Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A story that changed my life--just a pinky

I had one of the most perfect days.  It was so satisfying.  Kelsey and I met with a man named Rob in the morning.  He is from Wales and is here working with PONT schools. We had a really great conversation.  We were meeting to learn more about his organization and to tell him more about ours.  He is a darling little chatterbox.  He was telling us all about how he got involved with his organization.  Apparently his best friend asked him to come to Uganda and start the program up.  This was seven years ago, the program has since grown and is huge.  But it was wonderful learning about his journey and experiences in Uganda.  He really believes, as do I, in looking back at how everything works out for a reason and the only explanation is that God is orchestrating everything.  I wanted to write down a story that he told me that pretty much changed my life.

When he first got to Uganda, his friend asked him to go visit a refugee camp in northern Uganda.  It was a camp with thousands of people who’d been victims of the LRA--yeah, Kony.  He said it was one of two times in the last seven years that he cried.  He just felt helpless.  He told us how upset he was that he wasn’t a doctor or a nurse because he spent his visit there crying behind a hut because he felt completely and utterly useless to these people.  

There was a four year-old little girl that had broken her collarbone playing with her friends.  One of the leaders of the camp asked Rob and his friend if they would accompany her to a hospital that was outside the camp.  Rob introduced himself to the little girl and tried to talk to her a little bit.  He said she was just tiny.  Even though he was attempting to be sweet and interact with her, the shy, tiny girl kept her head down, held her collarbone with her hand and was reluctant to interact with him at all.  

The ride to the hospital was so sad because, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Ugandan roads are horribly pot-holey.  Rob said that he sat by her in the car and every time the car drove over a pot hole and lurched, the little girl winced in pain, her whole body tightening up.  This continued during the drive.  Again, the feelings of helplessness were overwhelming.  After a while, the little girl interlaced her pinky finger with his.  When they’d go over bumps, she’d clench her hand a little bit and then release.  So sweet.

Rob told us that’s why he was supposed to go with his friend to the camp.  Not to perform medical procedures and fix all of their problems, but to be with this four year-old girl.  To help her not feel alone.  To be the hand to hold.  He continued to tell us that our efforts are not in vain.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is be there.  As we go throughout our time here in Africa, if we’re making connections with people, we’re helping.  I had a bunch of people flash through my mind.  My friends here.  I think I sometimes stress out about finding purpose and probably overanalyze things.  But at the end of the day, I love the image of the four year-old girl in excruciating pain, with her tiny finger laced with his.  Just be there for people.  It doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t cost money, you don’t have to be a genius or have a really fancy degree in order to help people.  It took nothing but Rob's pinky finger.  That's all.  I know that God puts us in each others paths for a reason.  How sweet that Rob was sent all the way up to this camp just to link pinkies with a little girl in pain.  It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.  I know that God loves us and that He puts us in each others lives to help us not feel alone.  Mmm...it's just been on my mind ever since Rob told us this story.  Thought I'd share. :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dancing fool, water filters, tennis lesson

Life has been good.

Friday and Saturday our team went out dancing at a place called Thatch.  It's one of the nicest places I've ever been....here in Uganda.  Two of our team members--Ashley and Jenny--were going to leave this week.  What better send off could we offer than a right nice dance party? haha It was surprising how needed that dance fest was.  We all went NUTS.  It was fun to go from being working side-by-side with these people everyday to....dancing like a fool with them.  Everyone was dancing full out, out-of-control, for 4 hours!  We were all sweaty, tired and pleased with the evening.

I was able to teach water filters this week.  I taught Stella, Florence and Sophie.  (I'll post pictures after I teach them again today.)  Essentially I just taught about sanitation and told them that their neighborhood would be getting a water filter.  They were so excited!  They're the sweetest women.  They started clapping and were so excited about having clean water--and especially how easy the water filter is to use.  So I'm going to go back today, bring the filter, and teach them how to use it.  I can't wait.  Promise to take pics.

Last night I took tennis lessons!  It was so so fun.  We're friends with a guy named Ayub.  He's an awesome tennis player and plays in the Ugandan open!  So...he's like Ugandan Andy Roddick.  haha He's darling and one of the nicest people I've ever met.  I paid 10,000 shillings and he worked with me for an hour and a half.  10,000 shillings= 4 dollars.  yeah.  It was incredible.  I haven't played tennis is a long time but it was so so fun to get back into it.  He helped me with my swings and footwork.  It was just a wonderful, sweaty hour and a half of fun.  He also goes to Thatch on the weekends and he was hands down my favorite person to dance with.  He's just the cutest little guy.  He dances like he's doing step aerobics or something.  Step touches, jumping, swinging his arms like he's holding a cane. haha

Well I've got some meetings today, water filters, and I was going to visit my beading friend Ida (the one that found out she has HIV).  I'm going to bring her a cute card and something to make her happy.  She's darling.  It's been fun because she really doesn't speak english very well so communicating with her and calling her a friend has been a unique and special relationship.  She's a darling little sass.  I love her.  Hope you're having a good week.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

HIV camp

Today our team had an HIV camp in the Namatala slum. We walked around publicizing for it yesterday and today 317 people came to get tested!! It was an amazing turnout!  We were all so excited that so many people went.  Out of all of the people that came, only 12 were HIV positive.  It was a sad reality check when I knew one of the ladies that was HIV positive.  She's one of the people that we bead with.  I was in town buying more latex gloves and when I came back to Namatala the girls in the program told me that she was HIV positive.  It made my heart sink.  She had no idea and was crying and I wasn't even there to give her a hug.  It was really sad to me and hit home having someone that I see every week be effected by this.  I didn't get to see her but I can't wait to see her this week.  I don't know what there is to say or do but I just wished I could have been there for some reason.  Even though the two of us have a language barrier, we're friends.  We have so much fun beading together every week.

To represent, I obviously got tested too.  How awkward is it that I was genuinely nervous about seeing the results?  haha Irrational but I just kept thinking, "But what if for some freak reason..."  My friend/roommate Ashley was the one doing the finger pricking.  She did an amazing job but I just wanted you to see the procession of pics of the finger pricking. haha I AM 5 years old.

Also...I'm HIV negative.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Orphanage Visit

I went to an orphanage yesterday.  It was a really cool experience actually.  I've never been to an orphanage before.  I definitely had my own perception of what it'd be like.  When we first showed up, the nuns were putting the kids down for a nap.  So we grabbed some lunch and went back in a couple of hours.

We passed several rooms with smallest little bunk beds.  Just rows of them.  We wandered in and the kids were just playing...no adults around really.  The kids were just playing by themselves but stopped and swarmed us when we came in.  All except, the cute babies lined against the walls, quarantined to the potty training wall.  haha How cute are they?!
We went outside and played with the kids for a wee bit.  The little boy that I'm holding, Paul, was so sweet.  He reached for me when I came in and had his legs firmly wrapped around my waist.  He would not let me put him down.  And when he knew I was leaving to go into the room with the little babies, he sobbed.  He didn't want me to go.  I might, maybe, may have melted.  He was so so cute and I felt sad leaving him without snugs.
Kelsey getting in on the cuddles.  These kids were seriously so sweet.  The case worker couldn't tell us their individual stories but she said that these kids don't have moms--they all died in child birth.  Can you believe it's that common that all of these children go to an orphanage?  You just don't hear about that happening much in the States.
This is cute little Paul.  Right when I walked in, he came up to me, held his arms up, wanting me to hold him.  He wrapped his legs around me and didn't want to be put down...ever.  He was so sweet.
When I did finally put him down because I was going into a different room, he cried and cried.  It was so sad.  It's so hard walking away from a crying baby that doesn't have a mom to pick him up and hold him and adore him.  I just pretty much felt like a terrible human being having to walk away at any point.
Can we talk about the cute row of babies in the potty training room?!  haha I was dying.  The little boy in the blue, closest to the camera, was literally on that tiny toilet for the whole time we were there.  I don't know how the nuns potty train but there were an awful lot of cute chubby toddlers learning the ropes.
More little kiddies that we were playing with outside.  It kind of weirded me out to have all of these kids without adult supervision but Kelsey and I talked later about how much better off they are in terms of physical conditions.  They have a bed, clean clothes, are bathed everyday and are getting fed.  Many of the kids in the slums are living off of substantially less.  But at least most of them have a family.  Which heart wrenching situation is better/worse?  The children are equally happy regardless of what they do or don't have.  It's beautiful to be around them.
We found the room where they keep the babies!!  These little ones are twins!  Oh my goodness they were so funny.  The little lady on the left had an irresistible laugh.  I tickled that little chub and probably died laughing as much as she did.  She was pure joy to be around.
Kelsey and her favorite little one.  Moses had her wrapped around his teeny tiny fingers.
Maddy is the newest addition to our team.  We all just sat there playing with the kids, pondering project ideas.  We could paint murals on the walls to make it homier.  We also want to come up with better ideas for diapers.  They litterally wrap these thick, rough, huge towels around these babies and tie plastic over them.  Problem being, it gets everywhere!  The bed, all of their clothes and then they get wiped with the already soaked towel.  There's just got to be something that's more efficient, less rough....I dunno. Pondering. If you have any ideas, send them our way.
One of the nuns came in and fed them all posho.  How cute are these kids!?  They had it all over them but they all sat still and ate out of her hands.  Cute little post-dinner messes.
I heard a screaming baby coming from a different room and wandered around until I found this little guy soaked in his crib.  I initially thought that he was sweating because his clothes were wet up to his chest, blanket and fitted sheet were soaking wet.  I thought he was too hot but...nay, it was urine.  There were no nuns to be found but I wandered around and found another towel and onesie and changed him.  I had no idea what I was doing but he looked so much better and happier once he was cleaned up.
Maddy and a cute little preemie.  She was three weeks old.  We got to feed bottles to our little babies.  It was so hard to look at these tiny little wonders and ache that they don't have a mommy to soak them in everyday.  I just feel like all little babies should be gazed at in wonder.  It made me sad that they lie crying in their beds and don't have a mommy or daddy to adore them, their every facial expression, their soft hair, enamored by their itsy bitsiness.  I just think every baby deserves that.  I felt lucky to take that role for even an hour of time.   

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughts more than stories

Most of my posts lately have told you what I've been doing. I just thought I'd take a sec to let you know what I've been thinking lately--mostly for me. So welcome to my brain for a sec.
My time is running out here in Africa.  I'm getting nervous to go home.  It feels like I'm at the end of my mission--when I know in reality that I have to go home in a month.  But part of me doesn't know how it will go.  Suddenly my life back home no longer makes sense to me.  Maybe that sounds bad.  I know that it's the right thing and it's where I should be...but I don't know how to process it anymore.  I don't know how to go about living my life back home after the experience that I've had here.  The same thing happened to me after the mission.  How do I go back to America and be me...but the me that I am now...after all of this.  My life has just had so much meaning here, the idea of going home to the unknown is a bit disconcerting.

I've had some of the most beautiful, happy days of my life here.  Up in Bunabuyoka, working until I'm exhausted, holding Damalie and Joseph during water breaks.  They're moments I wish could last forever.  Being so consumed by joy and love.  Holding a sweet little person that's completely melted into me, gazing at the beautiful sunset and thinking, "Does life get any better than this?"  It's hard to see how.

Last Friday we went to the Mbale Resort for a meeting for our teacher training at St. Stephens.  It was so strange and foreign walking into a building with tiled floors, swanky music playing, chandeliers, a staircase that TWISTS (that specifically blew my mind.  I just stared at it in fascination.), overpriced food and being surrounded by fancy things.  It made me feel uncomfortable--like I didn't belong there.  I walked through the lobby in my skirt, top and keens with eyes wide open, taking in all the details, feeling oddly out of place.  My recent reading material brings to mind the comparison of Katniss going to the Capitol for the first time. (Please think that I'm a nerd for giving you that comparison just now because...I just did that.)  Just wondering how much is necessary, trying to make sense of why my friends live off of so little, have poked out malnourished tummies, few clothes, dirt floors, but somehow there are chandeliers, fancy floors, furniture apolstered in ornate fabric.  My mind just can't process it.  It just seems unnecessary.  I want to understand the point of all of these fancy details.

It makes me think about going home.  It's a wealthier country.  We're so blessed.  I know it will be weird to go home to dishwashers, laundry machines (is that what we call them?), blow dryers, electricity, heated water, eating with utensils, clean clothes with no holes in them, clean streets, no pot holes, freezers, television, and I'm sure plenty of other things that my life has been void of that I can't think of at the moment.  I know things are different in these two places.  I get that.  But I worry about adjusting back to life where luxury here is the norm there.

The other thing that was weird to me was I saw my first white baby in 3 months when we were at the Mbale Resort.  It was weird.  haha  We were upstairs in the hotel and a mom holding a baby left the buffet room holding her tiny baby--WHITE baby.  I just blinked a bunch of times looking at it.  haha Why did I not want to hold that strangers baby?  I want to hold strangers babies all of the time here...everyday.  That's what my babies are going to look like.  But it was weird that white babies don't have the consuming effect on me that any and every baby I see on the street does.  Still trying to figure that out. haha

I was thinking about random little things that have changed in me since I've been here.  It's been kind of fun to grunge down and adapt to a less developed lifestyle.  For instance, Holly and I were talking in the kitchen one night after dinner and we saw a cockroach run between our feet across the kitchen floor.  We stopped talking, watched it, then continued on with our conversation.  Three months ago I would have flipped.  But was just nbd.  Something to notice for a second but...just nothing out of the ordinary.

Even in my bedroom, there's a lizard family that lives in our ceiling.  We see them crawling up and down our walls all of the time.  It doesn't gross me out, doesn't bother me, I'm not scared.  It's just my life.  There are lizards that life in the ceiling.

I love tucking in my mosquito net at night.  There's something almost cozy about it to me.  I think I'm going to miss it.

Well I think I've rambled enough for one day.  I'm going to visit an orphanage right now.  I haven't been to an orphanage before.  First timer.  I'm excited to go.  I have a bit of free time this morning and felt that showing some cute babies some love would be lovely.  Then I have to go help with the beading ladies and then teach piano lessons at the church.  Good times. :)  Love and miss you all!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back to the village, teaching teachers, VIDEO, and Damalie

I've been able to pay a couple of visits to my favorite little village lately.  Last Tuesday I went to Bunabuyoka to help teach a Nutrition and First Aid class.  I was so excited to go back up there because I hadn't been in over a month.  I've missed that place like crazy.

After our hour taxi ride, we take a boda ride of death up a super steep hill and then hike the rest of the way to the village.  But before our hike I ran into this little fella sipping water.  Can we talk about his sweet face for a sec?  I adore him.  He was super shy so we didn't really get to play much.  Just a few pics before our hike.  P.S.  His name is, in fact, Shadrach.  No joke, his brothers name is Meshach.  We asked where Abednago was.  Still unknown.
There he is again.  I don't know if I will ever get bored of the children in any way...ever.  Something foreign and completely consuming has happened to me.  I love every child I see and kind of hate that my babies are going to be pasty and look bald until they're five because of the blondness. haha
Check how awesome the Health Clinic looks!!  We have stuff that we need to finish in order to clear it with the Health Inspector but how awesome is it looking!?  It's so cool to remember that a few months ago it didn't exist at all and that my friends and I have put so much work and energy into the construction of that building.  So wonderful.
So Kelsey was teaching the Heimlich maneuver as a part of our class and a man raised his hand and volunteered to be demonstrated on.  Aaaaannnd he was pretending to choke as well...obviously. haha So funny.  We were dying.
And look who I found!!  I'm sorry that I flood you all with pictures of this little lady but I just adore her.  Here's little Damalie.  I don't know if I could adore her any more.  I love that she's such a snuggle bug.  She's the sweetest little girl.  She's 2 years old and usually has her one year old brother on her back as she treks up and down the mountain.  She's very shy and softspoken but she knows my name and always holds my hand when we walk or has me carry her or hold her while we're sitting during meetings.  I love her.  To bits.

This is Dennis.  He is pretty hilarious.  He is always trying to teach us the language...but they're usually words that we already know.  I don't even know how to explain him to you.  He's just funny.  Sometimes I have him say things because we're both amused by it.  Also, he cannot pronounce my name.  I had to get it on video.  Anytime anyone hears my name they always say, "Oh, Mangrid."  haha What is that?!  
So Saturday we held a teacher training program.  We've been working so hard writing curriculum and planning this huge event.  It was all day up at a school called St. Stephens.  The education system here is, well, not great. haha There aren't really textbooks and the students struggle to afford paper so their main method of teaching is lecture and having the students repeat what you said word for word.  So it was fun to help broaden the perspective of possible ways to teach in order to help keep the students engaged and learn better.  We each paired up with someone from the HELP team and prepared a one hour class.  I taught "Teaching Strategies" with Kara.  I love teaching.  It's so fun.

They have sell corn here quite a bit.  They gave each of us a some corn that they'd grilled.  Not bad. :)
Here's Kara and myself teaching our portion of the training.  We taught to a couple of different classes. We started with an object lesson...I don't just random gesture with a light bulb in hand. haha
We came back to the village on Monday (yesterday) and I went to Damalie's house but her mom wouldn't let me see her because she was sick.  I was so sad about it.  I went down to our house and her mom eventually brought her down the mountain and let me hold her.  It was so sad.  She had a bad fever and would cry if you put her on her feet to have her walk.  So I just snuggled with her for a while, rubbed her cute little head and sang her songs.

The next morning I was hiking up to the school to take pictures to thank all of our donors for the health clinic, and I heard a little voice say, "How are you?".  I looked over and saw little Damalie on her feet and running up the hill toward me.  I grabbed her and pretty much carried her all day long. haha Hiking up and down the hill was a bit more difficult...but I'd also run 6 miles the previous day so I'm sure that contributed to the tuckeredness.  Not a word.  I'm aware.  haha Here's the little lady:
And this is her darling brother Joseph.  I adore their family.  The kids are unnaturally beautiful and sweet.  I don't know how they manage it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Safari Day 2

We had to wake up at 6 a.m. and leave by 6:30 a.m. for our African Safari. We loaded in our van with Ronald (our driver) and loaded up on a ferry to cross over to the park.
The Safari was surprisingly chilly.  A couple of the girls wrapped themselves up in jackets and sweatshirts because, especially with the roof off, it was...drafty.  We were blissfully happy and started our safari off by freaking out even when the animals we saw were super far away.  As it continued they got closer and closer.  It was surreal actually being on their turf instead of ours.  I'm used to seeing these types of animals in zoos where we've constructed our versions of their homes.  So it was amazing to see them where they really live.  It was all beautiful.  The scenery, animals and company.  All of it.

A couple of hours into our Safari, we stopped at this little lake where, all of those rock looking things back behind us in this pic, are actually hippos!  I feel like I should constantly be rubbing my eyes in case this isn't real or I need to wake up.  We just watched them swim and eat and bah, it was lovely.

ELEPHANTS!!  I was so so excited to see the elephants.  Baby elephants might, maybe, may be one of my favorites.  Also, part of me hilariously hoped to see Rob Pattinson strolling around, saving me from jerks just because there was an elephant present.  Just because I've seen Water For Elephants one time doesn't mean I can make any sort of implications about him showing up in my life.  Hilarious.
More elephants because they're so cute.  Does it seem unreal to anyone else?! It felt very berry unreal.  I'm pretty sure I had a dopey grin on my face the whole time and just kept my camera on at all times. I literally took over 200 pictures.  So limiting them to one post was a doozy.
The crested crane.  Uganda's national bird.  How cool looking are these little guys?!  Loving the yellow hair.  That's a classy bird right there.

Giraffes!!  Another favorite for sure!  They're so beautiful and graceful.  It was so amazing just staring at them, watching them walk around.  It's crazy being so fascinated and mystified by these creatures.  They truly seem like they're from another planet.  They're so darling.

After the safari, we went home, had lunch, and had an hour nap.  After all of the traveling we'd done the night before and the early hour to wake up, we appreciated an hour of down time.  We woke up to go on a night cruise.  Not the Disney Jungle Cruise--this was actually us floating down the Nile like nbd.  Can't be reality right?!  Gosh, I just kept thinking, "yeah I get to shower like twice a week, use super awkward bathroom facilities, and have to wear a skirt everyday but...I also get to look at this." There's always an upside.  I have a bunch of 'em.  Love upsides. haha
We passed TONS of hippos.  Tons of them.  It was amazing.  I just wanted to post this picture because of the little baby one.
The boat took us all of the way to Murchison Falls (where we'd hiked the day before).  It was beautiful.  I loved looking around throughout the boat ride just in awe that I get to see what I'm seeing.  It's so green and lush, the animals are ones that I've only seen pictures of in books...or depressed in zoos haha, and the girls that I'm here with are so much fun.  Happiness.
Our tour guide on the boat tour is named David.  He's the man.  I was so inspired by him.  He and I were friends.  I talked to him the whole way up to the falls and on the drive back he just sat down with me on the roof of the boat and we just talked the whole time.

He said he feels like the luckiest man on the planet.  (please note that he is a nile boat ride guide).  He told me that his mom died when he was 3.  His dad passed away when he was 18.  And he was taken from his home by rebels for 3 months when he was 14 years old.  And yet he lucked out with this job as a tour guide and genuinely considers himself one of the luckiest people in the world.  He's known real sorrow and experience things I can't even relate to, and yet he's quick to smile, has a contagious laugh, and finds himself lucky.  Whammy!!  Forever impacted.  Yep.
We got back to the camp grounds, played uno for like 2 hours waiting for our dinner and then afterwards had a dance party with the staff. haha We'd gotten to know the guys that worked at the campsite when we were there for our meals and stayed up super late that night just talking to them and hanging out.  We were the ONLY people in that place that weren't wasted.  There was a huge table of people from Ireland that were drunk out of their minds.  They were singing song and after song for like 2 hours.  Next few tables over was a huge high school group from England.  There were like 30 of them and their table was caked in empty beer bottles.  Then take a gander at the four Americans sitting at the bar, retrieving an iPad so we could put on a dance playlist and dance the night away.  That's quite literally what we did.  It was SO fun.  The only sober ones and we were dancing the night away with our new African friends.  It was perfect.
Here are Jones and Rodgers.  They work at the campsite.  We love them.  Not only are they hilarious but they have killer cool dance moves.  They're officially invited to any and every dance party that I throw in the future.
After a late night, we had a whole day of travels Saturday.  We had to leave at 8 am, travel to Kampala, and then get a taxi back to Mbale.  We got home at like 10 pm.  We were exhausted but so happy from our weekend together.  It just solidified something to me that I've known for a while.  Yes, the Safari was INCREDIBLE!  It was amazing and a huge check off my bucket list.  I loved every second of it.  But this weekend reminded me how people make experiences what they are to me.  I love the girls that I traveled with, I loved our safari driver Ronald, I loved our boat tour guide David, and I loved spending time with Rodgers and Jones.  They were the details that made an already beautiful weekend that much more beautiful.  I love that.

And in closing, remember when I told you that when I went to Jinja, I talked to my boda driver (you pay motorcycle drivers to take you places...it's Ugandas version of a taxi.) about the church and he went to church on Sunday last week.  I introduced him to my friend Elder Chauya (who served in Mbale before he was transfered to Jinja).  Elder Chauya e-mailed me today and said that he is getting baptized on July 29th!!  I was freaking out when I read the e-mail and have been blissfully happy all day about it.  I'm so glad that Julius has accepted the gospel.  He was so sweet and wonderful from the moment that I met him.  He'll be a great addition to the church.  And I'm so happy for Elder Chauya.  He's an amazing missionary and is currently in a really really difficult area.  I know how that goes.  So I'm happy for both of them.  Beautiful experience.

In case you didn't know how I feel about Uganda...
Love you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

African Safari: Day 1

This weekend was so fun and hilarious.  I'll post it in segments because I can't summarize it all in one post.  My apologies.  So Thursday was the 4th of July.  We had oodles of food, cool peeps come help eat it, and then we headed out on our Safari Extravaganza at like 9 pm.  We had a four hour taxi drive ahead of us.  The taxis are pretty uncomfortable.  They crowd tons of people into them.  You usually have to sit four people to a row and the roads are terrible so you sometimes bounce and hit your head on the ceiling.  Just trust me, traveling is hardly something that's easy to sleep through.  But here's the clan of us after the fourth heading out for our 4 hour bus ride.

Journey to Kampala:
  • We're sitting in the back row of the tax with two chickens tied together and angry beneath our feet.  That's right, one of the passengers had two chickens in tow and they were stowed underneath our seat.  It was pretty awkward and hilarious because Ashley and I kept feeling flapping and enraged squaks when a bump was too big.
  • Ghost window--I had a window to my left that kept rattling open and awakening me from sleep with a frightfully cool breeze.  I'd let it go for five minutes then wake up to pull it closed. haha
  • Queen Latifa--So there was a lady sitting on the seat in front of me.  The seat folded out and was clearly not functioning at 100% because it was not designed to do anything but upright.  Unfortunately, for me, it would recline to a flat bed if there was nothing propping it upright.  Yes, I was behind it so I put my backpack on my lap so that she wouldn't be fully asleep on me.  But she was at a good 45 degrees in my general direction.  Her head kept flopping backward and I was dying laughing at all of the details keeping me awake.
We pulled into Kampala at 1am and I was caught off guard with how industrialized the area was.  Tall building, sidewalks, it looked like the closest thing I've seen to a city in months.  

Though I was joking about the funny awkward inconveniences of the taxi ride, I fell silent upon seeing the numerous people sleeping outside when we reached Kampala.  Half a block consisted of people laying on their sides, facing the same direction, their boney feet placed on cardboard to diminish the cold felt from the cement below.  I ached that that was their bed.  Worse yet, that's their home. 

We pulled into Red Chilli (the tour group we were going to allowed us free accommodations the night before the travel to the Safari campgrounds) thankful to be indoors, laying my head on a pillow and having forgotten my toothbrush wasn't that big of a deal.  Perspective.  Felt undeservingly blessed.

We woke up early and started our trek.  We loaded in a bus with three girls from Indiana and began our day of driving.  Our bus driver Ronald is a sweet and funny man.  We talked about how fun it is to drive a stick shift (because that's what the bus was) and since the highway to the campsite was smooth (and smooth roads are rare these days) we were unconcious in a hurry and were only brought back to reality by Ronalds soft voice asking us from the drivers seat if any of us need to make a "short call".  (AKA do you have to go number 1?)

We got out, stretched our legs a bit, I paid a visit to the nicest public restroom I've seen since arriving.  They were still squatters but light came into each stall (which usually you close yourself into the darkness and hope for the best), they had toilet paper and no fecal matter smeared on the walls.  It threw me off to be in a clean bathroom.

One of our pitstops was to Murchison Falls.  We took a quick little jaunt up to see the falls.  It was lovely to get out of the taxi after many hours of travel.  Here's the ol' clan:
Ronald, Kelsey, yours truly, Ashley and Sam

All four of us share a room together back in Mbale, so we're already pretty tight but this weekend just solidified our friendship.  If possible, we just happen to adore each other so much more now.  Just look at these darling girls.  Love.
You know, just your run of the mill group pic in front of waterfalls in Uganda.  What?!  Is this happening to me?!  haha Ashley said Niagra falls look like the ugly step child of Murchison Falls.  Granted, of course we're going to be biased because we love the crap out of our lives but er...come on, it's hardly an unsightly place.
Umm...haha I'm kind of dying because Kelsey and I somehow concluded it'd be hilarious to do random yoga poses in front of cool stuff.  yeah, so...while chilling at the falls I just felt like pulling out Dancer's pose?!  haha

We eventually had to stop taking hilarious pictures in paradise and get back in the van.  A couple of hours later and we were pulling into the campgrounds where we'd be staying for the next two nights.  So we woke up at 6:30am and got to the campgrounds around 5 pm.  It was a lot of traveling but we were so happy to be there and laughing about anything and everything for the times that we were awake during the drive.

The closer we got to the campgrounds, the more wildlife we were coming across.  There were baboons all over the place.  We all freaked out, naturally and took a million pictures and videos.  Here is one in front of some water buffalo.  haha  This was just the beginning of our wildlife viewing.  Here is a glimpse of some of the commentary you would have experienced in our taxi.  Granted, this isn't even on the safari.  Just a stopping point on our way to the campgrounds.

Also, when we got to the campgrounds, there were literally warthogs EVERYWHERE.  Families of warthogs just grazing around our tents like no big deal.  Hilarious.  They said to keep our tents zipped up because the warthogs would get into our food and stuff.  haha Seriously?!  I love having to be warned about being invaded by warthogs.  When does that happen in ones life?!  I love it.
I'll post more about our journey later.  But like I said, I just couldn't put it all in one post.  More deets to come.  Love you loads!  Malsie

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mudslides, July the 4th, less cool than a flip flop

I spent today visiting a little village called Bududa.  A little over a week ago there was a mud slide in the village that covered a bunch of houses and while about 18 have been confirmed dead, there are over a hundred still unaccounted for.  We went to a meeting there this morning to see how we can help and if there's any way they could use more man power in their disaster relief efforts.  There is clearly a lot of need but they initially declined our offer of providing volunteers and more expressed need of funds.  We're still in talks about what we can do and what our options are to provide support and help the people in that area.

The taxi ride up to Bududa was a hilarious joke.  haha I don't know if I've ever talked to you about taxi rides but they're hilarious in their discomfort.  There are three spots on each row for people to sit but they ALWAYS make you sit four people to a row.  The roads are very pot holey and so there's lots of bouncing and you'll probably hit your head on the roof at least once.  Holly and I spent the majority of the ride finding our situation hilarious and practiced the few words we knew in lugesu and laughing about how bouncy and Indiana Jones ride-esque the hour jaunt was.  Hilarious.  

Tomorrow is our fourth of July celebration!  We're having some peeps over to our house in the evening and are going to have burgers, play volleyball in the front yard (if we can figure out how to set up the net), maybe make a little slip-n-slide out of a tarp, etc.  It should be a solid good time.  I'm excited to celebrate the 4th!  I've become more patriotic since I've lived in Africa.   Don't get me wrong.  I sure love it here and have fallen in love with so many people.  It's been such a growth period for me and I've learned so much.  But seeing the lack of rights of so many people it has strengthened my love for a country where we're so fortunate and have so many rights that I forget about and don't realize that not everyone has them. 

After the 4th of July, guess who's going on a safari?!?  This lady right here!  I can't believe it.  I've been super excited and am praying that we see ourselves some lions.  I can't wait and know it'll be an amazing experience.  I'm going with the lovely ladies that I share a room with--Ashley, Kelsey and Sam.  We always have so much fun together so spending a couple of days together spotting African wildlife will be so fun.  We have a lot of work to do before we go and we'll have tons to do when we get back but I'm excited to go do a fun weekend trip.

We were teaching Business and Agriculture classes in a village about 30 minutes away from Mbale.  While our guest speaker was talking, I was distracted by this little lady:
 I tried to get her to come sit on my lap and play with me but...I was obviously not cooler than a flip flop....which is what she played with and chewed on for the duration of the class.  There's always next Thursday.  We'll be friends.  I can feel it.  She's so tiny and darling.  Golly me, I don't know when I became such a sap for children.  I didn't have this problem in the states. haha I don't know what my deal is but every time I see a wee infant I just want to hold it and play with it and love it.  Not that I don't like babies at home it's just...on a whole other level here.  haha

By-the-way, when we were in Jinja last weekend, we saw a billboard for the missionaries.  It was pretty grand.  We had just left church where I had introduced our missionary friend Elder Chauya to my boda friend referral Julius.  I can't wait to hear how their first lesson with him goes.  Hoping for the best.  Elder Chauya could use the work and encouragement and obviously Julius could use the joy of the gospel.  Win-win-win!
 Love you all very berry much.  I'll post african wildlife pics upon my return.  Take care of yourselves.  Bisoux!  Baci!  Kisses!