The Season of Weeding: Abim & Kotido, Summer 2011.

It was a two-day journey from Kampala to Kotido, only half of the way on paved roads. We did it in one day once (well, i did it once, my housemates lived there for three years and i, only three months). And the one time we did in one day was hell – my stomach had shrunk to the size of a walnut with its inability to keep anything down for three weeks, i was dehydrated, and i’m pretty sure i hallucinated.

But when we made the trek over two days, it was a dream. To get to Kotido, we had to pass through the Abim region.

abim watermarked 02

Abim is like nowhere else i’ve ever been. Even at the time, i think i wrote more blog posts about how voracious the colors were of the Abim mountains than i did about Kotido, which i did in fact quite love.

abim watermarked 04 abim watermarked 03

abim watermarked 01 abim watermarked 05

You could see where the powerline stopped, somewhere in a town in the Abim region but long before we were in Kotido. Our home has a solar panel and small amounts of voltage so long as the sun was out. We’d take turns charging our laptops, running a mini-fridge a few hours a day to keep home-made ricotta cool. It was the rainy season, nothing like the dust-curling bone-heat they told me of when it was the dry season. I remember being grateful for the one sweater i’d thought to slide into my suitcase.

kotido watermarked 02

In the Kotido market, during a rainstorm.

In the Kotido market, during a rainstorm.

My “room” in the house was a mattress and mosquito net tucked in a corner, shrouded by a collection of curtain pieces like the ones in the above photo. It was Thera‘s (very thoughtful!) idea, to give a fellow introvert some more privacy. She’d even saved me some ticky tack, to hang a collection of photos and postcards on my wall.


I was re-living this summer while Jonathan (supposedly) studied for his Greek exam.

“It’s kind of crazy to me that you did that,” he commented, the photo Thera snapped of me on a boda-boda on my screen.

Photo by Thera Freeman!

Photo by Thera Freeman!

He didn’t mean crazy as in foolish, or as in out of character. This was a hint of green in his voice. More like it was a reality unknown to him, a part of me before us. And yet it was because of Uganda the “us” even happened. We’d had a champion of awkward first dates, us alone in an Applebee’s save the one guy hellbent on making Karoke night a thing. I’d just buzzed my hair, prepped for a summer of sub-Saharan heat and lack of hot showers. I noticed his dimples, the eyes, even then. But i my focus was on the 7,414 miles to conquer and courage to find.

Thank God for my mom. A friend of ours had prepped and de-briefed with both of us, a woman who had spent the bulk of her adult like working for MCC on the continent of Africa. “You’ll need spaces to really talk, to really be heard,” she’d told us. Mom arranged for me to preach my first Sunday stateside again, at her then-new church. She let me lowercase the bulletin and screen a video i’d edited of my time abroad.

It was Jonathan’s first Sunday as the worship music leader. He was one of the first to really listen, to let me be really heard. I remember noticing the eyes again in worship planning, how he didn’t judge me for wanting to juxtapose John 15 with an E.E. Cummings poem.

The fact that it’s me in that picture feels unfathomable. Not that i had the desire to learn and see and listen in Uganda, i still have that desire. But that time in my life, the depth and wonder and complicatedness of where i was feels far, far in my past and far from here. I know it happened, for how could a summer of confronting my own white, American privilege not leave contours on my perspective today?

kotido watermarked 01

Maybe it’s the coming-full-circle thing, that bite and blister and beauty of seeing the time and the growth and the redaction between lizzie on that motorcycle and lizzie getting married. I have no regrets, the loves of my life all intertwining in the most bizarre of stories. I was so young, so eighteen, so fresh out of my first year of college and so wanting to know more than i did.

I said then it was a summer of pruning, like the name i had been given: Nachap, the season of weeding. The seed that has grown the most, though, is the realization that every season is one of both pruning and growth. Sometimes the balance tips, hands deep in the earth straining with the baobab roots to come up. And sometimes it’s the blossoms, blossoms who need water and sun like all seasons but whose focus is so on being alive there’s little room for weeding.

And sometimes, i think you just have to slap on the gardening gloves and make a choice to keep planting, whatever the weather.

buy my book!

in case you missed it, some of my favorite posts from my summer in east africa: south sudan’s independence daywhen we went all the way to kampala so we could see the last harry potter movieon our access to water in kotido.

Wandering Writes: Scotland Edition.

Throughout the course of my two decades on earth (how trite) i’ve had an innumerable list of life ambitions. When i was seven, i dreamed of nothing more than a career as a dolphin trainer who worked as an author/singer/inventor on the side. I even had an old refrigerator box in my room that i used to collect tools to use for “inventing;” a favorite creation were DIY roller-skates (tennis shoes with matchbox cars taped to the bottoms).

I grew older, and though my interest in marine life abated, the desire to write and make music did not. Middle school was filled with dreams of the Big Stage and worrying over training bras. That is, until the African Highway Project in Mrs. Bade’s 7th-grade-social-studies class. In studying a myriad of different countries that comprised the vast continent, and speaking with several Peace Corps volunteers who came to share their experiences, i caught a bug. Maybe the virus had been planted when i went to San Francisco with my dad and grandma at the age of nine. Or maybe my transient life lived in eight states prior to the age of six infected me from infancy.

Whatever the source, by the time i left Culbreth Middle School behind me i wanted to live in Africa. Particularly, i wanted to go to Mali (that’s where the cute Peace Corps volunteer had lived. Naturally, it became my favorite yet-visited destination).

At the age of fourteen, my passport was stamped for the first time. I was Africa-bound, on a pilgrimage that would teach me two countries (Rwanda and Uganda) could not be more different from one another. That “Africa” is a very, very big place and i was madly in love with a very, very beautiful place called Uganda. I never made it to Mali, because cute-Peace-Corps-person aside, i’d been called elsewhere.

If the infection was dormant before, it was in raging contagion now. Four years and three more countries later, this blog was born and my bags were packed for ten weeks of calling Uganda home.

It’s been a year and half since that incredible summer, and over a year since i was privileged and blessed enough to travel abroad. But i’ve caught a virus i think will last my life long: i need to see. I live for bruising suitcases with exuberant boardings of planes. I’ve wanted to study abroad again, this time academically, for a long while.

And yesterday i got the jubilant news that i have, officially, been accepted to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for the spring semester!

Between now and my departure in January there are Visa applications to endure, Lonely Planet guidebooks to be earmarked, and painful goodbyes to withstand. The excitement of the impending adventure is overwhelming – grueling paperwork and all.

Fourteen-year-old me would have thought i was going to make a career out of traveling, living like this. Part of that girl is still very much alive in me. But for this semester, i aspire to take off the capital-F Future questions off the table for a little while. I intend to explore, and to let the excitement of exploration be enough. I intend to grow, pains of it and all, and i intend to embrace the change.

Right now, though, i’m just ecstatic. I can’t wait to share the photographs i’ll take, basked in nerdy wonderment, at The Elephant House Café (JK Rowling! Sat there! While writing THE BOOK!). I’m certain i’ll start slipping up and unconsciously imitate a Scottish accent (coming off as a total fake, i’m aware). I’m beside myself at the thought of learning and living in a new city with train tickets across the UK. But most of all, right now, i’m excited to share this news with all of you!

current jam: ‘then i met you’ the proclaimers

best thing: um, SCOTLAND.

Happy First Birthday, South Sudan!

A year ago today, South Sudan was born a free country. I had, on this day, the immense privilege, joy, and honor of being in Juba city to celebrate with the South Sudanese this beautiful and hope-filled occasion. I think it speaks through without the need for utterance that this day, this day was one to be treasured for years to come.

And what a year it has been. South Sudan has remained on the brink of a full-scale war and it seems the world has waited, with baited breath, for the fragility of the hope of sovereignty to crumble. But it hasn’t. So today, rather than harboring on the lament of tragedy, i want to celebrate the resilience and courage of human beings in South Sudan. Prayers and wishes and thoughts for peace and for stability are what i send today. As my friend Fr. Katongole has said, “lament is the heart of hope.”

current jam: ‘your song’ elton john

best thing: midnight runs for ice cream with j & summer days.

Reflections on the UGANDA 2012? Event

“Pain is an irrational thing, but there are practical and employable tactics we can use to work through it. But arresting one man is not going to ‘clean up’ the pain of an entire country – or an entire region, which is in East Africa.”

I said something to this effect two Wednesdays past at the aforementioned Uganda 2012 event. It was probably less cleverly phrased in actuality than in my memory, as i tend to be considerably more gawkish in person than when hidden behind a laptop keyboard – but the sentiment remains. The #Kony2012 campaign began as something building off of emotional energy – the ‘irrational’ side of human nature – rather than assessing the practical and logistical ways we, as Global North youth can empower and actualize Ugandans to work through the trauma of recovering from war. This isn’t to say empathy or compassion have no place in action (i argue they are at the core of all empowerment) but you cannot channel your emotions alone into a movement that could, via governmental policy, potentially impact the lives of thousands (if not millions) of people. Compassion is key, empathy is needed, but to act on emotion alone renders no progress.

Which is why we had gathered last week to talk about what we could do, beginning with a critical conversation concerning UGANDA in 2012. In this, my goal as the event coordinator and facilitator was two-fold: i wanted to engage in this discussion in a way that actualized and recognized Uganda without putting the “face” of the problem as a face of a man who has instigated incredible pain and travesty in the country – with full understanding that being able to have this very conversation meant i had to recognize the privilege i posses, as a white American university student with leisure time and the resources to learn more readily available to me. Secondly, i wanted us as a crew (whomever showed up) to leave the event feeling, if nothing else, to have learned enough to want to continue to seek bigger, harder questions.

I’d like to think i achieved my two aims.

We began the event with, well, yours truly, making an opening statement to something of this effect: You are all most welcome in this place.* We would like to begin by acknowledging that it is a privilege for us to be gathered in this space discussing these global concerns. Furthermore, as you have no doubt noticed from the title of this event, we are talking today about Uganda in 2012, not the internet-driven “Kony2012” campaign. To this end, this gathering is not intended in any way to attack Invisible Children, its affiliates, or supporters. We will be incorporating thoughts on the film into our conversation today, but we want to make an effort to give light to and engage in the complex history of Uganda and its peoples, not just the face of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The event itself today will be a little atypical in format; it is a panel-led conversation. Our panelists will make brief statements concerning their area of research, after which i will guide us all in a group discourse with key framework questions. I therefore invite you all to speak out and voice your opinions and questions but simultaneously encourage you to be respectful of all our fellow human beings in this space.

With my co-coordinators Professor Holly Hanson, chair of the MHC African & African-American Studies Department and Saran Sidime, one of my best friends and future Secretary-General of the UN. Photo by the lovely and talented Mohini Ufeli!

We then moved around the circle, as there were only 20 or so gathered, to introduce ourselves with reasons for coming. Some were required by their professor (but i like to think they found the time valuable nonetheless) and most others because they had seen the Kony 2012 film and wanted to know another perspective. It was the perfect size gathering; small enough that everyone could speak if they wanted – giving it a real conversational air – but not so small that people felt obligated to speak.

Photo by Mohini Ufeli, of Vocal Lens Photography.**

From there, some of the panelists gave an outline history of who the LRA are, why they came to be, and why supporting the UPDF (Uganda Police Defense Force, which is the Ugandan army) as a means of ending the war is not a viable political alternative. We talked of Archbishop John Baptist Odama and the religious leaders who slept on the streets with the night commuters and, transitively, of the attention given to the victimized children long prior to Invisible Children’s presence. The point was made that night commuting has ended, Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda, and the real problem Uganda faces today is rebuilding a country recovering from a traumatic guerilla war. Such a dilemma is more psychological than anything else- and therefore more complex than the capture of one single person.

I could enumerate the rest of the conversation, but i feel it would be better if i instead recalled the highlights that stand out to me now, two weeks away from it. Most of all, amidst the conversations about what reintegration of child soldiers looks like and detailing the power of fair trade purchasing, i saw hope. I shy away from clichés as much as possible, but the frankness of such a feeling needs its proper name. The horror of war is, ultimately, an irrational thing. To attempt to hold the idea that human beings can enact such atrocities on one another is simultaneously terrifying and almost impossible. This is why IC is right to react to war – and why emotion-centered films are so effective in invigorating action within people. But to be lost is the sorrow is to lose sight of what a dear friend of mine, Dr. Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, often says: “lament is the heart of hope.”

Wanting justice isn’t a wrong thing to desire. But we have to critically examine what we mean by justice; does deploying more violence in the form of military action really mean justice will be brought forth? I think not. Claiming an American military action will end a war is such a limited way to view Uganda – and it loses sight of the most crucial aspect to healing: forgiveness. Having hope doesn’t mean covering town with posters of a criminal. Having hope means listening, processing, churning through ideas and making mistakes. Hope is the power of reconciliation, hope is what i saw when my peers knew that something was wrong with the documentary that rendered it, as one student put it, “impossible to have a rational reaction while watching the film because it is so emotionally manipulative.” They came anyway. Just because one film presented one skewed side didn’t mean they couldn’t seek out the questions on their own.

And ultimately, that is what we were left with. There isn’t a universal plan for action. Seeking peace isn’t as easy as a painted sign or letter to congress. And, to be totally fair, IC is stepping up their game in handling the critiques so well. I applaud them for that; i also must thank them for making such a controversial video. I say now as i said then: “let’s be real: we wouldn’t be gathered here to talk about Uganda 2012 today were it not for this internet buzz spawned by Invisible Children. On some level, we owe that to them.”

But peace is complex, and the first step in unraveling the complexity enough to see the knots as individual pieces rather than jumbled balls of yarn is understanding. Continuing to ask the questions, to dig deeper into history and read continually about on-the-ground information. If its purchasing power you want to employ, buy fair trade Ugandan products. Support micofinance outreach and loan to small business owners. But know that capitalism isn’t the ultimate truth to curing afflictions on this scale.

It has taken me considerably longer than i intended to write this blog post; in part, this is because i am in a musical and exams are encroaching closer than comfort prefers and, well, i do occasionally leave the internet in my wake whilst sitting outside and reading Dorothy Day. While i do feel slightly guilty for not talking sooner, i am glad i waited – because a few days ago, i stumbled across this gem via some friends met in Uganda:

I highly encourage you all to watch this video; it is a more community-focused mini-documentary on the need for a nonviolent resolution with the LRA. On a personal note, i have met almost all the people interviewed and have critically engaged in some wonderful, challenging, gut-wrenchingly-hard conversations concerning the meaning of forgiveness. It is a powerful film that serves as a beautiful counterpoint to the Kony campaign. Most of all, though, i think it says everything i just did but more eloquently, more directly, and from the people whose voices matter far more on the subject than my own.

current jam: “it gets better” fun. (i cannot stop listening to this song. just cannot.)

best thing: putnam goes up in less than a week! if you live in the valley, there’s a facebook event for you.

**photos by the lovely & talented mohini ufeli, of vocal lens photography! (go leave her & co-photographer, ify’s, facebook fan page some loving!)

* i realize i use this phrase with considerable frequency here with not context; it is something that was told to me over and over when in uganda. i mean it to offer that same hospitality, as much as i can in my smallness and via the internet.

Uganda 2012?

I am now pleased to announce a plan that has been in the hatching stages for a few weeks now for you, dear reader. As soon as the “Kony 2012” film was released, i contacted a professor i had last semester for my Power/Exchange African History class with the question of the hour: what are we going to do?

After some wonderful planning sessions collaborating with current students of hers, as well as with some friends of mine who are engaged in various components of activism and advocacy within the realm of what the “Kony 2012” campaign has put forth, we give you this: Uganda 2012? A Panel-led conversation concerning what Uganda needs from us.

To any and all Mount Holyoke students/residents of the Pioneer Valley, i warmly extend an invitation to you to attend! I will be serving as the event moderator, and i can personally assure you there are some of the smartest people i know on the panel itself. It should be a lively critical conversation!

This conversation is in no way an attack on Invisible Children, its affiliates, or any supporter of the Kony 2012 campaign. Rather, it is meant as a space to talk about Uganda more deeply and more broadly and what we as college students studying in the United States can do in terms of global governance and advocacy. Anyone is welcome!

In only mildly related news: this event, paired with WMHC’s Radio Week next week and three weeks until opening night for Putnam means the blogs might be a bit scant in the next month. Believe you me, I’d much rather be writing about falling in love with Rachel Maddow or tearing off for a weekend in the Seychelles (if only) than pulling my hair out over finals. Alas. My current mantra: this is a gift. This time is a gift. This place is a gift. This twenty-five-page-research-paper is a gift. IT IS A GIFT.

current jam: “little boxes” walk off the earth

some thoughts on kony 2012: can be found here and here and especially here.

Saying Goodbye.

Things expats like: comparing the amount of stamps in your passport to everyone else.

It is terribly true; i take great pride in every whacked-on circle or rectangle of ink splattered across the pages of my passport. Sure, they’re aesthetically pleasing to the eye in the mismatch of overlapping geometric shapes and all, but the comparison of who-has-the-better-Ugandan-Visa question runs a little deeper than simple visual pleasure. It’s rollicking in the memories of voyages well-taken, swapping tales of motorcycle rides through East African cities or night-time wanders through the North East corner of London. Opening your passport is opening an invitation to adventure; the blank pages entice and beckon in the exhilaration of the unknown while remnants of a journey past remind you why the dust never really settles.

I’ve had my current passport since i was fourteen, having acquired it for my first sojourn to Uganda in 2007. In fact, it arrived literally at the last possible minute for our departure – despite having been sent for in February of that year, my ticket to international travel and proof-of-citizenship arrived no later than the morning of our flight to Uganda.

As in, mid-July. Our passports took five months to process, when we’d been told it would take no longer than six weeks.

My mother and i had packed our bags in a tense, forcibly optimistic atmosphere the night before, hoping and praying that we would be able to go on the trip we’d been needing for, well, our whole lives. When she’d called me from the post office (she drove over prior to the mail folk leaving on their morning rounds because we couldn’t afford to wait around for the mail person to deliver) i, quite literally, dropped the phone and fell onto the couch. I don’t deny i’ve got a bit of a penchant for the dramatic, but it was the kind of turning point in my life that – even without the suspense of the vacant passports – called for the utmost of performance from my adolescent self.

And to compound the ease and emotion-free departure, my Great-Grandmother passed away that same morning. So maybe the crying out and collapsing was more to do with the extreme conflux of emotions running rampant in the household than just my first international embarkment. The morning i first left the country, the morning i woke up to the first Proper Adventure of my life, a light went out.

Needless to say, opening up my passport opens my memory to considerably more than the stamping of a visa.

This morning, though, i bid a bit of a farewell to my first passport. It expires this July, and as there is an incredibly-slim-but-incredibly-awesome chance that i might be leaving the country for a bit this summer (i don’t quite want to say any more just yet, in case it jinxes things) i needed to renew my documentation. And while i know i get it back – hole-punched to prevent double identities and whatever – a part of me was sad to bid farewell to its creased pages and outdated logo. This passport carried me across my first international border, it was with me all the time in South Sudan, it allowed me entry into England, and served as a holding place of a marker for each journey in self-discovery. Call me over-attached to the material, but my passport means far more to me than a terrible picture and birthdate information.

But, then again, a new passport comes with new promises. Tantalizingly blank pages beckoning to be stamped, inked, and otherwise blotted with the marks of a thousand boundaries to be crossed. A new, equally as appalling, photograph to forever remind me of this snowy slushy, hair-in-an-untamed-afro day. Perhaps a sturdier cover for the more, shall we say, aggressive-purse-packing voyager.

Most of all, though, a new passport brings with it the possibility of new adventure – and few things in life are more exhilarating than such dreams.

current jam: “smooth criminal” naya riviera & grant gustin

best thing in my life right now: the impending weekend. and its promised fifty, snow-melting, degree weather.

JK Rowling is Writing Another Book!

The news broke forth far and wide across the internet on Thursday morning: JK Rowling has publicly announced that, not only is she writing once more, she is publishing another book. It is not an addendum or addition to the beloved and brilliant Harry Potter series; rather, it is a book for adults released with a new publisher, Little, Brown.

And that, friends, is quite literally all we know at present about the upcoming, undefined-release-date of Rowling’s next work of written art.

But when you’re a multi-billionaire literary genius, all you need do is drop a juicy hint and you’ll have half the world’s literate population salivating over the promise of a new book and scouring the internet for potential clues. For myself, knowing only the above about JK Rowling’s new work (or, as i refer to her in my casual speech (and in my head), “Jo”) was enough to reduce me to jubilant tears, galloping about the room like a gargoyle, and yelping into the phone as i called every potterhead in my contacts list to blubber and shriek for Felix-Felicis-esque ecstasy. A simple tweet from Jo yesterday morning nearly instigated a similar fit of geekish delight: “As you may have heard, I have a new book out later this year. Very different to Harry, although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much.”

As you might have heard. What incredible modesty. Might have heard. I’ve only tweeted, reblogged, posted, and interpretive danced my way around the virtual and physical world for the past 48 hours reveling in this tiny, might-have-heard-of-it story. Good grief, Jo, you’re precious and practically perfect in every way.

I really could not think of a better subject to be musing about on the exact one-year anniversary date of this here blog. My second-ever post was, naturally, about being abroad during the release of the final film – and i hardly believe this will be the last Potter-related ramble to make its way here.

And i know, i know what the trolls in reality and online are about to say: You know it’s not going to be another Harry Potter book, right? (It helps if you say that in your best circa-1984-stereotypical-jock-in-a-high-school-mive-starring-Molly-Ringwald voice). Yes, friend, i am fully aware – and thrilled – that Jo is not only writing again, but writing something other than a Potterworld novel.

Obviously, i love everything to do with Hogwarts and Dumbledore’s Army and the Deathly Hallows (i am, after all, getting a tattoo in two years of the Deathly Hallows mark). And were Jo to suddenly announce she were writing another Potter book, i would be thrilled. There would not be an ounce of hesitation in me; regardless of whether it were a prequel or extended epilogue to the tales already published. She gave us seven beautiful books over the course of some ten-odd years, and while i loved the conclusion to the final book, i know anything else she wrote would be equally superlative.

Because, ultimately, i trust Jo Rowling.

Which is why, in the knowledge that this book is “very different to Harry” i couldn’t be more ecstatic. Of course there won’t be thestral-drawn carriages and thrilling Quidditch matches, but my love for Harry Potter resists the simplicity of being reduced to the clever world Jo created. It is a passion for the writing, for the power of love expressed in the characters, and for the incredible storytelling by which Jo coaxes the reader to fall right into the palm of her verbosity-woven hand. Jo did not write seven children’s books; she created a fantastical, whimsical, believable, and vibrantly stunning world that enticed the readers to enter. Regardless of whether or not this next book is going to be even remotely within the fantasy genre, i truly believe her ability to create a fantasy world (even if that world is present-day [muggle] London or Hammersmith or wherever) will draw me in regardless. Naturally, i will enter the book expecting her dry British wit and clever plot twists, but that is a credit her writing more so than it is to the stories rendered at her hand. I trust Jo Rowling in all of her writing endeavors, and i pledge now to read this book – whatever it might be, whenever it may be released – with a mind free from expectations of owls delivering the morning post.

Because, lest i forget, even living in a country where there were only two movie theatres (to my knowledge) did not stop me from seeing Part 2 of the film when released. That’s the power of a good book; yesterday, i stumbled across this quote by Emma Thompson: “I think books are like people, in the sense that they’ll turn up in your life when you most need them.”

As i have grown into my adulthood i have pledged to never let Harry go. I’ve said a thousand times. But i know, most viscerally, that as i grow older the stories will shape and change me in new ways, for i will never be the thirteen-year-old experiencing the Order of the Phoenix for the first time ever again. Nor do i want to be. Harry came into my life at the exact right time; i was six-and-a-half, precociously reading big chapter books (at the hearty encouragement of my mother) when we met. It was to be a life-long friendship. When i was fourteen and the final book came out, i felt as though i was in a summer that transformed me fully into adolescence. I was no longer a child; i traveled to Uganda for the first time, and i knew the conclusion to the Potter saga. This past summer, at the age of eighteen, i fulfilled a dream long-held to live in Uganda – and i saw the final film installment of the cinematic adaptations of the books. That summer, to me, marks the full entrance into my young adulthood. It’s a scary place, looming beyond graduation with electricity bills and undefined next steps and the abyss of what might be and what could never happen.

(Left: This past summer at the Oasis mall in Kampala City right before seeing the film; Right: In the Nairobi Airport around August 10th, 2007)

It just might be that this new “book for adults” Jo is writing will come at the right time. Or perhaps it will simply be a jolly good read – either would be marvelous. But i’m not easily persuaded life is mere coincidence.

And it is for this very reason i am giving away one of the newest additions to my “Desert Island Books” today: The Fault in Our Stars. May whomever you are be someone who needs this book, and needs it now.

Ways you can enter the giveaway:

1. Tweet the link to the blog (be sure to mention me in the same tweet, so i can keep track!).

2. Follow me on twitter (and tell me in an additional comment).

3. Post the link to this blog on your facebook status (and let me know you’ve done so in an additional comment!).

4. Follow Wandering Writes on WordPress or by some other method (and let me know you’ve done so in an additional comment!).

5. And, of course, by answering the comment question! Best of luck to you all!

Comment Question: What are your thoughts on JK Rowling writing a new book?

Yesterday’s Winner: Larry, for commenting with his Desert Island movie being “JAWS.” Congratulations, Larry! Also, a special shout-out to Hattie for responding to yesterday’s post with a blog of her own! For this, Hattie, i’d like to offer you five of the “nerdy and i know it” postcards! Thanks for such an awesome response!

current jam: “mischief managed” nicholas hooper.

best thing in my life right now: Jo Rowling has written another book. does this need further explanation?

The 10 Things List in Review.

Greetings, Earthlings.

Ya’ll might recall in early September, i set forth for myself a challenge: to complete ten tasks in the course of four months. And while i managed to accomplish six out of the ten items, i by no means completed the challenge. Alas.

However, rather than ragging on like a negative nancy, i thought it an appropriate start-of-theapocalypse-2012 post to review the list of ten things and share brief reflections on each task. Therefore, without further ado, i present for you:



6 OUT OF 10: MEDIOCRITY AND MIGHTINESS. (a tale by lizzie mcmizzie).

#1: Spontaneously dye my hair an exuberant colour: Check. A mere two days after writing said blog post my friend Hattie (who, by the way, just met PRESIDENT OBAMA) donned some latex gloves and i busted out the red goop and sold my soul to be a ginger. And while i adored my red locks for the time they were with me, i began to really miss wearing rouge or pink. My wardrobe, in all of its vibrant glory, shrank considerably when the hair went all red-like. Thus, the locks have once again been hacked off, and, after some considerably creative dying techniques per my hair-dude Mike, are now a vaguely copper-ish-brown-blonde-still-alittlebit-red tint. Still, the red was fun while it lasted.

i'm fred weasley! but alive...


#2: Vote in local NC elections. Well, despite my political rants, this did not happen. It will, though, in this the election year, occur come November. Alas.

#3: Go to a local band concert in the Pioneer Valley: Okay, so this kind of is cheating. I’m counting the Harry and the Potters concert i attended in November as passable, even if they aren’t technically local. However! Wait! Teacher no! I did have three bands on my show this semester based in the Pioneer Valley, so in a way i attended three private concerts of local groups. So, mission (mostly) accomplished.

paul degeorge, pre-falling on top of me (for the first time...)

#4: Read a book during the semester purely for the enjoyment and pleasure of reading the book, not for explicit academic research or reasons. Um. Yeah. Reading, that’s funny. Do people still do that sort of thing? For fun? What? That’s riddikulus. (While i didn’t accomplish this task, i did start writing my own novel, so… i’m okay being a loser on this one).

#5: Travel somewhere historic in Massachusetts that I have not previously visited- like Salem, or the Lizzie Borden House. Ka-ching! I bonded with my bffl and her momzies on a tour of historic Salem (of the witch trial fame) and shrieked at people in corny face paint while munching on funnel cake. ‘Twas a dream of a day.


#6: Read an Emily Dickenson poem on the Dickenson property. I have no excuses, except my abundant suck-ish-ness at planning and carrying poetry in my pockets.

#7: Write actual postcards and letters. Mail them. I did! Many a time! In fact, if you want a postcard from me, email/comment your mailing address! If that, you know, doesn’t weird you out or anything… (i am, after all, actually a forty-year-old man living in a basement preying upon young women for my feasting and satantic rites, so i would be pretty cautious about such information were i you).

#8: Visit a temple, synagogue, or place of worship from a faith that I was not raised in. Unfinished. Much to my chagrin. After my time spent at the Ba’hai House of Worship in Kampala i was so gung-ho to go exploring for other kinds of temples (etc) in the Valley but the semester got the best of me. Sigh.

#9: Go to bed by ten on a school night. I DID THIS ONE! Never blogged about it, nor do i have any photos for proof (such pictures would expose my true identity as the Satanist in the basement with a rather impressive moustache) so i guess you just have to believe me. Lucky you.

#10: Visit London & see a Shakespeare show! DONE! This was, by far, the biggest and most rewarding and most beautiful and most duckling-filled delightful task on the whole list. And, with the help of one Ralph Fiennes and one even finer dad, i breathed London air and cried tears in the West End while in the audience of The Tempest. Twas remarkable.

the globe theatre! (not where we saw the show, but still. you get the idea).

Alright folks, that is all for now! I have another big road trip coming up soon – one for which i hope to be writing to you plenty. My love to Mafalda.

current jam: ‘king of anything’ sara bareillis (thanks to becca for this recommendation!)

best thing in my life right now:  padfoot and robots.

ALSO: i am now on google+ and while i still have no idea what exactly it does and stuff, i’d love to be your bud (or whatever).

to prune, to pluck, to cleanse, to clear.

The 30 Day Photo Challenge: A Photo of My Reality Right Now

I have always been a person of many names. When I was born my parents gave me the name of Elizabeth; my mother claims it was the only name they could really agree on, yet in their concurrence with one another the name selected was laden with love. Elizabeth, as a name, is rooted in Hebrew and literally means ‘God’s Promise’ or ‘my God is a vow.’Throughout history, Biblical, fictional, and otherwise, there have been a substantial number of incredible women bearing the name. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, the two Queens of England, Elizabeth Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor… It is a name I strive to live up to, a name I am honored and humbled to posses.

But while the name I bore is Elizabeth, none called me such. For the first eleven years of my life, I was Beth. Carved into my dress-up clothes chest, painted on my doors, made into a sign by my Grandfather was the nickname that most of my family still uses.  And while a part of me will always be the little girl called Beth- the part of me that refused to wear anything but pink, the child who poured over dragon lore, the little girl who would ride her bike until her legs felt like they were falling off, the kid who refused to let her mother brush her hair, the little one who discovered Harry Potter and Billy Joel and The Sound of Music. She’s still real, she still exists in memory and in name.

Yet I was not to remain Beth forever. When I began Middle School I decided it was time for me to no longer be such a child. Written on my notebooks and doodled in the margins of worksheets was a new name, a name most people now know me by: Lizzie. It is a name fit for my adolescence, a name that fizzles and sparks off the tounge, filled with not one- but two uncommonly used letters, a name of awakening and spunk and clumsy steps and bad hair days.

In many ways Lizzie is still perfectly applicable to who I am, who I want to be. But the older I grow the more a familiar urge, an itch bubbles up in my head. I am growing out of my name, growing out of my teenager years and coming into adulthood. The time is not now, but I am certain before long the day will come when I will no longer introduce myself with Lizzie; the rhymes and songs of Dizzy Miss Lizzy, or (worse by far) Lizzie Borden referred to only by friends and family who have known me for long.

But that day is not now.

For Today, the day that has been my summer of learning how to Live, how to slow down and Grow, I have been gifted with another name. Not to replace Lizzie, to add.

While still in Kotido, I was given a Ngkaramajong name by beloved, calming, wise, leading Mama Rose. The name was chosen based on the season that I arrived in, not really based on personality characteristics or my English name. Which, given how potent and relevant it is, is really quite astonishing.

My Ngkaramajong name is Nachap, meaning that I came in the season of weeding. Weeding, pruning, preparing and tending to the earth to make room for a healthy and uncumbered crop to grow.

This summer, this time spent in this beautiful and broken place, has been a time of pruning. A time of discerning in what soil to plant my crop, a time of pulling out by the roots what would choke the vine. A summer of being aware of the baobabs that might overcome my small planet in the universe, a time for allowing good seeds to take root. Waiting, throughout the weeding, for the plants to bear fruit.

When people ask what exactly my internship entails, or what I’ve done, it is more than merely difficult for me to explain. I’ve mentioned here that my work has not been glamorous, or product-oriented, or even for some fancy NGO with T-shirt give-aways. We built a solar oven, collected some plastic water bottles, and made a little headway in plugging the raw data of the schools into a database. Hardly worthy of a junior league Nobel Prize.

But the material rewards are not from which my treasure is reaped. This summer I have learned how I want to live my life. Not in finality, but in constant process. I have pruned, I have plucked. I have stuffed my head with books, memorized faces, held hands, rode motorcycles on winding city streets, cried for a fictional wizard, eaten more goat than I care to admit, encountered the divine in the smallest of nooks, the most profound of people. I have seen churches, encountered Faith beyond my own reckoning in mamas with warm, worn hands and woven into the fabric strung from street shops.

Not all of what I have learned has been beautiful, pretty, or nice. None of it was trimmed in lace or slathered in butter.

I have muddied my feet on holy ground, danced in the rain. I’ve peed in a hole in the ground, slept a summer under mosquito nets, barely been able to walk 100 feet to the clinic.

This has been unbelievably difficult. This has been perfect. This has absolutely sucked. This has been a life lived on top of a tall, tall mountain screaming out at the world below that all was Good and Great and Wonderous.

I am leaving with lines etched across the skin stretched taunt across my soul. Laughter lines, sorrow lines, wallowing and worshipping and wondering and wandering. Not lines easily unpacked or deconstructed or made do with the rhetoric of the ever-present product-oriented inquiries. I am whole, I am in pieces. I want so badly to go home there, I desperately wish I could stay home here. My life is one destined, so it seems, to be spent in the in-between places, the space of collision and collaboration. The space of never and forever and no absolutes and Truths that stand the test of the universes coming and going.

And I am content.

current jam: ‘brand new day’ joshua radin

thoughts in my head: a time for leaving.

It is no longer possible for me to avoid stating the obvious: my time in Uganda is drawing to an end. According to the countdown widget on my Mac, I have precisely 3 days, 10 hours, and 46 minutes until my plane takes off from Entebbe International Airport, commencing the twenty-four-hours-plus journey back to the states.

Clearly, as I have avoided blogging about my departure, I have some mixed emotions about leaving. This summer has been profoundly awakening and incredibly difficult; I don’t want to leave Uganda, but concurrently I am seriously craving an enormous, greeny salad and to have time to cuddle with my kittens and share space and love with my family. And, as I may have mentioned, this is my first summer away from my college friends. While emails and facebook messages make me abundantly grateful for the internet (no matter the speed), I have really been homesick for Mount Holyoke and all the wonderful, wonderful women I feel I’ve known for a lifetime already.

So, I have hot showers and Elmo’s Diner Greek Grilled Cheese with Chicken sandwiches and skype and riding my bike to the movie theatre to look forward to. But I also will be missing chappati cooking lessons with Rhoda, taking boda-bodas to craft markets and eating delicious cuisines of all kind. I will no longer wake up every day to see the gorgeous, boundless Ugandan sky, no more basin baths or mosquito nets or cups of tea shared with the Sisters or Bishop. Time will shift; appointments will be kept to the minute, meals held earlier in the day, and the Slowness and steeping of moments like strong tea will begin to dissipate as I hurry to buy textbooks and pack up my postcard collection, scurrying to ready myself for a new semester.

It’s a bricolage of senses, of moments, of feelings. Having time and space to be alone will be most welcome; a spell for thinking and processing (and let’s be real, editing the hours upon hours of footage I’ve taken) will be healthy and renewing. Transitioning is not going to be easy. I wrote here, long ago, that my biggest fear for this summer was not contracting some horrendous tropical disease (been there, done that…sort of), bodily harm, or being homesick. My greatest fear was feeling like a stranger in my own skin upon my return to the US. Being so changed, so molded and formed I no longer fit anywhere- a child of two homes, two hearts. Forgive my clichés, but the worry is still knotted, contracting and pulling and I’m doing my best to quell, to que sera, to c’est la vie.

A friend and mentor of mine, a woman who knows more intimately than I the difficulty of living in two places in your heart, once gave me some very practical advice pertaining to traveling in Uganda: put yourself in the hands of someone you trust, and let go of your own agenda. They will take you where you need to be, when you need to be there.

As in many gifts given so freely to me here, this piece of wisdom is one I treasure. It is applicable beyond the realm of the pragmatic, and in this vein I can only hope and pray that in my letting go all will be okay- lost at sea or up in the clouds, wherever the road my lead.

current jam: ‘turn, turn, turn’ the byrds

best thing in my life right now: chappati lessons! rhoda has been teaching me, and as i video’d the whole thing (like you’re surprised!) i am fairly certain i shall be able to make a decent ugandan chappati once back in the states! a taste of home at home.

fantas: 20