Monday, February 2, 2015

2014: A Year in Review PART II

Continuing on from where I left off in my previous post.

May brought the visit of some very special ladies. I met Fauna and Kamille in middle school and spent many hours, days, months and possibly years in their fine company. It was such a treat to host them in Uganda, along with their wonderful mothers. I love showing people around this friendly and beautiful country. Their visit started with a big brunch in the backyard for Kamille's 30th birthday. Then we got to take one of Phil's planes to Kihihi, an airstrip near the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Our car was delivered to us there, and we headed to a very luxurious wilderness lodge in the mountains. The ladies trekked the gorillas and Kamille managed to only cry about 16 times from the pure joy of it all. After a bit of a car snafu, we headed to Lake Mburo in a borrowed van, passing through Queen Elizabeth where we spotted lots of monkeys and few elephants, stopping for lunch on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. A boat safari and driving around Lake Mburo revealed even more exotic wild life, but not the elusive leopard, though we did look mighty hard for that guy. Back to Kampala, with a quick car trade on the way, we had just one day left for craft and Good Glass shopping. And with that, they were off. Come back again, soon!

at Volcanoes Lodge in Buhoma

on top of the Rwakobo Rock

Throughout the year, even with all these great travel opportunities and visitors, I do still work with my little social enterprise, Good Glass. It is really so inspiring and motivating to work with a group of dedicated, hard working and creative people. It's also fun for me to get to design new products and play around with the shop displays. Here are some shots Leyla took of the staff to hang in the shop so customers can feel a little more connected to the people who make these beautiful wares. If you're not familiar, please 'Like' our Facebook page and check out our website.

Jane, our shopkeeper

Patrick, workshop supervisor

Patrick, Michael, Night, Denis, Rita and Sahara

Night, Rita and Michael

Anytime I'm in Kampala, I teach 3-5 yoga classes a week plus a couple of private lessons. My schedule and locations have changed a bit over the past year or two, but now I'm regularly based in the same place, at roughly the same times. I feel incredibly fortunate to have two jobs that I like as much as do. Yoga gives me the opportunity to meet lots of cool people in Kampala and also share my passion. Since yoga is so nice, people are generally very happy to be a part of classes, workshops and retreats. Throughout the year, I also teach workshops with different focuses at my house. Next week will be Fired Up and Focused for 2015. Leyla is usually around to co-teach and co-cook with me, but as she's away right now, I'll be flying solo. It's fun to delve deeper into various aspects of yoga philosophy and examine certain poses to help myself and others go further on our yoga journeys - something we're not typically able to do in an hour and half weekday class.

from a workshop in my backyard

In July, we went to New York for three weeks, rented an AirBnB apartment and had a ball. I did a 100 hour additional yoga teacher training which was very insightful and Phil worked on his helicopter pilot license. My parents came for a bit, and Fauna and Sean popped down for a fly by visit. We all went to the 9/11 Memorial and met up with Jamie and Katie for rooftop drinks and Mexican food. A beautiful Stillwater reunion. We also got to see my great cousin Margorie and Jana Nordquist together at The Book of Moron on Broadway. It was hilarious. I have never laughed so hard at any performance and would highly recommend it to anyone who isn't easily offended - they drop the eff bomb more than a few times. Andy made his way up from Pennsylvania for another weekend where we rented Citi bikes and cruised around, finally making our way to Brooklyn. Then Caitlin and Charlie joined us for some burgers. We went to a comedy show, to the movies, numerous restaurants and bars, the public library, loads of parks and the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market where we bought singing bowl and Phil proceeded to play it around the city for adoring fans. Logan came up from Boston for surprise Semester at Sea reunion with Lindsey which was pretty loud and giggly.

Meadow Close pals since 1982
We got to see lots of these New York locals! 
Phil with his singing bowl in Bryant Park
at Book of Mormon
Semester at Sea girlfriends
Then we got engaged! You can read about that here.

Noah visited in September. We love it when that guy stops by.

Ann and Peter came to visit in October. It's been a while since they've both been down, although Peter did come once after ferrying a helicopter from Indonesia for Phil. One day we took snacks and drinks to the Ba'hai Temple. It's one of the only large green spaces open to the public in Kampala and sits high on a hill revealing wonderful views of the city. Unfortunately, it does close a little early. I think the sign says 6pm, but they were shooing us out by 5:30, so we transferred our picnic to the backyard when we got home.

Their visit was timed perfectly to overlap with our engagement party. 180 of our closest Kampala friends and a good chunk of our employees all gathered in our backyard for an evening of dinner and dancing. It was the funnest and happiest party in the world! (but perhaps I'm a little biased) Camilla and Barak made moving speeches, the live band for cocktails and dinner provided a lovely ambiance and then the DJ took over and blasted great tunes well into the morning hours as people danced until the booze ran out.  Our lovely friend Yam provided delicious red velvet cupcakes for everyone and the caterers made an amazing spread for the buffet with tons to spare which was surprising considering just how high some of the plates were piled! I'm constantly threatening to do it all again, it was that good....but maybe I should plan the wedding first.

We hosted Thanksgiving.

Gra and Etienne had a fairytale wedding in the winelands of South Africa, just outside of Cape Town. The whole thing was absolutely perfect - fit for the pages of a bridal magazine, and from what hear, they might actually be headed in that direction! Etienne has been in Kampala for nearly as long as Museveni so he was one of the first people we met at Bubbles, a legendary Kampala nightlife hot spot. We actually thought he owned the place because he was always there! Gra came into his life some years ago and they've been madly in love ever since. As they were based in Uganda, we had some mutual friends that were invited to the wedding although they had all since moved to various far flung places. It was great to catch up and boogie down in such a lovely setting with amazing food and wine.

Els popped down to meet us in Cape Town from her place in Mozambique (although she has now made the big leap and moved back to Europe - Rotterdam, Netherlands). It was great to see her as she has always been such a dear friend to us. We traveled down the coast to visit the penguins, we tried mighty hard to get up Table Mountain, but the weather was not cooperative which also meant it took us 3 booked tours to get to Robben Island. But I guess it really is true: third time's the charm. Robben Island is where Mandela was held for all those years, but I would say the most interesting part of the tour was learning more about the other political prisoners who were held there. So many people who fought for their basic human rights and were imprisoned unjustly for so many years, including our tour guide who told us his own very moving story. We went to the beach and collected sea shells and then as quick as she swept into our lives, Els was off and away. Luckily, we didn't have to bear the company of just one another as another good buddy, Hollie, was also in Cape Town for a mountaineering course. We spent a day on the beach with Hols and some time in the hot tub as well as eating underground pizza with her and her classmates. It was a fantastic reunion as Hollie is always filled some of the most unbelievable tales of her adventures. With only two days left to ourselves, we went to the beach yet again and managed to squeeze in some shopping.

Shortly after we arrived back in Uganda, the cutest package of two long-lost loves arrived at my doorstep in the middle of night. Shadi and Caroline are mates from my University of Manchester days and had been planning this escapade for many moons. It was so much fun having them especially since they loved literally everything we did. While sitting at City Oil waiting for them to complete our oil change, Shadi declared, 'This is the best day of my life.' And she wasn't even being sarcastic.  So from there on, it was easy pleasing as we headed toward the gorillas with a night stop in Lake Mburo. We saw many birds on our boat safari, but Caroline was somehow more worried about the hippos beneath our boat. We jammed to many classic hits throughout our drive across the country. The girls went gorilla trekking while I stayed at our lodge with incredible views and practiced yoga. And then we drove on to Lake Bunyonyi for 3 relaxing, raining days of reading, game playing, a little swimming and quite a bit of vodka. We headed back to Kampala to find Jack and Camilla waiting. It was like heaven in my living room. Jack, who has visited before from Afghanistan, is now living in Nairobi and Camilla, who moved to Kigali, were both in the country for work and staying at my house! We had a surprise pirate birthday party for Jack, a night out for Ethiopian and Kabalagala madness and then over the following two days, they all disappeared, including Phil who had to go to Austria for work. Let me tell you, me and the dogs had a few blues days recovering from that.

Barbara and Sarah, two of my former yoga students and good friends from Uganda, now live in Bujumbora, Burundi where there is a much smaller yoga scene than what we enjoy here in Kampala. Barbara asked me if I would be available to come lead a weekend retreat and seeing as I've never been to Burundi and have been meaning to for years, plus the opportunity to share some yoga love, I promptly agreed. The retreat was at a beautiful resort on Lake Tanganyika with a sprawling sand beach and delicious fresh fish. The yoga shala was just up the beach so we could see the lake and enjoy the sound of the lapping waves throughout our weekend practice. The participants seemed to enjoy it thoroughly and have already invited me back. Hopefully we can work out a good time for everyone and I'll continue my international yoga teaching career ;)

cheeky monkey at a Bujumbora cafe helping me plan the weekend retreat

I've also participated in a book club over the past year. It has been thoroughly enjoyable as it is with a group of woman I really love, but whom I rarely see on other occasions due to living on opposite sides of town and busy, busy schedules. We also read some interesting books and I like to hear all the different perspectives people have on the books and the issues they cover. We try to base the meal around something in the book and then we all bring a dish to share. This one was in my backyard.

We headed to Manchester a few days before Christmas. One day we were lucky to meet up with Jack, Tat and Courtny for a tequila lunch on an appropriately chilly and rainy Manchester day. Tat refused to wear his jacket claiming it wasn't even cold out. Luck would have it Jon, a long time friend of Phil, featured on this blog before, and his new wife Francisca were in Whaley Bridge all the way from Santiago, Chile so we celebrated my birthday with them and they also made it around for the annual Boxing Day party. We saw loads of the extended family and all the neighbors from the close minus a few Rayboulds who are Stateside. It was a very boisterous and festive Christmas with way too much yummy food and plenty of tipple to keep everyone merry.

most of the time Felix was used as a jungle gym by a Gruffalo and Taylor
best uncle award!

Very early on the 27th of December, Peter drove Phil and I through the quickly falling snow to catch our flight to Grenoble where we sat in a freezing cold airport, hungover for 7 hours waiting for our bus to take us to Alpe d'Huez. There had been very little snow up until the evening before when it absolutely dumped it down and didn't stop for the following 48 hours. Tourists and the local French population alike fled to the mountains to take advantage, resulting in highway accidents on icy roads and epic traffic jams. After a 4.5 hour bus journey, we finally made it to our chalet. The next day we were very happy indeed that there had been so much snow as we enjoyed all the fresh powder. We were with a group of sixteen people, most of whom we met for the first time that week through Phil's elementary school friend, Will. It was great to be such a big, fun group to celebrate New Year and share dinners with throughout the week.

Ringing in New Year 

These were definitely the highlights of 2014, but there were also rougher times. We have to take some downs along with our ups and try our darnedest to accept them equally and graciously, as hard and sometimes impossible as that might be.

Being far away from home, we missed important milestones in the lives of people we love. Leah and Craig had a picture perfect wedding that we were unable to attend in June. Plus birthdays, anniversaries and the other yearly celebrations of our parents, family and friends that we couldn't make it to.

As usual, living in Uganda means that our expat friends come and go at a high frequency. This year was a toughy with Gra and Etienne moving on to Johannesburg, South Africa and a real blow when Michael and Camilla were whisked away to Kigali, Rwanda. We also lost Olivia, Anna, Eleni and Jamie to the UK.

Even harder was losing a dear friend that I made while studying at the University of Manchester. Oliver Thomas was with the RAF when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. He was a lively, silly, mischievous character - my favorite sort - and he is sorely missed by all that knew him.

Overall, I can say that 2014 was a blessed year, providing me the opportunity to reconnect with many old friends and meet some new ones. I learned a lot, I ate a lot, I saw a lot and I celebrated a lot. My tears were less than my giggles, my joys far outweighed my sorrows and my amusement exceeded my disappointment. Thanks, 2014. You were just swell.

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