Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Africa and all its Awesome: Part 2- Stories

This post is going to be full of random stories and situations that I want to remember from my trip.  Some may be interesting and others just weird.  And it is all going to be very sporadic and in no particular order.  Here we go....

So one of the funniest little memories I have at the orphanage was on the first full day we were there.  We were cleaning out the first room to start painting it.  The walls were absolutely filthy; I don't really even know how to describe what color they were.  And there were plenty of creepy, crawly things all around.  I actually just got used to it by the end of the trip and didn't even think about it anymore.  But since this was our first day, I was pretty shocked at the size of their spiders in particular.  They were really flat but very big.  Like a meaty sort of spider, if you know what I mean.  We aren't talking daddy longlegs here.  These guys are thick.  So we are cleaning the walls as best as we can and I look up near the top of the wall and there was a huge one of these guys.  So of course, I had to get Kaley and Kristyn's attention to look at it as well.  All the kids giggled at us gawking over this massive bug.  The wall that it was one was open at the top.  In other words, it didn't touch the ceiling, it just cut the room in half.  Before I even knew what was going on, I saw a little head peaking over the wall from the other side.  Faibe, who I didn't know at the time, had climbed up onto the bunk bed in the other room and was now leaning over the wall, grinning at me.  And then, out of nowhere.....WHACK!  She just smacked the spider with her hand, the whole time just looking at me with the biggest smile.  Then she scampered down the other side, and all I could do was stare at the bloodied spot on the wall from the now VERY flat spider.  As she came into the room, still smiling, I was like, "That was awesome!" and gave her a huge high five.  It's funny for me to think that at the time I hardly knew the kid.  She is the most outgoing and brave girl I know.  At ten years old, she is much tougher and stronger than I am.  She is beautiful and carefree and the true definition of fearless.  I love her so much and miss her random hugs and gorgeous smile.  I'll always remember our first real encounter together....the day she saved me from the monstrous spider.

One of the most heartbreaking things I saw in Uganda was when we visited a rock quarry in Kampala.  It's hard to describe the scene and all its horribleness, but basically, its an area where huge chunks of rock are exploded out of the ground and cliffs and slowly but surely broken down into smaller boulders.  This process alone is VERY dangerous.  Many people die from being trapped under the falling rock.  It's horrible to listen to the stories.  Then, from these smaller rocks, gravel must be made.  And this is the part we witnessed all around.  Sitting on the top of sharp rock pieces about the size of fist (maybe a little smaller), women and children spend their entire day whacking away with their little hammers, turning these pieces into 4 or 5 smaller ones.  My description is just ruining this.  You just have to see it to understand.  Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures there.  Not only was it hard for me to see this, I didn't know if it was appropriate to pull out my snazzy camera and capture the suffering right in front of them.  You know what I mean?  I didn't want to appear unfeeling to their position.  But now I really wish I had taken more pictures to explain this better and open eyes.  Just take my word for it though.  It is awful.  All day long these women pound on these rocks, which is horrible for their arms and is terribly difficult.  The breath in the rock dust and it tears up their lungs.  And they do it all for not even $2 a day.  How is this even possible?  It just makes my heart ache.  Grace helps these women.  She gives them an alternative to their current position and situation.  And with the help of Greater Living Ministries, these women and girls are given a hope and future!  One girl we met is being sponsored and studying to become a doctor.  PRAISE JESUS!

My first experience in doing laundry was not very good.  We had to do it in our tiny bathroom at our hotel, and there was only one basin in the room.  I hadn't seen anyone do laundry up to this point so I had no idea what I was doing.  And of course, the pink skirt that I was washing bled like crazy.  How I didn't catch that the water was pink is beyond me.  Apparently I was just so tired that nothing was comprehending in my brain.  But I so smoothly placed the wet pink skirt on top of Kaley's nice white skirt.  After finishing up the other clothes and going to hang them on the handy dandy makeshift line I made (Jeano, you would be so proud!), I realized that Kaley's white skirt now had a distinct patch of pink on it.  Real cool, Kirsten.  Real cool.  So then in an attempt to make it still wearable, I set about to tie dye the entire skirt.  And although it didn't turn out quite as good as I had hoped, it worked.  It became the skirt we used for painting.  No big deal, except for the fact that it prolonged the laundry process that night by like 30 minutes.  Just super annoying.

The first day we were with the kids, they all got together and started singing and dancing for us.  I was so jealous of them.  They were all so good and had rhythm....yet each move was sort of unique for them.  Anywho.  Pastor Enook, who is 10 years old and wants to be a pastor when he grows up and therefore wants to be called "Pastor Enook", is one of Paul's sons.  Paul's sons are crazy.  So there is Nekesa, his daughter, who is 20.  Sarah, who is 18.  Moses, who is like 15.  Enook is around 10.  Abraham is like 8.  Daniel is 6.  Joshua is 4ish.  Joseph is 3.  And Leroy is just over 1.  Yeah.  LOTS OF BOYS.  So anyway, from Enook down, the boys are just kinda crazy and love the attention.  I have countless images in my head of funny things these boys did together.  So the kids are singing and dancing, and Enook and Daniel have this hip hop swag thing going on in their dancing.  It's so entertaining to watch.  And then, they got tired of it and just took a break beside me.  Out of nowhere, Pastor Enook tells me that Daniel is a man of God and that he has a word for me and wants to pray for me.  Daniel is just shyly smiling at me.  When he doesn't do anything, Enook tells Mama Janet, who is sitting beside me, what he was telling me in their language.  Then she smiled and urged Daniel to do it.  So he walks up to me, with that little shy smile (the kid is hardly ever shy at all), places his hand on my head, and just starts praying over me.  I loved it.  He is 6!  I love that God is just bursting from his seams at such a young age even.  I can't wait til I can lay my hand on his little head and pray for him someday.

So.  Blue hair.  Have ya had it before?  Well, I have.  And let me tell ya.  It's quite the adventure :]  And not at all what I had in mind.  Here's the explanation on all that....
At the orphanage, they don't have running water.  So this makes washing hair quite the challenge.  Most people there don't have hair really.  And a lot of them have braids weaved into their hair.  So I thought, YEAH!  Let's get our hair braided!  It'll make life so much easier.  And when I first told my plan to Nekesa, who knows how to do hair, she just laughed at me.  And Kaley.  And then she told other people in her language what we wanted to do, and they laughed at us too!  I don't know why it was so funny to them.  I think just because they can't really grow hair, they didn't understand why we would want to cover ours up.  But, in my head, no hair was going to be covered up.  But when they finally realized that we were in fact serious, she told us that we would need to get "extensions" because our hair was too soft and wouldn't hold the braids, which made sense to me.  So I thought I knew what she meant and what it was going to look like.  Anywho, we walked to the hair salon place, where I thought that Nekesa was going to go get the extensions for us to use, and then she would do our hair at the orphanage.  Oh, no no no.  Not at all what happened.  What we did end up doing was staying at the hair salon place (10 minute walk from the orphanage) where the head lady explained a little bit of her life to us, and then proceeded to basically just start doing my hair.  So, originally, I thought that I wanted to get purple strands braided into my hair, cuz that would just look sweet!  Like, nice blonde cornrows with a little bit of purple mixed in to spice it up.  Perfect, right?  Well, not really.  The hair salon place only had blue, blonde, and black extensions.  So, Kaley and I decided that I would get the blue and she would get the blonde, that way we both got a little bit of a different color in our lives.  So the head lady started on my hair without really even asking.  And pretty soon, she had two braids done, at which point I decided to take a peek at her work.  And boy oh boy, did my heart die a little when I looked at it.  You see.....the braids she had finished were blue.  Like.....all the way blue.  She decided to cover up all my normal hair with the fake blue hair. And this blue was like.....royal blue.  Like....I'm talking a very bright, easy-to-spot blue.  My first thought was, "OH MY WORD.  I look like an ALIEN!" And I started panicking inside a little.  But at this point, it was too late to go back.  Kaley tried to console me, but I wasn't fooled by her lies.  But I wasn't the only one they surprised with crazy hair.  The lady that started doing hers decided that she was going to start all the braids from the left side of her head and go across the whole thing.  She basically looked a little bit like she had an Egyptian helmet on or something.  But, I definitely took home the prize for most ridiculous head that week.  Fortunately, I did get them to give me strips of blonde amidst the blue, which is a common thing to do over there.....mixing two colors in your weave.  So, although it was very interesting, and I definitely didn't love it, it did get a little better.  Also, this process took 4 HOURS TO COMPLETE!  Craziness!!  So of course, in the middle of having our hair braided, it was time for lunch.  So, we had to walk the 10 minutes back to the orphanage to eat with half done hair.  As if we didn't get enough attention from Africans for being white, now we had ridiculous hair!  I feel like even blind people were staring at us the whole way, we stuck out so much.  And then, by the time it was finally finished, we both had a serious headache from having our head yanked for 4 hours, and our heads felt like they weighed 10 extra pounds with all that fake hair woven in.  The funny thing is that I am pretty sure they actually thought it looked cool.  I mean, they told us repeatedly that we looked "SO SMART!!" which means pretty over there, but I feel like they would tell us that regardless.  I do think that they really appreciated/respected the fact that we were getting into their culture.  .....A stranger passing by me did call me an Oompa Loompa though once.  That was a sad day.  It's never happened before.

So after getting our hair all did and stuff, we worked our updos for like.....a week.  It got SO itchy for me.  And I was CONVINCED I had lice.  GROSS.  So I asked Nekesa to show me how to take it out.  For some reason, I had in my head that it would take like 15 minutes and life would be back to normal again.  Who knows why I had this in my head since it did take 4 hours to put them in.  So taking them out took 1 hour itself.  CRAZY.  And that was with at least 2 people working on it at one time.  Kaley had 4 people working to take her braids out at one point.  But not only did it take longer than I was expecting, but I also was shocked at the amount of hair that I lost.  Seriously, it was shocking to me.  And most of you won't want to know or think about this pointless information but I'm going to post it anyway.  I literally would run my hand through my gross mane and pull out clumps of hair.  I was pretty distressed about it at the time.  But yeah.  It was just funny to me that even taking out my blueness was an experience.  Would I change anything looking back though?  No, I don't think so.  Will I ever let someone give me a blue head again?  No.  But the memories I have now are priceless.

Even though this post is way late and its been months since we left there.....3 months actually.......I still REALLY miss Uganda.  I mean, a lot.  Not just the people, but obviously especially the people.  I really love that country though.  I can't explain it.  You just have to experience it for yourself to understand I think.  I miss red dirt and jackfruit.  I miss the language and boda bodas.  I miss storytime and even broken paint rollers.  I miss it all.  Can't wait to do it again, hopefully for longer the next time though :]

Another part of Uganda was the many visits we took to the hospitals.  For some reason, Paul really thought we should go to the as much as possible.  It was so sad.  Seriously, we are so blessed here in America.  It drives me crazy.  They have NOTHING over there.  Their hospitals wouldn't even be worthy to treat animals here.  And I'm being so serious right now.  I know I am an exaggerator, but this time its true.  And if you want, I have pictures to prove it.  It is just so overwhelming.  The things I saw in those doors were.....I guess the only way I can describe it is that I will never know forget the people we saw in there.  Horrifying sights.  Malnutrition.  Despair.  Sickness.  Just everywhere.  After these trips, I just wanted to be alone.  That's how I deal with things.....I think.  And to think, I need to be alone.

There has never been a time when I needed to be alone like the time that I witnessed Eunice get operated on.  One morning, Eunice woke up in a lot of pain, and somehow, she developed a tumor in her armpit the size of a golfball.  I've never seen anything like it.  It just appeared overnight.  And it put her in a lot of pain.  She couldn't raise her arm at all without wincing.  And if you know anything about the mentality of Africans, its that pain is in your mind.  They are the people that deal and get by with grace.  They find a way.  And they take so much pain and suffering.  All of that to say, that her wincing means that it was big time pain she was dealing with.  So, as always, the first place they took her was the little shack down the street that they call a clinic.  As the "doctor" examined her, he couldn't even give her a shot in her arm because he couldn't find her vein.  He tried to make it pop up by tying a used powdered glove around her wrist.  I'm telling you, these people just don't have the resources.  Anywho, he gave her this shot to make the size of the tumor to go down so that removing it would be easier.  Supposedly, with like 4 shots, the tumor was supposed to shrink.  Yeah.  That didn't happen at all.  It was just very painful for her and nothing was happening.  So they decided they were going to operate on a Sunday.  I'm pretty sure the tumor appeared on Thursday morning.  So Sunday came and the madness began after church.

I've never been more horrified in all of my life.  First of all, it started out with Eunice screaming and crying to not have to go in today.  Mama Janet didn't really pay any attention to her and actually just kept ripping her arm up to show people the tumor.  Eunice would literally yelp out in pain.  And then she actually started running down the street in the opposite direction of the clinic and the boys had to go drag her back.  Mama Janet and the kids actually laughed at her.  Their culture just doesn't know mercy and compassion the way we do.  Pain is just a way of life and you buck up and deal.  And to them, Eunice was just being a baby, even though she had great reason to not want to go through what was about to happen.  When we had finally reached the clinic with a wailing, crying Eunice in tow, I was already at the point of extreme irritation and helplessness.  And it had just begun.

What happened next will never leave my brain.  I hate it.  I hate that there is so much injustice in the world.  And I don't even wanna go into too many details.  I'm never going to forget it, so basically recounting it is just so that other people can understand a wee bit of just how in need that place is.  Basically, without any numbing or pain medication or anesthetics, they proceeded to lay Eunice on the floor on a bamboo mat in a dirty back room with no lighting, had Mama Janet and Sanyu hold her arm up, and then, the doctor took a knife and sliced off her "tumor".  It was absolutely HORRIFYING.  The screams I heard can never be forgotten.  What I saw can never be erased.  And the worst part was, no one else seemed to be affected at all.  The other kids actually laughed and mocked her screams, and Mama Janet just seemed to be annoyed with all of her "unnecessary" commotion.  Now, I love them all to death, but I was just so angry at this point.  I was hurting for Eunice.  I wanted to be alone.  I was angry at America for having so much and doing so little for those in need.  I was confused with God for allowing this to happen.  And I was just a mess.  I don't know.  I still go through these emotions when I think about it too much.  I hate it.  I feel very helpless and hopeless.  But, all I know is that God is in control.  There is no doubt of that.  I just can't understand Him at times.  He may not be safe, but He is definitely good, and that is all I need to know.

Now, I know the last bit was pretty depressing.  The great news is that Eunice is excellent now!  It took a couple of days, but by the time we were ready to leave, she was herself again.  And for this, I am so grateful.  If you want to see strength, go to Africa.  The people there will show you what it is all about.  They are beasts.  And I miss them so much.

My memories from Uganda are many.  My facebook status that I posted when we were leaving pretty much sums it up.

"Love. It's a distinct dirt handprint on the back of a white tshirt from a "just because" hug from an amazing kiddo. It's laying under the stars, talking n learning the local language with beautiful girls. It's in all their singing n dancing. It's having my hair ripped out as 5 kids try braiding it at one time. It's what my heart oozes of for this wonderful country. N it's the exact reason I will be returning in the future. Uganda, you've turned my dream into a goal. See you again soon."

Yup.  That is what I still feel and believe to this day.  All I can do is trust that God's timing is perfect and He knows best.  He has my best interest in mind.  How can I argue with the Creator of the universe?  He orchestrates everything, and its perfect.  It's my job to be available to His leading and do the things He has placed in front of me at this moment.  Living in the moment and watching for where He is working and joining Him in that.....that's what I am trying to do right now.  And I plan to start sharing about what exactly I am doing right now very soon.  That might start next week....I hope.  But until then, I hope that you all are seeking out where the Spirit is working around you and joining Him in that work.  He is so good.  

I'm so thankful for my time in Uganda.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  So, if you are reading this and are considering going somewhere far away, I highly recommend you look into it.  You will be blessed by it, I can promise you that.  Thanks for reading and God bless!

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