I did it. I really went to Africa.
I’ve always thought it was a fairly lofty goal, even considering the intense travel bug I’ve had for most of my life. But late last month, my husband and I boarded a plane bound for the dark continent.
It was a long flight; the world is a big place. And Africa is so completely different from the countries I’ve called home.
After a brief layover in Ethiopia, we reached our final destination: Uganda.
Gulu, to be specific.
Four years ago, Joe spent three months in the city, helping out with a brand new home for virtual orphans. Children of Hope has since expanded to house 15 kids ranging in age from a year and a half to 14. They are beautiful people, and the staff are devoted and amazing.
In all honesty, we didn’t spend thousands of dollars to go for any particular purpose. There wasn’t an intense need we were required to fill. We brought a couple of suitcases full of clothes and other items, but we really just went because we wanted to, we had the time and we didn’t know when the opportunity would arise again.
The kids were out of their minds excited to see Joe again, and I was welcomed with open arms.
Here’s a general overview of how we spent our time:
• weeding maize and beans on 20 acres of land COH owns
• watching the children sing in a special service at Watoto Church, where they are all regular attendees
• bathing in a bucket of cold water
• swimming with the children at a nearby hotel
• falling asleep to the sound of a generator, as there was no power for the duration of our visit
• shopping at a local craft market that supports people with disabilities
• listening to the kids sing at the top of their lungs every time we piled into the van
• visiting one of the few foreigner-friendly restaurants (it even had wifi)
• playing soccer in a field outside the city with plenty of village kids who eagerly joined the game
• welcoming a couple hundred neighbourhood children into the COH compound for an afternoon of games, songs, skits and snacks
It was glorious, but brief.
I caught a small glimpse of what life is like for those children; I caught a small glimpse of the enormous need in the area. Malnutrition, lack of education, disease, poor infrastructure … This nation – and its neighbours – could be so much more. They could have so much more.
And yet. The joy in their eyes is pure, even if it is fleeting.
Though I will be thrilled over every dollar donated to Children of Hope and its vision for the future, this trip made me ache for the world beyond its compound walls. I do not worry for the orphans and widows that have found refuge there; I am anxious for the half-dressed babies I saw wandering the dirt paths, gaping at the muzungo when I drove past. I wonder if they will ever go to school, if they will ever have the chance to be educated, if they will ever have the opportunity to rise above their current conditions. I don’t know if they can imagine a future that is different from their present.
So, I will dream for them.
It’s not about building skyscrapers and shopping malls, but constructing proper roads and sewer systems. It’s not about sending them to ivy league schools, but providing the opportunity to pursue any career they aspire to. It’s not about developing a culture dependent on western charity, but empowering a community in its own progress. It’s not about providing handouts, but equipping those who are eager for the chance to make a difference in their neighbourhood.
It’s not about bringing the American dream across the Atlantic, but carrying the hope that change is possible.
Our goal is to build a Village of Hope. In our vision, the land will eventually house a church, school, and clinic, along with the garden and expanded capacity for children. It will be sustainable, it will be self-sufficient, and it will be our best answer to the need in Gulu.
And I will be thankful for any part, no matter how small, that I can play in making that dream a reality. Not for Eric or Faith or James or Scovia, who are already supported and comforted and cared for; but, for all those nameless children peering at me through the doorways of their mud huts.
I had the best birthday ever this year. Not only was I a newly married woman, but my fantastic husband decided we should go whale watching to mark the date of my entrance into the world. No argument here.
We were on the edge of the ocean for our honeymoon anyway, so we made the short drive over to Bar Harbor for the excursion. While the tour guide couldn’t promise we’d see anything – most of the whales were beginning to head for warmer waters – they took us out to a location where some of the huge sea mammals had been spotted that morning.
It was roughly an hour-long trip through deep blue waves and past the rolling green mountains of Maine’s coast.
After several minutes of scanning the horizon, one of the crew spotted a breath of air in the distance. We headed that direction, and sure enough – two humpbacks surfaced nearby.
Researchers had previously sighted the two creatures and named them Tornado and Lemon Drop, after markings on the underside of their tails.
They were magnificent, really. Though it was difficult, while craning our necks from the deck of a large boat, to grasp how enormous the whales were, our guide suggested they were around 40 feet long.
One was kind enough to show off a sort of tail flip for us, but alas, no breaching this time.
The sunny afternoon at sea also included sightings of porpoises and a host of grey seals perched on a rocky island. Glorious.
I have wanted to visit Europe for oh, most of my life. Two of the top countries on my list? Italy and Greece.
Both are in chaos lately, though Greece has been falling apart for a couple of years now. Both have new prime ministers, as previous leaders were forced to step down to avoid total economic collapse.
Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation was a slight surprise, since the Italian prime minister held tightly to power through a lot of scandal and turmoil in past years. His departure was met with joy in the streets. Apparently he hasn’t ruled out a return to politics eventually, though I think he should probably focus on his personal issues for the moment. Economist Mario Monti will replace him.
In Greece, Lucas Papademos was sworn in as the new prime minister last week, faced with the daunting job of bringing the country’s massive debts under control. He’s tasked with leading the country through the next few months as new austerity measures and bailout details are hashed out; a federal election is scheduled for early in the new year. Let’s hope the riots are over for now.
I’m in British Columbia. On vacation. Hanging with my sister Karen, my brother, his wife, their 1.5-year-old son Silas, and their yet-to-be-born second child. It’s good times.
So far, we’ve trekked over to Vancouver Island for a jaunt around Victoria and surrounding areas, visited the Greater Vancouver Zoo, renovated an office, wandered through Fort Langley, painted pottery, shopped, and walked around the neighbourhood of Walnut Grove. I also ventured out on my own to catch up with a few dear friends who now call this city their home. Here’s some photos of my adventures in the last week.
Side note: I am pretty sure visiting all of the provincial and territorial legislatures should be on my bucket list. Three down (PEI, Northwest Territories and BC), ten to go.
I seriously love Vancouver. The mountains, the ocean, the city lights … so much diversity, so much beautiful scenery, so much still to explore. I think that I could probably live here quite happily.
I read an article this week that inspired me to adjust my life to-do list. Apparently a tourist trip to space is a measly $200,000. Totally affordable.
Okay, not really, but it’s far less than the millions I thought a voyage like that would cost. I’m going to start saving my pennies, because I absolutely want to go space.
I’ve changed a few other items on my list as well, to reflect my maturing priorities, changing location and new goals. I had write a book and write a memoir, so I amalgamated those. A few others were easy ones to knock off since they are no longer ambitions of mine, then there’s a few items that I crossed off this week, after realizing I had already accomplished the goal in some fashion (details on a few to come later).
I can’t wait to cross off ‘See U2 in concert’ this week – it’s going to be epic. The majority of the rest of the bucket list items will take quite some time to achieve, as many of them revolve around travel to foreign countries and fairly major undertakings. But hey, I have the rest of my life.
Check out my full list here and let me know what you think! Twenty-four down, 76 to go!
As promised, here are some photos and video from my week in Cuba last month. It was a phenomenal trip – you can read details here.
Here’s a video of pieces of a few services … and even that doesn’t do it justice. You have to be in that room to truly understand the experience.
Enthusiastic, excited, charismatic, joyful, passionate – just a few of the adjectives I could use to describe these young people.
In case you thought I fell off the face of the earth last week … well, I sort of did.
I flew into Havana, Cuba, on Monday, May 23. After about a half hour of waiting around in the airport baggage claim, I found the Mexican group I would be traveling with for the week. The troupe included Pastor Eric Jaquith and his wife Ida, one of their interns Edika and her mom, and two young people from their church. We hopped on a bus and drove a few hours to Varadero – a gorgeous peninsula about 30 kilometres long, sandy shores on both sides. After a couple of nights there I am officially a big fan of all-inclusive resorts. The beach was beautiful, the ocean clear and salty as it should be, the sand white, the sun hot.
We only really had a day to enjoy it though and do some exploring of the city. On Wednesday a group of 11 of us piled into a ridiculously old Toyota van, along with all of our luggage, and drove roughly five hours to Santa Clara, which is in the middle of the island country.
We spent the rest of the week at a Methodist camp called Canaan, basically going to church all day long; it was awesome. About 800 young people between the ages of 12 and 35 were there, soaking up everything the visiting pastors had to say. It was far from a five-star resort – we had to chase frogs out of our room and the shower was a cold trickle. But I absolutely loved it. I was able to meet so many people, and – thanks to my ever-improving Spanish – have some great conversations, learn a ton about the country, hear some powerful sermons and generally fall in love with Cuba.
On Saturday we headed back to Havana, but not before we prayed and cried with the pastors. We left a pile of our clothes behind and donated probably a year’s salary to the main youth leader / conference organizer.
With only a few hours left until our flights would wing us home, our group toured around the capital city and had dinner before collapsing into bed. I spent most of Sunday coming home … reluctantly. I feel like I was gone far longer than a week. So much happened … my life was impacted immensely. Photos and video will be coming soon – they will be able to provide far more than my words.
Needless to say, God is flippin’ awesome. And he’s doing some pretty incredible things on an impoverished and communist island called Cuba.
In a week from right now, I’ll be en route to Havana, Cuba.
The trip basically fell into my lap, with plans beginning to form during a phone call with my pastor when he said, “Hey, do you want to go to Cuba?” It’s pretty obvious what my answer to that kind of question would be.
I’ll be spending a week on the island, tagging along behind a pastor from Mexico to a youth conference. Needless to say, it’s essential that I brush up on my Spanish. Most of it has come back to me, but there’s plenty I’ve forgotten as well and I don’t expect to have a translator. We’ll also spend a couple of days in Varadero, where I plan to sit on a beach for a little while at least.
I’m pretty stoked … another country to explore, new people to meet, more Spanish to absorb. No matter how great my own plans are, God always has something better up his sleeve.
Newcastle. Durham. Three Rivers. Hammond. Chicago.
I had a marvelous time. Long talks about birth, death and everything in between. People watching. Photo shoots. Games and movies. Snowstorms and warm spells. Window shopping. Souvlaki and deep-dish pizza. Dancing.
I crossed three state lines and one international border. I drove roughly 2,700 kilometers, filling up my gas tank five times.
My favourite day was Tuesday, when Amy and I took Isaiah to the SkyDeck in Chicago’s Willis Tower. It was fantastic! The glass floors were pretty cool – standing directly 130 feet above the streets of the Windy City. We took hundreds of pictures, of course.
Good times. I can’t wait for my next adventure …
I love Cornwall. I love my job. I love my apartment.
But I also love the road … airports, trains, highways, seaways, bicycle paths, etc.
Tonight I am embarking on a trip of epic proportions – if you count 2,750 kilometers as epic. I sure do.
- First: Orono, ON. I’m leaving the city after work this afternoon, and crashing at my cousin’s house along the way.
- Second: Durham, ON. My cousin and her new husband have invited me for a visit – it’ll be my first time spending significant time with them since they married in May. They’re also expecting a little guy (or girl), so a preggo photo shoot is definitely on my agenda, along with exploring the western Ontario town that I’ve never been to before.
- Third: Kalamazoo, MI. I’ll have to cross the rather intimidating border in Detroit on my way to church Sunday night to hear my other cousin’s husband preach (sensing a theme yet, possibly related to family members?). We’ll head back to their home in Hammond, IN, later that evening, where I’ll spend a couple of days. We’re also hoping to take a jaunt into nearby Chicago – Yes! Three states in three days! – for a spin up the Sears Tower.
- Last: Back home. If I have time during my return journey I may make a pit stop in Toronto to cross an item off my to-do list – I’ll let you guess which one it is.
I’m stoked. Let the adventure begin . . .