Kampala City Festival

Kampala City Festival | Uganda
 
The other day I was feeling a bit frustrated that so much of this trip to Uganda has been taken up with delayed flights, lost luggage, visa stresses, and logistical details that we had not been able to just hang out and have fun like we had thought we would be able to. I voiced this frustration to Paul, in hindsight I see that I could have done it in a little more gracious way, but he still received it and was patient with my disappointment of the last few weeks. I have loved loved LOVED being with Paul and finally having time together again, but I didn’t think that it would be spent on the phone with airports, filing paperwork, and making countless trips to town because the Wi-Fi at the place I am staying keeps getting hacked and all the data is being used. 
 
So, Sunday morning, as I was finishing breakfast, my sweet Paul came in and asked me if he could make a request. I was still in a bummed out mood from the night before when all the stresses were feeling a little heavier than usual, but I obliged him anyways. He proceeded to ask if I could be ready in 30 minutes because there was a festival in Kampala (the capital city of Uganda) and he wanted to go with me to check it out. I was more than happy to grant his request! 
 
Off we went. I was very very excited and couldn’t wait to see what this African version of a county fair was really going to be like. As soon as we reached town we started seeing evidences of this festival. Roads were closed, stages were being assembled, and people were walking all directions to make their way to the festival. As we approached the security check Paul was wisked through one of the three men’s lines and I had to wait behind about a dozen school children in the women’s line. Here in Uganda they are pretty strict about only women checkin women for bombs and only men checking men. I don’t mind, except when it means that I have to wait in such a long line when 2 other lines are completely empty of people, but rules are rules. 
 
Kampala City festival | Uganda
 
After making it inside, one of my new favorite Ugandan pop songs by Busy Signal was blaring on the speakers, I knew this was going to be a good time. As we made our way down the street guys started bringing me plastic marti gras masks and balloons doing their darndest to convince Paul to buy one for me. I begged him not to. It was so funny though that as the festival progresses, we were one of the few that was not supporting one of those crazy masks. After passing the guy on roller blades doing tricks down the street and the ladies on the side walk selling their moonshine made from banana leaves, we found our favorite milkshake spot. He was seriously set on this being a great day. We grabbed our chocolate milkshake and a plate of fries and positioned ourselves outside for some serious people watching. There wasn’t much of a conversation between us because we were so distracted by the sights all around, but also because the music was so loud that we had to practically yell at each other just to understand what the other was saying. It didn’t damper our mood. 
 
Soon we noticed some SUVs with blackened windows roll down the street and that was the start of the parade. I had no idea there was going to be a parade! Immediately I was standing and out came my phone so I could get as many pictures as possible. There was music, dancing, bands, guys on motor cycles, everything you would expect from a parade….African style. One of the floats was for a devotional that is very popular in East Africa, we had about 14 people try to give it to us, the refusals became very creative, as well as the attempts to place them in our hands, bag, pants pockets…oh Uganda. Then there was the float for birth control…er….protection. It was both uncomfortable and comforting at the same time. They were handing out free protection and information on how to prevent HIV. There has really been a lot of progress in this area in Uganda. I love how people are more aware and they are making a lot of reforms. Paul and I were thrown quite a bit of “Life Guards” and just smiled and laid them on the ground for someone to come and pick them up. They were gone by the end of the parade. 
 
Kampala City Festival | Uganda
 
But the party didn’t end with the fanfare of the parade. We made our way down the street to find vendors selling all of their wares and street food being fried up as performers were taking the stage to wow the crowds with their dance moves and songbird tunes. My senses were going wild. It also just happened to be the hottest day that I think I have experienced here, so we had our share of bottled water, found some $3 sunglasses for me and a baseball cap for Paul. We were in business. As we made our way up and down the street our tanks hit empty, and we decided that our enjoyment of the Kampala City Festival was ending soon. Before we were miserable we made our way out of the crowd, found a cafe to have something to drink and some little food so that we could gain our energy back to grab a taxi home. 
 
I was so thankful that Paul gave me 30 minutes to get ready and took me into town for our day of fun. I love Uganda so much, and sometimes when things are frustrating I forget why it’s such a wonderful place. Ugandans know how to have a good time with their music, dancing, cheap wares, street food, and the rest. I can’t wait to keep enjoying this country with Paul before we head back to Kenya next week. 

The Ultimate Packing List for Year of Travel

The Ultimate Packing List

 

Before I left for Uganda, I posted the packing list that I used on the blog.

It was very extensive and included a lot of stuff that I just didn’t really use. I mean I was just guessing on a lot of it, I had never spent a year in another country before, so I didn’t really know exactly what I would need or want. 

So after spending a year abroad and evaluating my necessities, I recreated the packing list to reflect something a little more accurate. Now, depending on where you are traveling, you might not need some of the things that I needed, or you may need more or different things than I did. I spent a lot of time in skirts and dresses and I didn’t wear a ton of make-up everyday, so that reflected on my packing list. So, just use this as a launching point to create a packing list specific for you. 

Download the Packing List and print it out for your own use.

I’d love to know where you are traveling and how you modified the list so that I can be better prepared for my future travels. So leave some love in the comments and let me know what your thoughts and experiences are! 

The Ultimate Packing List

The Journey Isn’t Over

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Journeys of a Mzungu: jordaninafrica.com |Uganda, East Africa|

 

So I have really been postponing writing since I have been home from Uganda. Part of it has been because I have been so busy since getting back that I haven’t had time, but the real reason is that I have felt like I don’t have anything to say. I’m not in Africa anymore. I’m not living in the village. I’m back at Starbucks making to-do lists and drinking my Thanksgiving blend coffee.

The big question that I have been asked since I have been back circles around my ability to adjust, or what some would call “culture shock”. Maybe I’m weird, but it just hasn’t happened. I have lived in America for 23 of the 24 years of my life, so I feel like being away for 12 months isn’t going to make me forget what it’s like to go through a drive-thru or have 32 cereal options. I think that I have been more aware of the cultural nuances that exist in America since coming back, but I can’t say that they have made me emotional or sent me into a state of shock. America is exactly the way I expected her to be, the way I left her.

And I’m glad to be back.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss Uganda more and more every day that I am away. I miss the people that I left behind, I miss the food that I can’t find here, I miss the walks, I miss the quiet, I miss it. But I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t feel good to have Target at my disposal again. It is so great to be able to get amazing coffee without having to get out of my car. I could cry talking about what it’s been like to see friends again and spend so much time with my family. To be completely comfortable and know that you are surrounded by people that love you and truly care for you.

My year in Uganda was amazing and I learned so much and grew in ways I didn’t expect, but it wasn’t as glamorous as some would think. There is no way that I can flesh everything out in one blog post, nor would I want to, but all I can say is that the journey is not over. Uganda is still a huge part of my life and my future. God is revealing things step by step and I am walking with anticipation to see what’s next. Major things have been laid on my heart and I am exploring areas I never thought I would tap into. But that’s how life works, right? All I know its that I have learned to be a joyful participant and embrace the unexpected.

I want to continue writing even during this time that I am not in Uganda. Just because I am no longer in Africa doesn’t mean that my life doesn’t have meaning or that I am on hold. God is still teaching me and still growing me, and I have found that writing it out and sharing it is such a wonderful way to celebrate all that he does. So I would love it if you continue on this journey with me…..we are just getting to the good part.

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5 Things I Have Learned From Living Overseas

5 Things I Learned from Living Overseas

Eliminate Your Expectations

Before I started living overseas in Uganda I spent so much time on the internet reading blog posts about people who had moved to other countries and what their experiences were like thinking it would give me some idea of what I was getting myself into. I had no idea what to expect, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t know what I wanted to expect. My limited knowledge of what it is to live in another country opened wide the door for the unexpected; and boy has it been a wild ride. There are days that are completely mundane and I just hang around in sweatpants longer than socially appropriate for an adult my age, drink some coffee, and read a book; while there are other days when I can’t imagine my life being any more bizarre. All expectations are out the window, mainly because they are pointless, but secondly because they can ruin the joy of spontaneity.
 

Food is for the Stomach…and the Heart

I have never been what some would consider a “foodie”. Foodies can tell the difference between fresh lemon juice and juice from a bottle and unfortunately that’s not my gifting. But, since living in this new country where the food can be so different and admittedly bland…I have had some desperate moments when I thought I would scalp someone for some Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Covered Almonds from Trader Joe’s. Nonetheless, I have learned that there are just some things that do a body good – emotionally speaking. When my parents came to visit in March I couldn’t have been happier to open their luggage and see the multiplicity of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese packed next to the Fun Size Milky Way. My heart was happy.
 

Time is Really Just a Number

Punctuality has never been my strong suit. I am a recovering procrastinator with a take-it-easy personality. One things I have come to embrace and cherish about this culture is that time is just a suggestion. It’s ok to stop on the way and take care of the multiple things that might need to be taken care of, and the person waiting is ok to wait. They will find some way to fill their time. Patience is a virtue you know…what’s the point in getting all bent out of shape over something so menial? Maybe this concept is just nursing my shortcomings, but I truly believe time was not created to control our lives, it was created to be a more hands-off assistant.
 

You Won’t Be In or Out

Being the new kid in town has its perks and its downsides. When you get to town everyone wants to welcome you and make you feel at home and comfortable, but there is something even more comfortable about being a local. It’s been almost a year since I chose to live overseas in Uganda and the way that I feel now as opposed to the moment I stepped off the plane is really incomparable. But, I am still the Mzungu walking around the village and trying to navigate her way around the city. I have roots here now. I have friends and I have my usual places that I go to hang out, but that doesn’t make me a Ugandan. And it’s ok. In the beginning I was really troubled by this and it hindered me from ever calling this place home, but now I have come to embrace it and enjoy the fact that I will always have the opportunity to experience something entirely new.
 

You are Always Missing Something

Whatever your reasons for living overseas, you can never truly leave your hometown behind. So much of who I am is wrapped up in my life back in America. I’m not ashamed of that. Many people that I have talked to out here want to put down their country of origin almost in a way to convince themselves that this new place is the better choice and they don’t miss their old life. While I love making new memories in Uganda, there are things about my “old life” that are missed. It was a wonderful life that deserves to be remembered. But, I know that things are always changing and we are always moving forward, so I am thankful that I have something that is worth missing and remembering; something that has made me who I am, and now I have something new that is continuing to make me who I will be.

 

Granny’s Love-Filled Wanderlust

Traveling Wanderlust

Sometimes I get on Pinterest and see those inspirational travel quotes. I think you know what I’m talking about. They have the cool typography, Instagram quality picture of a road with mountains or a well-weathered map, and belong to the Wanderlust board that we all have on our profile. Travel excites. The thought of seeing a different part of the world and experiencing something life changing moves people to leave what they know and endure certain discomforts or unknowns so that they might discover something extraordinary.

Three years ago my Granny was very sick and coming to the end of her marvelous life. All of my mom’s family returned to the homestead in Murray County, Georgia and spend a week together sharing time with each other and my Granny knowing that these were our last moments of our family as we had known it for so many decades. During this week my cousins and I spent some time going through some old pictures together. My grandparents have this huge trunk in their den that is overflowing with pictures from years and years of family memories. There are enough embarrassing images in that trunk to run off all the unwanted boyfriends that have tried to steal away my cousins and I. I already have photos set aside to show the first girl that my brother brings to Christmas; it’s only then that we will truly know if she loves him or not.

While going through these gems three years ago I found a picture of my Granny when she was just a teenager standing in front of a bus headed to Miami. Once she arrived in Miami she paid $78 for an airline ticket to Cuba. I fell in love with that picture. I remember being a little girl and my Granny showing me the airline ticket and telling me about how grown up she felt going all the way to Cuba on her own and how other girls her age were too scared to do it, but not her. She wanted to see the world. It was then that I decided that my 5 foot, biscuit-making, pastor’s wife Granny was the ideal woman. She was a real pioneer; a revolutionary. I wanted to be this woman. It was that moment in her guest bedroom as a 7 or 8 year old girl that I decided I was going to travel and see the world and love it just like she did.

This new wanderlust was consuming my thoughts at all times. I would make lists of countries that I wanted to see, plan out how to see all 50 states before I was 35, save maps of places that I had never been before…I was a goner. But thankfully my Granny didn’t just inspire me to travel; she inspired me to love. Travel is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It can reveal a lot about yourself and I believe God did create this world to be admired and enjoyed. His presence is declared and revealed in creation. As I have lived here in Uganda I have seen so many beautiful things and discovered so much about myself in the process, but the real joys have come from the relationships that have been built and the people that I have come in contact with. Those are the most beautiful and complex of God’s creation. Travel the world, expand your horizons, go beyond what you know, and love people along the way. What a waste it would be to see the world and miss God’s most prized possession throughout the journey.

One Heart. Two Homes.

Giving birth in a Ugandan hospital
The flight has been booked. It has been booked for some time now, but I think that it is finally sinking into my mind that in 117 days I will be headed west to see my home country again. I will have been in Uganda for one full year and I am not sure that I can begin to communicate how this year has changed me. I’m not saying that I am a different person; fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I am still the same Jordan. I still jump a little when a bird flies too closely to my head. I still can’t stand the smell of celery or the taste of cilantro. I will still choose to watch Rocky over any chick-flick produced to date. And as soon as I touch down on American soil I am ordering a Venti Iced Dirty Chai and there is no stopping me.

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Learning to Live a Needy, Loving Life

Uganda, East Africa
 
Most of my time here in Uganda is spent with kids. It’s practically unavoidable. Back home I had my fair share of time around those of the younger age bracket, but it wasn’t at all like it is now. I could go to class, a coffee shop, work, friends’ houses, and run to the store without coming into contact with children. The life here is a different story. There are very few stolen moments throughout the day that I am not being sat on, hugged, having my hand held, jumped on, climbed on, being asked a question, pulled to go play a game, asked for a sweetie or water, tied up as the damsel in distress, or being shown something gross that someone has just killed, stepped in, or found laying in the bush. I live a very kid friendly life.
 
 
In an effort of complete transparency, I find sincere joy in being around kids, but there are the moments that I just “need a break”. I don’t know how many times I have said that since I have been here. Before I came I couldn’t imagine every growing tired or exhausted by those sweet little faces that smile at you and shout “Jerdani! Jerdani!” (their version of Jordan). They have such innocence, spunk, sheer abandonment. Personal space or social boundaries do not apply to them. There’s no need to knock before they enter into my house because why wouldn’t I want to see them and give them a hug and play for the rest of the day until it’s too dark to see on the walk home? Struggle is a reality in their little lives, but they still find the energy and excitement to run and play and shout and forget everything that is going on around them for those precious moments. My heart breaks every time that I give a kid that I have never met before a hug and immediately they are clinging to me for as long as I will allow and all of their trust has become wrapped up in this stranger who just showed them the first act of affection they have felt in days. Their world is small, but their love is large. They crave love. They need love. But don’t we all?
 
Observing these kids as they eat, play, learn, interact, and live as children in a very simple world without electronics and media, has taught me so much about the basic needs of humanity; the bare essentials that we are sometimes too proud to admit that we need. I have realized that over time, I have become a very independent person who avoids admitting my need for others at the fear of looking needy or helpless. In my mind, as soon as you need the help or attention or care of others you are at the mercy of that person; which is unacceptable. I have been missing out on the joys that come from community and mutual care and concern. Sure, I have my few trusted friends that I would share my burdens with, but outside of that I would be hesitant to let on to any struggles taking place in my life. This is ironic seeing that I have a counseling degree and I’m always encouraging people to bring their issues into the light because that is the only place that they will find freedom.
 
 
The people here in Uganda, in this village, depend on each other. They depend on each other for their physical and emotional needs. When someone is struggling or parents pass away, the kids are taken to an Auntie’s house or a Jaja’s (grandparent’s) house and looked after. There really isn’t any debate about it and the idea of Family Services is so foreign that they laugh at the idea. Of course you will take in your brother’s kids if there is any kind of need. Of course you will work another job to send money to your sister so that she can pay her school fees and finish high school. Self sacrifice for the community is assumed. There is no shame in asking and there is no pride in giving. I have to schedule time in each week to go and visit different people in the community because as soon as I begin to slack off I hear about it and they are wondering what is wrong because they haven’t had me drop by to chat. For all the years that I lived in the States, I can’t really remember just “stopping by” to chat with my neighbors, and I’m sure that they weren’t offended by that. Community is strong here; it’s an expression of concern and unity. It’s an expression of love. People want to be thought of and they want to be shown that you are making an effort to love them. It takes an effort to visit. It takes time, it takes energy to walk to their place, it takes stepping out of your comfort zone as you fumble through language barriers and cultural differences, it takes love for that person to put all that aside and put their needs before your own.
 
 
In the first weeks that I was here I didn’t want to go visit people unless they had invited me because I thought that it would be rude to just show up. Maybe they were busy, maybe they didn’t want visitors, or maybe they would be with someone else and didn’t want to be interrupted. But I quickly discovered that if they were busy, I became busy with whatever they were doing, if they were relaxing, I would relax with them and chat and drink chai and eat some mango, and if they were with someone else I would jump into the conversation and potentially make a new friend to add to the visitation list.
 Life here is about community, literally you do life together, all of it. It’s beautiful and exhausting all at the same time. You are forced to bear the burdens of those around you. When someone is struggling, you feel their struggle, when someone is rejoicing you feel their joy, when someone is in need, you fight to meet that need. I have never felt so much a part of a community before. I have never been stripped of my pride and self-sufficiency in such a raw way.
 
 
God has been teaching me so much about being transparent to those around me, pouring myself out to the ones I am surrounded by, and laying bare all of my boundaries and walls of pride and independence. Not only with those who I am doing life with, but also with Him. Many of my prayers have become declarations of my inability to help myself, admissions of my need for God’s mighty hand because I have no answers, no conclusions, and no solutions. God has been dealing with me in a faithful and gentle way. He is such a kind and wise God who pushes us to painfully tear off the pieces of ourselves that do not bring him glory and that hinder us from clinging only to him. I have been meditating on Psalm 30 lately and verse one has meant a lot to me when it says,
 
 
“I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.”
 
 
When the kids come running and shouting “Jerdani!” with their arms out and eyes shining trusting that I am going to catch them, or try my best, when they jump towards me, I can’t help but think about God as our Father drawing us into his arms. When I hold these little ones I just want to wrap my arms around them and give them enough love to last weeks and weeks until they can feel that kind of love again, I think about how the only place that we can find pure, true love that will never run out is in the arms of God. When I read this verse I think that sometimes we can be the biggest foes in our own life. We limit ourselves to love others and be loved by others, and we limit ourselves to know the true love of our Father.
 
 
We were created to need love. We were created to love. We were created out of love.

African Holidays

Uganda,  East Africa
Seku Kulu Nnungi!! Time really does get away from you out here in the jungle; especially when it’s holiday season. So much has happened since my last post, and I’m terribly sorry that I have not been able to write any new updates.
The holiday celebrations here in Uganda are so so different from the ones in the States. There’s no electricity in the village so you can forget houses covered in Christmas lights, and snow is out of the question. So, you really have to get your head in the game when it comes to making it feel like Christmas is coming.

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Village Profile: John Ntenderi

Uganda, East AfricaThere is someone very special that I would like to introduce you to. His name is John Ntenderi. He is 16 years old and has one of the sweetest spirits in the village.  His dad died when he was 9 years old and so he is left with his mom, step dad and from what I can figure, 8 siblings. He is a hard worker and just finished Primary 7, which is basically like 8th grade. He will begin secondary school in February. John is a smart kid who loves Jesus and is kind to everyone he comes in contact with.
Unfortunately, John doesn’t get to enjoy most of the things that the other kids his age get to enjoy. He can’t play soccer, he can’t run around with the other kids, and he has to take it pretty easy when it comes to walking around standing up for too long. John has a swollen right leg that prevents him from doing any of these things and more. It has progressively gotten worse since birth, and because he family doesn’t have much money at all, he hasn’t been able to have it treated.

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Color Me Uganda

Uganda, East Africa

When I graduated college this past May I was sure that I would never want to complete another assignment as long as I lived. Five months later that doesn’t seem to be the case. I miss writing. I have always enjoyed it, and I miss going to the coffee shop and putting in my earbuds, drinking an Iced Chai with 2 shots of espresso, and writing for as long as I needed to in order to get out my thoughts and complete the assignment. So, to fill this surprising void in my life, my super talented and imaginative friend Jackie Knapp (check her out at Paper + Sky) has agreed to give me creative writing assignments while I am here in Uganda so I will have an outlet for my unusual desire to type it out. The one that she gave me first was to write about my experience in Uganda thus far using color. So, here is the first of many creative writing posts that I will be putting on here. Thank you for indulging me while I work through these post-grad dilemmas.

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