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Uganda Video

>> Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sorry that I haven't posted another update yet - I'm taking my time writing them as I really want to tell the story of our trip and the Ugandan people we met as best I can. In the meantime though, I've posted a great video that my husband put together yesterday - it's on the top right-hand side of the page.


Uganda - The Pearl of Africa

>> Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As I sit here to write my first real post-Uganda blog, I really don't even know where to start. I think it's going to be a long time before I'm even able to start to really wrap my brain around my Uganda experience. There were so many amazing, so many hard, and so many heart-wrenching moments during our ten days in the field that's it's weird to think that we were only gone for two weeks in total. Forgive me if my thoughts seem to ramble in this post and the posts that follow, but I have a lot of memories and thoughts floating around in my head right now.

I guess for now I'll start at the beginning:

After a whole day of nerves and excitement, we all finally made it to the airport on the evening of Sunday March 8th. After getting all three of our family groups together, and finally making it through the check-in desk, it was time for final goodbyes to all the moms, dads, brothers and sisters who came to the airport to see their family member off. There were a few tears, but mostly big smiles and waves as we crossed over to the first security check-point. As we waited to board our plane, there was a shared feeling of "isn't it surreal that it's finally here?" After waiting and counting down for so long, most of us couldn't believe that the day had finally arrived. As we started to get closer and closer to Uganda (first at our stop-over in London, and then at our stop-over in Nairobi, Kenya) it slowly became more clear to us that it was really happening and that we were all about to have an experience that would leave none of us unchanged in some way.

When we finally landed in Entebbe, Uganda on Tuesday March 10th (after many, many, many hours of travel), we gathered our baggage and were pleasantly surprised to find that none of our luggage was missing. Considering we had a ton of baggage (as we brought a lot of donated items with us), to have nothing missing at all is kind of unheard of. We took it as a sign of good things to come, waited as Ryan got our Visas, and then boarded the bus that would be our main source of transportation during our time in Uganda. We drove about an hour to Kampala (the capital city) for lunch and to change our money into Ugandan shillings. Kampala was, in a word - chaotic. There are pretty much no road rules in Uganda (other than drive on the left-hand side of the road) and there are only about 3 stop-lights in the entire city - and only one of them actually works! There were people, cars, taxi buses, and boda-bodas (a two-seater motorcycle that is used as a sort of mini-taxi) everywhere. I honestly don't know how Farouq (our bus driver) didn't hit anything or anyone, but I very quickly learnt that Farouq is pretty much the master of all drivers - he can drive through anything at anytime and never hit a thing.

When we parked the bus to walk down the street for lunch, there were three thoughts running through my mind:
1. It is sooooo hot!!! (Seriously, I have never, ever even come close to experiencing the kind of heat they have in Uganda - it ranges from about 25-35 degrees Celsius I think depending on where you are, but the humidity is pretty much always at 100% so it always feels like it's at least 50% Celsius).
2. The birds in Uganda are huge!! The official bird in Uganda is the Crested crane, and they are everywhere in Kampala - in trees, sitting on roof-tops, flying through the allys. They kind of look like something from the dinosaur age, they're that big.
3. There are no tourists in Kampala - I very quickly noticed that there are very few non-African people there (I only saw one other caucasian person while we were in Kampala). I asked Ryan about Tourism in Uganda and he said it's pretty much non-existent. Ever since Idi Amin took over rule of Uganda in the early 70's, tourism in the country dropped completely. Even though there is now only conflict in some of the Northern regions, Uganda still seems to be one of those countries that people don't really know about or don't consider as a tourist destination. It's a shame as one of the things that became very obvious to every member of our team is the unbelievable generousity and hospitality of the Ugandan people.

When we reached our lunch destination, one of the waitresses at the cafe loved our Uganda Team t-shirts so much that Tori (one of the other leaders) gave her one, which the waitress quickly put on and was so grateful that she thanked and hugged each and every member of our team. We even got her to pose for some pictures with us so we wouldn't forget her. We then went to an Internet cafe so that the kids could email their parents to let them know we arrived safely, and then boarded the bus and started our 2 hour drive to the town of Jinja, which would act as our "hub" of activity during our stay. Ryan kept telling everyone to stay awake as the drive was extremely scenic and there were many sights to see, but sadly the majority of our team was jet-lagged and fell asleep pretty much as soon as they sat down.

I personally was not doing too well at that point. To make a long story short, it turns out I was allergic to Malarone (the anti-malaria pills) and was suffering from an allergic reaction. The back of my neck had swollen up and I had really painful lumps and bumps all over my head and the back of my ear. The heat didn't really help and made my whole head feel like it was on fire. I stopped taking the Malarone and ended up taking the Naturopathic anti-malaria pills that Ryan takes and sure enough, a couple of days later I was back to normal. But that initial bus-ride was hard for me as at that point, we didn't know what I was suffering from, and I was trying to be upbeat and take everything in, while feeling really sick and in a lot of pain.

We finally reached our first guesthouse (a beautiful place called Mto Moyoni) and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting settled in and resting. Mto Moyoni is located just outside of Jinja and is right on the River Nile (not the Nile River as Ryan or any Ugandan will tell you - you're always supposed to say River first). The "rooms" in the guesthouse are all actually these amazing seperate round huts. Chris and I had a beautiful room with a great balcony and great view of the Nile. There were a ton of monkeys everywhere, and some even tried to come into our room a couple of times during our 4-night stay there! We also had several resident geckos that were extremely cute (and we were grateful for their presence in our room as they eat insects and mosquitos). The guesthouse only had electricity for about 3 hours a night, but I never really noticed it much. It was kind of interesting using the bathroom in the middle of the night with no lights, but I kept thinking of all the other people in Uganda who never have any electricity at all, and that helped keep things in perspective. The food at Mto Moyoni was amazing - always fresh passionfruit juice and pineapple (which I never liked but became a fan of while we were there), hardboiled eggs and toast for breakfast, and great dinners - lots of rice, soup, chicken, and matooke (which is cooked plantains and kind of tastes like mashed potatoes but better).

We all hit the sack early as we had to be up bright and early the next day for our first day in the field. Although I wasn't feeling the greatest, it was definitely amazing to spend that first night falling asleep with the sounds of the River Nile in the background. I was in Africa!!

Stay tuned for my next update when I'll talk about the first few days on the ground in Uganda!


A few pics from our trip!

>> Sunday, March 22, 2009


We're Back!!

Hi everyone! After 2 amazing weeks, we arrived back in Canada yesterday afternoon. I had hoped to post a quick blog yesterday, but by the time we got home I was completely exhausted and fell asleep at around 8pm. I didn't wake up until about 10:30am this morning (over 14 hours of sleep!) but I figured my body needed it after our crazy travel schedule and not sleeping much on any of our flights.

I'll post more details and pics from our trip over the next several days, but for now I'll just say that it truly was amazing and life changing. I met some incredible people and had experiences I'll never forget. It went by so quickly, but at the same time it feels very strange to be home and that a whole lifetime has passed since we left for the airport on March 8th. In the meantime, I'll post a small slideshow of a few pics (I can't seem to get Blogger to include it in this post, so I'll do it as a seperate post).


Today's the day!!

>> Saturday, March 7, 2009

Okay, so it's 12am on the dot right now so I just had to post as today's the big day!! Yee haw it's finally here! I know I should be in bed right now (as I guess with the clocks moving ahead an hour tonight it's actually 1am and I have to wake up early to get some stuff done before church), but I've been keeping busy tonight tying up loose ends. There always seems to be one more thing to do!

We had our final full team meeting tonight and it was actually kind of surprising as everyone seemed really quiet and subdued. I think we're all just thinking that's it's kind of surreal that it's actually happening and we'll very shortly be on our way to Africa! Even with all the prep work we've done, I think we all know that there's no way to be truly emotionally or spiritually (and maybe physically!) prepared for what's to come over the next two weeks. I know that whatever happens though, it's gonna' be awesome and none of us will come back and not be changed in some way.

I'm going to really try and stay "in the moment" while we're there. I have a tendancy to jump ahead in my mind to what will be happening next and miss out on what's really happening in front of me that very moment. I want to really live fully each and every second on this trip, whether it's good, bad, uncomfortable or fantastic.

So here's to a great trip, an amazing journey and a life-changing experience. Here's to Africa!


4 Days to Go!!

>> Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh boy - so 4 days to go until our departure day and yesterday / today I was sick as a dog. I went home from work early yesterday as I was pretty much near tears as I felt so horrible. That scratch-y feeling in my throat turned into a full-blown sore throat and it pretty much took all the energy I could muster not to fall down. I came home and pretty much slept for most the day, and also started some pretty hard-core dosages of Benelyn and Cold FX. I was up most of last night as my throat and cough kept waking me up, and had a pretty high fever, so made the decision to call in sick to work today as well. Not good as I'm out of sick days so won't get paid for a day and a half, but there was no way I was going to make it through the day at work.

I'm actually feeling a lot better this evening though, I think my medication combo is doing the trick. I don't have the fever, chills, or that achy feeling anymore, and my throat feels about 50% better than it did last night and this morning. I'm also getting my voice back which is great as I've sounded like a man whose smoked his whole life for the past 2 and 1/2 days. I hate, hate, hate feeling sick (who wouldn't?) but I do always seem to bounce back really quickly - so hopefully that trend continues and I'm good to go for Sunday (I almost cried this morning as I was so worried that I'd be travelling feeling like I did)! I've also had a bunch of people praying for me that I would feel better soon, and I know that this is probably the greatest reason why I feel so much better tonight! (so thank-you everyone)!

I also wanted to thank everyone for being so supportive of this trip - it's a really cool feeling to know that all my friends and family are so excited for me, and excited for everyone going on this trip. I know I've talked about it a lot over the last several months, and will probably talk about it a lot after we get back, but everyone seems to be really genuinely interested in it and doesn't seem tired about hearing about it yet!

I was talking to one of my best friends tonight, and she was asking if I was still really excited or if the nervousness was kicking in yet. It's funny, 'cause although I'm not really nervous about anything yet (except for the travelling while feeling sick part of course), this week has been a different kind of excitement. Now that the trip is so close, it's kind of like the more materialistic excitement of the trip (the travelling, exploring new places) has been replaced by an excitement or focus on what I really want to accomplish while I'm there. I'm really hoping that I connect with a lot of the children at the orphanages we'll be visiting. I know (through my research and through talking with Ryan at GIVE) that a lot of these kids just need attention and love. Some of these orphanages have so many kids and so few people to care for them (just through lack of resources) that what they really need is just personal attention and someone to really focus on them as individuals and show them love. I'm really hoping and praying that us being there will really make a difference to some of the kids, even if it's just for a day it'll make everything so worthwhile.

Anyway - thanks again everyone for being so supportive. Please keep praying for me and for the entire Uganda team and for the people we'll be meeting while we're there.

I plan on posting one more time before we leave, but just in case I don't, feel free to check out the youth group webpage as we hope to update it every few days throughout our trip: www.highway242.com


1 Week to Go!!

>> Sunday, March 1, 2009

So we're almost there - only 1 week left to go before the big trip!! This time next week I will be at the airport, waiting to board the plane to London. Needless to say, I am pretty much beyond excited - there really are no words that could ever express just how excited and amped up I am about this trip.

As there is always a flip side to everything though, as excited and jumpy and happy I am this week as the days count down, it just so happens that I woke up this morning with a scratch-y feeling in my throat and just feeling not so great. As the hours went by at work , my voice started getting more and more hoarse and I started feeling super tired and run-down. I feel a bit better now, so am really hoping that I'm not coming down with a sore throat right before we leave! I'm going to overdose on the Vitamin C over the next few days and hopefully that will do the trick.

I have a ton of work to do (for work) over the next few days, but with my last shift being on Thursday, that leaves me all day Friday and the afternoon on Saturday (we have a final trip meeting during the first part of the day on Saturday) to finish packing, clean the house, and pick up some grocery shopping for the person who is staying at our house while we're gone to take care of Franklin. Sunday we have church and I'm thinking the rest of the day Sunday will be a complete write-off, with me just basically sitting at the door waiting for the evening to come so we can leave for the airport.

I can't believe I only have four more days of work and 6 more days until Sunday!! I'll definitely post at least once more before we leave, so stayed tuned for my last "pre-Africa" entry, and for info on how you can keep updated on our trip while we're gone!


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