getting here

First of all, if you are new to my blog, here is a guest post I did on my friend Cor’s blog with a little bit about why I am in Uganda for the second summer and how I love seeing what God is up to around the world.

A year ago, as I was flying to Africa, I remember thinking, “This sucks.  This is the longest flight(s) of my life.  Thank goodness I am never doing this again.”  And then I found myself back on an airplane a few days ago.  It was still dreadfully long, but much more tolerable… probably because I knew the outcome would be landing in a country that stole my heart.  And it didn’t hurt that I had layovers that were several hours long so I didn’t need to do any running through airports.  Also, on the longest leg of my trip, no one was sitting in the seat next to me!  It was like magic.  I could stretch out all I wanted (within my 2 seat area).

I am sharing a room with my dear friend Jessica, who I met last summer.  It is so exciting to be reunited.  And she made the right choice this morning and let me sleep, rather than waking me up with a good morning song 🙂

I have had a chance to sit down and look at our schedule, and I think it is going to be a packed 4 weeks!  We will be partnering with some of the same ministries as last year, as well as a few new ones.  We will also be going to visit a couple of other cities, which I am super excited about.  All in all, I think it is going to be a great month in Uganda.  I’m super excited for all of the adventures and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.

(as a side note, my day off is on Fridays, so there might not be a lot of blog posts between now and next Friday, since I haven’t been here long enough to actually have things happen in my life.  Just like last year, know that my silence doesn’t mean that I have been eaten by a zebra.  Full reports will come your way soon enough.)

and she’s back.

Well kids, I’m back in Africa.

In some ways, things are so different.

In other ways, it feels like I never left.

Mostly I feel really jet-lagged right now.  But happy.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 7 so I could see the kids and walk them to school.  Annet is the first one I saw.  She was standing by the table.  She saw me, shouted my name, and launched herself into my arms.  My heart was filled.

We then went back and saw all of the other kids and there was a lot of hugging and smiling.

It was also exciting to see all the staff – especially Jessica and Esther as we have kept in contact over the past year.

I am so glad to be back.

Portland: the food

Sadly we did not have enough meals in Portland to take advantage of all the great food options.  There are so many great restaurants in town, and only three meals a day.  Woe is us.

Here are some of our favorite food stops along the way:

Stumptown Coffee

I realize that coffee technically isn’t food, but Stumptown brews a delicious cup of joe.  The ambiance is pretty stellar also.  We quickly became regulars here.  I was beyond delighted last weekend when I discovered that Spyhouse coffee in Minneapolis brews Stumptown coffee!  I think that Spyhouse and Stumptown must be cousins.

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Voodoo Doughnuts

This is probably the most tourist-known “restaurant” in town – but honestly the doughnuts really are SO delicious!  We tried several over the course of our stay and were not disappointed.  What has the potential to disappoint you is the line.  Go on a weekday – around 8 am, and you will probably get to walk right up to the counter and order.  At least that is what we did.  It was amazing. Photo 36Photo 38

Cupcake Jones

One afternoon we picked up cupcakes here and went to a nearby coffee shop.  We sat outside, ate amazing cupcakes, sipped our coffee and read our young adult fiction . (Ok, I can’t actually speak to what Rachel read.  But I reread Divergent – one of my favs).  It was a most excellent way to spend part of an afternoon. Photo 11Photo 21

Salt and Straw

This adorable little ice cream shop serves super creative ice cream flavors.  I went with something more typical – snickerdoodle ice cream (which by the way was incredible), but Rachel’s involved something about olive oil.  And surprisingly was quite tasty.

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Ken’s Artisan Bakery

One of my goals was to try macaroons.  This is where I made that dream come true.  I also made the (unknown) dream of eating the most delicious sandwich come true.  For those of you from Minneapolis, I likened this bakery/cafe to Patisserie 46.  If that comparison means nothing to you, get in your car and go there right now.

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Mo’s Seafood Restaurant

Not technically in Portland, when we were at the coast, one highly recommended stop was Mo’s – everyone (both people and billboards) says their clam chowder is amazing.  We tried it in a sourdough bread bowl.  Yum.

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Ok friends, so I promise we did really eat more real meals and did not solely subsist off of bakery food, but those are my top culinary memories of the trip.

My only regret is that we didn’t ever get to eat at a food truck.  But I have a food truck lunch scheduled for Monday, so there is still hope.

Portland: the gardens

During our time in Portland, we went to a few different gardens.  Each came with its own, “unique” experiences.

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Garden #1: Under Attack

After our time at the Saturday Market, we headed to the Chinese Garden.  Mostly because my Portland app highly recommended it, and also because it was within walking distance.  Portland’s Chinese Sister City designed this garden, so apparently it is pretty legit.  I will probably need to go to China so that I can confirm this claim.

It was a lovely garden to walk through- quite peaceful and serene.  At least it was until I was innocently taking pictures of beautiful flowers when out of nowhere an evil blue jay swooped in and pecked me on the head.  No joke.  It hurt.  But despite my numerous checks and rechecks, did not actually draw blood. My sister wishes she’d been making one of her “nature documentaries” because my reaction was so entertaining.

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Watch Out For Blue Jays #worthit

Watch Out For Blue Jays #worthit

Garden #2: Where Are You?

On Sunday we went to the Japanese Garden.  Also made by a sister city.  This one in Japan.  I think that Portland must come from a pretty big family.  (Side note, as I am typing, a giant black bird flew out of a tree above me, and I totally panicked.  Apparently I haven’t recovered from the blue jay incident).  Anyways, I HAVE been to Japan, and went to quite a few gardens there, and in my opinion, this Japanese Garden is spacious, serene, and has many elements of true Japanese Gardens, but doesn’t compare to actual gardens IN Japan.  Which makes sense, seeing that we were in Oregon.  We still really enjoyed it a lot.

The trickiest part of the day was actually finding the garden.  When you go, maybe don’t be like us and choose a day other than Sunday to head up there.  As it turns out (to no one’s surprise) public transportation doesn’t go to nearly as many stops on Sundays as on the other days of the week.  As a result, on a Sunday, you will probably walk for miles and feel confused, dejected, and slightly sad, yet triumphant in the end.  Or at least that is our experience.

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Garden #3: The Mighty Ducks

The third garden we visited was the Rhododendron Garden.  It was quite out of the way, but quite lovely.  If I lived in Portland, it is the kind of garden I would grab a friend, a picnic, and a good book, and go enjoy a quiet afternoon amidst the beautiful flowers and winding paths.  The most exciting part of this garden is when we were watching the cute little duck family.  Mama and Papa Duck were taking their cute little ducklings for a swim on the pond.  When in complete surprised to everyone, evil Uncle Duck dive bombed them and a wild fight ensued.  Then in a little bit the fighting stopped and everyone lived happily ever after (or at least that is what we are choosing to assume).

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I think that the lessons we can take away from these experiences are twofold:

1: Flowers are pretty

2: Maybe Portland shouldn’t put a bird on it

Portland: People Watching

Portland has some seriously good people watching.  Some highlights include: people taking their pet parrot out for a walk, a bicyclist with a small wagon in tow that had a giant dog riding in it, and a guy walking down the street while playing his guitar and singing.  (I know we saw a lot of other great things, included just general fashion choices) but it has been a month, so cut me some slack.  I’m getting old and my memory isn’t what it used to be.  Photo 20

Fun Fact: On vacation I found myself waking up at ridiculously early hours.  So each morning I woke up early and planned out an itinerary for us.  This is pretty impressive for me – usually I just find fun things to do and I make let Rachel figure out how to make it all happen.

We started our Saturday at the Saturday Market.  This was super fun.  It a farmers’ market + artisans’ market + food stands + street performers.  It was super fun to walk through and look at some of the more interesting things for sale.  We also bought some fun handmade jewelry from the nicest lady ever.  I wish I remembered her name or her booth’s name because I would tell you to check her out when you are in town.  But alas, I do not.

After wandering through the stalls, we decided to grab some lunch.  I picked gyros, because I had never had one before, but love Mediterranean food.  It was delicious. Photo 9

We sat out in the park, ate our lunch, and people watched for quite a while.  The best part might have been the feeling of the sun shining on us.  Minnesota winter was really really really long.  Kinda the worst.  So experiencing sun was kinda the best.  Photo 10

Spring Break #2

Sometimes the school year stretches on forever.

Sometimes you have an influx of really challenging students that makes you want to run away.

Sometimes your assistant is going to Disney World and you don’t want to be alone with the children.

Sometimes you have personal days to use up.

Sometimes you go on Spring Break #2.  

Yes, I realize that second spring break happened over a month ago.  So walk down memory lane with me to hear a bit about me and Rachel’s trip to Portland. Photo 5

I loved Portland.  I don’t have any plans to move there, but it is one of the few places I’ve been where I didn’t just think, “You are nice to visit” but thought, “I could live here.”  I think that is because Portland is kind of like Minneapolis’ cousin.  They have a lot of similarities.  While still being different.  (Thanks for that obvious insight, Laura!)

We left for Portland Friday after work and arrived late Friday night.  As we waited in the taxi line, our first observation was: Taxis in Portland are Priuses.  Of course they are.  Photo 17

We took a taxi to our hotel, and as we got closer to the city, we were greeted by this sign (Imagine that it is all lit up at night.  I liked it.) Photo 3

In a very untypical move for Rachel and I, we didn’t actually have anything planned for our days in Oregon.  I had a couple of blogs and websites with ideas of places to visit and things to do, but nothing actually scheduled for each day.  I guess that is what happens when we do our jobs instead of plan our leisure time.  Sure am glad I’m on summer vacation now!