“How was Uganda?” I’m running out of adjectives…

Almost three weeks ago I stepped foot on American soil for the first time in nearly a year. My mom and dad were waiting for me in true American style with red, white, and blue flowers, and they were wearing “USA” T-shirts. My experience in Uganda was over, and I was home.10334337_10202468687703087_3077441966965500961_n

I remember coming back from my first big mission trip to Africa. I spent two weeks in Niger. It was difficult, when I returned, finding the words to describe what that trip was like. Being in a radical Muslim country and sharing the Gospel was something I’ll never forget, but explaining that, explaining what it was like… it was difficult.

A few years later I went on a week-long trip to Nicaragua where we built latrines and did Bible school with children in the village. I also got to meet my sponsor child. I came home from that trip with even fewer words to describe what I had experienced.

In 2013 I made my way back to Africa for almost two weeks. We spent the majority of our time at Lifesong for Orphans Zambia. Those children, those faces, and their voices will forever be engraved on my heart. Still, when I came back to the US, I wasn’t sure how to put those experiences into words. I even wrote a blog post about it then.

Now, after living in Uganda for almost a year, I’m asked the same basic question, but with a different location.

“How was Uganda?”

Amazing. Intense. Outstanding. Life-changing. Difficult. Spiritual. Aggravating. Incredible. Terrifying. Awesome. Fabulous. Insane. Wonderful.

I’m running out of adjectives.

Before I came home I had this fear that no one would want to know details about my time in Uganda, and there are still plenty of people who don’t care, but it’s kind of ironic that so many people have asked about it, and I have literally nothing to say but a few flowery adjectives.

I had difficulties summarizing a week or two across the globe, how in the world do I summarize an entire year?

My dad asked me the other day why I hadn’t blogged since I’ve been home. My honest answer was, “Because I don’t know what to say.”

And I still don’t know.

I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

IMG_0137Maybe it’s because I know most people will never understand. Maybe it’s because there’s just too much to tell. Maybe it’s because I can’t think about saying goodbye to Florence, our dayguard’s daughter, without bursting into tears. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting if I say, “God sent me there for my students, and a few of them even flat out told me that God sent me there to help them.”

My emotions are so mixed right now. I was told to take plenty of time to reflect on my time in Uganda, take time to rest and recuperate. I was told to take at least a month to really let things sink in and to process all I had experienced. However, since I’m unemployed, I couldn’t turn down a summer job at my old place of employment. I started a week after I got back. So much for relaxing and reflecting. So much for processing. A part of me feels like I’ve been forced to put processing my entire experience on the back burner, kind of like, “I’ll get to it later.”

What I do know right now is that I’m running out of adjectives to use to describe my time in Uganda. There’s just so much to say that I really don’t know where to start. So forgive me if you run into me and ask, “How was Uganda?” and my response is just a few descriptive words and I leave it at that.

I am so thankful for the support of my family and friends, whether it was financially, prayerfully or both. I am beyond blessed to know so many people who have taken an interest in what God is doing in Uganda. I pray that if you have any specific questions, even if they sound silly, that you will ask me! I am more than happy to share about any and every experience I had in Uganda. It’s just a little difficult to wrap it all up in one response to the question, “How was Uganda?”

10 days left, 10 memorable moments…

Left in July, returning in June. For nearly a year I’ll have lived in a third-world country. Uganda has been everything I hoped it would be, and yet it’s been nothing like I imagined. I am forever changed, and I am returning to the United States a totally different person.

I have ten days until I return to the United States. I’m sure there will be plenty of memorable moments in the coming days, including a safari with the 12th graders, and I had some amazing moments in my two trips to Kenya, but right now I want to reflect on 10 of the most memorable moments from the past year in the Pearl of Africa. These are the silly moments, the moments that are behind the scenes in the lives of expats living in Uganda.

Going Raw1546282_10151849897326573_2063871615_n

My roommate Ashlie and I were psyched. We are going to eat raw for one week. We would lose a good amount of weight and use it as a jumping off point for eating healthier overall.  Our great adventure was kicked off with a trip to Ggaba Market. Our arms literally ached from the many bags of fruits and vegetables we collected and carried back to our apartment.

The night before the big day (our first day eating raw), we chopped and sliced like crazy. We even found lots of great raw recipes online. Eating raw was going to be amazing!

Monday came. I had a delicious smoothie for breakfast. For lunch I munched on carrots. Come 3 p.m., I was starving. I remember walking into our apartment. Ashlie sat on the couch with Analeigh and said, “Do you want to eat at Little Donkey tonight?” My stomach rumbled as I thought of my favorite shredded beef burrito and guacamole. “Yes!” I replied with enthusiasm.

We were officially failures. Eating raw lasted approximately 12 hours, and many of our co-workers loved making fun of us when we failed. But Ashlie and I will never forget the 12 hours we went raw!

IMG_20140518_113900Stoney. Period.

Every Stoney I’ve had is memorable. Stoney is a heavenly drink that Coca-Cola has for some reason decided should not be available in the United States. It’s a refreshing blend of ginger and soda, so strong that sometimes one sip will make you cough.

I have had Stoney’s at dinner, at school, at the beach, by the pool, and just lounging on the front porch. Every moment with a Stoney is memorable.

The Detour

It was December, and a group of ladies had gone Christmas shopping downtown. My car was loaded with me, Ashlie, Abbey, and Tiffany. About halfway home, the road we typically take was closed. This forced us to take a detour.

This wasn’t just any detour. This was a detour that movies are made of, like when the Americans get lost in a third-world country and never again see the light of day. The detour through a super sketchy neighborhood gave us all sorts of interesting sights: cats who looked like they were on meth, boda drivers who smelled like meat and cheese, nuns, and beggars who didn’t even want our G-nuts for a snack.

It had been a long day, and we were downright delirious. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed and cried as much as we did on our detour. You definitely had to be there, but it was a moment I will never, ever forget from my time in Kampala.

The Acrobatic Cockroach

I screamed my head off. A giant African cockroach was crawling around our kitchen counter.

“Ashlie! Bring the Doom!” I yelled.

She knew what that meant. She grabbed the can of Doom, Uganda’s version of Raid, and ran in the kitchen. Ashlie chased the giant bug as it crawled around the counter. She doused it in Doom, but it was resilient. It wasn’t going to die.

Somehow, the roach made its way into a big pot on the counter. We were afraid to look and see if he was alive or not. As we slowly approached the pot to peer inside, the roach catapulted itself out of the pot and back onto the counter. Our screams echoed throughout all of Kampala, but after a few more minutes of spraying, the roach was finally dead.

Morning Surprise

It was Sunday morning, and we were headed to church. As I rounded the corner of our second-story apartment porch, I looked down the stairs and saw a kitten.10155465_603901271423_936196015706335090_n

I started to say, “Awww!” when my eyes were drawn to something further down the stairs.

“O….M…G….” I screamed, loud enough that the neighbors heard.

Ashlie walked around the corner and saw the kitten.

“It’s just a kitten!” she said.

“No! Look!” I pointed.

There on the steps was a dead baby chicken. How a chicken even got on our compound is a mystery, but he clearly didn’t last long!

Crazy Caterpillars

It started off almost as a pimple, but after a few days, it had grown. And it looked nasty.

The disgusting sore on my arm changed shape and size every day, and it was growing new blisters by the minute. Finally, I went to the doctor to have it checked out. As usual, the doctors didn’t have much of an answer, except that it might be a caterpillar burn.

IMG_4723A what? Yup. Many of the caterpillars here in Uganda are poisonous. Just brushing up against the wrong kind of caterpillar can literally burn your skin.

To fix me, they popped all the blisters, drained out some nasty stuff, and then packed it with honey and gauze. Yes, honey, the apparent fix-all for any skin problem in Uganda. Sure enough, after a few days they took off the gauze, cleaned off the honey, and I was good to go!

I do, however, have a scar from my caterpillar burn. I’m quite proud of it. How many people can say they have a scar from an encounter with an evil caterpillar?

Solar Eclipse

Living on the equator means getting burnt after only a few minutes in the sun. It’s a pain, but living on the equator also means experiencing awesome, once-in-a-lifetime things like a solar eclipse.eclipse2

In November we observed a solar eclipse here in Kampala. It happened in the evening, and while it did get darker than usual, it was not a full eclipse that darkened everything. Still, I’ll never forget viewing it through the solar shades the school provided everyone. It was an event I’ll always remember.

IMG_20131217_185925KFC Crazy

I thought there was a McDonald’s in every country. Or maybe even a Taco Bell. There had to be SOME sort of Western fast food restaurant in Uganda that would cure our cravings when we missed home.

There were none.

Until December. Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its doors to the people of Uganda, and we were some of the first in line to experience the awesomeness.

Did I eat a lot of KFC when I lived in America? Not at all. Hardly ever, actually. But just to have a taste of home was something we were dying for by our fifth month here. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in Uganda, simply because it was a small reminder of home.

Power Outage Party

It happens here. A lot. The power goes out and you never know if it will come back on within a few minutes or a few days. We quickly learned, however, that you just have to make the best of it.

There was one night we were particularly excited because we had purchased bread, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese at the store. (Cheese can be next-to-impossible to find around here.) We were going to make one of our favorite dinners- pizza bites.IMG_0485

But the power went out.

Being the awesome gals we are, we didn’t let the lack of electricity cramp our style. Me, Ashlie, Stephanie, Elise and Nyenhial and her two boys packed ourselves into the kitchen, made our dinner by candlelight, and sang the hits of the 90’s. It was most definitely one of my favorite Africa memories!

Frozen with Florence

Florence, our dayguard’s daughter, is quite possibly one of the cutest four year olds on the planet. It’s such a blessing to be greeted by her each day, and sometimes we like to hang out. Florence knows very little English, but that doesn’t stop us from having fun. Sometimes we just play on the porch, sometimes I paint her fingernails and toenails, and the other day we watched Frozen.

IMG_20140517_071757Her reaction to everything was priceless. Throughout most of the movie she just pointed at my laptop screen and smiled. And the icing on the cake was after the movie when she looked at me and began to sing, “Let it Go.” The only words she knew were, “Let it go,” and that was fine. OK, it was amazing.

Every moment with Florence this year has been special, but one of my favorites was definitely watching Frozen together.

So many memories here in Uganda! I’ll never forget the faces and places from my year in the Pearl of Africa.