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 Weight of a Visa

The weight of a visa
 
 
On May 13th Paul and I found out that he had an interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Uganda on June 16th to receive a visa for him to come to America and visit. After not seeing each other for 8 months you can imagine our excitement. We were thrilled that we were going to be able to see each other again. A few days later I checked the website again to see if there were any cancellations and there was one for May 28th so you better believe we jumped on that! The earlier the better, right?
 
Well, May 28th has come and gone and there is still no news on when Paul will be able to come to America and when we will be able to see each other again. There are so many things about the visa process that I don’t understand and there are so many things that don’t have any rhyme or reason to them, it’s all based on situational cases and politics. I’m not here to talk about that. I’m not here to rant about government. I’m thankful for government. I’m thankful for rules and guidelines and screenings and what not. Border control is not my soap box.
 
When I received the call from him at 6:10am Thursday morning telling me that he was denied the visa, emotions ran over my body that were so foreign and unwelcome. Paul and I could only quickly talk as he was boarding a public taxi and I wouldn’t be able to hear him, so the hour I was waiting for him to call me back, was filled with tears and hurt and “why”.
 
I have experienced relationship woes. Break-ups suck. But this, no, this is worse than any kind of break-up. When you are forced to be apart and you have no indication to when it will be over and you get your hopes up for things and they don’t happen, that ache is worse than any kind of ended relationship that I have ever experienced. This is an ache for someone that you very much love. Someone who you would love to be with, and just can’t at this time.
 
And I’m not going to sugar coat things and say that I am looking through the rain to see the rainbow or however that Dolly Parton quote goes (love her). There is a lot of rain, and I’m kind of just sitting in it, soaking in it. I wanted to flesh this all out for my mental sake. I wrote this out and didn’t know if I would post it, but I felt like I should because there are going to be a lot of questions. I have been pretty open about our process because I love sharing life with people and I love having others walk along in this journey with us, but it’s hard when the bad things happen. It’s hard to tell the same sad story over and over again. It’s hard to not have answers to questions that just make the tears come to your eyes again. 
 
I haven’t posted on this blog in a while because I have been pretty busy with some other things, some exciting things, and I have honestly not had much to say or write about. I realized that I wasn’t loving writing about recipes and Friday Favorites. I mean, maybe every once in a while. But really what I wanted this blog to be is a outlet for my experiences, an encouragement for others who might be going through something somewhat related, or just for entertainment purposes because you can’t find anything else on the web to read about. Thanks 😉 
 
So, at this point we are working on Plan B. We are working on trying to think through what is next. It’s confusing and as you can imagine there are a lot of details when you are living 8,000 miles apart, especially when your future is being decided by a little stamp in a passport from a government that doesn’t even really know your name or have any stock or concern in your situation.
 
Paul is a hard worker and he is loving and he is patient, and for that I am thankful. I know that I can trust him through this process to do what is right and level-headed, which is a dream considering where my mind goes in the wake of bad news (I tend to have a pretty heavy trigger finger) Now, does that mean that I’m smiling and I’m happy and I’m super excited about the added months apart? No. Does that mean that I am always the easiest and sweetest girlfriend ever? NO. I’m terrible sometimes. Really terrible. It’s moments like this that I see how much I need to grow and improve. But it does mean that we are growing in our trust and dedication to each other.
 
It’s hard sometimes for some people to relate and I get it. I understand that our relationship is a little unconventional and I have tried to make this as normal and un-dramatic (is that a word?) as possible. But sometimes you can’t normalize something, it just has to be what it is. I’m so super thankful for everyone that is walking with us in this and those who are just following along for support. We are not martyrs. We are not the only people in the world who have had to deal with uncertainty and frustration. I am tasting now what it means for so many people and couples and families who are dealing with the unknowns in life and I can only pray that I will find the strength and hope that they have displayed. But I’m not quite there yet. And I’m ok with being honest about that.
 
I haven’t really come to terms or felt a certain level of peace with the roadblocks that seem to keep popping up, or the plans that keep changing. I want to believe that this is only here to increase our faith or teach us some kind of lesson, but all that seems a little far off right now. I want to use these blog posts to give updates and share any hope that we are able to experience, and maybe encourage someone else who is struggling with different obstacles. Loneliness doesn’t have the theme of this song, and I am choosing to fight that feeling. 
 
This visa weighs heavy on our hearts, minds, and plans right now. Some days it feels like we are having to pull a MAC truck around everywhere, but thankfully we both know that our future and identity as a couple and as individuals isn’t wrapped up in this stamp placed on a passport. It isn’t wrapped up in this stack of papers that could rival a dissertation. It’s so much more than that and comes from a very different place. The perspective that is given when you can take a step back from a situation is clarifying and rejuvenating. So here we are, ready to finish this marathon. 
 
If you are new to our story you can find out how it all started in my post on our One Year Anniversary 

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

Spending the Year Together While Being Apart

Spending The Year Together While Being Apart

It was a year ago today that I had a conversation that kind of changed things a bit. And by a bit I mean a lot. There was this guy, he was pretty stinkin’ cute and we had been pretty creative of finding ways to hang out for about a month. I was living in Uganda and he and I were working at the same organization together. Part of our jobs revolved around staffing conferences in the different regions of the country. At the end of January we worked a conference together in Mbarara, Uganda, and had quite the time. We were basically stuck on registration for 6 hours and unbelievably never ran out of anything to talk about. 

After coming home from the conference we would find ways to hang out and talk to each other more. I was deciphering his quiet personality and he was trying to wrap his brain around mine. We couldn’t be more different. My sweet Paul is kind and gentle, humble in spirit, unceasingly logical, and enduringly content. He values loyalty and family, and is willing to sacrifice anything to serve others; while I am free spirited, bold, constantly searching for some new adventure, and always day dreaming about plans that will most likely never come to pass. Life together has been a continuing compromise.

On this day, 365 days ago, I had no idea how much I would come to love this man. You see, Paul is Ugandan and I am American. I had no idea how long I was going to be in Uganda and Paul had no plans or desire to come to America, and neither of us wanted a long distance relationship. But, we were willing to “see where it goes”. It has really gone to some great places.

The months following before I moved back to America were so fun, but really difficult. He went back to school and we weren’t able to see each other much. But we kept in contact and continued to get to know one another in the best ways that we could. Before I moved back to America we spent time together and said our see you laters with anxiousness and uncertainty. That late, chilly night at the airport was not a fun one.

But, God has been so so gracious to us these last 6 months. We have grown closer and our love for each other has only increased. Paul is such a wonderful part of my life. Our relationship right now is not easy, typical, or convenient, but it is something I would never give away. We are in the process of applying for a visa for him to move to America and finish his school from here. I am giddy with excitement when I think about living in the same country again. I am already making a list of things that we will do together and places I can introduce to him. I am learning so much about patience during this time, knowing that good things come to those who wait….and trust.

I would never wish living so far from your love on anyone, but I am also so so thankful for the time that we have had to grow and learn more about each other. When all you are able to do is talk, you get to explore so many topics with each other. I don’t want to brag, but our communication skills are really becoming top notch. Sometimes I laugh and think about what it’s going to be like for us to work through conflict face to face, we might just have to go to separate rooms and call each other…

There are going to be a lot of changes in the next few months and I hope that the updates can encourage you where you are at in life. I don’t know many people who are in the same situation as Paul and I, but I do know that the lessons he and I are learning can translate into many different situations. Please continue to follow along and pray with us as he transitions here for the time being. Like I said in an earlier post, we are just now getting to the good part.

[UPDATE: We have received our visa approval letter and I am packing my bags for Uganda. Follow up in this post.]




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Spending a Year Together While Being Apart

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.

 

The Trouble With Love Is…

Uganda, East Africa
 I have been thinking about love as an emotion a lot lately. How much this emotion can control you and how it can make you do things you would have never dreamed of doing before. There is the love you feel for another person, the love another person feels for you, the love that you see other people show to each other and even the love that you wish you were receiving from someone. I come in contact with so many people in a day and I show love to them, or fail to show love to them in many different ways. Some of those people are easy to love and I can’t get enough of them and other people take a little more effort to care for.

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Burning Down My Kingdom

Uganda, East Africa | Luweero to Soroti

Our second Pastor’s Conference of the year has just come to an end. It was a time of worship and growth for the pastors that were able to attend and also those of us from Sufficiency of Scripture Ministries. The Lord was faithful and gave us great opportunities to love and challenge the pastors to love their churches with the deep love of Christ.

The focus of the conferences this year is on the Invaluable Church: Seeing the Church from God’s Perspective. A challenge here in Uganda, as well as many other parts of the world, is the issue of ministers being consumed with title and respect and not humbly serving their church without any recognition or benefits. This is not just a temptation for leaders in the church; it’s a temptation in the life of every Christian. So many times we are focusing on serving our own kingdom and not humbly and sacrificially serving the Kingdom of God. It was so encouraging and challenging to see the pastors respond to the teaching, and also have my heart and motivations for ministry challenged and strengthened.

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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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It Was Always for My Sake

Baptism | Uganda, East Africa
Easter is approaching. In the business of life I have really been caught off guard with how quickly it has arrived this year. We have been spending time in our Bible studies preparing our hearts for the weekend, but it still seems as if I have been completely unaware of the holiday’s arrival.
Today though we sat in a Bible study and listened to a detailed account of the crucifixion of Christ. It isn’t the first time that I have done something like that, but this time I did it while thinking on 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For oursake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
For our sake. For my sake. 

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