life keeps moving on

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One month.

Somehow it’s been one month since I left Uganda.

Somehow it’s only been one month since I left Uganda.

What a month it has been. I think I’ve only slept in my own bed just less than two of those weeks, yet it feels like months since I last crawled underneath my cozy mosquito net on the bottom bunk in that white house in Jinja.

Can your heart be completely content where you are, but still wish you could be somewhere thousands of miles away? I think I have that.

These last few weeks have been emotionally exhausting. While I absolutely love catching up with everyone I missed while gone, answering the same questions about my trip is rather challenging when I haven’t really had the time to process what happened while I was there. I apologize for all the short answers, fake smilies, and avoided eye contact. That was probably my not-so-healthy way of trying to communicate that I didn’t have all the answers for the questions being asked. I still don’t. I don’t know if I ever will.

For the first time since being back, I went through most of the pictures I took while I was in Uganda. I put the last of my pictures on my computer, and was able to relive so many memories moving from picture to picture. Some of them made me cringe, some made me incredibly sad, and others made me laughing hysterically. We had fun walking down memory lane while realizing just how many things we desperately miss.

Those beautiful smiles.

That beautiful view.

The wonderful Collie family.

I loved seeing those white smiles, that ebony skin, those sweet little hands. My heart ached to be back, but I was so thankful for the memories made, the relationships built, and the time I did have there. I know I’ll be back holding those precious hands so soon. This journey is no where near finished. I think it’s just starting.

Content in where I am. Thankful for where I’ve been. Excited for where this journey takes me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” Phillipains 1:3

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living proof

It’s been five days since I left Jinja and I already want to go back. Actually, by the time I reached the compound gate on Monday night, I already wanted to jump out of the car and “accidentally” miss my flight.

All I can say is that I’ve never experienced a shorter two months. There is no way that I was there for 70+ days. It must have just been a week, maybe two. While the time went by far too quickly, so much happened during my short time on the ground.

I was able to learn so much about Ugandan culture.

I was able to explore just a piece of that beautiful country.

I was able to build relationships that I’m certain will last a lifetime.

I was somehow able to leave the country without a small child stashed in my luggage.

While I’m currently sitting in my favourite coffee shop in Nashville and I’m loving every minute of it, a piece of me didn’t make the journey to Tennessee with me. In fact, I don’t think it made the 48 hour trek home from Uganda with me. I’m quite certain that it’s still at that white house on Wilson Road.

I already miss those Collie kiddos. I miss arguing with Quinn about having to finish her school. I miss Asa’s ridiculous giggle when he thinks something is truly funny. I miss hearing Silas scream in the middle of the night, but then seeing him wake up the next morning with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.

I cannot fully describe in words how thankful I am for Drü and Asher. To think that when I arrived I only planned on staying with them a short two weeks. Somehow two weeks turned into two-and-a-half months, and I’m so glad it did. While it was a crazy, busy, emotionally and physically draining two months, I had more fun than I have in a while. They introduced me to the Ugandan culture, they showed me how to interact with Ugandans, and how to show them the utmost respect. I couldn’t have asked for better role models to set an example of how to love like Jesus does. They are acting as the hands and feet of Christ through their personal lives as well as through Sole Hope. I seriously cannot say enough good things about them. Instead, maybe I’ll just sing a line or two of “Thrift Shop” or maybe some Celine Dion and call it even.

I’m sure I’ll have more words to describe the second half of my trip in the coming weeks. It’s been a lot to process and I haven’t been able to find words to describe how my heart is feeling. I don’t think it’s really even clicked that I’m actually back here. I think my brain is expecting to walk out of this coffee shop, hop on a boda, and direct them to Wilson Road – just past Arise Africa. Instead, I’ll leave this coffee shop, get into my car (which I’ve been driving on the wrong side of the road all week), and continue my weekend in Nashville, half a world away from where I sat exactly a week ago.

I miss my dirty red feet. I miss bad wifi (okay, that one may not be 100% true). I miss my Uganda family. Don’t you worry, I’ll be back.

where feet may fail me

A lack of words and ability to form comprehensible sentences has been the reason for my lack of blog posts and updates.

The last couple of weeks have been filled with down time and processing. The first half of my trip came to a close just as Michael finished his time here. The week leading up to his departure was filled with a great jigger removal in Wakisi and other team activities before the large clinic in Mblumuti. This day proved to be somewhat melancholy for both Michael and myself. I felt completely removed from all the action that was taking place. It was almost as if I was watching myself take part in the clinic. It was an overall confusing day that hopefully I can put words to at some point in the coming weeks.

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That weekend brought a few last adventures while we were still three which included (but was not limited to) a ridiculous kayaking adventure that brought to light the fact that it’s easier to paddle upstream on the Nile than downstream, more rope swinging injuries, a couple last visits to Flavours, and a final boda race back from dinner that Sunday night. It was a hard goodbye, especially knowing that life around here would look very different. It definitely took a few tough days to adjust to a new “normal”. What a wonderful month.

So many laughs.

So many adventures.

So many good conversations.

Through transitions, time here in Jinja still seems to pass at an unexplainable rate. Somehow it’s been two weeks since Michael left. Somehow I only have about three weeks left here. My brain isn’t even close to being in a place where I can start processing that upcoming transition. My heart is still very much here in Uganda, and I can’t imagine having to adjust back to life stateside. I’m trying to be very present in my last few weeks here. I’m trying not to wish them away in the anticipation of my departure. Two-and-a-half months seemed like more than an adequate amount of time to be here. I thoroughly expected to be 150% ready to head home after my ten weeks here. Oh, how that has not at all been the case.

Sometimes I just want to cancel my ticket and not leave.

Sometimes all I want to do is be back in America with my friends.

Sometimes I don’t at all know what I want.

While this mess of thoughts has been running through my head, Asher and I have been able to be a part of something that could only be “a God thing”. About two weeks ago when the team was out in a nearby village, a grandfather approached one of the team members who was holding his grandson and asked if she was able to feed the baby. (Wet nurses are still quite common in these parts, so the question was not quite as out in left field as you may be thinking.) After some inquiry throughout the next few days, we found out that this baby (who is a neighbor of Joyce who works here at the Sole Hope house) has lived with his grandparents, as well as five cousins, ever since his mother died in childbirth. They were not able to provide this little one with proper formula and had been feeding him cow’s milk, sugar, and porridge. This completely broke both of our hearts. This little baby, who was just over two months old, wasn’t having one of his basic needs met. His jajja (grandmother), grandfather, and extended family loved and cared for him with everything they had, but they were not able to meet all of his physical needs. This sweet little boy weighed (with our best educated guesses mixed with some loose translation) approximately six pounds.

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Six pounds. Two months old. Heartbreaking.

He was nothing but skin and bones. The first day we saw him he was hardly responsive. He would open his eyes, but would barely move his arms or legs. His fists were completely clenched all of the time. We spent a good few hours with this little one and his jajja, provided them with a can of formula, filtered water, and a thorough explanation of how to prepare the formula properly. We took them back with the promise of checking on him within the next day or so. By this point, that little peanut already held a place in both of our hearts. We stayed true to our promise and checked on him at the end of the week. I still cannot believe the difference we experienced in his demeanor in just those short few days. He was more alert, more responsive, and grinning wide enough to melt your heart. Jajja kept telling Asher and Drü that they were now her children and this little boy’s parents. (At this point we still didn’t really know what his name was. It is a Muslim name that even our African friends could not pronounce). Jjajja was very adamant that Asher would pick out his name since she was his mother now. The name she decided on was Elias, which means “my God is Yahweh”. A meaning that I believe holds even more significance with him being born into a Muslim family. Who knows how God may move in their hearts through this entire process.

Let’s just say we love our Eli time. We have been watching him some days so that Jajja can take care of her other grandchildren, and we can monitor his feedings a little bit closer. As I write this, he is peacefully sleeping two rooms away. I’m still in awe of the fact that God has allowed us to play a part in this little boy’s life. Not only are we able to partner with this family and provide things that will allow them to care for him in the ways he needs, but this little one has been changing my heart. I can’t even begin to think about the day that I have to say goodbye to that little man. I’ve become more and more aware of the fact that I am going to have to put my trust in God to have his tiny life in His hands. He loves Eli more than I could ever dream of. He has a plan for this life beyond what I could even comprehend right now.

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Being removed from this will be heartbreaking. I won’t be involved in his everyday life. I won’t get to see his precious smile. I won’t be here to witness all of the milestones he’ll hit over the first few years.

It’s definitely going to be a lesson in trust. In giving the things that I can’t control over to God. He has a plan far beyond what I can envision. Where my feet may fail me, God still has Eli’s life in His hands. He has my life in His hands. Let me have trust without borders. Let me go wherever you have called me. I’ve been so blessed to be given the opportunity to hold this precious life in my hands. Sleep well little Eli, God’s got both of us in his hands.

take care

Coffee shops.

My third environment. Sometimes my second.

Nothing makes me feel more at home than having a coffee shop to frequently visit. It’s close to a number one requirement within several days of moving to a new city. Let’s just say I discovered Flavours on my first day in Jinja. I should have used that as an indication for how much I would enjoy being here. There’s nothing like walking into the café first thing in the morning, being greeted by name, and asked if you want the usual americano. Some people would take that as a sign that they are too frequent of a visitor (and I should probably be thinking that at this point), but there’s something quite comforting about it.

Comfort.

Something you long for in a country that is entirely foreign to you. In almost every aspect. Whether it be in the form of a familiar face or just a really good burger, you crave something familiar. Although good friends were here to greet me when I arrived, there are still many things that have been completely different than my “normal environment”.

Different sights.

Different surroundings.

Different smells.

Sometimes I find myself going with the flow to such a degree that I don’t even really recognize the things that may be a challenge. While this at some times can be a great asset, I’ve come to realize that I sometimes don’t process things as I should…or at all. I have a tendency to just block things out and move on, when really I should be working through those feelings and emotions. I would much rather make the necessary adjustments and continue on in life showing nothing more than a small hiccup. The moments where I consciously notice and digest the things that happen are few and far between.

It has not been until more recently that I have realized how deliberately God has placed people in my life who force me to face these things and not just nonchalantly pass them by. I love conversation. I love being in relationship with other people who are walking through the same things that I am. I love that these two things are able to overlap. More and more, I am realizing how much I value the relationship I have with people who will ask me the hard questions. Maybe their observant enough to know when there is something I should really talk about, but would never necessarily bring up. Maybe our personalities just fit so well that conversations like that are like second nature. I’ve come to realize that nothing means more to me than someone asking what I’m thinking about, how I’m dealing with a situation, or what my thoughts were about a conversation that took place.

Once again, I’ve been so blessed by something that I didn’t even know that I needed. Slowly the walls I didn’t even know I had are crumbling down. I’m venturing out of my shell more and more.

Two of my favorite things: coffee shops and road trips. Both practically scream, “Great conversations happen here!” In the middle of Uganda, away from everything familiar and “normal”, I still have both of these things. I have amazing friends, wonderful conversations, and delicious coffee. I am blessed beyond what I can even comprehend. Leave it to Him to send me half way around the world, into the unknown, to learn more than I ever could have in the safety of the familiar.

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Two and a half weeks. how have I already been here for over two weeks?

On one hand, it feels like I’ve already done so much since arriving in Jinja, but on the other hand, it feels like I just pulled up to the Sole Hope house yesterday.

Two weeks to fall in love with this place.

Two weeks to know that I don’t want to leave.

Two weeks to start thinking about a return trip.

It’s such a unique culture. It has it’s own rhythm. The pace has been compared to that of a small beach town back in the states. Replace the surfboards with bodas and the sand with red dirt and it’s a pretty accurate description.

Observations/thoughts so far:

  1. You can make plans, but they probably won’t go as planned. Things will be delayed, things will come up, and sometimes it will just pour rain. You go with the flow and adjust accordingly.
  2. Although I have seen three stop signs, I have never once seen anyone observe them. Instead of “stop” it seems to be “go when you want to go and pray that there is no one in your path”. And by that I mean the boda driver goes when he wants to go and you are at his mercy.
  3. I will probably be ridiculously sick of avocados and mangos when I leave, but I know that I’ll miss them terribly when I get home.
  4. I want nothing more than a hot shower.
  5. Coca-Cola tastes 10x better in Africa. Thank you cane sugar.
  6. Uganda is a beautiful country.
  7. Even if there is wifi available, it probably won’t work. Or you may fall asleep before your Facebook homepage loads.
  8. You can easily have three children holding on to each of your hands at once. Perhaps a few more.
  9. If you wear sandals, your feet will be red by the end of the day.
  10. Everything is better as a chalkboard.

Needless to say, life here continues to be interesting, yet fun. Some days are super relaxed with not much on the agenda but a trip into town for an americano and a few instagram uploads, while some days come with a list of things to accomplish. Somehow, everyday fills up with errands, babysitting, and other Sole Hope tasks. Each day ends with a meal surrounded by friends that tend to include a few good laughs. Although, a few evenings have been graced by uncontrollable laughter with tears to follow.

This change of pace has been a difficult, but needed adjustment. I’ve been forced to slow down and enjoy my time here. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my to-do list may not play out as I intended. I tend to burry myself in the jumping from one task to another. I plan out my time, know exactly what’s coming next, and move from one task to the other without giving it much thought. As much as I still find myself trying to jump right back into that “safe” routine here, that has not been how things have played out at all. Although I find myself getting frustrated at times, dare I say that I’m enjoying every minute of my non-scheduled “routine”.

I’m still trying to find my footing. I’m still determining what the next few months here may look like. I’m still curious to see what happens.

I have to say that one of my favorite things so far has been the time spent in the villages. If you know me at all, you know that I love being around kiddos. Village days bring many “Mzungu!” (meaning white person) screams and enough little smiles to melt your heart several times over. I’ve never experienced something so exhausting, yet so joy filled. Although I have made many attempts to capture those captivating white smiles popping against that beautiful ebony skin, nothing can do that little giggle justice. I wish I could take those precious laughs with me, but each time I must settle with a few waves and the echoing sound of “Mzungu, bye!” while looking forward to our next meeting. The joy that they have is infectious, and I’m trying to bottle up as much of it as I can.

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Lessons learned so far:

  1. Be flexible and go with the flow.
  2. It’s okay to barter with your boda drivers.
  3. People will try to take advantage of you because you are a mzungu.
  4. If a mango smells disgusting, there’s probably a worm in it.
  5. ENOing in Africa is where it’s at.
  6. Sometimes Saturday nights involve boda races.
  7. Ugandans are beautiful people.
  8. Slowing down isn’t a bad thing.
  9. Being here isn’t easy, but it’s worth all the sacrifices.
  10. The next two months are going to fly by far too quickly.

Oh life, what an adventure you’ve become.