Thursday, October 14, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen

Although I'll always be an Austen Sister (and will hopefully still be invited to post on here), I've decided to create my own blog. If you still want to follow me, go to
Thanks for listening gang!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Days...

...until I get to call this man my husband. You have no idea how excited I am.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blind Sided

I was going through my journal and found the entry that I wrote after me and Erik's first date....

"Butterflies... the most perfect feeling in the world. I don't even have words to describe them... let me try...
The first thing that comes to mind is that I never thought this would happen tonight or at all with Erik. Okay, yes all weekend I thought about him, but the fact that he reached over during the movie and missed my hand then on the second try got it- never ever could I imagine how tingly that would feel.
Man I'm having trouble writing this because I keep smiling. Even if nothing happens beyond this, I'll have one amazing night to look back on.
Let's get to the details. So I have been trying to talk myself out of liking him all weekend long- I let my mind wonder too far away. So I seriously thought we were going to the movies as friends. It was so fun to hang out with him though; our conversation never hit a lull. The the lights went out in the nearly empty movie theater and it became evident that I really wanted to hold his hand,but I knew he didn't think of me like that. But we kept brushing up against each other and I felt my face get hot and my heart bang up against my rib cage. Then I mistook my butterflies for a full bladder. So I excused myself and went to the bathroom to calm down. But as soon as I sat down the sweaty palm game began and I was super conscious of where his hands were... except when his left hand shot across the barrier and missed my hand, but left it ridiculously close. Finally we got it right and I almost started crying- I just knew that he would remember that I was just a friend and grabbing my hand was a mistake. I loosened my grip so that he could let go, but alas he held on tighter. After the movie we talked the whole car ride home and outside my door. Then to maybe end the night I mentioned my cold toes. But he followed me into my apartment and the evening got even better as we cuddled and watched Youtube videos.
The weird thing is that we're just the same good friends that we've always been... but now I'm totally attracted to him.
Okay I need to stop thinking about this- it's really not a big deal- besides my cheeks hurt from smiling too much."

Who knew that fateful night where we went and saw "The Blind Slide" would turn into something this wonderful?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life after the bomb

On Sunday, merely 40kms separated me from a tragic terrorist attack. Never before had I been so close to the blatant hate and madness that was the bombing. Over 70 people were killed, including one American. Kampala is a city that I frequent often, in fact I had spent the day there on Friday. I could have been there. Easily. The team usually goes out to sports bars to watch the world cup games anyway. After the bombings, HELP put us on lockdown. All 24 of us stayed inside our little house for two days straight.
We all stared ahead, as our country directors informed us that they got word that more attacks were planned. I clung to my friend Chelsea and my terror was reflected in her face when I turned to look at her. All the sudden all the images from the Rwandan genocide came rushing over me, as I contemplated what an attack meant. We had heard rumors of the LRA returning and that plunged me further into my crippling fear.
Two weekends ago, I went to Gulu. Gulu is a Northern region of Uganda that has been afflicted with a civil war for the past 15 years. The LRA (Lord's Resistant Army) abducted children, brainwashed them, and then set them to attack their own villages. It has only been in the past 4 years that the LRA has left the area.
As I sat in our tiny house on Monday night and couldn't get a grasp on my fear, I realized with horror that this uncertainty was what those children felt every single night as they slept in the bush to avoid abduction. Every single night. As soon as I realized this, I lost it and just broke down and cried. Even after being in Gulu I hadn't understood.
And then the clouds broke and I knew that if I continued in fear that the terrorists had won. I couldn't let my life be dictated by terror anymore. The next day, they let us out of the house and ever since I have been trying to live life to the fullest. If I die, then it will be God's will. There's no way I'll be living my life huddled in a corner - scared of another attack.
When I was in Gulu, I was amazed and fascinated by the strength of the people. How could they move on from such a tragedy? Why were they so happy after going through so much. Now I know. It's the only to keep sane.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Ongoing quest for Cholocate Cake

I've learned to live without many things since coming to Uganda, such as running water, electricity, more than two outfits, food with flavor, and personal space. But one thing that I've been having serious trouble is the lack of chocolate. I wasn't even that big of a chocolate person before but now all I can think about it chocolate. Every night I have to invent new things to eat for dessert. I've eaten gummy vitamins, powdered lemonade, and last night I hit an all time low with stomach relief medicine that sort of tasted like tums.
So far every weekend my only agenda has been going somewhere that has decent chocolate cake. Last weekend, I took big steps in the right direction. I convinced five people to come with me and we took an hour long taxi ride into Jinja. Then we hopped on boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) for another twenty minute ride to a nice resort. We waited patiently for 8,000 shilling pieces of cake (about $4 which is an absurd amount here). They finally came and they looked perfect. Everything I ever dreamed about and more. I grabbed my fork and pierced the cake, I slowly raised the cake to my mouth. After just two seconds, I looked up horrified. I glaced at my country director and saw my expression reflected in her features. It was spiked with rum. Not just a little bit of run that gets cooked out, no someone had definitely poured an entire bottle of rum on each slice. We sat there in silence and pondered the big moral issue. Finally I shrugged and said, "Well it did cost 8,000 shillings" and continued to eat it. So saturated was this cake that if you pressed the cake to the roof of your mouth with your tongue, liquid would come out.
After a while everything got funnier and all five of us were chummy as we made up songs about the waitress. My morality was bought for 8,000 shillings.
So yes, I have yet to devour a purly chocolate cake, but I have been buzzed...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

African Writing Contest

A couple of days ago I saw a cat eating a dead rat. I don't know why but I can't get that image out of my head.
With the program I am with, we are urged to create our own projects based on the needs we see in the community. After spending just one or two days here I decided that the only thing that I could really help with is writing. So I decided to sponsor a writing contest. Unlike anything else I've ever done in my life before, this idea is actually becoming a reality, and in a big way. I've gone to school after school, announcing it and seeing kids' faces lit up when I mention the big surprise prize for the best piece of writing.
All this talk of writing makes me realize how much I need writing. I never know how I feel about any topic until I've sat down with my journal. I don't really know who I am without writing. It both empowers me and humbles me.
I must apologize, for someone who loves writing, this blog entry is not very well written. Thanks to everyone who reads my writing, I know that without it I would be lost.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My African Lover

My dear brother gave my email address to one of the people who got baptized while he was here in Uganda. He took drastic measures to meet me and has fallen head over heels. Here is one of his love notes.

Am sorry about this fact, susuen i started developing up strong emortion feeling of love towards you since i met you for the first time. i know this can be sounding so crazy to you, but i mean it dear, so pliz rescue me out of the bondange of pain am dweling in my dear. you are the precious woman who as risen hope of glory in my life there for i will never cease to smile whenever i look at beauty, i wish i could jump over the sky and bring down the shining stars of glory to you becoz of your beauty smile that comfort me on this plannet earth, but unfortunately i do not have wings to fly over the sky, i know that am look so cheap infront of you, but i know that i look so expensive infront of our heavenly because i have life, so please give me a blessing of coming into your heart, you mind and you thoughts, i will be i mis you susuen

yes, his name is Wilberforce

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fanta and tee shirts

I stood there underneath a tree, racking my mind, while 60 people sipping fantas blankly stared at me. The men sat on benches, while the women sat on mats on the ground. The women wore an odd mix of traditional dresses with American tee shirts over them. Those women represent what Africa has become, a continent unsatisfied with their own culture, desperately trying to become like America. In there attempts it has become a mixed culture. If only they realized how beautiful their culture is. I cleared my throat and became teaching them about washing their hands. They all smiled and nodded after my translator had finished. One man stood up and asked me how many times Americans wash their hands every day.
I have African fever. I love it here and never want to leave. It's a little overwhelming, seeing poverty up close- just on the other side of our fence. But I've found peace and happiness among the poorest of the poor. I've seen creativity as people work hard to make their lives more meaningful. I've seen joy as children dance to the beating of the drums.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

American worship

I sat on a moldy brown couch, scrambling to start the conversation. I frantically looked at the only other white person in the room. After a few minutes of eye communication, I started taking to the room at large about a writing contest. My proposal was met with blank stares, as the two teachers and principal contemplated what I had just suggested. After a few moments, they warmed up to the idea and got excited. They looked to me for all the answers. Me. A 20 year old student who doesn't really know what she wants out of life. They had spent years, working in schools, and they thought I was an expert. The meeting continued in this manner. I would ask questions. They would respond, but ultimately looked to me as the authority. Pastor Francis said " I know you are concerned with doing things in accordance with our culture, but we want to learn from your culture. What makes American students smarter than us? What can we do to be smarter than you?"
I was floored. Just because we have white skin and money, an intelligent man thinks that we are smarter than them.
I felt smaller by the minute and left my first meeting feeling overwhelmed.
I know I am no god or expert, but I do know that I can offer all my knowledge about writing and creativity in the classroom. But only time will tell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

bended knees

I sat across from a beautiful African girl. She asked me, why do muzungus have hair? And I really couldn't answer her, Africans are so much smarter than us. She told me about school and what she was learning. She spoke with such good english, I knew that she was clever, much clever than me who after 6 years cannot speak more than a few sentences in German. She told me about the food she makes and I couldn't even desribe the food I make... mac and cheese, are you kidding me? She asked me how many children were women supposed to produce. She told of her desire to go to America and go to university, but she had no money. She touched my pale skin and I touched hers and that's when I knew that she was my African equivilent. I told her that people in America did everything they could to get dark skin like hers. She was floored, she said, Americans want to be black?? If I went to America they would want to be me? I didn't want to correct her because I wanted it to be true. I still don't know if I did the right thing, but hopefully I did not murder her dreams.
Last week I was humbled when my best friend asked me, on bended knee, to spend forever with him. Just one week later a small Ugandan girl, with that same action, begged me just to touch my hand. So much has happened in this one week, but already I feel like I did nothing to enjoy the luxury that I enjoy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh sweet irony

Dear readers,

I know we seldom update this blog, but I would like to refer you to the post before this. The dear author, Miss Stack, has caught the disease and will soon be Mrs. Gillis.

Sincerely yours,
Miss Garfield

Monday, February 1, 2010

Go Get Vaccinated

There is an epidemic leveling out BYU campus, killing off one victim at a time. Once a person contracts this lethal bug, there's no turning back, they become unrecognizable subhuman forms, forgoing food, drink, and company. Normal conversations cease, roommates abandoned, homework forgotten. The correct medical term for this zombie-like disease is ringonthelefthandringfineritis, or more commonly referred to as "The Love Bug." This infection is surrounding me from every possible side... roommates, cousins, both girls sitting on either side of me this very moment at the library, friend from German class, the girl across the hall, half the members of my FHE group, and a girl I visit teach. The germ enters the body as soon as you meet a cute boy. Then the first sign of an outbreak is holding hands in public. Then after that lasts a few months, then comes the hypothetical situations conversations that go like this: "So if you were to get married, what season would you get married in? If you were to get engaged, what kind of ring would you like?" At this point, you can still go to the doctor and be cured of this infectious disease. But if you don't get it looked at, it progresses to the man hunting down your roommates and conning them into finding out what kind of ring you want. Then bridal magazines start showing up all over your apartment. The phone bill increases dramatically as you call your mom for advice. Then the looking through calendars to find a good date that works for your family. Of course, then the boyfriend asks you on a nice date to your favorite restaurant, then whips out 2 dozen roses, stomps out a heart in the snow- drags you to the exact middle of the heart... gets down on one knee... then you've got the disease full-blown. The disease takes over your life... you stop doing homework to pick wedding colors, the only thing you talk about are table settings for your reception, and you have a silly smile on your face that never leaves. To avoid this rapidly moving disease, cease all contact with the opposite sex, wear sweatpants to class, and never shower.
(That being said, I'm actually really happy for the above mentioned brides-to-be, just scared of it myself)

Monday, January 25, 2010

On pretending

My roommate handed me a pair of fake glasses she purchased at the dollar store. So fake, in fact, they didn’t even have plastic lenses. No, they were just the frames- as fake as it gets.

“They’ll make you look smarter, like you belong in a classroom.”

We were sitting in a home-made replica of an English classroom, pretending to be students so that our friend could teach us for her English teaching application. My roommate thought that in order to be a student, you have to have glasses.

The next day at school I wore my new frames. There was an empowering feeling that came along with these ‘specks.’ I saw the world like it was a movie screen—boxed in by a black border. My lectures were more inspirational, my friends wittier, my love life more dramatic. The glasses promoted me to play music and narrate in my head. People looked at me differently in my black frames. I was more sophisticated, more intelligent, more likely to whip off my glasses with one fluid motion and give someone a disappointed sort of look with my arms crossed in front of my chest.

The problem with these fake glasses is that if anyone notices that they don’t have lenses then they would have the complete opposite effect; I would look positively stupid. So it was a big gamble with only two outcomes; looking smart or looking dumb.

That day of glasses, I got 100% on two quizzes, I wrote a whole paper, and I debated politics with a Political Science major. The glasses made me smarter. I don’t think these light weight champs actually possessed superpowers to turn me into a genius. But I do think that while wearing them I was able to focus in on the objects in those little squares, and cut out all the distractions. I was there in the moment, boxed in on one thing at a time. By doing this I was able to pay closer attention to my schoolwork, the conversations I was in, and the things I was reading. It was like Dumbo’s feather- it was actually his ears that made him fly, but he thought it was a magical feather.

Glasses are traditionally associated with intelligence. The bookworms, the Computer Science majors, the valedictorians; those are the people that wear glasses. They are the ones who wear their eyes out by staring at computers screens and books. While in Elementary school, simply wearing glasses made you a target for slide, well-thought out insults, such as “Four-eyes,” “Nerd,” and “Specks.” Why are glasses regarded with so much hate?

Glasses correct vision. It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, where you go grocery shopping, how many laps you can swim, or when you took your first step. You are either born with faulty eyes or you look directly into the sun and sizzle your corneas.

The car pulled up the driveway—I reached in the depths of my bag and pulled out my lense-less frames and fitted them perfectly around my ears under the bush of curly hair sitting atop my head. I collected my stuff, thanked my ride, and bounced from foot to foot, as I skipped to the front door of my parent’s house.

I flung the door open to announce my entrance. I heard footsteps on the stairs and I saw my dad galloping down to greet me. He saw me and stopped short.

“What are you wearing?

I merely smiled and let my fake glasses slip down my nose, in what I thought sophisticated librarians or philosophers would do.

“You look like an idiot! Why in the world would you choose, of your own free will to wear glasses when you have perfect vision? Do you even know what kind of burden it is to wear glasses?”

I first chuckled, amused by my dad’s very strong opinions. Then slowly, the more he antagonized me for my glasses usage, that movie director inside of me died.

But then I tried on his glasses and I discovered the world from his eyes. His vision was confined to two rectangles, beyond those two magnifying glasses all he could see was blurry masses. He was completely dependent on the contraption loosely placed on his face. He has to take off his glasses and replace them with prescription sunglasses every time he goes outside. My mom orders him to remove the irksome device right before a photographer counts, “Three, two, one, say cheese!” Never can he wake up and see the sun patterns on our wood floor. He has to deal with the constant jiggling as he runs.

My intentions to be a glasses-wearer were as fake as the frames. I wanted to look like someone I wasn’t. I had glorified glasses and the “intelligent” people who wore them. I never stopped and thought that glasses were more like a bothersome burden to those who actually use them to see. I don't need an object, whether it be glasses or a magic feather, to make me smarter. I just need to believe in myself, focus and eliminate distractions. Oh, and, maybe a little late night rendezvous with books might help. . .

Saturday, January 9, 2010

BYU Drug Deals

Today as I was walking to class I saw an exchange between two guys. One older looking guy with slicked back hair reached into his inner pocket of his jacket as he said, "Dude, you've got to try some of this-- it's crazy." Then with a shifty glance first to the left, then to the right he pulled out a small blue bag and quickly shoved it into the other scared looking boy's outstretched hand. He pocketed it and silently walked away but not before I saw what was in the bag-- fruit snacks. The older boy shouted, "Try the green ones," as the carrier walked into the distance.
I think people here as BYU are craving rebellious activities without actually doing bad things. Or maybe the sugar in the fruit snacks can give some people highs. But whatever the reason was, I was insanely entertained!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The awkwardness continues...

I was sitting in my missionary prep class the other night. I looked around me, eying the plethora of 19 year old boys. I was happy when an older wiser girl sat next to me. We started with all the usual small talk about how excited we were about the class. She asked me if I lived far from campus, I replied with my address. I, in turn, asked her where she lives, to which we replied, "Y Mount," which just so happens to be the married student housing. I quickly looked down, and sure enough there was a big diamond ring on her left hand. I could tell she felt super awkward about being in a missionary class, so she said, "Yeah, my husband and I are moving to California after this semester, so I decided to just take religion classes for now." I tried to ease the conversation, so I said, "Oh! That's so cool, so while your husband will works, what will you be doing?" She paused for a few minutes and gave me a weird look and said, "Well.... I'll probably just be a mother." That's right, I looked down for a second awkward time to see her huge protruding belly. My eyes bulged and thinking maybe that she was graduating, I shifted the conversation back to schooling. That's when she told me this was her fourth semester in college. Yes, she was my exact same age, but married, pregnant and in missionary prep, and I realized my gift at making situations insanely awkward.