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  • Morgan Ditto

2nd in a series of posts from Uganda

Our journey was so long, I feel like we’ve been gone for a month. Jet lag will do that to you. Plus, we found ourselves in the international travel Olympics, with all the chaos we’ve encountered. Let me do my best to convey the wild experience, in shorter statements (these may or may not be in sequential order

 

ATLANTA AIRPORT

Arriving early to shop and rest before our long flight, we spent an hour in a maze-like line, created like the ones you’d see in a Highlights magazine, back and forth, up and down. Out of nowhere a streak of black and white zooms through the crowd chased by a shorter young woman… her cat had gotten loose and tried to terrorize and or escape the airport.

 

OUR NEW FLIGHT PLAN (read more about our new flight plan here)

The new flight plan took us from Atlanta to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Nairobi (Kenya), then Nairobi to Uganda. This wild adjustment to our flights left us traveling for 26 hours, with little to no layovers. As we boarded the Nairobi plane to Uganda, we found ourselves watching 2 men, with an owner’s manual, making repairs to an engine… like it was just a quick adjustment to a toaster. The panel wouldn’t shut, so one man laid down and kicked the panel. It worked, but we were a little nervous (some more so than others).

Arriving in Uganda (safely, the engine repair was a success), we hoped and prayed our totes and luggage (including my travel mate's and my bags we were forced to check). Alas, we were without totes and luggage. The process of filling out lost baggage in Uganda was long, and hard, we were all working with only half of our poor brains fully functioning.

We arrived at the Entebbe hotel at… 5:30am. At about 10 am we awoke from a quick nap to learn… our luggage wouldn’t be in until 11pm. Another night in Entebbe it was. But making the best of the day we were able to visit the MST Junior School where they teach a unique permaculture curriculum alongside the typical studies of Primary (elementary and junior high school grades) schools. We’ve talked permaculture for 4 years now, and this visit made us even more excited about the possibilities at Tender Mercies, and for the 4 students we have currently enrolled. But let’s put a pin in that, we will have MUCH more to share in the coming months about permaculture.

 

DINNER IN THE COURTYARD OF OUR HOTEL DINNER

A nice dinner in the courtyard of our hotel, and 10 very tired travelers (and a tired Tender Mercies headmaster, Charles; he waited while we traveled for an extra day and missed as much good sleep as we did) enjoyed each other's company and took naps or sat with droopy eyes enjoying a beverage before we left for the airport. Good news… we didn’t wait for anything, 29 out of 30 totes arrived, and both travel team member’s bags were there too. We also got the missing tote on Tuesday, all things accounted for!


Last day before we drive to Kayunga (40 miles away, but it takes 2 hours to get there because of traffic, road conditions, and allowable speed-25 mph most of the way) we travel to Kampala and we visit the mall to exchange money and purchase supplies for our Tender Mercies home (replacing plates and cups and other kitchen necessities, groceries for the staff who cook us meals while we are here visiting). Our travels from the city to the town were full of excitement, as we got caught in what they call “the jam”. Thousands of people, boda-bodas (motorcycles), vehicles, trucks, buses, bicycles, all cram together trying to get where they are going first. It is a SIGHT to see.

We made it… we went straight to Tender Mercies, as the long journey was mirrored by a long wait for our children… and the hugs and the tears of joy flowed.

 

STARTING OUR WORK

Fast forward to now (Wednesday, I think but can’t confirm, 3 days after settling in at Kayunga) our team has put their noses to the ground and started the work, doing their absolute best to power through the jet lag. All totes have been emptied, organized, and set up in the “library” of the home for the children to “shop” for their new necessities (shoes, shirts, underwear, pants, and backpacks, all donated). Jerry our resident travel team plumbing man has partnered with a vocational student, young Charles, to update all sinks and toilets at the home, they’re nearly finished. Duane our USA electrician has worked with the local Ugandan electrician to prioritize and lead the charge in updating outlets and lighting, and other systems I know nothing about. The preparation for the next phase of the new building’s electrical needs is happening, thanks to Duane. He also led the charge in smoothing out the active construction area with many of our older kids.


Lynn, Jean, Gretchen, Angie, and Colleen have spent hours of quality time with the children, learning more about their schooling, their hobbies, and who they are as people, sharing knowledge where they can. Marybelle, who is only 16, but wise and kind beyond her years, has helped all projects across the board, and stolen a piece of my heart- she’s who I want to be when I grow up, and absorbing so much knowledge from this trip to take back with her. The Tender Mercies children love to spend time with someone their age. Tom, partnered with Charles, is diving headfirst into the next phases of planning for sustainability, and leads us through the necessary steps of our day to day, to effectively and efficiently achieve what is most important with the shortened time we have left.


And me? I have had the pleasure of working with Nyanzi (a graduate of Tender Mercies), who has become a dear friend and partner in video and graphic projects for our organization, and Rachel (a current child of Tender Mercies), who I also have bonded with, as she will someday be a very well respected leader in her community (we have so much in common), to interview every child at the home, bringing stories and experiences back with us for their sponsors. Something very special, we are so fortunate to be able to provide to our faithful and generous supporters. And fortunate that people like Nyanzi and Rachel are willing and excited to give their time to help us achieve our hopes and goals.


This blog writing is part of the fun of our travels. But as always, as our project and partnership grow, we have operational processes and plans to put in place. Sustainability for Tender Mercies means self-generating income and needs the right set of accounting systems and staff. I will leave you with this, as I jump back into the hard work, using my financial experience and skills; it’s not easy, but Holy Moly is this organization and mission worth it.


For more about our trip to Uganda, check out our facebook page here like our page to stay updated.

 




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