I survived Africa! It’s good to back home, it’s good to see so many people again; it’s good to get my teeth back into things. My fingers have been twitching to write something for this poor, neglected blog for a while now, but there is so much to say about Uganda! Since I was in Africa for twenty-five nights, I thought I’d share twenty-five memories, lessons, stories, and photos from my time away. So grab some popcorn, sit down for a long blog post, and I hope you enjoy it!
Five new things I did…
- Rode on a motorbike (boda-boda) through a city. I was really hesitant about it – boda-boda’s have the most accidents in Uganda because they go too fast through lots of traffic – but I was convinced to take the rides, and I am so glad I did it. The driver was safe and reliable, we rode through a quieter part of town, and I wore a helmet. It was a lot of fun to go faster than the car allows and to feel the cool morning breeze as I sat behind the driver.
- Helped out at an international school – I volunteered for a day and half, ready to do admin or teaching assistance, and ended up helping out with the kindy class and the year one-two class. I enjoyed spending time with the kids and watching the teachers rock their stuff.
- Fly by myself. I think the fact that people thought I was younger than I really was meant they took pity on me and helped me when I looked lost or worried! Ha. I was worried that I would fall asleep in the airport, but mostly that I would get lost at the Doha, Qatar airport, because the international system sounded a little confusing, but once you were there, it was a breeze, and the staff left no way for you to get lost. Once I stopped crying or feeling sad leaving both Australia and Uganda, I enjoyed the challenge of standing on my own two feet as an individual – never travelled solo before this – in finding my way around the airport, and I coped alright being on the flight by myself for ten hours straight. Of course, sleeping seven and a half hours both times might have helped… (I have super powers after all!)
- Ate Japenese and Chinese! And, obviously, Ugandan. Love the Ugandan dishes; distinctively dislike the Japenese and Chinese tofu.
- Live with another family by myself for nearly a month. This wasn’t really hard at all, because the J family were already family friends, and a lot of fun to be with! They have three kids and he’s working with an international missionary group for a year in Uganda. I thoroughly enjoyed all the God-talks we had, all the bleary-eyed and hyped-up moments we shared, and introducing them to lots of nonsense (and apparently, I spilled the beans on a lot of our family secrets! Haha!)
Five animals I saw (when we went on Safari)…
- The giraffe is listed first because they were my number one, favourite animal. They are so gracious and beautiful, different, striking, and taller than you realise!
- The elephants were fun, though we didn’t see nearly as many elephants as giraffes.
- Warthogs, baboons, and hippos freely roamed our campsite at night. Although we didn’t see any hippos in our campsite, warthogs did come as close as two meters to me over lunch, and we watched the baboons raid the rubbish bins.
- Hippopotamuses are kind of unassuming animals in the water – they just hang placidly. But the thought of actually getting into hippo-infested waters makes me cringe – they are powerful animals, not to be underestimated or taken advantage of!
- Last, but definitely not least, we saw lions. Four of them, actually, which is a huge bonus, considering there were only sixty registered lions in the whole park! We saw a mumma lion, her two seven-month-old cubs, and another lioness stalking her prey. This was an unexpected surprise, but a big highlight of our trip on Safari!
Five feelings I felt…
- Sadness at leaving home; I cried when I left my family, and then Australia as I boarded the plane from Perth. When I left Uganda at the end of the month, my felt so heavy at leaving a family behind that you had grown so close to and had shared so many emotional, confused, sad, silly, and happy memories with.
- Homesickness when I had a heart issue that I desperately needed to talk to my mum about. God provided, even in that moment, other people to open up to and talk with, which flooded me with peace.
- Exhilarated at having done something new and different and hard, like when I arrived there, and when I went on the boda-boda, and when I jumped into help at the school, and when I went shopping at a huge, buzzing outdoor shopping centre, with people all vying for my attention, and me having to barter.
- Humility in realising I am not this amazing person that is going to fix everyone’s problems as soon as I rock up, but that God is the centre of the universe and he will work in and through me as he sees fit.
- A renewed understanding for thankfulness for everything. After all, God’s in control – I can be thankful for this life God’s given me. Every good and perfect gift comes from above!
Five lessons I learnt…
- TRUST God. While away I started overthinking and overanalysing my faith. Leaving my family for a whole month and travelling alone was a huge step into the unknown. I didn’t know how this whole ‘living in Africa’ thing was going to work, or how I was going to spend my time. With all these unknowns to deal with, this was the verse I constantly reminded myself of: trust in the Lord with ALL of your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In everything you do, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6) As the month unravelled, this was the verse that held me together when I was at my lowest. It gave me the guts to live my faith when everything was dark, it encouraged me to put my beliefs into actions, and it gave me a reassuring promise that ‘all things work together for good’. Ahhh what a word: trust.
- I don’t need a lot of stuff that the western world thinks we need. A little elbow grease and good work can often fix the problem just as well as a gadget will. I mean, I never knew that I could actually beat egg whites into hand, but I did it! (Took half an hour, but lemon delicious never tasted so good!) Of course, I kind of knew this principle, but living in Africa, with intermittent internet connection, unreliable power, and not having the exact ingredients one’s used to, puts resourcefulness, diligence, and patience into practice.
- I was nervous about a lot of things: travelling internationally by myself, catching a boda-boda, helping out at an international school, meeting other engineers and architects fresh out of college (read: smart, experienced, bla bla bla!) and shopping at a huge outdoor shopping centre. God taught me that he is always with me and for me, and reminded me that he opened the door for Africa in the first place! All these things actually turned out to be highlights of my trip, and it just goes to show that stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things isn’t a bad thing. Instead, it provides growth emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, teaches me more about myself as a person, and gave me adventures I could never have experience if I had stayed where I was comfortable.
- I am not as bad at things, or as horrible a person, as I thought I was. But that’s another blog post for another day…
- The J family are great at just bursting out into spontaneous song. Why not?! I found myself joining in and even doing it on my own.
Five Ugandan things I experienced…
- The markets; rickety sheds lined with fruit and veggies with the hardpacked dirt as the floor. The ladies were so friendly, shaking hands, giving me hugs, and always smiling huge grins!
- The Lugandan language. Honestly, I didn’t really get a grip on the language. They went in one ear and out the other before I had a chance to grab it and put it back in, as Nomi says! I did manage to remember ‘thank you’, ‘good’, ‘no’, ‘you’re welcome’, ‘sir’, madam’, and ‘I don’t want’. I half-remember ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon/evening’ but never quite got the hang of it!
- Matooke, a savoury banana that when cooked and mashed, tastes like a sweet mashed potato. Yum! I also liked the homemade passionfruit juice, passionfruit in general, and the chapatti, a savoury pancake. I had forgotten from when I was in Turkey how good eggplant can taste; i think it tastes like greasy mushroom, but this was cheesy and delicious.
- Sleeping under mosquito nets – because of the risk of malaria, I had to sleep under mosquito nets – quite exciting. It surprised me though how quickly I could get in and out of bed when I returned to mosquito-net-free Australia!
- Contaminated water – you couldn’t drink the water that came out of the taps, or use wet plates or cups, because the water was contaminated. To be honest, I did use the water most of the time to brush my teeth, simply because that was what was convenient, although I know it wasn’t the best thing to do. Again, when I came home I was very thoroughly drying the dishes!
There you have it – hope you enjoyed it! please leave a comment below if you have any questions, and to let me know your favourite snapshot of my time in Uganda!