You know that feeling that syncs in right before something is about to happen? Like when you warm up before a big soccer game that is about to happen in 15 minutes or so and your adrenaline is pumping in. It was roughly 7:00 am in the morning when I opened my eyes. However, due to anxiety running high when I went to bed, I woke up a few times over the night.
To put this feeling in rest, I was able to connect with Lanna via facetime in the morning. She was having a girls night at one of our friend’s house (Kat) and Buddy (our small 11 lb. dog) was also there. Lanna was working on our Impact Everything website which for those of you if you are reading this blog, I am sure you are already experiencing the recently updated changes. Do let us know what you think or have any recommendations as far as our website’s vibes. We would appreciate it very much. Anyways while on the phone, I gave a tour of the hotel I was staying at, particularly the outside green lush trees and vegetation everywhere. Uganda is called the “Pearl of Africa” due to its rich soil for farming. While I was giving a tour to Lanna and our friends, it gave me a sense of relief and they also absolutely loved it. It helped lighten my anxiety for the day to come.
Shortly after the call with Lanna, my mom (“Aama” which translates to mom in Nepali) and elder brother Sukh called via Facetime. It was perfect timing to say the least. We joked around in the conversation. I heard their voices and I felt at ease.
Bill got up too and we both ate breakfast at 7:30 am. For breakfast, we had an English Breakfast meal which included eggs, bacon, beans, mushroom, and toast. At the same time, David had texted me that he was on his way to pick us up at the hotel. While eating breakfast at the hotel, we bumped into two other neighbors that worked for a company in South Africa. One of the people we spoke to during our breakfast was actually from New Zealand. We bonded over Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.
David texted me that he was passing the capital city, Kampala, which gave us roughly 30 minutes or so to pack up and get ready. David arrived with a friend named Timothy to pick us up.
Off we went to the village. We had a list of things to do before we go to the village at Kampala which included the following:
- Open up a bank account with Post Bank
- Print out our plans and MoUs (memorandum of understandings) with the community
The idea was we would pass Kampala on the way to the village from our hotel, located in Entebbe. When we passed Kampala, we would make a quick pit stop to complete the two tasks above. The bank was on one side of the street and the printing shop on the other. Oh, dear lord how naïve we were to think we would accomplish these quickly and carry-on our trip. Let me explain.
Timothy dropped me off at the bank with David, and Billy took my laptop that had the plans to print to go to the shop with Timothy in the car. We were going to open the bank and then meet them at the parking spot.
The entire experience of the bank was interesting to say the least. There was a metal detector to get into the building and shortly after getting inside the building, there were a lot of people inside. It was Saturday, which means less staff than normal. The bank clerk sat listening to Nelly’s songs blaring from her phone speakers, all helping while helping three people simultaneously. Extremely hardworking people who had little to no time. I waited in an empty seat patiently until my turn came. I gave her my documents to open up the bank account and she said she needed to verify. Which meant that she would scan my passport and send it to her bosses to verify only I can open up the account. In the meantime, she said we can do all the paperwork required to open up the account and once the verification comes in, we would be ahead of the game. I asked if I could exchange some United States Dollars (USD) to Ugandan Shillings (UGX) and she asked me to go to another person at a different side of the bank. Mind you, all these efforts in total took over 2 hours.
I headed to this window teller and the person was in the process of exchanging money for me. She suddenly stopped and told me to open up a bank account first. She asked me to return to the person who had sent my passport for verification. My passport was verified and I was able to open up the bank account at this time. Mind you, all these efforts in total took another hour or more. I am thinking in my head, dang!! Billy and Timothy are probably waiting for us after printing the design plans and MoUs. I asked David to go across the street to check in with them and ask them to go get some lunch because it was apparent to me that I will be in this bank for a bit longer.
Once I got to the first bank clerk I was with, she said, “The passport is verified, and now we can open up a bank account”. She then asked, “Do you have a passport size photo?”. I replied, “I am so sorry, I do not have one”. She called a photographer to send us across the street to get passport size photos. Before the photographer arrived, David arrived. He told me that Bill and Timothy are also not done yet. At this point I knew we had arrived in Uganda – sometimes simple tasks you think are so easy and fast to do back home can take a whole day or more.
I went across the street, took a photo, got 4 pieces of passport size photos and headed back to the bank. Finally, I had gotten a bank account. The idea for the bank account was to use it to put money there and go to the nearest bank from the village to get funds to build the school.
We headed out of the bank towards Bill and Timothy. Mind you, this entire 5 story tall building had printing services everywhere. To not be able to print some plans and MoU was something else, I was like WHATTTTT. Their struggle was worse than ours. Finally meeting up with them and spending another hour or so, we completed both tasks.
We finally headed towards the village. The car parking was all the way at the roof of this 5-story building. As we got into the car, I realized the only way to get to the top of the roof for parking was through an elevator. The car went right into the elevator and BOOM! We were on the ground floor and in the streets. This was one of the coolest experiences of the day. It reminded me of the movie Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift where they also had elevators to park cars. In the movie, it was more of a vending machine type of parking so I suppose maybe that is the next evolution of parking in Uganda. Hahaha
After a few hours long car ride, we arrived at David and his wife, Milly’s, house in the evening.
Upon arriving, we were greeted by two of their sons. Shalom who is three years old and Ephraim who is 3 months old.
When I first got to the house, I was shocked how big Shalom had grown! Shalom was so little the last time I was here, actually the same size as Ephraim is now. He was not shy at all, immediately came to me and was so comfortable which was awesome.
David and Milly were very concerned about our living situation and what food we would be eating during our stay. We are going to be here for the next 40 days and that is a long time. They were super concerned about our well-being. I had originally planned to stay in a tent outside David and Milly’s house because they have two baby boys and to host two more more grown men, Billy and I, would be a lot for them to take on. They had a two-room home; one was their bedroom and the other was the kitchen.
One week before we took off from the United States, David insisted that Bill and I stay inside his house. His reasoning was that it was not safe as people may come in the middle of the night to steal our belongings while we were asleep. It made sense so he offered up his home. I agreed considering the safety of our situation was at stake. I had little to no idea that David and Milly made a whole new room in their home just for us to stay. Therefore, by the time we got there, we had a new room with a huge bed and a small section of the room had a place to shower and pee at night so you didn’t have to go outside.
To say that David and Milly are a great host family is an understatement. Who would go this far into taking complete strangers into their home? Not just let them in, but to build a whole new room for them to stay? While Billy and I traveled so far away from home, spending our time helping a community, it is fair to say David and Milly have also sacrificed a lot to make this project come to life. They have shown, not just now, but time and time again, that they care about their community, their school, their students, and the world we live in. Sometimes I feel like this is unreal. How the hell am I in Uganda doing this? How did I get here? I am very grateful to have them in my life and the next 40 days or so would only solidify our relations further to make this community stronger, healthier, and better. The teeny tiny Saroj inside me is ready to work!
We settled down in the room. The bed was on the far corner. Bill and I had sleeping bags and floor mats because we knew so little about our sleeping situation. We knew we were going to sleep inside but no other details were clear. We were driven to build a school for this community, regardless of any discomfort. After putting all the bags inside the room, I insisted Bill share the bed with me instead of sleeping on the floor. He agreed under one condition – relocate the bed in the middle of the room so we both have access to the sides of the bed. I agreed and we proceeded towards moving the bed.
The walk to school is maybe 4 minutes or so from the house. David had hired workers to work on interlocking bricks since the end of February. The digging of the school’s foundation had also started. So, we figured we would go to the site to see how things are. It felt surreal to visit the school and the job site after all this time. For the past three years, we created plans and looked at the site from google earth with no street views.
My heart pounded as we walked towards the school. It was a similar feeling to when you are about to cliff jump into a body of water. We approached the job site…and it looked – great!
Shalom held my hand on the walk back while we greeted everyone and anyone along the way saying, “Hello” or “Jay Baleko” or “Oli Otiya”.
Milly had cooked us beans and rice for dinner. Afterwards, we had warm milk before bed. Bill, David, and I planned the day for tomorrow which included hiring laborers to continue working on the foundation, figuring out their pay, addressing complications with the projects, acquiring materials and so on. We completed the conversation with “Let’s just finish digging the foundation tomorrow and we will be well ahead of the schedule.”
We went to bed. First night in Kirindi village and the journey to build a school has begun!