My 4th of July Kibbutz Volunteer Experience

I don’t know what it is about the 4th of July that scratches my insatiable travel itch but I have my suspicions.

Perhaps a dose of nostalgia?

Or the undeniable truth that I have a deep-seated passion for global adventures.

I long to explore untraveled parts of the world in order to connect with locals,  to communicate in unfamiliar languages,  to discover new sights, sounds, smells, tastes,  and to collect incredible stories along the way to share with friends and family.

One of my favorite 4th of July travel memories dates back to the summer of 2000.   I willingly agreed to join my dear friend Jesica in Israel en route to a volunteer job on a small kibbutz in the beautiful Negev desert.

Our assignment:  Harvesting the world’s most plump, succulent, mouthwatering dates.

Journey

We connected at Ben Gurion airport in the wee hours of the night, completely jet lagged, yet buzzing with anticipation of the mysterious adventure that lie ahead of us.   Our unairconditioned room was sparsely decorated and I specifically recall sleeping with the overhead light on to deter the scurrying cockroaches in search of a cooler oasis.  Little did I know this wouldn’t be the last time I’d be sleeping with the lights on;  The volunteer housing I would call home for the next 3 months had similarly sparse and buggy decor!  Yikes!

The following morning, volunteer assignment in hand and typical overpacked backpack & acoustic guitar in tow, we traveled 4.5 hours south to our home away from home,  a charming hilltop kibbutz named Grofit.   Located in the Aravah valley of the Negev desert, this place would serve as a classroom of sorts, rewarding us with the kind of life lessons that only stepping out of your comfort zone provides.

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Kibbutz Grofit with date fields in the distance (left). 

 

Kibbutz Life

A kibbutz is essentially a commune of people sharing land, resources, and the desire to enjoy a family friendly, relaxed lifestyle.  Today, kibbutz residents represent only 2.5% of Israel’s total population and while current modes of operation are far from the pioneering days, they continue to attract tourists as well as locals seeking a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

What I cherished most from my experience was the daily community fellowship, the meals enjoyed together prepared by loving hands, and above all, the opportunity to experience multiple cultures, languages, and rich conversations daily.    It was a chance to serve the needs of the kibbutz and in exchange we received the freedom to embark on once-in-a -lifetime adventures including an overnight hike up Mt. Sinai, lead by a team of Bedouins and camels,  snorkeling in the Red Sea in Dahab, and the thrill of meeting a local Jordanian family thanks to our taxi driver who insisted we stop in for a visit at 11:45pm to meet his relatives!   I will never forget that night!

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Each day, I shared 10 hours with migrant workers from India & Thailand,  as well as volunteers from Belgium, Poland, France, Denmark, and South Africa!  Talk about the learning opportunities!

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At dawn, our team drove into the date fields, feeling the coolness of night before the sun rose to the east over the Jordanian mountains.

The work was physical, the heat oppressive.

At times,  I  pondered the social injustices of the world as I placed nets around the unripened date fruits high in the sky.   I marveled at the agility and fearlessness of my Thai and Indian teammates, and admired their fortitude despite the dire circumstances which brought them thousands of miles away from loved ones in order to make a living.

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Lessons

Freedom to travel is a gift.

Service to others is a gift.

Relationships are a gift.

Learning is a gift.

Curiosity is a gift.

and gifts….. well……

Gifts are meant to be shared with the world.   Thank you for allowing me the gift and freedom of sharing this story with you!

What is your favorite 4th of July memory?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Until next time friends,

Stand In Love,  Jen xo

Jennifer Miller is a Las Vegas-based dōTERRA Wellness Advocate and  Community Partner volunteer  for global nonprofit BeadforLife and Street Business School whose mission is to provide entrepreneurial training to 1 million impoverished people globally by 2027.   Click here for a listing of upcoming events, or Follow her on Instagram or Facebook @standinlovejen .  To begin your natural health and wellness journey today with essential oils, click here .

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Sunburn Ever

Hi Stand In Lovers!

July is in full swing in the Mohave Desert of Las Vegas!  We have been afforded a few days of cloudy, humid relief;  a most welcome respite from the 100+ degree temperatures that fill our dry, scorching-hot, summers.

Yesterday, while enjoying a fun-filled early morning lesson with my incredibly talented and passionate horse trainer Callie Klein, I inadvertently took in some extra sun! The sky was overcast, the air cool and breezy,  and the clouds hung low over the rugged Spring Mountain peaks rising in the Northwest.   I was so immersed in my groundwork lesson learning the fundamentals of natural horsemanship, that I neglected to put on my usual wide-brimmed sunhat and sunscreen.  It felt wonderful to be co-learning with King, my training partner and equine friend, that I even removed my long-sleeved sun shirt!  (This is the kind of joy a cloudy day brings to a native Chicagoan!).

Meet King.

We had a ball meeting each other for the first time becoming quickly acquainted in the round pen playing Parelli’s famous horse games like friendly game, porcupine game, yo-yo game, and driving game.   Our rendez-vous closed with several rounds of circle game in which I attempted to ask King to move in a particular direction of travel relying on nonverbal communication to do so.  Seems so simple as a spectator:  Ask your horse to travel in a circle in a small pen.  However, all things seemingly simple are more complicated than they appear.  It’s a talented horseman that makes it look so simple.  What is absent in these magical displays is the PROCESS it takes to get there.   I am just beginning to understand this process and have fallen head-over-heels in love.   Now, I just want to slow things down, and work on becoming the best partner, communicator, and friend I can be to King.    I am indeed in love and it feels so good.

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P.S.  You may get a sunburn in the process if you are having TOO much FUN! If so, try this awesome DIY that contains doTERRA’s pure CPTG grade essential oils.  Soothing, and refreshing as a skin freshener in the heat of a summer day as well as for sunburns!

Soothing Summer Skin Spray

INGREDIENTS:

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Mix together everything except the distilled water. Stir until well combined.
  2. Pour mixture into the spray bottle, and add distilled water. Shake to combine.
  3. To use, mist on skin as needed.

Stand In Love TIP:  I sometimes just add the essential oils directly to the aloe vera gel and apply the gel in a thick layer on my face 2x a day until swelling and redness is gone.  Of course, wear a hat and sunscreen until fully healed!

Until next time, stay cool out there friends! #standinlove

Jen

Jennifer Miller is a Las Vegas based writer, doTERRA wellness advocate, and business coach for global NGO BeadforLife.  Her passions include: serving people, inspiring ideas, and helping others live their purpose.  For more inspiration on beginning your essential oil journey, click here

Transitions in Orange

“We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. “- E.M. Forester

Transitions

Passages. Progressions. Shifts. Changes.

Developments. Alterations. Conversions. Transformations.

A beautiful bridge connecting two spaces: Here and There.  Then and Now.

The free flowing, often times grey expanse in between.  Not black, not white. No top, no bottom.  Just in the middle.  No beginning, no end.  Just Now.

Last week at a neighboring coffee shop, as I was enjoying a piping hot cup of dark roast Papua New Guinea blend swirled with enough half  & half to soften its robust flavor, in the delightful company of strangers, I realized transitions are ubiquitous; Teaching us, conditioning us that change is inevitable.   Our minds like antennas, if in tune to receive the signals, we empower ourselves to replace old, limiting beliefs with new, empowering ones. We invite change inside, to navigate a fresh, undulating path , and welcome the energy of endless possibility to manifest in our lives.  The choice is ours for the taking, and  the decision for the making.

Is your mind awake to hear this calling?   Or are you attached securely to what you know and fastened tightly to the belief that life couldn’t possibly offer rewards for you on the other side, let alone the proverbial greener grass we are taught to fear and told does not exist?  Have you dared to step out in faith, into the deep unknown, trusting your instincts and inner voice to guide you on your path towards your passions?  What do you have to lose? Better yet, what do you stand to gain?  What will it cost you in the long run if you deny your truth?  What if instead of searching for greener grass, you dream of a future in soothing shades of limitless blue skies?  Ever thought about creating your passion in vibrant, clementine hues of orange?  Maybe you decide to plan a sunshine journey in yellow intellect.  Or meditate in circles of purple, encouraging wholeness and unity with the universe.   If the stirring is inside of you, be courageous.  Be BOLD.  Trust your instincts.  Trust yourself.   Give yourself permission when no one else will.

“The journey of a thousand miles begin with one step”, as the saying goes.  What might this 1 step look like to you?   Would it unleash incredible potential, propelling you towards your passion?  Would taking a courageous step forward into the expansive world ignite a spark that would change your destiny forever?

If there is one thing I love , it’s the simple joy of discovery while on a journey.  The anticipation inherent in every adventure- namely, the people I have the pleasure of meeting along the way, sharing  circumstances, and connecting with in plain, yet profound ways.

Take for example, Charles, pictured below, whom I encountered while on a 13 mile trek to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana during the summer of 2014.   Charles’ story is incredibly fascinating, and certainly inspiring!   I intersected Charles on a few different trails while hiking in the raw beauty this section of the park afforded.  On the 3rd encounter, I figured it time to ask his name and find out his story.  He shared that he had always wanted to hike this trail, but had fears about his ability to finish.  After losing his wife a short time prior that year, he decided in that moment, that NOW was the time to make the journey.  He stepped out into fear, the unknown, while guided by an inner light that told him to trust the process during his life transition.  May you, like Charles and like me, embrace the transition in which you find yourself.   Keep pressing onward.

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With Charles on Grinnel Glacier Hike Glacier National Park.

We are all on this journey of life together, interconnected.   May the lyrics of this song inspire your soul and give you a fresh reminder that we are already set free by the love of our eternal Creator!

I’m painting my life transition orange -inviting creativity and feeling in, and adding long brushstrokes of purple- connecting me to oneness with humanity, and the unifying, healing properties it embodies.  What color/s will you choose?

“Hope Now” by Addison Road.  Close your eyes and let the words penetrate your soul! You are so deeply loved! Stand in this love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harsh Realities of Life in the Developing World.

Greetings from plot 96 on Bunyoni Rd, Kataza district Kampala, Uganda! Finished up a load of hand washing as the morning rain finally ceased and the sun will shine for exactly 4 and a half more hours- just long enough to take the heavy dampness off my two boldly printed, safety pinned waistband maxi skirts and pair of light weight cotton pajamas drying on the rusted metal clothes line we share with the neighboring apartment housing two brilliant young sisters- both university graduates still seeking employment opportunities after two years.  Seems the complexities of my first three weeks in Uganda- and first time in sub Saharan Africa have finally brought me to a moment of deep contemplation, even fearful realizations I had to address. I am writing from the comfort of my humble abode today, recognizing the need to hit the “pause and process” button on my African adventure transistor radio. Monday’s completed field visit to Bulogo women’s group was the pinnacle of this “Awakening” – an expression I borrow from shame researcher and author, Brenee Brown. I returned late that evening after a difficult return trip stuck in hours of typical rush hour “jams” as they are called here. The nights can grow so dim, literally no street lights, only the burning flames of small kerosene lamps aglow lighting small tables of smoked fish, unrefrigerated meats, fruit and vegetable stands, and the scent of burning piles of rubbish in the air thick and heavy with the darkness of night. The traffic in Kampala hits a head in the am for three hours and at night for at least 3 hours. The city streets are literally gridlocked- with cars, matatus, bodas, cyclists, and people scrambling for a place to inch forward. I liken crossing one of these streets to a human game of “Frogger” – without the slightest bit of exaggeration in the analogy.

It was bound to hit me- the wall. And so yesterday morning brought me to a halt. I landed in Uganda and have remained a human funnel – wide at the top desiring to take in as many fluid experiences as I possibly could these first 3 weeks that I was like a cheerfully colored latex birthday party balloon gorging down air filling to the widest stretches of itself before bursting in excess – in my case – emotional overload. I sat paralyzed at my desk in the inventory room shared by a young American named Steve, and began to think I may not be able to handle any more. My arms and neck stayed stiff like boards, hands felt like jittery fingers in the middle of a cold winter’s day. The “clip clip clip ” of the gardener’s shears on the bushes outside my office were literally fraying my nerves. I grabbed my phone, plugged in the little white earbuds and attempted to drown out the surfacing feelings with some orchestral Italian harp music I downloaded in the early hours the morning of my departure from home- unable to sleep. Recognizing the signs of anxiety- I reached for two things- my phone and two calming homeopathic sleep tablets called Calms Forte. Unsuccessfully skyping my husband and parents with whom I had not communicated in two days – for lack of wifi access- I had to follow the normal self- soothing protocol and realize this time was bound to come and was totally normal.

Today’s working from “home” has allowed me to experience tremendous insight into my work here, as well as space to process the varied experiences so far. I think I arrived in Uganda with my ” wow this is all novel! ” lenses, then transitioned to ” hmmm, that’s odd but I understand its part of life here”, to ” oh my word, life is just so difficult here, and I am totally overwhelmed by the daily realities for so many Ugandans” lenses. Humans don’t share much in common with these transition lenses outside of the different cast of light they let in your frame of view. I am learning and experiencing the time- consuming tasks of hand washing, line drying, and ironing every piece to be sure to singe any trace of mango fly eggs that were hatched on your damp clothing – lest you forget and it buries itself and hatches underneath your skin like it did to our neighbor Lee the week we arrived- requiring a small incision to be made to remove the worm under her skin that had grown.

I am learning to allow myself to feel the raw feelings of fear – as they relate to embracing change and accepting discomfort. Living with roaches, armies of ants, geckos on the walls, mosquitoes everywhere, all while viewing the injustices all around of people living in abject poverty will take it’s toll. Each day for the past 3 weeks as I leave the iron gate of my compound in Kataza and walk down Bunyoni road to begin my Teva- sandaled trek to work, I am confronted with the horrible realities of life in the developing world. I have lived and worked abroad in Israel, and various places in Europe for extended periods of time, but none of those trips would be able to properly prepare me for the sights I would witness in sub-Saharan Africa. I’d love to be able to insert more specific and startling statistics on things like the lack of indoor plumbing and running water data,or the rates of incidence of untreated bronchial infections in women and children due to daily cooking over and inhaling charcoal fumes, in the country- which I know would be astounding, however I very quickly became used to the fact that I do not have instant access to wifi when and wherever I want.

Today’s quiet day allowed me to reflect and write stories on the members of Bulogo Womens group. Space to process. Space to pause and to revisit my commitment of coming here in the first place. Humanity is a shared experience- this is proven to me over and over again as I make it through another day on the ground.
I love the write up by Tara Sophia Mohr called, “10 Rules for Brilliant Women”.  
Rule #1: Make a pact. 
She writes, ” No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you on along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step of the way.” 
This piece of advice aligns with the core messaging of the Street Business School training I attended in Mutungo last week with the 12th enrolled class of over 75 women and some of their children. YOU are the business. YOU are the capital. YOU must believe in the power YOU have in YOU and make a commitment, a pact, with yourself and trust in it’s potential.
I challenge you to think about a pact you would like to make with yourself. What would it look like? What would it say? What would be the impact of this self commitment? Know it may be scary along the way, but in retrospect, an adventure worth the risk it took to get there!
Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to be transparent and real with my thoughts- we don’t help anyone by acting like we have it all together all of the time- vulnerability and truth lead to connectivity!
Make a pact to implement a small change and share with someone you love!

Rift Valley Wonderland 

Raw. Unsaturated. Palpable. Just a few words describing Murchison Falls National Park, the cradle of civilization I had the unique opportunity to visit this past weekend with Devin and her 9 year old son Nile- or “Simmy”, as he is called here in Uganda by close friends.

As a first time safari goer, my eyes were wide open from start to finish!

We left Kampala just as the sun was rising, which is 7 am daily due to the location on the equator, in effort to escape rush hour traffic jams that are part of daily life here. Exiting the outskirts of the densely populated town of Kampala amidst Boda Bodas, crammed matatus, and locals walking to work for the day, I captured the sight of mothers carrying sleeping babies strapped snugly to their backs with bold, brightlypatterned cloth….women young and old balancing heavy loads of produce on top of their heads…. Bustling exchanges at the local trading centers… And insanely hectic roundabouts at which masses of unregulated forms of transport converge like a load of laundry mixing and intermingling a short while before being spit out in a particular direction by flow and force. The ubiquitous smell of burning charcoal in the air and chickens announcing the start of a fresh day.  I absolutely love mornings in Uganda. It is surely my favorite part of the day.

Our rented vehicle and driver, Moses, safely transported us to the Wangkwar gate on the northern perimeter of the park. Our journey to Murchison passed through war – ravaged villages like Luweero, where years of political unrest under Idi Amin’s rule created the feeling of a ghost town. It was in Luweero district around 1986 that Museveni, who had been hiding in Tanzania, launched an attack with a mobilized army to successfully overthrow Amin’s regime in Uganda.
Traveling north through Kutuugo, Nakasongola, and Kyriandongo, we felt the continual rise in temperature, especially while stopped at road construction with windows rolled up to avoid dust from the vehicles. Our first stopping point, Karuma Falls, marked the crossing of the Victoria Nile. The Nile River served as a military stronghold during many years of insurrection, and created a distinct border blockade between Northern and southern Uganda. Travel was prohibited from both sides separating families and calling a deadly halt to tourism in the region. We enjoyed a short rest under a shade tree, entertained by a group of Olive baboons!

7 1/2 hours into our drive, we reached our destination: the Wangkwar Gate. Paid the park fees, vehicle entrance fees, and popped the top of our bare bones Land Cruiser for an authentic African Safari adventure! I was elated!!

We set sail on one of the many game tracks…cool crisp air blowing in my face as I held tightly on to the metal bars standing up balancing under a popped-top roof. This was indeed a most welcome respite from the long day’s journey. The African savannah grasslands stretched out for miles and miles in every direction. Palm trees and the eponymous umbrella acacia trees standing in solitude with vast skyline as a backdrop. Egrets spreading their Snow White wings in flight, and groups of African Kob leaping across the track like dancing ballerinas. It was as if we were alone in this vast space, enjoying moments of stillness with nature.

The landscape at Murchison Falls is breathtaking, nearly intoxicating. Warthogs- aka- “Pumbas” snorted about with their tusks and coarse whiskers chomping through the grass, while cape Buffaloes with birds taking a ride on their backs gathered near the swampy sections. It was like an interactive children’s book on wild animals- every turn on the track a turn of a page introducing yet another new face!

And then… I met my first love of Murchison …. The Rothschild Giraffe. His elegantly elongated neck held upright at all times to support the taxing load of his 25 lb heart! Two horned females weighing 700kg+ endure a 14 month gestation period. Males, which have 3 horns, weigh in at 1,100kg +. The spots on a Rothschild stop at the base of his leg joint, giving the impression that his lower legs have been dipped in white chocolate! Seeing baby giraffes run after their mothers in the wild is captivating! Stop and observe long enough, and you will catch a glimpse of their 45 cm long purple tongue snatching a bite to eat off the “whistling- tone ” acacia tree.

The second day, we jumped back on the truck and raced to the ferry crossing before sunrise to hit the tracks again. Eagerly anticipating the start of a new day and another game drive, I slept on and off and found myself awake in the middle of the night laughing at the deep guttural grunting sounds of hippos who were munching on the grass just outside our safari tent! There’s a reason they are called “hungry hungry hippos”!
Nauseous from the anti-malarial taken on an empty stomach that morning, I requested we stop for a few minutes so I could collect my balance from the standing and shaking around caused by the heavily pot- holed game tracks. Dramamine and pepto to the rescue! Our hired park ranger guide, Sarah, received a call that we were very near a pride of lions spotted by another ranger! “What a perfect place to stop with vertigo”, I thought to myself … ” I’m sure his will help to make me feel better!” … ( joking)

We pulled up to a thicket, peered inside of a triangular shaped window formed by the bush and witnessed a couple of lion cubs with their mother resting and stretching. Moses turned the car off and we had a stop over to enjoy the company of lions camouflaged in the bush. Little did we know we would have a second encounter the next morning near the same area on the Victoria and Queen circuit. A huge male lay resting on his side, paws stretched out and looking confident and completely undisturbed by the multitude of safari vans now approaching with cameras flashing and binocs focusing, hoping to steal a glance of this park predator! I decided to crawl out of the truck on to a fixed metal bar rack towards the hood of the truck to get a closer view and more zoomed in photographs. Suddenly, the male propped up his head and displayed his dominance and full mane of hair enrobing his enormous feline face. Still in a seated position, my blood began to pump with a bit more vigor. Feeling a sense of courageousness, I asked Moses if he would take a photo of me and Simmy. Moses proceeded to open the safari truck door, step onto the tall grass and managed to disturb the lions in the thicket – to the male lion’s immediate left side.

” Rrrrr——aaaaaaa——rrrrrrr-hhhhhhhh!” Shouted the lion in dissatisfaction from behind the bush with mouth stretched open wide! Moses jumped into the front seat, shut the door quickly, while I scrambled to get myself off the exposed rooftop bars and back into the vehicle’s interior. Trying to get through this narrow space in a contorted manner while anxious was like being a small child afraid on the top of a set of monkey bars…. Totally freaked and wanting off ASAP!

Pulse check: 180BPM.

Exhilarating?

Yes.

Worthwhile?

You bet!

Next to a charging elephant later that day, this was surely a highlight of the trip. It made me realize once again that we are not in control. It also helped me gain a deeper appreciation of the conservation work that is being done to protect creatures in Murchison National Park from atrocities like those during Idi Amin’s rule when he reduced the 15,000 + population of elephants to under 2,000. They are slowly rehabilitating and repopulating various animals found here thanks to peace and dedicated conservation work.

I came to Uganda to learn from it’s people and the environment. Both have taught me many valuable lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime. I hope you feel as though you shared a bit in this adventure with me!

Xxx

From Kibiri to Mbuya

Greetings on a cloudy cool day of rest in Kampala!  Yesterday’s boda boda expedition was loads of fun! Riding sideways on the back of a motorcycle in a skirt while squeezing in between cars, matatus, and other boda drivers making their way through congested, uncontrolled streets proved nothing short of an amusement park ride!   What a blast!  For approximately 1.50$,  I made my way through town, sun hat blowing in the wind, backpack in tow.   I had planned to visit the two local malls in the downtown area, however after a quick walk through one, I craved a bit of a “local connection”.  I saw the Kibuli – pronounced chibuli – mosque atop of one of the many hills in Kampala.  As locals are very friendly, I asked how I could walk there for a visit.  They suggested I take another boda- as it was quite far and up a series of steep hills.  Perfect, I thought to myself, just what I love! A long walk! Ask my husband- he will tell you I will walk all day every day from morning till night!

I started up the winding red path past many beautiful locals gathering groceries from small fruit and vegetable stands.   The sights and smells of Kampala were all around me….. Women washing up laundry in small plastic basins bent over in front of their humble homes.  Young girls ages 7-9 with babies strapped to their backs helping out while mom was tending to cooking or fetching water.   I inhaled the comforting smell of matoke ( local plantains) steaming in banana leaves and water in a pot over charcoals.   As houses are so small and confined families are outside all day!  Kibuli village was bustling with people heading to and fro.  It is so lovely to see communities outside talking to each other every day!

After a visit to Kibuli mosque, and a climb up one of the minarets for a birds eye view of Kampala, I made my way back down the hill through town.  To my left was the most beautiful market where women were selling large bundles of matoke- as well as chickens and heaping piles of coal.  I hesitated to enter, knowing it was not my intention to buy 25lbs of the freshly chopped tree.   I followed my gut and entered into this little space to have a look and met the loveliest woman named Zaina, with her mother Naigaga.   They had just purchased a bundle for less than the price of .80$ – this would feed her family of 5 for four days if consumed for lunch and supper.  We exchanged pleasantries, and Zaina insisted I walk back up the hill to her home.  “It’s just across from Shell Kibuli”, she said.   See, in Uganda, as there are no street signs, people use landmarks like a petrol station or food stall to mark a location.  Hesitant to accept her offer, I politely declined.  She continued to insist, “please come to my home for just a short visit! “. I remembered my pre- departure promise to say “yes” to any reasonable invitation before me while on this journey.   Zaina and I walked hand in hand around the bend past roaming goats and pecking chickens with chicklets in tow.   The matoke was strapped to a bicycle seat and a man pushed the bicycle up the hill to her home to complete the purchase.

Upon arrival, she welcomed me on her front step, pulled out a chair and said “you are most welcome here!”  Soon, I was joined by her sister Namaganda- Amina, her daughter Sarah, as well as Zaina’s son Mosa.  Both children were nibbling on a pancake made from simple mashed matoke and maize flour- fried with the most inexpensive oil available.   Our experience was deeply engaged, and I promised I would return to share a meal with her at her home one day soon.    I left feeling so refreshed, and renewed, making this new connection in the Muslim quarter that is called Kibuli.  What a blessing it was to have this experience!  God is so amazing!

…… Today I celebrated in a mass in a neighborhood called Mbuya.   The service was in English, and I praised and worshipped with such a full and grateful heart!  I was the only Muzungu in the parish with the exception of a couple of nuns.  I loved how the choir was integrated into the congregation- all facing same direction as the focus was not to be on them, but rather on God- as reminded by the  priest.   We sang jubilantly in English and at times in Luganda.  We clapped after the gospel, and clapped again after one prayer- so thankful! I can’t wait to visit in other churches while I am here.  It’s such a raw, truly heartfelt experience to sit inside of this place, steaming hot, and see people dressed in their finest attire.  I noticed a young girl aged 4-5 walking in her mothers high heeled shoes, or maybe they were just hers- and the only shoes available at the market for her mother to buy for her.  She teetered in those oversized shoes, but was presenting her very best to God that day.   The need is so great everywhere, all you have to do is be present and look around.  I am asked daily when walking around where I am working and if I am able to find him or her a job.  Last night on the way to dinner, I was asked by a young woman if she could wash my clothes or clean my house in exchange for a little money as she has two children and her husband has just left her.    There are too many more stories to share on this subject and my experience in the past 4 days since I’ve been here.

Attached is a photo of me with Zaina (left), Mosa her son on my lap, and Namaganda Amina- her sister on my right.  This was taken on her front step.

Muslim quarter to Catholic Church —Kibuli to Mbuya— God has shown great love and acceptance!

Tomorrow is Bead sale #1 at the office! Will share the happenings soon!

To help ignite 1 million women out of extreme poverty, please donate to my goal at vegas.ignite1million.org

The funds will help scale BeadforLife’s Street Business School program here in Uganda and will be multiplied in countries worldwide!

With love and gratitude,  Jennifer

 

Discovering Uganda For the First Time

Mujjebale!

“Hello! ”

And greetings from Kampala!

Today I’m headed downtown and will take my first boda- boda (motorcycle taxi) ride around the area with Steven- a designated and trusted boda driver.

I enjoyed an exploratory walk yesterday evening into a neighboring village called Mbuya to find a church to attend tomorrow, as well as practice a few Luganda phrases with passerby that I studied with Joann earlier in the day.   Perched on a hilltop with views of Kampala’s rolling hills and lush tropical valley I discovered “Our Lady of Africa” Catholic Church.  Services are held in both Luganda and English- with traditional and charismatic services offered.   The church is 200 meters from a UNICEF office and adjacent to a couple of outreach ministries serving locally infected HIV- AIDS community members.   As is customary in Uganda, I was given the warmest welcome by a staff member and thanked for coming to Uganda to serve with BeadforLife.  Greetings are an essential part of any conversation here- and to skip over them is considered impolite.  I will fit in just fine – a native mid- westerner…. When asked how we are doing, think of the old Beer  commercials and the exchange at the bar— you will often get more info than you planned!

A Luganda word I love:  “Bambi” (pronounced like the Disney film) Means Please…    How sweet!

Attached is a photo of a precious group of children I encountered while leaving Bugolobi hill where I stay.  They approached me with wonder and curiosity and greeted me with the most proper of British English accents  ” hello ma’am, how are you today?” My heart melted and we stopped to visit and take a photo together.  These moments are pure joy and pure bliss!

Landed in Uganda! 

Nsanyuse Okulaba!  That ubiquitous phrase means “you are most welcome!”, in Luganda.

Greetings from Kampala, Uganda!   I landed safely and made it to the apartment I will be sharing with Devin and her son Simi until they return home end of this month.   26 hours in travel and so happy to have my feet on the ground for a while!  Phew!

On the ride from Entebbe airport to Kampala, I was struck by the sheer number of locals walking the streets past midnight.  Boda Bodas- the local motorcycle taxis zipping around the many cars, matatus (mini bus taxis) , and folks walking around.  There are no street lights at night- not a single one.  I was surprised at the darkness of the night, while refreshed by the cool tropical climate breeze coming in through the passenger window.

Waking up for my first day of work at BeadforLife’s office was a delight! I crawled out from under my mosquito net fortress, enjoyed a cup of local Ugandan black tea with a slice of toast and we headed into work.  Daylight shone upon the beauty of the Kataza street… Red dust and big rocks in the middle of the road, chickens and goats buzzing around, and locals bustling to work.   One of the two main roads to cross are fairly interesting and time consuming to say the least.  There are no stop lights, stop signs, traffic signs, warnings of huge potholes and holes in general that appear on the roadside where locals travel.  It can take 15 minutes or more just to cross the traffic-laden Main Street!  This morning on my way to the market- I decided to follow behind a woman who seemed to have the gist of crossing far better than I!

The Beadforlife staff greeted me with a customary dance circle and drumming and placed me in the center to welcome me and show their appreciation for the visit!  It was so much fun as we all embraced and I knew It was the just the start of beautiful relationships with a team of absolutely soul-filled women!  I packed new earrings on cards and worked in the inventory department helping prepare shipments of new products launching this fall!  Lunch is shared daily on the veranda of the office… Everyone comes together for a meal consisting of local staples like matoke (local plantains steamed in the leaves and mashed) , posho (cornmeal and water formed into a polenta type consistency), cassava and sweet potatoes, white rice, sautéed cabbage, all topped with G-nut sauce- a blended aromatic sauce of peanuts ground up and mixed with spices and tomatoes- very delicious!   The on staff groundskeeper chopped down a ripe jackfruit from a tree and cut it open and shared!  What a succulent wonder of a fruit it was!  Sweet little golden pockets of ectasy hidden in long white fibers of flesh.

Today is the end of Ramadan- a national holiday in Uganda.  I picked up a copy of Luganda – English phrase book and will spend some time learning to speak the local language.  Smiles and pleasant greetings go a long way in any culture, and it’s one of my favorite things about international travel- communicating with locals in their native tongue!

Stay tuned for more posts- next week I will participate in my first two Bead sales- when members currently enrolled in the Beads to Business program come to the office to sell jewelry they have made!  It will be a day of dancing, joy, and empowerment for these women gaining confidence and skills to leave poverty permanently!   Later in the week we will interview new recruits in the Street Business School program- trainings that will take place in the local villages of the communities served.   More to come!

Sending love and well wishes to you all from Kampala, Jennifer

This is my new home.

 

Half Way to Uganda.

Meet my travel neighbor from LA to London- Annie Quinn.  Author, 2x breast cancer survivor, and my personal travel angel.  We had the best talks and I am so blessed to have had her company for 10 hours on that first leg of the flight.

Half way.

Boarding shortly for round two- London- Entebbe- another 9.5 hours.  Looking forward to laying down on a bed more than anything.  Have not slept a wink in nearly 24 hours.   God, please give me strength to push on, and please remind me that I am crazy for carrying such a heavy “not on rollers” carry on and a backpack.

P.S.  For those of you following from the beginning of my journey, I have not even touched my coloring books or crayons!