Friday, 13 April 2012

There and Back Again: A Mzungu's Tale

Recently my family and I had the privilege of visiting a school/orphanage that our church here in Uganda (Grace Assembly) created called Grace Education Center. It was an awesome trip down there, fraught with excitement and danger. Excitement being we got to stand on the equator and watch water spin clockwise on one side of the world and spin counterclockwise on the other, and danger being a few of us were in such great need of a restroom we thought we might explode. Okay, that was me. 

We left early Monday morning with the assistance of a member of our church named Godfrey to act as our guide. Not so long into our journey we were stopped by a policeman on the side of the road.

He asked us how fast we were going, to which my dad replied, "75 km." The policeman grinned (I think he enjoyed this a little too much) and proudly showed us his radar gun, displaying 80 km. Godfrey had informed us earlier that the highway speed limit is 80 km, and so he called this into question. The policeman responded, "Ah, but this is not a highway, it is a bypass. And the speed limit on a bypass is 70." He then asked for my dad's identification, and my dad obliged willingly, not looking for any trouble. The reason for this, we later found out, was because the officer wanted to know if my dad was anyone of importance.  
Godfrey brought to the officer's attention that fact that the speed limit had not been displayed anywhere along the road. The officer said this was not his fault. Godfrey tried to reason with him still, "Please sir, I told this man the speed limit was 80. He did not know." Again the officer grinned, pulling out a list of traffic violations and their fees. He showed us where it said we were to pay 100,000 shillings (about $42) for our ticket, and now Godfrey was to receive a ticket as well of 40,000 shillings (about $17) for "giving false information." 

Without losing any patience, Godfrey got out of the vehicle to talk to the officer. Godfrey already knew that the policeman was only trying to cheat us, and that the reading on the radar was probably not even ours. The officer tried to bargain with Godfrey, lowering the fees. Long story short(er), Godfrey was able to reason our way out of a ticket. Thank God for Godfrey.

Later we stopped at the equator to watch spinning water (and so some of us could alleviate our bladders). Water will spin clockwise on one side of the equator when it goes down a drain, counterclockwise on the other side, and if the water is directly on the equator it won't spin at all. The sun was INCREDIBLY intense there, and I was only too happy to go back into the air conditioned van.

We continued on our journey until lunchtime, when we enjoyed some good traditional Ugandan food. Then we drove until Kyotera Town (pronounced "chotera," because "ky" in Lugandan makes a "ch" sound, now you know) in Rakai District, where we planned to stay for the night. After paying for our rooms (6 in total, we each got our own), we traveled about 20 minutes to the orphanage. 

We didn't arrive until almost 5:00 in the evening, which is when the kids get out of school. The school provides an education for over 400 students. We walked into each classroom to introduce ourselves. When they would see us coming, they started a synchronized clap (if that makes sense) until we were all inside. The teacher who introduced us in each classroom would say, "Good afternoon, class. How are you doing?" To which the entire class would reply in unison "We are alright, thank you teacher." Which sounded more like, "We are al-a-right, sank you teachah." We then each introduced ourselves (after each introduction they had a special clap they did) and then moved on to the next classroom. 

Afterwards when school ended for the day, the kids stuck around for quite a while and followed us all over the school grounds. We spent a good amount of time taking their picture and then showing it to them, which they LOVED. 

We walked to some nearby houses, one of which was home to a widow and her seven children. Her husband died last year due to AIDS. 

One of the teachers who had accompanied our group informed us that this was the area most affected by AIDS, and that many of the older girls who attend the school carry it, passed on from their parents. Their outside appearance bears no visible evidence, there is only an inside contamination. Many of the children also suffer from some kind of skin disease. We had asked about this earlier when we noticed some of the kids have white spots on their heads.

The sun began to set and we returned to the hotel, where we enjoyed dinner under some special mood lighting (all of the lights had been turned off except for some black lights placed above the tables). It produced a nice effect but it was kind of hard to see what I was eating. I just had to take their word for it that I was actually eating chicken. 

Each of the kids then went our separate ways into the rooms, but quickly assembled in my room because really, being all by yourself is no fun. I then proceeded to kick their butts in a card game because it's important to remind younger siblings where their place is. 

The next day we returned to the school for a few hours and both of my parents were able to speak to the kids, my dad to the older classes and my mom to the younger classes. I sat in for the message my mom gave. She told them why Jesus died for us, and then about the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. We left that afternoon for the long(ish) journey home. 

The kids were so adorable, I loved the whole trip! And to wrap up our little adventure, just before we pulled up to our apartment, we saw our first monkey in Uganda.

P.S. Nope, I didn't take this picture, so this isn't the same monkey. But it's the same kind of monkey, which I figure is pretty much the same thing. Just wanted to help you visualize.

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