Good Morning Uganda! My first time waking up in Africa was pleasant. It was warm, while not hot, but humid. I unburied myself from my mosquito net, put on my sandals and headed out the door. I found a bright and sunny morning, with flowers and a garden that I had not noticed when we had arrived in the dark the previous evening. I wandered over to the outdoor dining table, and found Georgie, Peace and Melaika, eating breakfast. Barbara came out and quickly offered me everything on the table, introducing me to each of the items in case I had not seen them before. I tried everything – the sliced white bread, the butter, and the milk-tea. The kids were already being rambunctious, and happily included me in their joking. When we had finished eating, we all went to our separate quarters to get ready for church. This didn't take long for me or the kids, so we were all back to goofing around in no time. I was able to snap a photo when all three of them were checking their hair in the large mirror in the living room of the apartment Chris and I were staying in. Soon, Pastor Peter arrived, loudly welcoming Chris and I and receiving lots of hugs from the children. Peter also brought a very exciting item – a wireless router. After about ten minutes of trying, we figured out what the password was for the Wi-Fi, and Chris and I were able to check in online, letting the world back home know that we had arrived safely. After about 15 minutes of Facebook, Collin loaded Chris and I, the three kids and Barbara into the minivan and drove to Kyampisi for church. The ride took about 45 minutes, and showed me even more of the beauty of the Kampala area. We turned onto a dirt road, drove through the village of Kyampisi and arrived at the church. Chris was greeted like an old friend by young and old alike. I was not ignored, as several little ones immediately grabbed my hands and started leading me around the church grounds.
It looked like the church service had started just a few minutes before we got there, so we were conducted to the front row of plastic yard chairs, and asked to sit, at what was clearly the place of honor. As soon as I sat, two kids hopped up onto my lap, happy to be with me, especially in front of so many of their friends. The church service was very similar to those in America. The first while was spent singing, mostly in the native Lugandan, but one in English. Everything else was bi-lingual, meaning that if the speaker used English, a translator reiterated it in Lugandan, and vice versa. Pastor Peter gave a sermon on Unity, based on the story of the Tower of Babel. I enjoyed what he had to say, but I enjoyed how it was delivered even more, with the two languages being intertwined seamlessly, both Peter and Barbara switching back and forth from English to Lugandan. It was beautiful and powerful.
After the sermon, we sang again, and then the service was over. Except no body left. They just turned their chairs and sat in groups of friends, fellowshipping. I was greeted again and again, with loving smiles, hopeful gazes and long handshakes. Young and old alike came up to me, grabbing my hand or hugging me. This was not the reserved emotion I was told to expect. Maybe it was because Chris had paved the way and brought me along, or maybe because they recognized that I was there to love them. Either way, I was very welcome, more so than at any church I had ever attended. A young man came up to introduce himself, and I remembered that he was one of the drummers for the service. I asked him about the drumming, and he told me that it was competitive to get a seat at a drum, as many people like to play. I asked for a lesson, and he excitedly led me to the row of three drums, and taught me several of the rhythms, which I was able to mimic, to his surprise. Then I told him that I played at home.
I was then paraded around the church area, looking at the children’s church and school area, and admiring the partially constructed new sanctuary that we had just had church in. The people were all so happy! They have the love of Jesus in them, and they are happy to share it! I found Chris with several of the girls, singing songs that he had taught them last time he was here. We soon left, headed back to Jesus House for lunch.
Barbara made a delicious meal – my first truly Ugandan food. We ate beans and rice, which is surprisingly good and filling, matoke, g-nut sauce, and finished with watermelon and pineapple, both of which had been drizzled with mango juice and seeds. Chris describes matoke as “potato bananas” but I think it tastes and feels more like yellow or acorn squash. It is yummy and thick, and goes with anything. The g-nut (from ground-nuts) sauce was like a thick soup, that had a flavor that resembled peanut butter, but a looser consistency. I can see why Courtney warned that you can actually gain weight by eating like Africans.
It was mid-afternoon by the time lunch was finished. Peter was headed out to the mall for some errands, so Chris and I rode along so that we could get a few supplies. We ended up at the large Western-style mall, which has just about everything an American mall would have, plus much tighter security. We checked our bags and went into the supermarket, which was much like a large drug store, with food options, as well as most staples for life. We picked up the needed items, most notably a power strip that connected us to Ugandan electricity and outlets, but provided us with both American
and Ugandan style outlets. This cost 32,000 shillings (about $13 US). We then strolled about the mall a bit, allowing me to get a feeling for what products are available in this part of the world. I found that just about anything is available, but some things are more of a luxury, and are priced accordingly. Most items are comparable, or less expensive than in my hometown.
After the mall, we rode back to Jesus House, and had a brief break before loading up again, this time with all the teachers from Kyampisi. Peter was sending them out as a thank you gift, and we were allowed to tag along. We were taking in the Ugandan Cultural Show at the Ndere Cultural Center. It was three plus hours of singing, dancing and drumming, all with Uganda’s version of Ricky Ricardo to talk us through the historical and cultural significance of each act. I learned a lot, all while seated outside in the comfortable, albeit humid, Kampala evening. After the show, Collin drove us back to the house.
After a quick check-in on Skype with our respective wives, it was time for bed. I could already tell that there was something special about this place, and I knew that this trip was leading to something much bigger.