Saturday, December 18, 2010

soundtrack of 2010.

SPIN posted their Top 40 Albums, Top 20 Songs, and 10 downloadable tracks you might have missed for 2010.

I won't spoil the countdown, but I will say that I agree with a lot of the albums on their list. My top picks would have to be:

1. Arcade Fire The Suburbs

2. Sufjan Stevens Age of Adz

3. Robyn Body Talk

4. The Roots How I Got Over

5. Yeasayer  Odd Blood

6. The Black Keys: Brothers

I guess that makes for a Top 6. Who does a top 6? No one.

Number 1 disappointment? Interpol. Although I still may go see them at the Venue in February.

Next year's already off to an amazing start with planned releases from The Decemberists (Jan 18), Iron & Wine (Jan 25), Cold War Kids (Jan 25), Lykke Li (Mar 8), The Strokes (TBD) and one that gets me practically giddy, Cut Copy (Feb 8). If you need a little something to tide you over for all this new music, check out a documentary of the making of Cut Copy's new album Zonoscope.

What albums and songs did you wear out on replay this year? What got you through? What made you excited about life? What are you looking forward to in 2011?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

a little diddy.

Why does {puff daddy} I mean {p diddy} I mean {diddy dirty money} have to change his name so much?

I feel like this is a tendency of celebrities I would categorize as weirdies.

Prince kicked off his Welcome 2 America tour last night in New Jersey. Spin said of the first tour in four years, "it felt more like an exotic outpost on whatever distant and mysterious planet Prince calls home." Indeed.

Yet the puff master (I'm going to trademark that before he steals it) seems to be doing alright. Probably because Kanye will always be one step ahead of him stirring up enough controversy and ridicule for the entire hip hop genre.

Here they are together with the real prince. Not the symbol.

Why on earth am I thinking about this you ask? Because I can't get "Coming Home" out of my head, and not because I find the song annoying. Because I kind of like it. Which I guess does kind of annoy me.

So I guess he can change his name as much as he wants because fools like me listen to his music. And Kanye's for that matter...

If you haven't already checked out the Runaway video, start with the nod to Bon Iver's Woods at 27:00.

And for the record, in all fairness to Taylor Swift, I do think she deserved her Grammy. And I actually like her music too. She's like the yin to Kanye's yang. And all is right in the world.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Periodic Uganda Update: This is the first of hopefully many reassuring and heart-warming follow-ups from this summer. But I am so excited/proud to announce that the chicks arrived to Rose & Paul's finally...November 18th to be exact. I just received this message from Paul:

   Am so happy to inform you that we received the chicks on 18/11/2010, but Unfortunately, due to he long Journey from Kampala to Buwala,we lost two chicks on arrival at the site.
So we thank you very much to gather with the team of Help-international for the great work you are doing to help this orphanage, we really appreciate so much and we hope for better results in the future.
GOD bless you!.



This is a promising step toward sustainability and true self-reliance. When we left this summer, the project wasn't technically "done." We placed the order for the chicks, but orders take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to fill. Even with every detail carefully planned, there is always the chance that something, or someone, could go wrong. There were a lot of somethings and someones we had to depend on to ensure this project sailed smoothly into sustainability, so we've had our fingers crossed for weeks. We left money to pay for the chicks behind with a dear friend, Godfrey, from the Youth Outreach Mission. He worked with us to build the coop and developed a relationship with Paul and the kids. He agreed to help with the finances of finishing our commitments to the process, and provided a healthy "check and balance" to the contract. He emailed me a few weeks ago to update me that things were on track. Paul has emailed as well with periodic updates and to express gratitude and excitement. I have not been worried per se, but just anxious to see them make this significant step toward getting this chicken coop well underway!

Now that they have the chicks, they still have a long way to go. The brooding process is temperamental and they will have to carefully monitor the chicks until they are ready to lay eggs, and then carefully budget their income so that they can increase their brood, another critical step to ensure sustainability and financial growth. But each step they take in fulfillment of the plan we created together, which they committed to, is a step they take toward lifting themselves out of poverty and dependency. I firmly believe that they have every ability to be completely self-reliant, and as they work though this process, they begin to see that too, and that is the only thing of real value we helped give them. It's even better than the old "teach a man to fish" concept. These people already know how to fish, raise chickens, grow corn, etc. They do it better than we do in many cases. It's unlocking the mentality that these skills, their skills are the very keys to their own success. It's shifting perceptions away from the mentality that someone else knows how to do any given thing better than they can. With some planning, organization, sacrifice and hard work, they can be the means to their own success. We expedited the process a little, but ultimately, this was Paul's dream and he, along with some good friends and really cute kids, will be the one to make it come true.

Something to be thankful for. And on that note, now I'm legitimately hungry for fresh farm eggs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

where to start

So many good things to share.  First off, this is a little old, but it needs to get posted. My friend Steven Squire (an aspiring film/design student at UVU) helped get our team video all together for the HELP International reunion a couple of weeks ago. He probably didn't know what he was getting himself into when he agreed to help, but I am forever grateful to him for putting together this: our team video that does about as good a job as can be done capturing our experience. For anyone who has asked about my summer and hasn't had the time to hear me really tell you about it, this is about as good as it gets. Take a few minutes and watch the video. And thanks again Steven.

Next, the documentary for the Eye Camp we did in Uganda finished up as well! So many beautiful cinematic reminders of the summer, but this one in particular is incredible. A couple of BYU film students did an amazing job of capturing Eye Camp...and you can view a clip of their documentary or watch the full thing here.

It's impossible to even think about Eye Camp without thinking of Tipping Bucket. Tipping Bucket is an organization that helps connect people who want to give with really amazing and worthy projects, like Eye Camp. They helped us raise $3000 without which we wouldn't have been able to restore sight to more than 200 people, and literally change the lives of everyone involved, including my volunteers. Tipping Bucket won the BYU Social Venture competition in 2009 and is a fresh approach to fund-raising and non-profits in general. They use social media, fresh branding and grassroots communications to connect anyone who wants to give with projects worth giving to. They embody the mindset that a drop in the bucket does indeed make a difference, and that anyone with a dollar to spare and a desire to give can in fact change the world.

So where is all of this going you ask? Well here is the beauty of this whole story and life in general. (Another silver lining). Jackie Skinner (my old roommate) connected me with HELP International who hired me to go to Africa this summer, and it changed my life. My experience there was empowered and enhanced by Tipping Bucket, who helped me and our team raise money to successfully restore sight to people in Uganda. SaraJoy Pond who founded Tipping Bucket actually moved into my old neighborhood in Provo while I was gone and has been working tirelessly to bring the Tipping Bucket platform and vision to anyone who wants to be involved. SaraJoy hired my good friend Moroni to lead Tipping Bucket's marketing efforts. Moroni invited me to brunch the other day to help with an effort to raise $250k for Tipping Bucket through the PepsiRefresh contest so they can continue to fund projects, like mine, and change even more lives.

This is so simple and awesome. Pepsi took the money they would have spent on a Superbowl commercial and decided to give it away. Hundreds of good causes are competing for the money each month, and all you have to do is vote for the one you believe in. If you like what Tipping Bucket is doing (if you don't by now, I can go on...) then just text 104182 to PEPSI (73774) every day this month. If you have another minute to spare, go to Tipping Bucket's facebook page, Like it and vote there too. If you have ANOTHER minute, go to the PepsiRefresh site and vote there as well. That's it.

Last piece of good news, and another highlight of my life as of late. My dear friend Wilson, president and founder of The Youth Outreach Mission in Lugazi, Uganda, and one of our most loyal local volunteers for Eye Camp this summer was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints this last Sunday. My heart is still bursting with joy about this. This really warrants more than a paragraph, but very long story short, Wilson is truly one of the most inspiring individuals I've ever been privileged to meet. He founded TYOM to empower youth in Uganda to fight HIV/AIDS by living morally upright lives and giving back to their communities. He works night and day to serve his community, he attends a local university and he is 20 years old. Wilson is basically my hero. Over the past 3 years of HELP serving in Lugazi, LDS volunteers have apparently left a similar impression on Wilson, leading him to the missionaries, and eventually baptism. I'm so proud of Wilson, I'm in awe of the power that comes when people just live Christ-like lives, and I'm grateful that I could even know about this story, let alone experience it first hand.

The world is small and beautiful, karma is real, things always come full circle, most often in ways you could never have imagined, there are so many good people in this world, and truth and light will always win out.

peace & love ya'all.

*Oh yeah, and text 104182 to PEPSI (73774)

Friday, October 29, 2010

just a little treat.

And not the kind you have to don a costume and go a knockin' to receive. Surprisingly, this video from Feist, and not the haunted house that overtook my office at work, pretty much made my day. I got to see Feist at Deer Valley a couple of years ago...sigh. She's amazing and manages to collaborate with the most talented and authentic musicians. This latest documentary, screening in select cities this fall (I won't hold my breath for SLC, but puhlease?) can also go on your Christmas list as it will be released Dec 7 in the US, just in time for a much needed break from all the yuletide carols. It will definitely be on mine, although I probably won't be able to wait to get it gifted.

Feist at Deer Valley circa 2008

Thursday, October 21, 2010

happiest places on earth.

Both of them.

 Tomorrow I'm going to my cousin Brittany's wedding. I haven't been to San Diego since last summer and I can't wait to see her, my family and of course this beautiful temple. How could my weekend get better you ask?

 Because Saturday, I'm going here! To the Magic Kingdom. With the second sister. For the first time in like 10 years. I couldn't be more excited. Seriously. Best. Weekend. Ever.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

all delightful people.

Nothing as good as waiting and anticipating and NOT being disappointed by it at all. Subject at hand: Age of Adz Sufjan Stevens first song-based album in five years. FIVE YEARS. I've been listening to Come on Feel and Seven Swans and Michigan over and over and over and though I don't ever get tired of it, let's just say that I've been more than a little excited for this for some time now. Kind of like how I was excited for frozen yogurt all summer (also never disappointing). Let's just say, even if you've never had the pleasure of listening to Sufjan Stevens, and thus anticipating the next time he'll grace us with his musical odysseys, you should still get excited and go listen to this. Now.

And here's the figurative little cherry on top. I get to see him. Live. Here. In SLC. At Kingsbury Hall. On November 1st. For the bff's birthday. Cue groupie shrieking now.

With a name like Sufjan, what's left to say? Just go listen.

Friday, October 8, 2010

make yourself.

Not the Incubus song. Although that brings back a lot of memories...Lately (let's be honest, always) I've been thinking a lot about the all-important question: What am I going to do with my life? This is really not one question at all, but a series of questions...Where will I work next? Where will I go to grad school? Will I go to grad school? Who will I marry? Will I get married? And as potentially depressing as never finding answers to these magnitudinous questions may seem, spending precious time dwelling on these questions ranks in at slightly less fulfilling than spending a night in, alone, with a pet cat and Magic 8 Ball.

What has always struck me as puzzling about this all-consuming question is that it infers that at some point I will reach an arbitrary place at which I will start doing this thing that I have not until that point actually been doing: living my life. Kind of like when I was in college and no one ever asked me about how school was going until after they had received a disappointing answer to the real question, "So are you dating someone?"

I suppose there are some people who are lucky and know what they want to do at the forefront. Up until now, I thought I needed to spend time figuring it out and that the only way I could do that is to find myself. How can I know what I want to do if I don't know who I am? Which begs the question, how can I know who I am if I don't do something?

I found this the other day. The concept isn't new, even to me, and maybe it's just the punchy type font, but this really resonated with me in the profoundest of ways. Enough to write it down, and definitely enough to share.

*Not unknown at all...George Bernard Shaw

Life is happening every second, and every second we have a new opportunity to choose how we spend our time, and who we spend it with. Whether or not we do it consciously, we are in fact deciding what to do with our lives every single second. The more time we spend worrying about how the sum total of our decisions is going to pan out in the scheme of things, and worse, how it will be perceived by others, the more we risk missing millions of chances to live the kind of life everyone else is trying to find.

And if you still find yourself struggling to re-frame your frame of mind, just look back and look at all of the things you've done. Chances are, they're amazing. Give yourself a hug, and move forward. Life is good and the future is bright.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

THE facebook movie.

Among other things (like watching General Conference, which was glorious) I saw the new movie The Social Network this weekend. Although my hopes were admittedly high, I was fully expecting it to be more than a little hyped up. To my pleasant surprise, it far surpassed my ambiguous expectations-I was excited to see it, but I had no idea why. While watching it I got this surreal feeling like, this is one of those things that changes everything, and it happened/is happening in my lifetime, and I'm watching it on-screen. Weird.

And then I felt kind of sad. The movie has a distinctly heavy tone. Mark Zuckerburg's character never really captured my sympathies, and billions of dollars later, he's left relatively friendless at the top of a company that thrives on social networking. Ironic. And then I thought about how many other relationships have taken a turn for the worst because of sites like Fbook. If left to my druthers I would have spiraled into a deep funk of thought for the rest of the night. Luckily I was with good friends, and a bowl full of Japanese tart yogurt later I had sufficiently snapped out of my social networking quandary.

I think the key, as always, is balance. And of course, using technology to enhance life and all of its elements, relationships first and foremost, and not to replace them. A significant portion of my new job requires me to get cozy with social media, which I spent the first part of my post-college life trying to tiptoe around. I didn't want to network socially online and I sure didn't want to have to tweet about it. Well, just this last Friday, I made my first little twittering, albeit anonymously via my company's profile. It was strangely exciting. It motivated me to create my own profile, which I did, and when I got to the part where it was time to send my first tweet into the atmosphere, for maybe the first time in my life, I had absolutely nothing to say! "Here I am world" or "Hey guys, sorry I'm late" were my best ideas. I guess I don't do well under pressure. Still waiting for something to come to me. I hope I'm not twitter-blocked for long...Stay tuned.

But to my original point, whatever it was, I guess what I'm trying to say is that in spite of heavy and potentially depressing themes, I really enjoyed the movie. It made me think about stuff, ironic and socially relevant stuff. And, I maybe find the lead actor strangely attractive. And, as motivating as that movie SHOULD be-I mean the sheer marvel of what one person can accomplish with only a 1600 SAT and Harvard education OR the amount of money said students can make by suing each other, is simply awe-inspiring (insert winky face here). Probably the most thought-provoking take-home is best summed up in a little tweeting by none other than Jimmy Fallon:

"It's about what one person can achieve, when they're not distracted by Facebook."

Jimmy, touche'.

Monday, September 27, 2010

bed time stories.

This weekend two of my favorite gals/volunteers from Africa came into town for our team reunion party. They drove 12 hours to get here and I felt lucky they chose to stay with me (they had approx. 20 other invitations). Words cannot describe the love I have for these girls. We bonded on lengthy taxi rides down dirt roads on our way to meetings about health care and orphanages in Uganda; situations that really test and simultaneously strengthen relationships into the best kind. Before we left Africa, no one could have convinced us that we wouldn't stay as close as we were this summer. But the truth is, the minute that plan touches down, you are slammed back into reality of your former/future life, and while experiences like spending a summer serving in Africa will always provide a framework, or at least serve as a powerful point of reference, things are bound to change/go back to some semblance of the way they were. And that's not a bad thing. It feels good to step into a meeting where you can communicate with people and know they understand you. It's relieving to know that the decisions you make on a daily basis aren't going to mean whether or not someone else is going to eat or not.

But spending the weekend with Becca and Molly also reminded me of how amazing it was to live with a group of people who were all focused entirely on the same thing as me. And then I thought to myself, why exactly is it so difficult to find the same kind of bonds with people here? I live with my family right now, and I'm pretty sure they want a lot, if not all, of the same broad-scope things that I do. So why is it that we cross paths morning and evening and don't seem to connect as frequently as we should on this deeper level? Why is it that the encounters we do have tend to drift toward the trivial? For example: Yesterday my sister was home for the weekend from BYU for a friend's missionary farewell. She had a group of friends over for breakfast and left a kitchen full of dishes as she hurried off to church. Upon her return later that evening, I promptly started our first conversation of the day by rhetorically inquiring if she had forgotten something in her haste that morning. I could have asked how her day was, or how her week was for that matter. Maybe her actions weren't the most considerate, but they were completely unintentional. Mine however, entirely rehearsed, and not in any way thoughtful.

I spent the entire weekend hosting my dear, dear friends. We stayed up late into the evening talking and catching up, and at their request, me telling ridiculous bedtime stories. We spent the day up the canyon, enjoying the Harvest Festival at Sundance on what we dubbed a ladies' date. Our conversations and activities stemmed entirely from a relationship aptly rooted in love.

My relationship with my sister is also rooted in love. But how conscious am I of nurturing that love on a continual basis? As much as I love my friends, there is no one I love more, or share a closer or meaningful bond with than my family. And I don't need to live with them in Africa to know that.

Molly and Becca, I had a delightful weekend with you and I love you girls.

Sister #4, I have spent a delightful lifetime with you and I'm sorry.

Friday, September 24, 2010

you can't judge a book by its cover.

So my job. The company I work for specializes in software for libraries. Its fancy sophisticated stuff and its opened a whole new world for me (think SEO, API, competitive intelligence and white space sales). If you don't have a clue what those things mean, um, just be grateful. Sometimes knowledge is just more information which = overwhelming. I'm excited for the part where it changes to power! mwahaha. For the time being, let's just settle with the fact that I never knew how much I didn't know. But not to worry, the internet and I have made peace with each other and I spend a lot of time researching and reading about this fascinating new world of which I am now part. I start the morning off reading Library Journal, an industry pub that is the go-to for everything libraries. I know, sexy right? Well, my mind tends to wander tangentially and the internet practically begs me to start down the rabbit hole of links, but every once in a while I discover a gem. Like this particularly insightful interview with Stephen King where he discusses the rise of ebooks and the possible death (gasp!) of books as we know them. (libraries have books...we sell technology...ebooks are a perfectly natural transition, right?)

I'm fascinated by this whole phenomenon. Kindles and Ipads aren't a fad as I initially suspected. I tend to crave nostalgia and tradition, especially as everything seems to change and advance so quickly these days. But then again that's how every passing generation feels I'm sure. But we're talking about books here, books! I love books. Ever since I knew what one was, I loved them. I love to buy them and stack them on my toilet and coffee table and nightstand and stuff them into shelves and read them and look at them...sigh. Love em. And judging by the huge bookstore/library industry, so do a lot of people. How can these digital books ever take over? Is there something inherently necessary about the pages to fulfill the reading experience? Apparently when audio books were introduced, critics claimed that consumers would miss turning the pages, and yet I love listening to a book on tape on a long road trip. I love records too, and yet I prefer my Ipod. What's the difference? (and that's not rhetorical.)

Maybe I've never consciously thought this through, but these are the things that keep me up at night! Well, thinking about things and reading books...But I think I'm onto something. The silver lining to this issue if you will. Stephen King said it simply and profoundly:

"The book is not the important part, the book is the delivery system. The important part is the story and the talent."

I love books, that doesn't have to change. But I love stories, and creativity, and excellent writing, and art and literature more. And none of that will ever be lost thanks to technology. Ebooks won't kill reading. Look what blogs have done to promote documentation of thought and experience. New platforms for creative work just mean more creativity, which can never be a bad thing in my, well, book.

And hey, maybe someday all of these kindles will elevate my set of printed Twilight  books to valuable antique status. We'll add books to the ongoing queue of trendy vintage tchotchke. Pretty sure anthro already incorporates books into its decorating themes when the vibe needs to subtly ooze antiquated but not obsolete.

Ultimately I wonder: How many times do we lose what we really care about in what we think we care about?

Thank you Stephen, for not only scaring the hell out of me all these years, but for teaching me such a thought-provoking lesson.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

words to live by.

"Be in love with your life."
--Jack Kerouac

In his Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, Kerouac (a favorite author/poet of mine) lists thirty "essentials" to spontaneous writing. This little gem is number four on the list, but number one in my heart. Love your life. Live a life worth loving. Then write it ALL down. For years I've kept disconnected pages of journal entries and thoughts. Some written, some typed. Some cognitive, some completely illegible. Not until I read this did I realize, not only was I not crazy, but I was in good company.

So while I aspire to poignantly pen all of my stream of consciousness in an uber-sexy moleskine or carelessly capture my thoughts on some classy old typewriter, I'm going to not only accept, but love the fact that I write things down at all. But while we're on the subject, I still wouldn't mind one of these.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Who would've thunk that I'd land me a new job in record time. Never mind that I was secretly (or not-so-secretly) hoping to have a brief and torrid stint of unemployment for an excusable but undetermined period of time after the summer, but this was not to be. My lovely and long-time college mate, co-worker and friend helped me hurtle my jet-lag and reverse culture shock by encouraging me to [quickly] apply for a position with her employer of choice, SirsiDynix. Never mind that the name kind of sounds like a place that might  manufacture robots (it doesn't). Long story short, I applied, interviewed, and had an offer for a marketing position within 24 hours. I feel lucky. Overwhelmed. Excited. Nervous. And refreshingly, hired.

And just like that, I'm a working girl once more.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lighten up.

Ok, I think things were getting a little too serious. I needed to process a lot, and I still do, but I also need to let you know that I had a lot of FUN this summer, and I am really HAPPY!

In light of this, my blog needed a face lift. And I needed a haircut.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

before we move on...

A lot of people ask about my summer, and I wish I could do it justice, but the truth is, if I had to sum up Africa in a word, even five, I don’t think I could do it. There aren’t words to describe this place, the people there, or my experience this summer, and yet when I think about it, the only way I think I can get it all out is to write it down. Use my words. My heart gets achey just thinking about it. The past few weeks, months have been a literal roller coaster of emotions and relationships and projects and perspectives. I went out there to do development, well at least that’s what I was hired to do. To manage a team of volunteers and facilitate a life changing experience for them and the people we were privileged to serve for four months. But the truth is, I went out there for a lot of reasons. A lot of which are personal, and not all of which are noble. But at the end of the day, they were my reasons and noble or not, they got me out there, and that has to count for something. In fact, it counts for a lot, because regardless of what got me out there in the first place, I went, and now I know why. HELP’s mission is “a life changing experience through service to the poor.” My life has been changed forever. Not all of it has felt good, in fact a lot of it has been painfully difficult, but all of it has been for the best.  I still don’t fully understand all of the reasons why, and I’m ok with that, because I think I will spend the rest of my life finding out. I do know a few of them though, and for now they are more than enough to feel me with overwhelming gratitude and expanded awareness. I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned, and for the people that have helped me learn them. So that’s why I’m trying to find the words. So I can remember the people, and the lessons, so that I can remember Africa; the distant continent that served as the bridge between my past to just about everything I can imagine for my future.      There's a lot I didn't have time to share, between the hectic days and unreliable internet and power, emails and blogs weren't exactly easy, but at least from time to time I think I'm still going to try and  share things as I remember them. Either way, I started this blog to share experiences from my summer in Africa, and before I moved on I felt like that chapter needed a more poignant conclusion. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

We don't need no stinkin plans.

My apologies to Mr. Bogart for misquoting his all-too-{mis}quotable line. But it just seems like every time I am going through something that almost seems too overwhelming, I meet or talk to someone who is going through the same/not exact thing! It seems too good to be true. Emotions run high, experiences are shared, and in that sharing of mutual experience, I somehow feel better, lighter even.

But what is really enlightening is when I realize that it's not that one kindred spirit that I can relate to and draw meaningful connections with, it's the majority of the human population. And with this realization I feel a little less alone, but a little less unique too. And I find that trade off a little disconcerting. This is the only way I can describe my reaction to this NYT Mag article, shared with me by the lovely Ms. Wirthlin.

So maybe I'm a twenty something, and emerging or not, I'm the last person to ask what's up with us. And while I can resonate with a lot of the issues in this piece from the NY Times, I am naturally prone to push back on even this mean-well attempt to figure "us" out. I think the minute someone does that, they defeat the whole point of "emergence." So no more labels or research, and please no more stages of development. Psych 101 is painful enough as it is.

Leave me to my hushed and hurried conversations over over-priced salads with my favorite friends, where we discover that we're discovering all the same things in completely different ways and still feel the comfort and familiarity of thinking we're the only ones who understand.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This very white woman's burden.

Aside from the neatly contrasting lines across my feet that reveal my all-terrain sandal of choice, I have no tan to speak of. 
chacos. duh.
My tan was one of the lesser of physical sacrifices made to my appearance this summer, that and my hair that grew out to frightening lengths and was photographed more than once in braids that look startlingly similar to a polygamist. I am indeed a very white woman. And like the gender-neutral man of William Easterly's acclaimed philosophical approach to international development, I am feeling guilty.

How does one gain weight in a third world country where 90% of the population doesn't have enough to eat?!?! I have been asking myself this question since I got home and the answer is simple. Matoke, posho, G'nut and oil. If you don't know what three of those things are, just be grateful. Oh yeah, and no scale or mirror. Regardless of any explanation, I still feel guilty and am determined to neither overeat nor waste food ever again. The End.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

dear diary.

So, I'm 

Sort of.

I feel something akin to someone standing on the edge of a pool and dipping one toe in the water to make sure it's...palatable. The thing is, all of my friends are in there swimming. It's warm, and everyone looks to be having themselves a grand old time. I want to want to dive in head first. Yet for some reason I'm reluctant to jump back in as if by doing so I will wash off all of the memories and experiences I'm wearing on my sleeve. A sleeve which, by the way, is shall we say just a wee bit last season. I feel sheepish that I didn't leave it behind in the mountain of donations given to the branch in Jinja. For some deluded reason I thought it was cute at the time and that I might need something to wear when I got home, but now looking in the mirror on a daily basis (which is an adjustment in and of itself) I am reminded that oversized and horizontally striped polos from DI aren't a good look on anyone. I have yet to unpack my room, and it took me nearly a week to turn my phone back on. Objectively I know that by reconnecting with my "old" life I am by no means neglecting my summer in Uganda. But I guess a part of me is afraid to plug back into the social network and professional pipeline completely and by so doing disconnect from everything Africa. I'm just trying to process exactly what it is that I don't want to lose so that I can be sure not to let it get lost in the shuffle. And I've got a lot of shuffling to do. I need to find a job, grad program, hobby, purpose, SOMETHING. I need a plan, and for the first time in my carefully coordinated life, I don't have one. Which is scary and liberating all at the same time. I can feel overwhelmed by all the options or I can feel free. I can feel dejected by the rejection or grateful that I didn't take the logical next step on the track that never really felt right. Sure I have a lot of decisions to make, but I make decisions everyday, and with time, I will make these big ones too. I'm still not sure what I am going to do with my life, but I probably won't understand that completely until it's over. So for now, for today, I've decided to stop worrying about how I'm going to make sure I don't lose the meaning and lessons I learned this summer, because I'm pretty sure the only way they can truly be lost is if they are wasted on someone who never does anything of value ever again. Not to say this is the direction I'm heading, there is value in catching up on Mad Men, reading Hunger Games and rediscovering dairy in every one of its purest processed forms. I'm just sayin. The only way experience has any real value is if it is parlayed into progress. And the only way I'm going to progress is by simply putting one foot in front of the other. By jumping in.

So I was considering starting a new blog, since I am obviously no longer in Lugazi. But I decided to keep this one. At least for a while. Who knows, maybe when I finally reach some new plateau of personal achievement I will have something worthy of a new blog title. For now I think somehow this will keep me connected to a place where I discovered and rediscovered everything meaningful in life and serve as a reminder to live and work and love with as much passion and commitment as I did this summer.

I think I have officially committed a cardinal sin of the blog world, as I feel this entry is more of a journal entry merely moonlighting as a blog post. I guess there aren't really rules, but I do feel slightly hypocritical as I have done my fair share of blog stocking mocking, but hey, maybe this is my first big jump back into the real world, err, the online world, which ironically is kind of like the new real world. That's deep, which hurts my head. But everyone else IS doing it now. Next stop, twitter. Ok, I'm not really there yet. I am so obviously not an early adopter. So sue me, I crave nostalgia. If you are rolling your eyes at this, it's ok. And if I've made fun of your blog, I'm sorry. That's just bad manners, and karma, ma'bad. Seriously.

So to bring some cohesion to my ramblings, I will leave you with this little nugget, nay pearl, of wisdom from someone far wiser than I.

Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.
                                    --Mahandas Ghandi

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chicks and Chids.

So Ugandans pronounce their "ki" like "ch". Some examples are the popular name "Kizza," or the city "Kigali." Since the national language is English, most people are at least conversant, however there are a few pronunciation issues that don't always translate, like the ki/ch dilemma. Once I knew that Mr. Kizza and Mr. Chizza were in fact the same person, I started to understand and auto-interpret in my head. It wasn't too much of an issue until the chicken coop. I spent an entire conversation trying to determine if Paul was talking about baby chicks or orphans. The "chids" are so excited for the "chicks!" he would say. I would reply with some reference to picking up "chicks" in Kampala, and he would just look at me confused. Chicks! Chicks! Er, baby chickens. Awwwwwww. Now we understood each other. Other than some minor negotiations, the rest of the chicken coop building adventure was a blast.

It was literally the last project I started and the last thing I finished before leaving Uganda, and I was so excited to be able to see it through. The "chicks" are still on order and won't be arriving for another month or so, but they have this little beauty of a coop to come home to. I spent three glorious days out in the village of Buwala hanging out with the "chids" and building and grinding g-nut for dinner and it was pretty much heaven. Part of me was expecting to feel sad when I had to leave, but it was interesting how the only thing I felt was overwhelming satisfaction. This is why I came to Uganda. It is so fulfilling to be able to see tangible results to your work, and we aren't always lucky enough to see the fruits of our labor, so to speak, but in this situation I was able to see the structure as well as the smiles on the faces of 30 beautiful little "chids" that can't wait to raise some baby "chicks" to lay eggs. Hopefully this time next year our little coop will be a regular egg factory.
Sitting on the site of the future chicken coop!

Framing the coop
Cecily leveling the ground in her construction uniform.
Taking a break inside the new coop.
The coop is taking shape!

We've got a window!

Ok, I have to be honest, these guys did most of the work.
Collins didn't want to miss anything.
Neither did they.
I love this one of Rose & Paul.
Arrived at 6 a.m. Finished coop at 4 p.m. Phew.

Friday, August 13, 2010


This IS a story with a happy ending. I'm trying to convince my self of this more than anyone else. But, in any event, this needs to be shared.

Remember Fahad? If not, he's right below this. Last Friday we went back to Rose & Paul's to begin construction on the chicken coop. I was like a kid on Christmas, I was so excited, in spite of the fact that we had to get up at 5 to meet the supply truck and construction workers. We headed off in the dark into the morning mist and through the Mabira forest on our way out to Buwala. I was so excited that things worked out with the coop (we'd faced a few challenges working things out), but I'm not going to lie, I was mostly excited to see my baby Fahad! It had been 2 weeks and I seriously missed the little guy. As we pulled up all of the kids came running out to greet us. All of the kids, except Fahad. He's a toddler, he must just be a little slow. I asked the kids, "Where's Fahad?" Everyone just shrugged their shoulders. One thing I've learned about kids here is they just don't ask questions. As I rounded the corner, I saw Paul with a distressed look on his face. My heart sank and I assumed the worst. "Last time I saw you I forgot to tell you some news. I'm so sorry. Fahad's mother came here last week and picked him up."

What? Unlike the orphans, I do ask questions.

Where is he? Why? Why did you let her take him? I was more than a little distressed. This woman abandoned him. She doesn't deserve him to have him back? Where was she all this time? Can she take care of him?


Then I paused. His mother came for him. She came back for him! Apparently, she wandered through the village searching for her baby until someone directed her to Paul. Initially he was harsh with her and refused to turn him over. She cried and apologized and begged for her baby. She was living with other family in a village 2 hours away and had walked back to Buwala to find her child. Rose intervened at this point, and mother to mother, talked to the woman until they could trust her sincerity in reclaiming the child. She agreed to bring him back if she was unable in anyway to care for him. She also asked if she could bring him back when it was time for school so that he could benefit from the school fees Rose & Paul provide. At this point in the story I was in tears.

Fahad was gone, but he was exactly where he needed to be. With his mother. And what a miracle. I have heard that people who have lost family never stop looking for them even though they know they are gone. Even though Fahad is young, I know he felt the loss of his mother. I know he looked for her face in every stranger that passed by. I can't imagine the joy that must have been felt during that sweet reunion. I am in awe of the parent/child bond and even though she might not be able to put him through school, she will be able to hold him during his formative years. Which is exactly what he needs.

I love Fahad.
I hate that his mother abandoned him.
I love that Rose and Paul cared for him.
I hate that I won't ever see him again.
I love that his mother will.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bust a move.

Every time I watch one of those dance shows I can't help but rolling my eyes as grown men and women literally weep about how dance has changed their lives. Don't get me wrong, I love dancing, I mean really love it, and I probably should understand because to a certain extent that is how I feel about music. But in any event, I am not a "dancer" so I guess I just never "got it." Well, kind of like music and love, dance not only changes lives, but it doesn't do borders, and I witnessed this first hand out here. And it's a universal fact that black people straight up know how to move. It's pretty much ridiculous how coordinated and rhythmically blessed these people are.

Meet Kamya. He's one of the precious orphans that I have fallen in love with here in Uganda. He lives at the St. Paul & Rose orphanage that I've been blessed to spend a lot of time at this summer. When I first went out there I spotted this kid that is seriously too cute for words. Problem was, the smile you will see below wasn't there for the first few visits. Kamya was quiet, withdrawn and there was an emptiness in his eyes that can only be the result of enduring horrors that no child should ever experience. In spite of his lack of social skills, Kamya is special, and I was instantly drawn to him. I wanted him to smile, play with us, show off for the cameras like the other kids. But he just sat and watched, taking it all in, but giving nothing to show that he was there.

A week ago we spent that night out at Rose & Paul's as we'd promised we'd do before summer's end. A lot of the girls were heading home in a few days and they wanted to say good bye too. One of our volunteers, Carrie Brock, had some special news to deliver as well: She raised enough money to allow us to build Rose and Paul a chicken coop...a chicken coop for an orphanage means being able to pay school fees and medical bills. It is a godsend to these people and we don't think there is anyone more deserving than the kids out there. We packed up our bags and headed out there after the AIDS festival one Saturday afternoon and were greeted with the usual chorus of squealing and hugs that we are always greeted with. It's the best feeling in the world. We hiked through the farm of sweet potatoes and matoke with kids on our backs and hanging from our arms, ate dinner, sang and danced, played volley ball and then shared a special treat we had brought: smores! We collected sticks and taught them how to roast marshmellows and then smooshed them between coconut biscuits called Nice cookies. It was so fun. Of course I had my little buddy Fahad, who I absolutely adore, by my side, or more accurately, on my side, the whole evening. This little guy’s father died and left his mother alone to raise him. She got sick (probably mentally and physically) and left him on the side of the road when he was not quite two years old. He was brought to Rose & Paul after this and has been with him for a year. He was really sick the night that we stayed there and it was so hard for me to leave him because I was so worried about him. As I held him, all I kept thinking was how his mother could have let him go, let alone on the side of the road. What kind of desperation or hopelessness must this woman have felt to abandon her child? I can’t imagine, and I feel as much sympathy for her as I do love for this little boy who has melted my heart…luckily he is ok now!

But before I go, back to Kamya. After spending the evening praying with the kids (a story in and of itself for another time) reading to them, and watching Aladdin on the laptop, we went outside with glowsticks and had ourselves an all out dance party. We popped our earbuds into the kids ears and they set off dancing. Ipod dance parties are a favorite around our house in Lugazi…everyone marching to the beat of his or her own drum…or Ipod in this instance. We tried to make sure everyone got a turn, and I was surprised to see little Kamya eagerly awaiting his, as he usually stands back. Carrie gave Kamya her Ipod and set it to Britney Spears and I think and the rest is pretty much history. His little face lit up like the sun and he started dancing like you wouldn’t believe. I had déjà vu of old video footage of Michael Jackson dancing as a kid. You know when he was a little boy and he busted moves that no one had ever seen before? Well Kamya has never seen Michael Jackson, and I’ve never seen anyone dance like that. It was incredible. And the best part about it was the smile that lit up his face and the light that was on in his eyes. Gone was the empty despondent little orphan, and in his place a little dancing machine. The rest of the orphans began to crowd around and holler. We’ve never seen him dance like this before! And then Paul echoed, we’ve never even seen him dance at all before! It was a first for everyone, including Kamya. And that night, I got it. What all of those weepy dancers are talking about. Maybe it was the music, maybe the dancing, maybe the love waves we’d been trying to send him since we met him, but whatever it was, the light went on and I think Kamya’s going to be just fine. (video to come when I get back in the US of A)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Into the Wildness...

One of my favorite sayings of all time is "When in Rome..." It's like "chill out, go with the flow, live in the moment, absorb your surroundings," all rolled into one terse little adage. I say it a lot, and let's be honest, usually just to be funny. But obviously right now I could not be farther figuratively or literally from Rome. And Africans take things, especially words, quite literally. Well, on our safari a couple of weeks ago, I learned a new little maxim that is much more applicable to my surroundings. Let me start at the beginning.

I can't think of anything more synonymous with tourism in Africa than a safari, and you better believe I wasn't going to go home without experiencing one for myself. Only problem is they are expensive. You know you're in trouble when prices are quoted in US exchange rate necessary. We researched several companies and settled on Red Chili's Big 5 Game Safari in Murchison Falls, Uganda. We're started off from their hostel in Kampala and drove about 8 hours north to the Murchison Falls National Reserve, home to abundant, although diminished populations of African wildlife. It was astonishing to learn that over the past 100 years the natural herds of elephants, zebras, lions, cheetahs and giraffes had been reduced to about 10% of their former and sizable glory, but thanks to the conservation efforts of the game parks and some steep prices for park entry, some of the animal populations are recovering. Depending on luck we would have a good chance to see lions, cheetahs, hippos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, water buck and kob (antelope). After venturing through miles of tse tse fly filled reserve, and a stop at the beautiful and intense Murchison Falls (think thousands of gallons of Nile river water converging), we reached our campsite with a beautiful view of Lake Victoria.

We woke up really early the next morning and headed down to the Nile to cross our Safari truck over to the game park. Apparently animals wake up really early, and we didn’t want to miss prime viewing hours. We reached the river just in time to take in the most breathtaking sunrise I’ve ever seen. Words can't really do it justice, and neither will this photo, but at least you can get an idea.

As we headed up the trails into the park, I had one of my surreal “I’m in Africa moments. Whoa.” Craning my neck out of the open roof of our safari van, it would have been such a waste to not capitalize on this perfectly good opportunity to start narrating the trek in an Australian accent. Bear Grils would have been proud. I’m sure our driver and guide have never been more annoyed. But in any event, not five minutes had gone by before we were stuck in some mud trying to go up a hill. Everyone pile out of the safari van and push. Now, covered in mud and standing along the trail, we figured we might as well look around a bit. No worries, there’s just a herd of giraffes to our right, munching some leaves for breakfast! Crikey! Just a few minutes prior, we had agreed as a group that there’d be no squealing of any sort. Just imagine how many animals you could drive away with a van full of 8 girls screaming “OMG, a baby elephant! That is soooo cute!” And by agreed as a group I mean that as the fearless leader of the group, I made a no screaming rule. 

Back to present scene, herd of giraffes, cue Ally: “Giraffes! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkk!” as she covered her mouth with her hand. Imagine if we hadn’t made the rule. There were indeed about 20 or so giraffes off in the distance. Apparently they're considered the most majestic of the animals, and with they're long regal necks, I can see why. At this point our van was un-stuck and it was time to continue our journey. Back to the van we trudged. As we started to climb in, we tried scraping our boots on the rail and kicking them off against the side of the van. The guide looked at us in dismay and exclaimed, “You’re in the Wildness! There’s no need to be clean!” Indeed! And from that moment on, we embraced our wild safari selves and continued on our jungle trek through the plains and bush of Murchison falls in complete stealth, and of course covered in mud. We saw lots of animals. 

They were majestic and proud, and everything I imagined them to be, and well worth the exorbitant price tag in American Dollars. After returning from the initial game trek, we headed out on a real jungle cruise; a boat ride on the Nile to see alligators and hippos and the base of Murchison Falls. A relaxing and breath taking way to conclude an epic day in Africa

So next time you waste precious time scraping mud off your boots when you could be scouting lions, just remember: when you’re in the wildness, there’s no need to be clean.