Before I left, someone with military training told me that it takes about three weeks to get fully acclimated to a completely new environment. I think they meant that in the physical sense with the climate change, but it would seem that it’s true in the emotional sense as well. Right around Week 3, I began finally feeling like I was in the rhythm of things. Now after Week 4, I definitely do. My bags are fully unpacked, my desk is organized, the pictures of my favorite people and places are hung on my wall, my phone is switched over to Ugandan phone service, and I’m understanding the broken, accented English much better. Also, I have finally ventured out all alone — which was a welcome reprieve for this introverted girl. (Don’t worry, it was all very safe!)
It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally settled in. The kids and staff have gone from strangers to my second family. And although I’ve battled the occasional wave of homesickness, everyday Uganda feels more and more like home. Which is a good thing, since I have approximately 11 months to go! 😉
My days here have settled into a steady routine:
Around 8 am, I will head downstairs to the porch where the preschool is partially held. I’ll set out three tables, each with different activities for the kids. It could range anywhere from Play Doh stations to puzzles to wood beading. I have a lot of fun with this!
After that is finished, I work on Project Coordinator things until noon. So far, this has included cleaning out & reorganizing the preschool, taking photos of the children, updating our website and social media, and going though and restocking all of the children’s clothing bins, among other things.
At 10:30 on Thursdays, I teach a Bible class to the pre-schoolers. We’ll learn a Bible story and do a craft together. I’ve decided to start at the beginning of the Bible and work my way through with them. I think Thursdays are going to be some of my favorite days. I love that I have a specific time set to share God’s Word and make much of Jesus with these precious kiddos!
At 12, I will help my Cottage B girls with their lunch time. Then I’ll head upstairs, because from 1-4, everything at Amani gets quiet for NAP TIME. The babies sleep, the older kids sleep, the mamas sleep, and sometimes I sleep. 😉 But it’s also a great time to run errands in town, do some reading, or to catch up on computer work. I splurged and purchased a Kindle right before I came here since there’s no way I could go one whole year without reading. (#bookworm) It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I’ve managed to read several books since being here, and it’s been wonderful. (Side note: Please let me know if you have any book recommendations!)
After “nap time”, we’ll all head downstairs to play with the kids on the playground. This includes a lot of swinging, running, and digging in the sand. I love this time, because I get to interact with all of the kids. After an hour and a half of playing, each cottage will head inside for shower time and dinner. My roommate Sarah and I will help the mama in Cottage B with this. We’ll play music and dance while we help them put their pajamas on. Then they will eat dinner in their pajamas. I love to tell them, “You need to eat all of your food so that you will be big and strong for God’s work.” They will laugh and show me their non-existent muscles.
My favorite time is after dinner. The girls will each get in their respective bunks. Sarah and I will read the girls one bedtime story and one Bible story. My prayer is that seeds would be planted in these young hearts, and that they would grab ahold of truth even now. Then we’ll pray with them and say our goodnights. This is such a sweet time. I think my heart melts a little every time they wrap their arms around my neck and say, “Goodnight, Auntie Joy. God bless you.”
And that’s my day at Amani Baby Cottage! It’s loud and crazy and messy. Sometimes there’s power and sometimes there’s not. It’s not always easy, but I’m thankful that God is getting me out of my comfort zone and stretching me. He’s teaching me in a new way to depend on Him alone for grace and strength. I’m learning to embrace and love every bit of it.
Here are some highlights from the past few weeks:
- Volunteering with Sole Hope – Sole Hope is a super neat organization that specializes in jigger removal and awareness. Jiggers are these nasty parasitic bugs that will burrow in people’s feet and lay eggs. Sole Hope will go out into the villages once a week to remove the jiggers, give away free shoes, and educate Ugandans on how to avoid jiggers. Some fellow Amani volunteers and I spent the day with Sole Hope out in the village. We were given the job of washing the precious feet of these sweet children, in order to prep them for the jigger removals. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, it was such an honor to be able to practically love and serve them in that way.
All the while, I was thinking of the story in the New Testament where Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. That story always amazes me, to think that the King of Kings bowed down and washed the filthy feet of men, especially those of a man that would soon betray Him. I want to have that kind of humble, sacrificial love for those around me – a love that willingly chooses to take the lowest place.
- I just started learning how to drive the “tuk tuk”. It’s this peculiar little blue contraption that is small, but mighty. Now, I will openly admit that I am not the best of drivers. When I was learning to drive, there may or may not have been an incident where I panicked and hit the gas instead of the brakes. This was while taking a super sharp turn on a gravel road, mind you. My dad may or may not have clung to the overhead handle with very white knuckles, while repeatedly exclaiming “TOO FAST” and fearing for his life. But because he’s the best dad, he didn’t give up on me. Eventually I learned. (Thanks, Pops.)
So throw in an odd three wheeled vehicle, dealing with gear shifts and handle bars, driving on the opposite side of the road, and a million deadly potholes, and I figured that it had the potential to be a complete disaster. But it wasn’t! It was incredibly humorous; I didn’t have an ounce of pride left afterwards. Still, I loved it. And with a heap more of practice, I think I might just become decent at it…and brave enough to drive it on the main roads. Watch out, Jinja!
- Painting Party – Our Resident Director, Laura, invited Jenna (another Amani long-termer) and I to join her for a group painting class. There were a bunch of other long-term missionary/volunteer/adopting women who are currently living in Jinja there, too. It was super fun to eat and paint and chat with each other. My finished project wasn’t too shabby, either! I was both surprised and happy with the result.
- Boat Ride on the Nile – On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the volunteers have the opportunity to take a child on an outing. (We work our way through the list, so that every child gets a turn.) To switch things up, we decided to take a boat tour of the Nile. It was so special to share it with the triplets. They got such a kick out of being on the water, feeling the breeze on their faces, and seeing fishing boats pass by. We also had the opportunity to stop at the “Source of the River Nile”. Our tour guide, Joel, was fantastic! He was very knowledgeable about all things pertaining to the Nile, and it was great to be able to support his livelihood.
That’s all for now! I’m going to try my best to blog every two weeks. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂 Once again, thank you all for your continued support and prayers. They mean more than you know!Talk to you soon,