Tuesday, December 30, 2014

OMG! My first world problems...

  
I am dating this post because sometimes when I write and when it actually post (do  to crazy wifi) is two totally different times! 

So, I am writing this 12/29/14 - on Monday night and some on 12/30/14 Tuesday night! I am ahead of my people in Louisiana by 9 hrs or 8 hrs -  well I don't quite know I am still confused and disoriented by the smell of BO. 

First, let me start off - I re read my first post and let me apologize for all my misspellings and bad grammar! If my former English teacher is reading this - I am just writing from my heart and skipping the grammar while in Africa! Lol! Plus my iPad isn't working for some reason so I am blogging from my iPhone (and that is getting a little hard!) 

But, everyone back home who have commented or sent me messages - thank you! I will just keep pecking away at my little keyboard on my phone - just thumbing away all for y'all! 

So, I have arrived tonight in entebbe, Uganda! Entebbe is where the international airport for Uganda is. I really can't quite believe I have made it and I don't think it has set in just yet - I AM IN AFRICA - people!!! Africa!! There are like 2 white people in this hotel right now - me and my friend!! I know how you minorities feel - I know how ya feel now! Everyone is looking at me - with these really serious eyes - like I am an ailen and from another planet! Which I am from a mosquito biting, hot as heck bayou town too - which is a lot like what I am experiencing right now!! But, then it dawned on me - "Vera every person in this building looks almost exactly alike - dark skin, bright white teeth, dark hair, black eyes - and then there is me - with my big blue ailen looking eyes - I guess so they looking!" 

So when I write - of course I will be serious sometimes but I got some first world problems and right now the only way for me to get through it is to 1. Laugh at myself and add a little humor 2. Pray, pray and pray!! 3. Just be real - I am not making the next few paragraphs up!! After, these post if you are still interested in a possible trip to Africa - message me! Lol! 

So back to my arrival and tonight's sleeping conditions! Ok. Well we arrived in the airport very late, so our taxi driver got us straight to the hotel and then we were in our rooms in no time. Also, I might add - the Uganda healthcare workers are standing at every gate - checking for Ebola and getting temperatures (FYI - Ebola is on the other side of Africa - not any where close to here!!) Now mind you - I had just left a first world country (the Netherlands) and it was freezing there and I arrived in a third world country on the equator! I am a southern girl, so I was bundled up bc I can't take the cold to save my life and the next thing you know I am walking into an airport with NO AC!!! Plus I was already nervous and anxious and then I began to sweat! And I felt myself getting hotter and hotter! So I took off my jacket, took my belt off, and was about to take the scarf off and next thing you knew the healthcare worker was taking my temperature - I thought to myself "Vera if you don't stop sweating you will break out in a fever and you will be contained at the entebbe airport and have to wave goodbye to your friends and everyone will see you on the news!" Ahhh then I started sweating more and then I saw bugs and then I couldn't stop itching!! It was a hot mess for me and thankfully y'all prayers are working and I had no fever!! 

Ok back to the orginial point of the post - sorry a little ADD right now - so many experiences! So, we are spending the night at the central inn in entebbe, Uganda before we head out tomorrow! The center inn was recommended to us by a friend who has previously stayed here and stated it was really nice! So, here is what the outside of the hotel looks like! This is very nice for Uganda standards. 
But, I told ya I have a few first world problems. Currently, I am typing while I lay in a mosquito net all around me with small little bugs flying above my head!! Here are the pictures to prove it bc I knew you wouldn't believe me!! 


Our rooms were nice for given some of the living conditions in this part of the world! But, the bugs were still there! 

So, naturally because of the bugs above me - I can't fall asleep! And then I start thinking and thinking - and praying and praying. Then I have the thought - "I miss the pleasures of America already!!" Did I mention that I am sticky, itching like I have the chicken pox, and I have no ac for the next two weeks! And lots of bugs! I mean I am embarrassed to say I miss America already! And haunte that I am so dependent on the American pleasures - that we have some how convinced ourseleves it is all necessary (and I am not referring to AC - that is necessary in louisiana!) Just to actually have working wifi for longer than 3 minutes, cell phone service, and direct connection to anyone and everyone whenever you want!! That is such a luxury - I am feeling that already and I haven't even been here for 24 hrs (lawd help me!!) I just wish I could pack up some of those teenagers in America and place them in this country for two weeks! They would have a whole new perspective! Hey - wouldn't this be a good idea - create a summer camp - where it would be boot camp Africa for spoiled American teens! (Ok that is another post!) 

(They would have to use phones like this! Lol! I had to buy this Nokia today to make international phone calls when I leave the place I am staying at and travel into deeper villages in Africa and don't have wifi!) Let's all take a moment us spoiled Americans - when is the last time you used a Nokia?! I must confess I had a red Nokia back in 2001 my freshmen year of college!! Y'all we are blessed with technology!! I asked if they had apple phones around - the sales man said yes but definitely none in his store! Maybe in the larger capital city - Kampala! But, I didn't see any in jinga today! 

 What I am really thinking about tonight as my mind races and I go from praying to thinking to crying and so on...is my children - god I miss them so much and it's only been 5 days that I have been gone! It seems like a lifetime people! But, the heart of the matter is what god laid on my heart as I was complaining in my head about my sleeping conditions! My spoiled American children are so blessed. I can't wait until they can really, really understand that. They will each lay in a comfortable bed tonight, get good night kisses and hugs from their awesome dad, have taken a bath in clean water, dressed in nice fresh pjs, and sleep with a parent just right down the hall (or maybe even in the same bed - since mommy is gone!) as I am thinking this god whispers to me - WHAT WILL TONIGHT BE LIKE FOR THE ORPHAN? 


I thought - "God I can't even imagine how scary that must be." To rest where ever you fall, on dirt floor possibly, dirty clothes, no parent around to comfort them or give them love, what if they are sick or hungry, and for heaven sakes they are in complete darkness because they have no electricity! And I miss wifi?!? Oh heaven I need to be here. This is just where I need to be. In my mosquito net, sticky, itchy, with no AC self! That's just what I need! 

Always remember...what you are complaining about tonight...someone is praying for. Tonight I was complaining about my sleeping quarters and tonight the orphan is praying for just a bed to sleep in. 

Thanks for coming along this journey with me! Hope I made you laugh a little! But, in all seriousness - God is going to do a great work this trip and I am really just a vessel for him. 

Tomorrow 12/30 I take a 3 hr ride to Jinga and will be there the rest of the week!! We have some exciting work in store and I just can't wait to share! 

Love y'all! 
Vera 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The pit stop to Amsterdam + my top 10 I have learned while being here...


Hey guys-

So, we landed in Amsterdam yesterday morning and it has been a world wind of fun already!! This was a planned stop when we started planning this trip many moons ago! My friend Lacey, who I am traveling with had never been to Europe before, so knowing that I told her it was a must stop! Mike our friend and (aka body guard) was game for it too! You see in order to get to Africa you typically pass through a European airport - so this time we were passing through Amsterdam and I checked to see if the cost of the flights would change any if we stayed for a few days - and it didn't at all!! So it was a must book for us! 
(This is me flying from New York to Amsterdam...the spells of bad B.O. Over took the plane and I just couldn't handle it! So I used the eye mask the airline passed out - as a nose cover! Clever right?! Well desperate times call for desperate measures! Please excuse the puff eyes I have in this picture - it's horrible but lack of sleep will do that!) 

Any way - back to Amsterdam! I like to think of Amsterdam as the New Orleans of Europe!! Lots of craziness going on here, but still it's a beautiful city and lots of things to do (even if you decide to skip the red light district and so called "coffeeshops"!)

For your humor here is my top 10 things I have learned while in Amsterdam!! 

1. You will see a "coffee shop" on every block...literally!!! Please remember this - it's not a coffee shop like us Americans would think!! Yesterday as I was about to open the door to one of these to purchase a real cup of coffee and noticed an odd sign that read "no hard drugs in here!" I was confused and noticed by looking Into the Windows it was indeed a place to smoke pot! I knew pot was legal in Amsterdam but didn't know that the shops were called "coffee shops"! 

2. Amsterdam has some amazing museums - two of them I got to visit - the Anne frank museum (which add that to your bucket list - it's a must!!) and the van gogh museum! I highly suggest, but just purchase tickets in advance because the lines are longing that a ride in Disney world and you can literally wait all day! We pre-purchased them before the trip and didn't have to wait in line at all!! So, just like they have amazing museums they have some very odd ones - and the therapist in me is interested in the people who may visit these! So here are a few odds ones - The Torture museum (yes I wrote that correctly - this is on the history of torture!), next odd one was The Prostitution museum (yes this career path is legal in Amsterdam and they think it's worthy of a museum), and another interesting one The purse and handbag museum (while I love a good purse or handbag - spending the day in a museum touring them?!  I don't think so!) . So we pasted these up, but should you ever be interested in those above museums they are in Amsterdam! 


3. Amsterdam has got to be the world capital of bicycles!!! Everyone rides bikes! There are bikes, bikes, and more bikes! Parking garages for bikes!! More bikes than I think people!! It's the only place I have been to that it's cool for a guy to ride what we call in the states a "grandma bike with a large basket attached!" My husband would never be caught riding these in the states, but in the Netherlands it's completely normal! 

4. They have waffles along with every kind of topping at every corner also!! They are a must and one of the most delicious things I have ever tested!! I 
seriously couldn't stop eating them! 


5. Watch where you are walking because motorist will run you over! Seriously! Whether it's a bike, motorbike, or car - move out the way because they are speeding by on those brick roads! Also, they have lots of electric vehicles and vehicles that are actually smaller than this one! Don't every expect to see a pick up truck in Amsterdam! It's not like in Louisiana where guys drive big trucks - no in Amsterdam they ride bikes with baskets! 
(This one is charging up!!) 

6. We never saw a policeman! It is either really safe or they let the people run wild! Seriously - I am traveling with my friend mike who is an investigator / officer in the states and he was amazed by this! You never see them! In a city of thousands upon thousands - they are no where around! By the way, we felt extremely safe in the Netherlands!! 

7. The bathroom situation is ever interesting! If you are out and about in the city you either have to pay to use a public bathroom (for example - if you are in a shopping center and need to use the bathroom you have to pay .50 euros and some 1 euro - which is between .80 cents to $1.20 in US dollars!) Also, they have public restrooms in the middle of busy intersections for guys to use - basically it's a john - in the middle of the city and yes everyone could see! So, that's the free option - if you don't want to pay! 

8. No advertisements / media blasting! In America you just can't escape the media! Whether it's television blasting in airports across the United States or huge billboards along side busy interstates - you just don't see those kinds of things in  the Netherlands! And that's a breathe of fresh air! 

9. In the dead of winter in The Netherlands you can never (I repeat never) have too much clothes on!! Layer, layer and then layer some more! I looked about 20 lbs over weight in each photo , but seriously I was still cold! When it's rainy, snowy and windy - it's nice to have 6 layers! 

10. All the cultures in one place mixed together is quite amazing!! When I am in Europe - I can't quite soak up enough of it!!! I love that I can stand in line at Starbucks and speak to a sweet lady from the United States, then order dinner at a restaurant and speak to a woman who is from Bali, and then have a taxi cab driver from Camaroon, Africa! Seriously, that makes life so interesting!! When you from a city like Thibodaux, Louisiana where people are born and died there and never leave - experiencing this is amazing and it just never gets old to me - no matter how much I travel!! I love how creative God was with this beautiful world he created and I love all the diversity in it! 

...and one more for kicks! Amsterdam radio loves to play old school American music!! It's nothing to hear Keith sweat or a little old school country like shawina twane! 

 
Well that's the recap of Amsterdam! It was a blast, but now on to our work in Uganda! I'll be flying all of Monday, dec 29th- 8 hrs approximately! But, can't wait to share our next part of the adventure! I miss my kiddos and family and coworkers / employees already! I can't quite believe I will be gone from the states for 17 days (well minus a few now!)
(I am typing this as I fly to Uganda - I don't have wifi right now, but once I do - it will post!) 

Thank you all for your support, prayers and love! I can't wait to share these experiences with you! I know we are not all called to serving in Africa, but your prayers and support is just as much a ministry. 

"Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27 
Scripture our non-profit - refuge 127 was based off.

(Eating Belgium chocolate covered strawberries in Holland!) 

Love you guys! 
Vera 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Let the journey begin...

This post is an emotional one for me (so bare with me!)....I can't quite believe I am sitting in New York airport waiting to board my international flight into Amsterdam and then to Uganda, Africa! As I sit here and reflect what has lead up into this point....I am truly humbled....humbled by God's goodness and mercies that he would allow me to be apart of something that is beyond bigger than me.

If you are reading by blog for the first time and want a little back ground info on how all this got started...check out Refuge 127 website and the work that we are doing in Uganda, Africa. But, before Africa was ever placed on my sister in laws heart my years ago...we started in our community with a little idea...with a little fundrasier...and never dreamed nearly 8 years later we would be in this place! Here are a few articles that were printed over the holiday season about Refuge 127 and how it all started! Check them out! One is  here (thanks to the Daily Comet for featuring us!) and the other article is here (The Houma Times - thanks to them too!) .

So here are a few details about the journey we are about to take...We have 15 people traveling up to Uganda, Africa all from the Houma-Thibodaux area and they begin their journey Dec. 31st! Me, Lacey Melancon, and Mike Garner all serve on the Refuge 127 board and have decided to leave 5 days early in order to travel to a few other places in Uganda, Africa that we have been desiring to see and explore. Thanks to soical media we have been able to connect with some missionaries who are living and working in Uganda and we are meeting up with them before we meet up with the rest of the group! Now that is the beautiful side of social media! Connecting like minds for the same purpose  - to serve the orphan, the needy, the hurting, and the lost!

We are traveling to the city of Jinja, Uganda first! Last year, I made a blog post about Katie Davis and the book I was reading at the time about what she was doing in Jinja, Uganda....well, well a year later I will be in that exact city! We will be staying at the Arise Africa Guest House (check out Arise Africa - they are doing mighty things in Africa and its a wonderful organization!) During our time in Jinja we will be visiting with a family who recently moved to Jinja, Uganda from the United States to become full time missionaries! They are part of a non-profit organization called Heart4Uganda . We are so excited to meet Vicki and here family and learn about their everyday life now in Uganda and the wonderful work they are doing for Heart4Uganda!

(Many years ago we started talking to our kids about helping others less fortunate than us...here is a picture of jacques making a special piggy bank for the orphans of Uganda about 3 or so years ago!)


Here is a map of Uganda


I am about to head out from New York, so I have to close this post out but I will be posting as much as possible! Stay tuned and keep us in your prayers!




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