Thursday, March 19, 2015

Uganda (Part 1): Welcome Home Babies' Home

When the aircraft we were aboard touched down in Entebbe, Uganda, we didn't have to slightest clue what the next three weeks ahead of us held. Our morning had been quite eventful already. 
It was a crazy day at the ferry port that Wednesday morning. With only a half hour to secure our boarding passes and board, we were all a bit anxious. Kim already had her pass so she crabbed some of our luggage and ran ahead to board, and I ran off to find the ticket booth only to discover our tickets had been sold out from under us. Thankfully there was room on the next ferry, but we lost valuable time. When we reached mainland we had to scramble to get to the airport. Traffic was insane! We arrived at the airport with only had an hour to check in our bags, go through immigration, and two security screenings. I was thankful we made it on the plane, but a little upset at how stressful our day had been so far. The Africans have been teaching this American to slow down a bit and enjoy whatever ride I find myself on, but apparently I'm a slow learner. It was a good thing I had some time to relax and refocus before bouncing over more bumps in the road.
A crowd of taxi drivers were waiting outside the airport eager to provide transportation for these three American ladies. We scanned to crowd looking for someone who was expecting us, maybe a sign with our names or something. Nothing. Since I had the man's number, I borrowed a random ever-so-helpful taxi driver's phone to find out where he was. He did not know he was expected to pick anyone up and was still in Jinja, 3 hours away! He graciously made arrangements with the kind, random ever-so-helpful taxi driver, who we later discovered was Samuel. Samuel kindly took us to a local food join for some grub. Breakfast was a long time ago and it was now around 5 pm. Then we set out for Jinja. The 3 hour trip turned into a 5 hour trip, due to heavy traffic in Kampala. Really it wasn't to much of an issue. We were all so happy to be in Uganda. 
An hour before arriving in Jinja, I called ahead to let them know about what time we would be getting there. I really wasn't surprised by their surprise that someone was on their way. Some fast arrangements were made and a lovely room at Ebenezer Guesthouse was ready and waiting when these weary souls arrived after 10pm. It had been a rough day, but we were still smiling.
Coming from Zanzibar where it is 90% muslim, you can imagine the culture shock we experienced upon entering this 66% Christian country. The mosques on every corner where now churches on every corner. Business names made some kind of reference to God and/or His character. The differences continued. In Uganda the air was much cooler and fresher than in Zanzibar. We were amazed when people around us were complaining about the heat. At the guesthouse we had a complete westernized restroom; shower, hot water, a large mirror, a toilet. It took some getting used to... There in Jinja, everything was so developed. Everyone knew English. Few even knew Swahili, so we lost most of what we had learned. :( For the first several days, I really didn't like it so much, especially being surrounded by SO many white people. But since I knew that if I don't leave the past in the past and embrace the present, I am going to miss out on so much, so adjust I did! :) In fact we all adjusted quite well and fell in love with that city.
We went to Jinja to volunteer at Welcome Home's baby home. What that all involved, we had to show up to find out. Earlier I had written about our daily schedule and shared more information about Welcome Home. At the time I wasn't able to upload pictures so here are some pictures for you!
(This is the first post of several about our time in Uganda. The rest will follow over the course of the next several days, so stay tuned!)

The front gate.

One of the play areas.

Snack time with the babies.

A lot of our days were filled with entertaining the kids and loving on them.

Across the street was this great playing field. We spent many afternoons running around in the hot sun, tossing balls, and and just enjoying hanging out together.


Building relationships with the staff while sorting beans.

One day we made jello cake for the children.

Hand crafted paper beads.
Many Ugandans make jewelry from paper. At times you could find staff working on their little projects while the children were napping. Some afternoons a few of the older children gathered in the small library to roll paper into beads. One of our last days at Welcome Home, the staff set up a small market to give us opportunity to purchase some of their crafts. 

Our home for 3 weeks. The Ebenezer staff did a great job at cleaning our room, cooking breakfast every morning, and meeting all our needs. 

Welcome Home volunteer pals. Leah and Kate Martin are volunteering at Welcome Home for six months.
More imprints left on our hearts...

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