Well, here we are, smack dab in the middle of our stay in Uganda. The plane trip here was just that--a trip! We changed planes in Seattle and Amsterdam--our three hour lay-over in Amsterdam was extended by another two when we had to change planes because the first one we boarded developed a fuel leak. We watched two fire trucks pull up as they unloaded our luggage--and were meekly herded to a less flammable jet.
After 26 hours of travel, we arrived in Entebbe--cleared customs easily and had a joyous reunion with Candyce and Stephen. We got checked into the Namerimbe Guest House around midnight and got to bed around 1 a.m. (after changing rooms 3 times. Don't ask!)
Day one we just kind of chilled, went into Kampala after we rested/cleaned up and hit the African craft market. Candyce and Stephen gave us a crash course on how to barter, which I failed miserably. I would just think about the poverty we'd driven past to get to the market and would end up paying almost the full price. My spiritual gift is mercy . . .
The next day we drove to Jinja and saw Bujangali Falls and took a short boat ride to the mouth of the Nile. Pretty amazing sights! The weather has been good, hot and sunny during the cay, cooling off nicely at night. We have really seen many animals--these weird vulture-like things that hang out around the dumps (seriously, driving back from Jinja I watched small children digging through the endless dumps with those giant birds poking around right next to them. The birds were bigger than some of the children!) We saw a monitor lizard at the mouth of the Nile. Robert, our driver, got quite agitated and told us they are very dangerous. But that's not as close to danger as I've gotten.
Yesterday, I had my first boda boda ride. Bodas are small motorbikes which dominate the streets of Kampala, weaving in and out of traffic with reckless abandon (I've been told Bodas are one of the main causes of trauma in Kampala and it's not hard to believe). Candyce and I decided to go get our nails done in a salon across town, and we decided to take bodas to get there. Stephen was a little worried about me, so he arranged for a young driver he'd previously ridden with to take me.
"Take good care of the mom," he sternly warned the young man.
It was probably 80 degrees by mid-morning, but my driver, Abdullah, wore a heavy winter jacket and a helmet. He grinned at me widely, then we started off for Garden City (the muzungu side of town). Always one to stick my foot in my mouth, I leaned forward and asked, "So, do you know Jesus?"
I'm not sure why his odd hat and non-African name didn't clue me into the fact that this was a stupid question.
"I am muslim," Abdullah answered, taking his eyes off the road to stare at me momentarily.
"Oh, then you know Jesus as the prophet, right?" I asked, wondering if I would end up in a ditch somewhere.
"Oh, yes!" he agreed cheerfully, and then proceeded to drive more carefully than any boda boda driver in the history of the planet. He pointed out anything of interest as we motored along, weaving deftly in and out of traffic, always carefully avoiding potholes. It really was a wonderful ride, and he even agreed to hang out and wait until we did our girl things at the salon.
On the ride home, Abdullah actually told me a bit of his life story. His parents died when he was young, so he had to work to put himself through school (there are no public schools, all education costs money here). He'd finally graduated grade 12 and found a job as a boda boda driver.
"Do you like this?" I asked as we dodged a herd of goats crossing the street.
"What choice do I have," he asked, shrugging through the heavy, soiled coat.
I hope to see Abdullah again . . .
Today we worshipped at the Streams of Life church where Candyce will be married. Greg and I were introduced to the whole congregation, who were all invited to the wedding. The service lasted 2 1/2 hours, which was shorter than usual we were told. After church, we were invited to lunch at Candyce's wedding coordinator's house--and so I had my first home-cooked African meal since our arrival.
It was amazing! Jennifer, who is married to a muzungu from Canada and helps run Uganda Jesus Village--a home and school for former child soldiers--cooked a wonderful meal of mashed bananas, stewed liver, seasoned beef, rice and fresh pineapple. Jennifer, who is a former child soldier herself, is so filled with the love and grace of God that it was hard not to just stare at her sometimes.
Such beauty from ashes! I look forward to spending more time with her and her family and the children she loves--some of the boys will be singing at Candyce's wedding!
So, Candyce's wedding is my main mission on this trip, but I'm grateful for the short snippets of culture I've experienced so far.