The airport is an hour drive from Kampala, but that didn’t stop everyone and their cousins from coming to greet us. Children in yellow stood upright, eager to give Pastor Omar a bouquet of flowers to welcome him and his team. Some how we were to get our mountain of luggage, the nine of us and all of them (who occupied all the space on the way here) back to Kampala. We realized we were about to experience the loss of our personal space for the duration of our stay in Uganda. People there don’t mind squeezing ten people into the space of where two Americans would be comfortable. We sat on suitcases, and received the lovely odors of many hours of travel. There was no turning back we were going to be family ready or not.
Uganda used to be a colony of England so much of their social structure has british tendencies. They drive on the opposite side, structure their schools as the british do and they (thankfully) speak English. They even have the crazy motorcycle drivers there who zip in, out, around and alongside busy traffic. These cycles are called “boda boda” and they are actually a sort of taxi where someone can sit side saddle or astride and get a ride any where for the equivalent of a dollar. Actually that is expensive because many of the rural people may only earn a dollar or two a day. Nonetheless in the cities it is popular to see a well dressed woman with a baby and a bundle riding in and out of traffic…and no one wears helmets.
Yes, there are four people on this motorbike. Usually there are three and a goat or a chicken.
When we arrived at the guest house we were shown our rooms and given an hour to prepare for a dinner out hosted by the group at the Comforter center. It was an outdoor restaurant and we monopolized it completely with our party of thirty or more. Sadly, we were delirious with jet lag and simply holding on by threads of consciousness.
This was our greeting crew at the airport.
At the restaurant I sat next to Harriet, a volunteer at the Comforter center. We connected from hello. She was pleased to know I am a mother and have devoted myself to this profession. She is also a mother of three children. Their names are: Favor Bounty, Treasure Triumph and Craig! When she heard me mention my husbands name her eyes popped and she asked me to write it on the napkin. She told me the name Craig means ‘endearing’. I would concur because my man is endearing, and I hope her son grows up to prove it so as well. When they name their children it has great significance and meaning. When they introduce themselves they say: I am called… There’s a lot of dignity and pride in their names.
I asked her a battery of questions that I’d held ready to burst for many months. Here’s what I learned the first night:
- the average age people live in Africa is 52
- when she asked my age, (almost 42) she exclaimed: ‘You’re cooked!”
- people from outside are not encouraged to adopt Ugandan children because there have been cases of stealing organs from children and there’s occurrance of sex trafficking of the children who are orphaned
- in the rural villages the witch doctors still advocate child sacrifice so people can either get rich or stay rich (it’s in the newspapers every day)
- 50% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 15
- the average ugandan woman “produces” seven to ten children
- they use abortion as birth control having 4-5 per woman because they don’t know life begins at conception (more on that later)
- aids went from 30% of the population to 6% in the last decade
- the average age of the woman who shows up at the crisis pregnancy center is 13-25
- 1 out of 5 women who come to the clinic tests positive for hiv
The more questions I had answered the more overwhelmed I became with the amount of learning I was able to do during my visit in Uganda. Each day was a learning safari. I may not have brought home the head of a zebra for our walls (a hunter I am not) but in knowledge I could fill my home with cultural artifacts. Thank you for partnering with me in the processing of this experience… who knows what it may become some day… it certainly is a topic that sets me on fire with interest and curiosity…