Volunteering in Uganda

from the 25th of june through the 7th of august 2017

i traveled to uganda to volunteer doing speech-language therapy 

i acclimated quickly but the experience was challenging  

i learned how to suffer well

i learned how to love better

i learned about a new kind of joy

here is a bit of my experience, i hope we capture a feeling together

the travel:

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Up the stairs, to the right. Behind me I ask the guy shyly where the numbers for the seats are – I am A18.  He only realizes what I mean when I more panicky, utter with directness, "Where is the seat number?" “Further back,” he says, finally understanding me. I find myself with my own cubicle. TV screen bigger than my laptop, space for the length of my legs to slide underneath, iPad control to my right, remote control by the head of my seat, little bar of drinks caged in, soft and thick blanket, headphones that cover the whole of my ears. I have my own luggage compartment on top and another one by my chair to the left under the window. I slide my backpack in there. The window has two arrows —up and down. I hadn't figured out how to work them myself. Once asked and educated, it's the holding of the button that allows a thin shade to go down and then another thicker one comes to darken the cubicle. A bag of toiletries is gifted with perfumes I'll never use but the smell makes everything feel swanky here on the second level of the plane and I am humbled to be in a seat of comfort for the next 16 hours.  I call Tonya and we giggle about her not being able to come up to this floor but that I should be able to go down to the lesser people. We are humored at the thought, but don't take it seriously.

I'm off alone on this trek. It was only at noon today that I was in a car with a limousine service to take me to the airport. I was to go through the international section for the first time and for the first time, do it by myself. My driver inquired about me and I told him the here and theres, and then asked of his life – how he got into the driving business, etc. He would explain how had started off driving taxis but how one chilling night would change that. On this night, he had gone to pick up drunks from the bars around L.A. when at 2 a.m., a man hopped into his car while he was at a red light. This man he talked of was covered in blood and confessing how he killed his girlfriend. He said the man began saying, "She wouldn’t listen. She didn't understand how famous I am. She was cheating on me." The taxi driver asked where the man wanted to go and he said to go to his dad's bar in Huntington. The bar was closed and the dad wasn't there. The man said the taxi driver knew too much and was reaching into his pocket when the driver spoke assuredly of a gun he had and would not hesitate to use. After that, they went to get a burger, the driver told me. He sent the man on his way somewhere in Manhattan Beach. The man, still drunk, fumbled out of the car. The driver slept in the taxi, and in the morning went to the crime scene. Cops. Tape. "I think I can help you find out the whereabouts of the man you're looking for." Go away, the cops said. That was his story. That was how he got into driving for a limousine service instead of taxis. For safety. He said he now drives people like Ellen DeGeneres, and when I had been talking about going on safari, he told a tale of the Ellen show producers going to Kenya and one of them leaving the window down of the jeep to take a photo, although she was told to keep it up, and a lion ran to her, swiped her face and killed her. My stories were less dramatic, to say the least. I’d say I've been working for two years in speech language therapy and how I'm going to graduate school in August at Biola. He would then say he and three other drivers drove a princess from somewhere in Africa, to Biola for school around 2010-2012. He said friends would fly in and they would all go shopping. Everyday. During our drive and the interesting stories he would tell me, I ate paper plated homemade food consisting of a loaded sweet potato, broccoli and an artichoke with cashew aioli. Coconut water to hydrate. It's my dad’s birthday and Robert and I went to Oceans and Earth to brunch with my dad and stepmom. Robert gave the manager his new OC Bee Rescue business card. They were interested in the honey he harvests.

It was almost 1p.m. when I began navigating myself, 3 rolling suitcases, a backpack, my passport and phone ready to check in with Emirates. I went through a bag check line with a dog sniffing for drugs, a woman who didn’t believe it was my photo on the passport and needed my I.D. to verify, and then I was on the 6th floor lounging, telling the stories of the few hours of this already-adventure. I was a cup of English breakfast tea, seasonal fruit of sliced kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, and honeydew topped with mint. Nerves were calming. Mango juice and fruit seconds. 

I'm here, writing this, on the second story of a plane. Beauty and the Beast playing, outstretched legs, still bent knees, semi-upright. Warm mixed nuts and a glass of French wine. My glass is topped a second time. Sesame oil noodles with slices of mushrooms, asparagus and sliced cherry tomatoes. A sourdough bread roll. Side salad. I think that's all the food I will get. Then tomato pasta is set in front of me with broccoli and zucchini. I don’t eat the zucchini and I deny dessert. 

My legs progressively get longer and my torso lengthens into an almost supine position. I ask to go down the stairs of the plane to see Tonya and her family. I don't know where they are. Food carts block my way. I am told to go back up stairs and wait it out.  I am questioned by the bartender as I come back up. Yes, a bartender, at the bar, in the airplane. I am offered a mattress for my seat upon my arrival back. I ask if it's comfortable and realize how silly that was. But just to inform you, it was delightfully comfortable.

Eleven hours and seven minutes to DXB. My internal clock will be so mixed up. Take malaria pill Monday. Don't forget. 

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events that took place and feelings captured:

Sixteen-hour flight. Dubai. Lose a day. Five-hour flight. Entebbe. Gathering bags upon bags. Busy streets. No signals or lane dividers. It's dirt and paved roads, bumps and potholes. Cars go around cars with no structure; we kept questioning how there weren't more accidents. "Defensive driving," Ben would respond. 

Upon arrival, there was a house that was inviting. Our hosts were Ben and Kari David. Three girls to a room. One speech language therapist assistant going on to her Master's (me), a professor and doctor of speech language therapy (Tonya), and a social worker and theology student (Karli, Tonya's daughter) make up the girl's room. Two boys to the other room. One photo-journalist (Johnathan) and the other, entertainer for all of the kids and helper for all tasks (Jonah, Tonya's son). After 3 weeks, they would leave and Tasha (a graduate from Biola with her communication sciences and disorders degree) would be joining our 'team' and for a few days, her friend, Ana (who had come to Uganda for a wedding but has volunteered here twice before and is a bible major) would be staying with us, too. The day before I’d leave, I’d bond with Erika, an SLP, who had just been gorilla trekking with her family in Kenya. 

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Everything felt safe and inviting during our initial greeting with this new place. But we would surely need to mentally prepare for the unfamiliar. Some of these include: brushing our teeth with bottled water (though some lived more dangerously), finding a cockroach or two and then realizing the “cricket-type-things” were baby cockroaches that came out every night during midnight pees and there was actually a whole family of roaches hiding in the open drainage system of the bathtub, sleeping under mosquito nets, power outages, running out of water, running out of warm water while showering, running out of internet, no cellular data, new sounds while sleeping due to no sound proof walls or large buildings to block sound i.e. the mosque call to prayer early every morning, and a different type of hygiene that involved mild panic attacks.

The first week we were there we had one day for acclimating and another day for the orientation meeting. We toured and did therapy at Angel’s Center and Kampala School for the Handicapped. Children helping to push each other in wheelchairs and helping each other get dressed. Some of them too excited to hold in pee during therapy. Toilet paper clean up, paper towels not often used. I wonder why and then find myself amused. These little non-verbal blessings, safe at school than in a room full of no noise, no cues. Speech and language, trampoline bounces and cushion meets body for sensory needs. Helping feed those that cannot feed themselves and guiding them to swallow. Food at school than none at home. Drool puddles from open mouths due to flaccid, weak muscles. Children of all ages all around. Clothes on clotheslines at boarding school, the smiles of thirty girls in one dorm room. Three sisters with a syndrome that looks like hands attached to shoulders, low muscle tone in legs, jumping from a piece of low furniture landing on their knees onto a seat cushion. Shouts of "Watch me, watch me!" 

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To see their image on a screen is a curious venture to the self's physical features. Noticing their own reflection without judgment. Without negativity. Pure enjoyment of their self, noticed. What if we looked at ourselves like that? What if we saw what God sees? That's what these kids see. They value their self as unique and real. They can see their own shapes and their own colors and they're too busy admiring it all to pick it apart. What if we viewed ourselves unique and special and then shared that same peaked curiosity and admiration for another. And because of that, that individual would look deeper into their own soul – to discover that special quality you saw in them. How marvelous and extraordinary would we feel? In the human body there are eight beautifully designed systems that rely on each other to keep the body functioning. Look at yourself deeper! We are intricate beings designed by an Almighty Creator. 

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There's a citywide farmers market every day. They have pineapple that is a soft sweet flavor, the best we have all ever had. The mango is ripe and juicy with a smooth texture. Passion fruit sleeps underneath the kitchen sink and takes up the space like a large grassy plain. I indulge in the fresh passion fruit juice our lovely Petwa makes for us daily. There is jackfruit in great supply and everyone knows to mention its name to me upon its reveal during meal times. Petwa has even gone out of her way to pick up a jackfruit at the market specifically for me, like on a day I didn’t feel well. The entirety of that fruit is, in a word, incredible. Natural, garden goodies, carb-loaded and loving it. Potatoes different ways – my favorite boiled in tomato sauce and herbs, avocado sliced and mixed with chopped up red onions and tomatoes, rice with bits of peppers and carrots, flavorful beans, sliced cabbage dreams, finely chopped greens. I developed a particular appreciation for cutting, peeling and preparing vegetables here. It began at the sight of two of the moms at the mercy childcare camp sitting outside. One of them cutting into the lush folded greens, hand held. There was another mom with a mound of potatoes, peeling them. They were in close proximity at one house, on a hopeful warm day, preparing food with no distractions, all in good heartedness for them and their children. It was mindful, hand crafted, and slow but productive. There have been so many little but massively impactful sightings like this. One would need to be present, I believe, to obtain this sense of reality. It is a good reality to have been a part of. 

~

We attended a disabilities walk/ fun day. They began the walk with a prayer, openly. Marched down the streets. Wheelchairs pushed. Wagons pulled. Disabilities of different ages. Sprinkling skies. Wet tendrils of hair. At the end of the march, we entered into the outdoor arena. We all sat down in chairs and some on the floor under tarps. Rain waited for us to be covered before it decided to pour. Finding the divine in unwanted weather. I saw mothers and their kids sitting under tarps on the floor begin to get wet from rain galore. They stood up and I suspected, would leave, but turned my head again to watch them all smiles and dancing, horn blowing and laughing. After patiently waiting, finding these women and children happily staying . . . the inside arena became open for us. The rain slowly resided and we filled the chairs of the indoor sports gym. Children and moms and volunteers of different kinds. Games for those with disabilities, a mini Special Olympics. Juices and snacks passed out. A full meal served to a population of (approximately) 1,500. Fingers scoop the food with no hesitation. Such grace in a maneuver I would usually find unhygienic. I am discovering the beauty in this new way of life. Schools and dances and singing for each one. I stood at the top of the gym, behind all the seats where a walkway was. I looked out over a ledge. A boy from one of the schools stood next to me. I'd smile at him or make a gesture every once in a while noticing he was sticking around. I began playing hand games with him on performance breaks, then we would look over to see another one start. There was one where ladies danced behind wheel chairs and moved them. I began copying their movements and encouraged my new friend to do the same. Dancing in unity with those below, enjoying each other, disabilities, and the "show." Eventually, I asked him his name.  He told me, but I couldn't understand clear enough. Give it his accent, the loudness of the gym, or an unfamiliar name my mind wouldn't make sense of. He gestured a writing motion and I pulled out a pen. We used the brown crumpled bag that once held a brownie in it for him to write on. "Innocent," he wrote. He then drew a car and a bike and they weren't phenomenal but the small details he included and his focus to draw them were what impressed me most. Hands that create. Hands that are for holding – holding another's hand, holding a baggy filled with watered down juice to suck out of, holding pens and crayons, holding food to bring to mouth, holding the younger kids with disabilities who can't hold their own self up, holding mzungu ladies' hair to gently stroke and play with. These kids. These hands. These moments of creation. Small. Not phenomenal. But full of detail and in the details, you find God. Creator of all. Details upon details of the world at large. 

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There was a week long camp for children with disabilities with mercy childcare. A speech therapist with an occupational therapist times 3 and also a physical therapist to co-evaluate and then do therapy and parent training for 20+ kiddos. Meetings each night to schedule and plan. Thousands of dollars, all for free. Chaos unfolding, but remembering: a big impact being made and it's all worth it, it's all worth it indeed. There are kids with heads grown large from hydrocephalus – moving side to side to maintain equilibrium. Shaving cream to play with, all smiles are they. A 9-year-old with spastic quadriplegia: non-verbal, no sounds or gestures, and hardly any movement or alertness. Reading through "Disabled Village Children" book to find an exact image and description of her. Maybe, after all this time, she also had rickets, a vitamin D deficiency. A 2-year-old length body she has. I pick up a book to demonstrate an engaging way to read to her but soon realize that books and toys aren't in their culture. I remind and encourage mama Hasifah to talk to her child who hasn't talked back to her for years, how to pick out details in nature, sounds of animals and of children's laughter. Let's walk outside, I said. “Look at the tree, it's green.” Mama Hasifah imitates in English (learning), "Hasifah, look, the tree, it’s green." Good, good. Now notice the size of the leaves. "Big leaves on the banana tree." What else do you see? Look out into the distance. What sounds do you hear? Describe them in her ear. We sing upbeat songs while our hands rhythmically dance along Hasifah's head, torso and limbs. Pause for engagement. Mama Hasifah sings in Luganda. I am immersed in the beauty of the language. From singing in church services and then preaching in English and translating to Luganda throughout the message. The language of "mmmm and ehhhh's" make me laugh every day. Another child at the camp was Elijah. Him and his mama make sounds of ahh and more ahhh's. It's sharp like crying but observe closer and you will notice it is screams of joy. Expression is pure, his mama and I endure. ee oo ah uh I oh boo bah goo ga, pressing lightly on his tummy. Changes of sound he hears, done involuntarily. To imitate, we wait. To be hopeful, we ignite in these mothers. We always need a boost of inspiration and that is why I traveled to this nation. We talk through taking off and putting on articles of clothing. Having Elijah hold his socks as he lies down, clenched fist. Another case of spastic quadriplegia. Tapping along the facial nerves to stimulate them. We sing a song of old McDonald or the ABC’s or Jesus Loves Me and give word meaning to tactile feeling. Bridget is in her teens and she didn't know how to speak. Neighbor men would call her over and do not so good things. Her grandma found a safe place, a saving grace for Bridget - to go and learn and be. Boarding school and therapy. She now is a place I find peace in. Her sweet presence has become a safe place for me. I grew in these weeks of evaluation, therapy, parent training and disorders that I had not yet seen. A history I could never understand like how one of the kid's dads was the top witch doctor, had sex with women to help them "heal," and had nine children because of it. Gabriel was one of the nine. Hydrocephalus and poverty. Surgery happened but fluid still there. His dad came to know Christ, and his wealth from the past disappeared. But Gabriel is now in a safe haven. Angels all around in Uganda. Stories and reality reveal. 

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Visiting the slums was something you can't prepare for. 25,000 people in one slum. The smallest of spaces – think, a few small cul-de-sacs. But joy. I see joy and love. Hardship, despair, and disability stigmatization, yes. But a mother's face lighting up during speech therapy for any engagement her child gave was surely heaven on earth. By the grace of God, a little square space in the Katanga slums opened up that day. Kari and Ben now have a new clinic, a central space in the slums for kids to come and receive therapy in a more spacious place. The room will have a light, a twin mattress with a plastic covering and sheets, a mat to lay on the floor, four portable chairs, a shelf, a broom, a desk and chair, trash can and a fan. Decorations and shelves will be put up and therapy materials brought in. There are two pad locks – one locks from the inside of the door and is a bit of a feat to open. But, as Theodore Roosevelt said it, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”  I'm not kidding about that lock - it takes effort! 

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We've also had times of exploration. A drive to the equator, running water three different ways. Inside jokes for days*. Loopy sleepiness attending angel's fundraising dinner: kids with disabilities unashamedly dancing like no other, front and center table, a Ugandan 'Shakira' surprise performance. A 4:30a.m. wake up call to Murchison falls. A stay at paraa lodge. A boat safari and a park one, too. A hyena, leopard, giraffes, elephants, hippos, all kinds of colored birds, different types of deer speckling the ground, and little wort hog pumbas that kneel while they eat. We've gone to the Friday craft market and eaten at Cafe Javas (probably too many times) and Café Serie at the Acacia mall. We've had a Ugandan bathday (birthday). We had fellowship during meal times and car drives. And at the end of the whole team's time together that first 3 weeks, we did a little Q&A to reflect on it all. Something we all want to integrate into our lives back in the US is slowing down, not rushing. Slowing down was also our least favorite thing to do here. For example: we went to a 'church family dinner' that began at 5p.m. and they didn’t serve the buffet food until 11p.m. (TIA).  But our hearts are open to the one and only Truth-Bearer - to grow and find a peaceful place deep within, no matter the circumstances. Wherever we are, He wants us to know and be one with Him.

Photo taken in Jinja at the River Nile - the world's longest river: 

(Joslyn, Tasha, Joann) 

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wedding crashers: 

Not only did Tasha and I crash our first wedding in AFRICA, we were also honored by the groom, who thought we were part of the bride's church group (church group had left – did not contain roaring laughter from said honor – apologies). We discovered Ugandans are quite the dancers. After leaving, we had our second wind blasting music after discovering Ben and Kari can JAM. And our third wind came when one of the Ugandan ladies we were giving a ride to told us to take our singing through the moon roof (realizing now she was probably trying to create distance between our shrilling voices and her). We were in traffic for 3 hours, barely moving. It began to rain on us and we embraced our damp skin and the smiles from the Ugandans (most likely thinking we were drunk, as we did get a no-no finger shook at us, but we were unstoppable and it wasn’t long until he broke into a smile). To keep the car from getting musty from the rain, we melted back into our seats, bodies twisting into each other as sleepiness became of us. My eyes were softly opening and closing and worship music was playing. "You're a good, good Father," was the soundtrack up our hill to our home sweet Ugandan home.

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a sunday anxiety turned epiphany:

On this day, I had timed everything. I was feeling anxious. I was feeling like I didn't have any freedom or say to do my own things because I wasn't here to do my own things. It took everything in me to have good thoughts. So I wrote. I wrote down my irritation and found liberation through these words, this reflection. 

Church 8:30-10a.m. Be immersed in community and leave at 10:45a.m. Drop car off for a wash; take a boda boda to Thai food. Arrived around 12ish. Discussed the perfect teammate: humble, hungry and smart. Lunch done by 2p.m. Wait for car. Ben comes back with car at 2:28p.m. Spare tire had fallen off and needs to be tightened underneath. We're late for the conference and Ben says it'll only take10 minutes. We say, “It's Uganda, it'll take at least thirty.” Arrive at car repair (next to gas station next to Java house next to Savers – a common occurrence). Women’s conference is running 40 minutes late. 2 minutes and counting. We timed it. The alarm goes off. It's been 10 minutes. 2:47p.m. is the time. We hear they are opening with the choir at the conference. Something is broken on the car. We’ll do a short-term fix. It’s 2:51p.m. and the door is finally closed so the constant beeping of the car that no one has seemed to notice (but me), resides. I feel so much wasted time but I must be slower. I must not feel rushed. I must know that I am being tried and tested and that I'm here for every purpose I need to be. 2:52p.m. — about to leave. I think. Communication is lacking. My back aches from my moon cycle but cramps are light. 2:54p.m. Finding gratitude wherever I can. We're taking a short cut through the swamps. We pass by a food stand with avocados the size of your head. It was a quick glance and I wished to get a better look. Call it a miracle or a curse, we had entered too early and would have to make a u-turn, which meant getting to see all those avocados in their glory. Finding gratitude. Wherever I can. Ben dropped us off and Kari and I switched Super Custom vans to get into Lauren’s. 

On our drive to Mercy church, branch of Light the World, a semi truck, for some mental reason, thinks he can pass another truck on a two-lane road. The truck isn't slowing down. Head on, nothing for us to do but near the ditch to the left. Three ladies, one baby and one bun in the oven. Safe. We’re late. It’s around 3:30p.m. or maybe closer to four. I don't know anymore. But we're there. Sitting in the back. We missed one of the speakers’ testimony and the other is nearing the end of hers. Q and A time was next, and it was fulfilling. I appreciated the speaker for her humor, her dress, and her light heartedness. Her ability to come up with answers on the fly was admirable. Some of the questions looked like this: How does God speak? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is God a man or a woman? One of the Ugandan women stood up and told her story in Luganda, which was translated softly and I could only make out some of this long, unraveling story with details upon details of the unfortunate events that was her life. Raped upon first period. A girl so young and full of tragedy and loss and lies and lust. Memories repeat over and over because there is no one to let them out to. Until now. With us. In this place full of rejoicing and love and listening and light.

A thought occurs. I'm realizing this trip was to volunteer. Not just for the kids to provide speech and language therapy to but to be completely outside myself and help. I now understand Robert’s words when I left. This trip isn't about finding myself; it's about experiencing myself. For all the selfish, rushing ways, patterns of dissatisfaction, will to go then wait, and the zero need to rely on God. I keep looking for a sign that I'm supposed to be here. Like during the conference when the story was long and hard to hear and patience was running out – little girl hands slowly approached the back of me, sweeping the nape of my neck and gently traveling down my hair. I had turned slowly in acceptance, and with a smile she knew it was okay to play with my hair. So the story of the woman kept going and I kept trying to hear what was being said as the little girl played with my hair and chills swept the surface layer of my body. The touch of small, gentle hands with a girl whose experienced a tougher life, who I know nothing about, reminds me of how to suffer well. Suffer with grace. The grace of a Father.  Observation of the world around and introspection. It's all telling me to slow down. Body is but mind isn't. Energy in aggression. It's time to soften. 

a reflection:

I've seen more of the world now. I've been immersed in it. I wasn't trying to save anyone or be anything greater than I am. I came with no expectations. I now see, personally, how this part of the world lives, and I walk on the Ugandan land with humility. They are living a life I will never fully know, depend on Jesus in a way that I'd never understand, and have a joy that I described as 'a new kind of joy,' after being here for only a few days. I came here for 6 weeks instead of two or three weeks because I wanted to really be here. I wanted to extend my time as more than an experience but a dose of how it would be to live here. A long short-term missions trip. Where your brain says it's been 3 weeks and it has felt simultaneously long and short, but guess what? You have another 3 MORE weeks to go. As the rest of the team was leaving, I was staying. At times I’ve felt helpless, homesick, and overwhelmed. Though I had no expectations, I sometimes question how much I'm helping, the meaning of why I'm here, what I think I'm going to accomplish and what my purpose is for coming. However, God continues to reveal to me, small signs of 'you're supposed be here,’ and I continue to look for them each day. Where does my purpose come from? Where is the meaning? "Child, it's here. Where you are. Do you hear me? Are you present? Do you seek me in each moment? I am the Truth-Bearer. I am showing you the way. My way. Teaching you. Planting a seed within you. Just as you are being changed by your encounters, they, too, are being changed. A smile, hope, a glance of recognition, encouragement, sharing love, being PRESENT, being IMMERSED, being hand in hand with My children. Do you see My Love? It's unwavering whether for those in the U.S. or here in Africa. My Love is the same. I am fully here for you all. My Love is vast. I hear you all. You're supposed to be here," God whispers, and I smile, knowingly. 

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Places we did speech and language therapy at: Angel's Center, Kampala School for the Handicapped, Katanga slums, under a gazebo behind Cafe Javas, at a wealthy Ugandans home, Mukisa Foundation, and their sister school, Dawn. 

my journaling on yoga while i was in Uganda and the part it played:

Being in a foreign place always surrounded by people at home, during meal times, driving, visiting places, doing therapy, is both incredible and exhausting. For the first two weeks I was living here, this sweet girl, Shaluwa, would join me in yoga. "Let's exercise. You come," she would insist. I would help her into the poses I was doing and sometimes she would remark, "This is painful," with her cute little accent and a giggle to accompany it. Sometimes she would tell me not to help her and would confidently show me she could do it by herself. Sometimes she would want to braid my hair, so 5 minutes into our "practice," after a long day, I'd be sitting crossed leg while she'd braid my mzungu hair and I'd get sleepy and that would be our yoga for the day. I find myself doing yoga in different places around this house – in my bedroom between two bunk beds, outside on the patio with big ants and relentless mosquitoes, or in the open living room. It's been a way to build community and a way to find comfort, stillness, and to be with myself. Many days I'm hearing difficult stories, seeing severe disorders, witnessing and experiencing spiritual warfare. I've been working on heart openers to focus on giving love and staying soft in moments of discomfort and despair as well as to counter all the bending over in therapy. I've also been hit with some tummy bugs and have wrung myself out with twisting poses. I have taught a pregnancy yoga session and was met with warmness and laughter.  Mentally, yoga is keeping me sane, and because I have nothing or no one familiar, it's been my mind and body's sanctuary. I feel more 'me' when I'm doing yoga. I can be quiet and silly. I can create space between my bones and muscles and ligaments and by creating space, I am able to receive all of these new moments with ease. I've been here in Uganda for 1 month and counting. I've only had one day where I've wept but upwards! and onwards! since that day, I've accepted more and more of this lifestyle. A lifestyle that will forever be with me. A lifestyle I admire (most of the time).

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*A list of inside jokes:

The first three weeks:

“How tall are you in kilometers?”

Asking: "Are you okay?" After someone hits their head. "The worse thing about hitting your head is everyone asking if you're okay after."  

“We all came on the same flight except one of us was in business class.”

"There's a switch!?" "Oh yeah, we didn't get to that part of the orientation yet." 2 cold showers later we now know there's warm water.  

“Does the men's volleyball team pat each other on the bottom?”

“How are you still laughing?” 

"Are you coming to dinner with us tonight?" "Yes. [pause] What was the question again?" "Are you coming out to dinner with us tonight?" "Yes. Maybe. I don't know." 

“Joslyn, where's my wallet/passports?”  "Blue bag." 

'Shaka' 

“Shalala . . . my oh my, go on and kiss the girl.” 

“Chocolate ice cream with ribbons of peanut butter.”

“You're just a potato.” Used as a term of endearment translating from Luganda to English

“Which way do I face?”  When standing over a squatty potty off the road. "There was no toilet paper so I had to air dry." 

“2 is the most even number in the world.” 

“I have a pen and a pen.” 

“Ducks in Uganda don't fly.” 

"What's this back mirror for?" "It's just . . . a back mirror." *Confused looks and laughter.* “That's not what I meant to say.”  

Five-head, five-sure  

*Radio starts playing on its own out of the awkward silence. 

“I question everything. Why do I do that?” 

"That [laugh] was even faker." "It would actually just be "fake" since "faker" would mean my real laugh was fake to begin with."   

Warm Cathy. [Written on dessert plate from being a part of the warm versus cold-water team at the table and misunderstanding her name as Cathy instead of Karli.] 

“I thought it was Messy church . . .”  (Mercy* with Ugandan accent of not emphasizing the r sound) 

"Happy bathday!" [in Uganda, when it's your birthday, they pour water on you. So, inevitably, it becomes a bathday.] 

Advertisements on buildings: How's your love life? Complicated? She could be pregnant, or, she could have HIV. 

Is this march (for children with disabilities) against the government? I'm not sure you should be doing that. (It was a government-sanctioned event. :) )

Swimming costume

"Snake!" Ben's fear-of-snakes-yell as he mistakes Kari's cold foot that touched his leg, while in bed, for a reptile. "I'm your wife!" 

The last 3 weeks:

*TV turns off by itself “Did the power go out?” Checks wifi* “oh, it's still on, there's wifi.” ". . . and the light is still on." “Oh yeah, that too.” "First world problems." 

“Are you booked?” (In a relationship)

“What do you do?”  “I grow mushrooms.” "The ones you... eat?" 

“Is this your mom?” “Uh, she's one year older than me.”

Hospital wifi password at the Surgery (doctor’s office): one foot in the grave

"You say potato I say tomato." 

Bathroom issues morning till night means we talk about bathroom stories morning till night. 

“You ate there?” “Yeah...” *confused at why I was so confused* later finds out the restaurant in the movie wasn't called waste* station it was way* station. 

To the boda driver who picked us up when someone else was supposed to: “Where are you taking us?” “You'll see,” he responds. “oh, um, okay . . .” *confused looks

"The damage has already been done." 

"Tea and sugar"

"You fear cockroaches?"

"Do you have pain?".

to capture a feeling,  

joslyn rae kiel