Far from what I once was, but not yet what I'm going to be

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Go Team - Gulu

After arriving in Mbale on Friday, we unpacked our things and got settled in our rooms.

The girls are staying in the guest house on the hospital grounds with the CUREkids Coordinator, Mark Barrett. The guys on the team stay across the street in an apartment. Some of the doctors from the hospital also live there.

Once we were settled, Miriam, our host took us all to dinner at the Mount Elgon Hotel. We had a very nice dinner there and lovely conversations getting to know Miriam better.

She told us about herself, her life, and what she does for CURE. Miriam is married with 6 children. They are all grown men. Miriam works for the spiritual life department in the CURE Uganda hospital and she travels with the Go Teams when they come.

After a wonderful night of food and fellowship, we made our way back to the hospital and we had a restful night before our long journey Saturday morning.

The next morning, we all woke up and loaded the buses with ourselves and our bags. It was the 6 of us GCU students, Miriam, Mark (the CUREkids Coordinator who is a photographer), and a handful of pastors. We were on our way to Gulu.

Gulu is in northern Uganda. Have you ever heard of Kony? Ever heard of the LRA? (Lord's Resistance Army). Ever heard of Invisible Children? Well, Kony was the leader of the LRA and hit northern Uganda very hard. Many men, women and children lost their lives because of this man and the destruction he caused. Gulu was one of the districts that was affected by this great evil.

Saturday we drove 8 hours from Mbale to northern Uganda until we reached the district of Gulu. There were many adventures along the way: bathroom breaks in "the bush" as they call it here in Africa; which is quite literally going to the bathroom in a bush on the side of the road. Buying and eating mangoes and (mystery) meat from street people. Buying and eating cassava for the first time. Cassava is kind of like a potato - it is a bit more dry and falls apart more easily.

We finally reached our destination. We stayed at the Hotel Mwokka Gulu. Yep, it's as sketchy as it sounds. But it wouldn't be the full African experience if it wasn't sketchy, right?

Jackson (our driver), Miriam, Go Team, and Mark

I got my own room. Infested with bugs. But now, I can kill any bug that comes my way - it's a necessary part of African life.

We slept that night and were ready for church the next morning. It was our first day at Gulu Baptist Church and it was so fun to see these people PRAISING GOD with all that was in them. Amazing.

We were in Gulu until Thursday and spent our days playing with kids and breaking into small groups with the mothers, teaching them about who Jesus is. The curriculum we used went through the book of Mark and focused on Jesus as the Son of God and the many miracles He performed.

One thing that stuck out to me was the story of Jesus calming the storm. We went through this story with the mothers and then asked them a series of questions.

 One of the questions was "if you were in the boat with Jesus, would you have been afraid like the disciples were? Or would you have faith?"

The mothers amazed me saying they would not have fear, but they would have faith that Jesus would protect them because He is the Son of God.

There were many times throughout the week in Gulu where I heard stories of things going on in the lives of the women there -- it made my "problems" and worries seem so small and petty. These women have real problems and worries like the fear that their husband will leave them because they bore a child with hydrocephalus or being forced to drown their child in the river because the child has hydro. 

These things happen. They're heartbreaking.

You see, in Uganda, when a child is born healthy and then a month or two later their head begins to grow very large because of hydrocephalus, it is common belief that the child has been cursed with witchcraft. Witchcraft is very prevalent in Uganda -- so teaching these women about Jesus Christ - the ONE TRUE GOD is amazing and challenging all at the same time because they are dealing with something I have never come up against in my sheltered world at home.

The children in Gulu were so beautiful and joyful. They were so much fun! I fell in love instantly and wanted to take several of them back with me in my suitcase... But that wouldn't be fair to the mothers who love them so dearly :)

Photo Credit: Mark Barrett
Photo Credit: Mark Barrett
Photo Credit: Mark Barrett
Photo Credit: Mark Barrett

While we were in Gulu, we were able to buy 2 live chickens for dinner. Yep, live. Tina and Jonathan had the honor of slaughtering the chickens. The team then plucked the feathers and then Ryne and I (the surgeons) sliced them up to be cooked (and also to remove the insides.) sorry! Graphic! It was such a cool experience! I am so grateful.

Photo Credit Mark Barrett

Another night, we roasted goat kebabs. It was so much fun and they were delicious. I just love the adventurous eating habits I am experiencing. And fortunately I have liked everything I've eaten! (With the exception of posho)

Goat on the grill
Goat kebab!

On the last day, we were able to stop by the medical clinic in Gulu and see how it was run. We didn't stay long, but it was interesting to see.

It was hard to say goodbye to women and children in Gulu. There was a lot of love, a lot of laughter and a whole lot of Jesus that was shared and spread in those few short days.

The people of Gulu will have a special place in my heart until the day I die. Blessed and thankful for the time we shared together.

Photo Credit: Mark Barrett
Photo Credit: Mark Barrett
Photo Credit Mark Barrett
Photo Credit: Mark Barrett

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hello, London!

On Wednesday, April 30th, we arrived in LONDON!! My very first time to the UK. There was way too much excitement in me as I exited the plane and entered London-Heathrow airport.

Another stamp for my passport! Another land to explore!

I had 24 short hours to adventure through this beautiful and exotic city.

I had several things I wanted to check off my list - some realistic, others unrealistic; but what's the fun in a life without dreams? 

What was on my list, you ask?

1) see Big Ben
2) see where Parliament meets
3) Get a picture with one of the queen's guards (you know, the ones that can't move... Or smile)
4) Meet Ed Sheeran
5) Have tea with the Queen
6) Eat fish & chips

What? I told you some of them were unrealistic

Well I didn't get to check any of these things off my list; BUT I still had the best time in London! And I definitely want to go back sometime and see all the sites and do all of the awesome activities London has to offer.

Instead, after getting through customs and receiving my new passport stamp, I hopped on the bus to my hotel with my team. We got checked in and settled and tried to find a way to downtown London.

If you don't know much about London public transportation, that's okay - neither do I. But the little knowledge I have, I picked up from this trip. 

Anyways, London uses a bus system as well as an underground transportation system called "The Tube." While we were in London, certain routes of The Tube were on strike, making it very difficult for us to get where we wanted to go. But we were determined tourists!

So we hopped on a bus outside our hotel that took us to The Tube station. After each of us bought a day pass for The Tube and asked a man who worked there how to get to central London (and he laughed and gave us a very detailed description and wished us luck - knowing it was a difficult route with the strike going on) we hopped on The Tube! What seemed like hours later (and a couple detours due to incorrect routes on our part) we finally arrived in central London!

Here is a shot of The Tube... Waiting for our train to arrive.

We got outside and I was mesmerized. It was a whole new world. I fell in love with a new city in seconds. It was impossible to soak it all in so quickly - it seemed like time stood still as I was captivated by the beauty of it all.

One of the cutest streets in central London

Beautiful London architecture

Yep, I'd totally live here. So cute!

When I finally came to my senses again, I exchanged my US dollars to pounds and we were on our way to see Big Ben! (I am not contradicting myself here - we never made it to Big Ben).

As we walked the streets, I noticed everyone so sharply dressed. The accent so beautiful and the people -- not so friendly.

We finally gave up on seeing Big Ben because we were tired, hungry, cold and it was getting dark. Also, we had to be back on The Tube by 9pm and it was getting late.

We asked some locals where a good place to eat was and they led us to a small Italian spot. We quickly ordered pizzas and Calzones to go and were on our way back to The Tube!

Taking our food to go

Late night waiting for The Tube

We made it back to The Tube with 12 minutes to spare. After a very long ride, several times getting off and back on, talking to a sweet Irish man who asked me if I was from Spain, we made it back to the hotel. It was so nice to finally shower and sleep in a bed!

Exhaustion took its toll on some while we were still on The Tube

The next morning we woke up and checked out of the hotel. We hopped on the bus to the airport and breezed past London-Heathrow airport security.

Bus life

I got my last Starbucks for 7 weeks! And finally we were off to Uganda! 

Last Starbucks! And it's foreign!

A dream come true.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Journey

On April 29th, it was a warm Phoenix day. An ordinary day for most people - but an extraordinary day for myself and 5 others. April 29th, 2014 was the day I left for the journey of a lifetime.

I spent most of the day scrambling around the house doing last minute packing, hoping I wouldn't forget anything (which, of course I did). But at 4 o'clock in the afternoon we gathered with family and friends at Grand Canyon University for prayer and a group send off. And then we were on our way.

Checking our bags and getting through airport security was a breeze. Now it was real. It hit me; my dream was coming true. I was about to get on a plane and go to AFRICA to work in a hospital. A hospital whose motto is "healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God."  Wow.

God is so good.

[Here we are with the Kenya team in the Phoenix airport!]

My last American meal was in the Phoenix airport at McDonald's.  Oh boy.

I eagerly awaited my row to be called for boarding. It finally was and I boarded the 747. Biggest. Plane. Ever. I felt like I was living a scene of Bridesmaids as I walked to my seat in Coach ;)

After 10 and a half hours of airplane movies, drifting in and out of sleep, turbulence, and those lovely plane potty breaks we all know and love, I had arrived in London! What a dream!

I was so blessed to spend 24 hours in London before boarding my next plane to Entebbe, Uganda. There will be another post to come about my time in London, but after much walking and public transportation and an exhausting day, we slept and were ready for the second leg of our journey.

The next morning, we got a ride to the airport on the bus and we breezed past London-Heathrow airport security and awaited our departure to Entebbe, Uganda!

Finally, we boarded and we were off! After 8 hours of airplane movies, drifting in and out of sleep, turbulence, and those lovely plane potty breaks, I had arrived in Entebbe,  Uganda. AFRICA.

We collected our luggage and found our driver already there waiting for us. We loaded our luggage into the van and headed to the Boma Hotel. It was incredible. A beautiful hotel - surrounded by nature and all of its sounds. We had a wonderful stay at The Boma and the next morning we ate breakfast and were on our way to the hospital in Mbale - about 6 hours away.

We stopped in Jinja to exchange money and eat lunch. We ate at The Source Café and the food was great!

 After lunch, we continued on our journey and we finally made it to the hospital! We were now in Mbale,  Uganda.

I was home.