Day Four, April 18 (posted one day later):
What a beautiful landscape Uganda has! Our driver, Anthony, met us at lunchtime yesterday at the Sunset Hotel, where we had a nice lunch before starting the journey to Masaka. With our late start, roads only two and a half lanes wide crowded with boda-bodas, pedestrians, all manner of truck, bus, and car, and the beginning of school holiday starting, there was a very slow ride to Masaka. There is a rich dark clay soil here that is used in the production of just about every building and even roads. The clay appears to crumble under pressure though, so many buildings are in disrepair and many roads are peppered with washed out holes. Our driver was certainly kept alert for his work!
I thought we had arrived at a marketplace, but soon learned that the "market" lines all the roadway in populated areas. Tiny booths, some of sheet metal, some clay brick, and others just stick huts, crowded together like a never ending flea-market. Everyone seemed to be selling something, and only a few, like furniture craftsmen and basket weavers, actually made anything. Farming accounted for some, but not all the market, as most were peddling clothing, used items, or just mobile phone airtime cards. Surprising was the number of idle people just watching traffic ride by.
We made one stop at the equator, an obvious tourist attraction and photo opportunity. It isn't every day one crosses the equator! There was a restaurant built right on the line, and they kept the line painted with a stripe through their dining room. Very amusing! We used a public toilet and as I left it I heard a little girl ask me something but I couldn't understand her. I asked her to repeat herself three times and finally concluded she was asking me if I wanted to buy ice cream, so I said, "No, thank you" and walked away. Later it occurred to me, as I wondered why she would giggle so at my response, she was probably asking me if the bathroom was clean, prompting me to tip her. I missed that one!
Huge termite mounds dotted the red clay landscape. Matooke (plaintain) farms lined the unpopulated areas except those near the swamps, which were cluttered with fish peddlers so desperate to sell their tilapia that they stepped into traffic holding their catch as it twitched and flapped in their hands demonstrating its freshness. The swamps themselves were covered in a reed I had never seen before, but which Anthony told me was papyrus.
We ended up meeting Kelsey Linduff, her precious family and friends just as the sun set over the rolling green hills, and were welcomed into her home and hearth while Anthony caught up with Alex, Kelsey's security guard, whom he knew from their home village of Jinja. Kelsey's precious daughters greeted us with hand-drawn pictures addressed to "Mr. Todd" and "Mrs. Cindy." The children were precious and made us feel right at home. We shared stories with Kelsey's other guests and a wonderful meal prepared by Amanda, Kelsey's roommate. Before it got too late, Cindy reminded me we were not family and should get going, and we were led to the Zebra Hotel only a few kilometers away.
The hotel room was spacious and well equipped, but charged by the minute for web access, so I didn't write last night. We retired early and got up for breakfast this morning, baked matooke in a tangy pepper sauce that was wonderful. We met Kelsey at her home and her daughters pointed out the two monkeys swinging in the trees. As fascinated as I was with that, their eyes got even bigger when they reported that recently they had even been visited by a squirrel. Imagine being bored with monkeys and excited by a squirrel! I can't.
We rode to the Okoa Refuge and spent a lot of the morning playing with the babies and toddlers. Cindy was in her element, as she found one of the recent additions, Lydia, who clung to Cindy like she belonged with her, and nestled quietly in her arms. I, on the other hand, played jungle gym to the rowdier boys, and was christened with slobber, snot, and all while I enjoyed the giggles of strangers who suddenly weren't so strange, and loved my little brothers and sisters like family for a good while. Around 11:00 and into the early afternoon we were serenaded by the primary schoolers. After listening to an educational Good Friday Bible story by Providence School graduate Audrey, the kids demonstrated a traditional Ugandan dance and took turns introducing themselves in song. It was wonderful, and I was glad to be in their audience. Afterward, Liv, Tyler, Kelsey and the other guests, Cassie and Katie, along with Amanda and the Workman's youngest, Judah, went for a walk to see the new clinic structure and the community center, both newly constructed for the benefit of the locals. It was wonderful to see the potential of those buildings and hear the vision of what is to come through the descriptions by Tyler and Liv. Vocational training, youth entertainment and involvement projects, and health training clinics and services, all in the name of making friends, for only in making friends can one make disciples.
This evening we will tour one of Okoa's rural facilities and see the new piggery. Tyler is excited about the prospect of helping families in the community, as well as Okoa grow more self-supporting through this project. Afterwards, we will dine with the Workmans and retire to the hotel. Anthony tells me we need to make an early start for Fort Portal tomorrow if we are to get there before sundown.
The view from the Zebra Hotel is beautiful! Also, I could get used to this food. It is quite tasty, yet mostly plant-based and unprocessed. If only more Americans ate this way!
While we were touring the new piggery, an amazing sight even for this transplanted mid-westerner, Liv got a call that a two-month old child had been found abandoned, and was now at the police station, waiting to be picked up. The ministry is so well respected they are the first choice call for such situations. The age estimate was probably off because the child we picked up was two weeks old, three tops, not two months. It breaks the heart to think of someone leaving a child like that at a hospital food distribution center, but warmed it to know that my new friends were there to raise this boy if need be, and care for him in the meantime if not. Inspirational!
We finished the day with a dinner out with the Workmans and Audrey at a restaurant called Port 9 (I think), a quiet cafe, until we got there. The kids all over the village, including our present company, Shami, Gideon, and Judah, were all excited about a termite swarm. Apparently, the kids collect them and the mommies fry them up. Our troupe spilled their bowlful before they made it to the kitchen, although the verbal agreement was already made with the restaurant to fry them up. What do you say to such an appetizing appetizer? You thank God the bowl broke!