My bedtime routine during this trip to Uganda:

1. Plug my converter into the outlet and charge my camera battery to be ready for the next day’s photos. 2. Turn on the water heater in my bathroom so there’d be enough hot water for washing up in the morning. 3. Brush my teeth, using bottled water for rinsing my mouth and toothbrush. 4. Pull the mosquito netting down and tuck it in around my bed, leaving an opening big enough for me to crawl through. 5. Climb into bed, tucking in the last section of mosquito netting from the inside. 6. Fall asleep saying prayers of gratitude for the full and fulfilling day we just had, and of hope for another one tomorrow.

One of the things that was different about this trip from any of my earlier trips to Uganda was that we spent every night at the same hotel. So I spent the entire three weeks in the same room, in the same bed. There were a number of days when we were traveling for several hours at a time to get where we were going – and one when we were on the road for six hours straight – but we always returned by nightfall. There was something very welcoming and comforting about that.

The hotel we stayed at was actually a guesthouse, and it’s where we held several meetings and training sessions. Those days were a special treat because we didn’t have to travel at all before starting our work for the day. And although it was located between Entebbe and Kampala, two of the largest and busiest cities in Uganda, the guesthouse was quiet and comfortable. It had a restful, sacred atmosphere, and we all thought it would be a wonderful setting for retreats and getaway outings. A place where people could go when they needed to reflect or recover, or to slow down their pace or reevaluate their lives. It was a place that was a joy to come home to every night.

When I returned from Uganda, it took a while to get back into my normal routine at home. I thought about the things I have to do – or don’t have to do – when I am here. I don’t have to do anything in particular to make sure there’s hot water for showering, or safe water for drinking. I don’t need to sleep surrounded by mosquito netting. Mosquitos in Minnesota can be extremely annoying, but they don’t carry malaria.

And although many of the worries and concerns – as well as the joys and accomplishments – of each day are much different in Uganda from what they are in the U.S., one aspect of my nighttime routine stays the same no matter where I am and no matter what has occurred since I got out of bed that morning. I fall asleep each night saying prayers of gratitude for the full and fulfilling day I’ve just had, and of hope for another one tomorrow.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September 4, 2014. ©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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