Time in Uganda

Let's Get Started

OK. I think it is about time to populate this blog with accounts of the 2010 Onalaska Church of Christ / Good Shepherd Lutheran Church mission trip to Uganda. I have access to two journals and will create posts from these.

To start with, there will be day-by-day entries following the intinerary published below. Whenever I add the posts for a particular day, I'll change the color of the text in the list from gray to green. So, you'll know how far along we are.

With that, it is time to post... Updated May 15, 2010

The 2010 Trip - Day by Day

Day 1 ~ Thursday False start due to weather in La Crosse and Chicago

Day 2 ~ Friday La Crosse to Chicago and on the way to Brussels

Day 3 ~ Saturday Brussels to Kigali, Rwanda and on to Entebbe Arrive in Uganda at about 10:30 p.m.

Day 4 ~ Sunday Drive to Tororo; church service in the afternoon

Day 5 ~ Monday Bike repair service project at church and school; Visit to Aturukuku Primary School

Day 6 ~ Tuesday Visit Patewo Primary School; Lunch at Sam's mom's home; Attend service at Butaleja church

Day 7 ~ Wednesday Visit the Mbale Mission; Attend service at Kachumbala church

Day 8 ~ Thursday Visit prison near Tororo with Fabian; Women's program at Milca's

Day 9 ~ Friday Follow-up meeting at Aturukuku; Drive to Kampala

Days 10, 11, 12 ~ Saturday through Monday Visit Murchison Falls National Park and the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary; return to Kampala

Day 13 ~ Tuesday Shopping in Kampala; Depart for Brussels at 11:40 p.m.

Day 14 ~ Wednesday Brussels to Chicago to La Crosse; Home!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

So Long

Entry from Jack's journal
Entry from Eileen's journal follows

Three Days on the Road
Thursday, Friday, Saturday; January 7-9

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
Psalm 37:7

It is patience which gets you out of a net.
African proverb

Whoever said getting there is half the fun (that would be the Cunard cruise line actually) never tried to fly out of the upper Midwest in early January. Here is my journal entry for the first day of our trip.

The Frozen Tundra lives up to its name. Weather better suited for a reprise of the Packers-Cowboys Ice Bowl than air travel. And we most certainly did not travel today. Bitter cold and blowing snow stranded us in La Crosse. Joni and Allison, AA agents in LSE and DFW, worked a certain magic on their computers, finally getting all five of us rebooked on the same flights on Friday.

I made one small sketch in my journal every day. This is my attempt to capture the near white-out of blowing snow at the La Crosse airport.

I was barely back at work when I got a call saying our 9:40 a.m. flight on Friday had already been cancelled; we would now leave at 12:40. That evening I got another call. A special flight into La Crosse was being added so there would be a plane for the 9:40 after all. Then, we (that would be AA and I) get started early on Friday with a 4 a.m. wake-up call, one I distinctly remember NOT asking for. The special flight arrived quite late and, due to crew rest requirements, would now depart at 11:10.

We do depart at 11:10. Sort of. We boarded and the jet bridge moved away. But not far enough away, it seems. I think it just froze in mid-swing. The plane could not leave with it in the way...

After trying to “repair” the faulty bridge, the airport crew resorted to the tried-and-true approach for moving a stalled vehicle. They used a chain and a pickup truck to tow it out of the way. We were FINALLY departed. Upon arriving in Chicago, we see our flight to Brussels is scheduled to leave from gate L8. Say that out loud. L-8. An ominous sign if ever there was one

After boarding the Brussels flight (at gate K16), the pilot tells us we are waiting for “de-icing,” code for loading 5 cargo containers because that's what was actually going on. When the cargo is stowed, we are told we won’t need de-icing after all and soon get pushed back from the gate. It is an uneventful flight and we land in “Europe’s winter wonderland” according to the flight attendant. The upper Midwest snowstorm has apparently decided to vacation in Belgium.

The Brussels airport welcomes us with a test designed to gauge intelligence and patience. We need to go to the new terminal T and directions are confusing at best. We walk for miles, go through security and end up at the terminal T transfer station, right where we got off the plane from Chicago. The new terminal is apparently located near Amsterdam. We have to take a bus. And we need to be screened. Again. By a lone agent at a little desk who carefully looks at our passports and enters each bag tag number into her computer. But we make it and after they load extra cargo on the plane, code for de-icing, as that’s what they did, we were off.

Loading the extra cargo (aka de-icing) at Brussels

I sit next to a Catholic priest who is headmaster at a school in Rwanda. He is a trim, dapper gentleman who not once during the entire eight-hour flight to Kigali removes his small, black fedora. And he REALLY wants to sit by the window. MY seat! I let him have it. The seat, that is.

Here's my sketch of the hat that the priest wore on the flight from Brussels to Kigali.

Sometime before midnight we arrive at Entebbe. With our bags! Samuel has come with the van to take us to Kampala where we will spend the night. On the drive in, the van starts making a terribly expensive noise. We stop, but decide to at least move off of the busy road. When we do, the noise stops, so we drive on. We find out later it was just the air-conditioning belt that had broken. Quite the trip. So far.

Entry from Eileen's Journal
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Frustrating wait at the La Crosse airport. Mara has come to see us off. All flights canceled due to fog here and snow in Chicago. A problem. Flights tomorrow put us into Brussels on Saturday and no flights from there fly to Uganda on the weekend. The agents work hard to rebook our flights through Rwanda. We haul the bags back home, still wishing the airlines would allow more than one bag each. An extra bag? $50! Bill is questioning my heavy containers of beads for the church women in Tororo, to make jewelry, an idea of Sylvia’s. She said, “You need to meet with the women because they don’t often get to laugh and have fun. I’m also bringing lots of “gifts” for them from the dollar store. Bill is miserable with the onset of a cold.

People have asked why I’m going on this trip and what will we do. I say, “I don’t know. Our friend, Samuel, tells us our purpose is to show the love of God. What that means we’ll do, I don’t know.” My preparation for the trip? To take Gordon’s message to heart and make my New Year’s resolution to trust God. I have not dwelled on my physical problems, the length of travel, or on the conditions in Uganda. I will just trust God.

Friday, January 8, 2010
Airborne! We land in Chicago and wait for our flight to Brussels. “Twenty-four hours to go 250 miles!” jokes Jack. Gordy, a man who works with Jack and attends Good Shepherd Lutheran, works a sudoku. John plays with his miniature computer and remarks for my benefit, “A computer, not a MAC.” As we wait Bill is reading An Army at War, Jack, The Hole in our Gospel, me, The Paris Enigma.

On the flight to Brussels Bridgette from Springfield, IL sits between Gordy and me. She works with Tulane University in public health in Rwanda. A difficult night – the child behind me kicked and shoved my seat the entire night. Three a.m. Wisconsin time we land in snowy Brussels, then get our exercise racing through terminals. No time for Belgian waffles.

Our flight is delayed due to the snow.

Saturday, January 9, 2010
5:40 p.m., a pencil-thin red line lies on the horizon as sunlight fades over Africa. Two more hours of flying time to Kigali, Rwanda, then on to Entebbe, Uganda which is on Lake Victoria. Samuel will meet us.