Monday, August 10, 2009

More than Half the way around the world

Doug had to at the church by 5:20am and I was surprised to see people already standing in the parking lot but they were not the people who were going on the trip. We had a wonderful contingent from the church there to send us off and pray with us before we left. We also had three members from the San Leandro Lions Club there to send us off. A couple of the girls had done a presentation at the Lions Club and they generously donated $250 toward our trip. They had made contact with the Lions Club in Kampala and also Fort Portal where we will end up.

My goodness, what a difference there is. Fascinating, unusual, interesting, confusing differences.

Of course, spending about 28 hours in travel made the first impression a little different.

We spent that long waiting at SFO, traveling to MPLS, waiting briefly there, flying to Amsterdam, waiting there for six hours and then flying almost nine hours to Entebe in Uganda.

Our seats tended to be in the very back of the plane which meant that it took us a while to get on and get settled but took us even longer to deplane because everyone in front of us left first. And when we arrived at the airport in Entebe, we waited in line in the hot, humid airport to go through immigration and then we had to deal with only one lost piece of luggage but that took an hour. A mini van had been arranged to pick us up and take us to Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda which was about an hour ride. However, before we got out of the airport, we were met by a wonderful group of people from the Lions Club in Kampala. It was a very warm, welcoming feeling to arrive in another country and been welcomed in such a wonderful manner. The Ugandans hug and kiss both sides of the cheek followed by handshakes. Big smiles everywhere even though we were absolutely beyond exhausted. We had made arrangements for a hotel and driver but the Lions had made arrangements for us at another hotel. So we ended up paying for one night at the hotel we didn't stay in and the driver gave us a ride to the hotel we are staying in.

We left the airport at about 11pm Uganda time, after spending three hours in the airport and then it took an hour to get to the hotel. Our luggage willed up the entire "trunk" space in the rear with more around us inside. I st in the second row so it was hard to see much besides what was right in front of us. So many motorbikes which are also used as taxis and will carry up to two people in addition to the driver. They don't go very fast but they do dip in and out between other vehicles. Additionally we were driving on the right hand side of the road so we have to be sure to look the other way before we step into the street. But more about that later. Lots of people out, even though it was late at night. It was also much cooler. We passed a lot of clubs with lots of loud music and people. Because it was dark I was only able to see what was right in front of me but I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore...

We all climbed into our beds and I was fast asleep but we were to meet for breakfast at 9am the next morning which left barely 7.5 hours for sleeping. I felt better this morning but still somewhat groggy and filled with jet lag. I was sure someone had told us the water at the hotel was safe to drink so I had a glass of water and brushed my teeth both before going to bed and upon rising. Then I found out it really wasn't safe. So uncomfortable abdominal feelings, probably due to the complete confusion of time and food my body had gone it to, immediately became a bacterial infection in my mind...oh no, I didn't want to be the first person in our group to start taking cipro...Fortunately, eating a very light breakfast and a light lunch helped and a 2.5 hour nap really made the difference.

Fr. Rob made arrangements for a tour guide to show us around on a walking tour. We didn't get going until almost noon and by then it was very hot and humid. We started out from the hotel and the first thing I noticed was all the traffic which had been quieter the night before. We took off at a very fast pace and then turned down a narrow alley way which had vendors in little shops along the way. The walkway was dirt and some steps here and there and rocks sticking out. I was having problems walking on the uneven surface. Then we rounded the corner on to the main street and were hit full face with Kampala! Loud horns honking, people shouting from taxis looking for business, people stepping in front of you offering their wares, people everywhere, diesel exhaust fumes galore, taxi vans everywhere filled with people, lots of cars and then even more scooter taxis dashing in and out of the traffic. We went first to exchange US dollars for Ugandan schillings...3 $100 bills turns into a big stack (618,000 worth) of smaller schilling notes! A big Stack!.d I am not used to looking at a bill to determine if it is 1000 or 10000 so I am somewhat slow. Armed guards were at all the exchange places..armed with rifles, not handguns. Very different but it was fascinating as people were exhanging money into all sorts of currency from all over.

And then the heat hit us. We also noticed big differences in smells, from different body odors, different food smells, different air smells, etc. At one time group went to the open market and there was a big dumpster filled with rotting fruit pieces and skins of the fruit which made a strong smell. I had to give up the walk because the heat was just too much and my knees and hips were really starting to hurt. Fr. Rob graciously sat with me and then we began a slow walk back to the hotel while the four girls and Anne went on.
Fr Rob and I really took it slowing with frequent rests. This was actually a good thing as we sat on the stump at the sidewalk and would just watch things happening.

One big thing that was happening is that people would really look at us...we are quite easy to tell apart from the Europeans and the Caucasians who live in Uganda. We were the strangers, we were white and a very black country. Some of the girls felt very uncomfortable about this but are getting used to it. What they are not used to is how many people have reached out to touch them and we are not quite sure what this is about. I really enjoyed watching women walk down the street with their beautiful clothes made from batik fabric. Probably one in three women were traditional clothing. I looked at a number of traditional dresses in the area but wasn't really feeling up to shopping at all. I will take another look, if not here, then in Kampala. Fr Rob and I found at St Paul book store run by nuns and we went shopping for some time. I found a green stole which had a Ugandan shield on it along with a cross so purchased it for him.

He and I had a leisurely lunch, because everything here is leisurely, on the terrace of the hotel, getting fogged out by exhaust fumes. After lunch I dropped quickly off to sleep for two and a half wonderful hours and woke up feeling so much better, including my intentional tract!..I I am sure you are happy to know that!

The girls come up to my room to work on their journals, painting, gluing things in etc. I have shown them the fine art of ephemera gathering and they are taking to it like good collectors. While in Amsterdam, I bought a newspaper in Dutch and we have taken out lots of pictures of airplanes from the magazines in the seat backs of all our flights. I have shown them how to look in magazines, not for articles but work text that is meaningful to them. They are working hard on these journals and are really happy they made them. This of course, made me feel great as they were not quite sure whey they were making them before we left. They are not firmly entrenched in an art journal habit!

We have spent a lot of time talking with the girls about their feelings and what they see and what they experience. One of the girls had only been as far east as Arizona so this is a very big change for her. No one had ever been in a culture like this.

It is exciting to be here. I feel so blessed to have been able to come, even though I am not able to physically keep up with everyone, it is working out just fine.

Tomorrow we head off to Fort Portal and Sunrise house. Sunrise House is turned Irene's sister's house in to a bed and breakfast and we will be the first to use it...of course, we have bought sheets for it and will see what else they need.

All I can say it that this is absolutely wonderful. Uncomfortable sometimes, but wonderful. We are looking eagerly to getting out of all the hustle and bustle of a big city and getting into a small town and more rural areas.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the support so many people have given me through purchase of my work to make this trip happen for me, donations toward the orphange, and the prayers of so many people while we are gone.

As it is now after midnight I haven't uploaded any images but hope to soon.


Robin Niderost said...

Thanks for the interesting update, it makes it so that I can live the trip vicariously, so to speak, through your eyes. What a blessing. I look forward to more blogs and photos. Hello & blessings to all

Gerrie said...

So nice to get your first report from Uganda. I am having a vicarious trip with you. I can't wait to see photos.

Lora Martin said...

Add me to the list of traveling vicariously. Wonderful reporting! said...

Oh Liz, it sounds like you are having a wonderful trip so far. I can feel the heat and humidity and don't envy you that! I'm glad you survived the long airflight. It sounds like you have much to look forward to and much to give. Love you. carol

Patty said...


I too am living vicariously through your blogs! Cannot wait for more!