Monday, October 4, 2010

A million miles away

Dear Friends and Family,

We’ve reached the halfway point and I don’t like it.

I am so enjoying my time here that I find myself wishing we could stay longer.

It’s really weird to think that I (of all people) would want to stay in a land of powercuts, unpurified water, deathly driving skills, mosquitoes, and worst of all no Kit-Kats...but yet somehow I do! It’s hard to explain what I love about Africa so much. There are just no words for it. If you’ve been here you know what I mean. It moves you.

I was actually talking to my old boss the other day and she was asking me what I miss most about NZ? I said wearing heels. It would just look ridiculous if I was to pop some on here. The dirt and the mud for starters, followed closely by the fact that I don’t already stand out enough by being the only white person wherever I go!

My job has been a mixture of all things PR. Some days I am a journalist heading out to a location to write a story about something happening in the life of Watoto. Other days I’m a photographer getting the shots for that story, other days I’m doing media training with a children’s choir that’s about to head out on a worldwide tour. You can check out the stories I’ve been writing on . I’ve also been keeping close tabs on the Restore Tour and all the amazing reactions that is getting as it travels the States and Canada. You can check out the new and improved website on . This week I’ve been working on the Christmas Publicity Plan and the Global PR Plan for Watoto. Next week Tim and I are doing PR and Media Training for the 20+ strong media department. I feel very honoured to be trusted with such jobs and am trying to use all the previous knowledge I have obtained to give Watoto the best I can offer.

Speaking of the best on offer...The Discovery Channel came to life when we went to Kenya a few weeks back with our belated flatmates Colleen and Henrik. It was SO much fun! Everything about Kenya is just so green and beautiful. Zebras, Deer and Giraffe are not just inside the game park but roaming the countryside as well! Our journey into the Masai Marra from Kampala took 17 hours due largely to the unmistakably large pot holes that lengthened our journey considerably. Seeing 16 lions devour a wilderbeast was the highlight of the trip for me. We must have sat there watching them for about 2 or 3 hours. It was fascinating to be within a metre or two of something I have only ever seen on the Discovery Channel! We just missed out on seeing a cheetah with her 6 cubs, but the 55+ other species we saw made up for that!

I don’t know if you’re like me, but being here I have noticed that I am rarely just content with doing nothing, and it bugs me! I seem to always be looking for what we are doing next. For example, today is a Saturday, I am writing this blog. I have nothing to do after this. This is what most Saturday’s are like for us. Back home, I would have about fifty billion things on my to-do list, almost half of which would remain undone until the following Saturday. Yet here I have all the time in the world and I almost resent it. How bad is that! I can remember days in NZ where I would have done ANYTHING to have an hour of quiet time to read a book or feel no pressure to do something or go somewhere! My weeks were so full and busy, weekends jam packed. Now, I have no plans, ever! Weekdays are free, Weekends even freer.

Usually I would have cleaned the house on a Saturday. Here – I don’t own a vacuum cleaner and if I want to clean I get a bucket and throw the water on the concrete floor. Takes 5 minutes. Usually, I would have gone shopping on a weekend, here – the only ‘shopping’ available is a 45 minute drive away and consists of knockoff Nike and Adidas clothing and second hand bras. Why do I find it frustrating to have nothing to do on the weekend? Why cant I just relax and enjoy the fact that one day I will be so busy my head will spin and that just for now I should enjoy having no plans any night of the week and nothing to do on the weekend. Tim and I have both been convicted lately that we should not waste a second, not wish this free time away.

So for me it’s wishing away empty time slots, for you it might be wishing for when you do get empty time slots! Or wishing for the next best thing like a better job, car or cute pair of shoes – then you will be happy. You get the idea and so do I. Furthermore, I’d like you to know that I’m making a commitment to enjoy the second half of our time here far more than the first. To appreciate this special and unique phase of my life because I know it’s something to treasure, not waste away.

With that thought in mind and the fact that we only have 9 weeks left here, the words of a Brooke Fraser song have been rolling around in my head “Child what will you live to do, what have I left for you? What will we leave behind?” One of the things that has touched my heart most whilst I have been here is the meeting of four precious little girls. Let me tell you about them.

Keep in mind that Tim and I live in a Watoto Village that is filled with about 1000+ Africans. We and eight other white people live and work here full time. Needless to say, wherever we go we usually have a small crowd following us, just to see what we’re up to.

Anyways, one of these girls is a little 3 year old who loves to ‘spot’ my whiteness from afar and run towards me at full speed from at least 300metres away. I gave her some fairy wings that my goddaughter Mya helped me pick out before we left for Africa. She wears them every day and everywhere. They were white and sparkly, they are now brown and dusty but she does not even notice. She is now a full time fairy and that’s all there is too it. Esther and I hang out together most days now. She is also my companion on weekends and Tim and I take her to church on Sunday. Esther also likes to do things that I do, for example, if I am sitting with crossed legs, she trys to cross hers. If I am showing someone how to do gymnastics, she tells me she would like to exercise with me and do some too. If I need to go the bathroom, guess who also does!

And then of course, there’s Hope. She is featured a lot on this blog. This little bundle of joy is due to move to the Watoto Village soon. She will meet her new Mum and brothers and sisters and start her journey to becoming a future leader of Uganda. I am looking forward to seeing who she becomes.

Enter the third girl. A few weeks into our stay here I was hand delivered a letter by a petite teenage girl, she wrote to me about her life story and asked me to be her friend. I was really overwhelmed by her openness and honesty and instantly accepted and we continued to write letters back and forth over the weeks that came. Not too far into our friendship she wrote me a particularly poignant letter in which she asked to call me Mother. Cue Tears. I was so blessed by her request. Last week she was dedicated in a formal service at Bbira Village. There was a point in the ceremony where the kids were asked to pick a rose from the back and give it to their Mums. After giving one to her Watoto mother, Ritah then came over to me and handed me a rose.

Finally, Stellah. We crossed paths as she is the only girl on Tim’s rugby team. I liked her immediately. She turned 18 this week and it was so cool to celebrate that milestone with her at our house. She also asked to call me Mother a couple months back. I think the reason behind the request from both the girls is that their biological mothers have died and even though they have wonderful Watoto mums, they are still hungry for someone to talk to every day, someone to love them and have an interest in their lives and their future. I see myself as more of an ‘older sister’ than a Mum. After all, I would have been like what, 8, when they were born!

I feel like all these girls are a ‘Nudge from above’. They are heaven sent and have blessed my life in the most unexpected ways.

Ending on a lighter note I just wanted to list of a few of the rather unusual names we see for businesses here. It’s almost like one of those ‘forwards’ you get in your email. Yet this time, it’s fresh out of Africa and they’re all real names of businesses we spot on our way into Kampala. They make Tim and I chuckle.

God’s Will Medical Clinic
Lazarus Funeral Home
4Pals Hotel - Passion Awaits
Taxi Van called “God’s Choice”
Taxi Van called “Gods Decision”
Yak Supermarket
Give and Take Hardware
Obama Car Wash – Jet we can!
Helen & Timtam

1 comment:

  1. Hey Helen! Nice article, it truly inspires me everytime I think about you two. We tried to find you in Fb but had no luck, as we don't have your emails. Pls add us so we can be in touch. You can find me with my email: Good luck with the remaining time and pls let us know what's up with you two. xx, Ninfa