Monday, October 26, 2009

Musical Memory Lane

As most know, I love music. All kinds. Most genres. Love it. I believe strongly in the power and influence of music, for both good and bad. Different bands and songs bring me to different memories and times in my life. It's been interesting to be here in Africa reminiscing of some of these times. It's like being a world away from these long ago memories...of which, I am. Some specifics for you...

Last week, I took a random last minute trip to Jinja, the town where the source of the Nile is, to see a couple friends there. It was my first time experiencing the public bus system here. I rode down with my friend Lori but rode back to Kampala the next day alone. I had brought my roomie's iPod (mine is in the States getting fixed) to keep me company while I rode. I flipped the iPod to Jack Johnson. Oh...Jack. The familiar songs, the calming strums of the guitar. It's the kind of music that takes you to a quiet beach or reading inside on a rainy day, all cozy on a comfortable couch.

Let me describe the situation for you. It had been pouring all day in Jinja. I was carrying this large painting with me that I had bought there. I was sitting in the last row of the bus in order not to be a nuisance with my ridiculously large painting. There were apparently holes in the roof by my head as dirty brown drops of water would hit me in different places throughout the ride. Since I was in the back, every pothole and speed bump (which since we're talking about Africa here, was A LOT) thrusted me out of my seat usually causing a "huuuah" to come out of my mouth. As we flew past fields of banana trees, naked children running alongside the road, shacks selling various items and the wide open space of the countryside, I often had to blink a few times to take me back to this world.

On Thursday, we had a day off from field meetings. Oh, there is just no way to tell you how exhausting those meetings were and how much a day off was needed! Since it was two days before my birthday, all three of us roomies celebrated by going to a local pool to lay out and swim. My standard laying out by the pool music is David Gray. I think it started on a spring break (which since we were all full time workers, it was more of a vacation days break) where Jill, Julie and I headed down to Clearwater, FL to spend some time in the sun and have fun. It was a memorable trip with so much fun had by all of us! I remember laying by the pool and by the beach there, relaxing to David Gray. Since then, it's been more of a tradition that I always listen to his "White Ladder" album when I lay out. Always. It's no different no matter what continent I'm in. That morning, I had the Beach Boys in my head. With the sunny day and a cloudless sky, "Fun Fun Fun" was in my head all morning. I started out by listening to them, tapping my toes to the tunes. I truly believe that everyone should start listening to Beach Boys while they are in California. It just fits. I remember being with my family in Monterey, CA as we drove around seeing the amazing views, stopping at Pebble Beach and eating by the shore. With my brother living in CA, there's been numerous visits to the state making it one of my favorite places to go. Listening to Beach Boys always takes me back to Monterey though. The Beach Boys were listened to first...but then I went to my staple David Gray.

Laying out in Africa was a new one for many reasons. First, the pool was right by this conference room where men in suits and women in skirts were having a serious meeting. I had my iPod on so I wasn't fully listening but it was something about children dying. And there we were, in our swimsuits, laying out. I KNOW. It was weird...and semi-awkward...ok, really awkward..especially when they took a break and were walking around the pool their business suits...with us in our swimsuits. Nothing like yanking someone's mind out of Monterey, CA with that awkward situation.

So, I'm making new memories with my musical memories. What's your musical memory lane like?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I’m The Hot One…and How the Last Year of My Life Has Been Insane

I’m the hot one.

I know what you’re thinking: “Sarah, how obvious, we’ve always known how ridiculously attractive you are.” No no, I’m referring to something else (but you can still keep that above thought. I won’t stop you).

My whole life, I’ve been the one that’s always cold. At work, there was a sweater that I would put around my legs for warmth. I lived in my cardigans and jackets. Liberty DID have a tendency to freeze us out but I was always especially frozen. The guys that answered my work orders for freezing temps started getting sassy as they heard from me so much. At any home I’ve lived in, I was always the one covered in blankets and sweatshirts as others walked around without such heavy covering. I have ALWAYS been the cold one…

…until now.

I am now officially the hot one. I have NO idea how this happened. When my other friends are searching for their jackets, I’m wiping away sweat. I had a ceiling fan installed in my room a few weeks after arriving due to that I was SO HOT at nights that I would wake up sweating. In addition to the ceiling fan, I have a fan by my head that I use on extra hot nights (which is most, to me). At the same time, we got a ceiling fan installed in the living room and it is I that always begs to have it turned on. Lately, due to rainy season, it’s been much cooler here in Kampala. One night, I even pulled out a blanket and put socks on. I haven’t have socks on my feet since I arrived (I think. This can’t be confirmed because I really don’t remember). It does increase sympathy towards all of my family, friends, co-workers and roommates that I’ve had, especially the ones that were always hot. So, to you I say, I’m sorry. I now know how you feel. It’s not fun. I probably put you through all sorts of hot and uncomfortable temperatures and for that, I am sorry.

All this to say, I am most likely going to die when I’m back in the States for Christmas. I’ve gotten more used to this tropical climate and I cannot imagine what cold feels like anymore which, frankly, is an awesome thing. For those that I will see in Lynchburg and Cedar Rapids, get the warm blankets ready. I’ll bring my own socks.

I was thinking today of how insane the last year of my life has been. Last June, my life was thrown a part. I cancelled my plans to move to Thailand and wondered what in the WORLD God was doing. July and August were spent searching various organizations to see where God was guiding. I had many long conversations with different organizations and friends. I remember when God had closed doors so that the only two options left were missions organizations. Missions!? Lord, are you serious? Raise support? Be dependent on people?...and even more, be dependent on You? Missions was a big one to swallow but even after that, I had to make a choice. I was getting antsy. I just wanted to GO into the world and serve Him but I was stuck. I had to choose an organization to go with first. This decision was the hardest for me. As much as I would open my arms wide and shout to God, “I am willing to go ANYWHERE for YOU!”, He would whisper in my ear, “I have put specific passions and desires in your heart for My glory”. Oh, but I was willing. I got a gold star in willingness. Unfortunately, in that willingness, I threw aside all that I knew God had put in my heart to do.

I remember the conversation clearly. I was talking with Jeremy at WorldVenture. Jeremy still deserves a huge raise for dealing with me during this time…or at least some kind of extra cool jewel on his crown in heaven. We had many conversations on where God was leading me and why him and his wife had chosen WorldVenture. I always knew that WorldVenture was the best organization, I just wasn’t sure if it was best for ME. In that conversation, Jeremy asked if I needed options to see to help me decide. I emphatically said “YES!” and he sent me about six options in Africa. I read through the descriptions and stopped on this option with an organization called Hope Alive! I went to their website, read what they did and…stopped. I got this weird feeling in my stomach. Chills began on my arms. Everything they did fulfilled the passions and desires that God had put on my heart. It was almost too good to be true. I quickly sent the link to Maria and called her.

Me: You need to go to the website I just sent you…like, now.
Maria (while reading): Sarah, this is everything you’ve ever prayed about. This is YOU!
Me: I KNOW! Isn’t it SO SCARY!?

At that moment, I knew what God was doing. I couldn’t believe it. I was so willing to go to a place that I knew I would hate to do something that I wasn’t passionate about and…why? God had the PERFECT option for me. He is too good to me.

That was…September, I think? I started the application process for WorldVenture in which they searched every nook and cranny in my life to see if I was normal. Officially, I am normal. Whew. I didn’t find out those results until late December/early January. The pressure of knowing if I was normal or not was overwhelming. Ok, not really. Those months in between were so up in the air. I just kept thinking, “what if I’m not accepted? What if God has something else up His sleeve? Could He? This seems so perfect.” I wondered if I should have some kind of cool back up plan if this didn’t pan out. I remember being at the Catalyst conference, exactly a year ago. As I wandered the arena looking at the different booths that were set up, I wondered if I should even stop at any. Should I talk to other NGO’s? Missions organizations? Step by step, God kept the door open. Step by step, I passed the different tests until I found out that I was officially accepted. God had paved the way.

Once I had been accepted, life went crazy. The thought of raising support with the addition of the unknown timeline of when I’ve be moving thousands of miles away to another continent made me shake. While God provided friends who came alongside me during my church visits (Mary!!!) and those who prayed for me during that time (You!!), He was paving the way. Step by step.

In ways, I still can’t believe I’m here. In ways, I can’t believe HE did it. Wow. I am blessed in more ways than I could ever deserve. This past year has been insane and I could never imagine all that He would do.

And step by step He leads me, and I will follow Him all of my days…

Thursday, October 1, 2009


This past Tuesday, we had our monthly Fun Day as a staff. We went bowling at this huge mall, Garden City. I was nicely reminded how poor my bowling skills are. Despite my skills, or lack thereof, it was a blast! We all had fun together! For some, it was their first time to bowl. I’ll insert here something I’ve referenced before. The most random music from America makes its way over here. Much of it, I want to apologize to Africa for. They deserve better American music than this. In the midst of our bowling, “Barbie Girl” came on. That took me back to high school where I remember never wanting to hear that song again. Hope it now gets in your head all day as it was in mine. "I’m a Barbie giiiirrl…in a Barbie wooorld."

Anyway, back to happy thoughts. Catharine started not to feel well during our bowling time and thus asked Kate to drive her car back. With us taking everyone different places, that meant that I was taking a Prado full of people to various locations. With my comfort ability higher in driving these days, I was only slightly nervous. This was mainly due to the part of town we were in (traffic!), the time of day it was (traffic!) and the fact that any error on my part would hurt not only me and the Prado but everyone else that was stuffed into the Prado. Details like that. It all ended up being fine. At one point, I remembered that Kate and I had talked about our need to pick up things from the grocery store. Tuesday is the one day that we go into work and leave together so it’s most convenient to grab things on those days. I called her at one of the stops (because it is SO illegal to talk on the phone when driving here and I have no urge to meet with the traffic police again) to ask what we needed and told her I’d pick it up on my way home. When I parked in the ShopRite parking lot, a memory came to mind.

My first two weeks in Uganda were busy due to that I had come at the same time as a team from the States. They were from Holly’s church. Holly had been here for a year last year and came back for over a month this summer. One day, while we were in the midst of getting something done, Holly left to drive to the grocery store to get things needed for dinner. I remember thinking, “I can’t wait until I’m adjusted enough to do that.” Adjusted enough to know where I was going to even get to a grocery store. Knowing which grocery store is best to go to. Knowing which one has what and which one does not. Not to mention the biggie; feeling comfortable enough to drive there all by myself. Those details seemed unfathomable.

I smiled as I parked the Prado thinking, I did it! I’ve at last gotten to the point in living here that I can get around, do things that I need to do and…LIVE. I am LIVING in Kampala. When people ask what I’ve learned here, I constantly say how much different it is to live in a country than it is to just visit one. The differences are to numerous to count but perhaps the above story sheds light on that.

On another Sarah is LIVING in Africa note, I got an African dress made! I bought the material a few weeks ago and took it to this tailor in the Nakawa market, one of the closest markets to our home (is that right? I actually think there might be another....somewhere…closer?). It was definitely an adventure trying to tell the tailor what I wanted when she spoke only Swahili and French with very little English. I had been to the Nakawa market a few times but definitely didn’t know my way around. Since I’ve had to go back for different revisions to the dress these past couple weeks, I’ve really gotten to know the market better. There’s so many stalls and twists and turns that confused me before. Now, I feel like I got the layout somewhat down. Down enough that I feel like I could go and buy whatever I need. I feel comfortable enough to negotiate for vegetables. I mean, people, I have an AFRICAN DRESS now. I can do anything! (you can laugh at that) I’ll try to get pictures of the dress up here at some point.

Home…what and where is home? Kampala is becoming more like home. The insanity that was once intimidating now has a sense of normalcy to it. I often wonder how it’ll be to be back in America for Christmas. Will I have a hard time adjusting back to my own culture? Will I remember to drive on the right side of the road instead of the left? Will I die once the frigid air hits my tropical climate adjusted skin? Will I gain 20lbs by eating all the Mexican food I can get my hands on? You know, important things like that.

So, where is home exactly? Help me figure that one out…