I don't consider myself an expert world traveler, but I have visited a few different countries. I have either volunteered or worked, and each trip was only about two weeks long. That's a great chance to get a sense of a new culture and understand how others live, but it's nothing compared to living in another country for two months!
I have never had to prepare for two months of travel outside the United States, and I especially have never had to prepare to live in Africa. In a moment of complete honesty and transparency, my desire to travel to Africa was never very strong. Oh how that has changed!
After getting the fantastic news that I was the new Noble-Watoto Master of International Agriculture Program fellow, I immediately began trying to make plans for my two months of work in Kampala, Uganda. There was just one problem I didn't even know where to start. I was just blessed that I have two great friends who experienced this fellowship before me (pointing finger guns at you Gabs and Tanner). ;)
That leads me to a few steps that I took to get ready for my long-awaited departure.
Inspirational quote by Lloyd Noble to help me through this journey.
First Step: Bug my friends a LOT!
I spent time calling, emailing and visiting one-on-one trying to get a sense for what I was about to take part in. They shared great stories and gave some great advice on how to handle the budgeting, communication and transportation. My friends make up a huge portion of my support system. They answered the simplest of questions and told me when I needed to relax. My friends' descriptions and stories of amazing people developed an eager desire to visit Uganda for myself. I shifted from a person with no strong interest to a student who thought about Africa day and night.
After continuously talking about the trip, it was time for step two.
Second Step: Book a flight and make a list.
The day I booked my flight seems so far away now. Once it was purchased, this entire experience became real. I had a departure date. That's always the time when an international trip becomes much more than a dream or a plan. I remember thinking over and over, "I'm actually going to Uganda. I'm actually going to Uganda."
After reciting this mantra, I began to make a list of all the tasks I needed to complete before departing. I made plans for vaccinations, budgeted, researched the country and shopped. I also got to make a trip to Noble Research Institute to finalize everything for my adventure.
Third Step: Say those goodbyes.
This was honestly the hardest part of my preparation. I celebrated my upcoming journey with friends and talked about everything I might do or see. I had dinner with my cousins and laughed and gave big hugs to last until my return. I spent a weekend with my siblings enjoying each other for just a few more days, and I spent one final day with my parents. I got hugs and kisses from everyone as they gave me their well-wishes and prayed over me. I come from a close-knit family, so this is when the lumps in my throat appeared. I also gave one last hug to my dog who is going to live with my parents for the next few months. She wasn't too happy that I was trading her for a blue cow.
Zadie checks out the #bluecow that is replacing her.
Final Step: Pack last minute and get on the plane!
Like any real college student, I am not immune to procrastination. Sadly, this carries over to my packing as well. Gabriella had to help me sort, roll and strategically shove everything into my pack the night and early morning before my trip. I don't know what I would have done without her!
After months of wishing, guessing and hoping, it has now come time to discover Uganda for real. I am excited to see what Kampala and Watoto is like through my very own eyes. I expect to rely on past experiences to help guide me through this journey. I expect challenges and even some rough times in the next few months, but I fully anticipate for the relationships I build with people and the knowledge I gain to outweigh any challenge I may face. I hope that during my time in Uganda I gain new friends and family, and I hope that I am able to share any knowledge I may have. I know from all of my other experiences that I will gain so much from this trip. I just want to do my part and give something back in return.
Bags packed with the essentials especially sunscreen!