Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making Memories. Lives Changed.

Here I am sitting in Uganda, Africa. I feel that I am home.  I can truly say that at this point. Sure I miss America. Mostly I miss the people involved in my life there. Sometimes (okay…quite often) I dream of one of my mom’s home cooked meals. I miss receiving a weekly paycheck so that I don’t have to feel guilty about spending money.  But what I miss most is the moments that I am missing. The memories that never were and never will be because I am not there. Such as RCM 2011, hurricanes at the beach, my best friend Madeleine growing up, game nights, family trips to the cabin, and so much more. When Ugandan  friends ask me what I am thinking about (which is all the time) it is typically this. It is how different my life would be right now if I were not here. BUT I am here. I am enjoying a world of moments that so many will never take the opportunity to make. I am making friends that I know will last a lifetime. Through God in my life I am impacting the lives of many as they impact mine.
I sit here alone in my room watching the storm outside my window listening to worship music and reflecting.  These (almost) three months have changed me. I feel like I am a stronger person. A person willing and able to stand up for what I believe is right. A person who understands more and more how much culture impacts who you are and how experiencing another can make you stop and think about what you have thought all your life is right because of what your culture tells you is right. And then when you are in another who thinks differently…are you wrong? Or are they? OR are you both wrong?
I often reflect on ‘why am I here?’ Am I really doing anything? Am I making a difference? Is this all worth my time and your money? I still have a peace that I am where God wants me to be. I don’t want to doubt him anymore. I want faith that can move the mountains. Maybe I am not here to move mountains, but overcome a lot of hills. These past few weeks there have been a lot of these ‘hills’. It’s been challenging not having that ONE organization to fit with here anymore and instead going here and there every day.
*it was a blessing to be here when my friend Ronald died. It was good to be able to be with his family on that day. It was great to have been able to see him once again this year. Sure I wish I would have taken the time out of my “busy life” to hang out with him when he called wanting to be the first friend to come visit me in Namirembe.
* Then it was clearly a God moment that I was here to pay Abbey’s medical bill. His family and friends were wailing , watching the one that they love slowly die. I mean that’s what was happening. He was sitting in a clinic, internally bleeding not wanting to “bother” me.  I am grateful that he is still around to hang out with. I know that I hold tightly onto money and it was a growing experience for me to let go.
*Then the other night when I arrived home at dark, I was locked out. Five of the kids that live in the house across the street came over and asked if they could hang out with me because they were scared. They were home alone with a teenage cousin who was abusing them and trying to scare them. W e hung out and I learned about who they were and we had some good laughs. Even after Julia arrived home I stayed out with them into their mom got home from the salon.
*Yesterday I went back to the house that I stayed in my first time to Uganda. I was able to spend some quality time with the now youth that I lived with. It was great to catch up on life with them. When we were headed to town 2 others who stay there were also going. We joined and went together. I asked them to join us for lunch. We all had chips and chicken with a Mirinda Fruity. The bill came to about $10 for the four of us. They were sooo thankful. It’s the simple things.
My prayer today is that I continue to walk where He leads me. That I will be willing to answer to His calling. I have not written this so cry out ‘why am I here?’ I LOVE it here. I am glad that I am here. I want others to be able to experience this with me. That is why many of you I always ask when are you coming. I am so glad that Julia is able to experience this with me. It’s always easier when you have a friend by your side. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My "Vacation" in pictures

On our way to Rwanda to renew our visas we stopped at Ronnie's Jaja (grandmothers). This is the view.

 More of the view!
 Food at Jaja's!! This was just a welcome home plate. Not dinner!!
 We made banana pancakes with everyone!
 JAJA!! Ronnie, Julia, Jaja, me, James
Climbing the rocks at Jaja's.

 Lake Bunyonyi- James and I
Lake Bunyonyi

What price do you put on a friend's life?

Well it’s been some time since I have updated on my life here. It continues to be crazy but good!  So at the funeral of my friend Ronald, another friend Abbey fell and cracked some ribs and damaged his spleen. He sat in a clinic in the slums of Kisenyi for several days internally bleeding. He of course was not answering my phone calls wondering if he had wanted to hang out (I did not know that he was in the clinic). Finally on Monday a mutual friend picked my call and informed me that Abbey was impending surgery the following day. The next day I went to the clinic and spoke to the doctor of his condition. He recommended that I take him for a second ultrasound before we make any decisions. So we piled into a car and spent a long afternoon waiting for him to be taken back. (You see here in Uganda if you give a small bribe things move along quicker for you.) I however am not willing to play the game. That evening we went back to the clinic and showed the results to the doctor. He said that Abbey needed surgery asap. We asked that he be admitted to the hospital that evening and the doctor would not agree. He kept repeating let him spend the night here. We began calling surgeons all over Kampala and hospitals to make sure there was a bed. It was decided that he would have surgery the following day or the day after. (Don’t forget this man is internally bleeding.) I was sent home with all the ultrasound pics ready to go to the hospital the following day. Late that night I got a phone call from the clinic doctor saying that Abbey was admitted to the hospital and the surgeon needed to see all the ultrasounds. I rushed them immediately to the hospital. When I arrived it was already decided that Abbey would be having surgery that night-it was an emergency. NO DUH!! I wish that you could all see the hospital, and it was apparently a nice one. Abbey was going into shock and they were letting him fall asleep on the bed. Then they told him to call his family to have someone be there when he awakes. I went home and prayed like I had never prayed before. I was not able to sleep a wink until the surgeon and doctor called me and verified that Abbey made it through the surgery.
Going into the hospital that week to visit was always an adventure. Some days there was blood all over the floor, other days there was a man with 2 broken arms trying to escape, and there was always people crying and screaming for help.  One evening when Abbey was in a lot of pain his family called and asked me to come in. Upon arrival I discovered that there was only 1 nurse on the entire ward and no doctors. What was the purpose of being in the hospital?!
Abbey is now doing well. They were able to repair his spleen and not remove it. He had his stitches removed and is able to eat more and more every day. I keep being asked how I spent the money or be  careful and don’t get too involved. Is $375 too much to save a great friend’s life?! I don’t think I would be able to live with myself today had I thought about another day or had him try harder to find the money. What would you do?
Did I mention that I was in the Uganda newspaper today?! Picture and all! The entire article may be false or should I say the truth was stretched. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Some people that I am thankful for...

1. Julia Adams: She has been by my side through everything. Willing to go to friend's viewings and spend a day making sure that a friend gets the lifesaving surgery that he needs. We are able to laugh and cry together. I can honestly say these 10 weeks have been life changing for me and she has played a major part in them. Thank you Julia.

2. My Parents and brothers: Who I know love me and worry about me, but are always there supporting me every step of the way.Phone calls at random times of the day saying call me back please and they always do or simple fb messages and chats that can brighten up my day. Love you!!

3.Pastor David Zijjan: The founder of the FDLM orphanage in Jinja that Bridge Connections is blessed to work with. He is always a phone call away willing to lend any assistance that we need. One day there were lots of Police and not a lot of people in Kampala city and we called David in Jinja to find out what was going on. He says,"You are in Kampala and I am in Jinja and you want me to tell you what is going on in Kampala?!" Haha! A few minutes later he had an answer for us. Phone calls saying I was thinking about you girls today so I called is just what we need some days. Thanks David for all the support and all the cultural understanding lessons that you give. I can't wait to come visit in the coming weeks!! Love you.

4. Nathan and Katie Kilgore: I know that you 2 are always praying. The advice and the experience that you have is priceless. Thank you for Bridge Connections and working with us on this journey. I don't know what I would do without you. (Well I probably wouldn't be in Uganda.) Thank you so much!

5. Megan Rohrer and Kelly McGaw: I don't even have words to describe how thankful I am for your friendship. When I look at the pics that I brought and share them I laugh cause it's hard to explain the bondage I feel with the McGaw family and that's why many of the pics I brought were of you. I love you and miss 'us' so much. Thank you for calling me to chat. (Kelly-I know God laid it on your heart to call me last night as I needed it the most. I am so glad that I have a friend like you who understands and cares. When I describe you I say that you are any man's dream girl, the best friend anyone can ask for. The person who would drop anything for anyone. I don't know anyone with as big as a heart as you.) And then (Megan: There is this beautiful card that you wrote me Valentine's Day that I keep in my Bible and read once a week (at least). It brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes as I realize how grateful I am to be able to call you my  friend. I miss Friday and Saturday evenings chilling at your house with you and your girls.) Thank you girls for the friendship over the years. I love you!!

6.J ames and Ronald (and the rest of the crew): James begged me on several occasions to allow him to take us out sometime. Unfortunately his schedule did not match ours. Finally on a Tuesday it did and these guys took us all over and we ended up at the beach for a great evening. They let us know that if we ever needed an escape that we could come to their place anytime. Little did they know the next day we called and we were moved in the following. They took time out of their schedule to come and pick us up and make sure that we were always comfortable here. It's great to have them around to chat to.

7. Joe and Sue McDonald, Judy Hinson, and Judy Kauffman: There is always an inbox in my email from these people. I am so lucky to have you all in my life. Thanks for your encouraging words and allowing me to continue living Willow Valley through you.

8. All of you praying for me: I can't do what I am doing without people like you. I know that you are out there and it keeps me going. I can honestly say that I know that God has been with me through this past week as I know that I could not have done it alone. A special thanks to Shari Steager and Daryl Rineer as your kind words were just what I needed to read when I did.

I believe today is a new week and things are looking up. To update those of you not on Facebook. My good friend Abbey fell Saturday at the funeral of our friend and ruptured his spleen. He stayed at a clinic, internally bleeding until last night. I was in touch with him on Sunday evening when he informed me of what was going on. Monday I spent the day taking him to get an ultrasound and talking to the doctors. That evening (only by the grace of God) he was admitted to the hospital and ended up having emergency surgery last night. As I stood by his bed holding his shaking hand all I could do was pray.  I got a call from the doctor that he made it through and will be going in soon to make certain all is well. I will update you in the coming days of the decisions that Julia and I have made about where and how we plan on serving and being served here in Uganda. For now pray for Abbey that he heals well. Pray for Ronald's family as they are missing him. And pray for the meeting that will happen between myself, julia, and the uncles at Bula.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Did THAT just happen??!

It’s so hard to write this and I have been putting it off because I want to pretend like it never happened. But these last several days did happen, they were challenging, full of tears and laughs, and will always be remembered.
So let’s start with Monday.  On Monday evening we had a discussion with the uncles about the children being disrespectful towards Julia and I. Two new volunteers arrived on Sunday morning and the children were blaming us for taking them to town on Monday to exchange money. They repeatedly told me that I was telling the new volunteers to not give them anything and keep things in the room, etc. Anyways, during the meeting we decided that it would be best to have a family meeting that night and discuss it. I was afraid that the children would not open up, but OH was I wrong. We heard everything from “they don’t wash their hands before they give us toothpaste.” To “They are the reason our language is bad cause they showed us the movie Hitch which (apparently) has bad language and kissing scenes.” To “they are the worst volunteers that we have ever had.” So the meeting did not really make me feel better…but at least I got some answers.
Wednesday was the next meeting. It was to be a new volunteer orientation. So the 4 of us volunteers were there and the 3 uncles. This meeting ended in the head uncle getting extremely heated, agitated, and his voice was raised. The main concern that was brought up was Julia and I wanting to take the children out of the house for a simple, chap dinner with 1 or a few children at a time. This was to be a special day for the child that would be fun, provide a way to give that child our full attention, to show them the culture around them, and for us to get to know them on a different level. Well long story short we are not allowed to do that because “What if we would have had those children out at the restaurant where the bombings were last year?! We are accountable for each of the children.” The meeting ended by my leaving the office in tears when the head uncle said’ “Jolene and Julia why don’t you take your money and spend it at another orphanage!” Minutes later the other three came to the room where we were crying wondering what just happened. The head uncle knocked on our door and asked me to come out in the hall where he proceeded to hand me the rent money that Julia and I paid that morning. WHAT!!? At this point numerous phone calls were made to friends in Uganda and to our parents. We decided that we should pack our bags and move out of the home temporarily.
Thursday afternoon our friends arrived with their car and took us to their house where we would be staying. That morning the secondary students arrived home from boarding school excited to see us and exclaiming how much fun we were going to have over holiday. Of course we had to share that we were leaving for a few days to sort things out. That morning I also received a phone call from a friend’s sister who was in shock saying that my friend (her brother, Ronald) had passed away that morning and that I had to come to their home in Kisenyi immediately. So after many questions about death in Uganda and how the grieving process worked I decided that I did in fact have to go to the family’s home that day. So Julia and I dropped our bags in our new room, grabbed a cheap lunch at a local joint and then headed out.  I walked in to an outside room of mourners. The boys father greeted me whispering with tears coming to his eyes,”Your friend is no longer among us. He has died.” We sat down in chairs was told that food that Ronald ate was poisoned and he was very sick for 3 days. The doctors did all that they could. And then came the words, ‘Do you want to go see the body?” We followed him up the stairs to the home. People were crying all around. Halfway up my eyes locked with a sisters and she ran to me “Jolene!, He’s dead! Ronald’s dead! I call out to him, but he doesn’t hear me!” Into the house I walked not knowing what lied ahead with the arms of two women wrapped around me, heads on my shoulders, wailing. The room was full of women crying and the casket in the middle of the room. We probably stood there for 3 minutes, but it felt like forever! We went back outside to sit and reflect.
Friday we visited a friend’s school where he teaches at. They had a special day where the children presented to family what they learned that year. Came back home around 5 and hung out at the house for the evening. Around 11 Julia fell asleep on the couch. James told me to wake her and tell her to go to bed. I did but she refused at first. So James brought the candle (did I mention there is never electricity here) back to the room and set on some speakers beside the bed. The 3 of us joked for a few minutes and then James and I left the room to allow Julia to sleep.  About 2 hours later one of the guys said “there looks like fire” and he walked to the door and looked out. He saw a reflection in the car parked right outside our bedroom window. Seconds later 2 guys were running down the hall to my bedroom. Julia was awaken and she came out through billowing smoke and laid on the couch again to fall right back to sleep after telling me that it was a legit fire. We slept on a mattress in the living room that night.
The next morning the guys immediately began scrubbing down our entire room. Luckily we had not unpacked much of our stuff so it was safe inside our suitcases.  It was later confirmed that my laundry bag had caught fire and I lost several shirts and pants. Some were saved with minor damage that may get cleaned enough (fingers crossed).
The challenge of whether to go back or not continues. I shall keep you updated with what happens in the coming days… Otherwise continue to pray for us and Ronald's family. I am honestly safe and doing well. I know that I am facing these challenges for a reason and I am excited to see what happens this coming week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


 me and some of the girls
Bujagali Falls-The Nile
The boys running away from the photo
Sports Day! The marching practice paid off!

Bula Children's Home-Where I live!!
Sarah, Brenda, Lillian, Sharon, Arnold, and Apizu in the back

Only in Uganda...

Let me tell you about my day yesterday...So Julia and I were to meet with a friend at 11. We jumped on bodas (motorbikes) and told our drivers where we wanted to go. We verified that they knew where we were talking about. We were off... Julia's driver fell behind and so my driver pulled over. Of course it was by a man preaching who quickly changed from Luganda to English. "All woman who consume alcohol are prostitutes!" Cute!! We enjoyed lunch and said good bye to Melissa. We jumped on another boda off to the Office of Internal Affairs to work out extending our visas. We told them close to Centenery Park they verified they knew. We drove by the park. I asked my driver if he knew where he was going and explained that I would not pay more for him being lost. They dropped us at an offfice for internal affairs for PRISON. So Julia and I walked. We arrived at the office after asking 10 people where to go and of course it was lunch break! The lady handed us a list of things we would need ...Criminal background check, resume, letters from the organization we were working with, $250..... She told us we were currently in the country illegally on the wrong visa. We quickly grabbed our passports and were out the door. I called the US Embassy to find out about the Criminal Background check. I could make an appt and come in with $50 and a letter that I write about my good standings back home that they would notarize and then somehow get the FBI to fingerprint me, yada, yada....Then she said that it could take 1 month to 1 year to process if it ever gets done! CUTE!! She then added that plenty of people's passports get lost in the process. So we will be leaving the country of Uganda for a day or 2 and then re-enter on another 90 day visa. We are thinking Rwanda...