Back in Action

I am the worst at updating this thing! It wasn’t my new year’s resolution but I think I am going to change it now. New new year’s resolution – blog more. There it’s done. Now I’m going to have to ease into this so this blog is going to be short-ish. 
Basic overview of the last two months:
Mid Nov – Mid Dec = a blur of activity! I was rushing around trying to organize art projects. I spent a lot of time with the kids and got a lot of paint all over myself. It was great. I wanted to bring lots of art back to the U.S. so HALO can use it during their art auctions.

Thanksgiving in Uganda was better than I ever could imagine. The kind parent’s of one of my friend’s hosts a huge Thanksgiving dinner every year for all the expat kids. It was a wonderful gathering of about 25 of my friends. The food was incredible and we stuffed our faces with no shame (well at least I did). I was (and still am) so thankful to have such an amazing community in Uganda.

Mid Dec: I think I finally got all the paint off my hands and then things slowed down at work because all the kids finished school and went home to their relatives for the holidays.
I went on a staff retreat with HALO’s partner organization in Uganda, Cornerstone. We went to Jinja, Uganda which is a beautiful small town an hour east of Kampala. Jinja is a major tourist attraction as it is the source of the Nile River, and Jinja offers all sorts of fun activities like white water rafting and bungee jumping. I did not participate in any of those activities but I did have a great time with the staff of Cornerstone. We stayed at a nice resort on the banks of the Nile. The retreat was very peaceful and great way to end the year. Cornerstone staff members work incredibly hard all year and definitely deserve this special treat. The retreat was a combination of relaxing with friends, meetings, and a Christmas party. Everyone had a great time. 
After the retreat I headed back to Kampala for a few more days before I flew home. I was very excited to go back to the U.S. and see my family and friends. I got home on Dec. 18th even though I left Uganda on Dec. 16th. Longest journey ever! I had crazy long layovers in both South Africa and New York so it took me awhile to get home. But the long journey was SO worth it. 

Home was wonderful. My time there was filled with family, friends, and good food. What else could a girl as for? The first thing I did was have a warm homemade meal with my parents. Then I went to bed around 9pm. The next day I had lunch with my Grandma, and saw my friends that night. By the second day I had hit all the basics of being home, family, friends, food, so I just continued with that pattern for the next four weeks.

We had Christmas dinner at my parent’s house with my Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, and cousins. My parent’s hosted another family gathering at their house when the rest of my cousins came to town. Both gatherings were wonderful. I had such a good time hanging out with all my cousins.

I rang in the new year with a few of my closest friends at our friend’s cabin on a lake about an hour outside St. Louis. It was perfect.

A few days later I headed to good ol’ Indiana to see my friends from college. We all gathered in Indianapolis and proceeded to have an awesome weekend together. We spent Thursday night at our friend’s house doing what we do best – hanging out and talking for hours on end. Friday we hit up the Indianapolis Museum of Art for some culture. Friday night we hit the town and had a blast as we always do when we’re together. Sadly our time together ended on Saturday afternoon. I headed back to St. Louis to recoup and get ready for my next road trip.

Two days later I was heading west towards Kansas City, MO to spend a few days at HALO headquarters. It was so great to see the US part of the HALO team! We spent our time together catching up, having meetings, and strategizing for 2013. I left Kansas City feeling very inspired and ready to get back to work!

The last week and a half of my time at home was spent relaxing at home and eating good food. My brother was also in town from school so we hung out. My parents took us out to some of our favorite restaurants. The weather turned warm for a day so we took advantage of the situation and spent a Friday hiking around the nearest state park.

Eventually my time to leave came and I spent many hours strategically packing my suitcases to fit as many US food products not available in Uganda as possible. Three pounds of chocolate? Check. Two bags of quinoa? Check. Vanilla extract? Check. The list goes on.

The fun didn’t stop there! I still had one more special trip before flying back. New York City with my bestie! Flying out of NY to Uganda is about $500 cheaper than flying out of St. Louis so I like to monopolize on this situation and spend a few days in the city with one of my best friends, Rachel. Lucky for me another one of my best friends lives in NYC right now as well. The three of us spent the weekend bouncing around the city. From the upper west side to the lower east side to Brooklyn we had an amazing time. I also was able to see a friend from Uganda who recently moved back to NY. We had a super fast but super great catch up session at a bar in Brooklyn.

Finally it was time to fly out. I re-weighed my bags (50lbs exactly) and headed to JFK. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but I am happy for the time we had together. Twenty two hours later I was back.
I loved every minute of being in the US, but I am glad to be back in Uganda!  

I happily said goodbye to the cold and the snow!

Source: Mary