Molly in Africa

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


with Dan one of the kids that
CRO has been trying to work
with for over three years now

hiking with erin and serge the day before my bday

on my birthday with serge :)

Birthday Fun :)

To start, thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes my way- I was overwhelmed by the show of love and support I received. My 21st birthday was on Sunday and we had a most wonderful weekend in Mbale to celebrate. I’m not sure if I mentioned this in my last blog post, but my friend Sergio (Serge for short) came and stayed with us for the past two weeks and he actually was the one who planned everything for my birthday (which was awesome)! On Saturday, Serge, Erin and I went hiking up towards some waterfalls on the nearby mountain (Wanale Mountain). As we walked up, we passed through a few villages and it felt great to greet people in the local language here (Lugisu). Granted, I ONLY know the greeting, but it still was nice to say hi to the old women as we walked past the little trading centers of the villages. At one point, I got a cramp in my right calf (I used to get those a lot when I played soccer in high school) and I felt like I shouldn’t keep going so I chilled at a river while Erin and Serge went the last fifteen/twenty minutes of the hike by themselves. One of the things that I am quite proud of myself for is that both times that I have been in Uganda, I have not allowed myself to spend time feeling sorry for myself and I’ve just made the best of the many random situations I’ve found myself in. For example, instead of being really frustrated with myself for not being able to keep hiking up, I went to this river and ended up interacting with this woman who was washing her clothes in the river and then played with about twelve kids for the half hour that I was left by myself. At that point, it began to rain, so I started heading back to the path and back down. After walking for two or three minutes, I looked back and saw Serge’s bright blue shirt and walked back to meet them since they weren’t very far behind me. We walked back in the pouring rain, passing by all the children who had greeted us on our way up.

My friend Mary (from my study abroad program last time) is back in Uganda for the summer as well and she came to Mbale for my birthday so after hiking, we met up with her. The four of us had dinner together and then went to the ONLY club in Mbale- Club Oasis. We had a blast- both dancing and talking together and dancing and talking with the locals. Two things that were particularly fun: 1) the walls were lined with mirrors and when we arrived around 11:00 and the place was just beginning to fill, people were all standing facing the walls and watching themselves dance! Of course Mary, Erin and I got in the middle of the dance floor and just started dancing together. 2) People would imitate our dance moves. At one point, I was dancing with three women and anytime I would do a different move, they’d all watch for a moment and then do it. It was hysterical!

On Sunday, we had a birthday lunch at my house here and I invited three friends from CRO- Joshua, Robert and Moses. After a delicious lunch, we started listening to some music and had a mini dance party with those three boys plus Erin, Mary and me. Then we all gathered around my laptop and watched Sister Act II (which they’ve seen before since CRO owns it). Erin, Mary and I walked them home (they live about twenty minutes away by foot, but that’s the polite thing to do in Uganda). . I was in such a good mood that I was singing and dancing the whole way as we walked them home so when we got near their house and lots of kids came up to talk to us, I completely entertained them. They had seen me dancing so they started to clap, chanting, “dancing, dancing, dancing.” So, I stood in the middle of this dirt road in front of about twenty five children and danced like a fool. Then I turned to them and started the same chant in hopes that they would then dance. One little boy in pants that he had outgrown and a superman pajama shirt danced but everyone else just started at me with a facial expression that screamed, "crazy muzungu!" Typical 21st birthday celebration…right?

All in all it was a great day. The one downer was that Sergio left and is now in Kenya. I don’t think I’ve written much about him in here, but he was (and I think will continue to be) a wonderful blessing in my life. He continuously challenged me to interesting conversations about development, C.R.O., faith, life, people, etc. He has only been gone for a few days, but I definitely notice his absence.

Erin and I are still truckin’ though and I think we’ve hit a good stride in terms of our daily schedules at CRO. I’m now helping a few of the older kids with some typing practice because they are participating in the youth exchange program to Norway starting in August and will need to be able to communicate with CRO through emails on the computer (which they have had little exposure to). The discussion group that I am facilitating for the older kids is also going well. We’ve now met three times and we have another meeting this Thursday. I am excited about their willingness to share and am looking forward to many more conversations with them.

As always, I could write more, but I’ll stop here. Hope you all are well!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

hopefully starting to get settled...

Hello all!

Sorry for the huge delay in updating my blog. As I mentioned in a recent email to my parents, I have found it much more difficult to write home this time than I did last time. Last time I was overwhelmed by the new-ness of everything I was seeing, smelling, tasting and experiencing. This time, however, it’s a weird mix of familiarity, uncertainty and new understandings. So, please excuse me for this long awaited update- I will try to just write a few stories here and hopefully they will allow for some insight into my summer thus far.

When Erin and I first arrived in Mbale to work at CRO (Child Restoration Outreach), we met with the national coordinator and the manager and were told that they didn’t want us to start until the following week. That ended up working out perfectly because Erin and I went with Esther (the woman we stay with… same woman I stayed with last time) and her workmates to Arua which is in northwestern Uganda. Not only did I enjoy her workmates and make new friends, I also learned a lot. On our way up there, we drove in the Gulu district (not actually through Gulu town) and we passed many Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Those camps are a direct result of the conflict going on in northern Uganda between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government army. I’ve learned a lot about that conflict and it was really interesting to see the camps with my own two eyes. Once we were in Arua, Esther and her workmates were in workshops all day, so Erin and I had some free time and were able to make the most of it (I thought). We got to visit the regional hospital and visit many of the wards there- talking to different hospital personnel throughout. We also had the opportunity to visit a Catholic primary school and visited each classroom there. It was a great trip and it was fun to visit a part of Uganda I had never seen before.

We started at CRO last week and it’s already had its ups and downs. I’ll talk about downs first so that I can end on a good note. On our first full day at CRO, I went with the nurse (who is like a mother to me here) to visit one of the CRO boys who had been taken to prison two weeks earlier. When I accepted the invitation to go I thought it was just going to be a learning experience and another opportunity to see a different part of life here. However, as we prepared to leave to go, I found out that the “boy” we were visiting was actually 24 and someone who I had been friends with last time I was here- not super close, but we would hang out at least a couple days a week at CRO. Visiting him in prison was hard and as I learned more about the background of why he was there, I became quite frustrated with how easy it is for street children to get stuck in systems because they don’t have the connections that other people have.
Also within my first week back I heard that one of the boys who I had been much closer friends with, Charles, hasn’t been seen for months and the last time they saw him, he was getting in trouble. I don’t really want to get into details there, but just wanted to tell you that it’s hard to hear about things like that.
Today, I was talking to one of my favorite little boys- he’s 9 I think and he was in the rehabilitation class last year so I spent a lot of time with him then. His mother left him when he was little and that’s why he went to the streets a little over two years ago now. Well, now he’s in primary school and today he came to CRO (instead of going to school) and he was crying about how he wanted to find his mother. We talked a few times throughout the day and eventually I found out that his classmates have been talking about their mothers and he wants to know where his is. He told me that as long as he could find his mother everything would okay. Things like that break my heart because I can’t do a thing to help him and I’ve never experienced what he’s going through… he even said to me- “but YOU have a mother.” It’s true. I do have a mother and I’ve always had her as an integral part of my life- always providing and supporting. So those were some of the downs, but generally more of the time is spent having good moments.

Some of the ups:
I’ve started to get to know the new rehab class and I really like them. An obvious favorite so far is called Sam and I actually found him on a street walk last year. He’s a really intelligent boy and the two of us have bonded quickly. One day I sat in on the rehabilitation class and they were supposed to draw a picture of a home. This was based off a picture that was held up but the picture looked nothing like any of THEIR homes. So, at the table that I was sitting at with six other kids, I had us draw the homes in Namatala (the slum area where most of the kids are from) and then we drew different kinds of people. I am continually amazed by the intelligence and creativity that kids show when they are given the opportunity. The kids at my table drew a pastor (and labeled him, “A Man of God”), a business man, a woman and her family and I drew pictures of soccer players (of course calling them footballers though J). I really enjoy interactions like that where I get to challenge them or at least encourage them in positive ways. Hopefully there will be many more of those to come.
I’ve rekindled friendships with many of the older boys, which has also been fun. My friend Joshua, who I sang with a lot when I was here last time, has become a good friend this time around. He broke his foot about two weeks ago and therefore hasn’t been very mobile and since he finished S6 (the last year of secondary school- our high school) in December, he doesn’t have anything going on until August when he leaves for a year in Norway.

We spent the weekend in Kampala and it was wonderful. This is already really long so I won’t write much, but we went to the Uganda vs. Nigeria football (American soccer) match on Saturday and that was awesome! Sunday we went to the Uganda Martyr’s Day celebration and while it was fine, I was a little disappointed because it was so packed that we weren’t even able to see the main altar. I got to see some friends in Kampala and stay with one of the directors from my study abroad program and her family so that was fun.

Alright, that’s all…emails are always still welcome: and I’ll do my best to get back to you when I get a chance.