Thursday, July 18, 2019

laughing and crying

My awesome brother is helping me reformat my blog (WOOHOO!  This thing is in desperate need of an overhaul and can I tell you how much I love my brother??).  I am so excited to switch over, but boy howdy, it's more of a process than I anticipated!  Hoping we can get it done by next week.  I am going to wait to post the rest of our Africa adventure until I have a format that can post better high res pictures.

Until then, I have a two videos I wanted to share today and a catch-up post tomorrow.

I came across this little clip of Bo Jangles from a couple years ago when we were making a video to kick-off our hosting of the Eyrealm Reunion.  (Seems timely since we're gearing up for that reunion soon...)  This video caught me off-guard as I listened.  Sure Bo Jangles is funny (we gave her a little peanut butter to make her "talk" for our voice-over on the video), but what I love much more than that is the laughing in the background.  I don't think there's much better than a little laughing for the soul...especially with your family.  Oh gosh we couldn't stop!

(That whole video is in this post back HERE if you want to see how it all turned out.  We were proud of our work.  Ha!)

Another thing I wanted to share was a devotional I listened to during my run this morning that made me tear up a few times.  Someone recommended it back HERE, and my sister-in-law recommended it again last night and you know how some things just speak to you?  This did that for me.  I'm excited to listen to it with my girls when we can actually gather everyone in the same spot.  Here you go!

If you don't have a lot of time, skip past the very first part, and if you're on your mobile device reading this, here's a link to get there:  Love the stories and also the C.S. Lewis quotes.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

the beauty of clean water, tribal names and goodbye -- Uganda part 3

We spent one of our mornings in Uganda teaching safe water/health and hygiene in the shade of a big tree in a little village on the very outskirts of Mbale.
Almost fifty percent of the residents there are affected with AIDS.  We met a health intern living there who is working on helping dissolve many of the myths associated with that disease that are so detrimental to the community.

Aside from teaching our little class, we got to help the families gain new access to clean water.  Gosh, after this trip I think so much more about how grateful I am to turn on the tap and have clean water flow.  Such an easy thing to take for granted! After reading the stories in Thirst (a book I wrote about back HERE), I have become so interested what is being done to help access to clean drinking water in Africa, and the world as a whole.  Did you know that over one billion people worldwide lack access to clean water?  I love that Family Humanitarian is working hard to help in this crisis.  I love how their website sums it up:   An estimated 4,000 people die every day as a direct result of contaminated water with children being the hardest hit. Polluted drinking water claims more lives than all forms of violence combined including war, and claims the lives of more children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. Each day, women and children walk miles to collect water that is so contaminated it will kill 25% of her family. The countless hours spent collecting water is time not spent in school, often causing girls to fall behind and eventually drop out.

We got to help Family Humanitarian provide some pretty cool new water filters to families in that village (no wells or boreholes close-by)...which will lead to so much better health and hygiene.  FH has teamed up with a company called Sawyer International who have come up with these water filters that apparently have the power to eliminate 95% of all illness caused by waterborne diseases.  I don't know exactly how the technology works but I'm so excited for these families to try them out...

(They don't look like much from these pictures...but apparently that tube has something called "micron absolute filtration" that can purify up to 170 gallons of water per day and can last for 10-20 more about them from the website over HERE.)
I'm so excited that my niece and nephew are heading over in a couple weeks and can report how those filters are working.  I hope they are well-used and that they help make a big difference for those families.

We got to go to the school one last time to do our art project and say our goodbyes.  Those kids were packed around me so tight I could barely see as I tried to finger-paint butterflies with a huge crowd.  It poured rain and then brightened up and I loved hearing laughing and dancing outside of the little covering where I was being mobbed, Dave making huge bubbles, the girls teaching dance moves, the children singing.

 My favorite part was watching Lucy kick a soccer ball around with a few of the kids.

And I loved my art project helpers:
Elle took this film black and white as we were pulling out and waving goodbye and I love it:
We left parts of our hearts there but are so excited that my niece and nephew are heading over and we can send little notes and love with them.

Emma took us to a little shop to grab some little things to help us remember our time there.

 The girls all got rings...note their fading henna still left over from Dubai:

And I was happy to find the traditional thing I like to collect from places we visit: salad tongs.
So pretty right? 

Also we had some rocks we bought from some guys who were selling them from the bottom of Sipi Falls after our waterfall rappelling:
We put those in the boxes hanging in our house (that I talked about back HERE).

Just some little mementos to remember the big things that filled up our hearts so much from Uganda.

This is a random spot to put this picture, but let's just note how awesome these guys were who took us all over the place:
They were pretty great.

Emma arranged a “tribal naming ceremony” for us the morning before we headed to Kenya.  

We met behind this little house with these talented drummers who explained SO MANY THINGS that I want to remember.  Every village has their own unique drum beat and when it is played people gather from all around, they know that beat signifies something, whether tribal business, circumcision ceremonies, etc.  They told us that the even years are the “male” years and they wished we were here in 2020 because so many circumcisions would be happening (they only do them on the “male” years).  There is no hard and fast rule for what age you should be circumcised, but at the youngest eight and up to sixteen, depending on how strong you are when the “male” year comes up.  The boy is the one who decides…if he doesn’t, and shies away from it, he’s kind of shunned by the community.  They are supposed to be super tough and not flinch, and if they are, they have many people who want them to marry their daughters.  After they are circumcised they are supposed to leave their family home and make it on their own.

Here they are warming up their drums for optimal sound:
Playing for us:

They gave us all our own tribal names and had us dance with them and although it was just this little gathering under a tree, I thought it was a pretty great way to end our time there.

I even danced when it was my turn.  Anyone who knows me knows that's not something I do on a regular basis.... 

The whole crew:

After that we drove.  And drove and drove (with Emma and Isma), in our now mud-caked van that had a brake problem we had to fix en route over the border:
(the border crossing could be a post of it's own, it was a journey!)  into Kenya to a city called Kisumu where we caught our flight to Nairobi.

Said our goodbyes when we finally reached the airport:
(the thumbs-up are that we made it all in one piece, because that felt a little bit triumphant)

This shows a little bit of Claire's trepidation when she saw the size of that plane she was supposed to board...
Little did she know they would get even smaller in the next couple days!

One of my favorite parts of the day was sitting sort of squished in the row behind Elle and Lu on that little airplane listening to them making up their own spelling bee.  I love siblings.  And I was just so grateful for that golden togetherness we were in the middle of.

Oh, also another favorite part of the day was arriving late-night at our Nairobi hotel to so much delight from our kids to have so much light (we had to use flashlights to see much in our little spot in Uganda), and real tile floors!  Such a different world.

But we will always carry Uganda in our hearts. The country and the people we fell in love with.

Monday, July 15, 2019

a day in the life in Uganda, and a daring repelling adventure -- Uganda part 2

One of the favorite people we met in Uganda was our driver, Isma.  He has so much light in his face, and it was fun to see where all that light came from when he took us one day to meet his mother and family.  He and Emma set up a morning to let us join them for their daily tasks and routines.  His mother gave us the hugest hugs and put us all to work.  We split up: Max, Abby and Claire went to work in the garden (sounded easy but it was the toughest task), Elle and Grace stayed put to clean, do laundry and do dishes.  Dave, Lu and I went to collect water, something I’ve been so interested in since reading Thirst, (a book I talked about back HERE) written by the guy who started “Charity Water,” a non-profit dedicated to getting clean water to as many villages in Africa as possible.

I loved how welcoming the local people were at the water pump, teaching us how to line up our water jugs and fill them one by one.

This water pump was close to Isma's family's home, but so many have to walk for miles to the water source or use dirty, insect-infested still water that causes so many health issues.  
We arrived back to find Elle and Grace sweeping the dirt outside one of the little clay-built homes under the instruction of one of the “women of light” as I think describes them well.
(what good sweepers they are ;)

Isma's wife had Elle wash the dishes...
...and Grace got to work on washing a pile of clothes in two small buckets...Emma helping with instruction along with Isma's wife...
...soap bubbling up so high we had a tough time, all three of us rinsing at the end!

We all helped hang them as we got to ask Emma and this family so many questions.  We learned so much!

By this time the crew working in the garden still wasn't back so we took Elle and Grace with us to haul back some more water.

Max, Abby and Claire came back with big smiles long after the rest of us were done, feet caked with mud and carrying huge bundles of roots and beans they had harvested on their backs and heads:
(This is how Abby's feet looked when they got back:)

They spilled out a wealth of information Isma’s mother (who is tiny but who they admitted was ten times stronger than they were!) and another helper had filled them in with:  so much about daily life in the villages, the roles of mothers and fathers, traditional teenage circumcision, how the boys move out of their homes to the compound and build their own houses when they’re circumcised, differences between tribes.

Just for a visual of Isma's mother who we loved, this is what she looks like:
She's someone I wish everyone could meet.

Isma's wife showed us how to make chapati (local native fried bread) from start to finish, cooking some up for us in her smoke-filled little kitchen hut while we shelled the beans the kids brought from the garden.

Love that Abby always somehow found a baby to hold.  Love her.

We left with big hugs all around and grateful hearts for the kindness and light of those good new friends.

It is tough to move eight people around (we were so grateful for Emma!) And we sure had a LOT of driving in our van! 
(Elle's behind Max and this is a different day but you get the idea...)

And we were grateful this day to be maneuvered as we wound through the bumpy streets up to the top of the highest threshold looking out on the valley.  I was so happy we got to experience yet this other aspect of Uganda (we sure all fell in love with that place!).  The views were so green and breathtaking. Not sure what I'm doing in this pic, but can you make out that view behind us?  Wish I had a better pic of that...

When we stopped to take in the view of the waterfall we were there to rappel I got a little terrified…320 feet high with some people like little specks near the edge.

See that beauty back there behind us??
It's called Sipi Falls and it gained a giant spot in our hearts that day!

There is actually no good way to describe our trepidation and exhilaration as we went down that thing, one by one.  So much beauty all mixed in with jumping nerves and the hugest celebrations when each of us reached the bottom.

Max went first, that brave soul!

Here he is hovering at the top of his descent, with nothing but a single rope to hold him from crashing down on those rocks so far below:

Here he is from're gonna have to look close to spot his teeny tiny red shirt against that cliff:
If you know how big that kid is (6'7") you can guess the magnitude of that puppy he was coming down!

All safe and sound:

Abby decided she may as well go next to join him...and get over all the peer pressure at the top of the cliff.  Ha!
You'd never know how freaked out we all were from the looks of these pictures!

Elle was next...not so freaked out:

Love that enthusiasm!

 On to Grace...who was loving it all...
Can you spot her?
Woo Hoo!

 This is the face Claire had at the top of that cliff the whole time:
She was dying.

Oh should she do it??

Should she not?

Would she regret it if she didn't?

Yes, she finally decided, she would.

So she did it, at first almost scared her pants off:

But quickly she decided hey, this isn't half so bad.
 "Twenty seconds of courage" right? :)

She gave me the courage to go next. Can you see me holding onto our friend Peter for dear life??

All the while Lucy was helping Dave to dare to join the trend.  At least that's what Dave claimed she was doing.  Love this little duo there on the mountain-top:
(Lu always with her backpack in case she needs to whip out anything from cards to her journal):

Luckily she was able to talk Dave into coming along:
No picture, no excited poses or crazy smiles will be able to do the exhilaration of that afternoon justice, but here's a weak try:

Lucy stuck with Emma and was such a good sport waiting for us as we took the most gorgeous hike through a little muddy path and lush green back up to the top, the rappelling guys holding our hands to help pull us up in the tough parts, all of us out of breath and smiling from ear to ear at all that gorgeousness and adventure:

Reunion with Lu:
 ...and Emma:
We sure like him!  Miss you Emma!

Lucy's happy place every night was cards on the roof.

One night there was a portion of a rainbow lighting up the sky:
And do you know what?  It was the first rainbow Lucy could ever see.

Normally there isn't enough contrast for her to make out where a rainbow is but that night, up playing cards before dinner on the roof, she saw that rainbow.

We were all pretty excited about that.

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