We enjoy our errand-trips to Kampala, Uganda's bustling capital. Usually they involve a heavy dose of frustrations with numerous graces sprinkled throughout. As long as one can maintain a degree of patience, lack of expectation, and a non-temporal perspective, the ups and downs can be easily managed.
One of our errands this time was to finish the process of getting our Ugandan driver's permits which was begun over three months ago. Now, in what was presumably the final stage of the process, we still had to spend four hours visiting a total of seven different counters in two different offices. Oh, and we have to go back next week to actually get the permits. Nonetheless, we received grace upon grace. Like the woman who kindly looked for and processed our applications which had somehow gotten lost in the system. Like the woman who remembered us from earler that morning and helped us bypass another long line. Like the guy who loaned his pen to this presumptuous mzungu (whitey). Like the three ladies at three counters who processed Amber's application, even though Amber hadn't known to bring her original Florida license.
Lucky us, we even got to show grace a few times. Another of our errands was to purchase a modem for our laptop so we can get internet when we're upcountry. The sales guy at Celtel had told me to come back this week, so that's what we did. The sales lady yesterday told us that she couldn't sell us a modem because we didn't bring our laptop. They insist on testing each modem on its host laptop to avoid the headache of returns or refunds. Later a friend told us that we should just buy the modem; the setup would be easy. Taking his advice, we went back to Celtel and pressed the matter a little more. "We just want to buy the modem, and we can set it up ourselves." That's when she told us that the modems were out of stock. Hmmm. What's the REAL reason we couldn't get our modem? We may never know, but we did experience firsthand what we've been told to expect: relationships are more important than information.
Another errand was to pick up a self-inking stamp I had ordered three weeks ago. Here in Africa, whenever you draft a contract or write an official document or letter, it's very advisable to stamp it with an official-looking stamp. So I designed one that basically had our names, SIL's name and address, SIL's logo, and the date on it. After originally ordering it, I waited a week to pick it up (like they told me to). That's when I found out they were awaiting my response of approval by email. Too bad I never got an email. A day later I got the email, but the design they'd sent me was so blurry I couldn't even make it out. So I came back in and approved it in person. That was last week. Yesterday day we moseyed in to pick it up. Of course, it wasn't there; that would be too easy. The lady at the desk had to call the factory and have the stamp hand-delivered to the shop. Another wait. Finally, about the time my blood pressure started to really rise, the courrier arrived. With great glee we opened the box containing the stamp. He-he! In large boxy letters across the top: TERRILL & AMBER. That's it! No last name. I confess I wanted something official to stamp on all my documents, but I wasn't expecting the stunning officiality of our first names! I can just see the officials of Kaabong District saying 'who's Terrill & Amber'? Ironically, the stamp probably really is official enough for Kaabong.
All a day's work in Kampala.