Archive for ‘Travel’

August 2, 2013

Uganda/Zambia Trip – Part 3

Our time in Uganda was a flurry of activity so instead of sharing day-by-day I’ll just share some stories, highlights and pictures.

One of the highlights, for me personally, was the chance to see a family that is very special to me.  I won’t go into details here how we are connected to this beautiful family, but we are.   We were in the neighborhood anyway (as close as you can get to being in the neighborhood!) so we decided to swing by and see how they were doing.  They were very excited to hear that we were coming.

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The red dirt of Uganda.

We were told it wasn’t far.  I’m not sure what standards these folks are going by, because it was far!  To get to their home we took a small, dirt road.  We bumped and bounced down that road past tiny little villages until we reached smaller dirt roads where we bounced and bumped some more.  Finally we got to the end of the road where we stopped and started walking on a path through some coffee beans into the middle of a field.  There was a clearing in front of us and then, the most darling little home.  This is where the mother of this family and her three children (and one nephew) live.

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The home.

The home is one room.  There is a  bed with a mosquito net over top.  The children sleep on mats on the floor.  All cooking/bathing/socializing is done outside.   There are few other small homes like this scattered around the clearing.  This is their community.  While we were talking the girls came back from fetching water at the well.  This is how they get all of their water.  There are no sinks or bathtubs, there is no electricity.  But their little home is beautiful and they clearly take pride in it.

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The children who live in this small community.

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Carrying water from the well.

It was such a blessing to see their family and home.

One of my favorite parts of these trips is checking on the kids who wait for families and trying to find ways to show all of YOU just how amazing they are.  I had the privilege of visiting with some absolutely adorable kids – of all ages and abilities – who are waiting for families.   One of them was this little guy.  He just couldn’t stop giggling!  He has the most infectious and beautiful smile.  Can you imagine how much a family would have with him?  He really needs to be adopted!

Collin from sister haiti on Vimeo.

Collin

July 30, 2013

Uganda/Zambia Trip – Part 2

Mornings in Zambia were chilly, the air felt like fall at home but smelled like Africa.  So interesting to me, I’ve never been to a truly cold part of Africa…I’m fascinated.  

Each morning I bundled up in my sweater and headed out to meet my new friend Beth from Special Hope Network.   Beth controlled our schedule and planned all of the meetings, I was just along for the ride!   

Our first meetings with the government were slightly disappointing in terms of information we were given.  But by our last day in Zambia we had enough information and positive reactions that we were all feeling hopeful.  A special needs adoption program is truly possible here (and desperately needed!) but it’s going to take adventurous and flexible families with pioneering spirits to get things started.  I’ll write more about our hope for this program soon. 

We visited orphanages.  No matter how many times I walk into an orphanage, I never get used to the sight of children being raised without families.  The orphanages we visited were all nice places.  Clean, organized, the children looked healthy and well cared for.   But still, they’re orphanages and no child should be growing up without a family.   

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We spent time at Special Hope Network and my heart was so happy to see what this small group of people are doing for children with intellectual disabilities in Zambia.   Equipping families to KEEP and PARENT their children, shouldn’t that be the #1 goal for all of us?  

I was blessed to be invited to participate in a Special Olympics program that was coordinated specifically for the families and children of Special Hope Network.   It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and the children had so much fun.  

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My time in Zambia came to an end too quickly.   Soon it was time to say goodbye and I was packing my bags back up to head to Uganda.   

It seems like getting from Zambia to Uganda shouldn’t be too hard, right?  They aren’t that far away from each other.   Well, it was an all day affair including a 6 hour layover in Johannesburg, South Africa.   I left Zambia at 7am and arrived in Uganda at 7pm.   I was met at the airport by our friend and driver Ken and friend Kendra and her beautiful family.   

After a quick hello and then goodbye to Kendra’s mom and daughter (who were flying out that night) we headed in to Kampala where I got settled into my cottage at Red Chilli Hideaway.   People ask me what I like about Red Chilli’s.  Despite the fact that it can be loud (it really depends on the room you get) – I like being surrounded by people.   Some people might prefer the peace and quiet of being in a small guest house with only one or two other guests, I’m not crazy about it.  I prefer having people around.  The cottages are quiet (for the most part, one night there was a party next door to the compound and it was loud), it is cheap, the food is good and well priced, there is free wifi, a small pool, interesting people to talk to (always interesting people!), a generator (but power rarely goes out), hot water and nice staff.  Downside, it isn’t fancy – the place gets dirty really fast.  There are bugs and lizards and monkeys and the bar area gets loud on the weekends.  But I feel at home there so it’s been my go-to place for several years.  

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The next morning I got up, met with Linda & Ken and we immediately headed out to start visiting and meeting.  It was scheduled to be a busy week!   

Part 3 coming soon. 

July 29, 2013

Uganda/Zambia Trip – Part 1

I am headed to Africa today!  I’m going to miss my kids so, so much!  But I know this is going to be an incredible trip.  I’m excited!

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My flight to Detroit was delayed.  Looks like I may miss my flight to Amsterdam.

Well, I made it to Detroit and after a record setting stop in a Detroit bathroom I ran to my gate and found that they were still boarding.  Thank the Lord my gate was in the same terminal!  Otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.  7 house to Amsterdam, here we go!

The flight to Amsterdam wasn’t bad.  I saw next to a nice Dutch man going home.  Food was decent.  Read and watched movies for a few house then fell asleep for two hours before we landed.

Hello from Amsterdam!  I had a quick breakfast at McDonalds then headed to my gate.  I decided to stand the whole time I was in Amsterdam since I had been sitting for most of the last 8 hours and will be sitting again for the next 10 hours.  Just waiting to board now.

We are in Harare.  Man that was a long 10 hours.  We have an hour here and then we’ll be headed to Lusaka.  Interesting fact – on my flight to Harare I sat next to a professor of psychology who did her master degree on the effects of institutionalization on children in Lusaka’s orphanages.  We had some great conversations and exchanged contact info.  Headed to Zambia now!

Hello from Zambia.  Oh my goodness, there was a lot of drama getting to my hotel.  We got to the airport at 10:30pm but because immigration took so long (long!) it was after midnight by time I got my bags.  I was the last person to go through immigration (boo) so by time I got outside the airport to find my ride I was one of the last people there.  My hotel shuttle wasn’t there.  I turned on my phone to call the hotel but my phone wouldn’t work.  There were a couple of porter type guys milling about and I asked one of them if I could use his phone to call the hotel.  He said yes.  I got a hold of the hotel and the man at the desk said he would call the shuttle and then call me back.  No one called back.  I tried the hotel again and he said he was sorry but the shuttle was no longer running and I should get a taxi.
I asked the men standing around about taxis.  Of course, every one of them claimed to be a taxi driver or knew a taxi driver and offered to drive me or call their friend.  I felt weird about getting in a car with a strange guy from the airport – it was at this point 1am in a city I had never been in.  I was alone at the airport and was nervous.   A man with a uniform from another hotel came up and said his shuttle could drop me at my hotel (for the right price of course).  It seemed like the safest option so I agreed.   I was still a little nervous but we finally got to the hotel safe and sound.

My room at the hotel is nice – it’s modern and clean.  But you know what else it is?  COLD.  Oh my, I didn’t realize it would be this cold here!   I went to bed with ALL my layers on.

Good morning from Lusaka!  I’m here a day early so I’ll just be exploring a little today and then will have dinner with some new friends tonight.

Lusaka reminds me of Kampala in some ways but is also quite different.  It seems strange and familiar at the same time, if that makes sense.  It seems more developed in some ways – lots of shopping malls and the streets aren’t as crowded.  I got my money changed to Zambian Kwacha and got airtime for my phone (my Ugandan sim works in Zambia!).  I got a few groceries and then headed back to the hotel to nap before dinner.

I had dinner tonight with my new friend Beth and her adorable son!  I’m excited to see what this week brings, we have a lot of meeting scheduled for the next few days.  Our goal is to determine whether to government will be willing/able to have a special needs adoption program to the United States.  We are praying that everyone is receptive and the path is made clear!

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Part 2 coming soon.

 

August 20, 2012

Home

I am home from Uganda.  10 days was a very long time away from my little ones!

This trip was full of extremes.  Ten days felt so long yet it also went by so quickly.   There were happy, fun times with friends and then heartbreaking, cry-my-eyes-out times with the orphans we are helping.  I’m exhausted.

I have so many stories and pictures to share but I feel like I still need some time to process it all myself first.

In the meantime, something adorable is posted below.  The smile is contagious!   This sweet little man asked me seriously before I left his orphanage if I could find he and his brother a family.  I promised him I’d try.  I can’t wait to hear their file is ready and we can start looking for their forever family!

IMG 3627 from sister haiti on Vimeo.

August 7, 2012

Outta here…

I’m headed out of town for a work trip tomorrow.  I don’t anticipate having time or ability to blog while I’m gone but hope to have some stories to share when I return.  I’m not looking forward to being away from the kids but I know they will be safe and happy at home.   As always, I appreciate prayers for safety and health while I’m away.   I will write more when I can.

July 7, 2011

Always an adventure….

Oh yes, much drama can happen in a Ugandan parking lot.

Let me set the scene. It’s about 10pm. We had just finished dinner at a super yummy but hopping place called Bamboo Nest. Music was boom booming from the restaurant. The street around the place is alive with cars, bodas, pedestrians, merchants, etc. Parking around the restaurant is scarce and there is a lot of competition for the parking spots right in front of the restaurant. Normal parking rules we follow here in the US aren’t followed there. For example, cars may park 2 or 3 deep in one parking spot. So if you’re the car on the inside, you’re stuck. There is no such thing as allowing space between cars. So you might have a car parked so close to you on both sides you can’t even get your arms in to open your door. Yeah, its interesting to say the least.

We got back to the car and saw that there was a Land Cruiser parked in front of us. There was a small space where you could get to the the drivers side door. Unfortunately, the drivers side door handle was missing. So we couldn’t open the door. The new Mercedes on the passenger side of the car was parked so close you couldn’t open the door. We stood around for a minute trying to think of a way to get into the car. We opened the trunk and tried to fold the seats down to see if we could climb in that way. Nope. We tried to work what was left of the car handle to see if we could pop the door open. Nope. After about 20 minutes of humming and hawing someone went to get the manager of the restaurant. He came and took a look at the situation. He went and made an announcement over the intercom that people needed to move cars. The owner of the Land Cruiser came out right away. He moved his car to the street and sat there waiting for us to move so he could have our spot. But the owner of the Mercedes didnt show.

If we could get in the car, we could get out. But we couldn’t get in the car.  A crowd started to gather as we’ve now been trying to get in the car for about 45 minutes.  Over and over various people are trying to get the doors open.  People start talking about cracking open a window.  They keep trying to get in through the trunk. The situation is so ridiculous it was funny at first, but its getting later and later. The owner goes and announces again that we need the owner of the Mercedes. Still nothing. Then one of the bouncer/security guard guys announce that they think the Mercedes has been there since morning and that the owner wasn’t in the building. That seemed to put our driver/friend over the edge and he decided to try to PICK UP the car.

When the other men standing around saw that he wanted to pick up the car they came to help lift. Everyone gathers in front of the car and tries to lift. Nothing.  They try again.   Nothing.   The man in the Land Cruiser stuck his head out the window and yelled “lift it from the back!”. So everyone moved to the rear of the car.

1, 2, 3, LIFT! Movement! A half an inch further away from the Mercedes. Over and over again, 1, 2, 3, LIFT!  Tiny bit by tiny bit the car started moving to the side!

FINALLY someone was able to SQUEEZE between the Mercedes and our car to get the door open. Cheers erupt from all of us and the spectators. Success!

We start to climb in the car when a man walks up and protectively puts his hand on the Mercedes. The cars owner. Inside having a drink this whole time. He looks it over carefully to make sure we didn’t leave any scratches, we wave to all of our helpers and are on our way.

Yes, it’s always an adventure in Uganda. Even in a parking lot.

June 29, 2011

Uganda Trip continued….

Day 4:

Ok – can’t find my trip notes so my trip posts are going to be different. I’ll post about general things that happened during the trip and not specific days – because honestly, I can’t remember what days we did what! It was a BLUR! :)

We started working a little later this day as we spent some time running around trying to fix some paperwork for one of our adoptive families who had court that day. We spent several hours sitting in a probation officers office working on a letter that needed delivered. We got as far as we could with the letter then headed to court to deliver what we were able to get. Met the adoptive family (fun) and sat with them for a bit in court as everything was being prepared.

We then headed out to see some more orphanages, meet with some more people, meet some children waiting for families and deliver care packages for kids in the process of being adopted. We did some shopping for some of the orphanages and delivered food, diapers, soap, and other necessaties to some of the homes we’ve been working with.

I think I mentioned this before, but the homes and caregivers get SO excited when we show up with donations. We try to find out what their immediate needs are and help with what we can. Sometimes its diapers, sometimes formula, sometimes school fees. We don’t have nearly enough money to cover all of the needs but are usually able to help with some of the needs at each place we visit.

Linda, Patrick (our driver and new friend) and I had dinner this evening at a new (to me) place called Bamboo Nest. YUM. We had a fish eating lesson where Patrick enjoyed the eyeballs and brain while I tried to hide my gagging and shuddering. ;)

Here’s a fun video of a traffic jam we came across one day:

Traffic Jam from sister haiti on Vimeo.

June 25, 2011

June 2011 Uganda Trip Day 3

Day 3:

My overnight flight from London to Uganda was decent.  I had a bulk head seat and slept about four hours.   We got to Uganda at about 8am.  The visa line was long.  The immigration officer looked at my passport and asked why I was only staying for 6 days.  I explained it was only a short trip and I couldn’t stay longer.  He pointed to my visa renewal stamp (my visa expired last year when I was in Uganda for so long and I had to get it extended, a huge pain!) and said that he didn’t want me to have to go through that again if I decided to stay longer so he gave me a 90 day visa.  :)

I’m always nervous my bags will get lost but all three were there!   I got my bags loaded on a cart and headed out.  Linda was out front waiting for me and it was so good to see her again!  We found Patrick outside in the car and made our way to our first stop – my friend Robin’s place!  I had a ton of stuff to deliver to Robin plus we had to see one of the sweet babies being adopted by one of our families.  We spent about an hour there sorting through donations, getting some pictures and catching up before heading off to our next visit.

We visited another babies home we’re currently working with, dropped off donations, met some adoptive parents in country, got updates on kids and went to visit the orphanage director who was in a local hospital sick with malaria.  Oh yeah, in between that we stopped and got some American dollars exchanged into shillings and went to the market and bought some supplies for the orphanages we were seeing that day.

Robin had told us about a new, poor orphanage in Entebbe she wanted us to check out.   So we took a bunch of food and a million pairs of underwear (thanks to the generous donations of our AAI families!) and set off to see what this new place was all about.  We were greeted at the orphanage by 40-some young children, most between the ages of 2-10.   We were led to the back of the property where we found a renovated chicken coop turned children’s home!

Several months ago a good Samaritan working on the islands of lake Victoria started taking in orphaned and abandoned children.   The story she told us was that she came home, asked her husband if she could bring some orphaned children back with her.   He said OK, how many?   Her reply:  40.  :)  They renovated the chicken coop and boys quarters and they are doing the best they can to care for them.   When we were there each child had ONE outfit (the one you see in the video).   On laundry day, the kids go naked until their clothes are done washing and then they put wet clothes back on.   They don’t have much of anything at all.   But my goodness, this lady is committed to these kids and the kids are seem so happy and full of life!  She showed us some pictures of the kids before they came and the transformation is amazing.    She’s doing a great job with the very little she has and I hope we have the chance to help her with some of her needs.

singing kids from sister haiti on Vimeo.

 

After this stop it was coming on evening and I was exhausted!  It was time to head to Kampala and get checked into the hostel.  It was my first time at Red Chilli, the most popular youth hostel in Uganda.  I was impressed!  I had a private, ensuite room for less than $30 per night.    It is very backpacker-ish so not the best fit for everyone but was perfectly adequate for me!   The bar/restaurant area (also the internet area) can get a little rowdy in the evenings but I never felt unsafe and everyone was super nice.    I ran a personal errand that evening (will come in a seperate post) then settled in for shower and bed.   All would have been almost perfect except the crazy dog outside my window that barked ALL NIGHT LONG.  So another night of not the best sleep but at least I was in a bed!  :) 

Day 4 coming soon!

June 21, 2011

June 2011 Uganda Trip Day 2

Day 2:

Our flight got to London at about 9am and I got through customs in record time.  By 1030 I was on the metro on my way to central London.  I had about 8 good hours to spend in London and I was looking forward to wandering around London for several house, having a good meal (or two!) and seeing the main sights again since I hadn’t been outside the airport for ages. 

I decided to do one of those extremely touristy (which I usually detest) hop on – hop off bus tours.    Not something I would usually do but I thought it might be the best way to hit some of the major sites quickly.   I’m actually really glad I did it!  If you sit up top you get a great view of the city and I honestly enjoyed just riding around for a couple of hours watching the world go by.   I was able to get off at some of the interesting looking places and do some window shopping.  I had lunch and I hopped back on to continue my drive by tour of the city.   

Unfortunately it had started to drizzle…not enough to make me not want to be on the top side of the bus but enough to make the already slick floor very slippery.  A kid was going too fast and collided very quickly into me, knocking my feet out from under me.  Let me tell you, that was a lovely sight.  Me, a screaming kid and my carryons flying all over the place.   We were both fine except for my foot.  I have no idea what actually happened to it but it hurt pretty bad.   So I decided to do less walking and more riding.  So around we went some more.  I had to do Big Ben and Westminster Abbey though so I did get off there and made it just in time to hear Big Ben do its ringing.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Big Ben and it was fun to be there.

I hobbled around that neighborhood for a bit before deciding to call it a day 2 hours early and get the metro back to the airport.   I was really, really tired at this point  (Remember, no sleep during my last flight?) and my foot was hurting when I walked on it.  So off I went.    I got incredibly lost in the metro system (this line goes to this line, which you take to this stop then get this line….) but finally got back to the airport, grabbed some quick dinner and made myself comfortable in the waiting area to wait for my next flight.   Another overnight flight.  I was really hoping I would be tired enough to sleep during this one, no matter who I’m sitting next to! 

Uganda tomorrow! 

 

June 19, 2011

June 2011 Uganda Trip Day 1

Day 1:

I made it the airport in plenty of time the day I left. My sister brought me up and dropped me off. I was going to drive myself and just leave a car at the airport but I’m glad I didn’t – hauling three big suitcases plus my carryons was not a one person job.

I had a small hiccup at the check-in counter. I was allowed 3 bags by British Airways (yay donations!) but my first leg was on American Airlines. I was concerned that AA might say something about the extra bag so I called them a couple of days before I left to confirm it wasn’t an issue to bring the three checked bags. They assured me it would be no problem. Of course, when I got to the airport the agent put up a stink. My printed itinerary didn’t state I could have three bags. After some back and forth I was finally able to pull up the itinerary on my phone and showed them it said “3”. He was satisfied with that (yay smart phones!) and my three bags were on their way.

I made it to my gate with plenty of time to spare. Shortly before our flight was set to board we heard the news that the flight was delayed due to weather in Chicago. About a half hour after we were supposed to leave they announced we could go, but the flight was overweight. They started asking people to volunteer to give up their seats and were offering some lovely incentives. Several hundred dollars in flight vouchers plus they would put you up in a hotel, give you dinner, etc. I would normally jump on that but I knew this was a crazy busy trip and I was already short on time. ~sigh~ So I whined to my mom on the phone about how much I wish I could do that, then got on my flight.

I only had a 2 hour layover in Chicago and while that sounds like plenty of time, I know from experience that 2 hours can be cutting it short if I had to change terminals (I did) or if there were long lines in security (there were). So with a flight delay…I was really going to be pushing it to catch my flight to London. I raced through the airport, got to my terminal, through security and made it to my gate right as they started boarding. WHEW!

Nothing like a heart pumping start to my trip.

We boarded the plane and I got settled in my lovely, carefully selected aisle seat ready for the overnight flight to London. My time in that seat was quickly cut short when the lady next to me asked if I would mind switching with her husband a couple of rows up so that they could sit together.

I agreed before I saw my new middle seat.

On one side of me sat a large older man and on the other side sat a large middle aged woman.  I hate middle seats.  I hate climbing over people if I have to go to the bathroom or stretch my legs. I hate being squished between two strangers.  I always pick aisle seats.  But nothing to do about it now…. there I was. 

Oh well, I figured I’d make the best of it and just sleep the whole flight. Oh no, no sleep for me. The lady decided she wanted to cuddle throughout the trip. Not only was she half on my seat, she had her head on my headrest every time she fell asleep.   And the old man? Snoring like a freight train. Ear plugs were no match for his snores. So after trying for hours to sleep I gave up and just did some reading, some people watching (ever watch people sleep?  can be quite entertaining) and watched a movie.

Finally, after what felt like forever it was time to land in London. 12 hour layover here I come.