Thursday, May 20, 2010

Look at your eyes, they're small in size, but they see enormous things

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I guess life has slowed down enough to finally write about my first month back home. I got back just a little over a month ago, and I miss my kids, mamas, and the other people who became important to me. It has been hard being back in more ways than one. I’ll start the story here. I had a fever the Sunday morning before leaving Uganda. I was fine during the drive to Entebe, and even waiting almost 6 hours in the airport to leave. As soon as we took off, my health went down hill. I began feeling achy, I knew my temperature was rising, and I was shaking pretty bad from the fever. This lasted the entire plane ride, being sick coupled with being over tired made our 20 hour layover in London very frustrating. We got a hotel, and went to sleep right away. We woke up and went back to the airport to fly home. Again on the 2nd flight I was pretty sick and couldn’t sleep, I thought maybe I just had the virus that some of the other volunteers had been fighting off. We arrived in Philadelphia on that Tuesday, and no luggage was lost. It was so nice to see my Mom and sister, I wish I could have been more enthusiastic about reuniting with them but I was weak and tired. This was not how I expected to come home, after dealing with my fair share of illness in Uganda, it wasn’t allowed to follow me home! It was weird walking through those front doors again, everything felt strange. I tried to rest, but the high fever and body aches prevented any real sleep from happening. Wednesday morning my Mom made a doctor appointment because I wasn’t getting any better, only worse. The doctor did a throat swab, and I ended up having strep throat. We thought that was good news, that I would just take the antibiotic and I’d feel better in a day or two. The doctor also had me get blood work done, just to rule out malaria. At this point I didn’t even want the test because I had tested positive for strep already and was getting medicine, what were the chances I had malaria as well? I was frustrated on Thursday when I wasn’t getting any better. We got a phone call Thursday evening that my blood work came back, and I did in fact have Malaria. We went to UPenn’s ER and sat for 4 hours waiting to be seen. My fever got to 103, and at some points when the Malaria was cycling it got pretty scary. I remember praying and just asking God to make it stop, even if that meant Him taking me home, I couldn’t handle my body hurting that badly. We have a habit of doing that. Questioning God, and telling Him we can’t handle something, even when we know He won’t give us anything we can’t handle. Much easier to say that when you’re feeling better, or when you see how He has used that circumstance for His glory. At this point I had Malaria for at least 5 days, and it was only getting worse. I was admitted to the hospital and spent about 5-6 days, as they treated the Malaria, and monitored me. I was unable to eat, had high fevers, and low blood platelets for the majority of my stay in the hospital. My blood platelets dipped down to 17, a normal count is over 150. They said I would have needed a blood transfusion at 7. I’m grateful that I didn’t need that. My liver was still out of whack, and my blood platelets were still rising, but I was able to go home. I took it easy for a few days, and then was able to start hanging with friends, working, and I started summer classes. It was good to see friends, spend time with family, but I just felt and continue to feel a bit disconnected to everything here. I left so much of myself back in Uganda, and I’m just trying to figure out what God wants with my life, how He can use me to glorify Him even back here. Last weekend I went back to the doctor with what I thought was kidney pain, but it ended up that my spleen was enlarged. I was sent back to the ER at UPenn, and was admitted once again. They determined that I had reoccurring Malaria, this time it was Plasmodium Ovale, the first time it was Plasmodium Falciprum. They kept me in for only 3 days this time, and I was able to go home on a whole bunch of medications which they assured me would get rid of the Malaria this time. Through all of this people would ask me, “so are you going back”, I guess expecting me to say, no way. Spending over 8 days in the hospital in the last month I guess isn’t what most would determine as a successful or enjoyable trip overall. I would do it ten times over before regretting Uganda, or forgetting about going back. I know what Malaria feels like now, it definitely wasn’t fun, but I am so grateful that I was able to get the medication to treat Malaria, and that God has purpose and a plan behind everything He puts in our life. You hear about villages in Uganda where 1 in 5 children die from Malaria because they can’t even get to a doctor to receive treatment. How could I sit here angry or bitter about getting Malaria?


Saturday, April 24, 2010

faith like a child

Do you think of yourself as someone who makes good plans? God is not like us, He is perfect in the plans He makes. Philippians 1:6

We went to the equator, in the hottest van ever. the inside temperature said it was over 100 degrees, don't know if it was accurate but it was HOT. well worth the sweaty 4 hr. drive to be in two hemispheres at once.

Produce section of central market in Jinja. This place is beyond crazy. This pace literally has EVERYTHING here, from shoes to dresses, to handmade skirts, to blankets to dried ants, grasshoppers, and smelly fish. It's overwhelming and crowded, a true Ugandan adventure, you know?

A few weeks ago i heard a sermon about how we should be living out our faith. That often times Christians are so busy telling people what they are doing wrong, and condemning them. We forget about loving, about living out a life that makes people envy what you have, what you know, what you understand He has done for you. I haven't lived a life like that, not for an extended period of time. The qualities of a "good person" are formed by each individual as they grow up. People who have messed up big time, shamed their parents or community in one or many ways. It takes a long time for people to forget things. Past mistakes, the way someone has lived, often shapes the way an individual is perceived by everyone around them. Some people know bits and pieces or your story, and have judged you on that, some know everything and still love you. What i do know is this: i have a God who loves me completely perfectly, who doesn't dwell on what i have done, but instead, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalms 103:12. He does not love me less when i fall short, instead He picks me up. He continues a work in me that much of the time i don't understand. He uses the things i have been through to reveal to me just how much i need Him, just how much i don't deserve His grace, but he gives it to me anyway. He sees not what i was or have been, but instead how He sees how He will use these things to grow my faith. While everyone else only sees bits and pieces of my life, God sees the finished product. He knows where i will end up, how i will serve Him. He knows where i fall short, where i will continue to fall short, but still He loves me. It's difficult to understand a love like this, a pure and unconditional love. A Father's love that is so strong you can't screw up enough to have Him love you any less.

I'm writing this on my last day in Uganda. With everything God has a plan, it says so in Jeremiah 29:11. He knows the plans He has for us. Trusting His plan is not easy, Faith in general is not easy. I would be lying if i said it has ever been easy to believe in someone i can not physically see, believing in the love He has for me. If i told you there was a man sitting next to you and you looked over and there wasn't you would take me for a fool, would you not? I like to know things, not to just believe, i like to have proof not just faith. But see, He doesn't work like that. Our God is too big for that, He is far too complex for us to completely comprehend. That's where the faith part comes in. Believing in what is unseen. He's really not unseen if you take the time to look around is He? In how intricate the world has been pieced together, in how He works things out.

James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep on self from being polluted by the world."
To be in the world but not of the world. To serve and honor Him by loving those He loves. That is what i want with my life. I've always stayed lukewarm, afraid of what i would be giving up. Afraid of being mocked, being that "crazy Christian". I'm okay with that more so than ever. I know my life will look a little crazy, maybe really crazy from this point forward. I'm excited for crazy. I'm excited to live under God's plan for me rather than the plans i have made. 3 months ago, before i came to Uganda, i expected to definitely come back with a new mindset, to come back more grateful for everything i have. I didn't expect this. I didn't expect to have my world turned upside-down. I didn't expect God to call me back to Uganda as a forever home. I don't know what it will look like exactly, how He will use me. I don't want this to be my life, i don't want to hear about me doing "good things", but i want to honor my God in how i live my life. I want people to see what i'm doing and to think i'm nuts. I want people to wonder why i'm doing what i'm doing. I want to love because He first loved me, and to give Him the credit for anything good i accomplish in this life. Because without Him, without trying to understand His love, i wouldn't be capable of that.

I leave Amani a 2am tomorrow morning. Last days anywhere are always bittersweet. Excited to see my family, and friends. Not excited to leave my 2nd home. Not excited to leave my kids behind, my Ugandan Moms. But this is His plan and not mine, He loves these kids, and these Ugandan woman more than i ever could. It's easier to leave a place knowing who's in control of it.

Be back in the US in a little over 48 hrs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

i'm going to love You with my life

So 5 days after we went to the North we came back down to Kampala. It was not what we expected. Not at all. Both Megan and I felt like God was calling us to go to the North, we thought He wanted us to see a need there, that maybe He was calling us to open something there in the future. While we never entirely understand how God works, the circumstances after we arrived in Gulu really shook us up. We left Jinja around 8am and arrived at the Kampala bus park around 1030am. The Kampala bus park was insane. Busier and more overwhelming than any part of New York I’ve ever been to. People yelling at you to buy things. dodging bodas, taxis, and buses while attempting to make it to the other side of the street alive. Having no clue how to find the busses that leave for Gulu. We finally asked someone if they knew where the busses to Gulu left from. Another man overheard our conversation and told us he would bring us there. Throughout this whole ordeal it was raining. As Meg and I tried to keep up with the man we hoped was actually leading us to the bus we needed, we were dodging mud puddles and merchants trying to sell us a wide range of Ugandan treasures. We finally reached the bus it was called “Baby Coach” All the Ugandan men cheared as two mzungu girls climbed aboard this bus to Gulu. We payed our “guide” 1,000 UGX (50 cents) as the Ugandan men huttled around the bus cheered as we climbed aboard. I think the longer you’ve been here the less overwhelmed you get by crazy situations. Everything here is a bit crazy, but you learn to just laugh about it. It was about 12:30 by the time we finally got seated. The bus was already almost completely full, so we left Kampala around 1:15pm. The bus ride was not as long or as bad as we expected. It only took about 5 ½ hrs to get to Gulu, we stopped every so often to pick people up and to allow people to buy different food or drinks people were selling on the side of the road. I dared Meg to try some of the chicken on a stick they were selling. She was smart and didn’t take me up on that. We were in the back row, I was between Meg and a young man named Samuel who talked to me a bit and I was even lucky enough to have this complete stranger fall asleep on my shoulder. Again Meg and I just laughed. We got off the bus in Gulu, with no clue where we were and what we were to expect for our stay there. We walked around and called the woman we were staying with. We took bodas to a small cafĂ©, and met here there around 6:30pm. She picked us up and showed us our room and introduced us to the girls and Mama M. We stayed at the home for girls called, Zion Project. This is a rehabilitation home for war affected girls. There are 14 girls there now, ages 4-14. These girls are Congolese girls who were at risk for sex trafficking. It was neat to meet them, to hear from the Mama how some of them came to be at the Zion Project, we got to hear them sing, and worship. We got to color, read to them, and play with playdough a bit. But things didn’t feel quite right from the start. Sarita was more than welcoming, the Mamas, the aunties, and the girls were as well. This made it even more difficult for Megan and I to understand why we were so miserable and felt so off being in Gulu. We were there Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, when we finally decided we needed to go back. We prayed a lot about it before making the decision, but neither of us had ever felt like that before. While we might not ever quite understand why it was so difficult for us to be there, we knew God was telling us we needed to head back to Jinja. We both made sure it wasn’t just because this was a new place, or that we missed our kids at Amani, but that it was God maybe protecting us or needing us back in Jinja. We visited a few different NGO’s up North. SOS Children’s village, Favour of God, and Zion Project. We were taken to 3 different churches on Sunday, all of which were interesting to say the least. KPC Gulu, a local church in the village, and a Congolese church. In each service we were asked to stand up and greet the Church, something we weren’t quite used to either. We walked around Gulu, visited the market. We were served antelope, and told it was rare bush meat that we were lucky to have. The only thing we did not get to do up North was travel to Pader like we had planned, but both Megan and I didn’t think we could last another night. Neither of us were able to sleep at all, we would wake up multiple times in the middle of the night terrified, and not knowing why. Mama M was so kind and prepared meals for us, and showed us around Gulu. She told us a story of a woman who had stayed in our room before us. Mama M explained this woman was “possessed” and she had attempted to harm her and the girls in the middle of the night on at least one occasion. Mama M explained that the evilness of the war still lingers in Gulu, while it is much safer, she never felt completely safe. There was not night guard at the home we were at, and Mama M said she felt unsafe a lot of the time. Even after hearing these stories it didn’t automatically make us want to leave. We know our God is way bigger than anything evil, however we do know that these things are real and we need to guard ourselves from them. Megan and I were both physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted, which would have made sense after traveling a long way by bus, but not 3 days later. I asked my Mom to call my cell phone, and asked her for her advice when we began talk of heading home early. My Mom was understanding and prayed with me about the situation. Megan and I prayed before we went to bed that night, that God would help us decide what He wanted us to do, not what we wanted to do. We both felt the overwhelming answer of “you need to leave Gulu”. We were also informed about the volcano in iceland by some people up in Gulu. We hadn’t made our final decision to leave, but after hearing that all flights had been cancelled until further notice, we felt like we needed to head back now more so than before. We had no internet, and limited telephone service where we were staying, and if flights through Europe were cancelled, I needed to be able to contact my Mom, and Lisa and Alex to see if we could change our route possibly. Even in attempting to write this out and explain it, I feel a bit crazy, I have never experienced something like this before. All I can say is that when we got on the bus to Kampala we both felt a peace. We sat on the bus for 2 hrs, waiting for it to fill up, when we finally left it was past 4pm. We got into Kampala around 9:30 last night. As soon as we got off the bus, there were about 10 taxi drivers yelling to get our business. Megan and I laughed because we were wondering how and where we would find a taxi to get where we were staying in Kampala. After watching the taxi drivers fight over who would get to take us, we hoped in the first car that got to us. We arrived at Loving Hearts Baby Home, on Bunga Hill, where we spent last night. Today we are planning to visit Makerere University, and then head back to Jinja for 5 days. I feel a little silly after saying all our goodbyes to the kids, to our mamas and to our friends in Jinja, but it is going to be so good to spend my last few days in Uganda with family, and not completely scared and weighed down. It will be so good to gives and hugs and kisses to my kids when I thought I may not get another chance. People are going to laugh at us for coming back early, but that’s okay. I have 5-6 days left in Uganda. I’ll see everyone very soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Never Underestimate my Jesus

Megan and i leave for Gulu tomorrow morning at 8am. I figured i should write a little something before i leave Uganda all together. Closing in on 3 months, and only having 10 days left here is insane. I feel like life at home doesn't really exist anymore, and i know i'll probably have more culture shock going back home than i did coming here. Our Internet where i live has been down for the past week or so. We've still been able to go into town and use Internet at the cafe. A few days after not having Internet i started to get a little annoyed/frustrated, but i quickly reminded myself how crazy it is that we have Internet at all and the ability to keep up with friends and family back home. I sit here thinking about how bitter sweet this "see you later" is. We wrote cards out to some of the Mamas we got close to and bought them chocolate/necklaces for some. Got last minute pictures with them as well. I wouldn't write goodbye in any of the cards because i know i will be back here, and i know that i will see them again. It is amazing how much someone can feel like family after only knowing them for 3 months. I also asked the Mamas to give my toddlers lots of hugs and kisses from their Auntie Kelsey. To tell them "Nkwagala nyo nyo nyo", which is "I love you much much much" in Lugandan. I'm going to miss my kids, i know they will be cared for and loved by the Mamas and the new volunteers, and by adoptive parents. I think the hardest thing for me is not knowing what will happen for some of my older kids like D and F who may have parents or other family members who haven't signed over their rights. It's hard for me to understand why a family member would desire the rights to a child they never come to visit, or are not able to/don't have the desire to care for. I understand wanting to become financially stable so you can care for them properly, but what about the family that never comes back for them? I just want them to know real love from parents, but as i prayed through trying to understand this. I'm reminded that these are God's children. He has a special place for orphans and widows. He tells us that. I rest in that. He will take care of them and their Heavenly Father loves them more than any earthly parent ever could.

Monday, April 5, 2010

i can feel your pain in my bones

A Ugandan Easter

I write to you now because well, right now i have the time. I'm currently pulling an all nighter to stay up with one of our older boys J, who sleeps on the very top bunk bed. Tonight i was putting the boys to sleep, slightly more chaotic than normal, and then J fell off his bed. Now these bunk beds are stacked 3 high and he had to of fallen at least 8 feet on his head. Poor J, the same little boy who got his foot caught in a bicycle earlier this week. Now J has no skin on his left heel, and a huge lump on his forehead. I was pretty frustrated when nothing was really done to help comfort him, no precautions taken. My immediate instinct when he wasn't kept in the clinic was to bring him upstairs and force him to ice his head, and to make sure he was okay. I go downstairs, he's back up on that same bunk still crying his eyes out of course. I never thought i'd be able to come close to understanding the love of a mother until i had my own kids, but this comes pretty close. Part of me was so frustrated with J because he was the one standing up on that top bunk, even when i told him not to. Part of me was upset that i didn't protect him or prevent this from happening. All of me just wanted to take his pain away, and put it on myself. So i sit here writing, as the timer is ticking for me to wake him up every hour. Obviously falling from so high could result in a concussion, we're just being safe. He was acting fine and interacting with us as usual. I love these kids, i don't know how i'm going to leave them in a week and a half.

If you remember M, the little boy who has HIV and TB, well if you remember he was transferred to another orpahange that takes care of only HIV positive children. We went to visit him a few weeks ago, and he seemed to be improving. I saw the couple who runs this orphanage at church on Easter, so i went up to ask how M was doing. I didn't get the response i was looking for. I immediately saw the man's expression change when he heard me say the words "How is M! Has he been improving?". He looked down and replied with, "No, M has not been responding to his TB medicine, which he has been on for quite a while. The doctor has taken lymph nodes from his neck to test him for cancer". I told him thank you and walked away quickly, i walked away tearing up, broken hearted , that my little prince wasn't improving like i thought he was. I was quickly reminded that this was Easter, the day we celebrate Resurrection of our Saviour. He is Risen. While i pray M's life here is long, i know that is out of my hands, and completely in His. My prayer is that God keeps him tightly in His hands. That when M is in pain, when he feels scared, that he feels his Jesus close to him. That he knows he is my handsome prince, but more importantly God's handsome prince.

I know a lot of the things i have seen, how much i love my kids, the stories i have heard, the people i have met. None of it will really hit me until i am home and i am not here. When i get the chance to process it all. When i have the time to think. The days where i don't go to bed before 10pm, and i have a little bit of energy to write, i open up a new entry and give up before i begin. Not because i don't want to keep whoever reads this updated, but because i honestly don't have the words to say. I don't know how to sum up a day here in blog form, let some big crazy life changing realizations i have reached while living in a 3rd world country for three months. Well i guess finding a forever home in a place where i only planned to live in for a semester might count for something. But even that isn't me. It's God. I've run it over and over again in my head, trying to figure out if my flesh just wants Uganda in my future, or if it is really the start of something major God is asking of me. Every time i start to figure it out, and plan things out. He shakes me and reminds me that this is not my plan. That He is God, and He's got it all worked out. That i can try and plan all i want, but He will work things out the way He wants to. I find peace in that. In knowing i can't screw up my life enough to make me useless for His kingdom. That He can turn awful circumstances into great things. That my God can take my life back and constantly remind me i am His daughter.

So i don't know exactly what my future holds, i know it will end with me meeting my Heavenly Father face to face, but everything in between that, well i just hope he can use me to glorify Him more and more every day, and that i would be willing to give up anything He asks of me.

We also got to see B meet his Mom and Dad for the first time, and M & D meet their Mommy for the first time. It was the coolest thing, again with the happy tears. I still don't know if i quite understand how they work. A child with out a family getting to meet their family for the first time is the most amazing thing. I love B, M & D a bunch and i am so happy to be here when their parents are getting to know them.

Easter was far from normal. What else would you expect from Easter in Uganda? It rained a bunch the night before, so we spent our morning walk to church dodging mud puddles, not very successfully. Singing worship songs both in Lugandan and in English, hearing a sermon translated into Lugandan after every sentence. We spent the afternoon walking through town in search of last minute ingredients for our Easter dinner. We were planning to have the egg hunt with the kids but a thunderstorm came trough so we just did it today, the kids loved finding the eggs and eating their sweeties just the same. We went out for coffee at flavours. We took bodas both ways, because what is an Easter in Uganda without being on the back of a boda? We came back home, began cooking right away. Almost all of us cooked or baked a different dish. We had guacamole, chapatis, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, zuchini, banana muffins, and deviled eggs. It was pretty funny, and very different. But it was nice. Wouldn't have changed anything, expect maybe the rain part.

I come home in a little under 3 weeks. I don't know where the last 2 months or so went. I leave for the North on the 16th with Megan. We are staying with the women who is in charge of the Zion Project ( We are very excited to travel to Gulu, to meet these women, and to visit some different places in Gulu.

if you read this, write an email.
it would be cool to hear from you.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

because if seeing is believing

we had a princess party with our toddler girls. Watched Beauty and the Beast, made lots of treats, popped popcorn, bought juice boxes, and best of all each of our 10 girls had a princess crown. We have the most beautiful princesses ever.
Yes, we actually tried white ants. They look as disgusting as they taste, well at least in my head. When in Uganda, try new things right?
The last night before the Faroese girls left. It's strange without them here. We're missing Alisa in this one as well, but i'm lucky to have had majority of my time here with such great ladies.
This is S, he got here a few weeks ago with his Ugandan name that nobody could pronounce, and jiggers in his feet. He came not understanding English, and now i can say "i love you" and him say it back in his high pitched, squeaky voice. He runs around the yard with me kicking the soccer ball and giggling. This boys laugh, and mannerisms combined will make your heart melt within seconds of meeting him, guaranteed.

I know i have been bad at updating this, i wanted to write a little bit for now, and i'll try and do better. I still love it here, i fall more in love with this place the longer i stay, and leaving permanently seems unrealistic. while i continue to face challenges/frustrations in all areas, i wouldn't change anything about where i am and what i am doing. I have over 60 of the most beautiful children you'll ever see. I am on a non-stop adventure for 3 months, hearing story after story that humbles me and puts things in perspective. My life is so cool here. I don't think i've ever thought or said that about my life before, but here it is. While i miss friends and family at times, i know that if and when this became my forever home, people would be okay and move on, and i would be where i need to be. I have to remember to keep my ears and eyes open, but most of all i need to keep an open mind. I have no clue what my future with Uganda will look like, but i'm excited for it. We have only 5 weeks left here, only 4 more weeks with my kids, and then we go to the North for 10 days. More than halfway there, i thought i'd start feeling ready to come home, but it actually is sort of scary. I can't wait to see my close friends, my Mom, my brothers and sister, and my pup. Everything else seems completely boring and i know it won't measure up to what i have here.

i'll write more again soon, promise

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

and you said I know that this will hurt

i can't wait to work with the adoption process constantly for as long as i can. this is it. this is one of the most beautiful things, the only time I've actually cried tears that were happy and no frustrated or sad, but just happy, awesome tears. opening up your home to a child who has nobody to be everything to them. To give them a new life, their very own Mom and Dad not just auties that come in and out of their lives every few months and Mamas who they know as disciplinarians, but a forever family, who will raise them up as if they were their own, and nothing short of that. That makes me so excited. That is love. B is one of our oldest boys, today we got to see him talk with his mommy on skype, and of course i started to tear up when she began telling him she loved him and that she couldn't wait to meet him. I'm so excited for him.

I have been to the doctor 4 days in a row and tomorrow will be the 5th. The doctor said that my infection is "very impressive", because of how swollen my face became and how deep the infection went. So tomorrow i go back again at the same time, Noon. To have her get more fluid out, if it isn't all out she will need to pack it again tomorrow, but i convinced her not to today. Being bed ridden here really isn't my thing. Patience in every sense of the word. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

take and seal it

health update: so it ended up being a staph infection, basically all through out the bottom left portion of my face. i am on antibiotics, and some "heavy painkillers" to help. today i went back to the doctor, and tomorrow again. Today she gave me two shots of novicane in the infection, and then squeezed the fluid. She said she got more out then she thought she would. She then stuffed a thread (she called it a whick) into the wound to soak up any excess. I have to go back tomorrow to have her pull the thread out and drain more. This is really gross because it's right on my face. It hurt the most today after the doctors because of how hard she had to push on it. One of the boys B, asked today when i got back "auntie kelsey. what's in your mouth" i told him nothing, i just had a boo-boo. i even opened my mouth (well as wide as i could) but he was convinced i was hiding something. My left side f my face is pretty swollen. This is some of the worst pain i have ever felt, but it's most difficult because i just have had weird health problems here, and i just want to be working with the kids. You'd understand if you knew my kids. Really.

(sorry if this grossed you out)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I told you to be patient

It feels like it was only a few days ago that i stepped off the plane with out a clue what I was getting myself into. Already a month has gone by, and i have no clue where it went. Every day poses a new challenge, and every day i have learned something new. I have learned so much already from the people here in Uganda. About a quality of life, a work ethic, and an overall strength that we really don't understand back in the states. We don't understand what it is to be a young woman in Uganda and have our entire families killed by the rebel armies before we reach the age of 21. Could we ever wrap our minds around the concept of walking 2-3 hours each way, every day to work for a monthly salary of about 20 USD a month? 20 USD a month to take care of your mother who can not work, and feed 5 children, 3 of which are not even your own, but are your late sister's. The strength of a 4 year old boy who has tuberculosis, and is HIV positive. The will to survive, and the ability to smile when your living in constant emotional and physical pain. These things are beyond any earthly explanation. We have a BIG God. I have spent the last month questioning Him more than ever before. Not understanding why we live so comfortably, while extreme trauma and suffering is so normal in places like Uganda. Instead of trying to reason with God, i have to understand who exactly my God is. He is the creator, He was before time began, and He always will be. Who am i to question a God like that? Suffering and pain are real. Rather than seeing these circumstances as God given, it's the result of living in a fallen world. God desires us to be close to Him right? For his creation to glorify Him. People who have absolutely nothing cling so tightly to their Savior. While I'm beyond grateful for all i have been given, i envy the faith and strength of the people I've gotten to meet here. I'm sure i will still question and ask Him why? But each time I'm hoping i will be reminded of a plan far too great for me to comprehend.

Obviously i am not giving nearly as much to these kids as they are to me. Every night at 7:30 after I put 14 toddler boys into diapers/underwear and into their mismatched pajamas, and kiss 14 foreheads goodnight, I walk up the stairs somewhat defeated,frustrated, and tired, but smiling, knowing there's nothing else i'd rather be doing. I still wake up around 6:30 am every morning as the roosters are crowing and the babies are crying. Work starts at around 8, while the kids are eating their breakfast. My day with the now, 24 toddlers, starts with putting the boys in diapers after they go to the bathroom. Then teaching preschool to the oldest 12 children, for around 2 hrs every morning. We work on sounding out letters, puzzles, colors, shapes, numbers, finger paints, reading stories etc. Normal preschool things. Then we play outside with the kids until around 12:30, when it is time to go in for lunch. The volunteers have a lunch break, and then return to play more outside with the kids, do actives, sing songs, etc. Then inside by 6:30, for dinner. After dinner the kids are bathed, and stream in one by one. 14 toddler boys who should be tired after a busy day, but instead seem to enter the room soaking wet, and full of energy after their evening baths. Chasing each other around the room, hitting, biting, throwing diapers, and clothes all over. Just a normal night here at Amani. But like i said. I absolutely love it, i can already see my patience growing. Getting to be outside, running around, playing on the swings, and blowing bubbles with these kids is so neat. Seeing the preschoolers learn and make progress. Them being proud of themselves is one of the coolest things. Every timeiI get to hear these kids laugh, see them make progress in preschool, or hold them when they start crying, i'm quitely reminded of exactly why i am here.

We have gotten 6 new kids since i have arrived. S, P, T, B, E and G. G and E were the most recent, both are so tiny and so young. G is 5 weeks, and E is 3 weeks. G was found left in a sugar cane field, and E's mother died during child birth. A last minute decision has been made, another volunteer and i will be traveling to the north of Uganda, to a city called Gulu. A lot of you know i'm going to school for social work. I'm looking to do my masters in international social work, and hopefully work with Uganda in some way after i graduate. The trip to the north is really important for me to get a better understanding of how the war with the LRA has impacted this region (known as Acholi land). A Ugandan woman named S who now lives in Jinja, was originally from the North. Her Father was killed by the rebel army, and she herself has taken interest in the impacts of the war. She, a social work major as well has done her own study on this topic. She is willing to travel with us to the North, and take us to different IDP camps, to talk to refugees, survivors of this awful war that has been going on in Uganda for more than 20 years. This is a really exciting opportunity for me. While the North is much safer than it was, it is of course, not as safe as Jinja.

My health has been tested non-stop since i've been here. Right now i have a staph infection which has made the whole left bottom of my face numb, swollen, and in a lot of pain. i have to go back to the doctor tomorrow to see if it needs to be drained. i'm frustrated but i know these are minor things and i will be fine.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

if there was no way into God, i would never have layed in this grave of a body for so long

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can not be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives ligt to everyone in the house. In the same way, letyour light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorifyyour Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

hands together, eyes closed

(and this is how the kids start every prayer here at Amani, before each meal and snack)

i have a purpose for this, hold on...

The other night, as i finished washing 23 little hands and one of the older toddlers started the prayer, i got stuck at the very begining, as she annouced loudly, "hands together, eyes closed". I thought to myself, "when do i ever do that". When do i ever close my eyes and just keep my hands folded in my lap? Figuratively of course. To really slow down and understand what is going on around me, rather than allowing my mind, my emotions to get first priority in how a situation or an interaction unfolds. I think i need more of that. To not think i can fix and control everything. To sometimes put my hands together, and close my eyes when i need to. To be okay with improvement, to be satisfied at the end of the day when you've done more good than bad. And realizing that any of that good wasn't really you. Not to dwell on the past and the mistakes that have been made, trying to justify or explain them away. But to understand the forgiveness that is offered, the grace, and the love. To fold your hands and let life happen when you can, because as in control as we can think we are at times, we really never are. Does that mean feeling a little crazy is warranted? Maybe. There will always be room for improvement. There will always be people who are worse off in whatever area. Love is real, and the real pure love isn't of this world. I think that's what i live for. To try and better understand this, and get better at loving selflessly, like You.


Friday, February 19, 2010

it's natural to be afraid

amoxicillin! and ibuprofen (Ugandan style- cost me the equivalent of 1 USD)

Closing in on 3 weeks here already, weirdly put that's about 1/4 of our trip. It feels like i got here a couple days ago still. i can't imagine leaving here and not coming back and working with Uganda in some way. Maybe it will be through adoption, work, opening up my own place. It's just exciting to feel like i at least know more clearly what i want to be doing with my degree in social work when i get finished school.

"we don't get to decide who God is. "God said to Moses. I am who I am" (Ex. 3:14). We don'tchnge that"
"God exists outside of time, and since we are within time, there is no way we will ever totally grasp that concept."

okay, these are two quotes out of the book "Crazy Love" my Mom got me for Christmas, and getting sick here finally made me pick it up and read it. I'd be lying if i said i was thrilled when my Mom bought me Christian literature for Christmas, but i'm glad she did. My mindset when i receive something of the sort is some sort of hidden agenda or message behind it; A sort of "hey kelsey, you've got a lot to work on". And i mean i know that but like most people, i definitely don't particularly get excited when i'm confronted about something or forced to reflect on what i need to change. I think it took me to get to Africa to finally ask myself why i was uncomfortable. And i think that's something overall i need to ask myself more, and maybe everyone should. Why do things get under our skin or make us flip the channel. is it difficult to see images from places like Uganda because we are comfortable in our ignorance, or because we ae scared of not being able to reason with why we are here and they are there. Even on much smaller scales, it's difficult to see a need, and realize that no matter what you are planning to do to help, you aren't even making the smallest dent in it all. I think all of the negative attitudes tied to the terms "Christians",or "The Church", come from us trying to put the creator of the universe in some sort of box. Trying to define, and claiming to know everything about God seems pretty silly to me. So we have this God, who exists beyond time. We can't even begin to grasp what that looks like, and for a lot of people that means writing even the idea of it off immediately. How can we believe something without concrete evidence? What if this is it, this is all there is? I think that is terrifying too. What has always stumped me, when i've thought through every reason i shouldn't believe in this God, or much less a Saviour. I always come back to the very beginning, the whole "matter can not be created or destroyed". and now, i know i've said this before, i've probably had this talk with you if we've ever gotten into any serious talking. So we have this universe, lots of other universes? with no idea where it all ends or how it all started? So gases and particles combusted to form a never ending space with universes, galaxies, planets, and an intricate planet we now live on and try to make sense of. Okay, but where did those "gasses" and "particles" come from? i think it's safe to say we have no explanation, and that something above our understanding started all of this. The idea of "Religion" and "The Church" have formed and still exist today, in the opinion of many to govern, create structure, and instill fear in societies. But what happened to a God that Loves? the, "we love because He first loved us". I don't think compassion or love is instinctual, not at all. I think it's a choice. I think the choice between selfish and selfless in every circumstance is an inner war we won't ever really conquer, but one that isn't fought without purpose or reason. Much of that we can't understand. God's plan. It would really scare me if the God who created everything ever didn't have a plan worked out and didn't know how things would end up for us. Obviously i don't have all this figured out, and i promise i wil never claim to. I will never be one of those "holier than thou" people, because i know where my faults are and i know i will always be working on myself.

This is a lot of what i was thinking about while i've been in bed sick. I've been seen by the nurse twice, and tested for malaria twice. BUT i ended up having strep throat? The nurse gave me antibiotics right away. I'll be able to get back to work by monday! i'm really excited. I think being sick has made me really excited to get back to work, and really value my health and being able to these kids.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

we're not half as bad as God is good

okay we are going to the capitol of Uganda today, Kampala, today for church, shopping, and an african dance show. BUT i am making this post as a promise i will write about the story of this girl named B i met yesterday. stay tuned

As promised:

Well the past few days my health has been deteriorating a bit, and it is frustrating because i came here to work with, love, and spend time with these kids. The nurse just said she's going to keep an eye on me. I've had chills/fever, and been achy for the past 2 or 3 nights, and yesterday a lymph node on the right side of my neck started to get pretty swollen. She said i am most likely just fighting off something, which is fine. I just want to not feel achy and weak so i can get back to my kids. Yesterday in Kampala was fun besides not feeling to well. We drove to the capitol in the morning and went out to lunch/looked around the mall. Kampala is for sure more westernized, and at some points there were so any whites around us, we forgot where we were. We ate at the "New York Kitchen", the girls all got "new york style pizza", pretty wild to have that in Uganda, huh? Then we went to church, and shopped around the different craft places. I bargained down and bought a lot of neat stuff for people back home. We then went to an "African Dance performance" which lasted longer than 3 hours. The dancing part was really neat, and there was some funny political satire about the Ugandan government through out. But overall, it was just really long, and there was too much talking and not enough dancing.

I'm really hoping to get back my strength/energy soon, i tried to work in the morning and only lasted a little over an hour. I really don't like laying in bed here, it's not like a sick day from school or normal work. I love these kids and i want to just be better. So i guess just pray for me about that.

Story of B:
(again we use just the first letters of names on blogs just out of respect for children and workers, etc.)

On saturday I worked with Baby A in the morning and Baby B at night. After dinner with Baby B, as with most of the children, they go to the bathroom, they are bathed, we put them in diapers/pjs, and we put them to sleep. As the children were being bathed, there was one mama, B putting them in their diapers, and she would hand them off to me to get their pajamas on. Usually the mamas and aunties are just trying to get the bedtime routine done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Night time isn't normally a time for conversation. But B started to talk to me and she asked how long i would be at Amani for, if i was in school, and finally how many people were in my family. I told her there were 5 of us, my Mom, older brother, and a younger brother and sister. She asked, "what about your father". and i explained to her that he had passed away when i was 14. She replied with, "Oh i'm so sorry". I told her it was okay. Of course i then asked her about her family. She said, "We were 7 and now it is just me". She went on to talk about something, until i quickly realized what she had just said. I asked her what had happened to the others in her family, why there were no longer 7. She went on to explain that she was from the North originally, and that her father had died of cancer, and her Mother and all her siblings had been killed by the rebel army. So here i am, working next to a woman only 1 year older than me, who just offered sympathy to me for the loss of a father, when she has lost absolutely everything, every single member of her family. This was another time i began to cry, but quickly got myself together so i could hear more of her story. Sometimes here i don't know if i am crying out of happiness and hope when i see the strength of these people. or if it's the grounding and overwhelming confusion of why? I guess maybe a lot of the time it's both. As i continued talking with B she told me that her mother had been raped and killed by Joseph Kony's army, and that her siblings had all been killed as well. I kept telling her she didn't need to talk about any of this if it was too difficult, and she told me "no, it is good to talk about it. i do miss my family, but mostly at times when i need a mother and father, and they are not there". I don't think i could ever understand being an orphan at any age, but much less having my entire family taken away before the time i was 21. She lives here in Jinja now and works/supports herself. She was telling me her favorite cities in America were New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, and that she wanted to come and visit one day. I told her that it really isn't that great. I told her how different we are, and how much of our lives are just spent acquiring things, money, possessions. She talked to me about how in Uganda people are satisfied much more quickly, and about the importance of relationships with people, with family. I told her how much i envied the strength of the Ugandan people. How although things are more difficult in Uganda, they have a quality of life that seems nearly impossible in our consumer/all about me, culture. I asked her if it was hard for her to understand why God would allow these things to happen to her, why he would leave her all alone with no one. She said, "i just can't, i don't understand why, but i know that he loves me, and i know he is there". I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why a loving God allows people to hurt like this. Not really questioning Gods existence in it, but his reasoning. And i think after never finding an answer for that i've come to the reasoning that there are bad things in this world, there is hurt, there is pain and suffering. That comes with our freewill and selfish nature. His plan is always bigger than we could ever understand, so i guess i can also just rest in that. I guess it would be pretty foolish to believe that we could understand and find the answers to everything. There are already so many things in science, in our existence, that we can't really explain with concrete evidence. While faith, and not a blind faith, are constantly tested, and second guessed. I come to this place where i could never say there isn't a God, and that there isn't purpose behind our existence. The rest is learning, and figuring out what that is supposed to look like i guess. While B and i talked through some of this, i told her how we couldn't fathom going through what she has been through. i'm really grateful i got a chance to meet her and hear her story.

i didn't probably write that as well as i could have if i was feeling better, but just wanted to share B's story with you.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

in the clarity of his grace, remember me

wash, Uganda style.

i'm leaving this video as a promise that i will update this, to let you know what this past week has been like. (the girls in my room decided that this was the theme of the next 3 months, kinda cheesy but whatever, makes sense clearly)

Alright here we go.

Almost closing in on the first two weeks here. Sometimes it feels like we've been living here forever and other times it seems as if we just arrived. I guess you catch on to some things very quickly and other things i hope never seem okay or normal to me. You get fast at changing cloth diapers after your first night of putting 13 toddler boys to bed. They eat dinner around 6:30 and around 7:00, 13 hyper 3-5 year old boys stream in one by one, after being bathed. I am lucky if i can dry them off and get a diaper/underwear on them before they are climbing up the sides of the bunkbeds, throwing clothes/diapers all over, or running outside. For the most part the toddler boys are completely loving, and fun to be around, but i think we decided that they transform once the sun goes down and it's time to go to sleep. If there is a Mama in the room with me they listen a bit better, while I do all the work of getting them ready for bed, the Mama's presence helps keep the boys in line. I am a Monitor for the Toddler/Preschool group, this means every other week I am with them the entire week. The off weeks i will be with the other kids, doing laundry, or helping with other various tasks around the compound. This week of toddlers went by so fast, i taught preschool every day. A few girls and a few boys are extremely attentive, and i can tell they really want to learn. Others stare off, and just have a hard time focusing on what we're working on. Go figure it's difficult to get preschoolers to pay attention and sit still! We are attempting to buy whiteboards when we go into Kampala this weekend, so we can start working on learning to write letters, their names, and eventually easy words. I'm not an education major to say the least, so i feel extremely inadequate to be teaching these kids, or trying to plan out any curriculum. But i guess it's a blessing that i did my internship/career study senior year with a kindergarten classroom.

When we are not inside helping out during meal/snack time, or teaching preschool, we are out in the front yard under the warm Ugandan sun. Mornings and afternoons with the kids consist of blowing bubbles, running around, singing, simon says, crawling on all fours pretending to be whatever animal i'm told we are that day, and pushing a tire swing packed to its full toddler capacity of course. I love getting to love these kids and be a kid at the same time. When we're outside it's almost 100% silly time. The second i sit down there are at least 4 kids pushing one another, and crying "auntie", because it's "their turn". N from toddlers is one of my favorites. (don't get me wrong, i love them all, but i can't lie, a couple of these kids in particular just make waking up at 6:30am not so bad). I took N into town the other day and bought him ice cream. We take a different kid out once a week, and this week it was N. I think it's the way N says "i love you" that really gets me. He'll come up to me smiling, saying "auntie" in his high pitched voice, and i'll hold him tight and whisper "auntie loves you". He pulls away fast, lights up and replies "SO MUCH", or "love you". I started saying "N auntie loves you SO MUCH",and now i will just say "auntie loves you", and he'll reply "SO MUCH". These are the little things that are so important for me to help you understand. So while i feel completely useless and trivial when i consider how little i am actually doing, and how much needs to be done. I just feel really lucky to see these kids light up when we love them.

I really wish you could be here to meet some of these kids, no actually ALL of these kids. But one little boy in particular. His name is M. I'm not sure if i talked about him yet but i'm going to now. He is HIV positive, and as a result, he has TB as well. It is really hard for him to breathe and he is very weak/frail. He can't play and keep up with the other kids so much, he takes a few steps and is already too tired to keep going so i pick him up. The other day before dinner, he was sitting on my lap outside as the other children went in to eat. He began to cry and i asked him what was wrong, thinking one of the other children hit him or had stolen his toy (that is the usual), but he was trying to tell me it was hurting him to breathe and he was crying because he was in pain. This little boy is so strong, and i started to tear up. I got myself together quickly so he wouldn't see me cry. He's already way stronger than i am, i couldn't let him see me cry. I sang to him and told him to lay his head on my shoulder, and just held him for a little. M is always so good, and he even tells the other toddler boys "listen to auntie" when all hell breaks loose at bed time. Every night when he walks in slowly and comes to me to get changed, i just think about how strong this little boy is to hold myself together. As i put his fragile body into his diaper and PJ's, and i help him stand back up, and i hug him gently, and tell him that i love him. i wish i knew the strength of this little boy.

I am glad that all of this is more real to me than it ever has been. I can't imagine going back home and not being involved with Uganda in some way. As i was hanging laundry on the line the one morning, the sun was beating down, there were chickens at my ankles, and herd of goats was stampeding down the dirt road in front, i thought how wildly different my way of life is here, and how i am completely okay with that. While i miss friends and family back home, I know time is going to fly by, and i am going to miss this place when i leave. Not going to think about that now, and just going to keep loving and learning from these kids, and the Ugandan people.

PS: Emails, Messages, and skyping has been so great. People who have taken the time to write me, and see how everything was going, Thank you. I've been really surprised by the people who have taken an interest in what's going on here, and I really enjoy hearing how things are going back home. It helps a lot at night when i'm missing everyone back in the states.

skype: kelseyyynielsen

i wouldn't suggest actual letters, just because they can take a very long time/may not get here at all.

emails, fb messages, and skype dates are great :)


if you have time, this made a lot of sense to me. kinda neat

Friday, February 5, 2010

if you'd forget the pain i caused before

these two boys are not from amani, they are from the villages down by the lake. i want to make my way down there as much as i can.

i promised to keep this blog more so than anything else, but in all honesty every time the kids are napping, i have a break, or wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep. i think about writing an entry, but most times it is too overwhelming to start. there is not enough blog space to explain to you the things i am seeing and learning here in Jinja. There isn't enough time, nor the right words i could use to help you picture all of this. every time i would attempt to log in and write an entry i'd close my computer with out writing a thing, because honestly i don't know where to start. the times i write are the times i feel like i can make some sort of attempt at it.

i wish i could explain to you the type of love you feel when you pick up one of these babies and hold them close. as they immediately stop crying, there is this brief moment of silence where you can hear God quietly remind you why you flew over 8,000 miles to spend 3 months with these children. i wish i could in some way package up the joy you get from hearing these kids laugh, and send it back home. i can tell you that is a better gift than any wooden giraffe or any hand crafted necklace. i wake up and get to see the 8 smallest babies light up when as i say good morning and hold their hand or kiss them on the forehead. See i really can't begin to explain these things to you. you'd have to see it for yourself. The Ugandan people are so unbelievably strong and resilient. I was making an attempt to explain this to a friend the other night, and it is unreal to me that we coexist with them on the same planet. I feel lucky to be here.

Today we have off. I'll explain a normal day at Amani. As i've explained i wake up around 6:00-6:30am every morning, just before the sun rises. The 8 smallest babies live upstairs with us, so i get to see them (baby A's) every morning. i either hear them, or the roosters first. i get up, make myself breakfast which has included fresh pineapple every morning. then we get dressed, and go to work at 8am. We get schedules every week, for the most part we work monday through friday, roughly 8am to 7pm. We begin our day a little bit after the kids get up, and end it as they go to sleep. The mamas have everything under control, we offer a little bit of extra help and love for the kids. but believe me, these kids and these mamas do a lot more for us than we do for them. We alternate working saturdays, and then have off a different day during the week. At first this seemed overwhelming, but as i sit on my day off trying to explain some of this to you, it's hard to not be spending time with them. We have a break while the children are napping, during which we eat lunch and a lot of the time walk into town and just look around. We help feed, change diapers, play with, and wash up the kids. There are 8 other girls here volunteering, all of them are great.

Power is off and on, as is internet. Water pressure, or rather water in general is the same way. But how can you complain? it is still unreal to have running water, power, and internet here. Today we are going to go into town, the girls are going to get lunch, and Alissa an I need to mail our post cards out. Hopefully you guys will get them by the time i leave here, you really never know here. I'm getting off soon, but first I want to introduce you to a few of the kids. We can not put pictures up on blogs or mention the children's names because those sort of things have caused problems for the orphanage in the past. So when i talk about a child i will just refer to them with the first letter of their name, as the other girls do.

Baby C and baby E are the smallest babies here. Baby E has the most warm laugh, the largest brown eyes, and the biggest smile i think i have ever seen on a baby. Baby C is charmer for sure. We took baby W and baby S down with the older kids yesterday because baby S is moving up to baby B's soon. She did great, she was super warm and loving toward D. D has cystic fibrosis, she has to sit in her chair as she watches the other kids play. But when she smiles, it is the greatest thing ever. Baby J is one of the younger babies in baby B, the mamas all call him lazy, but i think he's just extra loving. He loves to be held, and cries when you put him down. He fell asleep while i was holding him the first day, he just wouldn't stay awake. Baby L came to Amani more recently and is still very small. She is another special needs child, are not entirely sure what her condition is, but i think the one thing i guess i am glad i can not explain to you is how hard it is to hold back tears when you work with these kids and know you can't take their pain away. It is more than challenging to see a loving God in that, but he's there, and i know it. He's reminded me several times since i've arrived. M is a slightly older, autistic boy, he can't really talk, but i think if we started to work with him, he'd be able to. He is also super loving, and he gives great hugs. Amani is an amazing place, and they love their kids here and go above and beyond what most orphanages here are able to. i'm glad this is where i ended up. if i could talk about in detail each one of the kids i would, but for now this will have to due, this entry is already way too long, and you should win some sort of prize if you made it this far.

i'll update this when i feel the least bit capable

Thursday, February 4, 2010

jumping into a puddle wearing no boots

The title to this entry will make more sense further on. Well, we are here! After almost 30 hrs of traveling, we made it to Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja, Uganda. I was way too excited to pay attention to the fact that we had been awake for almost 50 hrs straight. Once we landed at the airport in Entebe, we got our luggage and met our taxi driver. We learned later that we were very fortunate to have gotten all our luggage, a few of the other girls had theirs lost when they arrived a few weeks ago. Once our driver helped get our luggage into the van, we left Entebe for Jinja around 10:30pm. Despite being beyond tired, I didn't really sleep at all during the 3 hr drive to Jinja. We passed through Kampala, the capital. There were people out everywhere. Small outdoor night clubs, pool tables, small 24 hr stores, people selling some type of bread by candle light. Men riding bicycles, and bodas on the sides of the road, and women carying packages on their heads. The headlights of the minivan only allowed us to see things in imediate view, i'm sure that there was a lot we missed because it was dark. Everything about Uganda imediately felt different, the warm air, the smells, everything we were seeing. It was unlike anything. In the begining of the drive I was able to relate somewhat to what Peru was like, but as we continued to drive i waa realizing just how completely different Uganda is from anywhere else i've ever been or heard about. It is amazing, and i am completely excited to be living here for the next 3 months.

It's 3:30 pm right now in Uganda. We have break/lunch in the middle of the day while the kids nap. It's almost time to go back to work, so i will finish the rest later. Hope everyone back home is doing well!

i wake up around 6am every morning, just before the sunrise, to the sounds of babies crying and roosters crowing. it is simple and wonderful. i just made toast and had fresh pineapple for breakfast. I was taken around the smaller villages down by the lake yesterday. We had taken bodas into town (these are men who ride motor scooters/motor cycles),we pay the equivalent to 50 cents USD to catch a ride with them. I didn't think i would ride one my first full day here but I did. We decided just to walk back and we saw one of the mama's (the Ugandan ladies who help look after the kids). Her name is Judy. She was the first person to amaze me while here, on my first day. As we were walking we asked her to show us how to get down to the lake, it wasn't too far, but as we were walking she began telling me about her family. She is a mother of 3, but looks after 5 children. Her sister, and her sister's husband died so she was left with their two children. Her husband was shot in 2008, while she was pregnant with their last child, her name is precious. So here I am, walking along lake victoria in Jinja, Uganda, with this singe mother of 5, who comes to work and take care of children here every day, just so she can feed her own. She also said she has to give money to her mother who doesn't work,so that she too can eat. I am here, feeling completely small, but completely encouraged with humanity. This woman's spirit is like no other. As we were walking back, I tripped and fell in the mud face first (go figure). She kept apologizing, and offered me the only other outfit she had in he bag, so that I wouldn't be embarrassed walking back through the villages. I told her that i was fine, and that sometimes you should just laugh when you do things like this. She brought me to a house, or rather a hut in the closest village, where the let me use a bucket of water to wash up. What a way to introduce myself to Uganda!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Testing the strong ones

"and i'll tell you i'm sorry
that i can't take this pain away from you
and i'd put it on my own body if i knew how to
can't you see"

In a matter of 3-4 days, and after 16 hours in the air, and a 3 hr taxi ride, i will be arriving in Jinja, Uganda. i have no idea what i'm getting myself into. i am the girl who was so into Invisible Children, went to DC to sleep outside for Displace Me. i read article after article on the LRA, joseph kony, and the Child Soldiers. i know the climate of where i am traveling. i know that Jinja is he 2nd largest city in Uganda, and i know roughly how much extra money i will need after i pay the orphanage. With all the preparation in the wold, i am sitting here feeling nothing but unprepared for this. This has been a dream of mine for so long, i feel like i should be nothing but excited. i am almost entirely packed, and every night i get more and more anxious. i love last minute things, but i guess i've been learning how awful i am with anticipation. 3 months isn't that long, no. But it is the longest i've ever gone with out seeing either of my parents. pretty crazy that i can say that a 20, guess i'm pretty lucky. i know my Dad would be siked i was doing this. driving out of the city tonight weirded me out, thinking next time i drive back into philadelphia, i would have spent 3 months in East Africa, getting to know the staff at the orphanage and the 70+ children, and their individual personalities. How do i go about preparing myself to spend 12 weeks with children who have nothing, and no one, just to leave them as well at the end of my stay there. seeing children who are in physical and emotional pain, and not being able to take that away. i don't know. i am aware my faith and understanding of humanity will be challenged constantly , am i prepared for that, no of course not. anything unknown can be scary, and equally as exciting. worying doesn't change anything, now does it? so i'll keep this updated when i have internet acess. hope everyone and anyone who reads this is doing well, and send me your adress so i can send you a post card.