Wednesday, 2 May 2012

I Am Here.

Hi everyone!

I am here safe and sound. All my flights went smoothly, despite my fears. I met the most wonderful people! In Detroit I met up with a mother and daughter who were flying internationally for the first time. Erin and Lisa were on their way to Brussels. My flight to DC was wonderful and short. I visited with Lisa and Erin during the layover while we waited for our flight to Brussels. The flight to Brussels was long and, despite it being through the night, I found that I couldn't sleep. 

Arriving in Brussels, I had planned on saying goodbye to Erin and Lisa but was directed out a different door because I was flying to Africa. Following the signs to "T Terminal," I became acquainted with a middle-aged woman who was on her way to Cameroon and spoke little English. Thus all of my questions were answered in extremely basic English. Together we wound our way to the right gate and I listened to the multiple languages around me in fascination- English, French, Swahili... so beautiful. 

Once at the appropriate terminal I wandered around in circles for a while as I couldn't bear to sit down again. The area to walk was small so I walked around and around and observed the amazing uniqueness of the people around me. 

Eventually, I sat down and and began to wait the 1.5 hours until my flight boarded. People began arriving at the gate and an older man sat down near me. We started talking, and it turns out that he is originally from Georgia. God called him to Uganda and he has been working in northern Uganda for the last seven months. He told me to come back next year and teach at his school. "I just might do that," I said. We chatted for a long time and I was able to have most of my questions answered. He was such a grandfatherly man and it calmed me to know I had made a "friend." 

The flight left soon after and we stopped over in Kigali, Rwanda for about 2 hours to deplane some people and to take on some others. My seat mate from Brussels to Kigali- an elderly priest who enjoyed alcoholic beverages and spoke only French- deplaned and a young woman took his seat. Turns out that she is from London, Ontario and was on her way home from Rwanda after a two week stay. We talked for a while and she encouraged me and told me how much I would enjoy my time here. 

I arrived in Entebbe last night around 10:15. Following the crowd, I entered the airport, went through customs, was fingerprinted, had my picture taken, and paid for my Visa. Then was the oh-so-wonderful wait at the baggage claim. Once my bags had been gathered I went to find Roy- the nice man I met in Brussels- who gave me a hug and made sure that I found my driver. 

Patrick was just outside the main door holding a sign among a sea of other faces. We walked to the car and I got into the passenger seat but for some reason I never clued in that in Uganda you drive on the wrong side of the road. Turns out I almost got into the drivers seat .... oops.  Patrick informed me that it was about an hour's drive to Kampala where I'd be staying at Emmaus Guest House. 

Driving was a most eventful adventure. As tired as I was and being pretty out of it, my senses were still completely overwhelmed. Everywhere there were people. Everywhere! The smell of smoke was thick in the air and other smells and sounds filtered into the open car windows but, because of the lack of light it was difficult to make out a lot of the scenery. There was shadowy shack after shadowy shack along the road. Motorcycles buzzing in and out of traffic. Cars driving in their lane, out of their lane, passing here, swerving there. There was no end of things to look at.

We pulled outside the gate at Emmaus and honked the horn. A guard let us in; the guest house was quiet, dark, and still inside the compound. After signing in I was shown to my room- the "Jonah" room. I found the name quite appropriate for the situation... My narrow room consists of a four poster bed- each corner of the bed held up one side the a mosquito net. Behind the head of the bed is a large wooden closet with heavy doors that squeak when opened. Beside the bed is a rickety wicker table and, up in the far corner hung a fan. The entire far wall- about eight feet wide is filled with a curtained sliding door. On the wall adjacent to the sliding door is the bathroom with a flushing toilet, a sink and a shower. The floor of the bedroom is covered by a darkly coloured carpet spotted with stains. 

After digging through my luggage, cleaning up the inevitable messes that altitude plays on shampoo bottles, and locating some clothes to sleep in, I began to get ready for bed. This in itself was an experience as you constantly have to remind yourself to not drink the tap water! It is so second nature to rinse your toothbrush after brushing your teeth. Well, not here! 

I crawled into bed exhausted around midnight, set my alarm clock for 8:30 this morning, and wrote in the journal for a few minutes. Now, I have to admit that I was not so chipper at this moment. To be perfectly honest I sobbed for a good while. It was at this time that I made an eye-opening connection to Jonah. The metaphor breaks down quickly, so let me explain. Like Jonah I just wanted to go home. I couldn't believe what I had gotten myself into! What was I thinking flying all the way across creation by myself? Now, I'm absolutely sure that the belly of the big fish felt much more overwhelming to Jonah than my dark room in the middle of Kampala felt to me, but I can empathize.

Knowing myself, before going to sleep I read Psalm 19. (Thanks for the recommendation mom).The heavens truly declare the glory of God and the sights I woke up to the next morning are greater proof of this.

I woke up to the sound of unknown birds hooting and squealing and bright sunshine pouring in my window. It was the oddest feeling. Time changes are the worst things and, although it was 8:00 in the morning, my body was calling my mind a liar. Rolling out of bed with a groan I proceeded to meet the day. Planes make one feel really dirty so a shower felt in order. Now, most of you know that I am technologically challenged well, this morning proved that I am shower challenged as well. The shower head is this odd contraption that I could just not get to work properly. Turning on the water resulted in a small flow of water not out of the shower head, not out of the tap, but out of the connecting joint near the handle. Let it be known that I am forever inventive and my shower consisted of me washing my hair in two small dribbles of water while half kneeling, half standing in the shower. My life is no end of adventure, let me tell you! 

Thus ready to face the day, I debated my next move. Although I was not too hungry I wondered "What to do about breakfast? Did the guest house serve food?" Having arrived so late the previous night I was given very little information. So, grabbing my courage and the room key, I ventured out into the unknown and was immediately distracted by the most beautiful view from a balcony. (I had missed it in my exhaustion the previous night). All the way to the horizon were rolling hills covered with random crisscrossing roads, red-roofed buildings and the most wonderful trees. The ever present smell of smoke hung in the air, but the breeze blowing in the open door was so cool and refreshing. Birds and bugs fluttered about and the sound of human activity drifted in...

Food. That's right. That was my reason for venturing out. After asking the front desk staff, I was promptly guided into the dining room and told to have a seat. I chose one with a view out the door and parked myself in the cushioned wicker chair. A nervous-looking young man approached and asked what I'll be having. With no idea what was available, he offered up the suggestion of an omelet. Thus, I was served an omelet and two piece of toast for my first meal in Africa. I sat at that table for a long while this morning, long enough to see a bunch of geckos.

I left the table and wandered for a while. I come across a nice sitting area where I introduced myself to Katelyn and Drew. Turns out they are on their way up to northern Uganda from Australia and have been waiting for their ride for three days. We shared a laugh over the typical Africa-ness of their situation. I however, chuckled more out of sympathy than empathy, although I'm sure will have my share of Africa stories soon.

Carol from Set Free Ministries (SFM) arrived and, after meeting the driver, Fred, we left in search of a birthday card for Francis' daughter. For those of you who don't know Francis works with Carol at SFM. After unsuccessfully looking through three supermarkets for a card, exchanging some money, and buying a large bottle of water, we wound our way through a wonderful conglomeration of grazing cows, large houses, open fires, rundown huts, and arrived at a gate. Oh, the joy I felt when I saw the letters "CRWRC" and the beloved purple symbol emblazoned on the gate. It turns out that the headquarters of SFM in Uganda are rented from the CRWRC. 

A tour of the offices on the compound was full of new faces. Most of them I'm already having trouble remembering. I do know that there were two men named Francis however, and a woman named Harriet and a man named Fred and one named David. So here I sit... In SFM headquarters at a long table, in front of an open windows, typing out my experiences.

I hope this long entry did not bore you; I hope that you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. I am certainly anything but bored. I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to adjust to the newness of everything around me and the time zone. In a couple of days Carol, Francis and I are driving out to Dwaniro. From there, I will meet Sam and readjust to an even more different setting than Kampala. As I am continually warned, it is as basic as you can get and, for that, I am so excited and yet I know that it will be a huge adjustment.

I want to thank you all for your prayers, I can certainly see their results in my life. I am tired and overwhelmed but I am learning that this is where I am supposed to be. I hope to grow from this experience, become closer to God, learn about this culture and, maybe even make a difference. Love you all!

1 comment:

  1. It was wonderful to read all about your adventures, Christeena! You are in my thoughts and prayers. Keep leaning on God and you will have the strength and wisdom you need for each day!