it hit me the other day as i was riding down an incredibly bumpy road with Mikisa in one arm and several pineapples in the other—this is normal now. the bumps, the chaos, the unpredictability, the noises…they’ve all become part of my new normal. i don’t know when the change occurred in me. when things that would have previously been unthinkable or crazy became acceptable and okay. but i thought i’d at least share some of these things that have become part of my daily life here in Uganda.
My new normal includes:
People living on the streets.
i see people on the streets every day. people who have lost their hope. some of them have lost their minds. many are missing body parts and have severe disabilities. people without legs using flip flops on their hands to “walk” around. people with wooden boxes fastened to their knees that serve as shoes. boys stealing. girls prostituting themselves. mothers making their babies sniff glue because they have nothing to feed them. kids living on the streets with no mothers. alone. abandoned. this shouldn’t be normal.
Riding on boda bodas in Kampala
i know many of you won’t believe this, but i’m starting to love riding bodas in kampala. i find it exhilarating to sit on the back of a motorcycle cruising around the city with the wind whipping through my hair. i feel relieved when i reach my destination unharmed. it’s insane driving the wrong way on a one way street and narrowly avoiding being hit by oncoming traffic (just because the driver says it is a short cut). weaving in between the cars, trucks, and buses is no small feat for the drivers. the other day, it was raining and my boda driver was trying to dodge traffic when he hit a curb. we bounced off the curb and hit a car. luckily, since the traffic was moving so slowly, none of us got hurt. but this is normal here. accidents are part of life. you brush your shoulders off and get back on the motorcycle.
Lack of running water and minimal electricity
it is part of my new normal to haul water inside every time i want to wash. i am getting better at doing my laundry, but it’s a fairly daunting task, especially now that i have a little person’s clothes to clean as well. my back doesn’t like all the manual labor. and my legs ache from all the walking. it’s normal for me to smell charcoal burning in the evening and then eat a heaping plate of rice and beans for dinner. to eat rice and beans again the next day. i am also used to the fact that i am the only woman in the house and that everyone here is Ugandan. i like it. it feels more like the real deal.
i have learned to make chapatti on the charcoal stove. i have learned to navigate my way around the house when it’s pitch black. it is part of my new normal that the power goes out almost every night right as it’s getting dark. it’s normal for me to be so covered in dust by the end of the day that i blend in with the boys.
Loud noises and strange sights
it’s normal for me to wake up several times in the night because there’s a pack of aggressive dogs howling loudly outside my window. they howl for a good 20 minutes before realizing that their howling isn’t accomplishing anything. it is normal for me to see animals being killed for food. rabbits, snakes, bugs, birds, and dogs are all part of the diet for many Ugandans. while i used to be shocked by nakedness, it doesn’t phase me much any more. kids run around naked all the time, and sometimes even older people forget to get dressed in the morning. the other day i saw an old woman lying out on her front step with nothing on. her naked grandkids were playing in the dirt. their clothes were on the line…i guess you gotta do what you gotta do when you only have one outfit.
i think my nose is on it’s own journey here. the smells are intense. some are glorious and others, absolutely foul. there’s trash burning everywhere, people cooking over tiny charcoal stoves. exhaust fumes that choke you and make you feel sick. the smell of hard-working people crammed into matatus. there’s amazing fresh fruit. and fish (which i don’t find so amazing) and hanging meat humming with flies. and there’s the dirt. red clay dirt. it’s everywhere. it smells like Africa.
i am slowly getting used to the idea that any time i go anywhere, i will have to wait. sometimes for hours, sometimes for what seems like days. especially as i navigate this adoption process, i have been reminded of my impatience. it is especially frustrating when i wait somewhere for hours, only to be told that i should have gone to another place. it is very normal to wait.
Being a mom
i’m growing into my role of mom for Mikisa. i make mistakes. lots of them, every day. as well as being her mom, i am also trying to fill the roles of a physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist and teacher for Mikisa. i enjoy her so much that i forget to do things that i should be doing. my room is a disaster and my priorities are all shifting. i am still not used to all the stares and questions. it was bad enough when i walked down the road and people would yell “mzungu” from every direction. now on top of feeling like an out-of-place celebrity, they also make rude comments about Mikisa. they ask questions like, “did you steal that child?” “is that your baby?” “how did you produce a black baby?” and “You should put her back on the streets where she belongs. she is good at begging, and that is all she will be able to do for the rest of her life.” it’s really infuriating and sometimes i give them some serious attitude back. usually i try to politely explain the situation, but communication is not a strength of many people here.
Living and loving
there are many more things that make up my new normal. things like wondering where i’ll be in a year. or five. like trusting in God to provide and letting go of my perceived control of situations i find myself in. it’s normal for me to forget to bathe for days because the water’s too cold and i’m too tired to haul in a jerry can. it’s normal for me to wake up in the morning and crave coffee. it’s normal for me to go to bed at night wondering if i’ll ever eat salad again. it’s normal for me to cry…happy tears and sad tears. and to laugh a lot more than i used to. i hear music in my head again and see beautiful corresponding colors. i kind of like my new normal.
*Many of you have asked how things are going with Mikisa. Here is a brief update:
Mikisa Mae is growing up so quickly! She now weighs about 25 pounds and is surprising me every day with new “firsts”. She has started to talk a lot more…she speaks her own special language, but I love that she is trying so hard to communicate and she really believes that we understand what she’s saying. she learns new words (English and Luganda) almost every day, and has just started saying “i love you” without promptingJ I really love her so much! she is also getting stronger, and we work about 1 hour a day just on her physical therapy exercises. Mikisa is very stubborn, and she lets me know when she doesn’t want to practice standing or walking, but we do it anyways.
She goes to school twice a week at Cherish Uganda. I have been teaching art and special education there, so she gets to hang out with “top class” which is like our kindergarten. they all love her and she’s doing really well participating in the class activities.
i found out yesterday that i am going to have to go back to Charlotte to complete the home study and get my background check and fingerprints done. i will not be able to get legal guardianship of Mikisa until those things are finished, so i plan on coming home as soon as possible to get that process rolling. i haven’t figured out all the details yet, but it looks like i will come home for about 3 weeks in May and then fly back to Uganda as soon as i have submitted all my paperwork in the states. unfortunately, i will have to leave Mikisa during that time because they won’t allow me to get her a visitor’s visa. while this makes me really sad, and i know i will miss her terribly, i am thankful to have two wonderful friends, Mandie Joy and Rachel that have offered to take care of her while i am out of the country. Mikisa loves them and i know she will be in good hands.
i also want to thank everyone who has donated to help bring Mikisa home! your support means more than i can say, and i am amazed at how God is providing for this adoption through all of your contributions. that being said, i still have a lot of money to raise to cover all the costs. i do not know the exact total of all my anticipated expenses, but it will be around $10,000. i am going to set up an etsy store where i’ll be selling some of my artwork as well as some ugandan jewelry, etc as a fundraiser. i’ll let you know details as soon as it’s up! i love you all and am grateful for each one of you.