Uganda: A Big Decision

This Blog Entry is a part of my Uganda Trip Page. Click Here to read all of the blog entries as well as information about the Nakivale Refugee Settlement, the American Refugee Committee & how to help.   

A little over a month ago I received an email from a woman I knew at the American Refugee Committee (ARC) asking me if I would be interested in traveling with them to Uganda mid-June to work as their photographer & story-teller. June 20th is World Refugee Day and some of the 100,000 inhabitants of the Nakivale Refugee Settlement will be running a 5k race there.  

It took me a long time to say yes.

I was scared at the thought of leaving my husband & young sons and traveling to the other side of the world... especially considering the history of political unrest in central Africa. I also had a very tight calendar including a wedding to shoot back in America a few days after the 5k!

Nevertheless, everything seemed to fall into place.. My husband, who has to suffer through all of my business decisions, was supportive and encouraging. ARC assured me they could have me on a flight scheduled to return in time to shoot the wedding. The bride of the wedding encouraged me to go and we hired a second-shooter who will also be a back-up in the event of missed/delayed flights.

I also spoke with my friend Brad Johnson who is a respected local businessman. He is the person who originally introduced me to ARC and has previously traveled with them. He spoke very highly of the organization and encouraged me to not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Friends and family volunteered to help watch the boys and take them to their various camps while I traveled... 

So here we are, one week until GO-time! I have visited the health clinic and gotten my 6 shots. I have made sure my passport and paperwork are up to date. I've gotten care for my boys all lined up.

This is trivial but I am still trying to wrap my brain around what sort of clothes to bring! I was told people dress-up more there. Skirts below knees, collared shirts..  definitely not my usual tank tops and yoga tights.. but I cannot justify (in my head) going out and buying nice clothes when I know that the people I am about to meet would have much better uses for that money! 

I am not nervous or scared anymore. Once I made the decision to go, I felt a calm come over me. Now I am just excited. 

I truly feel that fate has brought me to this point.

I have worked so hard at my photography and building my audience for the past 4 years. I know I have the skills to shoot the refugees and the audience to share their story.

I have also learned how good it feels to conquer my fears! In the past few years I have accepted & successfully completed photography jobs that were way over my head. I have gone on numerous adrenaline-producing adventures like hot air balloon rides, scuba dives and helicopter rides.

Every time I have taken on a fear, I have been rewarded with joy, a true sense of accomplishment and a growth in confidence and skill.     

It is time to make use of these experiences and do something good!

From the minute I was asked to go to Uganda I felt a change. I suddenly felt so small driving in my car down the same road I have driven nearly every day, in route to take Arlo to his beloved preschool at a small Lutheran church in a suburb... There is a big world out there.. And people I may be able to help. And a path laid out for me to do so! 



SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA: A "Who-Knew?!" Great Family Get-Away (Part Two)

We started our third day in Sioux Falls with a sweet (literally, with chocolate chip pancakes and banana caramel pancakes) breakfast at the All Day Cafe. Afterwards we headed next door to the outdoor apparel & goods store, Scheels. Why would the folks at Visit Sioux Falls suggest we visit a sporting goods store? The moment we walked in, we understood. It was not your typical store. It was a destination! Who would've thought!?! It is certainly one of those hidden gems you'd never know to visit unless a local told you. The boys got sucked in to the store and did not want to leave. It had bowling lanes, a putting green, a play shooting gallery and a ferris wheel! 

We then headed over to the warm oasis of the Butterfly House and Marine Cove where we got to touch stingrays and go "inside" an aquarium.

Then we went into the butterfly house. It was so fun to see my very active boys standing still in hopes that a butterfly may land on them.

Located right across the street was the Outdoor Campus. A nature center that taught us a lot about the local flora and fauna. They had all sorts of activities available like ice fishing, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and more! The boys loved meeting the pet rabbit.

After a delicious pizza lunch at Red Rossa and cupcakes at Oh My Cupcakes! we headed home to rest and get ready for our evening adventure.

the gelato at Red Rossa

the gelato at Red Rossa

That night our minds were totally blown away at the Cirque Du Soliel Ovo show which took place in the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center and was conveniently attached to our hotel. This was certainly a highlight for me. My husband and I were at the edge of our seats watching the graceful acrobats perform. So much color and light and activity! We gasped out loud several times. The boys loved it too. Dear Arlo especially loved watching their magical shadows dance on the wall.  Cy took advantage of his distracted parents and polished off a bag of cotton candy that was larger than his head. 

That night when we returned to our hotel, Cy asked what day it was. His eyes teared up a bit when he learned that the next day would be our last full day. A true sign of a great vacation!

We awoke the next morning to a beautiful bluebird ski day. We headed over to the Great Bear Recreation Center. We were going to ski! Our family loves to ski and this would be the first outing of the season for us. What a lovely lodge!

We were all so surprised at the proximity of the ski hill to the hotel. It only took a few minutes to get there. We had a great day on the slopes! 

After that we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our last evening in Sioux Falls.

We started the evening with an incredible dinner at Grille 26. I had a Honey Chicken Penne Pasta dish that had me searching the web for the recipe afterwards. The boys all loved their meals as well. They even enjoyed an alligator appetizer!

For our final night we met up again with Jessie (the local mom) and her boys for an NBA D-League game, the Skyforce. My husband and I decided that going to a D-League game is the ideal sporting event for a family with young kids. The boys were enthralled and watched every point, every play. We had great seats. It is an intimate arena so there is not a bad seat in the house. The concessions were reasonably priced and there were no lines for food or the bathrooms. Best of all, a few of the players came out and signed autographs after the game. My kids both wanted to sleep with their autographed posters that night. Such a treat!

We stopped by the beautiful Cathedral of St Joseph on our way out of town the next morning. It was a beautiful send off. 

We will definitely be back Sioux Falls! We will come for the the long list of activities that are exciting, reasonably priced, well-maintained and easy to access. We will come for the art, the waterfall, the milkshakes, the Skyforce, the hotel pool, the people, the great shops and restaurants. But most importantly we will come for the memories. They are priceless.


Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity!