Wednesday, February 3, 2010
My friend Jason Carson has been updating his blog (The Proud Suburbanite) with stories and photos and pictures of his trip. I think his blog is very interesting and touching. For anyone who wants to learn more about Nsambya Babies home, his stories and photos provide lots of information.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
After a long day on Monday, Shawn and Joseph retired to their room. Suzanne graciously let me bunk up with her in her "suite" (ha, ha). We both ended up not being able to sleep and talking for much of the night. Shawn, Joseph and I headed to the US embassy very early and as luck would have it, we were number one in line to meet with the consular. Our intentions were to get Joseph a visa so that he could come and visit, meet the family and in general see how he liked life in our family and the US. From there, we would then make decisions based off the visit. The consular called our small group up, Joseph, Mama Dorothy (the women Joseph lives with), Susan (the women who helped me get Joseph's passport) and Shawn and I. The consular, Sahara immediately asked us to leave. I was severely disappointed as I had been told by Susan that we should be with Joseph when he applied otherwise his chances would be slim on receiving a visa. To our dismay, he walked out of the office 10 minutes later with no visa. I protested to a clerk, then another one and she would not let me in to find out why they denied him. The paper he received said, "No strong ties", meaning he didn't have anything in Uganda that would prove he would come back. "Help, wait, please"! I wanted to shout. "I promise I'll bring him back, I'm an honest girl"! I had to face the fact that he was denied. As we walked out outside I turned to Joseph and asked how he was feeling and he replied, "It's in God's hands, I still have hope". What, come on Joseph! I'm madder than h@$ll! How can you have hope? I learned a big lesson from him that day and continue to think about it now that I'm home. I have since talked to the consular on the phone and understand pretty clearly why they said no, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt.
After the embassy we headed back to the Red Chili to pick up the rest of the group and took off for the long ride to Gulu. Our van had seats that faced each other so we had lots of fun goofing off and doing stupid things to entertain ourselves. We had a nice big sunroof and several times stood on the seats with our bodies popping out of the top of the van so that we could get photos and enjoy the scenery. The van had very dark tinted windows so it was hard to see out of them which was kind of a bummer when you are trying to soak in every scene. We did make a stop at the Nile River for a photo op, see the funny man in the fur hat!
We arrived in Gulu around 4PM and didn't wait 2 minutes to start working, that is why we were there right? We drove to small village where a group of child mother's were waiting for us. They greeted us with clapping and a traditional high pitched yell. Their enthusiasm was contagious. We inspected and purchased their beads until dark finally forced us back to the hotel. Oh, did I say hotel? I think I misspoke when I told the group that we would be staying in one of the nicest hotels in Gulu, the Boma. To me, it was quite nice, but to the group that was misleading. Suzanne faced the week in a room that was tomb-like sleeping with roaches the size of her hand! Shawn and I lucked out, our room actually had functioning air conditioning and was quite nice. The group was quite jealous when we woke up in the morning and I said our room got cold! I think for Joseph this was certainly a first. He had never felt air conditioning and Uganda never gets cold! One of my favorite parts about the trip was tucking in Joseph at night. Although he is almost 15, I would say he is more like a 12 year old and really craved that mommy attention. He was such a joy to have with us throughout the week. The whole group quickly became attached to him and as we dragged him around from IDP camp to IDP camp throughout the week even he saw the contrast in poverty between the north and the south. Some things the group quickly learned: Dinner takes about 3 hours start to finish, when you order, it is likely that the food you want is "finished", and then the next item on the menu, and the next. There is never going to be syrup in the morning, even though someone was sent to the market on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.............Electricity is never a guarantee. You are camping, even though you are in the nicest hotel in Gulu. Suzy does not like lizards! Joseph has never flossed.
More to come.....................
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Suzy and Patrick
We arrived in Uganda on Sunday night,late. We traveled for about 30 hours and were greeted by our driver Kiganda at the Entebbe airport. The teams first experience with extreme poverty took only minutes to manifest. As we were at a stoplight a small girl holding her baby sister approached the van and stuck her hand in the window asking for food. I handed her my peanut butter crackers and Jason, who was eating a sandwich handed his over, half eaten. The kids eagerly ate on the side of the rode as we drove away into the night. They were so quiet that Shawn missed the whole experience sitting up in the front.
We arrived at the Red Chili Hostel around mid-night. I had booked 3 rooms well in advance. Upon arrival only two rooms were available. It's one of the only times the "team" saw my ugly side. We were so tired and had no where to sleep. Maybe a little like Mary and Joseph, there was no room at the inn! The manager finally figured out a solution. He said that we could sleep in the dorm. Yippee! I had slept if the dorm before! It had 24 beds and I figured that we were going to get the whole place to our self. Wrong! We walk into the dorm only to find that almost all 24 beds were occupied! We couldn't turn on the lights and had to navigate through our bags to find our belongings and work our way to the top bunks without getting tangled in the mosquito net. Throughout the night loud music played, followed by a 5AM call to prayer by a local mosque. Needless to say, it was the night from hell. Although, the prospect of the famous Red Chili Pancakes pulled my out of my rut early in the morning.
Our first real day in Uganda I didn't wait long to introduce the group to the reality of orphans. We visited Nsambya Babies Home (you'll see a post about them in 2008 earlier in this blog). Remember Patrick, my baby? Sadly, he was still there, no one had adopted or fostered him. He was still as wild and crazy as ever. Nsambya hasn't changed a bit. The children still bit, hit and fought each other to get a bit of your attention. As always, there were no diapers, the babies just peed wherever and then if lucky, had their clothing changed. We witness one baby standing in the grass with diarrhea pouring down his leg. Within minutes, the others were walking in it and playing in the same area. The sadness was impenetrable. The groups opinion was such that they never wanted to see that place again.
After Nsambya we ventured to a wonderful orphan school called St. Mary's Kevin. Were were treated with some wonderful music and a tour of a typical school and orphan home.
In the evening we had a reunion or sorts. Although everyone who came were friends of mine, it didn't take long for the group to see why I cared about each of the visitors. Alex Magero (June trip) the missionary I met last spring came and we were able to deliver his school fees to him so that he can attend High School. That night was also that night that Shawn met our son Joseph. When he saw us he literally knocked us over he hugged us so tightly. More to come about Joseph later, but let's just say that Shawn was as smitten with him as I was.
We were so tired that I put an end to the party quickly. We were all so jet-lagged and needed to get to sleep so we'd be ready to go to Gulu the next day.
In some ways, returning home feels like what I imagine PTSD feels like. There are so many things flashing through my mind. In many ways, I want to hide away in my room until all of the racing thoughts go away. But will they ever go away? How does your mind forget a starving child with sores covered by flies? Or children so wild they seem like ferrell children raising themselves in a pack? Or Joseph, saying good-bye to him leaving him in a home where he is being mis-treated. Although my previous trips have taught me one thing, that is, amidst all of the suffering there is joy and a deep reliance on God, this time, that wasn't always evident. How does one find joy amidst such devastation? If they can see the joy, why couldn't I? As I am finally home I'm dealing with so much more emotion than I have dealt with in past experiences. This time, I had my best friend/husband with me. It was so awesome to have him there with me. Now Africa is not "my thing" it's "our thing". I am happy to be home, but I always feel like a piece of me is still in Africa, this time even more so as we had to leave Joseph behind.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I am so happy to say that we are off to Uganda! This time, APF's full board of director's will be going. We will be purchasing and bringing home about 1000 pieces of jewelry! We are also meeting with World Vision and some other local NGO's in Gulu hoping to get our sponsorship program running. For those who don't know, APF buys necklaces from impoverished women in Uganda,many are widows and/or HIV+. By giving the women income they help lift themselves out of poverty through their own handiwork. We then sell the jewelry in the US and all profits will go back into supporting orphans in Northern Uganda. My husband Shawn will be coming with me for the first time and we will be going to the US Embassy to get our "son" Joseph a visitor visa. We hope to update the blog while there, so feel free to follow us and drop and encouraging word!