All posts by Molly Miller

Forgiveness is possible

Forgiveness has been a very difficult thing for me recently. Actually, at times it has seemed nearly impossible.  How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so badly when you would never do the same thing to them?

While in Uganda, I was blown away by the people’s ability to forgive. Parent’s whose children were taken away from them by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) choose to forgive Joseph Kony (the rebel leader) because they believed that was the only they would ever find peace.

I’m pretty sure I talked about Mama Angelina in one of my previous blogs but her story is a prime example of this kind of forgiveness. Her daughter was one of 149 girls taken from Saint Mary’s Boarding School by the LRA many years ago. 119 of the girls were returned in just a few days but Mama Angelina’s daughter, Charolotte, was not one of them. Mama Angelina spoke out against the rebels for a long while until they finally tried to make a deal with her: they would give her Charolotte back if she kept her mouth shut. Knowing that this problem was so much bigger than just her and her daughter and not wanting to betray other parents, she declined the offer and kept speaking out. Mama Angelina didn’t see her daughter for seven years and seven months, but Charolotte along with 29 other girls were eventually returned.

While Mama Angelina could have forever hated the rebels, in her eyes that wouldn’t have solved anything. When we interviewed her she explained that without forgiveness there would never be peace and that without peace happiness is basically impossible. 

I learned a lot from Mama Angelina and all of the Ugandans we spoke to. If they can forgive Kony and the rebels for all of the hurt caused to them, how can I not forgive for much smaller wrongs done towards me?

  

I’m going to miss this

While I was great at getting that b-roll, I’m not quite as good at editing it. Seriously, it’s really hard.

Good thing today is the LAST DAY OF CLASS (where has all the time gone??) so Tim and Peter will be taking over the rest of the editing of our documentary. We get to see another rough cut of it again today and I’m pretty pumped to see all of the progress we’ve made. 

It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling having this class finally end. I can’t wait to sleep in and spend my days outside instead of in a classroom but It’s also going to be really hard not to see all of the people in my class regularly. We’ve been through A LOT together and have seen some things that most people will never see. We have pretty much been together constantly throughout this class and it’s going to be really weird being separated. Yes, I’m sure we’ll get together throughout the summer but it’s still not the same.

So I would just like to say thank you; thank you to my teachers and classmates for the last five weeks. This has really been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that I know I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Take me back.

I want to go back to Uganda.

Honestly, that’s something I never thought I would say… at least not for a few years. When I was in the country I was always uncomfortable. I was covered in mosquito and spider bites, we spent the majority of our days crammed in a small bus, I was constantly sweating, and the food kept making me sick. At the time, it was really hard. Thinking back, though, the little things that bothered me while I was in Uganda are not what I remember most about my experience. I remember the friendships and the stories I heard there over anything else.

Everyday we spend in class watching and editing all of the footage makes me miss the country even more. We have spent so many hours watching the people we interviewed, all of the kids we held hands with, and all of the cool stuff we did. And although these things feel so close to me on my computer screen, they’re actually thousands of miles away which is very sad.

I would give anything to be uncomfortable again, to be back in Uganda. 

 

Everyone should listen to the song “Blessed To Be A Witness” by Ben Harper. We listened to it the day before our trip and now that we’re home the meaning is finally sinking in with me. We’re blessed to have seen the things we saw, even though it was really hard for us. I’m not the same person I was three weeks ago. Seeing a little piece of the world that most people aren’t really aware of has been an eye-opening experience for me. 

ARE all men created equal?

I’m baaaack! And after a weekend filled with multiple nine hour naps due to jet lag and days consumed by class, I’m finally ready to blog (:

Although we were kept really busy the two weeks we were in Uganda, we’re not slowing down our last couple weeks of class. Our days are now completely dedicated to editing all of the footage we took in the country and finally putting our documentary together. While it’s been fun mashing all of the clips we took and putting the story together, it has definitely been a struggle. I think this is the first time that any of us have tried to tackle a project this big so we’re really lucky we have Tim and Peter to help us when we mess up. We’re going to have a rough cut of the documentary done today and I’m pretty excited to see it. Our rough cut will still need a lot of work done to it, but it will still be cool to see the story played out and all of our work come together. 

While it has been great being back in the US, I really miss Africa. It has been hard coming back here and seeing how fortunate everyone is and how much everyone has when I know there are millions of people halfway across the world who can’t even afford shoes. Why do I get to sleep in my big bed in my air conditioned house while there are families living in grass huts smaller than my room? Why do I get to go to this fancy university when the majority of their country can’t even pay to go to school? Why do they have to constantly worry about getting food and clean water for their families when I feel entitled to these things? One of the biggest lessons I learned on this trip is that the world isn’t fair. It makes no sense that I was born so privileged while these other people, who are no lesser of human than I, were born into such extreme poverty that there seems to be no way out. 

One thing I know for sure is that I’m so fortunate for what I have, but I do not deserve all that has just been handed to me. I can’t wait for when I graduate college, get a real job, and can start giving back. The first thing on my list when that happens: sponsoring a child to attend school.

Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see

This has truly been a crazy adventure. It’s hard to believe that we arrived in this country two whole weeks ago because the time has really flown by.

The past few days have had a drastically different feel than our first week here. Rather than traveling through the slums and seeing the horrible conditions in which people live, we got to experience a lot of the tourist attractions Uganda has to offer. Although it was a great time, it was also sad to think that none of the people we interviewed the first week could ever afford to do these things. 

Anyways, here’s a re-cap of what we’ve done. 

Sunday: Left Lira and drove to Murchison Falls. We drove through a game park on the way and got to see giraffes and elephants which was really cool. Then, to get to our hotel, we took a ferry across the Nile which sort of reminded me of playing Oregon Trail as a kid. When we got to the hotel we learned we only had electricity from 5-7am and 7-10pm. Also, it was very important for us to be in our rooms by 10 every night because water buffalos roam the hotel compound at night and are super dangerous. Scary.

Monday: We took a three hour cruise on the Nile and saw hundreds of hippos, about 30 elephants, got lunged at by a huge crocodile, and got to see Murchison Falls. Also I got a pretty awful sunburn so I’ll be sporting a nice tan when I get back home (:

Tuesday: This day was interesting, to say the least. We woke up at 5am for our safari and Bridget, Michelle, MB, and I had to BOOK it out of our rooms because a bat was circling our cabin…great start to our day for sure. Then our three hour safari turned to four hours when our bus got stuck in the sand about 30 minutes away from the finish and we had to turn around and drive the entire way back from where we had just come. On the bright side, though, we did see a ton of giraffes, bush bucks, elephants, a monkey, and four lions. Fred (our driver) went off-roading so we could get a closer look at the lions, which would have been EXTREMELY illegal in America since we were in a national park. After the safari our ferry almost crossed the Nile without Fred and our bus on it (but luckily got them eventually). AND we ran into a van which had flipped on our way back to the hotel and Matt had to whip out his doctor skills and patch a man up.

After all of this craziness we packed up at the hotel and started our 6ish hour drive back to Kampala. It was Marybeth and my turn to sit way up front with Fred (: Driving fast on dirt roads, two feet away from a huge windshield, and with no seatbelt to put on freaked me out. At one point our bus was attacked by flies and everyone was swatting them so we wouldn’t get bitten, including Fred, which caused him to swerve off the roads a few times. Luckily I had his back and was doing work on the flies in the front so he could concentrate. Tuesday was definitely a strange, strange day. 

Today we took a day trip to Jinji to see the source of the Nile and tomorrow we’ll be spending the day shopping in the market before our plane leaves tomorrow night!

Leaving here is a bittersweet feeling. Of course I’m excited to get back to America and the extremely privileged life I live compared to the lives of people here, but a part of me wishes I could stay just a little longer. It will be impossible to forget this place. What I saw, what I learned, and the people I met will stick with me forever. I really wish that everyone could have this experience and see what the developing world is like because it has been life changing.

 

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned in Africa

Since my last few blog posts have been pretty serious, I’ve
decided to calm it down a bit for now. The past couple of days have been long, filled with interviews, bumpy bus rides, and nile specials, but today was finally our LAST
DAY OF FILMING and it’s time to relax! 

Anyways, I’m sure you’re all wondering about all of the cool
and useful things I’ve been learning here and what Africa is really like sooo
here we go…

  • It rains allllll the time here
  • The electricity goes out regularly…it’s out in my hotel room right now actually
  • I swear every set of stairs in this country is uneven… seriously you never know what to expect when you’re walking up them and it really sucks when it’s dark
  • If you’re outside for more than 20 minutes you’ll most likely be covered in red dust. (I come back to the hotel after filming every day thinking I got super tan but once I shower I realize I was just covered in dirt and I’m still really pale)
  • They have weird bathrooms here. I could shower, go to the bathroom, and wash my hands all at the same time with the layout in my hotel room right now. (But in the dark of course because my electricity is always out). AND I peed in a HOLE today… that was an interesting experience to say the least
  • Their roads are equivalent to level B roads at home if not way worse. A 30 minute drive in the US would legit take an hour and a half here and there would be giant puddles of water and huge rocks to dodge everywhere. On our way from Kampala to Lira on our second day in the country there was a road with about 50 speed bumps… each spaced out about 15 feet. Definitely not a fun ride when you’re in the back of the bus.
  • Water just randomly shuts off here. For example, it shut off mid-way through my shower yesterday morning and wouldn’t work at allll this morning. Lucky for me. If there is water, it’s cold, but a cold shower is better than no shower here.
  • There are SO many animals here. Goats, cows, chickens, pigs and dogs are just running around everywhere… we even saw baboons on the road when we were driving one day
  • It would take me two minutes of driving here before either getting in a car accident or hitting a pedestrian carrying something on their head. They drive on the opposite side of the road and there are people, bikes, and cows all over the street
  • Mosquito nets are tricky but definitely a blessing if you live here. I had to tuck and un-tuck mine from my mattress about three times last night because I kept forgetting stuff before bed… that was a little frustrating

My body is rejecting this country by the way… I must be allergic to a food or something because I’ve been sick for the past four days and have a weird allergic reaction kind of thing on my arm and stomach. Not fun.

I do really like it here but I’m also missing the states a lot. Especially the food… a cheese pizza or hamburger has sounded SO good for the past week. Fun fact: I ate a fried grasshopper yesterday. It took about 5 minutes to convince myself to do it but I finally did. It kind of tasted like a weird crispy french fry and I neeever want to do it again.

Annnyways, were leaving Gulu to go to Murchinson Falls tomorrow. I don’t think we’ll have internet until Tuesday when we get to Kampala so this will be my last blog for a few days.

Thanks for reading (:

 

 

17 bug bites later…

The intensity has definitely been bumped up these past
couple of days.

 

Yesterday we visited a school for the refugees and then the
Concerned Parent’s Association (for the parents of the refugees). We had
interviews at both of those places and then went to Momma Angelina’s. Her
daughter was taken by the rebels and once she really publicized what happened,
the rebels offered her daughter back if she kept quiet. She refused their
offer, though, until all of the children would be brought back. While we were visiting
her we got to eat MANGOS IN THE JUNGLE. Yum yum yum. That’s a once in a
lifetime experience for suuuure. 

 

Today was a lot to handle. We went and visited two former
refugee camps and talked to and interviewed the people there. The first camp is
currently a village and when we got there everyone was sooo excited to see us.
We split into groups and asked them a bunch of questions about their civil war
and then we sort of flipped the floor and they asked us questions. This is when
the day started getting intense. This man was asking what our real intentions
were here and if we were just coming to see the conditions they were living in
for ourselves since we’ve heard all these second hand stories about them OR if
we were coming to document what we saw and actually try to spread the message
to others so there could be a change. He told us how so many groups have come
before us and just made all of these promises of how they would build a church
for them or how they would improve their living conditions but they have yet to
act on what they said.

 

We explained to them that we’re shooting this documentary to
get the word out in hopes that someone will be impacted and will be able to
help, but our small group really doesn’t have the resources to solve all of
this poverty. It just makes me scared that they think, since we came to see
them, that we will be the ones to solve all of their problems…which we
obviously won’t be able to do.

 

The next place we stopped at was a former refugee camp and
current school and some similar questions were asked there. A lot of the people
were just begging us to talk to their government and our government to get
problems solved for them, which is another thing that our group just isn’t
capable of. It’s kind of sad that since we’re Americans they think we can just
call up Obama to get them some help.

 

I don’t know if this blog is making annnny sense at all and
there are so many other big things that happened today and they’re just all
really stressing me out. I’ve never felt as completely powerless and hopeless
as I did today.

 

Ahhhhh anyways, as you can tell from my blog title, I HAVE
TOO MANY BUG BITES. Mostly on my feet which is theeee worst spot. I cover
myself in bug spray religiously so I’m not really sure how this is happening.
Thank God for malaria pills.

 

Well that’s all I’ve got. We’re off to Gulu in the morning
for four days and then it’s tourist timmmeee!

 

MOTHER…

Here’s the populations you wanted (:

 

Kampala: 1.5 million

Lira: 500,000

Gulu: 300,000

True Life: The Wild Thornberries

This has been such a crazy experience these last few days. Although our journey here consisted of 28 hours filled with plane trips and layovers, it definitely has proved to be worth it. I’ve experienced a lot these past few days so I’ll just go through a little run-through of our trip so far…

We arrived in Uganda late Friday and spent our first night at a hotel in Kampala. When our teachers told us we’d be staying in hotels this entire trip I was pretty excited because it seemed like we wouldn’t completely be roughing it… which was my initial impression of how this trip would go. Our hotel was not what I had imagined though. Zero air conditioning, three beds cramped in a small room, and mosquito nets hanging over the bed definitely take a little getting used to. These conditions don’t exactly create the greatest sleeping conditions but we’re making them work. It’s all part of the experience, I guess.

Saturday morning we all loaded on the bus and drove 7 hours to the town of Lira– the drive was definitely an experience. Since we landed at night we hadn’t been able to see Africa at all, so this was a great chance for us to  take in the sights of the different towns and the countryside. When our bus drove trough the towns everyone started at us. The majority of people seemed very excited to see us and very happy we were there. When we got towards the outside of Kampala, however, that mood seemed to change. One group of women were yelling at our bus to go while waving knives at us. It was a scary experience, to say the least, and really makes me wonder if we’re wanted here or not.

It was nice to finally get to our hotel in Lira after so many hours of traveling yesterday. That brings me to my favorite part of the trip so far: the Ugandan children. We went on a walk around our hotel and there were a ton of them playing. They were so friendly and just came right up to us which is something you won’t usually see in the states. We walked with the and took a lot of pictures which they LOVED. Seriously, whenever we started to take pictures they ran up to our cameras and got so close to it you could pretty much only see one child in the photo. They kept making funny faces too which was even more adorable. My mom wants me to bring an African child home with me and at this point I’m seriously considering it. 

Today was our first day of shooting! We went to a 1.5 hour church service and then interviewed the Bishop of Lira and the head of a Lira radio station. The church was absolutely packed during our service and the Bishop said that our service was only one of the five they have each day which is crazy. It really made it obvious to me that their entire community is focused around the church, which is a very cool thing to see. Church was very warm, but a good experience. It surprised me how much their mass paralleled with one of our Catholic masses back home. After church and the interviews we played some intense games of UNO, took a tour around our hotel, and had a little dance party with some African dancers…guess I can cross that one off my bucket list too.

Some things I’ve figured out from this trip…

  • I really like this place so far.
  • After seeing parts of the slums I realize how good we have it at home… seriously, most people have no idea.
  • I suck at filming.
  • Two weeks of minimal internet and no cell phone might actually be good for me.
  • I hate bugs.
  • I’m so fortunate to have a shower and air conditioning at my house.
  • I’m really grateful I’m not a picky eater.
  • Annnnd I want a mango tree.

Okay, thanks for reading (: Hopefully there will be more to come soon.

 

We we we so excited, we so excited

We leave TOMORROW MORNING. This is unreal. I got really excited for the trip yesterday but now I’m really. really. nervous. 

The past three days have been filled with theology and journalism lectures and LOTS of video bootcamp. I didn’t think I would be too bad at this filming thing and I’m slowly catching on but I’m still preeeetty awful. 

Also, this is really the first time since high school that I’ve been in class for this long everyday so I’m pretty worn out. Hopefully I don’t look like this little guy walking towards our airport terminal tomorrow (:

Annnnd I just realized at lunch that I have to pack tonight… that’s gonna be interesting. I’m a pretty bad over-packer (like when I go home to my parents for a weekend I usually bring about 12 outfits) so this will be kind of difficult for me. I just wrote a list out of everything I have to bring and, when I add a tripod and camera to the mix, I really don’t think it’s humanly possible to fit it all in my little purple suitcase. Ahhh there’s just too much to do before we leave and basically no time to do it… stressful. 

I’m just ready to go and ready to be in the country already. I’m getting to the airport around 7am tomorrow and then I’ll just be 3 plane rides and couple really long layovers away from AFRICA.   

 

Let’s do this.

Going on this trip was definitely a spur of the moment decision for me. I signed up the day I was told about it and here I am six months later, less than three days from hopping on a plane to the motherland. I’m freaking out to say the least. 

One thing I know for sure is that traveling to Uganda and shooting this documentary is not something that everybody is fortunate enough to experience. This is going to be an amazing adventure and so different than anything I have ever done in my life.

Although we’ve met a bunch of times over this past semester to be prepared for what Africa will be like, I still don’t feel like I’m truly ready for what we’re going to see while traveling the country. I’m nervous and scared, but in a good way. This is going to be a huge eye-opener for me and I’m excited to see how this changes the way I think about life. I know that traveling through the slums and seeing real poverty and desperation will make me appreciate what I have much more and really show me how blessed I am. 

There are about a million thoughts and emotions going on in my head right now I can’t even get them on paper…. so I’ll leave my post at that.

Stay tuned to my adventure… it should be interesting (:

Molly