Packing for a trip to Africa is never an easy task. The first thing is a fresh new journal, and my tattered bible. Camera equipment is non- negotiable, just ask Craig. There is so much need for useful things from America that I fill two suitcases without putting in a single piece of my clothing. I’ve been running around gathering last minute items. Medicines, vitamins, converter plugs, and mosquito repellants are heavy! Craig and I both upgraded our phones from blackberries to iphones so that we could give our blackberries to my lawyer and Abdul, who have been working tirelessly on our case. I’m searching for a used laptop I can give the woman who will be investigating the orphaned status of the children who then might be given into our care at Kirabo Seeds. Books are the biggest problem for my suitcase because they are so heavy, and yet vital. I’ve got children’s books for the library, and I’ve got bible studies, bibles, and devotionals. This time I’m bringing food because ten hour days without a bite to eat if we are on the run might be something they can get used to, but it makes me wither. And here’s the problem that comes with that, I’ve got to bring enough cliff bars for everyone. Then there is the candy, I love to pass out small packs of m&ms to kids on the street, or individually wrapped cherry lifesavers. It’s a tiny little sweet, but the smiles they produce sustain my love for Uganda. I am so crazy about the children there. I usually bring a hundred jumbo blowpops to give to children, but this time they are too heavy for my limited load. Then there is the perfume, nail polish and lip gloss gifts to pass around to the ladies.
After all that the question remains, what to wear? All of the skirts that show my knees are out, and that’s the main no-no. I don’t wear pants too often there mostly because if I go to rural areas of Uganda it is considered cross dressing. It is a culture that appreciates getting dressed in your very best as a sign of respect towards those you will meet. Yet, the laundry process is so hard on good clothing that I don’t want to bring my best clothes. I toss in a lot of pretty skirts and tops that can mix and match, things I could consider giving away to someone new that I meet who definitely needs it more than I do. It is a goal to leave most of my things behind with someone else, yet not many people wear a two, so it doesn’t always happen. I never feel obligated to leave my clothing, but it is an obligation to bring gifts, and this is anxiety producing!
What I’ve observed in times past when I see what people bring to wear to Uganda is the casual comfortable clothing we wear all the time in America, and these outfits don’t impress the Ugandans at all. It is best to put on a pretty dress, yet everything in me looks around and thinks I’m going to get filthy with the dust and fumes flying everywhere, and I would really rather wear gym clothes. But I have learned the best compliment I can pay to the Ugandan people is to dress pretty at all times. It makes them smile, they will tell me, “ah, you look so smart!”, and they will feel honored because I dressed up to meet them. This time I have to go to court and look my part.
What I really wish I could put in my suitcase is electricity. Sigh. The electric company in Kampala protests to the government by having regular blackouts that can last for days. It is the one inconvenience of being in Uganda that can toss me into a tizzy. Especially when I am alone without Craig I need to be connected to him, to the kids. It makes me really cranky when I can’t post my blog. I can go dirty, take a cold shower, use a pit latrine, inhale fumes, and wash my laundry by hand, but losing power tests my temper. Herb had a generator, but as soon as he returned to the states in Nov. it blew. He won’t be back to Uganda until two days after I leave for America.
With that confession I remind myself of the “missionary talk” I give others who travel with me to Uganda to serve. It is going without our conveniences that reminds us to use our hands and serve the people, rather than cling to our modern technologies like a security blanket. Taking a break from our technology is part of the experience. I keep reminding myself. I am guilty of what drives me crazy when people go to serve on a short term mission trip: they spend too much time trying to connect with the world that is waiting for them behind, and they miss opportunities to connect with the people they travelled so far to serve. When we are tied to our screens, we are not engaging with the people. My personal discipline is to wake up hours before everyone else to post my blog and email my husband, so no one actually sees me using my screens. This way I am not tied to my electronics when I ought to have face time with people.
It makes me laugh because whenAmerican teenagers are taken on a retreat they are forbidden to bring their technology. But when adults plan to have a similar service oriented retreat they are offended at the suggestion and won’t consider traveling without their technology. Why do we ask our children to do something we ourselves are not willing to do? Because we can force them? No wonder we have so many rebellious kids. Still…I start to cry when I think I won’t be able to communicate with home…or in my case…the world. I am such a hypocrite. What I know and what I feel just haven’t reconciled yet into a choice…but there is hope for me. And I can ask for a small miracle that there will be electricity for the two weeks I’m in Kampala. Please?