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Resiliency

It’s been a month since I last checked in.

And let me tell you…the growth, the hurt, the pain, the joy, the happiness, everything that has happened since I wrote my last post has been intense to put it lightly. There’s been some rough things that have happened, some really happy things that have happened, and some flat out awkward things (but I won’t waste my time on that) that have happened in my life over the last month.

Resiliency.

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If you were to take a look at the sugar coated pictures that I post on my social media, you might think that Gulu is one of the happiest places to be. Yes it’s beautiful and the people here are beautiful, but if I am being honest, life can be really hard to understand here. There is a type of struggle that I have seen, heard, and felt that I never thought I would.

There was one week that was particularly hard to grasp.

It started on a Monday, one of our ladies came up to me in a lovely dress. I told her that she looked beautiful, she smiled and said thank you and then proceeded to ask me if I would go to her husbands funeral service that day. She has 3 children, one of which I have gotten to be very close with. My heart started to break. I started to imagine what life would be like for her and her family now, and how hard it will be moving forward. But then something special happened. I went to the funeral service, and while I was there, I began to see our ladies of Krochet Kids start to come in, one by one. Before I knew it, one side of the church was filled with Krochet Kids staff. It brought me to tears seeing the support and love these ladies had for their sister in her time of need, and made me extremely proud to be working along side such strong and caring women.

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Monday was a rollercoaster of emotions, but then Tuesday came.

One of our ladies informed me she would be gone for the rest of the week. I asked why she wouldn’t be able to make it in. She said that her close friend’s son had died. He was bitten by a dog who had rabies. They took him all around Gulu to try and find the right vaccinations to treat him, but didn’t find them in time. He was 18 years old.

Wednesday morning. One of our group leaders pulled me aside and said that one of her ladies won’t be able to work for awhile. I asked why. She said that her mother was hit by a bus and passed away.

In that short three day span, I felt the weight of the world come down on my shoulders. I was confused, upset, mad, sad, and frustrated because there was nothing I could do. I felt helpless and alone. Helpless in the fact that I couldn’t do anything but offer words of support and alone in the fact that I couldn’t explain to anyone how I was feeling because I honestly never felt a burden so heavy.

But I took a step back and looked at all the women I get the privilege to work with. The unimaginable suffering and pain most of them have endured in their lives, yet they show up everyday with genuine love and kindness in their hearts. Being surrounded by that love and kindness lessens the burden I feel. Our ladies strength, resiliency, and courage keep me going. They keep reminding me of the beauty in the struggle. And I love them.

 

 

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And don’t worry, my next post will be about the really happy things that happened this month AKA my friends and I building a bathroom for our school Happy Kids and my US family coming to meet my Uganda family, stay tuned 🙂

 

And shout out to Riley Miller for the beautiful photos! Thanks Miller!

Still Making Music Too…

I wrote this today. Through the midst of this adventure, work, and change, I had to make time to find a release. Most importantly, I didn’t want to lose sight of something I am truly passionate about, and that’s music. I tried to touch on some of the things I have seen and felt here, and looking back it will be kind of cool knowing that I recorded a song in Africa too haha. Also it’s been over a year since I released my first project. Had no microphone so it might not be the greatest quality, but I tried my best.

More Chune to come.

P.S. I am a Vikings fan so when I refer to 84, I’m talking about Randy Moss haha

Mount Sabyinyo…

IMG_3251Two days ago, I climbed my first mountain. The mountain is called Mount Sabyinyo. The challenging/unique part about Mount Sabyinyo is that you have to hike two peaks before reaching the summit at the third peak. Little did I know that this climb would become an allusion to my personal journey that I have been struggling with the last two years. Two years ago I hit an all time low due to a number of personal circumstances that caused me to question my self confidence and self worth in a major way.

Back to the hike:

We hiked on relatively flatland for about two miles to get to the base of the mountain and I was surrounded by people who were excited and determined to start this climb, as was I. The excitement and determination masked my uncertainty about what this journey would actually entail. This phase of the climb was much like the beginning of my personal journey of rebuilding myself. Instead of taking two miles, it took me a year and a half to get the base of my personal mountain. I masked my insecurities, lack of confidence and self worth through relying on others and building a persona of personal happiness in my mind. But don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of memories the last two years where I was genuinely happy, but something inside was holding me back.

Uncertainty within myself.

Journey to the first peak:

Once we got to the base, I decided to roll with the first group. I wanted to challenge myself and be the first person to the top. But to my surprise, about halfway through the first peak, I felt myself falling behind. As I fell behind, I realized that the only way I could benefit from this is if I get through this using my own personal strength (no more relying on others). Come to find out, the first peak of Mount Sabyinyo is the hardest to reach, similar to challenges in life and the season of life I am going through at the moment. I wanted to quit halfway up the first peak, I wanted to quit many times. But I knew if I quit and went back down the mountain, all the work I have done to get here, all the things I have sacrificed would have been for nothing. I love my family, friends, and now, myself, too much to quit. So I kept climbing. I keep climbing.

With that thought in mind, I reached the first peak. It was beautifully misleading because I knew I had two more peaks to face to get to the top. Life is similar, there’s often a peak point that you strive for, yet when you get to that peak, realization sets in that there are higher peaks on the horizon, it just depends if you want to take the risk to keep climbing.
I made up my mind once I reached that first peak that I had no choice but to keep climbing to reach that third peak.

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Journey to the second peak:
My legs were already shaking in weakness, and one false step and I am tumbling down 3,000 feet. Climbing ladders that have been there for decades, some of them broken, some of them hanging on by a splint. But through all the adversity, the only thing on my mind was making it to the top. So I kept climbing. I keep climbing.

Step by step, I made it to the second peak. This peak gave me more life, more confidence. As I looked ahead, the clouds cleared and I saw three steep sets of ladders leading to the third and final peak, and then the doubts started to creep in again. Luckily, the mind is so much more capable of what the body feels it can do. So I kept climbing. I keep climbing.

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Journey to the summit:

Focusing my pain, hurt, and sacrifice into each step I took, I slowly made my way to the top. And I had a revelation as I was climbing. The only way I was able to make it to the top is if I LET myself feel the pain, the hurt, and the sacrifice. I could no longer avoid it and I know in my personal life, I was running from those things. I had to face each step which helped me realize that it’s okay to feel pain, hurt, and sacrifice, as long as I keep moving in the right direction, cause in the end, all those things will help lead me to the top. So I kept climbing. I keep climbing.

The Summit:

Reality set in when I made it to the top. I was in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the same time (AT THE SAME DAMN TIME *Future voice*). At the top, I began reflecting on three different places in three different places, at once…yes, reflecting on three different places IN three different places at once. But it was still cloudy below. There was no clear picture of what was ahead, nor what my journey looked like in the past. But the beauty between the clouds was breathtaking, the present.

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The Descent:

Making it to the top was liberating, even though I knew I had two more peaks to face on the way down. It was liberating because I knew the only thing that could stop me from making it down this gorgeous mountain was myself (or a Silverback Gorilla/Elephant, but even then still like my odds haha). My goal was to get to the bottom, so I could take what I learned through this physical and mental journey and apply it to my personal journey I am going through now. So I kept climbing. And I will keep climbing.

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And shouts outs to the rest of the crew that made the trek, proud of you and you are all all-stars.

A long time ago in a continent far, far away….

Last night, a group of extremely thoughtful, caring, and loving group of friends threw me a surprise birthday party. Yes, a surprise birthday party…

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My birthday was February 20th, so roughly (precisely haha) 36 days ago. I remember having beef jerky and water for my birthday dinner in my room here thinking to myself, “I don’t think this is going to crack the top ten list for best birthdays of all time, but I am in Africa, so it might haha!”

But little did I know…

They threw me a Star Wars themed party! We had “Yoda Soda”, “Vader-ade”, “Wookiee Cookies”, “Luke SkyWater”, a Chewbacca piñata. And to top it off, a Darth Vader cake, I didn’t even know that was possible in Gulu…

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It was unbelievable. We had some fly Jedi Masters and surprisingly friendly Sith Lords show up. An adorable Ewok decided to bless us with her presence. A few beautiful Princess Leias’ made lovely appearances. And come to my surprise, if you get the rare chance to see Storm Troopers with their helmets off, I highly suggest taking a second gander cause they are pretty beautiful as well! Haha

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It really was an amazing night though. The people of this community, actually nah, I’m not going to say community, I’m going to say the people of this family we have here in Gulu (shouts out to Kitgum too haha) are the best. They set aside time from their personal lives and other important work to put together something so sweet, kind, and special. That’s what families do, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the people I have here. I wish I knew a better way to display my appreciation, but I really have no words or actions for how happy you all have made me feel. Thank you to everyone involved and May the Force Be With You!

Also great work on the group photo haha

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Omara

 

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One month in and it has been a whirlwind. Immersing yourself in a new world is such a challenge. Dealing with emotions you’ve never had, seeing things you’ve never imagined, learning things about yourself you never thought of. Things that were too deep inside to present themselves in a comfortable environment. Even though these things are so beneficial for growing, they can be really hard to embrace at times. Like really really hard, but when those times are hard, I realize that I’m in a beautiful place. I wake up every day and am greeted with smiles and hugs by women who have been through the unimaginable, yet they go out of their way to make sure I am cared for and feeling okay. It’s like I have 70 moms looking out for me and they have only known me for one month.

How fortunate am I?

They gave me the Acholi name “Omara”. Omara means “You are very loved and very loving”, which I was so excited to receive. However, that name feels conflicted these days because of some things going on in my life and some of the decisions I’ve had to make. But the trials and adversity are needed, because that’s the only way I will become the man that I need to be. The man I want to be.

With that being said, I thank all of you for the support. I miss and love you all, and it’s because of you and the wonderful Ugandans I have met that I don’t have to worry about where I end up or who I am because I have the best people in the world in my corner.

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We Made It.

After a solid 19 hours of being on a plane and a one night stay at the Park Inn in Amsterdam, I can finally say that I’ve made it. I have to say I am a little tired, well actually a lot tired and sleep hasn’t been coming easy. Jet lag, 85 degree nights(with no AC obviously), and a mind that won’t stop thinking is a deadly combo when trying to catch some ZzZ’s. Subtract those things from the equation and you have a Patrick who is very optimistic and very excited for what’s in store. In fact, I have only been here for 4 days and I have a grasp on why people love it so much here.

The People.

I can’t count how many times I’ve been greeted with a “How are you?”, a “Good morning”, a “Nice to see you” all in 4 short days. I’ve come to find that greeting is extremely important here, which is a thing I sort of take for granted in the US. There have been multiple times when I have seen someone off in the distance that I may or may not say hi to, but just to avoid a potentially awkward exchange, I pull out my phone and look my home screen, as if it’s an urgent message, right as I walk by them, conveniently avoiding any social interaction. But I have a strong feeling I’m not the only one who has pulled that MacGyver-esque move.

But in all reality it’s those simple greetings that have really been helping me adjust here. I feel a warm welcome in a world that’s so new. The Ugandans want me to feel valued, appreciated, and most importantly, they want me to feel like I am home.
Which is more than I could ever ask for.

And this is my new home!

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Last Night in the US

Well…this is my last night in the US for quite awhile. Thanks for all the love and support, especially from this crew below who threw the best surprise going away party a dude could ask for, along with everyone that has reached out with kind words, gestures, and expressions of excitement for this adventure I am about to embark on.

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It really does seem like blessings keep falling in my lap.

Blessings- Chance the Rapper

Schuganda officially begins…YOU READY BIG FELLA?!