To feel or not to feel, that is the question

My body has taken a toll from all the traveling combined with emotional stress of living simultaneously in different worlds. Precious few can imagine what it is like to be so many hours from a toilet or telephone in a place where people are so poor that the torn clothes that drape over their bony structures continue on with the most possible dignity and while touring gardens which are literally the lifeline between life and death when suddenly the smartphone attached to my waist blares to life as if to awaken me from one story to another. The brash ‘robo-caller’ from Verizon Wireless pierced my consciousness to remind me that my data usage is over quota!!!

Somehow astonished at the interruption, another part of me instinctively clicks into another realm poised to argue with them that my phone settings are ‘off’ for data in another tone of voice… who is this other woman? which one is me? Clearly, a ‘mzungo’ (slang term for white person) as crazy/or more crazy as any who’d come before?

The irony is all around and inside of me. Who do I really think I am to bridge these foreign realities? On one hand my parents are increasingly anxious about my travels and my children and soon to be grandchild are living in yet another reality with plenty of drama of their own flavor. Today was the first day since I’ve been back (4 days) that I was able to take on some of my ‘first world’ tasks. Surely I paid my rent and health insurance immediately upon return, but the fortitude to return to the Verizon wireless saga now that I know that they are charging me for $600 in data usage which I didn’t actually use, I found myself on the phone for the usual quota of several hours to get a supervisor, who still has yet to return my call… but as I spoke to this indignant mock supervisor who told me that she has qualification to become a supervisor… but who could only argue with me, all I could think about was that moment and place in time in Northern Uganda when they pierced my consciousness as the worlds collided in real time.

Here I am wanting to scream at this girl, do you have any idea what it is to be 10 hours from the middle of no where and to squabble about ‘data usage’ while people are struggling to stay alive right before your eyes???!! Am I pretentiously judging this girl who is only doing her job? Is there a way to live in so many worlds at one time? I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. Bridging cultures is usually easy for me, it is what I do, but for some reason, my last two trips felt more like tectonic plates rubbing together toward a gigantic earthquake-like collision that is happening in my body. A war of the worlds waged in the most familiar, yet unfamiliar place. 

Our technology is so advanced that we can be seamless in our communication, people can call me on my same US phone number and it will ring in the most remote locations. Yet, our physical worlds are so very very far apart. The $600 of data usage accrued in that few days, even mistakenly, would be enough to provide food and water to so many children… or even shoes or a clean shirt or underwear, can you imagine? And somehow, I feel so impotent to do anything useful except to grow in my own awareness of the massive gaps within the fabric of humanity.

To feel the plight of others wherever they are in the world can be overwhelming, to feel my own place in this extraordinarily diverse journey is essential. Soon I’ll be leaving again for Nepal and I have much less experience with South Asian culture than of Africa where I’ve worked many times. How will I cope?/adapt? Will my body feel better by that time? Can I get my work done between now and then with Tony coming during my transition time, another reality collision. 

Urghhh… more questions for another day. No pictures in this post, the images are too closely intertwined to make sense… almost like the DNA of humanity weaving its way around itself as I stand in the middle and observe the strands… yet suddenly they crash in upon one another through me and then out once again… maybe more like a figure 8???

Love,

Donna

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Waters of life

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I really am a water girl at heart. Born at the moment of full Leo moon in the sign of Aquarius the water bearer, my ever-flowing destiny has now brought me to the two greatest rivers on our planet. Most recently, I’ve been introduced to the River Nile. Which is so mighty and vast and feels like it is holding the history of humanity within its banks. It may seem strange, but even as I approached the Nile for the first time, I noticed the tall reeds that look so much like early childhood Bible drawings.. it was almost like you could see the basket with Baby Moses floating along. The energy of the Nile feels historic, its hard to explain, but it is a serious river, full of intrigue and cultural diversity. The majestic beauty and powerful force are to be reckoned with. For me, the tension felt palpable, almost as if thousands of years of conflict are churning within his waves. The Nile has a very strong male energy in fact, now that I am reflecting and writing these words.

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The Amazon, on the other hand, is a female energy river. Equally amazing and majestic, to me, the Amazon opens my heart and welcomes me into her arms, as if to call me to home. She seems full of potential energy, that which is yet to occur, the mystery as yet to unfold. My soon to be bestselling Ecomasters series leads the young leaders from all around the world to a secret island in the Amazon for training. I am having trouble accessing my Amazon photos for this post, but will add them later during the weekend.

It strikes me that the two largest rivers in the world each would hold the energy of a different gender… it makes sense when you think about it, don’t you think? When I googled associations between the Nile and Amazon while writing this post, I found that scientists are presently squabling about which is actually the longest? Originally thought that the Nile was the worlds largest River, scientists in Brazil are now claiming that the Amazon is first.. either way they are extremely close in magnitude. Indeed, all that we are and all that we do is of water, our planet is more than 70% water and our bodies are as well and it takes both male and female components for creation to manifest. I am not sure where this train of thought is going, but it does feel quite significant. Perhaps the history of the Nile is helping to lead us around the circle to the unfolding her-story of the Amazon as we enter into the Age of Aquarius?

More to come on this…

Love,
Donna

Living like a lion

It’s the first time I’ve seen a lion in the wild. Perched on the top of his hill he sat, watching people from vehicles below stretching to take a picture of him.

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It seems to me that the most effective leaders are able to recharge their own batteries, even while others are watching, to take action at the right time for the right reason. I don’t know too much about animal behavior in the wild, to the extent that the lion empowers other animals, or how much they really ‘like’ him. Surely, as we all know some animals prey on others… but I’ve not heard much about how they support one another, other than natural roles and biodiversity.

Maybe I am rambling. I am now in Amsterdam waiting for my flight to New York, have just taken a shower and am thinking about buying some cheese before going home. The lion is on my mind this morning because sometimes people value a lot of running around and blah blah stuff and it often seems to me that my most effective moments are sitting in silence watching nature take it’s course. No one responded to my work submission… this is remarkably usual behavior among people I work with and honestly it drives me crazy, but maybe if I can be more like a lion and relax until my time for action comes again, I will meet my goals to wherever I am going. Not to be passive… or aggressive… but just to be. Hmmm… maybe that’s the story.

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Here’s how I feel today, feet in one world, wings in another… ready to take flight, but not sure of where I am going!

Love,
Donna

Gratitude is the attitude, the language is love

Last night I arrived to the airport in Entebbe a day early hoping to get home sooner. So tired and drained, traveling the dry dusty bumpy (to ay the least) in a Land Rover with broken air conditioning filled my respiratory system with so much dust and exhaust my lower back is in so much pain and my nose is full of brownish gray gooky stuff that one only feels in developing country traffic jams. IT was nearly 6 hours back to Kampala, then a 2:30 meeting Margo, the Uganda Chief of Education, a very lovely person, then the Office of Prime Minister at 3, the Directorate of Education Services working on Disaster Risk Reduction at 4 and back into the car, this time with Gerald, an independent driver who’d taken me up north for the weekend, to the airport in Entebbe. I am exhausted just writing about it.

The fire in Nairobi airport that day ruined any chance I might have had to make my way onto the earlier flight. Feeling defeated and without anymore Uganda shillings, I went to the nearest hotel, Protea which is a bit out of my price range. They so kindly gave me the UN rate which was the lowest possible and I asked if a bathtub might be possible, which they said only comes in a suite so that was out. So, I set out with the porter to my room… #26, which is not my number and miraculously the door wouldn’t open… so off we went back to reception and the girls looked at one another and said okay, we are going to upgrade you to Room 115 which is a suite… and also one of my best numbers, a 7. Can you believe it! There I am in a sumptuous suite looking out on Lake Victoria with tufted leather flooring! Here’s a picture of my veranda…

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Here’s a picture I took of myself in the room!

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Something strange about taking a picture of yourself, it is a good thing, but always gives me a twang on being alone in the world… my big issue for healing in this lifetime. I took more pictures of the room, but am not able to access them now, will share more from home during the weekend. Suffice it to say, I took a bubble bath and allowed my body to unwind, if only just a bit and slept all night. This morning I caught up with my trip report and submitted to UNICEF with a great deal of appreciation and also made some Facebook postings. The flight tonight is at 11:30pm and I am now in the airport lounge. Economy class can be a bit more bearable with a lounge pass and upgrade to Economy (plus or comfort) as they say… except that my back is so damaged already from too much bumpy car travel and air mileage as I embark on nearly a 24 hour journey to home, I wonder why no one responded to my email? This is how it is with UNICEF… I work incredibly smart and vigilant and feel quite satisfied and I know that I did my best, but somehow either nobody notices or nobody agrees or nobody cares… whichever way it is, I am too tired to further try… now I am on my time for the weekend and have so much to process.

Anyway, truly I learned so very much and many of my assumptions (inner knowing) were proven on this trip. I will share more from home, they are starting the boarding call now for my KLM flight. I am grateful. Often I hear the chiming in my head, gratitude is the attitude the language is love. All I can do is to appreciate my own contribution, nothing I can do can bring appreciation from others… that is their choice. Like the smiling children in my earlier post… the gift of a smile when nobody else cares what you do feels like the ultimate empowerment… does this make sense??? Thanks to all of the universal forces that conspired with my higher self toward my good night of sleep last night…. miracles happen all the time and I am grateful.

Love,
Donna

Living in love in Uganda

My work here in this lifetime is about hope and finding love… sometimes in the face of severe hardship this is less easy to do… but without being cliché, it never ceases to amaze me how some people who are living in most adversity have he most beautiful smiles, as if they know it is all a story that is ever changing. These are the faces of some of the inspirational smiles I’ve found among the hunger, thirst and severity of northern Uganda, I hope that they speak for themselves…

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Some people are here to tell stories of adversity… and to raise funds and awareness through pulling on the heartstrings of potential donors. My job is to do opposite. I am here to reveal potential… the potential of myself to continue to persevere and to be strong in the face of my own personal challenges and to demonstrate the most sincere gratitude for the most amazing blessings of my life… children, parents, family, friends… and soon even a grandchild… and the opportunity to show the smiles of the unseen and unheard. It may seem crazy, but I know how it feels to be invisible and I know how it feels to feel in love with the beauty of just being here… maybe we can help to clear some of the fog with the smiles.

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All my love,
Donna

Proving the theory in extreme conditions

Northern Uganda is one of the most remote downtrodden places I’ve been to… comparable places where I’ve worked include northernmost Togo and the Rio Prinzpolka region of Nicaragua. These are places that have seen the ravages of war, environmental degradation and poverty to the most extreme degree and are incredibly difficult to reach by car or even boat in the Nicaragua case.

Gulu Road is also the only roadway that truckers can take to get to Sudan from the East Africa shipping port of Mumbasa… or even from Lake Victoria. The one lane road is so full of gaping potholes that it is more hole than road and the huge trucks… 18 wheelers and even double trailers by the dozen jam the roadways, remarkably few falling off the roadside when you think about it for hours and hours of driving to get to these places that no one knows about. Along the side of the road is either bush or abject poverty in action with shoeless starving children are often dressed in nothing more than a rag are wandering among vegetable vendors, strewn garbage and dusty grounds. The wealthy live in huts, more well to do have steel roofing, which are very, very few.

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But more than 6 hours from almost nowhere I visited a school garden project that was empowering most downtrodden people in the most amazing way. From technical support to seeds for the garden to teaching materials, I learned that by creating a livelihood for a conflict-torn community miracles can and do happen. I was in a place where school enrolment was at an all time low and learning outcomes were even worse that is now seeing steady progress. Why? Because the garden is growing fruits and vegetables, providing food and nutrition and money to the community members who are mostly mothers tending the garden. And science testing scores are rising because of the applied knowledge among students working in the garden.

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But the most incredible story was of a girl I met by the name of Jennifer who had been taken out of school at the age of 14 by her father to be given in marriage as settlement for a debt. The community garden members decided to take action to get Jennifer back into school by reimbursing the families for funds dispersed and she is now back in school at age 15. Jennifer told me that she is now determined to stay in school and wants to become a teacher herself. I was told that there was another girl in the group that I met with a similar story. Empowering women and community members for livelihoods is also proving to be an effective peacebuilding methodology as family fueds are turning into family teams for growing food and funds and supporting education. As I stood between this powerhouse of a woman, the incredibly thin vice-chair of the committee who’d saved the lives of at least two young girls, and Jennifer herself, I was in awe of their strength and courage and perseverance and the best I can do is to tell their story well enough to generate support for more and similar programmes.. this is why I am here, I am pretty sure of that.

All my love,
Donna

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The African Queen is a tour boat from near to the Paraa river resort on the River Nile where I am staying for a weekend retreat. We are going to Murchison Falls and the boat is full of American students from the University of Tennessee, Chinese oil drillers and their families, one I noticed was wearing a pink baseball type hat of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, a large family of Israeli tourists, and a variety of other people on safari and missionary workers all hoping for an afternoon in nature which for me is just great. Our tour guide Sarah, is a neatly dressed Ugandan lady with a deep warmth and sincere smile with a wealth of information about the region and wildlife. Did you know that hippos are vegetarian and only get out of the water at night to graze? Also that they are territorial and are led by one dominant male. When another male challenges the leader, they will fight to death. Amazing isn’t it?

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Sarah took interest in me and offered to take my picture and spent some time talking with me for which I was sincerely grateful. I like to be alone in nature, but sometimes traveling alone with others becomes a bit cumbersome.

Something about the day felt auspicious. The morning rain gave way to the clearest blue sky and the Angels took the opportunity to become visible in the most extraordinary way, check this out!

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The Falls are amazing. The water rushing over the cliffs, we were not able to get too close by boat because of the force of the churning waves, but for me it was close. When I got back from the boat, Gerald my driver from Friday approached and asked why I hadn’t asked him to drive me to the boat and if I’d gone on morning safari. We’d agreed that he’d take the day off and so I especially found this to be intrusive… more on the situation with Gerald in another post. Sarah on the other hand was completely unassuming and I really wanted to tip her which I did on my way off the boat and she accepted graciously and without a word beyond thanks and a warm embrace.

It’s a bit more touristic than usual, but my hope is that this post will get the juices flowing toward a bit more local color tomorrow once the UNICEF driver, Moses comes to get me from the hotel and we embark on a two day mission to visit schools in the northern region of the country.

Love
Donna

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