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Trip To Uganda

~THIS IS PART OF A THANK YOU LETTER I WROTE TO THE SPONSORS WHO HELPED FUND OUR TRIP.~

This trip was the chance of a lifetime, and I believe we all came back from it changed in some way. This being my first journey to another continent, it opened my eyes to a completely different culture and lifestyle and made me appreciate the things that we so often take for granted in America. A large part of the trip was spent in schools throughout Pallisa, learning about the private and public school systems and working with the children there. St. Jude’s was the first school in which we worked, it’s a private, Catholic run school with many of the amenities that the public schools do not have. Still, they do have their struggles like their lack of much-needed technology, supplies, food, etc. The children and faculty were very welcoming, greeting us with smiles, handshakes, songs and dance, as well as American flags they made themselves. In all the schools we visited we were given presentations by the students consisting of traditional dances and songs of welcome, I found this so endearing because of all the work they put in to it. One of the main purposes for the trip was to stress the importance of education, we did this by telling of our own educational experiences, plans for further education,reading and doing the alphabet. Another school in which we worked was called “Osupa”. This is an extremely poor public school, but one that is rich with hopes for a brighter future. The children here spoke little to no English, had very large class sizes and were without basic necessities like food, balls for play and supplies. We began with the same lay out we used at St. Jude’s, but because of the language barrier we found it to be more productive if we started with the basic English alphabet.

Over the period of two weeks, we continued to work in these schools,made visits to other schools in Kampala as well as a trip to a local hospital. Health matters were also on the top of the agenda,so after viewing the hospital and its terrible conditions we made note of the things they needed in order to send them equipment from the US. We also visited a health center/ newspaper that specialized in the area of AIDS prevention. Their newspaper is called “Straight Talk” and it aims at young people with the much-needed information to fight AIDS and HIV with knowledge. One thing that I found to be extremely sobering was the fact that children under the age of 12 were at as much risk as adults to contract HIV and AIDS because of the lack of knowledge and their need for money. Often these children will be approached by an adult, and offered money to engage in acts that often lead to contracting HIV or AIDS. Again this shows that being educated can save lives.

We began relationships with the local government in Pallisa, often travelling with the Mayor. He would join us at some of the schools, discussing the present circumstances of Pallisa, Uganda itself and the school systems. One of the big problems where education is concerned, is the poor attendance in many of the schools. The faculty members were frustrated because the parents of the students show little to no interest in their children’s education and often do not enforce an importance in attending school. By the age of 16, many students are in the process of becoming married and starting a family causing them to drop out. So it was very important that we share with them how the American education system works, and how completing school and going to college holds a great deal of power. We brought school supplies and passed them out, hopefully encouraging the students and teachers to continue their efforts of making education in Uganda a priority. They accepted these gifts with such gratitude, I really felt that we had made a difference no matter how small. we were able to visit these schools, the local hospital and really make an effort to change Uganda for the better.

Written 2007~

You know, I think a lot….sometimes too much….but lately I’ve been thinking about the person I am, how others around me are and how they react to me. It’s true to say that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and as for me you can’t lump me together with other people my age or gender. I’ve come to understand and accept that I am not like most 20 somethings, though I am not saying they are all alike. However, the majority of people my age I come into contact, whether via internet or in day to day meetings I find are relatively all the same and are afraid to be any different. The word is over used but, “individuality”  is something almost unheard of nowadays….I strongly believe in being the person you are and not pretending to be anything else. And for this reason, others  find that way of thinking to be in between “interesting” and “weird”….seems their not sure  what to think of me. Now I am not saying I care what people think of me, if I did then I would lose all that makes me the person I am. All I am saying is, it’s kind of sad that because of my morals, empathy, and compassion I am thought to be the exception and not the rule.

   There is so much I don’t understand about the world we live in, like when did it become the thing to do that being considered a “whore” and writing it all over and wearing shirts with that label, was something a person strived for? The word “pimping” is thrown around without the slightest acknowledgement to what the true meaning of the word is. On MySpace these types of things are rampant, and it just seems to be a desperate attempt to degrade yourself especially for females. What ever happened to having class and self respect? Women complain that they are treated badly by men, whether at their job or in relationships…but look at the examples some women set, stripping, wearing close to nothing…constantly making themselves just sex toys for men….It’s my understanding that what you put out, is what you will get back. If you don’t respect yourself, don’t expect others to. Now this is not to say that men have any right to treat women badly. What happened to men who had good intentions and respect for women? Chivalry…where did that go? Double standards are pathetic, I find a man who is considered “the man” because of the number of women he’s been with to be nothing more then a whore. ( a name men are all too quickly to use when referring to a woman who does the same thing they do) …..

So yes, here I am a 20 something woman who believes in having self respect, class, morals, compassion, good intentions, respect for others, etc….this is who I am, who I’m proud to be…and anyone can be the same way…just step out of the box, and be yourself.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that America is its own worst enemy. I am not taking any political sides, I’m just stating the sad facts that are in America’s history and future. I don’t understand that we are the “most powerful nation in the world”, and here we have homeless, uneducated, starving people. We turn our heads away from the basic problems that plague out everyday lives, like how children are abused,neglected,molested, etc….and then there are our elderly, who we could care less about. In other cultures, treating elderly the way we do would be an outrage, as it should be. We’re more concerned with locking up Martha Stewart then we are with locking up and keeping locked up, child molesters. How is this thought to be right??? It’s deeper then political things, we as basic Americans just don’t care enough to change anything ourselves, we leave it up to the government and then complain when it doesn’t go the way we wanted it to. It goes hand in hand with the “taking personal responsibility”, we have to start giving a damn, before it’s too late!! Our society is breeding immoral, incapable,illiterate fools..and this is what we want for our future? I find myself wanting more and more to get out of America….it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Once here in this “great land”, you lose your identity,traditions,cultures etc….sure its a melting pot..all melting into one single thing, not meshing with many things to create something with many different parts. Don’t talk to me about war…how you hate it, how you agree with it….no one loves war and no one gets anything good out of it. But I support the troops and their efforts, I think that they out of all of us want it over faster then anything. I stand by those who fight for the freedoms but I think these freedoms are vanishing by our own hands…..I talk to people from all over, traveled to places where the idea of America is a dream…but the reality is, the dream has ended and now we are just left with the thoughts of what you used to be of a great America. I think it’s gone past republican and democrat, it’s a deeper layer found in the people of America…and sadly, that’s the last place it should be.

Written in 2007

We all know that life is a learning process, but one thing that has taught me even more is love. It’s amazing how love is defined…what’s even more amazing is that we as humans think we can define it. I don’t believe that love is a fairytale or that it doesn’t exist. We only find those to be the only “logical ” explanations because we can’t face the truth that we are not capable of knowing what love is. Love, without a doubt exists!! But what I have learned is that, love is never the same. There is no protocol or hand book (although much money is made off of books that claim to know) there is no preparedness for how love will be for you. And so….we as humans have a rough time when we have nothing to compare what we are experiencing to. So we dream up this idea of how it will look, how it will feel, etc…and then we are greatly let down. The only thing is, the love that you have is far greater and amazing then you can even fathom! The key is to uncover what it is for you. That is where love is formed and strengthened…during those moments when you see that love is bigger then you are and love is not what you expected. And in my mind, that is where true love comes into play. I write this because I have found a man who has taught me more by his love then I have learned in 23 years. That love has allowed me to reflect on myself and see how I was selfish, how I was not caring enough, etc. It showed me that I wanted deep down inside to be a better person and that I wanted the best for the person I loved. Skeptical of me? Many are skeptical of love or of people really being in love…these are the ones who miss out on love. They’ve either got it mixed up with lust or infatuation, or they think that love is something that hurts them. Love does not cause harm. If we are to look at love from a spiritual outlook, then you see that God is love. Now you’d have to go in your mind and sort out what you think God is. God is undefinable. God is constant, yet ever-changing. God is full of compassion and sincerity, not anger and betrayal. So when I hear that “love hurts” I can honestly say that is not love. Love isn’t what movies or songs say, it’s not what your best friend or mother says it is…it is only made for you….customized lol. And love is what makes the world go round (as cliché as that sounds), because everyone needs love no matter who. And I have been blessed to find the one person who has given me that amazing gift.

Full Life

This is a blog I wrote after a trip to Manhattan in ’08

I’ve been told quite a few times that I need to stop “bleeding for the world”, my oversensitivity to the human race is astounding. A good example of how deeply I am affected by the worlds troubles occurred yesterday. While sitting in a Manhattan restaurant, our table was approached by a man handing little “New York” key chains out. He placed it down by my boyfriend then proceeded to go around to different tables doing the same thing. Attached to these little city skyline key chains, was a small piece of yellow paper explaining what these were about. It said that this man was deaf and that a few dollars for the key chain would help to feed and clothe him and his family. I turned to look at this unthreatening looking man as he scurried about looking to see if anyone would comply, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was overwhelmed with thoughts, not thoughts of “is he really deaf?” or “what a bum” but thoughts of how desperate is this man that he leaves himself open to man’s cruel habits of thinking the worst about those that have nothing. My boyfriend didn’t hesitate, he opened his wallet and gave the man a few dollars without a second thought. I was so proud of him because he didn’t think with his mind, he thought with his heart. Inside my stomach, I felt that all to familiar feeling of empathy that too many people ignore. Sure we didn’t have much money ourselves, yes we didn’t know if what he claimed was true but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there was a chance that he was deaf, that he was poverty-stricken, maybe there were small children at home with nothing to eat, maybe he had even been laid off due to the bad economy, maybe they were living on the streets. We can’t judge one another, we can’t think that someone’s misfortune is a sin or that they deserve it. We need not question, we just need to care. After all it’s the holiday season, what better time to start caring for our fellow-man then this? As this man went to collect the key chains that many had ignored I watched as those around me looked in disgust or disinterest. How empty they are. I’m sure that as Christmas approaches they’ll fill their carts with iPods and TVs, fill their stockings with cell phones and gift cards, fill their stomachs with mountains of food….and yet they still will be empty. These aren’t the things that make us whole and full, they don’t feed our soul. It’s when our heart does the thinking that we start on the road to being the human that God intended us to be, the one that makes Him proud. So maybe next time you see someone in need, whether it’s for a ride home or a few dollars, don’t tell them your going the other way or that you need that dollar. Open your heart and put yourself in their shoes. Find the empathy that is buried deep, for it’s the only way to live a Full Life.

Life’s Checkpoints

If you’re anything like me, deadlines can give you headaches. Although I do work well under pressure, there’s one “race to the finish” that I just can’t get past. I’m referring to the constant demand to be at a certain “check point” if you will, in our own lives. How many times is it put into our heads that by the time we reach a particular age we should have this done, that done, etc?  During school years it is the “norm” to follow up high school with college, after those four years go on to either a job or more schooling. All this before the ripe old age of thirty. It’s not just career wise but I also find that in my personal life I’m supposed to be in a totally different scenario then I want for myself. This goes from my marital status, to my”lack of children”. Please don’t misunderstand me, being a parent is something I without a doubt want to be- but on my terms at the time I want. Marriage, I absolutely believe in it- right now I am engaged to be married, but not by a certain age. According to the “life plans” given out, I should be finished with college and in a career, married with children. However, you simply cannot plan out life, it just happens. Setting goals is a great thing, but when society starts making life goals for you that is where I draw the line. Career wise I haven’t been able to achieve what I want YET, but I have a lifetime to try. We need to stop assuming that we won’t be anywhere if we do not immediately do A, B, and C. I’m apt to think of Grandma Moses, here’s a woman who started her claim to fame at the ripe old age of 70! This clearly is a good example that one is never too old to learn. On top of these expectations being completely ridiculous I find that they are detrimental to our well being. We, as a nation are always on the go- must be faster, better, etc. What many don’t understand is they are inevitably going to be unsatisfied for there’s always another checkpoint they should be at.

I didn’t always think this way though. I too fell into the mindset of being disappointed in myself for not “being there”. As I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve discovered that my path is just that-MINE. I need not please others with my rush to the finish line, but rather take things one step at a time and enjoy the journey. I know what I want out of life, and more then anything I’ve discovered that life is not a competition contrary to popular belief. My best advice is to not yearn for the life of another, but embrace the fact that this is your story and the ending lies within your hands. If you really think about that it gives you a feeling of empowerment and eases the stresses society has put on us. I hope that you are able to say no to the burden of success determined for you and be determined to make your own path and success.

In this ever changing world that we live in, are we finding that the friendships we once held so dear no longer hold as much importance? As young children, we were taught that making friends was a key implement to being successful in life. Sharing was caring and everyone was invited to the birthday parties. When did we start separating ourselves from those who we’d give our last cookie to? Is it safe to say that as our personalities developed and changed our grasp of relationships changed along with it?

Jump ahead to adulthood, friendships have all but disappeared. With the heavy burdens of careers, children and just the excuse of “life” happening-our human relationships have dissolved. How did we go from treasuring the moments spent with our buddies to barely recognizing them in passing? It seems we’ve only time for acquaintances, perhaps we’re just lazy. If we could simply take the time to reinstate our old friendships I believe we would live much happier lives.

Being a woman in her late 20’s and without children I’ve experienced the sudden “drop” of friendly interactions time and time again. I long for the closeness that is shared purely with friendships, it’s left quite a void. I don’t have a problem with people having kids, why do they have a problem that I don’t? What couldn’t I understand? Should I just accept these excuses as a sign of the times, or convince others I’m worth the time? Is there a way to have social interactions where a bar or club is not involved? What message do you think we are sending to the future generations?

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