Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy Journal

Every night before I go to sleep I write in my Happy Journal. The idea to start this journal came at the very beginning of mission from none other than the most amazing site partners ever--Cait and Grace. It is exactly what it sounds like-a journal to write down one thing that made me happy, made me laugh, or brought me joy that day. Just a few words or sentences each day. Some days it is so easy to remember one key time during the day. Sometimes I even have many things I want to write in my happy journal but I have to pick just one. But there are still a few other days I really struggle to think of something. However, it always happens that when I think over every moment from that day, the small event that I finally remember always has a greater impact on my day than I thought.
Lifting weights/shoes with our friends!
With the craziness and the unknown aspect of mission life the past few weeks, I've had so many different emotions. I was really missing the kids and feeling a bit down a few days ago, so I pulled out my happy journal and read the entry from each day over the past (almost) five months. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. It made me laugh and remember the cute little moments in each day that I so often take for granted. After reading through it, I thought I would share some of the entries from my happy journal--some of my joys and little victories from this journey so far.

September 3- Today at football practice the girls wanted to give me a Zande name (the local tribal language). They picked out a word that means "joy." Now they call me Sister Mborago--Sister Joy.

September 18- This afternoon Grace, Ariel, and I did a work out video on the veranda. Soon, three girls came and did everything with us. When we picked up our hand weights they took their shoes off and used their shoes as weights. It was the cutest thing!

October 1- Today the four of us were talking and Phoiza came up behind us and said, "Sister, you said you do not have a native language, but you lied. You were just speaking it with each other." Apparently when we talk fast it sounds like a foreign language to the kids. No matter how many times we assure them, they are convinced our fast English is a different language.

My sweet Ariel--what would I do without her!?
October 2- Tonight it was pouring rain and I was up at the Fathers' house. My first thought was "Oh no, I have my flip-flops on, I'm going to get so muddy." Then all the sudden I see Ariel coming and she had my rainboots in her hand. She is the best!

October 15- This morning Monday and I skipped down the road while holding hands and singing Joy to the World. Great way to start the day!

October 17- Tonight Ariel and I made a cake for Grace's birthday. We started at 4pm and now it is 10:30pm and it still isn't done. Turns out we were trying to light stones instead of charcoal. Maybe that is why the cake wouldn't bake! Oops!

October 29- Tonight Grace and I successfully defeated a rat. It was in Grace's shower so she had a broom and stood on her toilet. She hit it out towards me. I was standing on a table with a mop and I flung it outside. So gross, but so proud of us--small victories!

October 31- Today Thomas and I were dueting and dancing to the song "I Love my Life" (an African song). When we were finished he looked at me and said, "Sister, you aren't American. You are now African."
David's favorite pose
November 18- It is really common for kids to bring us fruit, and tonight after rosary David gave me a mango. I took it inside with me and then noticed that he carved "I love Sister T" into the skin of the mango :)

November 21- Today in class I taught P3 how to raise one eyebrow, wink, and curl their tongue. I told them to practice tonight and they will get bonus points if they can do it tomorrow. Such valuable life lessons!

December 13- Today at the clinic there was the cutest little girl who covered her eyes every time I came out onto the veranda. It was the funniest thing. She would see me then immediately put her hands over her eyes and hide behind her mom. Then as she was leaving, I said bye and she got the biggest smile on her face. She kept waving with both her hands and yelling "BYE BYE!" for at least five minutes as they walked away.

My cute little friend, Lino
December 22- Today Lino came up to me and said, "Sister T, today I love you too much." What a little cutie!

January 10- This morning we went to the slums in Kampala. I saw the cutest little girl and held her for a while. I went to paint faces and felt someone holding onto my leg. I looked down and she was standing there. She stayed there the whole time, never letting go, until I was finished and picked her up again.

The little girl I met in the slums-what a blessing!

January 17- Yesterday I told Godfrey I wanted to learn Swahili while I am here in Kenya. Today he brought me 8 pages of English-Swahili words that he wrote for me. He spent all his game time teaching me correct pronunciation. He told me to study the words and he would quiz me tomorrow. (Update- Jan 18- He brought me a paper today and I looked down at it...it was actually a quiz!)

All these little moments with my kids, site partners, and community always brighten my day and make mission what it isI just keep counting my blessings and thanking God for giving me these experiences which truly make me happy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Great Unknown

So much has happened in the past few weeks, and it is long overdue for an update on what has been going on! My apologies for the lack of blog posts, but it is my prayer that you all had a blessed Christmas and very Happy New Year! 

The time leading up to Christmas was very busy with preparations.  The students finished the school term in early December and most of them went to visit relatives, work on their compounds making bricks, work in the garden, cook, or clean their homes.  I continued to work at the clinic in the mornings; however, with the holiday season, apparently sickness went away!  We were only seeing 10-20 patients each day leading up to Christmas, and so when the patients were finished we closed up shop.  So my afternoons were spent helping the community in any way possible.  I spent most afternoons making Christmas decorations--cutting and coloring paper so we could decorate the Church.  I even got the job of drawing baby Jesus for the manger scene.  Even though baby Jesus looked very feminine this year, He still was proudly hung right in the middle of the altar on Christmas Day.  Christmas time in South Sudan was such a unique and equally perfect experience.  This year there were no cookies, no gifts, and definitely no snow.  But there was so much love, joy, and pure happiness.  I truly got to experience the real meaning of Christmas, complete with a four hour Church service!  We sang and danced, and the kids showed off their brand new Christmas outfits with the biggest smiles painted on their faces.  We also welcomed 26 new kiddos to the Catholic Church through Baptism which was a whole new experience for me.  The mothers stood in line and the priest went right down the line first with the oils and then followed with water.  After Mass, Ariel and I went to a student’s home and we shared a small meal together and enjoyed each other’s company.  Something so simple, but I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate Christ’s birth. I saw Christ in so many people and events on Christmas, through people’s generosity and their genuine joy.  This year, Christmas definitely was a celebration, and Maridi truly was the perfect place to celebrate His birth.

Unfortunately the situation at Christmas was not the same in many other parts of the country.  As shown by the many, many messages I have received from family and friends, I am sure you all are well aware of the current situation in South Sudan.  First of all, thank you for your concern and prayers for the people, my community, and the country.  I know most of you are staying up to date with the current news so I won’t go into details.  But fighting broke out in the capital, Juba, a little over three weeks ago.  The effects of the fighting, luckily, have not been seen in Maridi and as far as I know, everybody there is safe.  Before the fighting began, Ariel and I were planning a trip to Uganda for a short holiday and retreat.  Since the school was closed and the clinic closed for 10 days during the holiday season, we figured it would be the perfect time to recharge our batteries before the responsibilities of the New Year started.  We were supposed to return 4 days ago, but here I am still sitting in Uganda.  Unfortunately the situation in South Sudan is continuing to worsen, and there is no safe way for us to enter back into the country.  The plan now is for Ariel and me to be moved to the Salesian community in Nairobi, Kenya.  We don’t have any details and are taking things on a day-to-day basis.  We will most likely be staying there and volunteering until the situation in South Sudan calms down and we can return. 

All of this has been happening so quickly, and it has been a struggle to comprehend the entirety of the situation.  There are definitely some blessings in disguise—the fact that we already have safely left the country, and there is still no fighting or tension in the community where we stay.  However, it is hard to think about the sweet kids we left behind.  So many questions and feelings start to flood my mind.  What will happen to them?  When can I go back and see them?  Will the fighting spread to them?  Feelings of guilt because I can leave, but they have nowhere to go.  The only thing I can do now is place all these worries and concerns in God’s hands knowing that He alone can provide, and trusting that He will wrap all my little nuggets in His comforting and protective arms. 

So as you can see things have changed a bit since my last post, but being flexible is part of mission, and I am trying my best to go along with the twists and turns of this great unknown journey.  Although I had no idea that four and a half months into mission I would have to leave South Sudan for the time being, I am doing my best to put my trust in God’s plan as He leads me through the next few days and weeks.  Thank you for your continued prayers and thoughts.  Please keep on praying for the people of South Sudan and for peace in the country!