Tasty Times in Chicagoland

I was recently fortunate enough to take a quick 12-day trip to visit Nick in Evanston, IL over his spring break from school. We had a lot of fun relaxing and exploring Evanston/Chicago, but what sticks out most was… the food! I really love all the fresh food available in Uganda, but it was such a treat to eat food that I sometimes crave while away and that I don’t have access to in Kasese. So from an aspiring foodie, this post is a bit about what we did during the trip and a lot about what we ate. Bon Appétit!
(Disclaimer: I don’t always eat this unhealthily!)

 

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti​

 

Homecoming

After a full day of travel, I landed in Chicago mid-day and napped away the rest of the afternoon. But when I awoke – voilà! A delicious homemade fettucine alfredo a la Chef Nick. And for dessert, fancy Neuhaus chocolate from my connection at the Brussels airport where I reminisced about my study abroad days there.

Pho Fun
After two full days of conducting phone interviews for my fellowship program, we finally got out of the apartment and did some typical “welcome back to America” activities – a trip to Target and a movie! But on our way, we stopped at the best pho restaurant in Chicago – Tank Noodles. Yum! I really missed soup; it’s way too hot in Uganda to ever crave it.

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“Eataly is Italy”
That weekend, we did a little exploring in the area and saw the Baha’i Temple outside Evanston, a Puerto Rican neighborhood & café near Division Street (Paseo Boricua), and Humboldt Park. But the last and best stop: Eataly. Eataly is a  huge, two-floored gourmet grocery store that also has several embedded restaurants specializing in wine, pizza, seafood, etc. The only US locations are in the US & Chicago (and DC soon!) – I’d highly recommend checking one out if you’re in those areas. I could have gotten happily lost in there forever. But after an hour of googly eyes, we emerged with ingredients to make more food than we really needed. So we spent Sunday evening whipping up a fantastic meal: cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, homemade butternut squash ravioli with a browned butter sage sauce; a cheese, olive, and roasted garlic plate with fresh bread; and white wine. One of the prouder moments of our cooking endeavors! Food coma and movie night followed.

Fun fact: Remember Nick and I visited a Baha’i Temple in Kampala? We wanted to stop at this one in Evanston because there are only 7 of them  in the world at the moment. The only in North America and Africa are in Evanston, Il (right) & Kampala, Uganda (left).

Farmhouse
Monday evening we went out to dinner at a local farm-to-table restaurant in Evanston with a seasonal menu that I had been wanting to try since last being there – Farmhouse. After indecisively studying the menu for a little too long, we ordered “Amish” roasted chicken with rosemary dumplings and caramelized carrots/turnips and cider-brined pork with an heirloom bean salad. Wow! For a sweet ending: pear sorbet. Did I mention their cocktail and local beer menu was amazing? It sort of reminded me of my favorite restaurant in DC – Founding Farmers.  Will certainly be going there again!

Cabin Cooking
During my second week there, we drove about 3 hours southeast to a small town in Indiana to stay at a lovely cabin overlooking the Wabash River. Fishing for Nick and hot tub and a book for me! Was a very relaxing two-night getaway. While there we grilled beef kebabs and marinated chicken. For lunch one day, Nick patiently roasted hot dogs over a bonfire. And what’s a fire without s’mores? On the drive back to Evanston we were able to grab coffee with a friend of mine from the area – shout out to Marni!

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Lunch Dates
As my trip was wrapping up, I spent a bit of time running errands, making time for a few quicker lunches around Evanston… one at Todoroki (Japanese/Hiabachi) and the other at Joy Yee’s Noodles (Pan-Asian). Both scrumptious. Not pictured here is Nick’s gigantic plate of sushi… he finished all of it. The only non-local food in Kasese is Indian, so this really hit the spot.

Hopleaf
We ventured into Chicago one last time for dinner at Hopleaf, a Belgian bar/restaurant. There, we ordered some typical Belgian dishes including moules frite (mussels and french fries) and a Flemish beef stew. The food was deliciously rich and the beer perfection. I’m pretty sure that Kwak is my new favorite beer (pictured in the funny glass below). Topping off the evening, we met some really good friends from DC out at a bar later on.

Last Dinner in US for a few months…
… homemade parmesan-crusted sea scallops. As a seafood junkie, this was my request. Lobster tail on sale too? Yes, please. Between all the starchy foods in Uganda – cassava, “sweet potato,” yam, “irish potato,” and pumpkin – none of them taste like what we call sweet potato in the US, hence the random side dish here. And as an ever-proud Vermonster, Ben & Jerry’s released these new “core” flavors since I’ve been away. Had to try!

Goodbye for Now
So after 12 full days, it was time for me to head back to Uganda. On the way to the airport, we stopped for some Chicago-style deep dish pizza because neither of us had ever tried it before. Essentially, cheese pie! Heaven.

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The scary part? I didn’t even plan to write a blog featuring food, this is just how many pictures I take of food on a normal basis. Ha! Anyways, I’m back home in Kasese now (enjoying my daily rice and beans) and have just under four months left in my fellowship. I’ll have a bit of down time in April but almost all of the weekends in May are be busy with travels: my housemate/co-fellow’s traditional introduction ceremony to his fiancé in Masaka, his wedding in Kampala, our Global Health Corps Quarter 3 Retreat in Kampala, and a weekend trip to Murchison Falls, the biggest game park in Uganda (where I’ll finally see giraffe!). So I’ll be keeping busy over here. But this brief trip home certainly got me excited for post-fellowship plans to move to Evanston and re-unite with everyone in the US. I’ll leave you with this…

I am not a glutton, I’m an explorer of food. – Erma Bombeck

#SoTheWorldMayHear

“So the World May Hear” is the mission for the Starkey Hearing Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Minnesota-based Starkey hearing aids company, the largest hearing aids manufacturer in the US. Each year, their Foundation staff, including Starkey CEO & his wife, travel 70% of the time (that’s ~250 days!) to deliver ~100,000 free hearing aids annually across five continents. This past weekend, thanks to a partnership with Global Health Corps (GHC), I was able to volunteer at a 2-day mission in Gulu, northern Uganda, where we distributed 400+ hearing aids. Since the Foundation doesn’t employ staff in the countries they work in, they rely on local volunteers to assist in everything from set-up, to ear cleaning, to counseling, and everything in between.

On Sunday, March 9th, sixteen GHC Ugandan-based fellows/alumni set off early morning from Kampala for a six hour journey north to Gulu; this was my first time in the North of the country. On the map below, you can see the route we took, which passes right by the biggest safari park in Uganda, Murchison Falls. That evening, we had a brief training prepping us for the next day and were awake bright and early Monday to get started…

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When we arrived at the venue, there was already a crowd waiting that had been there since 2AM! Over the course of the first day, 211 people cleared through each of the stations: registration, ear screening/cleaning, fitting, counseling, battery distribution, and final fit. Though I was assigned to the data entry team and spent some of the day behind a computer entering patient information, I was able to observe and participate in some of the other stations as well. While entering data, I saw birthdays ranging from the 1920’s-2010’s, mild to profound hearing loss, and various causes for loss including illness (malaria, meningitis), drugs (quinine), trauma (bomb blasts), increased age, or just from birth.

The most incredible part of the day was watching people, both young and old, hear for the very first time in their life. Emotions ranged from shy to scared to happy, with a spark lighting in each of their faces. Many of the patients, never having heard before, had not developed speech.  Though translators were used extensively at all stations (usually for guardians), it was amazing how little verbal communication was needed to help find the right power level for each person’s hearing aid, just based on facial expressions and hand gestures. A child hearing their mother say their name for the first time. A woman excitedly exclaiming that now she wouldn’t be fired because of her hearing loss. A smiling boy bopping his head to music for the first time. There were so many of these powerful moments.

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On the second day, about 200 additional patients were treated, joined by several NFL players and Forest Whitaker, who were there in partnership with Pros For Africa and Hope North, respectively. Making the weekend even more meaningful, the distribution took place at St. Monica’s Tailoring Center, run by Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. Sister Rosemary won the 2007 CNN Hero of the Year Award for her 30 years of work helping victims of the Sudanese Civil War and those seeking refuge from Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony, and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Sister Rosemary has plans to travel to the US again this year where she will receive a UN Woman of the Year award. Newly debuted, she stars in documentary “Sewing Hope,” narrated by Forest Whitaker, which depicts the horror she lived through caused by the LRA and her work to restore hope and dignity to those affected.  Below are a few shots of her and the children at the school who were thoroughly excited by all the new faces around.

*Side note: Forest Whitaker won an Academy Award for Best Actor in his role as Idi Amin (ex-Ugandan dictator) in the 2006 movie, The Last King of Scotland. He supports Hope North, a vocational center and school in northern Uganda for orphans and former child soldiers of the civil war.*

As if this was not enough, I even had the opportunity to visit Invisible Children’s offices, a nonprofit known for their work in advocacy and mobilization against the LRA. You’ve probably heard of their short film “Kony 2012,” which went viral and sparked controversy just over two years ago. We also popped by their handbag workshop, Mend, which employs and provides personal development to 22 seamstresses directly affected by LRA conflict. Here’s a short video about Grace, one of the seamstresses that I met, describing her story and how IC has made a difference in her life. Check out their handmade products here on the online shop - they’re beautiful! Big shout out to my friend, Erin, who used to work for IC and arranged the visits.

After two full days of work, we arrived back in Kampala at 3:00AM on Wednesday morning. It was such an inspirational few days and an excellent reminder to be thankful… thankful for what you have and thankful for amazing people and organizations improving lives in their communities. When working in international development, having an opportunity to witness positive impact that you work for and hope is being made, can sometimes be rare. But what I saw in Gulu was proof that with dedication and passion, you can make a real difference in lives… and so many people are already doing just that. 

Even though there is so much more work to do, as a global community…

“Today I am reminded that there is good in the world.” Kobi Yamada

GHC Fellows, Alumni & Staff

GHC Fellows, Alumni & Staff

Little Things

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault 

This post is not about an exciting trip or deep revelation. It’s about a few of the everyday moments, places, people and things that bring a smile to my face and make me feel at home in this special place I call home. In no particular order…

Flowers - So many stunning colors and shapes everywhere.

Naps - Anytime, any place. Tired after a big lunch? No problem!

Children - Being an Auntie to my coworkers’ children and watching them grow up so fast.

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“Chicken Friday” - A beloved weekly gathering of friends old and new to devour roasted chicken and chips from our favorite vendor, Bogere.

Animals - Everywhere, all the time. The baby goats are my favorite.

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Jambo! Cafe Sipping tea and munching on cinnamon rolls with Alice and Eliza.

Office Antics - Work hard, play hard, eat hard.

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Letters - Rediscovering the lost art of letter writing. “To write is human, to receive a letter: Devine!” Susan Lendroth

(If you want a postcard from Uganda, send a little note my way and I’ll respond. My address is on the right column!)

Mountains of the Moon

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

I know I have briefly mentioned these mountains several times before in my posts, but consider this a well-deserved tribute to their history and mystery…

Around AD 150, a Greco-Roman  geographer known as Ptolemy christened a snow-capped faraway range in East Africa as “Lunae Montes,” the mountains of the moon. In 1889, the British explorer Henry Stanley (famous for his search for David Livingstone) had the first modern sighting of the range and dubbed it as “Ruwenzori,” meaning “rain maker” or “cloud king.” The range, shared by DRC and Uganda, was inhabited by the Konjo and Amba tribes who, in the 1950s, joined together creating the Rwenzuru secessionist movement from the nearby Toro Kingdom (and from my understanding, an oppressive force). The range’s  name was finally changed to Rwenzori in the 1980s, aligning more closely with the local language, which was soon followed by an end to the insurgency after a settlement was negotiated. The Rwenzuru Kindgom was eventually acknowledged by the national government in 2008.

Named as a World Heritage Site in 1994, the Rwenzori Mountains are now a mountaineering tourist destination with the highest point, Margerita, peaking at 5,109m/16,763ft above sea level – the 4th highest peak in Africa. Interestingly, the Rwenzori mountains claim 6 spots in the top 10 peaks of Africa. They still remain home to many Bakonzo villages sprinkled throughout the 120km-long and 65km-wide range who protect dearly the mountains as their own.

Often hidden by mist, the mountains contain snowy peaks, glaciers, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and unusual flora dispersed throughout its five distinguishable vegetation zones: grassland, montane forest, bamboo forest, tree heath, and Afro-alpine moorland (in order of lowest to highest). Over 217 species of birds, 15 of butterflies, and 70 of mammals claim this land as home, including blue monkeys, forest hogs, elephants, and leopards. But according to local lore, these diverse and sometimes endangered species aren’t the only spirits inhabiting the mountains… I’ve been informed on several occasions that God(s) live in the mountains and to avoid whistling as it may disturb them or drinking because it is disrespectful. This only skims the surface on the legend and lore of the Rwenzori Mountains.

“There comes a moment, when you get lost in the woods, when the woods begin to feel like home.” Jeffrey Eugenides

These days, the foothills to the pristine Rwenzori Mountains are what I call home. Often taking for granted the mystically serene backdrop they set on my daily stroll to work, I intend to spend more time in the mountains, embracing them for their beauty. Last weekend, a group of us set out on a morning hike for a few hours. The first half was a moderately challenging incline up past a river, by some homes, and through several areas that could barely be referred to as “paths.” With rain the night before, the descent down was spent mostly on hands and knees inching/slipping down backwards! But with the help of some locals along the way pointing us in the right direction, we successfully completed a loop in about 3 hours. Below is a photo recap of the day. Hopefully this will be one of many Rwenzori hikes in the new year.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair.” Kahlil Gibran

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Panoramic of Rwenzori Mountains from hike with Nick in December.

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Panoramic of Rwenzori Mountains from hike with Nick in December.

Six Down, Six To Go

I’ve been living in Kasese for just over six months now, which means that I only have six months left here. As I write this, I realize that I’ve been posting blogs much less frequently than when I first arrived. And I don’t think that is because I have any less motivation to share my thoughts and experiences. But I think I have grown so accustomed to and familiar with my life here that newsworthy/exciting blog post ideas are harder to come by… which I think is both fitting yet unfortunate at the same time. It is great in the sense that I’m happy to have adjusted to living in this new country and culture. For the most part, I feel happy, safe, inspired, challenged, and surrounded by friends. But, I think that means I need to work that much harder at remembering that my time here is limited and to be thoughtful about appreciating and fully absorbing my remaining months here in every sense – work and play.

 “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

“Children think not of what is past, nor what is to come, but enjoy the present time, which few of us do.” Jean de La Bruyère

Quite conveniently, I recently had the opportunity to be mindful in thinking about this. During the second week of January, I attended Global Health Corp’s East Africa Mid-Year Retreat in Jinja. It is one of the highlights of GHC programming because it reunites all the fellows in the East African countries that GHC operates in – Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. The purpose of the retreat was to reconnect, reenergize, reflect, and set goals for the remainder of the fellowship. Similar to the Quarter 1 Retreat that I wrote about in October, there were lots of presentations, small group discussions, and activities – basically a professional summer camp in global health. Yes, please! So about 60 of us piled into some buses and made our way to Kingfisher Safari Resort, a charming getaway. Below are a few pictures and highlights of the five days to give you a small taste of the week…

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A lot was packed into those five days and even though I was exhausted by the end, I also felt ready to really get back to work after the holidays. Part of the beauty of living in Kasese is that there simply is not that much to do here. I swim, I cook, I hike, I read, I take weekend trips… but I also have more time to just be. As you may have noticed quotes slowly appearing in my blogs, I’ve started a (large) collection of my favorites with some of this new found time. As I enter this second half of my fellowship, here are just a few that I’ve found inspiration in…

“It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness.” Thomas Jefferson

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Mother Teresa

So in celebration of this halfway mark (and finally getting my work permit today), what better than to toast with a nice dose of albendazole, a de-worming drug, to ensure no critters are along for the ride. Until next time…

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Holidays in Uganda: 2,065 km, 14 days, 7 cities, 2 people, and one new year…

Since I last wrote, so much has happened that I find it hard to fit in one post. Apologies in advance for the length, but I am still going to try! Because I had already traveled to the US for my brother’s wedding earlier in the year, I had decided to spend my 2 week holiday off from work in Uganda. The best part is that Nick came to join me during his break from school. The few weeks leading up to the break after Thanksgiving were filled with lots of field work with ACODEV to wrap up projects for the year and a weekend trip southeast to a town called Ibanda where I was officially inducted into Kasese’s Rotaract Club (branch of Rotary International for professionals aged 18-30). And then I eagerly headed to Kampala to pick up Nick from the airport…

My admittedly overly-organized-self planned out lots of adventures around the country reaching the borders of DRC, Rwanda, and Kenya, which amazingly totaled 2,065 km/1,283 miles that Google estimates to be about 29 hours of driving. Phew! But as his first time in Africa and my first time at most of these spots, we were both grateful to have the opportunity to travel to so many new places together.

Kampala, Fort Portal, Kasese, Kabale/Lake Bunyoni, Mbarara, Jinja, Kapchorwa/Sipi Falls

Kampala, Fort Portal, Kasese, Kabale/Lake Bunyoni, Mbarara, Jinja, Kapchorwa/Sipi Falls

In an effort to battle Nick’s jetlag (9 hr time difference), we spent our first full day on a boda-boda (motorcycle) tour of Kampala visiting the Gaddafi National Mosque; Hindu Temple; Baha’i Temple (1 of 7 in world, surprisingly another is in IL near where Nick lives); the Buganda Kingdom Palace, including Idi Amin’s torture chambers; craft markets; and ending the day with a stop at my NGO’s Kampala office to say hello to some coworkers.

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Though there is so much to see in Kampala, I was eager to get out of the city and show Nick the parts of the country where I spend most of my time. So the next day we bused west and spent a night in Fort Portal before continuing to Kasese (see this older post to read more about Fort Portal). The highlights of this stop were staying in a lovely bed & breakfast with home cooked meals and having tea at Kyaninga Lodge whose tree house-esque architecture has breathtaking views of the Kyaninga Crater Lake. This is by far the nicest lodge I have yet to see in Uganda, and probably anywhere ever.

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Then we finally arrived at my home! We spent a few days relaxing, exploring my town, stopping by my office, swimming at a hotel, on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park & on the Kazinga Channel (finally saw lions!), eating local foods, visiting the market, and having an obligatory photo shoot at the equator. Since we were both battling some mild cases of upset stomach/Giardia (part of the experience, right?), the quieter days were very much welcomed.

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When Christmas Eve rolled around, we took public transportation (an experience in itself) about 6 hours south of where I live to the Rwandan border to stay near Kabale at Lake Bunyoni, “place of many little birds.” It is Africa’s 2nd deepest lake and free of schistosomiasis, making it safe to swim in, a rarity. After a tiring yet scenic journey, we arrived at our tent overlooking the lake fully furnished with a bed, warm blankets for the cold nights, and electricity. Fancy camping! We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas eating tasty food (including crawfish from the lake), canoeing, swimming, exploring nearby islands, playing Scrabble & chess, and just being together. On Christmas evening we enjoyed a bonfire by the lake and later on some refreshing rain from under the safety of our tent’s porch. On our way back to Kasese the next day, Nick was elated to finally try “ensenene,” fried grasshopper snacks, from a vendor outside our taxi. Let’s just say he enjoyed them more than I do!

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On our last day in Kasese, we hiked 2,100 ft. straight up into the Rwenzori Mountains (“mountains of the moon”) reaching Rucoochi Falls. For almost the entire trek up, we passed through our guide’s home village. In addition to paying the guides, the cost of the hike is directed towards development of the communities in these mountains. I’m continually amazed at how families farm on steep hillsides and carry water on their backs/heads up the mountains as we are panting up with light backpacks. But we were greeted with stunning views and many smiles and giggles after greeting the children with “Wabuchire,” meaning “Good Morning,” in Lukonzo.  Arriving back at the base camp after the five hour hike, a perfectly timed rain shower cooled us down.

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Our last big adventure was a 2 day, 1 night trip to the eastern parts of the country including Jinja, the source of the Nile River, and Kapchorwa, home to Sipi Falls. About halfway to Jinja, we stopped to take a 2 hour nature walk in Mabira Forest and learned about the native rain forest plants and animals, including monkey and green mamba snake spottings! After reaching Jinja, we stood at an overlook of the river where it was easy to spot the changes in water signifying water rising up from springs in the ground, the source of the longest river in the world (6,853 km). Later on, a speed boat trip into the Nile River/Lake Victoria provided an up-close peek where we could dip our toes into the water on a few man-made islands in the middle. Appropriately so, lunch included freshly smoked Nile tilapia and Nile beer (Ugandan favorite) on a river dock. And yes, that is a photo of us feeding each other fish eyeballs. I’m too stubborn to turn down a challenge, but it wasn’t so bad at all.

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We finished the day journeying even further east arriving in the dark at Sipi River Lodge near Mt. Elgon National Park (bordering Kenya). Since my friends and I usually travel backpacker-style staying in cheaper accommodations, I had decided to take the opportunity to try a higher-end lodge. Great decision! The set menus for dinner, breakfast, and lunch that were included in our “full board” stay were divine. Freshly baked breads, vegetables from their garden, and really gourmet recipes. In the morning light, we saw that our banda was directly situated on Sipi River with views of one of the falls. Such a peaceful escape. After enjoying a quiet morning, we spent two hours hiking to the falls and really appreciating our iPhones’ ability to take panoramic photos! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

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Though Nick’s flight back to the US was at 5am on Jan. 1st, we were still able to enjoy a delicious New Year’s Eve meal at Kampala’s #1 rated restaurant (according to TripAdvisor), Yujo. Miso soup, tempura, sushi, sautéed sea scallops, and chocolate sake cake! Yum. After toasting champagne to 2014, I less-than-enthusiastically returned Nick to the airport for his 24 hour journey to ice-cold Chicago. Though, sad to say farewell, I can’t think of a better way to have spent the holidays. With no major travel mishaps, lucky discoveries along the way, and finally introducing Nick to my home and community, it is a trip we will remember for many years to come (especially considering we snapped 1,750 photos!).

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

I can’t end without saying thank you to everyone for their holidays wishes, cards and packages! Though it was bittersweet to be away from family and friends from home during the holidays, it’s that much more special to receive a small surprise in the mail or catch each other on Skype/e-mail for just a few moments. I think of you all so often and can now officially say… I’ll see you later this year! I hope that 2014 brings new beginnings and a renewed sense of life, laughter, and love for everyone. Happy New Year!

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” HH the 14th Dalai Lama

Friendsgiving Feasts

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, probably because it revolves around being with family, friends, and food. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My new Global Health Corps family. The opportunity to live, learn, and work abroad. A welcoming community teaching me their language and culture. Wonderful new friends to explore a new country with. A hometown settled in the beautiful Rwenzori mountains. A new sister and brother-in law. My first niece/nephew on the way (did I mention my sister is pregnant!!). My health. And most importantly, a supportive family, boyfriend, and friends back home who not only understand, but are happy for me, even though I have left for a year.

Some of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving are usually waking up early to watch the Macy’s Day Parade and smelling the turkey in the oven; helping my mom stir the gravy; sharing a big meal with family and friends; the plethora of desserts; getting sleepy and watching a holiday movie together; and eating leftover turkey sandwiches for days. This year was the third time I have been out of the country for Thanksgiving and away from those that I’m closest to and traditions I’ve grown up with. But even when abroad, I’ve found that friends (American or otherwise) always join together as a pseudo-family to cook a feast at our homes away from home (I thought I was so clever cooking brussels sprouts when I was living in Brussels). This year was no different…

On the actual day of Thanksgiving, my favorite (and only) little café in town, Jambo, created a feast for all the expats around. Though it is a cooperative run by a group of six Ugandan women, a British woman has taught them how to prepare “Western dishes,” like vegetable fajitas and cinnamon rolls, that are quite a hit. On Thanksgiving, they served: tomato soup & rolls, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potato, peas, stuffing, chicken, pumpkin pie, and vanilla ice cream. Though nothing tasted exactly like my mom’s cooking, it was all homemade and all delicious!

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Then, the following Saturday, my house hosted a potluck lunch for several of our friends. There were only 3 Americans in total (including myself), but everyone got in the holiday spirit and cooked something different to share. Our menu was: garlic mashed potatoes & gravy, mac & cheese, pasta salad, cassava cheese, an Indian chick pea dish, roasted chicken, banana bread, and s’mores! A big thanks to some kind family and friends for sending us a few critical ingredients like velveeta, marshmallows, and gravy mix. Om nom nom…

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If you’re wondering why we didn’t eat turkey… they’re all huge here. Wouldn’t exactly fit in our toaster oven like the chicken did!

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And since I’m on the topic of food, I’ll leave you with this tasty tidbit. It’s grasshopper season in Kasese…