For as long as I can remember I have been in love with Africa. It may have started with a novel I read once that took place in various parts of this most exotic continent. Whatever it was, Africa captured my attention and has beckoned me ever since. Today, at the age of 47, I sit here in Africa typing this blog post. This is a dream come true. And it’s because of cats, in a very weird, twisted only-God-can-do-this kind of way.
In 2012 a young woman from Alabama attended my school, The National Cat Groomers Institute. Brittany Clark was one of many, many students we had over the years, most of which came from places far away. Brittany learned about the school program from another former student from Alabama named Robyn Warner (thank you, Robyn!). I have kept up with both these ladies via social media, as is the way of things these days.
In January of this year, I started seeing images of Africa pop up on Facebook as they were shared by Brittany during her first visit to Uganda with Call to Africa missions organization. I was jealous. I wanted to go to Africa! Months later, after getting to know the work of CTA a little bit more through Brittany’s posts, I was most intrigued and reached out to Mzungu Brittain, as she is called here in Uganda, asking when the next trip would be and would they need a photographer to go along to do a photojournalism piece. It was a long shot, but I am living proof that long shots can actually turn into realities and, well….. you never know unless you ask. Unbelievably Brittany responded to me that, yes, indeed, a photographer would be a most welcome addition to the team as CTA really needed to be able to share their mission with the world. What better way than with photographs?! The tricky part was going to be timing and working out the logistics of fitting CTA’s next mission to Uganda into my already packed travel schedule. As luck (NOT!) would have it, The 2-week trip to Uganda departing May 29 and returning June 13 fit just perfectly, exactly, miraculously into a tiny little 2 week slot between trips that I already had planned or contracted for work! Miracle indeed!
What makes this story even more interesting are the events that happened in Sydney, Australia last September and then again just north of Sydney in February. You can read about those events here and here. All of this leading up to now….today…..me sitting here in a small cafe in downtown Jinja in eastern Uganda, not far from the source of the Nile River. I am listening to people converse in Luganda and Nyankore. I am a “mzungu” (white person) in the midst of true Africans, typing away on my Mac, enjoying the luxury of a latte which I have not had in quite some time. Oh how I have missed my lattes!
I have been across the country of Uganda and back in the past week and a half, visiting remote villages as well as larger cities. I have seen rivers, lakes, elephants, crocodiles, baboons, and folks carrying full-grown pigs on bicycles. I have been to the Equator. And I have been charged by an angry hippo yet lived to tell about it. I have driven a van in Uganda and also lived to tell about that. (There is probably a greater risk of dying while driving here in Ug than getting killed by the deadliest animals on the planet, the hippo!) This is my dream come true and I am loving it!
I am so honored to be a part of the Call to Africa team that is here for 2 weeks to minister, teach, train, build, repair, relieve, deliver life-sustaining cows, care for life-giving animals and provide much-needed respite for overworked care givers at a local orphanage. I have witnessed people with nothing in the way of physical possessions delight in something as simple as seeing their image captured by my camera. I have seen children that belong to no one and have nothing to their names smile and giggle while chasing bubbles down a red dirt road. I have witnessed generosity from a few friends and family back in America and around the world as they have given toward my boda boda for Joseph project that has become my new personal mission.
I am building friendships with wonderful folks from Alabama, Florida, Uganda, and Botswana. When you spend 8 hours in a crowded vehicle with no air conditioning bouncing along potholed roads for 2 weeks, hungry, tired and needing to pee, you get to know your fellow travel companions quite well! We have an awesome team! I am grateful.
I wake up each morning thanking God for the fact that I can enjoy running water when I return home. I will not have to haul water up a mountain in the mud. I have a new appreciation for air conditioning and timeliness. Never again will I complain about a rough road at home in the USA. Never.
I have fallen in love with the beautiful land of Uganda and its people, culture, colors and the way that 3:00 might mean 4:30 or just whenever. Clint Galyean with Call to Africa told me yesterday that there is no such thing in Uganda as “it doesn’t fit” or “we don’t have room.” I love that! And it is completely true. Why yes, you can carry 3 kids, a bike, a goat and a few chickens on a boda boda. Throw in a mattress for good measure! Why not?
At home we often say “where there is a will there is a way.” But here in Uganda I think it is more “where there is a need there is way.” In this land so far from home, needs are truly needs, not the Americanized version of “needs.” We in Western cultures have so much and yet, at the end of the day, I think it is these people who have so little in the way of material things and conveniences that really have the most.
I will be back again! Ideas are percolating and being formed even as we speak. There is more I can do here – so much more. I will return.
My dream has come true. I am in Africa.
To view my top picks from the Uganda trip, check out the album here. Photos can be downloaded and shared by using PIN code 4618. Please feel free to share individual photos or the entire album. The more people learn about Call to Africa and the country of Uganda, the greater the reach!