Well, we made it to the airport. We are no longer the center of attention, our bikes and bags are checked all the way to Vancouver, we said sad goodbyes to our friends who now feel like family and hopefully we have good movies to watch on these long flights. Man, our arrival to Uganda on June 4th feels like a lifetime ago. I keep having flashes of scenes in my mind of time both on and off the bikes, faces I remember, places we’ve slept and yet I have no idea when they happened, where I was or any details of the days. Most of the time in Uganda I didn’t even know what day it was. How nice and weird is that?! I’m glad we have this blog to review over time to remind us of our time here.
Vincent, Jacob and Vincent’s mother, Jan, picked us up at the hotel around 11:30. Just before, I couldn’t resist getting my one last chipati for the road. I will miss those. We crammed the bikes and all the bags into the back of the van, taking up the two rear seats completely. Jacob insisted that John take the front seat and sat with his big legs crammed up behind the passenger seat without complaint. As we made the trek to Kampala to pick up Jacob’s family to come with us the rest of the way, he was telling Vincent some kind of story in Luganda that was getting a crazy reaction from Vincent, so of course, they had to fill us in. It turns out that on Saturday, while Jacob was doing work to prepare for the final celebration, he came upon an old woman who had bound a child’s hands and feet together with rope and was making him sit at the cooking pot and help her. He could see that the poor child’s circulation was being cut off and watched her hit the little guy (about six years old) with a big stick. Well, I hope you have sensed Jacob’s heart for children by now and seen his size. He was having none of this and intervened on the child’s behalf. He swooped in and grabbed the child and slung him over his shoulder as the old woman grabbed her stick and tried to hit him with it! Like in the movies, he grabbed the stick in mid-air and stopped her cold. So she did what only a desperate woman could do… she BIT him on the arm! What?! He showed us the huge bite mark that was all puckered and will definitely leave a scar. There is a picture below (and a video) of him showing his wife and daughter which John forced him to do because Jacob didn’t even tell Vincent about it until days later and we wanted to make sure she knew. He took the child and carried him to his nearest relative as the woman turned out to be the child’s grandma. He and Vincent were laughing and Jacob was acting it out, the whole situation seeming like no big deal. But both Vincent and we told him that a human bite can be very serious and spread disease so he plans to go get tested for anything unexpected, and also for HIV. How sad and somewhat unbelievable picture of life here – on all counts. The child’s predicament. The woman’s reaction. The possible result. We told him to keep us posted on his diagnosis.
On the way Vincent also got a distressed phone call from his daughter, Jane, who was one of the main dancers yesterday. She had made quite a few tips with her dancing (as this practice was described in our last post) and I guess someone at school just couldn’t resist and stole the entire ‘purse’ from her. Poor thing. Because we hadn’t brought any money to the party and so couldn’t give tips, we gave Vincent a few thousand shillings to replace some of what she’d lost (the equivalent of about 80 cents). Her dancing was worth much more, of course, but we were running out of shillings and wanted to still pay for lunch.
We went to see Jabob’s house, meet his lovely wife of twenty-three years and one of his children, a delightful, intelligent, talented and outgoing eighteen-year-old named Victoria. He and Florence got married when Jacob was seventeen and she was only fourteen. We hadn’t met anyone up to this point who had been married for that long to the same person. He was very honouring to her and kept telling us how hard she works and how much he appreciated that she lets him go away from home to build houses for people who don’t have one, serve the church by leading their music program and be Vincent’s right hand man and heavy lifter. We sat on the couch in their ‘living room’, one of two rooms in their brick and mud house. There was a three-tiered bunk bed also in the room along with all their kitchen wares, thermoses and pots. A ratty sheet hung over the bottom bunk as Vicky’s only privacy. You can see a picture below of me, his wife and daughter standing in the room that serves as the living room, kitchen and bedroom. He kept telling us how blessed he is and how thankful he was that we came to his house. Vicky sang us a couple songs and I could see that she loved to sing and share her beautiful voice.
So then all seven of us crammed into the one seat in the van to go to Entebbe where the airport is. What a difficult joy it was to just immerse myself in these last moments in Uganda and live like they do on a daily basis. No personal space? No problem. No one else seemed bothered by the close quarters so I just rested in that and tried to ignore the sweat running down my back and our legs all sticking together in clammy warmth.
We wanted to take them out to a pizza place on the beaches of Lake Victoria, somewhere we knew they would never go. I was wearing a tank top and John, shorts and a T-shirt. The breeze felt wonderful after being in the hot van. But Vincent, his mom and Vicky were so cold that they went to get jackets and coverups they had left in the van. We laughed at the difference between us. The pizza was so awesome, but most of them had never had pizza before and Vincent didn’t even know what it was. Vicky on the other hand, like all other teens I know, loved pizza and played a game on my phone the entire time. John had Vincent almost convinced to give it a try, but then he bailed out and they all stuck to familiar food: pork with rice, fish with rice, and chicken with chips (aka fries). Mama Jan must have thought her rice needed some sauce because she added a ton of ketchup, not really knowing what it was. The process of ordering was hilarious as they joked with the waiter about the unfamiliar things on the menu. They laughed out a story where Nelson (not with us only because there was not enough room in the van) went out with some North Americans and didn’t know a single thing on the menu so he just randomly pointed at something and ended up with a small mound of sweet potatoes while everyone else enjoyed their full meals. They thought that was hilarious.
After lunch, while everyone was just visiting, Vicky asked me to go for a walk with her so we slipped out and slowly strolled up the road. She has been the only person who has asked me about myself, my hobbies, my children, and deeper questions of what the trip was like. Her English was really good and she hopes to become a surgeon someday. Right now she can’t even afford a small phone to replace the one her brother dropped and broke when he was playing a game on it. I know she and I will get to spend more time together when I come back. She has great potential and deep desire, but like most people, the lack of resources seems too much to overcome for her to achieve her dreams.
It was a bit of a fiasco getting the bags and bikes out of the van and into the airport. Everyone wanted to help and bags were falling off the carts and into the road. They wanted pictures of themselves pushing all the stuff and honestly, we just wanted to get checked in so we didn’t get stuck in middle seats on the plane. The goodbyes were hard, but that’s a good thing. The ties are tight and this project and future plans have bound our hearts together over the long distance that separates us. It’s hard to leave knowing what they all have to go back to, but these men and their families have critical roles within their communities and we are overwhelmed with pride in them and thankfulness for what they have done and continue to do.
So now we start our thirty-hour journey to Vancouver where John’s parents will pick us up and keep us for the night. We can’t wait to see Hannah the next day, see her new place and get some strength from our girl. Then we head home to see Dylan who has killed it this summer caring for our place and earning man points. Wow, I miss them.
Thank you all so much for coming along on this crazy ride with us, for sending kind and encouraging emails and messages, for praying, for giving. All of your contributions have been noticed and deeply appreciated both by us and the students. Even the frisbees, given from the students from the Christian school in Nelson, were huge tokens of love and they had to be given out carefully to avoid the chaos and hurt that can come from wanting something so badly and leaving empty-handed. We hope you have all felt that this was your trip too. In truth, we couldn’t have done it without you.
Your generosity has made it possible to pay some fees for next year as well, but as of now, we don’t have enough for all of the Get Schooled students to continue in 2020. And now that we’ve been around the entire country and seen thousands of kids on the streets who should be in school and the actual reality that it’s not a lack of effort or work ethic, but a myriad of other issues including HIV, addictions, death, disease, domestic violence and broken families, we can assure you that without sponsorship, education is impossible. If you sponsored a student this year and would like to sponsor a student or continue your sponsorship from this year, please email me at getschooled50for50 We will send this year’s final tuition payment in August which will take them to December And we will be in close touch with our team on the ground and provide accountability and encouragement to them to make sure your donations are used well. Education can and will change the trajectory of these kids’ lives and I hope their stories have opened your eyes to their needs, but also the gratitude and humility in which they receive your gifts. I think all of us can say that, to some degree, we got schooled.
P.S. This has become a good platform to reach a lot of you at once with progress updates, needs, and random thoughts and feelings that need to find a voice. Any future posts will be for that purpose. And now that we are off Ugandan soil, life will be just a little bit less interesting. ❤️