Posted by Beth | April 4, 2016
After our two and a half month blogging hiatus, we’re set to get back up and running this week. Here’s a little overview of where we’ve been and where we’re headed next. We’re 146 days into our travel break, and still have 98 days to go.
In mid-January we spent a few months in South Africa, which still sits at the top of our list of favorite destinations so far! We had an incredible few days doing safaris in Kruger National Park and then spent the rest of the time exploring Cape Town and driving the Garden Route. The biggest surprise was how affordable everything in South Africa is right now. Put Cape Town on your must-visit soon list!
We then spent two months serving outside Kampala, Uganda with the organization Come Let’s Dance. We had very little wifi in Uganda and wanted to be fully engaged, so took a complete break from blogging. Caleb has a few great posts in progress about our experience living in Africa coming up in the next few days, and I share a few of my thoughts at the bottom of this post.
At the end of January we celebrated Caleb’s 30th birthday up in the air. We splurged on points for business class (my first time after three years of travel hacking) and it was well worth it to fly Qatar and Qantas up in the front of the plane, though we did have an unfortunate downgrade situation for the first leg and are still waiting to see how we’ll be reimbursed.
The past nine days we’ve been on the North Island of New Zealand ‘vacationing’ with our good friends Adam and Ellen, who flew over from North Carolina to join us. We’ve enjoyed the beautiful scenery by hiking, wine tasting, biking, boating and driving around the North Island. After saying goodbye to them in Hawke’s Bay we headed to Wellington to enjoy the artsy capital for a few days before flying south to Queenstown tomorrow for another week on the South Island.
After New Zealand we’ll spend nine days in Australia between Melbourne and Sydney, then spend two and a half months in Southeast Asia. Prior to this trip we would have both said that this part of the world was our favorite so we’re eager to get back and looking forward to a few months of “unplanned” travel, seeing where we end up. We’ll wrap up our trip in Portugal and Spain before hopping the pond to see my sister Jenna and Justin get hitched in mid-July.
We’re excited to be getting back into our “travel groove” though leaving Uganda was harder than we might have expected. Our first month was a little rough, but by the end God confirmed a lot of things for us and we learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and how to love and serve well. Saying goodbye to our new Ugandan (and some new American) friends at the Kampala airport was definitely the hardest part of our trip so far.
I wrote and rewrote my thoughts about Uganda several times, but decided to stick with the words I journaled fairly early into the trip…
We’ve battled worms in our bellies, live rats eating any food accidentally left out and dead lizards found under our bags. We’ve taken cold showers, shucked corn kernels off the cob by hand for two straight days and vomited out the side of public taxis. We’ve ate pork with hair still on it and woken up in the middle of the night to watch the Super Bowl. We’ve sat through five-hour church services and had the power go out plenty of times. We’ve fallen down in the rain, been pickpocketed in a public taxi and pretty much always have dirty feet. We’ve been sun burnt and learned how to operate on Africa time and crammed 20 people into a van and practiced the arts of not rolling our eyes and holding back tears. We carried pumpkins to the altar as an offering during a church service and we sleep under a mosquito net that doesn’t quite cover our bed and we’ve used plenty of “toilets” that are just a hole in the ground. You could say we’ve been out of our comfort zone.
“We fear that if we admit we’re struggling it may mean we’re not grateful.” –Leeana Tankersley
We’ve taught Kindergarten and made countless bowls of guacamole out of giant avocados and went swimming with a group of scantily clad pregnant women. We were invited to a 30th birthday party (and asked to bless the food at said party), assisted with school registration, witnessed a presidential election and squeezed over 20 people in to a women’s home in the slum where she was hosting a savings circle. We have a staff of five people who cook us two meals a day, wash our dishes, scrub our floors and change our sheets. We’ve swung in our hammock in the big shady yard and held babies for an impromptu semi-professional photo shoot. We’ve taught “gymming” classes and fallen in love with running again on these dusty roads. We’ve befriended the “jaja” (grandma) down the street and embraced my Ugandan name, Betty. We’ve spent lazy mornings drinking coffee reading the Word and books we pull off the giant bookshelf and evenings playing cards or board games. Our little community here has taught us so much about loving hard and service and living into your calling. You could say we’ve been pretty blessed.
We’ve taken time for soul care and had many honest conversations about our marriage and how we can best communicate with each other and love well. Through our individual and shared struggles we’ve learned how the other person needs us to respond, how we naturally respond and how to reconcile that difference (thanks to our leader Aaron for those wise words!)
“Being in over our heads has made us reach up to God, and like the sides of a triangle, as we move upward we can’t help but draw closer together.” –From Reckless Faith by Beth Guckenberger
We admit that our experience was harder than we expected, or at least different than we expected. But we are still so grateful. Our God is a God of redemption and He’s clearly moving in us here. The more that we give up control, agree to hold the things of this life with a “grip of grace,” choose to enter in, and learn the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29, MSG), the closer God draws near to us and reveals little glimpses of His glory.
This is our prayer for how we want to live, in Uganda and beyond:
Be present. Live in the moment. Enter into the awkwardness. Engage with people. Be unselfish with our time. Learn people’s stories. Seek God’s voice. Embrace the silence. Prioritize what matters. Let go of small things. Take the focus off of productivity. Choose joy.