A South Coast Journey

A year ago, (Yes a year. I don’t procrastinate, not at all.) our friends were flying off to Perth for the holidays and insisted that while they were gone, we should take their car and go on a road trip. So Christmas day we packed up the car and pulled out onto the highway. They’d given Craig some driving-on-the-other-side-of-the-road lessons in the days previous, but he was still quite nervous. I wasn’t allowed to knit, as I had to be his second set of eyes to make sure he was doing it right. He didn’t really need my help, but it made him feel better.

We drove south on the A1, leaving the city behind. The freeway cuts through the wooded Royal National Park, then comes to the city of Wollongong on the other side. Keep going past the town and suddenly the landscape opens up and you’re surrounded by green rolling hills. The sheer expanse of space made me feel as if I’d just been released from a small closet where I’d been kept locked up for several months. At that moment I thought, “oh, I’m not going back.”

Soon we started seeing signs for kangaroo crossings. My main goal on this trip was to finally see a kangaroo! I hoped the first one I saw wasn’t roadkill. We drove through places with wonderful names like Jerrawangala and Ulladulla, words I want to repeat again and again just to feel the syllables roll around in my mouth.

southcoast-nsw-2-of-25In late afternoon we arrived at our Airbnb rental at Dolphin point. After meeting our host and having a short rest, we walked to the nearby beach, where the waters from Stony Creek River meet the ocean. We walked down the short beach, crossed a narrow inlet onto another large expanse of sand, and across that to the lagoon. The tide was coming in, so we left our belongings a good ways up on the sand, and waded into the water. There was a sandspit on the other side that we wanted to get to and look out on the ocean from there. The river was intent on making its way to the open sea, so we lifted our legs and let it carry us. Once to the other side, we discovered it was pretty much a straight vertical climb up, and it was all we could do to hold our ground and not be swept away.

southcoast-nsw-3-of-25Craig wanted to go ahead and follow the current around the spit and out to sea. That didn’t sound like a good idea to me. Aside from drowning, I was also worried about our cameras we’d left back on shore. A quick glance over told me we’d better hurry back. The water was close to lapping at our cameras now. Even swimming across the current rather than trying to swim against it was obviously going to take me far from where I was trying to go. We eventually made it, just in the nick of time. By this point, the “large expanse of sand” was a small island.

southcoast-nsw-5-of-25According to my itinerary, the next day was when I would finally see a kangaroo. We set off for Pebbly Beach, known for the abundant kangaroo population. The beach was mostly deserted except for other folks who read the same reviews of the beach that I did. On the way back from the loo, one went hopping by and was gone before I realized what was happening. I spoke to a local who told me that, indeed, it was a big kangaroo hot spot, but they usually show up for four o’clock happy hour. So we decided to continue our trek south to see what we could find.

gabe-the-wombatAt Batemans Bay we found Birdland Animal Park and my new boyfriend Gabe.

southcoast-nsw-6-of-25Craig found a different kind of friend.

southcoast-nsw-8-of-25And wallabies!

southcoast-nsw-9-of-25The next day we turned back north and drove to Jervis Bay to our next Airbnb. It was a just perfect size tiny cabin in our hosts’ backyard, surrounded by flowers and chickens. Our hosts recommended Orient Post Bakehouse for truly amazing fish and chips, and invited us by in the evening for a drink. That’s one of the things we appreciate about Airbnb, is the chance to meet people and make new friends. We ended up staying until midnight or later drinking wine and chatting with our hosts, two other Airbnb guests from Germany, staying in a caravan out front, plus two of the hosts’ friends from Ireland who were there visiting.

southcoast-nsw-11-of-25The next day we went to Hyams Beach, where it’s said to have the whitest sand around.  Hmmm. Not exactly white, but it was a gorgeous beach!  On the way to the beach, we stopped off at the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum in Huskisson. A year later I don’t remember everything that we saw, but I know I found it interesting and there were lots of things from boats and an old ferry.

For lunch we went to Greenwell Point for oysters. There are several stands were you can buy oysters shucked and served with lemon. And we’re told that there are people just on the side of the road selling them too. We did see some signs, but apparently they were sold out. It’s a popular attraction, so go early if you want oysters.

southcoast-nsw-17-of-25There are lots of fishing boats around, and that attracts one of my favorite birds. I got such a kick out of this greedy guy. All that mess he’s swallowing looks painful, doesn’t it?

southcoast-nsw-19-of-25Next up, we visited Currarong to find the shipwreck. At the beginning of the trail we found this obsidian black river. Somebody told us that it’s the tannin from the tea trees that turns the water black.

southcoast-nsw-21-of-25At the end of the trail we found the shipwreck. On a stormy night of March 27, 1928 the S.S. Merimbula ran aground at Whale Point. The next morning, the fourteen passengers and 35 crew members rowed safely ashore. These are the remains that have washed up here.

southcoast-nsw-23-of-25Following Lighthouse Road down to the southern tip of the Currarong peninsula we found Point Perpendicular Lightstation. For awhile we were the only people there. It was so quiet, the only sounds coming from the wind and sea and gulls. The late afternoon sun was glorious.

Finally, it was time to go search out some dinner. Nowra is the nearest town of any size and most likely to have a few restaurants to choose from. We learned something about Christmas week in Australia. Everything is closed. Well, not quite everything. We did find an Indian restaurant that hit the spot.

southcoast-nsw-25-of-25On the final day of our holiday, we thought we’d make one last side journey on our way home. We drove over the twisty windy roads of Cambewarra Range to arrive at Kangaroo Valley. We had brought along a little picnic and stopped to dine beside this peaceful river.

This Christmas, we’re heading south again. This time we’ll have home base at Batemans Bay, and take some short trips from there. I’ll try real hard not to wait another year before I post pics!

Happy holidays to all!

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Road Trip to Zion

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We’ve lived here in Utah ten years this week and this is the first time we’ve been to Zion National Park.   Our attempts to get there are really rather amusing.  Last September, we drove down to St. George to visit Craig’s parents and to borrow their luggage.  We thought, “Hey! Let’s go to Zion’s while were here!”  Not considering that it was Labor Day weekend, we packed up and headed for the park.  Everyone in the world was there!  The parking lot was full and the only choice was to go to town, park, and take the shuttle back.  We didn’t have that much time, so chose to come back a different day.

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We chose Memorial Day weekend!  Yes, we are brilliant.  Really we thought that we’d go after the weekend and all would be fine.  So we drove back down to his parents.  On Tuesday, we had a leisurely morning, then set out towards the park.  We’d gone barely a mile and Craig realized he had forgotten his sunglasses, so we turned around.  We set out again and after we’d driven somewhat farther, my phone rang.  It was an important call I had been expecting, about which I’ll share in a few days.  Anyway, we had to turn around again so I could take care of an important task relating to the call and involving my computer which was back at the in-laws.

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So back we went.  By now it’s lunch time and we’re all hungry.  We decide to eat lunch and then try again.

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Oh wait.  Craig read his email and discovered that someone had scheduled him for an important, perhaps life changing, phone call that afternoon. It’s getting quite comical now.

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My sun and stars:)

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On Wednesday morning, we decided to try again before we headed home. This time we got all the way to the park!  We parked and hopped on the shuttle that drove us through the park, stopping at the sights to see.

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We decided to forgo the walk along the edge of the cliff face.  That arrow is pointing at a hiker.

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Here is a better view of what he’s walking across.

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The scenery was grand and breathtaking.
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Spectacular it was.

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If you’d like to see more pics, I’ve put them over on Flickr.

On Home and Real Life

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We’ve been away from home so much over this last year.  We were in Iowa for a few weeks last January, then in Colorado in June.  We went to Uganda in October and then took off for Iowa and Colorado again in January.  We returned home Saturday evening.  Oddly, the reality of being home didn’t hit me until this morning.  Saturday I was just too tired to know where I was; yesterday I was busy unpacking and cleaning house.  Preliminary nesting.   I woke up in the middle of the night, needing to pee, but I couldn’t remember whose house I was in and where the bathroom was, so I just went back to sleep.  Then this morning, as I stood in the kitchen pouring coffee in my favorite cup, and the long absent sun came streaming through the window, I felt home.

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I’ve always had this split personality when it comes to traveling.  Half of me always has wanderlust and the other half wants to build my nest and rest there.  Those percentages may have changed.  I do know that I used to have this five day thing, where I would feel restless and want to go, but after five days I wanted to be home.  I would argue with myself about how on earth was I going to live my dream of being a world traveler if I couldn’t be away for more than five days!  Having made a few extended visits over the last two years, I’ve learned to feel more at home away from home.  Apparently now I’m at five weeks.  I was doing good this entire trip.  Near the end, I knew that the time to be home was growing near.  Then the last couple days I just wanted to get in the car and drive straight home!

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Part of that needing to be home is a desire to get back to real life.  I have to keep questioning myself though about just what is real life?  I’ve been re-reading May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude.  It really speaks to me; she writes about her depression, about a need for solitude, and her writing path.  I was blindsided by a return to depression a couple months ago and have been trying to pull myself back out of that, and reading about her journey helps me understand my own.  But back to the real life question.  Sarton writes in the beginning of the journal:

I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last.  That is what is strange – that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and discover what is happening or has happened.

That is what I questioned, if being with my friends and family isn’t “real life” what is?  But like Sarton, I need that alone time to figure out who I am and what I’m doing.  I have found that I don’t need quite as much alone time as she did!  I am reveling at being shut in my studio, at my desk, in front of the window.  This is my safe place, my favorite spot in my home.  I’ll try to stay here for awhile:)

More Adventures in Uganda

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I want to share with you a beautiful ceremony that we were blessed with witnessing while in Uganda.  Linda and Will, the creators of the Fistula Project, have been sponsoring a young woman through her schooling.  She is graduated now, has a great job working with people with disabilities, and she was marrying.  We were invited to the introduction ceremony; this is where the groom and his family are presented to the bride’s family.

The following photos are crap.  I’m sad that I was such a poor photographer on this amazing day.  I am thankful it is burned into my memory.

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We drove north to Kapchorwa, which is in east central Uganda, near the Kenya border.  Much of the family was gathered at the Masha Hotel in Kapchorwa.  We hung out there until we received word that it was time to head up the mountain to the family home of the bride.  The entire countryside in this area is heavenly; the Masha was no exception.  We wandered the magnificent grounds, took photos, followed lizards, stepped in some really squishy, gelatinous substance that I suspect had something to do with the outhouse that was nearby.

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The groom’s family was preparing gifts of food to present at the ceremony.

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The food was placed in traditional woven baskets and wrapped in cellophane and ribbons.

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When we were summoned the group caravaned up and up the mountain, over narrow, red dirt roads, bouncing over deep ruts.  When we arrived at the top we found the women of the bride’s family had formed a barricade.  They had a string across the road and they were singing and ululating.

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The groom’s family queued up.  They had to pay in order to be allowed past the line of women!

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These are the bride’s attendants.  Are they not breathtaking against that stormy sky?  They danced to the music blasting from speakers.

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Sister of the bride.

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I do wish I had a better photo of this young woman.  I found her so incredibly beautiful I couldn’t stop staring.  I’m pretty sure she was tired of this mzungu looking at her.

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The gifts of food were carried in procession.

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This ja ja was incredible, so full of joy.  She sang and danced and waved that yellow cloth during the entire ceremony.

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The bride arrives in the traditional gomasi dress.

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She wraps her groom with this tartan.  Words were spoken by many; gifts and rings were exchanged.

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After a change of clothes, the bride and her attendants made another round.  After this, traditional fancy cakes were presented, then the feasting began!  Women went through the crowd with pitchers of warm water and bars of soap for us all to wash our hands.  Then we dined upon plates piled high with chicken, goat meat, matoke, some tiny eggplant in a sauce, and more vegetables, which we all ate with our fingers.  It was yummy.  I wish I had some right now.

During this event, it rained all around the mountain, but not on us.  After the ceremony, we and many more than we started with all piled into our van, with Gabriel our driver shaking his head with wide eyes.  The trip down the mountain was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.  Those rutted roads were now thick with mud and rivers of red running down.  Gabriel carefully negotiated the ruts, while the van leaned far over to this side then that, and we looked down the mountainside, our turn for wide eyes.  We made it to the bottom alive and all breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Next week I’ll share some photos of Sipi Falls, our one last jaunt before leaving Uganda.

Entering a Different World

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I ask your patience as I unfold this story of our journey.  I’m going to go slowly and while telling you the story about the project and the incredible women we met I’ll be working through some thoughts on my own responsibilities to this world and about my path.  I feel a lot of anxiety about writing this down; I’m afraid I won’t be able to express the profound effect this experience had on me.  I realize right now that I’m talking about me me me, but that is what happened; we went to Uganda to give, but received so much more than we ever could have imagined.  I get so emotional every time I start to think of it.  That’s good.  I want to continue to feel that emotion and be pushed into action.

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In the weeks prior to leaving for Africa, I started to have reoccurring dreams about my need to be giving of myself to the community, whether that be this small community I live in or the world community.  Before moving to Utah, I worked in the domestic violence field as a women’s advocate.  I’ve done volunteer work regularly  since my children were small.  That is until I came to Utah.  I’ve done very little since being here.  I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been here for almost 10 years.  That is 10 years of selfish, ego driven behavior.

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As we left here, I really didn’t know what to expect.  I knew what the project was, and I’d read a little bit about Uganda and the history, but that was it.  I wanted to go as a blank slate.  I didn’t want any preconceived notions of what to expect; I wanted to form my own opinions. It was important to me to approach this journey with a wide open mind and heart.  Sponge mind.  I wanted to soak up everything and experience every single moment and smoke-filled breath to the fullest. I’ll probably show you way more pictures than you want to see, and many of these aren’t really very good from a technical aspect, but they will help me to relate the noise, the smell, the frenetic atmosphere.

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After 20 some hours on a plane – I don’t even know how many, nor do I want to know – we arrived in Entebbe late in the evening, around 10:30 I guess.  This was the beginning of my losing track of time.  We hurried through customs, got our visas, and fetched our two apiece contico boxes full of knitting supplies and hygiene kits from baggage claim.  Four of us flew from Salt Lake City; we joined another member, the most adventurous spirit of the group, in Entebbe.  We all met Gabriel, our first new friend and intrepid driver, piled into his van with our luggage piled on top and drove on the left hand side of the road, through screaming, careening traffic to Kampala, our first stop.

I have no photos of this first night, only memories of speeding past squiggly neon lights, music, honking cars, people walking everywhere, the acrid air burning my nose and eyes, and our first near-death experience as drunken headlights zoomed toward us on our side of the road, with my sweetheart sitting in the front seat.  The look on his face here echoes the same, incredulous “are we really here?” that I was thinking.

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In Kampala, we stayed at the Speke hotel.  Our room was beautiful with 12 foot ceilings, tile floor, dark wood, the colonial style a stark reminder of the west’s involvement there, and a reminder to me of what I did not want to participate in.  But the shower was hot and the water pressure strong to wash off the travel dust; we knew it might be the last hot shower we’d have for a couple weeks.  We fell into bed to dream about what the next day might bring.

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After breakfast, we piled back in the van and headed south toward Masaka.  We began to get a glimpse of the world of contrasts that we had entered.  Here in the capital city of Kampala there were tall buildings with storks perched on top, new cars sharing the road with women balancing bananas on their heads.

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As we drove away from the city, we changed from paved road to the ubiquitous red soil that would be our companion for the next two weeks.  The built landscape changed from high rise buildings to smaller structures, market stands, and shacks.

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This is just a gratuitous funny picture.

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Before the trip, we probably were in a bit of denial about our relative safety.  We absolutely denied any danger when speaking to friends and family.  Upon arrival though, it started to sink in just what the political environment was like.  The Kenya attack had happened just a short time before we left, and we started receiving emails from the department of state’s Smart Traveler Program telling us of a possible attack planned for Kampala.  While reassuring friends and family that we were safely away from the threat, we still contemplated the reality of the situation.
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My eyes are still filled with the green expanse of the countryside.  The earth is so big in Uganda, the horizon so far away.

Our first day in Masaka we just got settled in, we made our first visit to the hospital and met doctors and nuns.  Our real adventure began the next day.  I’ll be back on Friday to tell you more.

Home Again

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We are home again.  It feels like I’ve lived seven lifetimes since I was last on this page.  And now to make sense of it all.

I’ve uploaded all of my photos to the computer.  As I sort through them, I will start to tell the story of our journey and what we learned: about Uganda, the women we were working with, and about ourselves and our place in this world.  Craig actually was the major photographer on this trip.  I did take some photos, but I found that when I switched into the role of photographer, it took me outside of the experience.  I realized that I much preferred being right there in the middle of this circle of women.  When I did pull out the camera, the women stopped being themselves and went into posing mode, so I couldn’t get any candid shots.  I decided it was best to leave that to Craig, and he did it well.

I have so much to think about now.  Before going on this trip, I was already reevaluating my life path.  Now, post this incredible experience, some things about that life path have become so much more clear, yet at the same time there are even more questions to answer.  My biggest fear is slipping back into apathy and my tendency to get lost inside my head or in the daily rush through life.  The biggest thing this trip has taught me is that I have to get outside myself.

For now I will unpack my suitcases, wash the red Uganda earth out of my clothes, restock the refrigerator, and wake up my kefir.  I will be back with the first photos on Wednesday.   In the meantime, be sure to check out Craig’s posts over on The Fistula Project’s Facebook page.

Beautiful Gifts from Faraway Places

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DH and I long to travel, yet for the past several years we’ve had to restrict this to the arm chair variety, and of course living vicariously through our world traveling friends and family.  Recently, we’ve been absolutely spoiled by friends bearing gifts from other lands.  Our globe trotting Ninja was here a couple weeks ago.  Knowing how much I adore textiles, she gave me this beautiful tablecloth from Madagascar.  She thought I could add my own colorful touch to it with some stitching.  I just don’t know though.  It’s so amazing as it is!

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She also gave us this wonderful puppet from Cambodia. Isn’t he beautiful?

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Shortly after Ninja’s visit, some friends invited us for dinner. Her mother had just moved here from Japan and brought lots of beautiful textiles with her. I was knocked off my feet when she gifted me with the contents of this bundle!

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They thought I could put these to good use making pretty things:)

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There are gorgeous scarves.  This top scarf uses an ancient Japanese dyeing technique called Shibori.  It’s a very intricate and involved process that includes tying, stitching, binding, folding, and dyeing.  There is no way I’m cutting up this treasure!

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There are three child size kimonos.  Hirokosan tells me that these sell at the thrift stores like t-shirts here.  I’m going to just let them hang around awhile before I take the scissors to them.  I want to be absolutely sure that I know what I’m doing first, and I just want to admire them.

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This one is a baby girl’s kimono.  It’s still very long; it’s put on the baby and then wrapped up like a present:)  The colors in this one are amazing.

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This one is for a little boy.  I can just imagine the make-believe play this would spark in a little guy!

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My own imagination is churning away, thinking of all the possibilities for this cloth!

Have a happy weekend.  I’ll see you Monday:)

Our Next Big Adventure

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I’m sitting here fretting over a knot in my back. I’m putting ice on it, and I can take a pill if I need to. If it gets really unbearable, I can go to the doctor. There are so many women in the world who don’t have such a choice, women who suffer a lot worse than a little knot in the back, but have no access to medical care. Obstetric fistula is a condition that thousands of women around the world suffer from, a condition that was basically eliminated in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Obstetric fistula is an injury caused by prolonged labor and obstructed childbirth with no medical care. Hours of contractions, with the baby’s head constantly pushing against the pelvic bone, can create a hole, or a fistula, between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum, and the woman becomes incontinent. Often, the baby does not survive.  In addition to suffering from the loss of her baby and the damage to her body, because of the smell and mess from the incontinence, these young women are typically rejected by their husbands and ostracized from the community. They are forced to live isolated from their families, traumatized, and suffering.

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The Fistula Foundation is a non-profit program that educates about fistula and raises money to fund worldwide programs who offer fistula repair, prevention and education. Medical Missionaries of Mary offer health care services in areas of need around the world.  The Fistula Project at Kitovu Hospital is a Salt Lake City based community group that has teamed with The Fistula Foundation and the Medical Missionaries of Mary to help provide fistula repair surgeries to women in Uganda. The Fistula Project works to raise awareness and educate the community about fistula and to raise money for the much needed surgeries. In addition, volunteers with The Fistula Project travel to Uganda to distribute handmade blankets, hygiene kits, and to teach the fistula patients how to knit and crochet, in a caring, supportive environment.

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The knitting and crocheting are activities that help to distract the women while they await their surgeries. It offers an opportunity for the women who have been living alone to start to experience community again. These are also skills the women can use to make clothing and household goods for themselves and their families, and can be a means of generating income.

My husband, Craig, and I strive to make a difference in the world through our actions. We believe that every human matters, and we want to do what we can to create peace and help to ease suffering in the world. Sometimes these are very small actions, such as posting about something we believe in on Facebook, and sometimes we are driven to do something bigger. We have decided that making the trip to Uganda this October as volunteers with The Fistula Project is a way for us to give of ourselves, and live our values.

This is kind of a huge step for us. Traveling and learning about the world is a dream and a top priority for both of us. We could go visit a typical tourist destination, but that isn’t what interests us. We want to know the real world, and the real people in it; we want to make a difference in the world. That’s why we are choosing to spend our “vacation” offering service.

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This is where you come in. Financially, we can’t do this by ourselves. Let’s face it; I’m a stay-at-home artist. Truthfully, I feel a little squeamish asking for help. I don’t ask for help, of any kind, easily. I worry about how this looks to ask for money, but then I remember that I hit the donate button and don’t find it weird. I have donated to a variety of adventures that I’ve come across on blogs, not a lot, but a few dollars here and there. So I’m sucking it up and I’m asking for your help. Your few dollars can help us to help people in need. If you would like to send us off to a place where it’s really hot and there might be big scary bugs, please click the donate button. If you would prefer to make a purchase that supports the project, the proceeds from sales in both of my Etsy shops, between now and October, will be used to pay for this journey.

To fund this volunteer service, we will need a total of $7,000. We hope to raise $5,000 through sales from my Etsy shops and donations on this site. If you can help with either a donation or by making a purchase from one of my shops it will be greatly appreciated. You can find the donation button over on the right sidebar. Payment is safe and secure.  You can find my Fiber Art shop here and my Mixed-Media shop here

Throughout the upcoming months, we will keep you updated on our progress here on the blog. When we get to Uganda, I will take many many photos, and will be so thrilled to share our stories with you when we return.

If you would like to learn more, visit these sites:

The Fistula Project Kitovu Hospital

The Fistula Foundation

Medical Missionaries of Mary