Black Marks

Two weeks. That’s all the time we have left in Gulu. Oh, how time has escaped us. There have been days that drag on forever, but the weeks have flown by. Over the weekend we had the incredible privilege of going on a safari drive where we were feet away from elephants, buffalo, hippos, giraffes, and lions. Sitting atop the van, overlooking the vast expanse that is Uganda, I was in complete awe. We also took a boat tour down the Nile River and hiked up to the top of Merchison Falls. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. That night we slept at the Sambiya River Lodge, which was an experience in itself. Megan and I bunked up in a little Banda and woke up at 4 AM to baboons on our roof. It was one of those moments where although we were initially alarmed and then annoyed, we just lied in bed laughing. Only in Africa, right?

Saturday we drove to Kampala and spent a couple of days exploring the capitol city before we said our goodbyes to Brad at the airport (If you’re reading this, you are severely missed). Kampala was like a mini re-introduction into our own culture. There were shopping malls, movie theaters, and restaurants that served things like Greek wraps and Chicken Parmesan. But there were also slums and kids on the street carrying scales asking if you wanted to weigh yourself for 2,000 shilling. It was very overwhelming, actually. They say for every week you live overseas it takes two to officially normalize. I don’t know how long it will take me to reach homeostasis, or rather, if I ever want to fully reach it. I don’t know what culture shock will look like for me yet. I picture 22 weeks of potential mental breakdowns in Hy-Vee and crying over hot shower water. Maybe 22 weeks of thinking things like, “WHY DO PEOPLE BUY NAPKINS?” or “I might projectile vomit on whoever is spending $1,000 on clothes at J.Crew”. I don’t know.

Alright. That’s probably enough of my personal ramblings. If you’re interested, this week’s art therapy activity went a little like this:

Each girl has a few minutes to draw whatever she would like. After a while, Megan and I asked them to close their eyes. With eyes closed, Megan and I took black markers and drew some sort of line on their drawing. Essentially, we messed up their pretty little pictures. After we let them express their shock and sadness, we challenged them to make the black mark a part of their drawing. Turn it into something. Don’t let it ruin the picture, but instead think of it as an opportunity to create something new or different.

And just like that the black lines went from being dark, obstructive, and out of place to being jump ropes, snakes, mountains, gardens, boats, hearts, etc.

Sometimes in life someone or something comes along and messes up your picture. You weren’t ready for it. Your eyes were closed. Maybe you opened up your eyes only to see that someone abducted you at 14 years old and now you’re forced into killing people with your bare hands. Maybe you opened your eyes only to see that your spouse cheated on you and ran off with all your money. Maybe you opened your eyes only to see your house burning in a forest fire. Maybe you opened your eyes only to see that the dream you were chasing is never going to be a reality. Black marks look different for everyone, but they invade all of our pictures from time to time. A lot of people let black marks define their pictures. But, like we told the girls, “You and God in you are capable of making something good and beautiful come from something that once seemed dark and horrible.”

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Categories: Uncategorized | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Black Marks

  1. Jonny

    I think about you guys a lot and have loved following your life on Twitter and Instagram. I’m really moved by you, and I’m sure that seems weird, but I am. Your story means a lot, so thanks.

    • Weirdo. No, seriously, thank you for the kind words 🙂 We look forward to seeing you guys when we get back and are so pumped for you to start a new journey of your own!!

  2. Brenda Jones

    I loved this blog! I think it applies to everyone around the world, rich or poor! Beautiful writing and as always it really makes you think about life and living! Blessings to you and I am so anxious to see you in a couple of weeks! Love and hugs! Brenda

  3. Brad Sievers

    Miss you guys, too! Looking forward to a little reunion sometime after you get back!

  4. jaxine and mike

    Great blog! I am so moved by your writing and loved the idea with the “BLACK MARKS”. At some point we all have black marks on our “pretty pictures”, but its how we use those to help others as well as , ourselves. Miss you both and look forward to a long talk once your back. The pictures from the safari are spectacular…..take care and many hugs.xoxo

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