So I have really neglected this blog. I had a nice idea for 2018, however that remained a personal pen and paper journaling thing. After I quit writing every day in October, a lot of people have commented that they missed my stories. Just because I am writing one now, doesn’t mean I will completely get back a set rhythm of writing regularly, but how knows. If you ask for it, some bits of my life might be interesting enough to share. On that side note, why this one? Mainly because I am going home very soon. For personal experience, I have learned I deal best with nostalgia and transition by writing about it. And since this blog is still somewhat alive, why not share it with y’all? Enjoy!
As the world is saying goodbye to a great scientist, I am saying goodbye to my first year of working in Uganda. There are] many things about Stephen Hawking that I respect, there are a few things I don’t agree with, but the man had some wisdom in him that I am glad he shared with the world.
“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
– Stephen Hawking
One. Look up at the stars.
Moving to the other side of the world into an unfamiliar culture away from the people you love is always a bit of a thing. I going to be the last person to say it’s always easy. Although my biorhythm loves living in a country where it gets light and dark again at the same time every day, and beautiful starry nights are plentiful, it’s so easy to focus on your feet. Just on the next step, rather than taking time to be still and just admire the general splendor of the bigger picture. Honestly, we probably all do it. Focus on today. Live in the now. The whole carpe diem thing. Nothing wrong with that. But this year, I have reminded myself many times to dare and face the questions about what’s next and why. Not that I have the answers, but still taking plenty of time to reflect and be still has been very, very helpful and good for my soul.
It’s definitely a key lesson I am taking away from my first year in Uganda. Self-care is more important than ever. This country can be beautifully relaxing in many ways. The warm sunshine. The fresh fruit. The incredible nature. The amazing people. It’s all true. However, I do believe that living abroad in a tropical and relatively peaceful country is romanticized. Life can also be stressful. Work is never done, traffic is challenging, family and friends are far away and the only constant thing in building new relationships here is saying hello and goodbye. It’s a whirlwind. Life is different every single day. That makes it fun, never boring and interesting. But sometimes, just the ordinary next predictable step can be so comforting.
So in the middle of all the chaos, I have learned to take care of myself well. Find what works for me. Even though that’s the pretty standard thing of food, sleep, and exercise. I am not telling you anything new by saying that those ordinary small acts of self-care allow you to look up. To enjoy every single day as it comes. To think about the bigger picture. To dream about the future. And to never ever give up.
Two. Never give up work.
So, why all the self-care? Because even though I love my work, it can be quite demanding and exhausting. Working kinda takes up a lot of my time. Someone one’s told me: “Enjoy your student years. You won’t have money, but at least you have time. Once you start working, you’ll have some money, but no time anymore.” I could probably work 80+ hours a week if I wanted to or could handle that. There’s always more to do, more to learn, more to build and more to contribute. Working for an international NGO is every bit as challenging and interesting as I thought it would be. I have never had a day in the past year where I didn’t go to the office with a feeling of boredom.
It has definitely been a year full of change and challenges. I am not working anymore with the wonderful colleagues I started with. When typing up my list of things done and to-do while I am on leave, I realized there was quite a bit on my desk in the latest months. That’s all right. That’s how things naturally developed. Would I have like to see things differently? Maybe. Would have been nice if some things would have been easier. Yet I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Never has there been a day in the past year in which I regretted saying ‘yes’ to that email from ZOA about coming to an interview and taking up this position. I guess they like me enough, and the quality of my work, for me to stay for a while longer. I am someone that is not driven by money or power. I absolutely want to do the best I possibly can and love to create an influence with what I am doing. But I have learned again this year, that your work is not so much about what you do. It’s about how you do it and why. With love.
Three. Remember love.
It’s kinda cliche, but so true. Because I don’t think I would be able to go home (and come back) with a happy and grateful heart if it weren’t for love. Love for my colleagues, who weren’t just team members, but friends who cared. Love for my family, loving me enough to let me go and live out my passion. Love for all the new friendships that I have built along the way. Friends that were the family close by if I missed mine so far away. Friends that cooked meals, shared wine (mostly beer though), gave rides, hosted parties, watched movies, and that I had meaningful conversations with. But also the friends that weren’t physically here in Uganda. The ones call you on Skype from halfway across the world because they need some advice. The ones that send you postcards and texts even after having been gone for many months to ask you how you are.
You know who you are. Thank you. C.S. Lewis got it exactly right. So what he says below. That’s who you are for me.
“In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together; each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others. Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?”
– C.S. Lewis
I am not sure if I deserve it all. Living in this country. Having a job that I love and most importantly having so many people around me that love me in return. Life has been good to me this year. A gift to me. God has been a Gift to me this year. I hope I have been able to give back. With my home-baked cakes, taking initiative in church ministry, giving my full 200 % in every single day at work for thousands of people. I am sure it’s not enough. It’s never going to be enough if it would all depend on me, my strength and my energy.
Last Monday I shared with my team a bit of this story. About how the year wasn’t always easy, that I’m really looking forward to going home for a little bit, but also about how to find real strength. Especially when you don’t see how to look up anymore. When you want to give up and just quit. David’s words are so relatable when he says: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
But that’s not how it ends. It ends with a powerful proclamation of trust. In every bit of challenge, trust that God will sustain you. He has certainly done it for me this year. And I trust He will continue to do that.
“Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you.”
– Psalm 55:22