Saturday, 29 November 2014

Eden Riley Performing "Strong Bones" At The Australian Poetry Slam NSW Final 2014

Here it is. I present it to you all the way from over here in Uganda while I'm here for World Vision.

Losing a person you love so incredibly much to suicide is a certain particular hell. I can't believe he's gone. I don't want him to be gone. My mind goes around and around and around every day. I would do anything for things to be different for him. I would sell my soul.

This is the first slam poem I ever wrote ... I wrote one about some Kampala slums in the car yesterday and performed and filmed it literally on the field after visiting an amazing school funded by World Vision that incorporates disabled children. It was the most beautiful classroom I've ever sat in.

I don't know what will become of my spoken-word adventures. But I do know they are all built from the foundations of the bones of my brother and that just has to mean something.

I love you Cam. I love you.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Let Me Quickly Show You Some Photos While Everybody Waits For Me In The Lobby.

Ok we have an early start all I can do is some pictures today. Every day is different, we're always on the move, seeing and smelling and tasting different things. There's a lots of hardship, lots of laughter, lots of "we're all in this together."

Because we really are.

 Hey Dave it's not a Deus but it's still pretty cool!

This is Suzy, she's worked at World Vision for eight years. She's direct, no-nonsense, please move over there while I take your photo. I adore her. We both heard the term "co-wife" yesterday and I turned to her and said "Hey we'd be GREAT co-wives" and she laughed so hard.

A broom in the corner of a bathroom OR IS IT THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT IT'S THE SAME LOG

 FINE I'll try to believe in signs again but I can't promise anything.

 Oh this photo ... the look on his face as he looked up at me after I showed him a photo of himself.

 Emma went back to Australia yesterday ... we miss you Em! xx

 Just an innocent photo of some jackfruit growing from the tree.

 Hey Hair Romance the hairstyles here are AMAZING!

 Friendliest soldier in all the land.

 Hi my name is Eden. I'm not even supposed to be here

I took this for Pip from Meet Me At Mikes  fancy a cuppa Pip?


INCREDIBLE living conditions due to World Vision.


Letters to Home (written before I left)

Max, the very first time you were placed into my arms? BANG. Instant transformation. You changed my heart forever and we both spent that first night in hospital just looking at each other in wonder. You’re going to turn thirteen soon and I won’t be there. But know that I adore you, I’m proud of you, and I have no idea how you turned out so chill and calm and relaxed. From the minute I saw you on the ultrasound I fell in love. Thank you for understanding and accepting me. You’re pretty wise. I can’t WAIT to get back and catch up on Walking Dead with you. I’m in a country where there’s probably a lot of machetes, good zombie-fighting equipment. xx

Thursday, 27 November 2014

To Do The Things You Love

Hey you guys I FINALLY worked out how to do a bucket shower!

Stop laughing it's INGENIOUS. I sat in that bucket like a giant baby, chucked my fancy lavender soap in and boom. Clean. As. A. Whistle. Even washed my hair.

These are my travelling companions and like Celine says, "How do I live .... without you?" From left is Suzy, Emma, Stephanie, Lou, and me. Everybody knows about everybody elses bodily functions, like when I look at them and yell "DUBAI" they know it's still the last time I've gone to the toilet properly because I forgot my laxatives. I also forgot my tweezers and its been five days now so when I go downstairs to sit with them at breakfast this morning they'll just be greeted by the Shaggy D.A. And ask themselves, "Where is Eden and why is this hairy-faced dog sitting up at the buffet with us?" and I'll be all "WOOF WOOF WOOF" and they won't understand until we find a pharmacy.

We visited a school that has had SO much renovation work done on it because of World Vision. The children sang, danced, laughed with and at us. Their joy is so infectious. It's funny the things that overwhelm you on a trip like this ... the utter gratitude shown to us by ALL of the different people we meet every day, whose lives have been directly affected and transformed by World Vision. I get teary and incredibly humbled because they're not thanking me personally - they're thanking everybody who has ever donated to World Vision and if that is you? Then thank YOU on their behalf. What a total gift to be here right now and see these things and places and beautiful faces.

At one point at the school, they brought out some drums and re-enacted a sanitisation project through dance. Emma got up to dance but Mrs McGrieverson over here doesn't dance anymore, remember? Well that lasted about two seconds of watching Emma do it.

You get asked to dance in Africa - you dance in Africa.

My husband Dave used to be in an African drumming band for years, playing the huge dun duns. He always wanted me to do African dancing but I never did. Except I got a secret surprise lesson before our wedding and as he was playing at the reception, I waited for this one song and went up and danced right in front of him in my wedding dress. He couldn't BELIEVE it. I'll always dance to the beat of your drum, Davey. (I hope you and the boys get well ... the guys all have the flu!)

                                                  So sleepy!

                                              SO BEAUTIFUL!

Everywhere we go they have chairs set up for us when we arrive but we always sit with people on the colourful grass mats, squashed in together. It's how it's supposed to be. I was talking about depression on twitter the other week and this guy chimed in beautifully with "My father always said to stop, and come together. Live together, sleep together, eat meals together. Then you will feel better." And I think of my brother Cam and how he dropped off the world and what a total waste and tragedy that is. Oh so much. So much.

I love this photo. I love these people. It's a complete honour to be here but I gotta admit, it's quite hard sometimes too.

 Would rather be sitting on the beach in Kauai eating cinnabons.

But moments like that don't last long at all - I'm brought straight back to the people and why I'm here and while all my guys are so sick back in Australia mummy is busy getting her spirit filled up.

This is Vincent. His village has been completely transformed to such a beautiful place with running water, immaculate kitchen, all completely sanitised so the people don't use the dirty pond for water and get sick anymore. It's not often you meet a Vincent. It's a beautiful name, the name of a beautiful uncle I had.

People can die from diarrhoea - I never knew that. Two children from this village don't have a dad anymore because he died from a broken leg. Life is so incredibly fragile and we often don't find out until it's too late.


Letters to Home (Written on paper to my family before I left - hopefully they're still opening them once a day.)

Hey guys are you being nice to each other? I hope so. I don’t like it when you fight. I don’t like it when one of you is mean to the other. Life is too short. When I was little I loved my brother SO MUCH I wanted him to never be sad. It feels like I loved him too much - do you think it’s possible to love somebody too much? I don’t. I think we have to love people with our whole hearts and protect and take care of them, whenever we can. Even people we don’t even know. By now, I would have met a lot of people over here in Uganda. It’s probably hot and sweaty and dusty and sometimes boring. But us humans on earth are all connected and we need to take care of each other. We really do. xx 

DAY SIX Rocco remember that time we were all swimming in the beach during a rainstorm - even me? And suddenly you shouted out “OH LOOK SOMEBODY DID A POO IN THE OCEAN” and we all looked to see a chokito floating right next to us so we all swam straight out of the water? And you totally admitted it was you and laughed so hard? That was funny. That was HILARIOUS. Always be you, my beautiful sweet guy. I miss your cuddles and your morning breath and hearing about your day. xx

Lastly, on a really personal note - hey Megan, how's my favourite librarian? I MISS YOU COOKIE. Just want you to know that I was a *little* bit hot out on the fields yesterday and my white skin was burning and I was a bit tired and slumpy until somebody said " ... and here are the Australian Eucalyptus tree saplings" and I was all WHAT!?

World Vision provide tree farming programs. And hon I saw the teeniest eucalyptus saplings and took a photo just for you. Imagine how tall they're going to grow! Simon says hi.

(Megans brother was a cheeky spirited gorgeous tree-lopper.)

It was beautiful. Walking along I looked underneath some shaded areas and here were all these guys, on their way to grow so high until their wood can be used to make houses and chairs and tables. The proper names for these saplings are "Giant Lira."

But I like to call them "hope."

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Songs Of Joy

How could I possibly even begin to tell you?

About the welcomes, the gratitude, the pride and love?

About these hard-working young men who attend a local college courtesy of World Vision, to be trained as carpenters and have a trade behind them for the rest of their lives? How strong and proud they were, that when I told them my husband also is a builder and trains apprentices ... they all smiled broadly. And when I said "Builders are best!" They laughed and one of them (the guy on the left) made me put his phone number into my phone.

"You tell your husband I come work for him."

I looked at that cabinet and I said, "that is recycled!" And they said yes, it was. I asked what kind of wood they used because I thought Dave might like to know and they answered but I didn't recognised it so they said it was close to mahogany.

How can I POSSIBLY explain to you about the five women who run this hair salon originally funded by World Vision ... and we sat on their mat and Emma was brave enough to get her hair braided which literally brought tears to her eyes because it hurt? And all of the women laughed because they said her hair was too soft to do it properly ... and these women were not married anymore for a variety of reasons but they had to somehow provide for their children? (And how can Emma be so together and giving and special and she's only 27 years old? I was AN IDIOT at 27 years old.)

This schoolgirl stood up and recited a poem to us called "Menstruation." It was all about how no LONGER do they feel ashamed and no LONGER do they miss school because of the teasing and embarrassment. And they showed us how they were taught to make their own sanitary napkins by a World Vision-funded program and now they can feel free and empowered.

They learned to measure and sew the material, then fill it with a piece of plastic and cotton wool. When the cotton wool is filled with blood they throw it away, wash the material, then re-fill it with cotton. Such a simple thing, to give dignity to these girls. I was incredibly touched and humbled. I'm due for my period soon so I just packed some tampons. Didn't think twice.

I told them they were amazing and special and powerful and they were SO SHY but as I hugged them all goodbye they gripped me HARD.

This concrete thing is the placenta pit at the HIV Clinic we visited yesterday, used to treat women who are HIV-positive and help prevent mother-to-baby transmission. After the birth they drop the placentas down in there, pour paraffin in top and burn them. I announced to the crowd of aid workers that my husband buried the placenta of one of my children under an apple tree and one of the men laughed so hard he had to stop walking and put his hands on legs.

"Apple tree! You grow good apples, yes?"

This guy proudly walked around the fish hatchery in the coolest pink hat and declared: "We are not fisherman. We are doctors of fish."

And man I was so tired at that point. Exhausted. Some parts of the day were SO hot and boring and a little bit gruelling. I wondered if I'm getting too old to do things like this but I think it's just I was exhausted before I even arrived, mentally and spiritually.

One look at these people who are so determined and strong and how they get given one piece of help and they're sorted for the rest of their lives. Yesterday just blew my mind and no words can do it justice. We visited a group of young people who were taught sewing and they all sat in a hot school house, surrounded by their Singer sewing machines ALL from Australia. Australians, you guys really are generous people.

This beautiful 22-year old woman tried to show me how to sew. I FAILED. We both have children. She doesn't have a husband anymore so when she graduates the program, she will get given the sewing machine to make dresses and skirts and tops to sell at the markets.

They were all so shy, there in the sewing place. But at the end? They sang as a gratitude song which was weird because *I'M* the one with all the gratitude.

I don't know how to properly tell you all of this! I so badly want to do these people justice with my words. They have a power I rarely see.

How you can help World Vision


Letters to Home (written before I left)

Hey you guys one day when I was a little girl I was at pre-school and accidentally swallowed an orange pip when I was eating my little lunch. I cried so hard, because I thought an orange tree was going to grow in my tummy and out of my mouth. The teacher assured me that it wouldn’t, but I still waited for the branches to come. Now I’m pretty sure that if you accidentally swallow an orange pip, an orange tree won’t grow in your tummy …. BUT YOU NEVER KNOW. It could. Against all odds, amazing things can happen. Love you. xx

PS Dave - Civic Video Katoomba keep texting me because I have overdue things? I think Rocco borrowed some games out or something can you ring them and ask and tell them my name and phone number THANKS HON LOVE YOU xxxxx

Monday, 24 November 2014

Now You Can Talk

You know the perfect thing for depressed people to do? Take a long haul flight. Because you just have to SIT there, with your own entertainment system and food being brought to you. That’s all you gotta do - sit.

I’m not saying I’m necessarily depressed right now because I’m not exactly sure what I am. But it’s a genius idea. You have a purpose - you’re going somewhere, because you’re on a plane. And nobody expects anything from you. You can even just sit the whole way and look at the window, or read, or curl up or just cry. I did all of those things, in the 38 hours it took to get to Uganda yesterday. I realised how very personal this trip is to me and how I see my brother Cameron everywhere, in everyone. It was strange because the further I got away from Australia, the more cranky I felt at him and I hardly ever feel cranky because he hated himself so much but a lot of these people I’m seeing here across the world? Will be too busy trying to survive to be suicidal. He threw it all away. I miss him like the heat of a thousand suns and I’ve already warned my travelling companions that if they see me cry, don’t even worry. Tears are as normal to me now as drinking a coffee.

I’d never been to Dubai, before. I was only at the airport for two hours and tried three different pharmacies and NONE of them stock tweezers? Do you even pluck, Dubai? Then I took a wrong turn and ended up smack bang in front of a Cinnabon outlet “Seattles Finest.” So I ordered one cinnabon and one coffee and it cost $40?

“Um, excuse me did that cinnabon and coffee cost forty dollars” 
“You gave me a ten.” 
“No, honestly I gave you a fifty. All I have are fifties!” 
Showed him my wad and he apologised and gave me the right money back but that cinnabon? I sat down at my gate, ignored my fork, and started cramming it in my mouth like I was at home by myself.

I totally would have paid $40 for this cinnabon.

I’ll never forget the cinnabon - its gooiness, its warmth. It salvaged me from a big tired scary sad. About ten men walked past me and I didn’t even change the way I was eating it - too good. You BET I’m licking my fingers in public guys. Flying across here is scary. I don’t want to leave my husband and kids, the anchors who I have held on tightly to for more than a year now. But I’m here, I made it.

We had a different flight to Entebbe which was fine but the five hour drive to our hotel was the real killer. We drove through streams of towns and I snapped some photos. We HAD to stop for a toilet break at one point - at a service station. I don't like going to any service station toilet, ever.

Once when he was about ten years old Tim came home from school and he’s all, “GUESS WHAT EDEN!” “What mate?” " Well today I learned that when you smell something, you’re actually eating it because of atoms or something. SO WE ACTUALLY EAT OUR OWN FARTS.” 

I’ve never forgotten it, especially not yesterday when we went to a toilet at a service station on the side of the road. Which wasn’t a toilet, it was like a tiled slopey thing and I didn’t know which way to face? I just had to keep telling myself that I’m nearly finished, nearly finished but all my mind could think of was that I was actually eating that smell. I ran outside to the four others and they laughed.

“Breath Eden just breathe!” There’s five of us all up - Lou, Steph, and Suzy who all work at World Vision Head Office in Melbourne. Emma is the other blogger - this bright bubbly young creature who has done a few World Vision trips before. And me. I’m totally here. You just get on a plane and travel halfway across the world and get to where you want to go for something you believe in and then you go home. That’s all. There’s no photo of us together yet but there will be - I like all of them, which always helps.


I could go wake them all up now for a photo but it’s 4.30am and I don’t think they’d particularly appreciate that. A chorus of animals woke me up and then roosters. I thought it was Rocco and Max singing in unison in the kitchen, but no. Here I am, writing this before the day starts. Thank you for reading it. We have a PACKED five-day schedule. We leave at 7.45am today to hear World Vision Area Development Project Officers share their experiences. We visit a vocational skills training centre initiated by Awake Uganda and supported by the Iyolwa World Vision ADP. (Area Development Project.) We’ll visit one of the beneficiaries of that - either a local hair salon or carpentry apprentice workshop.

I’d love to visit some apprentice carpenters over here and show Dave back home. He’s been training apprentices in building and carpentry for over twelve years. Then we visit an RC household. I don’t know what RC stands for but I think we might be welcomed into somebodies home. After lunch we meet with a Womens Savings Group and talk to some school girls who are beneficiaries of the re-usable sanitary towels initiative. From 3-4pm it’s on to watch some testing for malaria, and then we finish the day off at Kongei Fish Hatchery. I don’t know where or how far any of these places are. I don’t even know what good a fish hatchery does? Probably a lot, because if it’s anything to do with World Vision, it’s all good. They do so much good in the world it’s unbelievable, and I love how it’s always focused on enhancing a community, coming up with ways to help and develop projects, and then after a while leaving the community to do it for themselves. There’s a lot of respect, hard, slow work, and dignity in what they do.

Yesterday our driver had to escort me across the busy road and I thanked him. He's worked for World Vision for seven years and says he loves it because he feels valued. I apologised, because I’d forgotten his name. He stopped and looked at me and we shook hands again. Solemnly.

“My name is David.” 
“My husbands name is David!” 
And he laughed, said very deliberately,
“Well, now you must go home. And tell your husband … that you have met his namesake over here.”

And I will. (I miss you hon! Thanks for being cool with all the stuff I do!)

I'm blogging from this bed right now. 

Now I have to go into the bathroom and work out how to have a hand-held shower over a bucket? Does anybody have any tips on that because I’m confused.


Letters to Home, written to my guys before I left.

Day Two

So, it’s been one day since I’ve left. Are you still on the floor sobbing, “DON’T GO, MUM!” Or have you all done cool things this weekend and bought yummy food and prepared lunches for the week ahead? Make sure you two help your dad around the house, to get your pocket money. And Dave, make sure you look them in the eye when they talk to you and ask them about their days and ask them what they dreamt and tell them to keep their rooms clean. I wonder where exactly I am by the time you read this? Somewhere. I’m out there somewhere, thinking of your stinky feet and morning hugs. xx 

Day Three

IT’S MONDAY. It’s ok you guys, you can do this. You’re so close, to the end of the year. I know you’re all tired and need a big break and we’ll have one, a really big quiet one at Christmas time. We’ll hire that boat and go fishing and instead of just saying that, we’ll actually do it. I bought some new swimmers for the first time in eight years so I promise I’ll try to swim more with you at the beach. Give Opie a cuddle for me, tell him Mama will be back soon. xx

PS I had that "shower." With cold water, no towel. I'm not complaining - it was HILARIOUS and I laughed so hard. Dave is always telling me to have a cold shower.

"It'll wake you up, hon!"

I'm awake.

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