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Two Months in Uganda Inspire 25 Reasons to Return

By Iliana Rodriguez, 2018 MIAP-Noble Fellow

Posted Jul. 20, 2018

I can't believe my stay in Uganda has come to an end. Didn't I just get here? My time in Uganda has been the most precious and the most memorable period of my life. These past two months have been filled with so much love.

As I begin to share and describe my time in Uganda to my family and friends, I can't help but tear up. How can I miss a place where I spent only two months this much? The fact is that every person I was blessed to encounter created a profound impact on my life. I am eternally grateful for the memories that we created.

I giggle a little at the fact that it is a dream of many Ugandans to visit the United States. So many people want to leave Uganda to come to the U.S. How is it that many Ugandans desire to leave, but I so desperately long to go back?

As Caesar drove me to the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, he noticed I was sad and told me, "You will return to Uganda. You need to think of the 25 reasons why you want to come back." Who would have thought that his advice would generate a small spark that kept me reminiscing about my time in Uganda the entire way back to America? Yes, the ENTIRE way – that's 20-plus hours.

So, inspired by Caesar, here are my 25 reasons why I want to return to Uganda.

  1. Ugandans are the sweetest, most humble, free-spirited people I have ever met.
  2. There is always time for tea.
  3. Mangoes, pineapples, avocados – no need to say anymore.
  4. There is always room for one more, literally.
  5. African spaghetti.
  6. For two months, the hospitality at Alpha Resort Hotel made me feel at home. The staff members welcomed me every day as if I had been gone for an entire week.
  7. God's presence is undeniably everywhere, evident among people bursting with the beauty of God's grace.
  8. It is the Pearl of Africa.
  9. Free never-ending smiles, hugs, handshakes, waves, hellos and giggles.
  10. Singing is never an option, it is mandatory (or the only option).
  11. Every time Omweso (which is a board game) is played, it is extremely competitive and very entertaining to watch.
  12. I get to work with people who share my passion of helping people through agriculture.
  13. I get to be surrounded by farmers who are determined and driven to improve their agriculture practices.
  14. Wi-Fi is limited. This forces people to talk to each other, which was extremely enjoyable for someone like me who enjoys conversing. (Sorry for talking too much, Ryan. Ha ha).
  15. "You are welcomed" everywhere.
  16. Although driving on muddy, bad roads terrified me most of the time, it gave me a sense of adventure.
  17. Prepared cabbage is delicious!
  18. Church services made me feel alive and happy.
  19. Family is determined by much more than blood.
  20. Strength fills the streets for a better tomorrow.
  21. Happiness is not determined by the amount of property one owns, but by simple things like a taking a snapshot, visiting gardens or even saying hello. Thesebring the greatest happiness to families and people.
  22. The soil is so rich.
  23. Uganda is truly one of God's favorite places. Praise God!
  24. Before going to Uganda, I had never met anyone willing to give you some or all of their harvest even if that means leaving them with less and taking away from their harvest. Selfless—yes, these are the type of people you will meet in Uganda.
  25. I need to reclaim the portion of my heart Uganda stole.

May these 25 reasons keep me inspired to return to Uganda.

'Enabled and Equipped'

As I shared "a note to future interns or anyone with dreams so big it seems impossible to accomplish" in my first blog, I continue to boldly stand behind what I said.

Dreams are certainly not accomplished in your comfort zone. One day, I found myself walking on the streets of Lira, Uganda, alone (thankfully it was morning) and I could not help but consider how blessed I am. I would have never imagined I would get the chance to visit and intern in Africa for a nonprofit organization that enables people through agriculture, which as you all know I am truly passionate about. Visiting Africa has been on the list of things I want to accomplish for the longest of time, and somehow there I was, walking on the streets of Africa and living out one of my dreams.

I am reading a book a special friend shared with me called "Radical" by David Platt. On page 92 it reads: "The plan of Christ is not dependent on having the right programs or hiring the right professionals but on building and being the right people - a community of people - who realize that we are all enabled and equipped to carry out the purpose of God for our lives … they were all indeed created to impact nations for his glory."

As I sat at Path Café and read this, I thought about my walk over and how blessed I truly am. I'm just an ordinary girl from a small town in South Texas, living out a dream I once wrote down, because of the grace of our extraordinary God. The dreams, visions and goals we aspire to achieve do not originate solely from us but are embedded in our minds to live out the purpose that God has for our lives.

If you feel called to do so, I encourage you to fearlessly move in the direction of what scares you most – whether that be moving halfway across the world or taking a job in a different state – because that is when you will begin to feel alive, and maybe, just maybe, you will positively change and impact the world.

Uganda is family. Uganda is home. Uganda is love. Uganda is hope.

Acknowledgments:

God, thank you for loving us unconditionally. Thank you for continuously pouring your blessings on our life. Thank you for constantly providing.

Field of Hope, thank you for trusting me to be a part of your team for two months. The work FOH continues to do in Uganda is clearly admired by many and has assisted and impacted many families. I pray that FOH only continues to grow, and may all the work that has been accomplished only be a small portion of the glorious work that is to be done.

To my sponsors,

Noble Research Institute

Gondwana International Study Abroad Scholarship

Don and Cathey Humphreys Travel Grant

Thank you for kindly supporting and investing in students like me so we can achieve our educational goals and help serve individuals agriculturally across all nations.

Dr. Henneberry and Mrs. Pam Bay, thank you for the endless encouragement and assistance you provided to make this internship possible. May God bless y'all abundantly.

Mom and Dad, thank you for constantly reminding and teaching me that accomplishments and successes are good, but they are not where I end. Thank you for cheering me on when I am out chasing my dreams. Y'all are truly amazing.

Sister, where do I even begin? Thank you is not sufficient to cover all of the endless love and support you have so freely given to me. I wholeheartedly appreciate you.

Friends (Azalea, Cesar, Estibali, Janell, Jazmin, Julian, Linda, Mildrett, Mr. and Mrs. Martinez and Dominic), as you all know this past year has been extremely busy. I want to thank you for just loving me unconditionally, but I also want to say thank you for calling and trying to stay connected with me while I have been out chasing my dreams in Oklahoma.

Bless your heart for taking some time to read my final blog!

Photo Gallery

Please refer to #24 of “my 25 reasons why I want to return to Uganda.” Yes, they were given freely to us.

exampleA photo after hiking Dokolo Hill.

examplePlease refer to #20 of "my 25 Reasons why I want to return to Uganda." Yes, she is also holding a baby on her back. Remarkable.

examplePlease refer to #18 and #21 of "my 25 reasons why I want to return to Uganda." Simply happy.

exampleA photo with this baby girl named Kevin who unknowingly stole my heart.

examplePlease refer to #11 of "my 25 reasons why I want to return to Uganda."

exampleSee you later, Uganda.

About the Author

Iliana Rodriguez is a 2018 MIAP-Noble Fellow serving in agricultural development roles in Uganda. Rodriguez is from Laredo, Texas, and is a student in the Master of International Agriculture Program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on agriculture outreach, extension and education. This fellowship is sponsored in part by the Noble Research Institute.

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