Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Holiday and a New Home

So, the big exciting thing I spoke about in the last post was a wee holiday. I have never taken a vacation with a group of friends before and if that isn’t fun enough, we got to spend it in Zanzibar (don’t worry supporters, it was mostly my own savings that paid for the trip). J If you’re at all interested, you can see some pictures here.

Also, Em’s cat went into labor the day we got back and had two little kittens, Murray and Earl (they were named after our two friends, Brad and Trey, who were assigned those names courtesy of an online quiz entitled “What is your old person name?”).

Now for the really big news… Remember that apartment I’ve been talking about for a YEAR? The one my friends and I found last August??  We FINALLY signed contracts and moved in this past weekend! I cannot even begin to explain how happy I am about this. Where we’ve been living has been fine but less than ideal (3 adults, one child in a two bedroom apartment) and we have never really settled in because our mentality has always been that we would be moving soon. I am the type of person who needs to settle in, to nest, to make a place home, so this has been a bit of a challenge for me. Why is this new place so fantastic, you ask? Well, it’s a lot closer to work, for one. It’s a 4 unit building (2 down, 2 up) and is enclosed within its own gated compound (common and necessary security protocol). What makes this place so incredible is that I am sharing a unit with my friend, Erika, and the other units have been rented by friends AND another friend lives across the street. It’s my ideal living environment: communal but with everyone still having their own space. We have big plans for the compound including, but not limited to, a fire pit, a veggie garden, possibly a chicken coop with some layers. We are slowly recognizing the potential of some pretty epic group games, like hide and seek and sardines, as well. We all spend copious amounts of time together as it is so this just cuts down on unnecessary travel time and expense. And to top it all off, we will have dogs. This is another necessary security protocol, as none of us want the hassle of hiring a guard, but I am also a huge fan of dogs. Whether or not I, personally, have ownership is up in the air, but if Trey* gets more than one, I will just adopt his. 

*Trey is the standout in this photo from Ekisa prom (yes, Erika and I were going for an 80’s look; Em, on the left, she just liked the dress and gets horribly embarrassed by Trey’s antics). He has ordered a housecoat and Gandolf-like pipe for the apartment and plans on getting a small white fluffy dog from Kampala. Can you see why I am excited about this living arrangement? These will be my room/compound mates. Never a dull moment…

I took a couple pictures, but they’re not much because the compound still looks like a construction site (the landlord has until December to get the machines off or we live for free) and we need to get furniture (my bed was our couch at the old place). It will certainly be some time before we’re all settled in because everyone is going home at some point over the next few months and we won’t all be there at the same time until February. In fact, I’m already recruiting a volunteer to stay with me for 10 days in the beginning of December as I will have been abandoned by everyone else on the compound and am not so keen on being there by myself…I might also borrow someone’s dog or hire an interim guard...just to be safe.

This next month and a half could be a little rough as it will only be Emily and I at Ekisa (the other 3 “western” staff members will be away for various reasons). We will have 2 volunteers during that time so it should be ok but we are praying for no medical emergencies or emergencies of any kind, for that matter. 

Again, never a dull moment... 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ebbs and Flows

I have been called out…

I went down to Mpigi to see the Peace Portal team a week ago and I was told that more than one person back home asked them to get on my case about the significant lack of blog posts.

Guilty…and the more time that goes by, the harder it is to be motivated to document my life; but I do recognize the importance of staying connected with the people that love and support me so, again, I am sorry.

The update:

I am still in the same 2 bedroom apartment (the “temporary” place that I moved into 9 months ago) that I share with Emily, Erika and Em’s foster daughter. There have been some major frustrations and I have experienced a wide range of emotions along the way, for sure, but I have loved aspects of it as well. For instance, Erika and I share a room and it’s kind of like a perpetual sleepover. She’s back in the States right now and I miss her dearly… In the midst of it, I feel I am getting closer and closer to really understanding the meaning of grace in the context of my interpersonal relationships and that, I suppose, is a gift. The new apartment is not out of the picture yet, it’s just…arg. That’s really all I can say about that…

We got a cat, her name is Molly.

There was a rally tournament in Jinja one weekend a while back. I am a fan of rally cars so I went to check it out…there were some safety precautions in place but we were still close enough to risk getting sprayed with sand and stones…it was fantastic.

The Agriculture Fair came again this summer. I didn’t hold a snake and go on sketchy spinning metal swings this year because it was too insanely crowded and we didn’t stay long, but I did witness the ring of death… Click here… 

My dear friend, Cheryl Butler, came to see me and spent a week and a half fully immersed in my world. It was lovely. Whatever she tells you about what she saw and experienced in regards to me and my crazy friends, don’t believe her, none of it is true…we are all well behaved, mild mannered “missionaries” who only say the kindest of things and spend our evenings playing Bibliopoly and drinking Shirley Temples. 

Cheryl and I went to Mpigi to see the Peace Portal team. If you read about my trip to Mpigi last year, you’ll be happy to know that traveling to and from was much more straight forward this time around and didn’t involve multiple pickpocket attempts and being tailed down a dark alleyway…ok, the latter may or may not have just been my imagination but it was a creepy alleyway and I did feel like a chicken on a spit in a den of hungry lions. The team came up to Jinja the day before heading home and we all had the chance to have a nice dinner and go on a wee float down The Nile together. They also took the time to visit Ekisa and it was a joy to show them around. I cannot stress enough how incredibly nice it is when I get to share this home with friends and family and this year I’ve had many an opportunity.   

The mental health update:

I have talked before about the nature of living here being one of extremes…things are either really great or really hard; death, corruption and cultural complexities all play a role in the latter. I have always been an “ebbs and flows” kind of gal and living in Uganda has been no exception. Sometimes I feel like I’m coping well and other times I do a poor job of it. Bitterness and cynicism are huge traps that everyone here struggles to stay clear of and it is extremely hard to not get ensnared. Last month was one of those months where patience and joy were far from flowing and my enthusiasm for being here was ebbing away; to be honest, it was the first time I had ever really thought about throwing in the towel. I daydreamed about moving back, getting a “normal” job and not having to worry about getting cheated or hurt or knowing when or when not to help someone and never witnessing the death of another child. My pride would have never allowed that, of course, but that doesn’t stop me from wallowing in a deep chasm of self pity. If it wasn’t for my faith and my family here (my friends, young and old), I don’t think I could manage. I am very fortunate to have people around me that know me and understand me and understand the struggles that we all go through and for that I am eternally grateful.

The good news is that God always steps in when I’m at the end of my rope and I feel like this time, He gave me an extra dose of grace…like a shot of holy espresso. Patience renewed, joy restored, I have been reminded why I am here. I have to choose though, everyday, to keep an attitude of joy and of love. My faithful Savior stepped in with a leg up, but I know what is required of me, I just don’t always own up to it. I sometimes think that when I “grow up”, I will be steadier, more grounded, but I think it may be time to admit that I will always struggle, I will always be drawn to that place where I am the centre of my own tragic universe. I am not unique and, I suppose, there is comfort in that.

So, in conclusion, I am alive and I am well and I have much to look forward to: a month from now, I will be on a plane heading out on an adventure with 4 of my most dear friends. My next post will likely be all about it…

A couple pictures of beautiful Uganda for your viewing pleasure...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Oh, The Shame

The title of this post reflects how I feel about how long it’s been since my last entry. The longer I live here, the less I feel it necessary to chronicle my life; in the way that it would never occur to me to write a blog post about my day to day back in Canada. That being said, I shall now try and sum up the last couple months of my life without boring anyone too much.

I have been learning a lot lately about what it means to let things go. I don’t have a problem with change, where I struggle is when I have an idea (or an ideal) in my head that doesn’t pan out the way I anticipated…”But, but, that’s not how it was supposed to be!!!!” Example A: We (myself and 3 other friends; two of which I am currently snuggled into a 2 bedroom place with) have been waiting for an apartment complex to be completed with the intention of moving in. We were told it would be done in October, the November, then December…you get the idea. My roommate and I have paint colors picked, cushion colors picked, the whole place planned out (I even purchased curtains and decorative pillows while at home) with the intention of moving in when I returned from Canada. That did not happen…I have had to let go. Side note: We should find out today whether we can move in soon or if he is completely screwing us over and giving it to someone else.

That is just one example, but the point is, I am learning…

Besides that distraction, the last couple months have been pretty great…a definite highlight being the arrival of my dear sister, Dana. She came and spent 2 weeks with me splitting time between seeing the sights and just being a fly on the wall, experiencing what an ordinary day is for me…and believe me, there are some pretty intense things we have to deal with but for the most part, my days are pretty ordinary. She was able to meet the kids, sit in on a meeting or two, get to know my friends and see the best of what Jinja has to offer. And then, of course, we just had to go on safari. J

The last time I went, it was to Murchison but this time, we went to Queen Elizabeth. We did a three day safari that included a day of driving, then safari day (a drive and a boat cruise) and then a day of travelling back. One of the great parts of this safari was that there were five of us (Dana and I, and three other friends) and we had the van to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting people while I travel, but this was kind of a treat.

The morning of our safari drive, we headed out with our guide, Assuman (whom we nicknamed Awesome Man), to try and track down the big 5. The day started out rather disappointing and to be honest, I was getting a little worried; especially as I was the one who planned the trip and felt a responsibility towards everyone, as though I had the slightest control over what animals we see. We really hadn’t seen much of all when we pulled into a rest area on the outskirts of a crater of some sorts. Assuman stepped out of the vehicle but before we could even get our things together he hopped back in and rattled off something excitably about there being “something there” and left the crater in a cloud of dust. We flew across the rutted, dirt pathways slowing down just to pass other safari vehicles whose drivers waved us on although time was running out. We arrived at the spot full of excited energy and pulled in beside a bunch of other vehicles. Our excitement quickly dwindled as we realized the lions were a fair bit away and we could just make out the top ridges of their bodies in the grass. Although disappointed, I would have gone home somewhat satisfied with the sighting but our guide had other things in mind. After a while, we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and went to find Assuman, who was busy chatting with the other guides. To our surprise, despite regulations and the risk of a fine, he insinuated that we should wait a bit till people leave and go in a bit closer. So, we waited for a bit until he came rushing over, his intentions unmistakable. We all piled in and could hardly contain our excitement as we headed into the bush. Then we saw them…first a couple females and then a male and a female who laid there nonchalantly while we parked hardly 10 feet away and just stared. Not more than a minute went by before we had to continue on but I honestly will not forget that experience for as long as I live. We were all pumped full of adrenaline after that and could not stop talking about it for the rest of the day. Even though we saw multiple hippos, buffalo and even elephants on the boat cruise, it was still the highlight. The only thing that came close was when, on the way back from the boat cruise, we had to stop and let a whole herd of elephants cross the road in front of us.

All in all, the trip couldn’t have been more of a success and it was made even more special by having my sister right there alongside me.

There are probably more things I could share but I filled nearly two pages and it is time to end.

Watch the safari slideshow here.