Memories of India: the highs and lows

I love following other travel photography blogs and seeing images from others' experiences of the world, but sometimes I want to get beyond the beautiful pictures and ask, Didn't you have just one flight that was delayed? or Please tell me I'm not the only one who fights with my husband on travels.

The truth is, things go wrong.  It wouldn't be an adventure if it were all perfect images and sunshine, so in the interest of full disclosure, here are a few of the "behind the scenes" moments of our travels in India - the good and the frustrating, both of which I'm sure we'll remember with fondness one day, turning to each other to say, "Remember that time in India when...?"

  • ...upon arrival in Delhi, I picked up a newspaper and read that the airline we were taking to Dehradun just went bankrupt and was no longer operating.
  • ...we found another flight and had to rush to our gate, but I was so exhausted I could hardly stand, so when we got there, I sat down and cried and had you get me some apple juice.  Then, boarding the plane, you looked at me and laughed, with my juice box in one hand, granola bar in the other, pregnant belly sticking out, and tears running down my face.
  • ...a few pairs of my earrings were stolen from my checked bag.
  • ...it was way colder than we expected, so we had to shop for hats, gloves, and more clothes, all of which we slept in.
 
 
  • ...the place where we stayed had a leaking water tank directly over the toilet and thus a flooded bathroom floor at all times, no hot water, a fuse that kept blowing with the space heater, and a missing window pane, so I didn't shower the whole first week and we slept in our hats, gloves, and 2 layers.
  • ...we went with our friends to see the most popular Bollywood movie of all time.
  • ...many of the car rides and the crazy driving made me sick.
  • ...the other place we stayed had no toilet paper, no soap, and no towels, which was not good news after a week of no showering.
  • ...my first shower started out pleasantly steamy and switched to freezing cold just as I had wet my hair and drenched myself.
  • ...you were my pack mule and carried all the bags because my back hurt so badly and I was so tired.
 
 
  • ...I was really excited about the wool sweater I bought, but it had prickly grass interwoven into it everywhere and was way to itchy too wear.
  • ...I thought being 5 months pregnant wouldn't affect my energy level, but days spent walking totally exhausted me and my body hurt all over.
  • ...we thought we could show up at the train station and book tickets to anywhere, so we didn't plan ahead, but almost all the trains were booked.
  • ...we got in a fight over which bus to take to Jaipur and gave each other the silent treatment for 1/2 a day.
  • ...we were tired of Indian food and so excited when we saw a Dominos Pizza and Dunkin' Donuts.
  • ...I kept confronting the men staring at me everywhere we went.
  • ...we fought on Christmas day because you were walking too far in front of me and I was tired of being harassed in the streets.
  • ...we went site-seeing in Jaipur on Christmas Day, but we ended up being the main site, with so many people wanting to take our photo.
  • ...we came home and food poisoning hit us both a day later, so on New Years Eve we went to bed at 9pm because our bodies were in major recovery mode.

And in the further interest of self-deprecating humor, I leave you with selfies gone wrong:

A weekend of solitude

Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others and to surprise and delight ourselves instead.
— Katrina Kenison

It's been a bit of a crazy year.

We took a month-long trip across America, came home to Uganda, caught our breath, and have had visitors for 3 months straight (awesome visitors, for the record).  In the middle of it all, we've had 2 youth leadership conferences - one in Goma, DR Congo and one in Entebbe, Uganda, not to mention I've tried to keep up with my regular work.

I'm poor at disciplining myself to make time for solitude amongst the crazy.  It's something I am improving at, pole pole (slowly slowly), but when I wake up in the morning with a to-do list in my head, it's hard for me to sit down, push that list to the side, and just be in silent solitude.  But when I don't, I find myself more short-tempered, more easily stressed, and less productive.

So I set aside a whole weekend just for myself to rest, reflect, recover, and come back to myself and my creativity.  Last Friday, I headed down to a Lake Mburo, a small national park with lots of nature to take in - a great place to escape from the chaos of Kampala.  And I just stopped to take time with myself.

 
 
Saddlebill stork
 
 

What I took on my Weekend of Solitude:

My camera (duh)
A sketch book and pencils
A yoga mat
2 good books
My journal
Incense and meditation music
A knitting project
Oil pastels and paper
The most comfortable clothes in my closet

The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.
— Albert Einstein

Lesser-known Uganda sights: Mabamba Swamp and Reptile Village

I had a visit from a special guest last week - my mother.  This was her third time in Uganda, so she said she didn't want to do a lot of sight-seeing or take any big safaris.  She told me she just wanted to relax and see my home, but during her time here, we still were able to see a few of Uganda's lesser-known sights and I was able to tick a couple of things off my Uganda bucket list.

On her first morning, Mom was a trooper.  She woke up super early and we headed out towards Mpigi with Cathy, my mother-in-law.  We were eventually directed to Mabamba swamp, supposedly one of the best places in Uganda to see the rare Shoebill stork and many other birds.

I'll admit, this trip didn't exactly live up to my expectations, but in the end, we got what we came for.  The guides we hired were certainly below average and we found ourselves stuck in the middle of the swamp, searching for the Shoebill while it rained on us.  I looked longingly over at the other boats with tourists in them, one that had its own large umbrella and was moving swiftly through the swamp with three men in each vessel to help the boat along.  We had one man in our boat and we were not making good progress.

Eventually, though, we spotted the Shoebill.  Of course, the swiftly-moving-umbrella-boat had a beautiful shot of the bird, just a few yards from it, while we were trying to peek through the reeds to get a sighting.  But soon we were able to move beyond the reeds and see the huge, rare bird quite close.  For all the rain, cold, and poor guides, it was my best sighting of the Shoebill in nature and I was quite happy we were able to see the main attraction!

My advice: go to Mabamba with a real tour guide company and be the guy in the umbrella boat!

 
 

On Mom's last day in town, we headed toward the airport early and took a quick detour to the Uganda Reptile Village in Entebbe.  The reptile village helps educate the public about reptiles while rescuing many snakes, tortoises, monitor lizards, and other reptiles.

It was definitely a great way to spend an afternoon, in awe of the many snakes that exist in Uganda and learning to respect their potentially deadly defenses.  We had a great guide who knew his facts and he even got a viper out of its cage to play with, despite our protestations!

Uganda is a country full of life, and you don't have to go to the game parks to see it!  These two short day trips showed us new forms of life that exist in this beautiful country.  They may not be the big game on the savannahs, but the birds and the reptiles are still fascinating nonetheless!

Holy Division

I originally wrote this post for my friend's blog, Worlds in Vignette.  It's a very cool blog that gives you glimpses of a diverse number of experiences from around the world.  I'm very sure you would love it.


I meander the old streets in the City of Peace and I find myself at a viewpoint for the Wailing Wall. I look down at the wailers and at the wall and I see the military checkpoints and the 20-somethings with huge guns, their presence calming some fears and heightening others.

The wailers have divided themselves on this wall – there is a larger portion for men and the women wail on the remaining piece. The Dome of the Rock lies behind, so close in distance, yet so far in unity for the devotees of such places. This city of peace and this land that is holy has been splintered in every imaginable way. The church marking the birth of the Prince of Peace also marks a power struggle between 3 different Christian denominations. Abraham, the father of 3 warring traditions, is buried in Hebron, a city most divided. One side of his tomb is for the controllers and tourists; the other side for the controlled. A wall snakes through this holy land, splitting this place from that and splintering hearts in the process. All is divided, cut apart, separated. All is split.

The holiness of it all fails to find me.

I again observe the wailers and I feel their sorrow working in me. Something wells up in my heart, chokes me as it comes through my throat, and it seeps out from my eyes. My mind tells it to stop, but my body doesn’t listen. Even I am divided within myself.

I’m interrupted by 2 lovers. They want me to take their photo in front of this historical landscape. And for that snapshot moment, the scene in front of me is not one of division.