Saturday, August 17, 2013

See you later, Uganda

Well I now write this post to you from the Amsterdam airport. I am halfway through my flight back home to Florida. With my six-hour layover, I have some time to attempt to compile my thoughts into a blog post. Words cannot describe how incredible it has been returning to Uganda. I just want to thank everyone again who has supported me, both financially and with your prayers throughout this trip.  From the very beginning, this trip has truly been about trusting in God and being faithful to the plans He has for my life. For me, I feel like God has really stretched me this time around. From stressful missed flights to just placing my safety in His hands in every situation, it has been a pretty incredible ride.

The hardest part of this experience is always the goodbyes. On Wednesday, I said goodbye to Mama Lucy. She is one of the mamas for the girls. I love this woman! Last summer, I dubbed her my African mother. She is so hardworking and has such a beautiful spirit. She is a great mama to the girls. I was thrilled to hear that she is expecting a precious little one of her own late November J I have nothing but admiration and respect for her. As she hugged me goodbye, she said, “ Auntie Brooke, no tears this time. You are a big girl now!” Such a typical Mama Lucy statement J All I can say is I will miss her dearly.

Yesterday, I said goodbye to the girls and boys. This time I did shed some tears, especially when saying goodbye to Mercy. As I hugged Alima and told her that I loved her and was going to pray for her, she asked “ Auntie, why are you crying? Are you sad?” I told her that these were happy tears and just a little bit sad too. It’s the truth. I am so happy and blessed to have had the privilege to spend a total of three months loving on these girls. I am grateful for the time I’ve had to be a part of their lives. They have blessed me a thousand times over. Alima was also kind enough to point out and say “Auntie Brooke… your tears are dirty.” I forgot to pack the waterproof mascara J

It’s hard for me to accept that I probably won’t be going back to Uganda anytime in the near future. It is still my desire to one day return and even have the opportunity to show my family Amani and this country I have fallen in love with. I know that at this time in my life, I am supposed to focus on continuing my nursing education and starting this next phase of my life. Uganda and Amani will always have a big part of my heart and that red clay isn’t going to rub off too easily J

 In the words of Lydia… “Auntie, its not goodbye… its see you later.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Things I Love...

I have compiled a list of some of my favorite things/ experiences about life here in Africa. I hope you enjoy them :) On a quick side note...this is my last week here in Uganda! It is amazing how quickly a month has flown by here. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to return to this country and people I have fallen in love with. Thank you for following my journey back to Amani!

Things that I love/ experience about life here in Africa

  • Boda Rides
  • Finding geckos living in my shoes...I dont know who was more or the gecko
  • Next door neighbors attempting to DJ and creating a spontaneous backyard dance party for us
  • Feeding and cuddling with babies
  • Little girls running and wrapping their arms around my legs when I enter the cottage
  • The fact that Mercy's smile and contagious laugh is the exact same as it was last summer
  • Being called Auntie Brooke
  • Hardworking, beautiful mamas
  • Late night conversations with the volunteers
  • Laughing with Mama Lucy
  • Bible studies on Tuesday's
  • Splashing around in the Nile with the boys
  • Visiting villages
  • Chapati runs in the morning
  • Meeting Gastor at Canaan
  • African spice tea and Rolex's
  • Kids club on Saturday afternoons
  • Taking kids to church
  • Rolling paper beads and having picnics of passion fruit and Gnuts with Mama Lois and her kids
  • Star gazing with the volunteers
  • Seeing how big the kids have gotten in a year
  • Putting the girls down for a nap
  • Reading books at preschool
  • Long walks around Jinja
  • Speaking Lugandan to boda drivers and their surprised reaction that a muzungu (white person) is speaking their language
  • Praying with the kids
  • Hugs from Paul
  • Hope's giggles
  • Cuddling with Fiona
  • Stories about the latest creatures Mary has discovered in her room
  • Trekking in the mud at the market for produce
  • Pitch Perfect movie night with the volunteers
  • Taking pictures with the kids...both at Amani and the villages
  • Playing with the kids from Budundo in a field filled with cows
  • Taking videos of Mercy squealing and singing This Little Light of Mine
  • And many more :)
Buying Chapati

Love these girls... We were taking a group picture with our elephant pants :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Source of the Nile

Today, we took about six boys on a boat ride on the Nile! It felt so good to be on the water and just take the time to appreciate God's beauty here in Uganda. We were told that Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in Africa. The kids absolutely loved the boat ride. They were all trying to lean over and touch the water. There were a couple of times we were afraid we would be taking a dip into the Nile as we felt one side of the boat lean towards the water. It was amazing getting to see so much wildlife here in Jinja. We saw monkeys, Belted Kingfisher birds and Nile Monitors ( the largest lizard in Africa). About half way through, we were able to get out of the boat and go on an island. On the island, there was a sign marking the source of the Nile. We got some great pictures :)

Group picture

Nile Monitor

Source of the Nile

Local Fishermen


Our group

On those hills is actually the Ugandan prison

Paul and I

Paul and Christopher

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pictures, Pictures!

 This post is pretty much going to be dedicated to pictures :) I take so many here and its just so hard choosing which ones to upload! Its been a good week so far. We are having a bit of a transition in the volunteer house. We gained two new volunteers yesterday and two are leaving tomorrow. This is one of the hard parts about being here. Saying goodbye. I have met some pretty incredible people and its always sad saying goodbye. Thank goodness for Facebook!


Cute village girls

Source of the Nile


Hanging out with Godfrey and Salim

Lunch time!

Mama Susan and Joseph

"Simon, say ROAR!!" :)

Kids lined up saying bye

Friday, August 2, 2013

Highlights of this week

Here's a quick look at what has been going on this week!

This week, we did not have preschool for the kids. Instead, we tried to get a little creative with some fun activities. Since we had our mornings free, some of the volunteers created a "spa" inside the preschool room for all of the mamas. We painted their toes and provided treats and tea. It was nice spoiling such wonderful ladies that work so hard each day. While some of the volunteers were doing the spa, the rest of us did crafts and activities with the kids.

One morning, we made noodle necklaces. This ended with half of the kids attempting to each the noodles off the necklaces ;) Another day, we took a white sheet from the guesthouse and make colored water in spray bottles and homemade finger paint. The plan was that the kids would take turns spraying the sheet with the colored water and throw rubber balls dipped in paint at the sheet. It went as planned for about 10 minutes. Instead, I think the aunties got sprayed just as much as the white sheet. My feet and arms were slightly dyed blue for half the week :)

We also took the kids for a picnic around the corner from Amani. During our picnic, supplied with cookies and Sprite, a monkey appeared from across the road and crossed the street right in front of us! The kids were so excited. After the monkey disappeared, all the kids decided to do their own impression of monkey faces. It was quite comical.

Another activity we did was take some of the kids putt putt golfing at a restaurant nearby Amani. I think the kids had a great time. They didnt quite understand the concept that you have to wait until the ball stopped after you hit it. Instead, the game started to resemble hockey putt putt golf. But the day was filled with laughs and squeals from them once they finally got the ball in the hole. At the 7th hole, there was a concrete crocodile that you had to hit the ball through the mouth to get to the other side. We discovered that the crocodile ate the balls which ended our game early :)

Each night at dinner, we each tell our favorite part or moments of the day. I would have to say that some of my favorites have been Mercy squealing and yelling "Auntie!" as she runs and wraps her arms around my legs when I enter the girls cottage in the morning, cuddling with the babies (especially Jane) and singing songs with the preschool. It has been a great week. I realized today that I leave in exactly 2 weeks! I cant believe how fast it is going by, but I am so grateful for each day here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sole Hope

Yesterday, another volunteer and I spent the morning/afternoon with an organization called Sole Hope.   Before I left Florida, I found out that a friend knew one of her friends was interning with Sole Hope and happened to be staying in Jinja as well. I'm telling you, we live in such a small world :) So, I was able to join her and some of their team at a Jigger removal clinic in a nearby village.

Sole Hope focuses on providing hope and freedom from foot related diseases through education and medical relief. One disease that is very common is Jigger infestation. Jiggers are a type of sand flea that lay their sac of eggs under skin. This is caused by the dust and dirt accompanied by not wearing shoes. It is very painful for the infected person. If left untreated, it can get infected and result in gangrene or amputation.

I wasn't sure what to expect on this clinic trip. When we arrived at the village, we made a little assembly line of wooden stools for us to sit on and benches across from us. Two people were in charge of washing the feet and inspecting for suspicious Jiggers, three were removing them and the rest were taking progress notes. Since it was my first time out, I started with washing the children's feet. This may seem strange, but for me it was such a humbling experience washing a child's dirty feet. All I could think about was the passage in the Bible when Jesus washed his disciples feet. It was a depiction of ultimate servitude for myself. In Africa, some kids do not own a single pair of shoes so you can only imagine some of the conditions of their feet.

What I was not expecting was that the majority of the children refused to sit down to have their feet washed and inspected. I learned that having Jiggers is viewed as shameful and a lack of cleanliness. Because of their pride and embarrassment, the children would rather endure the pain rather than having their jiggers removed in front of their peers. We had a man translate for us and he would bring children that he knew had jiggers or other foot conditions. He brought this young girl to me that had her left foot completely wrapped but she refused to sit down. Instead she just walked away. It broke my heart...

While we were waiting for more children to come, I spent some time with the village children. There is just something about playing and loving on village children. It's hard to explain but its one of my favorite experiences in Africa. During my time here, its funny learning some of the things village kids are fascinated with. For example, they are so intrigued by arm hair haha. My blue finger nail polish confused a couple of them as well :) Overall, it was a great experience! I am hoping to be able to join them on another clinic before I leave.

Friday, July 26, 2013

First Week Back!

Can it be that I have already been here for a week? It is unreal how fast time flies by. My first week back has been amazing! It has been great being back Amani. The kids have grown up so much!

When I got here, I found out that Amani now has a full time nurse. I am so happy to hear this! It turned out that her visa was expiring and she had to leave the country for almost a week. The timing was perfect and I have been able to fill in for her temporarily. Please pray for these kids and their health. It seems an infection is spreading around Amani and a ton of the kids have been having high fevers and coughs. We have taken a few of them to the clinic in town to rule out Malaria. Also, one of our little babies has Bacterial Pnuemonia.

Besides helping out in the clinic occasionally, I have been helping teach preschool! Amani has a great person setting up preschool every morning. After about 45 minutes of playtime at stations, we break the kids off into small groups. In my group, I have Christopher, Brian, Charlie and Danvir :) These boys are so smart and very eager to learn new things.

After preschool, I am assigned to the girls room again!! There are a lot of familiar faces but a couple new ones too. It has been fun seeing the changes that have occurred in a years time. Since I am with the girls, this also means that I get to spend time with Mercy. Last summer, I fell in love with this little girl. If I could have adopted her, I would have :) She is so big now. She still has the same exact infectious giggle and big smile. Also, she is now talking! It is so much fun hearing her sweet little voice saying Auntie. She cant say Auntie Brooke yet, but I am working on it :)

I will upload some pictures of the kids for you now. This morning, another volunteer Sarah and I are going to help out at an organization called Sole Hope. A friend back home told me that one of her friend is interning with this group here in Jinja. We were able to connect and I am excited to see what kind of work they do in Jinja! We are heading out to one of the villages this morning for a three hour clinic. I know they work specifically with removing jiggers from their feet and providing education on jiggers and wearing shoes. I will write a specific blog post about it tomorrow.