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The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up … and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa ... I say: ‘Concentrate on Uganda.’ For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life - bird, insect, reptile, beast - for vast scale — Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.
— Winston Churchill

I can still remember the day I booked my flight to Entebbe. About an hour prior, I received a phone call from the Ugandan host, Freddie, whose post on workaway.info offered housing in exchange for volunteer work and a small fee to live in Mbale, a town in eastern Uganda. We corresponded through email and though every thing seemed fine, I knew the only way I’d trust myself to take this trip was if I spoke to him on the phone.

His voice seemed friendly, confident, and spirited as we spoke about his cousin who lived in the states and often visited him in Uganda. Freddie mentioned his work with the media in Uganda as a radio host and television personality. It was exciting, not so much the work he did, but just the fact that I knew once I hung up that phone, I would be booking my flight to spend my summer and 27th birthday in one of the most complicated and beautiful places in the world—Africa.

It all started as just another one of my ideas.. one of my spur-of-the-moment, out-of-left-field decisions I’d made. It was 2011, still very early in the year and one day I remember it came to me: I will not be in the United States for my birthday. It will be spent in another part of the world, with people I don’t know, in a place I’ve never stepped foot on.

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Regardless of the obstacles and roadblocks, and even the moments I considered changing my mind, from June until September 2011, I’d lived and loved in Uganda…with people I didn’t know, in a place I’d never been to. It didn’t take long for me to feel at home. The Pearl of Africa became my home away from home, and I showed it as best I could with my family and friends back home through my blog.

Three years later in October 2014, I went back… I had to keep my promise of returning to the people who took me in and loved me as if I was their own. It was important that they knew how important they were, how valuable their generosity and love was, and that I never took it for granted. For two months I stayed in Uganda, where life continued to take me on an adventure that led to love, and the many realizations I learned about myself and future.

Below are more moments I captured along the way, from attending my first football match, to farming and learning how to clean and roast coffee, to the everyday things like playing pool and hanging out with friends. This is the Uganda I know and love.