I’m off on another journey!
A journey that two weeks ago, I didn’t think was going to happen.
I had just came home from a crazy (rough) two years in California and I was tired and didn’t know how to not be tired anymore. All I wanted was stability and I thought this trip would alter my path to a comfortable and secure life. Anyone whose been on a volunteer trip knows that even if the actual trip is two weeks, you should expect it to take at least month out of your life for the preparation and debrief time to get back to your “normal self.” A trip such as this will change your life for the better, but you have to make sure you’re ready (and willing) for it. In this transitional phrase during my life, I thought the responsible thing to do was just focus on building my life in Wisconsin before I took off to another exotic location.
The flaw in my plan, however, was that I had already planned and promised to go to Uganda, Africa with my sister and a team from her school this June. I thought of all the kind people who donated and how It would break mine and my sister’s heart if I didn’t go. But i had made my difficult decision, and needed to make the dreaded call to tell Lauren the bad news.
To my surprise, our phone conversation went exactly opposite of how I imagined it. Lauren, being the strong warrior she is, lifted my spirits and managed in a short time to convince me that I needed to go. (Actually, it was less convincing, more, “You have no choice, you’re coming!” …said in the nicest way possible, of course.) I don’t know why I expected anything different from her, my ferocious, steadfast sister who has never given up on me (and probably never will.) She spoke truth and encouragement into my life and when we hung up, I felt more peace about going. I don’t know how that girl does it, but I am eternally grateful.
So, here I am, two crazy weeks later, on the first flight of my journey! The last couple weeks have made me realize what a gift this trip is. In my past experiences, every country and culture has taught and given me more than I could ever imagine myself giving them. I go with the dream to help and change, and I am the one who always comes back feeling changed by the beautiful people I meet.
I have often thought I had to be at my best self when I go on a volunteer trip, and this time, I thought worn out Emily couldn’t do as much good as I wanted. I forgot that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”
I am not alone on this trip, but strengthened by an awesome team, wonderful supporters, and a mighty God.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in this past year, it is that it’s okay to ask for help. The inability to do everything myself does not make me weak, but a human being. It now feels selfish and silly to not go because I thought I wasn’t good enough, or that I needed to control and sort out my life, when I know my life is in precious hands. Everything I worried about worked itself out and the stars have aligned to make his trip a great one. I have a feeling I have a lot to learn in Uganda and I am open and ready to grow. -Em
P.S.- A huge thank you to everyone that helped and donated to this trip! I am so grateful and appreciative. Couldn’t do it without you.
I flew out of Mombasa yesterday morning, back to the homeland. And let me
tell you, it was not easy. As soon as I got to the airport I wanted to run
back into the arms of the city and say, “I’ll never leave you!” like the
ending of a cheesy romantic comedy. A little on the dramatic side, I
know, but it is just how I felt. I felt awful and other than
the fact that I was scheduled to stay for only a month, I
couldn’t understand why I was going home. I was passionate
about the work I was doing and was content with life in Mombasa. Many tears
were shed on my long (and still in progress) journey home. I will miss the
sea breeze, the children’s hugs, the chapati, the boda bodas, the teaching,
the other volunteers, and the way life had made so much sense while I was
there. The daily routines and schedule had become normal life for me, and
the weeks flew by far too quickly. Everything about this trip has been
simply wonderful. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this expirience
and am surely changed because of it.
On one of my last days in Kenya, I was walking through town when a lady
stopped me by saying, “Madame, stop! You have a spot in your skirt!” I
turned around to see that I had sat in dirt and now had a big stain on the
back of my skirt. I didn’t mind really, but the lady wanted to help and
offered me one of her own skirts to change into. I protested, saying I was
fine and wouldn’t be able return the skirt to her since I was leaving. But,
she insisted and next thing I knew I was in her small house, trying on
skirts. I felt a bit guilty, seeing that this was not a woman who had an
abundance of skirts, but one who lived modestly. How could I take a skirt
from someone who had very little of their own? She gave with joy
and smiled the whole time while I picked a skirt and slipped it on.
I offeried her my old skirt in exchange but she declined and told me I was
her sister and that she was glad to help me out. I hugged her and thanked
her probably too many times and went on my way. As we left, my friend
Mariana and I teared up. We were so moved by her genorousity. She had given
me something selflessly, expecting nothing in return. It was clear that it was not material things, but people that were the most valued in her life. This kind of behavior
was not uncommon in Kenya. The people there had an incredible sense of
community. Everyone is a brother or sister. If a child showed up to school
with no shoes, another child would give one of theirs to them. If a younger
child is hurt, an older one will come to their aid. When there is a car
crash, men will run to help, saying their “friend” is in need. They most
likely do not actually know the person, but it doesn’t matter, they still
rush to help. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever seen, and it’s inspiring. It
makes me want to always treat people as my own family, going the extra mile to
help them out simply because they are human and deserving of love and
On my last day in Mombasa, I went to Nyota school with the other
volunteers. My teaching had finished, so I just went to see the kids and
help out. It ended up being an incredibly joyful day. I played with kids,
took photos, had mandazi and chai (yum!), read, sang songs, and danced. You
could say it was a perfect day. Some of the students wrote notes that said,
“I love Madame Emeli” and gave them to me. The hugs were abundant and the
smiles even more so. It was such a wonderful ending to my journey and
sealed in my heart all the joys and pleasures of working with children. It
was an honor to be apart of their education and I hope every one of them
continues to get proper schooling. Education should be a basic human right,
and not just something for the rich, industralized world. GVI Mombasa,
I worked with, is making it possible for more children to get a good
education and I know that even if my time with them was short, the good
work will continue and improve. I have decided that I definitely will be
going back, someway, somehow. For now, I will try to sink back into my
normal American life, though I am sure I’ll never be the same. I cannot sum
up my immense gratitude for everyone who made this journey possible. I hope
I’ve adequately expressed how many times your kind words of encouragment
have filled me up and enabled me to do more, try harder, and smile
wider. The thought of coming home to my awesome family and friends makes this transition a lot easier. I mean it when I say that I couldn’t have done it without your
An old man at the airport who saw I was wiping away a few tears said to me, “The adventure is not over,” and I smiled and I replied, “Oh, it never is!” And how thankful I am for that.
Onto the next adventure, thanks for reading! -Emily xo
This one goes out to all things family. Partially, because tomorrow is
Father’s Day, but mostly because I have an amazing family that deserves to
I begin with my father. I often refer to him as a “super hero” and
people that know him don’t find that strange at all, because it’s pretty
accurate. As I’ve journeyed out into the world and on my own, I’ve truly
realized what a blessing it is to have a dad that has always made me feel
safe, cared for, and loved. His calm, strong heart has quieted my fears
so many times, whether it be during a nasty thunderstorm or a time of
illness. He has the ability to take my fears and assure me everything will
be all right, and I can always believe him. He has always been a sturdy
rock to rely on for our family. I have had the opportunity to thrive in
life because of his examples. He was the first to travel to Africa, and I
can recall reading his blog of the experiences in Uganda and I know
I wanted to be just like him. I remember on my first trip abroad when I was
12, my dad made a playlist for my MP3 player and it included the song, “Let
my Love Open the Door” by Pete Townsend. And, oh, how his love has done
exactly that. Because of his unstoppable love, I have felt motivated,
inspired, and fearlessly able to acheive my dreams. I love you, Dad. Thank
you for everything. Happy Father’s Day!
And now to my sister Lauren. I read today the sad news that her trip to
teach in Egypt was cancelled due to political unrest. And the amazing thing
was that she wasn’t sad for her own sake, but for the sake of the children
she was going to teach and love. I know 100% Lauren would be over there,
political unrest or not. She doesn’t see the potential risk or danger, she
sees a need and has passion to help. She truly values the lives and well
being of others before her own. She is incredibly brave, just the type of
hero you can find in the books or movies she has read/watched thoughout the
years. She’s Harry Potter, Katniss, Sam Gamgee, Hercules, and Mulan all rolled
into one. And the best part is that her courage is incredibly natural,
unforced. It is who she is and it’s going to make all the difference in her
life. She is going to reach so many people, and be just as amazing of a
writer as Khaled Hosseini, if not better. I am so proud of her.
Everyone she knows is touched by her humor, passion, and strength. To know
Lauren is to have your life changed. Lauren, I love you so much, you strong
All in all, I owe so much to my family. So much love, I don’t deserve it.
If you see any member of my family, please give them a hug for me. Happy
Father’s Day to all dads, and I hope you have a lovely weekend. -Em x
The other day after I finished my Sunday latte at a place called “Café
Mocha,” I found myself craving a mandazi. A mandazi is a triangle of fried
dough, very simple, but usually delicious. I didn’t know where to find this
particular pastry, so I set off on a bit of an adventure. I saw a village
and headed that way when I heard, “Madame Emily?” And turned to see one of
my students on his bike! I greeted him and then quickly asked if he could
lead me to a mandazi! He said yes, and off we went! We walked through the
village going to different shops with no luck. Since it is the end of the
rainy season here,our daily activities are often interrupted by sudden rain
showers. So, every once in a while, the rain would begin to pour and we’d
run to find shelter. Once it finished, we’d journey on until the next
shower, then find cover again. It felt like playing “hide and seek” with
the weather and the rest of the village joined in. Then, as we
walked we’d have to hop, skip, and leap over puddles. The villagers looked
on, some waved, some liked at me like I was an alien and sheilded their
children. Hakuna matata. After two shops, and three rain showers, I
finally got my mandazi! It was not that wonderful, sadly. But the adventure
was definitely worth it. I love the little adventures in everyday life.
They steal you away from the ordinary and fill your heart with crazy joy.
The entire time I am sure I had a huge smile on my dripping wet lips.
I am half way through my last week here, which is unbelievable, really. I
can write lists of all the things I will miss about Kenya, but I’d be lying
if I said I didn’t have a list of all the things I can’t wait to do/eat
back in the good ole U S of A. I do feel I have enough energy in me to go
for another month here or onto another exotic location. I also feel like I
want to do this kind of work the rest of my life. I feel so naturally me
while wearing a skirt, walking through the slums of a third world country.
Each step of the way teaches me a little more about myself and the world.
What a privilege this expirience is and continues to be.
The children at school are lovely, crazy little rascals. I love the art
work I get to see everyday. They definitely have a unique style to their
drawings. Today, I had them all create their own character. I
got everything from a merman to a dragon with a lion’s head. I will be
posting pictures of the art work soon! Hope you all are well. Thanks for