in Uganda have so much strength, so much hope... it's hard to communicate through just a few words strung together in a blog. But I have a feeling that over time, many mzungu are going to be severely inspired by all of these ladies. And this mzungu can't wait.

Toddler outing to the Source of the Nile. The kids are in the middle of a massive "CHEEEEEESE" shout, F. is making the best face ever in the middle, and S. was jumping up and down on the rock in front of me and about to fall. They're such a handful. A wonderful handful.

Baby Z. This little cutie sat on my lap for a good hour, slurping on the same piece of mango. She's teeny tiny, but in the Baby 1's/Baby B group already. Siouxanne says she is one of the HIV positive kids at Amani... so far I know of 3 or 4 others as well. It makes her non-adoptable to the states for now. Every time I hear that it breaks my heart... but I pray there's Ugandan families that will adopt our positive children. Mama L. adopted S. this past year, and I can't wait to see her and Steffie when they get back in town.

New Years. Glow sticks. Dancing. Amazing. I hope to visit this boys' home much more while I'm in Jinja. Uncle Ian, they miss you alot!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mzungu... Obama!

Attempted to post yesterday, but as is one of the perks of internet cafes here in Uganda, I was cut off at my 20 min mark and lost my entire entry :) Ah, well.

I arrived safe and sound on Monday night, and spent the night with my Ugandan friend Lillian at her family's house, and was brought down to Jinja Tuesday by Melissa and Joe. Of course the first place we went after arriving in Jinja was Amani... and the first baby I made a beeline for (after hugging several wonderful mamas) was Jeremiah. I didn't expect a lot when I saw him, but he started grinning this beautiful grin, and crawling (crawling!) towards me, saying "Mama! Mama!" I'm a softie, so I was nearly in tears. And yes, I know that Mama is one of the only words he knows and I'm sure he crawls towards most mzungu's now (white volunteers), but still. It felt amazing. Mama Maggie kept saying, "Oh, surely he remembers you, Auntie." Smiles. Smiles. Lots of them.

There are so many beautiful new kids at Amani, and I'm so excited to get to know this group. This afternoon we're supposed to take the toddlers on an outing, a boat ride to the source of the Nile. Being even near the water will surely feel good since it is so, so HOT here. Apparently this is the hottest part of the year, and definitely dry season, because crop prices at the market are a lot higher than most of us vols remember from last year. It's hard, because you aren't sure how much you can bargain down at the market... you dont want to be taken advantage of as a mzungu, but you want to give them a fair price as well.

Speaking of "Mzungus..." I find it highly amusing that people here have found something new to say to you as you walk down the street. Usually, it's "Mzungu how are YOU?" or "Mzungu, fine, mzungu bye" but now?

"Mzungu.... OBAMAAAAA!"

It's a very excited, emphatic cheer. And I die laughing every time. I was looking for a cell phone at a stand yesterday and the first greeting I get was "OBAMA!" and then, "How are you? You like Obama?" Hahaha.

Last night, we spent New Year's Eve at a restaurant called Two Friends, where they had a fireworks display (Ugandan fireworks are the same, except perhaps not as carefully aligned, as several ended up shooting out into the crowd and showering us with sparks and "fire"). Also, it was very amusing to note that at midnight, they counted *up* to the New Year. 1, 2, 3....and 10 was when we shouted and "had much banging on things."

But before Two Friends, we headed to a boys' home down the road to bring a holiday surprise. I'll have to write more about these boys later, but there are 15 former Jinja street kids who live there with 2 Ugandan Aunties and an Uncle. We arrived, bearing a strange item that both Amberle and I had somehow thought to pack... glow sticks. We handed them out and had the boys walk outside for further instructions... seeing the looks on their faces when we told them to break the sticks, and shake, was PRICELESS. Those boys hooped and hollered and danced for a couple of hours with us, playing hide and seek in the dark, and dancing. Oh, there was much dancing. Those boys pounded out amazing beats with sticks and two jerry cans and we all just danced in the yard... my heart hasn't been so full in a long time.

Running out of time. Until next time...
Lots of it.