Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Our Return to Uganda

It seems the journey to Africa is never perfectly smooth but this one wasn't so bad. We started out from Jacksonville, Fl at 4:45 pm on Monday afternoon. Good-byes to my parents and sister didn't seem so hard this time. We spent the first couple hours in the airport just reading, journaling and reflecting on the previously busy weekend. I also wrote some notes to a few friends that I wanted to send while still in the U.S. I soon learned that I couldn't send any mail from inside the 'gate' area. I'd have to go out through security to find the closest postage center. I decided to wait and check the Atlanta airport for a more convenient way of sending mail.

The flight to Atlanta was a little warm, but it might have been because I sat in between two grown men (one being Terrill). The flight took an hour and I had hoped for some peace and quiet. Not to be. The guy on the other side of me had drank a few beers with his dinner and was proceeding to tell me his life story. I shouldn't be able to recite an hour's worth of his life story...but I can. I couldn't help but be little sympathetic as this young father seemed to need a listening ear.

Upon landing in Atlanta, we headed to our gate and sat for only an hour before we were allowed to board the plane. In the meantime, I went searching for a place to drop my letters off at. Again, not to be. I was informed by an older Hispanic lady (why do they have to put people with thick accents at the information desk?) that I wouldn't be able to send any mail from their airport. I was hoping for an alternative to my problem but she didn't give any. I was dismissed. Now I'm sending my letters from Uganda.

So...we boarded the airplane at 8:50 pm and flew all night towards London. I was in the middle seat between two grown men again. However, at the beginning of the flight, the stewardess kindly asked the man on my right to move to another row that only had one passenger. She was trying to give us an extra seat to sleep in. Very kind and thoughtful. I got several hours of sleep on that flight thanks to her.

Now...the interesting thing about this flight was that a man in the aisle across from us was a bit out of whack. We saw him drinking alcohol with dinner but didn't think anything of it. The lights were dimmed and many people fell asleep after dinner. Within a few hours, many of us were awakened by this man crying out in a loud voice...phrases that didn't make much sense to us. He was definitely Scottish. I think he must have been talking in his sleep. His poor wife! The funniest part of this whole episode is that the man awoke right before we were landing...and he was still talking to himself or anyone in a very loud voice...and not making much sense. Everyone around him looked awkwardly at him from time to time. Before we disembarked, I heard a stewardess tell someone over the phone that she had a drunk in the back.

When we landed in London, it was 9:15 am (London time). We sat in the airplane for 20 minutes while waiting for someone to drive the stairs to the door of the plane. This was not a good sign and had us worrying. Our next flight was closing the doors at the gate around 10:25 am. The process of getting from one plane to the next was no simple matter. We disembarked from the plane and got on a trolley which took us to another part of the airport. We got stuck behind slow know the ones who stop in the middle of the walkway to look for something in their bags?...we got stuck behind those with kids who are training their 2 year old how to walk in public...we got stuck behind other just walking leisurely. We went up escalators and down escalators. We went through customs and then security again. At one point, it was 10:15 am and we were stuck in a long line at security. We showed our tickets to an airport employee who promptly helped us skip the line. I did feel bad for those I was skipping but I'm pretty sure they weren't getting on a plane in ten minutes. The security check itself took ten minutes. Belts and shoes off. Laptops out of cases. Passports and tickets in a safe place. Coats off. Then we have to get dressed again. We finally found our gate with no time to spare and were some of the last passengers to board. We should have known that this wouldn't bode well for our checked-in bags. We had our feet and voices. They didn’t.

The ride from London to Uganda was nice and peaceful. We tried to sleep but the Russian passengers in front of us were in jovial moods and talked loudly to each other. No problem. We'd sleep later. We were intrigued by a 'missionary-looking' family sitting across the aisle. We never talked, but I spotted their luggage later and saw they were going to Jinja. Terrill says they reminded him of his family moving to Tanzania. The children had perfect manners and were quiet on the flight. I was impressed. I pray they 'make it' in Uganda.

We landed in Entebbe around 10:10 pm (Nairobi time). The air felt nice and warm. I was getting tired of the cold in the US after living in tropical weather for two years. We found our way to the resident visa line in the building. To our dismay, our visas had expired in December. They stamped our passports and sent us to the visitor visa line. We waited and when it was finally our turn, they charged us $50 each to renew the visa, even though it was supposed to be free since we have work permits. Too bad we didn’t know that!

Finally, we get through and head to the luggage claim. This is when I first had the sinking feeling that the luggage hadn't made it. At the same time, Terrill spotted a sign that named us as not having luggage. We went to the luggage office and waited some more. From here we're told that our luggage will arrive on Friday. By now it's 11 pm and I was tired and not to be messed with. No clothes...deodorant...shampoo. Lucky for us, we had traveled with toothbrushes. We were able to get some things in Entebbe but what irks me is the inconvenience of it all. I'll get over it.

A good friend, Doug, picked us up from the airport and we also agreed to take two Ugandan men to the hotel where we'd be staying. That was a good decision. We dropped Doug at home and made it to the hotel. The other men were checking in when the receptionist told us that someone had made a mistake and booked us for the following day. We went back outside and were ready to go look for another place to stay (as they had no other rooms). Terrill went inside again to use the phone and was told that one of the men who we'd brought from the airport was willing to give up his room and stay with his friend. We had a room and we slept the whole night. Praise God for happy endings!


Tammy On the Go said...

thank you for posting beautiful. I can't wait to tell you a story, I shall write it in an e-mail soon.


Justin and Hannah Gingerich said...

sounds like one crazy adventure home to Uganda...never a dull moment huh?

The Reeds said...

Oh the joys of inconveniences!! Thanks for sharing the "little" stories and thoughts- they're always so wonderful. I'm sure "Greece" is a lovely name. Why not "Greecetopher?" or "Greecetopha"? Sounds almost Biblical. :)

By the way, "You are ALLMOST wellicome back!!"

Notinthewild said...

Exciting all the way! Best detail: the stewardess' aside :)
I remember getting an aisle to myself on the way from Europe to Nairobi--slept through a meal, and it was well worth it; I have feel like I have jet lag now that I have imaginatively invested myself into the narrative . . .

Leslie said...

Glad you are back safely!! Sure was great seeing you two!