It's the night before I leave for Uganda, and I just finished packing. I was able to squeeze in four bags of Skittles for Rechael at the very last minute. Now the duffel bags are completely full.
Every time I make this trip, I think back to earlier ones. I remember the red shoes I bought for my first trip in 2006. I figured I 'd be stepping out of my comfort zone by being in Africa, so why not do it in a pair of shoes that was out of my comfort zone, too?
I always get jittery before I leave. The long flight is nothing to look forward to, and those of you who know me well know that I don't even like to fly. I've never been able to sleep too well on a plane, though this time (at my sister's suggestion) I am taking along an eye mask, some ear plugs and a neck pillow. The pillow was a gift from a friend a few years ago. It has a battery operated vibrator in it and makes you feel like you're kind of getting a massage while you're trying to fall asleep. She gave it to me on the flight home from Uganda one time because the day before we left I had piled onto a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) with three girls and a driver and when we went over a bump my tailbone was mercilessly smashed into the back bar of the bike. It was hard to sit down after that. Lynne thought if I sat on the vibrating pillow during the long, uncomfortable plane ride home, I might feel better. After that, she said I could keep it.
I can already feel of the red dirt of Kajjansi under my feet and the warm bright sun bearing down on my shoulders. I can hear the little kids calling out as Natalie and I walk through the village that first morning on our way to the orphanage "hey muzungu! bye muzungu!" as they giggle and wave and run after us a ways. And then I can feel the rush of bodies crushing in on me as I enter the gates of St. Mary Kevin. Arms reaching out to me, hands grabbing mine, hugs and kisses and screams of joy. "Do you remember me, Mama Gloria?" "I have missed you!" "I have waited for you!"
It's kind of an out-of-body experience. I will, at some point, float above the scene and see it happening down below. It goes on for a long time. There are 180 orphans.
Leo will probably pull my 35 pound camera backpack off of me and hoist it onto his own shoulders. Brian and Willy will shake kids loose at some point and walk me over to Melissa's house so I can sit down, drink some water and recover. Once I get there, Tina will take my shoes off as I enter Mel's house. Sarah and Queen will have wrestled away the rest of the very young ones by then and will have wrapped their arms in mine.
My face will hurt from the smiling and laughing. My head will spin as I try to remember everyone's names. It's been two years since my last visit, and surely little Oliva looks more womanly than girly now. How will I know it's her?
I tried to fall asleep early tonight so I can feel well rested for the flight tomorrow. I had to see the end of the Royals game, and then I had to finish The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and then I had to say a few goodbyes on the phone, but then I was ready to climb under the covers.
I couldn't sleep. I remembered something about a super moon, so I got dressed, grabbed my camera and went outside in search of it. It was too cloudy to see it, so I meandered over to the pool. I think I made my moon (and star) pictures there instead.
Sometimes you have one thing in mind, and then something else comes along that can be just as good - or just as important. I like to be open to those moments and follow the new path that's laid out in front of me.
If I hadn't been open to starting my own non-profit after that first trip when I wore red shoes and when my intention was to work for other peoples' non-profits, I would never have embarked on this nine-year journey that led me to Change the Truth and all the wonderful ripples that have been born of it.
So tonight when I couldn't find the moon, I stayed open to what might come along instead. I just walked in another direction to see what I could see. And there were these pictures.