We crawled into bed at around 2:30 a.m. on Friday evening/Saturday morning hoping that our erratic and poorly planned sleep-catching on the way over wouldn’t doom us to a long adjustment period. Joline and Joshua were up by 7:00, while Jessica, Jennifer, and I slept in until around 9:00.
A bit about our accommodations — Over the course of our planning for this trip, we had been given some valuable advice by numerous missionaries, former missionaries, and children of missionaries. To a person, they all encouraged us to secure comfortable and safe housing so that we would have a place of respite that would feel at least somewhat like home after spending the day working in unfamiliar and uncomfortable surroundings. One thing that had really stuck with us was the advice from children of missionaries – they told us that while their parents had chosen to be missionaries and to live in a developing world, the children had not made this choice, so we should try to ensure that they were comfortable. Perhaps this is justification/rationalization on our part, but we heeded this advice and secured comfortable accommodations at the Royal Suites in Bugolobi.
The Royal Suites is basically a three-story hotel (more of a motel) with one, two, and three-bedroom flats that are also rented on a long-term basis. We have a three-bedroom flat with Joline and I in one bedroom, Joshua in another, and the girls in the third. There are three bathrooms (all three have showers), a living room, and a kitchen (with a microwave, oven, stove, and decent-sized fridge). Each of the bedrooms has a wall-mounted air conditioning unit and the living room has an upright fan. As pictured below, each bedroom has netting around the beds to keep the mosquitos (here pronounced moss-quee-toes) out.
There is a rather large outdoor pool, a fitness center (three treadmills, three stationary bikes, one elliptical, one universal weight lifting set, and lots of free weights). There is wireless internet throughout the complex, and there is 24-hour armed guard protection, in addition to the barbed wire-topped retaining wall encircling the complex. The hotel has its own generator that kicks on within a minute or two of the regular power outages in Kampala. Since the Royal Suites are situated next to swampland, they fog the grounds with mosquito repellant each evening and spray the inside and outside of the mosquito nets around the beds. The housekeeping crew cleans the flat every day. In many ways, this seems to be an oasis of luxury amidst an ocean grinding poverty. For the privilege of living in western-style accommodations, we are paying western-style prices. Once again, while we are painfully aware that this may be a rationalization, we feel like this is the right decision for our family on this trip. (Besides, the promise of these accommodations helped me convince my family to leave Malibu for Africa).
On the way home from the airport on Friday night, we had learned that the man driving us to our flat was to be my court-assigned driver during our six months here. He had offered to come get us on Saturday to take us shopping for the food and other items we would need during our time here. So at 11:00 a.m., we headed into town (Bugolobi is about three miles southeast of Central Kampala).
Since I first started coming to Uganda in January of 2010, there has been a noticeable improvement in the shopping options and choices. A second shopping mall has been completed next to the first — and previously only mall — in Uganda. The grocery stores have most of what one would find in the United States, though noticeably absent are salsa and chocolate chips. We stocked up on staples (literally and figuratively), and bought a printer, water cooler, and a soccer ball. During the half-day shopping trip, Joline and the kids experienced their first real taste (and smell) of Africa, since it had been dark the night before. I suspect that they will be posting their impressions relatively soon.
That evening, we discovered the bugs in our flat (again, literally and figuratively). The “wireless internet” requires an Ethernet cord that looks suspiciously like a “wire” (we have been assured that they are working on fixing the wireless part), but having all-you-can-eat internet is a blessing that most Ugandans cannot afford. (Since Jessica is taking classes from Oaks Christian online, we need reliable and limitless connectivity. More rationalization?). When the power went out at around 8:00 p.m., the generator kicked on a minute later. Almost. We soon discovered that air conditioners don’t work when the generator is providing the power. So when we went to bed, the fan found itself in our room (parental privilege), and the kids found themselves a bit uncomfortably warm.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and realized the power had come back on, so I got up and turned our A/C on. Being the wonderful father that I am, I proceeded to scare the holy posho out of Jessica when I snuck into her room to turn the girls’ A/C on. She had also awakened and was just walking about of her bathroom when I walked in. Her startle reflex, in turn, sufficiently jolted me that I was now up for good. Not wanting to keep Joline awake, I relocated to the living room with my computer to get some things done. Within about five minutes, I had fed a small family of moss-queetos their breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert for a fortnight. I only managed to kill one of the little buggers while the other two actively mocked me. Who knew that African moss-queetos actually have fingers?
At 5:20 a.m., I heard the call to prayers from the local mosque and took the opportunity to join them in prayer, albeit through a different Mediator. At 6:30, Joline got up and the two of us headed to the fitness room to run on the treadmills. (We have made an irrevocable commitment (unless we decide to revoke it) to get back into shape (like we have really been in shape since the mid-1980s) while we are here). Apparently, “opening at 6:00 a.m.” is a Lugandan phrase that means “opening when we decide it opens,” which was apparently at some point after 6:40. So we decided to run through the neighborhood. One of the good things about living in Bugolobi is that it is far enough from the main city that the smog from vehicles, which are unburdened with any sort of smog filter, doesn’t impede normal breathing like in the city. Still, the unrelenting smell of burning wood flavored our jog. When we returned, we encountered three Uganda Cranes the size of fourth-graders. No wonder the Crane is their national symbol – they make our Bald Eagle look like the runt of a hummingbird litter.
Later that morning, Michael (our driver) picked us and delivered us to Watoto Central Church. We met our new friend Steve there, who is an agricultural economist from Oklahoma. Since Steve is volunteering his time for a few weeks with Watoto on one of their agricultural programs, he is a Watato VIP. This, in turn, meant that he was given VIP seating at the packed-to-the-Tilapia-gills worship service. This VIP seating was in the second row. Since we were with Steve, we were on the second row. Since one of cameras projecting the service onto the mammoth screen at the front of the auditorium was in the back, the back of my mammoth mzungu head was often prominently on display for the 2500 assembled.
Further distracting the parishioners was my utter and complete lack of rythem. In fact, I can’t even spell rythem (pun intended, mom). I (we) stuck out like albino elephants, and our skin color was but a minor factor. They sang, danced, and praised the Lord like he was there with them. I think he actually was.
The preacher then brought it like it had never been broughten (again, mom, this is a literary device – I am not quite as dumb as I sound, though I do blame you for my hereditary lack of rhythm). He made us laugh, made us cry, and made us ponder what God has prepared for us to do to serve Him and others. One of my Biblical heroes is Esther; so, too for the preacher-man. He reminded us of Mordecai’s words to Esther – “And who knows but that you have come to [this] position for such a time as this.”
We believe that God has brought us to Uganda “for such a time as this,” and we eagerly look forward to God revealing all that “this” will entail.